« EelmineJätka »
lead to the vertical posture becoming gradually the most agreeable one ; and there can be little doubt that an infant would learn of itself to walk, even if suckled by a wild beast.
How Indians travel through unknown and trackless Forests.
Let us now consider the fact, of Indians finding their way through forests they have never traversed before. This is much misunderstood, for I believe it is only performed under such special conditions, as at once to show that instinct has nothing to do with it. A Savage, it is true, can find his way through his native forests in a direction in which he has never traversed them before; but this is because from infancy he has been used to wander in them, and to find his way by indications which he has observed himself or learnt from others. Savages make long journeys in many directions, and, their whole faculties being directed to the subject, they gain a wide and accurate knowledge of the topography, not only of their own district, but of all the regions round about. Every one who has travelled in a new direction communicates his knowledge to those who have travelled less, and descriptions of routes and localities, and minute incidents of travel, form one of the main staples of conversation round the evening fire. Every wanderer or captive from another tribe adds to the store of information, and as the very existence of individuals and of whole families and tribes, depends upon the completeness of this knowledge, all the acute perceptive faculties of the adult savage are devoted to acquiring and perfecting it. The good hunter or warrior thus comes to know the bearing of every hill and mountain range, the directions and junctions of all the streams, the situation of each tract characterized by peculiar vegetation, not only within the area he has himself traversed, but for perhaps a hundred miles around it. His acute observation enables him to detect the slightest undulations of the surface, the various changes of subsoil and alterations in the character of the vegetation, that would be quite imperceptible to a stranger. His eye is always open to the direction in which he is going; the mossy side of trees, the presence of certain plants under the shade of rocks, the morning and evening flight of birds, are to him indications of direction, almost as sure as the sun in the heavens. Now, if such a savage is required to find his way across this country in a direction in which he has never been before, he is quite equal to the task. By however circuitous a route he has come to the point he is to start from, he has observed all the bearings and distances so well, that he knows pretty nearly where he is, the direction of his own home and that of the place he is required to go to. He starts towards it, and knows that by a certain time he must cross an upland or a river, that the streams should flow in a certain direction, and that he should cross some of them at a certain distance from their sources. The nature of the soil throughout the whole region is known to him, as well as all the great features of the vegetation. As he approaches any tract of country he has been in or near before, many minute indications guide him, but he observes them so cautiously that his white companions cannot perceive by what he has directed his course. Every now and then he slightly changes his direction, but he is never confused, never loses himself, for he always feels at home; till at last he arrives at a well-known country, and directs his course so as to reach the exact spot desired. To the Europeans whom he guides, he seems to have come without trouble, without any special observation, and in a nearly straight unchanging course. They are astonished, and ask if he has ever been the same route before, and when he answers “No,” conclude that some unerring instinct could alone have guided him. But take this same man into another country very similar to his own, but with other streams and hills, another kind of soil, with a somewhat different vegetation and animal life; and after bringing him by a circuitous route to a given point, ask him to return to his starting place, by a straight line of fifty miles through the forest, and he will certainly decline to attempt it, or, attempting it, will more or less completely fail. His supposed instinct does not act out of his own country. A savage, even in a new country, has, however, undoubted advantages, from his familiarity with forest life, his entire fearlessness of being lost, his accurate perception of direction and of distance, and he is thus P
able very soon to acquire a knowledge of the district that seems marvellous to a civilized man; but my own observation of savages in forest countries has convinced me, that they find their way by the use of no other faculties than those which we ourselves possess. It appears to me, therefore, that to call in the aid of a new and mysterious power to account for savages being able to do that which, under similar conditions, we could almost all of us perform, although perhaps less perfectly, is almost ludicrously unnecessary.
In the next essay I shall attempt to show, that much of what has been attributed to instinct in birds, can be also very well explained by crediting them with those faculties of observation, memory, and imitation, and with that limited amount of reason, which they undoubtedly exhibit.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF BIRDS” NEST.S.
Instinct or Reason in the Construction of Birds' Nests.
BIRDS, we are told, build their nests by instinct, while man constructs his dwelling by the exercise of reason. Birds never change, but continue to build for ever on the self-same plan ; man alters and improves his houses continually. Reason advances; instinct is stationary. This doctrine is so very general that it may almost be said to be universally adopted. Men who agree on nothing else, accept this as a good explanation of the facts. Philosophers and poets, metaphysicians and divines, naturalists and the general public, not only agree in believing this to be probable, but even adopt it as a sort of axiom that is so self-evident as to need no proof, and use it as the very foundation of their speculations on instinct and reason. A belief so general, one would think, must rest on indisputable facts, and be a logical deduction from them. Yet I have come to the conclusion that not only is it very doubtful, but absolutely erroneous; that it not only deviates widely from the truth, but is in almost every particular exactly opposed to it. I believe, in short, that birds do not build their nests by instinct; that man does not con