« EelmineJätka »
The most perfect and most striking examples of what is termed instinct, those in which reason or observation appear to have the least influence, and which seem to imply the possession of faculties farthest removed from our own, are to be found among insects. The marvellous constructive powers of bees and wasps, the social economy of ants, the careful provision for the safety of a progeny they are never to see manifested by many beetles and flies, and the curious preparations for the pupa state by the larvæ of butterflies and moths, are typical examples of this faculty, and are supposed to be conclusive as to the existence of some power or intelligence, very different from that which we derive from our senses or from our reason.
How Instinct may be best Studied. Whatever we may define instinct to be, it is evidently some form of mental manifestation, and as we can only judge of mind by the analogy of our own mental functions and by observation of the results of mental action in other men and in animals, it is incumbent on us, first, to study and endeavour to comprehend the minds of infants, of savage men, and of animals not very far removed from ourselves, before we pronounce positively as to the nature of the mental operations in creatures so radically different from us as insects. We have not yet even been able to ascertain what are the senses they possess, or what relation their powers of seeing, hearing, and feeling have to ours. Their sight may far exceed ours both in delicacy and in range, and may possibly give them knowledge of the internal constitution of bodies analogous to that which we obtain by the spectroscope; and that their visual organs do possess some powers which ours do not, is indicated by the extraordinary crystalline rods radiating from the optic ganglion to the facets of the compound eye, which rods vary in form and thickness in different parts of their length, and possess distinctive characters in each group of insects. This complex apparatus, so different from anything in the eyes of vertebrates, may subserve some function quite inconceivable by us, as well as that which we know as vision. There is reason to believe that insects appreciate sounds of extreme delicacy, and it is supposed that certain minute organs, plentifully supplied with nerves, and situated in the subcostal vein of the wing in most insects, are the organs of hearing. But besides these, the Orthoptera (such as grasshoppers, &c.) have what are supposed to be ears on their fore legs, and Mr. Lowne believes that the little stalked balls, which are the sole remnants of the hind wings in flies, are also organs of hearing or of some analogous sense. In flies, too, the third joint of the antennæ contains thousands of nerve-fibres, which terminate in small open cells, and this Mr. Lowne believes to be the organ of smell, or of some other, perhaps new, sense. It is quite evident, therefore, that insects may possess senses which give them a knowledge of that which we can never perceive, and enable them to perform acts which to us are incomprehensible. In the midst of this complete ignorance of their faculties and inner nature, is it wise for us to judge so boldly of their powers by a comparison with our own? How can we pretend to fathom the profound mystery of their mental nature, and decide what, and how much, they can perceive or remember, reason or reflect! To leap at one bound from our own consciousness to that of an insect's, is as unreasonable and absurd as if, with a pretty good knowledge of the multiplication table, we were to go straight to the study of the calculus of functions, or as if our comparative anatomists should pass from the study of man's bony structure to that of the fish, and, without any knowledge of the numerous intermediate forms, were to attempt to determine the homologies between these distant types of vertebrata. In such a case would not error be inevitable, and would not continued study in the same direction only render the erroneous conclusions more ingrained and more irremovable.
Definition of Instinct. Before going further into this subject, we must determine what we mean by the term instinct. It has been variously defined as—“ disposition operating without the aid of instruction or experience," "a mental power totally independent of organization,” or 6a power enabling an animal to do that which, in those things man can do, results from a chain of reasoning, and in things which man cannot do, is not to be explained by any efforts of the intellectual faculties.” We find, too, that the word instinct is very frequently applied to acts which are evidently the result either of organization or of habit. The colt or calf is said to walk instinctively, almost as soon as it is born; but this is solely due to its organization, which renders walking both possible and pleasurable to it. So we are said instinctively to hold out our hands to save ourselves from falling, but this is an acquired habit, which the infant does not possess. It appears to me that instinct should be defined as— the performance by an animal of complex acts, absolutely without instruction or previously-acquired knowledge." Thus, acts are said to be performed by birds in building their nests, by bees in constructing their cells, and by many insects in providing for the future wants of themselves or their progeny, without ever having seen such acts performed by others, and without any knowledge of why they perform them themselves. This is expressed by the very common term “blind instinct.” But we have here a number of assertions of matters of fact, which, strange to say, have never been proved to be facts at all. They are thought to
be so self-evident that they may be taken for granted. No one has ever yet obtained the eggs of some bird which builds an elaborate nest, hatched these eggs by steam or under a quite distinct parent, placed them afterwards in an extensive aviary or covered garden, where the situation and the materials of a nest similar to that of the parent birds may be found, and then seen what kind of nest these birds would build. If under these rigorous conditions they choose the same materials, the same situation, and construct the nest in the same way and as perfectly as their parents did, instinct would be proved in their case ; now it is only assumed, and assumed, as I shall show further on, without any sufficient reason. So, no one has ever carefully taken the pupæ of a hive of bees out of the comb, removed them from the presence of other bees, and loosed them in a large conservatory with plenty of flowers and food, and observed what kind of cells they would construct. But till this is done, no one can say that bees build without instruction, no one can say that with every new swarm there are no bees older than those of the same year, who may be the teachers in forming the new comb. Now, in a scientific inquiry, a point which can be proved should not be assumed, and a totally unknown power should not be brought in to explain facts, when known powers may be sufficient. For both these reasons I decline to accept the theory of instinct in any case where all other possible modes of explanation have not been exhausted.