Remember my preference

 
About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V



    

 Part V: Is Man An Animal?

Chapter 6a

The Expression of Humanness in Man

     IN THIS chapter I draw attention to some significant factors in the development of a human being which do not appear in the animal world. Superficially, they look like mere extensions of animal behaviour. When analyzed more carefully, it will be seen that they are not. If a student begins with the assumption that he will find the explanation of human behaviour in the animal world, he will discover in due course that he has been mistaken. Those who have matured in their study and have honestly faced the evidence will already have discovered the inadequacy of such an assumption. It is in the textbooks which are written for younger students and for the public that the most misleading statements in this regard are to be found. In works of a more serious nature a different picture emerges. Let me illustrate this with a series of quotations, before entering into a detailed consideration of this chapter under more specific headings.
     Writing in Science in 1945, Alexander Novicoff said:
(167)

     Man's social relationships represent a new level, higher than that of his biological make-up. Man's behaviour differs from that of other animals because of his possession of body structures, notably the highly developed nervous system, which make thought and speech possible and whose functioning is profoundly affected by social and cultural influences. . . .
     The study of animal behaviour cannot be a substitute for the study of man's behaviour. As we establish the likenesses in behavior of animals and men, we must simultaneously investigate the fundamental qualitative differences between them. . . . Animal societies never rise above the biological level, only man's society is truly sociological.
     Anyone who has tried to teach biological change to college students knows the barriers to learning that have been created by the identification of animals with men throughout the student's lifetime.

     This observation underscores an important point. For reasons which

167. Novicoff, Alex, "The Concept of Integrated Levels and Biology," Science, vol.101, 1945, p.212.

     pg.1 of 39    


are complex, man does not build his society along the lines of biological expedient. Let me quote from a more recent source on this point. David R. Pilbeam, reviewing a book by P. V. Tobias, The Brain in Hominid Evolution, (168) challenged his view that this unique creature, man, really emerged in his present form because he became a toolmaker. Pilbeam felt otherwise:

     There is more to human cultural behaviour than the ability simply to learn, or to chip flint. Our behaviour differs from the learned behaviour of all other animals, including chimpanzees, in such important ways as to render descriptions of non-human primate learned behaviour as examples of "crude and primitive culture" potentially highly misleading.
     Human cultural behaviour involves a very special form of learning, depending upon learned rules, norms, and values which vary arbitrarily from one culture group to another. . . .

     About the only thing that can be said that is universally true of human behaviour is that it is non-instinctive. As a consequence, like Cleopatra's charms, it has "infinite variety." When you have a single species producing an infinite variety of cultural patterns, even where those varied patterns are found to have developed in virtually identical environments, then you obviously have a species that is not like any other species in nature. Bertalanffy had this to say on the subject: (169)

According to von Uexkull's doctrine, the organization and specialization of an animal is decisive for what enters into its ambient world. Of the great cake of reality, an animal cuts a slice, so to speak, of what becomes stimuli, to which it reacts in correspondence with its inherited organization. The rest of the world is non-existent for that particular species.
     In contrast to the organization-bound ambient of animals, "Man has a universe," to use an expression of Gehlen. Any section of the world, from the galaxies that are inaccessible, to direct perception and biologically irrelevant, down to the equally inaccessible atoms, can become an object of interest to man. . . .
     Precisely because he is lacking organic and instinctual adaptation to a specific environment, he is able to conquer the whole planet from the poles to the equator. So man creates his own ambient, which is what we call human culture.

     In one of the flood of Darwin Centennial volumes which appeared from 1958 on, Ernest R. Hilgard in Theories of Learning, observed (170)

168. Pilbeam, David, reviewing P. V. Tobias, The Brain in Hominid Evolution, Science, vol.175, 1972, p.1101.
169. Bertalanffy, Ludwig von, "A Biologist Looks at Human Nature," Scientific Monthly, January, 1956, p.35.
170. Hilgard, Ernest, Theories of Learning, 2nd edition, Appleton-Century, New York, 1956, p.461.

  pg.2 of 39  


     There have emerged (in man) capacities for retraining, reorganizing, and foreseeing experiences which are not approached by the lower animals including the other primates. No one has seriously proposed that animals can develop a set of ideals that regulate conduct around long-range plans, or that they can invent a mathematics to help them keep track of their enterprises. . . .
     There are probably a number of different kinds of learning which have emerged at different evolutionary periods, with the more highly organized organisms using several of them. It is quite probable that these different kinds of learning follow different laws, and it is foolhardy to allow our desire for parsimony to cause us to overlook persisting differences [my emphasis].

     We have, then in man a new kind of learning. In point of fact, man's kind of learning actually leads him to ignore experience, to live in an unreal world. No animal does this. As we shall see, because animals learn by experience, the older animal is almost certain to be the wiser animal. This is by no means true of man. Yet his very foolishness has enormously enriched his experience. In fact, it is probably the basis for one form of human behaviour which must surely be unknown in any other animal, namely, laughter. We can find, as we shall see, some evidence of culture in animals, including art; and of course we find a gamut of emotions from the sheer joy of life of the young colt or the spring lamb to the grief of a dog which has lost its human companion. But we do not observe laughter.
     One final quotation: Clifford Geertz, in a paper entitled "The Transition to Humanity," had this to say:
(17l)

     Some students, especially those in the biological sciences zoology paleontology, anatomy, and physiology have tended to stress the kinship between man and what we are pleased to call the lower animals. They see evolution as a relatively unbroken, even flow of biological processes, and they tend to view man as one of the more interesting forms life has taken, along with dinosaurs, white mice, and dolphins. What strikes them is continuity, the pervasive unity of the organic wild, the unconditioned generality of the principles in terms of what is formed.
     However, students in the social sciences psychologists, sociologists political scientists while not denying man's animal nature, have tended to view him as unique, as being different, as they often put it, not just in degree but in kind.
     Man is the tool making, the talking, the symbolizing animal. Only he laughs; only he knows he will die; only he disdains to mate with his mother and sisters; only he contrives those visions of other worlds to live in which Santayana called religions, or bakes those mud pies of the mind which Cyril Connolly called art.
     He has, the argument continues, not just mentality but consciousness, not just needs but values, not just fears but conscience, not just a past but a history. Only he, it concludes in grand summation, has culture.

171. Geertz, Cliffard, "The Transition to Humanity," in Human Evolution, edited by N. Korn and F. Thompson, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1967, p.114.

     pg.3 of 39     


     I'm not sure Geertz himself accepts this demarcation altogether, but it is a beautiful summary of a position to which I subscribe and which the rest of this chapter explores analytically. And it leads us, in the end, to man's unique possession of conscience and spiritual aspiration, his need for redemption and his capacity for it, which is the subject matter of the final chapter of this paper.
     Let us, then, turn first to an analysis of man's culture.

Home and Hearth Uniquely Human

     All mammals have some form of family life. The young are born in varying states of dependence upon their parents for food, shelter, warmth, protection against enemies, and discipline. But the period of dependence is comparatively short, in some cases exceedingly so, and this brevity is related to the fact that in all animals, except man, the time to maturity relative to the total life-span is much shorter. This seems to be governed partly by the speed with which the young mature and become self-sufficient, and perhaps partly because the maturing process is reached more quickly the educatability of the young comes to an end far sooner.
     The consequences of these two circumstances are, first, that the family unit in the animal world tends to be ethereal for any particular brood. The young are very quickly and very deliberately ejected from the home, even from the territory, being forced thereafter "to go it alone" and actually being unwelcome any longer around the house, as it were. Secondly, from experience with apes, and indeed with many other animals, it has by and large been found that any training in performance which is not natural to the animal must be done very early, before the animal's brain seems to have become "crystallized." We have noted already, the Kelloggs found that at three years of age their experimental chimpanzee had reached her graduation point, whereas the human subject, which was sharing the chimpanzee's experience, was just beginning to accelerate his learning processes. Indeed, in the normal course of events, it is likely that he would go on learning, actively, in the sense of formal education for perhaps another twenty years. In terms of total life-span, the average human being is still highly teachable for from one-third to one-half of his normal life whereas the chimpanzee does most of his learning in what is probably less than one-tenth of his normal life. Since learning is cumulative and not merely additive, a program of education conducted actively for twenty years has not merely seven times the potential of the ape, but some much greater factor entirely.
     Eric H. Lenneberg, in his study on the physiological basis of the 

     pg.4 of 39    


human faculty of speech, attributes man's ability to use language to the slow maturing of his brain: (172)

     Species differ in their embryological and ontogenic histories. Brain maturation curves of Homo sapiens are different from those of other primates. Man's brain matures much slower, and there is evidence that the difference is not merely one of a stretched time-scale, but that there are intrinsic differences. Thus man is not born as a fetalized version of other primates, the developmental events in his natural history are sui generis. The hypothesis is advanced that the capacity for language acquisition is ultimately related to man's peculiar maturational history. . . .

     Not only does the animal's mind reach a static maturity sooner, but its whole body reaches mature stature more rapidly. Man at birth is approximately 5 percent of his mature weight; at fourteen he is about 60 percent; and he must reach the age of twenty before he will be 90-95 percent of his final size. (173) By the time they are one year, other animals will have reached 60 percent of their adult size, and by the time they are three years old 90-95 percent of adult size. In other words, their growth is relatively accelerated something like seven times compared with man. In some animals the acceleration in growth rate is much greater than this. Samuel Brody said "Pre-pubertal percentages of sheep and goats which have the same mature weight as man is sixty fold that of man." (174)

     Brody examined the effects of the decelerated growth rate for man in terms of experience and observed: (175)

     The large and highly developed brain affords reflective power and furnishes the basis for speech and writing, the long growth period affords opportunity to learn, and the long life span affords time to reflect and to develop traditions, all of which are pre-requisite for the development of religion and science.
     Moreover, the long human childhood period of dependency on parents stimulates socialization, the rearing of children of different ages simultaneously (a uniquely human characteristic) reinforces socialization, with charity and tolerance on the part of the stronger towards the weaker children, and the mental consciousness of the involved relationships leads to the development of group morals.

     Robert Briffault emphasized the matter of slow maturing in terms of educatability: (176)

     The question is sometimes mooted whether young gorillas or chimpanzees might not by careful training be taught to speak. . . . The brain of the

172. Lenneberg, E. H., Biological Foundations of Language, Wiley, New York, 1967, p.179.
173 Brody, Samuel, "Science and Social Wisdom," Scientific Monthly, September, 1944, p.207.
175. Ibid.
176. Briffault, Robert, "Evolution of the Human Species" in The Making of Man, edited by V. F. Calverton, Modern Library, Random House, New York, 1931, p.768.

  pg.5 of 39  


young anthropoid grows too quickly; it is formed, it has lost its malleability before the time required for such an education.

     This was written in 1931, long before the Kelloggs and their successors reported their experiences. Briffault has proved to be quite correct in his prognostications. It is true that Premack did not begin his program of training of Sarah until she was six years old and he had surprising success, which might seem to contradict what we have been saying. It is possible that Sarah was an exceptional animal. Or it is possible that if she had begun her training in infancy, she, too, would have reached her capacity within three years. Perhaps her brain, in so far as some kind of speech area was involved, was in this area still "uncommitted," to use Penfield's apt expression. Nevertheless, the experience of other trainers of animals which can learn to respond to human commands bears out the statement that their learning capacity falls off very rapidly as soon as they reached, for them, adolescence.
     In his paper, Samuel Brody had a scattergram (Fig. 22) showing the relative growth rate of nine animals (cow, pig, sheep, rabbit, fowl, rat, mouse, guinea pig, and dove) contrasted with the growth rate of man. In the interest of simplicity, I have traced his curves but omitted all the symbols which he used to show the actual scatter for the different species. The point O represents the point of birth for the animal species. The points C and B represent the time of conception and the time of birth for man. The difference between these two curves in childhood and adolescence (up to 14 years of age in man) will be seen to be quite fundamental.

Figure 22. Scattergram showing the relative growth rates to maturity for man and ten other animals. Re-drawn after Brody (Science, September, 1944, page 207). 

     pg.6 of 39     


     This fact has been recognized for many years, of course, but many textbooks are strongly biased toward human evolution and they tend to omit information of this sort, because it requires explaining and evolution has not come up with an explanation. But commenting on the form of such curves, Bertalanffy had this to say: (177)

     The time curve of growth in mammals, fish, crustaceans, clams, and other classes follows a pattern which is characterized by the fact that it approaches a final weight by way of an S-curve. These characteristic growth curves as well as different ones found in different groups such as insects and snails, can be explained and predicted by a theory of "growth types and metabolic types."
     Since its pattern is essentially the same, the growth of different species, such as a fish, a mouse, an elephant, or man can be represented by the same curve shape. Only the scales of unit of time and size are different.
     In such comparison, only one organism, man, makes an exception. In its first part, the human growth curve is distinguishable from that of all other animals in that a growth cycle seems to be added so that the infant period is greatly prolonged, and the steep almost exponential increase in size as is characteristic for early post-embryonic growth curve may appear to be an insignificant detail but it has tremendous consequences.
     Thus animals run swiftly through the period of the somatic and behavioural growth, and sexual maturity is soon reached. In contradistinction the characteristic shape of his growth curve gives man his uniquely long period of growth and opportunity of a long period for learning and mental development. It is an indispensable prerequisite of human culture.

     Not only does the human organism mature more slowly, but by comparison with the bodies of other animals like him, it does not mature at all in some respects, or only very late in life. For some reason, the human body retains its youthful stages into adult life. This is known technically as paedomorphism, and Sir Gavin de Beer wrote at some length on the phenomenon in man. In his Embryos and Ancestors, (178) he gave a chart showing for example, how the relationship between the head, neck, and spinal column has retained in man the configuration which it has in the embryo. In animals, the head section swings through ninety degrees in order to bring it into the right position for an animal which is to carry its body horizontally. As we have seen, the position of man's head and neck with respect to the organs of speech is very important, making it possible for him to communicate while maintaining a natural position. Thus, even in this respect, the changes which take place in the maturing of animals carries them away from the likelihood of acquiring the same capabilities that man has as an adult. The whole design and structure  

177. Bertalanffy, Ludwig von, "A Biologist Looks at Human Nature", Scientific Monthly, January, 1956, p.36.
178. de Beer, Sir Gavin, Ancestors and Embryos, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1951, p.56.

     pg.7 of 39    


and growth pattern of man is of a piece, looking to the future potential, and in the meantime involving him in a period of dependency through extended immaturity, which results in the development of family relationships which are not reflected in any other species.
     Goldenweiser attaches great importance from the cultural point of view to this protracted dependency relationship in the life of the human infant:
(179)

     We know then that there is culture and that it comes to man in the process of education. But even this is not enough for an exact understanding of what it is that happens here. One of the differences of what occurs in the case of any animal on the one hand, and in that of man on the other, is the rate at which they grow up.
     With variations, as between animal and animal, their young mature very fast. It is a matter of mere months. So fast do they mature that were there much for them to learn and had they the ability to do so, they could not, on account of the very shortness of the period separating birth from relative maturity. . . .
     Fortunately for the animal, its life is planned differently. It is equipped by nature with a large assortment of instincts or reactive complexes which make their appearance almost ready for action and which develop perfect form after relatively few experiences. . . .
     The factor in human life on the other hand, which makes acquisition of vast knowledge and the accumulation of experience possible for the young, is the so-called prolonged infancy in man.

     It is evident, therefore, that man has not been provided with such instincts as animals have for a very good reason. His pattern of behaviour has been left "open" and not instinctive. This means that he must learn for a longer period before he can become independent, but it also means that he is free to a larger extent in his behaviour and therefore responsible for it in a way which animals never are. (180)
     It is also important to underline the significance of the fact that children of different ages mature together. To my knowledge this never happens among animals because the young are ejected from "home," not only before the next brood is born but probably before the mother becomes pregnant again. In some cases this is because she does not come to heat until her family has left home, and in other cases it is because the male is not allowed in the home while the young are still dependent on the mother.
     Now, the fact that we have a group of children growing up at different stages of development is of great importance in the

179. Goldenweiser, Alexander, Anthropology, Crofts, New York, 1945, p.39.
180. For a discussion regarding moral responsibility of animals, see Arthur Custance, "The Extent of the Flood," Part I in The Flood: Local or Global? vol.9 of The Doorway Papers Series.

  pg.8 of 39  


formation of personality, as Samuel Brody pointed out. The fact of diversity of age within a single cohesive family has implications for the structure of society. In the animal world there may be a number of offspring growing up together but they will all be of the same age, and for the most part they are likely to be the same size. The very idea that any one of them might be responsible for the safety or well-being of a younger sibling can never arise in this situation. The whole idea of being responsible for one's fellows begins to arise in a child's mind, not because it becomes aware that the parents are responsible for it, but because it is made aware of its own responsibility for others. Edward Sapir underscored the significance of the "family" situation for the development of social organization as a whole. He rejected an older view that the organization of the family evolved out of the kind of promiscuous clan structure in which, at first, everybody made their own way with no special attachments or responsibilities: (18l)

     A more careful study of the facts seems to indicate that the family is a well nigh universal social unit, that it is the nuclear type of social organization par excellence. So far from a study of clans, gentes, and other types of enlarged kinship groups giving us the clue to the genesis of the family, the exact opposite is true.

     In case the point should be missed and in view of its importance, it is worth underscoring. Since family life in the human sense cannot be derived directly from anything in the animal world, it was at one time felt necessary to account for it through an intermediary stage. Herds of protomen became herds of men with perhaps a herd leader but no breakdown into small family units which were in any way recognized or protected as such by the group. Such recognition and such protection was then supposed to have emerged later. A study of primitive people suggests that this is entirely unrealistic. Moreover, there is some evidence that family life is as old as fossil man. The finds at Choukoutien (China) and at Es Skhul (Palestine) both seem to imply the same kind of family life. Several adult males were involved in a single setting, and at least in the case of the former, all were killed at the same time -- men, women, and children.
     Jacobs and Stern wrote:
(182)

      The absence of a stable family unit has been claimed for early Pleistocene eras, but no convincing arguments. . . have been adduced. All of the economically most primitive societies known are characterized by monogamous families, with rare but permissible polygamy or polyandry. 

181. Sapir, Edward: quoted in Selected Writings of Edward Sapir, edited by David C. Mandelbaum, University of California Press, 1949, p.336.
182. Jacobs, M. and B. J. Stern, Outline of Anthropology, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1947, pp.151, 152.

     pg.9 of 39     


     The lower the technological level, the greater need there appears to have been for a family of two persons, one a man who had relative freedom of movement, the other a woman who did not have to hunt or fish and who could therefore bare and nurse her baby.
     It follows that the monogamous family thus existed from the very beginning of culture that is to say, from eolithic or earliest paleolithic times. . .  The monogamous family and not promiscuity was, then, in all likelihood the earliest form of family, and it has remained the dominant form in all societies.

     Goldenweiser was even more specific and added that there is no evidence whatever for any concept of communal ownership of any kind of property at all, whether things or persons. He said, "The patent facts do not at all support the a priori conception which must be regarded as one of the ad hoc concoctions of the evolutionists, who were looking for something less specific than individual property . . . and found this in communal ownership." (183)
     Another factor which indicates that family life in the sense of broad interdependence between parents and children is unique to man, is the fact that fertility in the human female tends to decline or cease at such an age in her life span that she is not likely to have children so late in life that she cannot perform the role of mother until the child has reached an adequate stage of independence more particularly perhaps where female children are involved. Parents will therefore live long enough under normal circumstances to raise all the children to maturity.
(184) Since the process of maturing in animals is so much faster, fertility can be extended later in life. I believe this is generally found to be the case. For example, C. R. Carpenter mentioned a case of a female gorilla in a state of advanced senility which was found to be carrying an infant when shot. (185)
     In the animal world, the raising of a brood cannot be compared with the raising of a family in the world of man. Normally, in the latter, both man and woman play a role of equal importance in terms of discipline, protection, feeding, and education. In the animal world the role of the male is entirely different in those species that might be supposed to serve as prototypes for man. Among birds, both sexes will care for the young, but this is something of an exceptional circumstance. Certainly such a shared responsibility is not reflected among the primates, and cannot possibly be the basis of human behaviour.

183. Goldenweiser, Alexander, Anthropology, Crofts, New York, 1945, p.147.
184. Swartout, Herbert O., "The Meaning of the Origin and Activities of the Human Body: Control of Growth and Aging in the Human Body," Bulletin of Creation, the Deluge, and Related Science, vol.4, no.5, 1944, p.71 f.
185. Carpenter, C. R., "Life in the Trees: The Behavior and Social Relations of Man's Closest Kin," in A Reader in General Anthropology, C. S. Coon, Holt, New York, 1948, p.21. 

     pg.10 of 39    


The Role of the Male in the Human Family

     I cannot do better than quote Ralph Linton on the role of the male in the human family: (186)

     There is no point at which present day man departs more widely from the general primate condition than in the male's assumption of responsibility for and care of his offspring. Even the anthropoids seem to leave the care of the young almost entirely to the females, although the males may exhibit good-natured curiosity or even play with them.

     Other authorities would go further than this and say that in the great majority of animal societies the male is actually antisocial. In some instances this is so marked that the females take steps to incapacitate the males in one way or another. In termite societies and other such insect communities, the males are "sterilized," only just enough "unsterilized" males being left to guarantee the continuance of the breeding process. Even among domesticated animals where males and females are kept together unnaturally, it is a common enough observation that one can easily create a herd of cows, but a herd of bulls would be unthinkable. The only way in which males can be added successfully to the herd is by castrating them.
     The primates reflect the same pattern of rivalry, the old or stronger male builds his harem and drives the other males to the periphery. This is particularly true in the breeding season for the species. Once this season is over, the males are apt to be excluded even from their own harem and either form bachelor societies or become loners.
     William M. Wheeler of Harvard, in a paper entitled "Animal Societies," written years ago, remarked:
(187)

     Owing to the decidedly unsocial character of behaviour (of the male) which manifests itself almost exclusively in voracity, pairing, or fighting with other males, he is always so to speak socially more or less indigestible. There seems to be no reliable record, at least among the lower animals, of a male providing food for the female or the young, or even protecting them.
     Indeed, after pairing, the sexes seem to become indifferent or even hostile to each other, and the female retires to bear, suckle and rear her young in a safe lair or retreat which she alone establishes. She thus forms a family with her young of both sexes, and in advanced life may become the leader of a herd consisting of several such female-offspring families (this is true of ruminants, elephants, cetaceans, etc.). . . .
     The unsocial character of the male reveals itself even more clearly, both among the lower mammals and the anthropoid apes, when he becomes

186. Linton, Ralph, The Study of Man, Appleton-Century, New York, 1936, p.148.
187. Wheeler, William M., "Animal Societies" in Biology and Society section, Scientific Monthly, October 1934, p.295.

  pg.11 of 39  


senescent and impotent and wanders away from the herd or troop, to lead the life of a rogue.

     It was at one time customary to view primitive cultures as representative of a stage of social organization halfway between the anthropoids and modern man. But it was very quickly apparent that the argument did not hold, for among primitive people family relationships are far more carefully hedged about and precisely defined than in our own more advanced (?) society. And as far as the role of the male is concerned, so much importance is attached to providing every child with a father who is recognized as such that even where the actual physical father has not been established, some official father must be provided. Moreover, in some societies where, until comparatively recent times, the role of the father in procreation or the fact of "physical paternity," to give it its proper anthropological name, was not even recognized (which was the case among the Trobrianders and some Australian aborigine tribes, for example), even here a father had to be apportioned, as it were, to each child. (188) Manifestly, therefore, in human social organization, the role of the father was not established on a biological foundation. It seems to be based on something more profound. It could be that it goes back to Adam and God's appointment, in order to provide a paradigm for our relationship to God Himself.

Complexification of Social Relations

     Social organization and Culture are quite distinct concepts. Culture is learned, rather than instinctual behaviour, but social organization may be entirely instinctual, as it is with insects. Kroeber observed, "The presence of cultureless societies among insects is an aid in distinguishing the two concepts in the abstract." (189) It is estimated that there are some 10,000 insect societies in which the organization is highly complex. (190) Referring to the behaviour of ants, Ruth Benedict observed: (19l)

     The queen ant, removed to a solitary nest, will reproduce each trait of sex behaviour and each detail of the nest. The social insects represent nature in a mood when she was taking no chances. The pattern of the entire social structure Nature has committed to the ant's instinctive behavior. There is no greater chance that the social classes of an ant society or its patterns of 

188. Physical paternity: see Arthur Custance, "Light From Other Forms of Cultural Behaviour on Some Incidents in Scripture,'' Part VII in Genesis and Early Man, vol.2 of The Doorway Papers Series
189. Kroeber, A. L., Anthropology, Harcourt & Brace, New York, 1948, p.34.
190. Wheeler, William M., "Animal Societies" in Biology and Society section, Scientific Monthly, October 1934, p.291.
191. Benedict, Ruth, Patterns of Culture, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1958, p.12.

     pg.12 of 39     


agriculture, will be lost by an ant's isolation from its group, than that the ant will fail to reproduce the shape of its antennae, or the shape of its abdomen.
     For better or for worse, man's solution lies at the opposite pole. Not one item of his tribal organization, or his language, or his local religion, is carried in his germ cells.

     Under human influence, animals can be taught different patterns of behaviour, but, as Schneirla pointed out, the learning process is stereotyped and rote in character, limited to the individual and the given situation. Unlike human societies where knowledge is cumulative, "such special learning of each society (of animals) dies with it." (192) The important point here is that human learning processes are cumulative and transferable, that is to say, they are not necessarily tied to the situation in which the learning occurs, but can be broadly applied. The experiments of Z. Y. Kuo with cats and rats illustrates that learning dies with the individual. (193) He showed that cats could be trained to play with rats rather than to kill them, but he also showed that cats could be conditioned to be afraid of rats. But the kittens of these cats so differently conditioned, when raised in isolation, all became rat killers when they grew up. Lorenz pointed out: (194)

     In animals, individually acquired experience is sometimes transmitted by teaching and learning, from older to younger individuals, though such true tradition is only seen in those forms whose high capacity for learning is combined with a higher development of social life. True tradition has been demonstrated in jackdaws, Graylag geese, and rats.
     But knowledge thus transmitted is limited to very simple things, such as path finding, recognition of certain foods, and of enemies of the species, and in rats knowledge of the danger of poisons. However, no means of communication, no learned rituals, are ever handed down by tradition in animals. In other words, animals have no Culture.

     The matter of path finding as learned behaviour is difficult to assess because a number of social animals leave a trail of scent. The animal which picks up this scent is not really following the trail by imitation and learning is not strictly involved. This has been demonstrated for many animals and insects. With respect to rats, the situation is rather exceptional because it has been found that when a colony of rats come across a new food, only one of the rats will eat it while the others look on. The rest of the rats will not touch the new 

192. Schneirla, T. C., "Problems in the Biopsychology of Social Organization," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, vol.41, 1946, p.385-402.
193. Kuo, Z. Y., "The Genesis of the Cat's Responses to the Rat," Journal of Comparative Psychology, vol.11, 1930, p.1-30.
194. Lorenz, Konrad, On Aggression, translated by Marjorie Kerr Wilson, Bantam Books, New York, 1967, p.64f.

     pg.13 of 39    


food for two or three days but will observe its effect on the single rat who has eaten it. (195) Since rats are rather unique in that they inhabit areas only where man is and therefore are introduced to new foods provided by man, their behaviour is in some sense unnatural and cannot be taken as an example of what occurs in Nature among other species.
     In man, culture and social organization seem to go hand in hand, and both are learned: even in family organization in so far as the roles of mother and father are concerned, the behaviour patterns normal to a society are learned. The roles may be reversed (as in the
Tchambuli), combined or blurred (where all are alike, mother and father, as among the Mundugumor or the Arapesh), or even ignored entirely (as among the Alorese). (196) What we suppose to be the instinctive and therefore predetermined role of the mother as opposed to the father is evidently not instinctive, in spite of general impressions to the contrary. It may be entirely absent; even mother love may be lacking. (197) Under circumstances which occur not infrequently, a mother may not love her newborn but reject it. Scripture asks the question, "Can a woman forget her suckling child?" (Isaiah 49:15). The answer is, Yes, she may, according to Scripture itself.
     It is difficult to know exactly what goes on in the mind of a natural mother, whose culture differs radically from ours, but judging by the fact that in a time of famine such people will eat their newborn babies apparently without hesitation, seems to indicate the absence of the kind of attachment between mother and child which we assume to be instinctive. Such behaviour has been reported from a number of primitive cultures. Daisy Bates mentioned it several times in her study of the Australian aborigines.
(198)
     One of the most difficult factors about human culture is to understand why man insists upon elaborating it to the point where it is not only no longer useful, but often positively dangerous, as Susanne Langer observed:
(199)

     To contemplate the unbelievable folly of which (men) the symbol-using animals are capable, is very disgusting or very amusing, according to our

195. Garcia, John, "The Faddy Rat and Us," New Scientist and Science Journal, February 7, 1971, p.254.
196. Reversed roles: Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament  in Three Societies, William Morrow, New York, 1963; and Cora DuBois, The People of Alor, University of Minnesota Press, 1944.
197. Mother love: see Robert Briffault, "The Origin of Love," in The Making of Man, edited by V. F. Calverton, Modern Library, Random House, New York, 1931, p.497.
198. Bates, Daisy, The Passing of the Aborigine, Murray, London, 1966: first published in 1938.
199. Langer, Susanne, Philosophy in a New Key, Mentor Books, New York, 1942, p.27.

  pg.14 of 39  


mood: but philosophically it is, above all, confounding. How can an instrument develop in the interests of better practice, and survive, if it harbors so many dangers for the creature possessed of it?

     Linton wrote at some length about this anomaly, admitting that the reason why men have gone on amplifying culture generation after generation is still an unsolved problem: (200)

     If Culture, like the social heredity of animals, were simply a means of insuring survival for the species, its progressive enrichment might be expected to slow down and ultimately cease. . .  Every society has developed techniques for meeting all the problems with which it was confronted passably well, but it has not gone on from there to the development of better and better techniques along all lines. Instead, each society has been content to allow certain phases of its culture to remain at what we might call the necessity level while it has developed others far beyond this point. . .
     Even in the case of tools and utensils where the disadvantages of such a course would seem most obvious, we have plenty of examples of quite unnecessary expenditure of labor and materials. Hundreds of tribes ground and polished their stone axes completely, although such instruments cut no better than those ground at the bit and are actually more difficult to haft. . . .
     In rare cases the elaboration of certain phases of Culture is even carried to the point where it becomes activity injurious and endangers the existence of the society. Many Eskimo tribes prohibit the hunting of seals in summer. Although this meant little under ordinary circumstances, there were times when it was highly injurious. It is said that if land game failed, a tribe would often starve when there were plenty of seals in sight. . . .
     The natives of Australia in some parts of that continent appear to be obsessed with social organization and prohibit marriage between many different classes of relations. It is said that in one tribe these regulations were worked out to the point where no one in the tribe could properly marry anyone else. . . This tendency towards unnecessary and in some cases injurious elaboration of culture is one of the most significant phenomena of human life.

     It requires little imagination to see this happening in our own culture with grave consequences not only to ourselves but to mankind. The future looks gloomy indeed. It would almost seem that man has now organized and elaborated his culture for the elimination of himself.
     John H. Hallowell rightly observed that with man, "economic desires are never merely the expression of the hunger or the survival impulse in human life."
(201) The lion's desire for food is satisfied when his stomach is full. Man's desire for food is more easily limited, but the hunger impulse is subject to the endless refinements and perversions of the gourmet. Shelter and raiment serve entirely other purposes, 

200. Linton, Ralph, The Study of Man, Appleton-Century, New York, 1936, pp. 87-90.
201. Hallowell, John H., Religious Perspectives in Political Science, Religious Perspectives in College Teaching, The Edward Hazen Foundation, New Haven, Connecticut, no date, pp.17,18.

     pg.15 of 39     


man's coat never being merely a cloak for his nakedness, but the badge of his calling, the expression of an artistic impulse, a method of attracting the opposite sex, or a proof of a social position His house is not merely his shelter, but becomes an expression of his personality and the symbol of his power, position, and prestige.
     It is a curious thing that this drive towards complexification seems to be almost a drive toward suicide. Individually, very few primitive people commit suicide, and as a rule they tend to do so only when old age has brought their powers of contributing as expected to their society to an unacceptably low level. In such cases suicide becomes part of the cultural pattern and is not frowned upon. By adopting this "out," they are actually redeeming themselves. But in our complex civilization suicide does not have any socially redeeming features about it; it is only an acknowledgment of despair and total failure. The primitive may seek and receive the help of his own fellows to end his life in a culturally acceptable way.
(202) With us, such behaviour is totally unacceptable. Nevertheless, every year the suicide rate goes higher and higher as our civilization becomes more complex, a circumstance which suggests that the complexification of culture may have something inherently inimical to man about it. We suppose that culture evolved by the same kind of natural process as everything else that is assumed to have evolved from the simple to the complex. But no animal society ever deliberately elaborates its organization to the point where it endangers the species. It should not be supposed that primitive societies are incapable of such complexification. This is obviously not the case, as Linton pointed out with the Australian aborigines, whose culture is otherwise the simplest known to us in modern times. Moreover, research has shown that primitive languages consistently turn out to be more complex than modern languages, when they are adequately studied. So somewhere there is in man a tendency which has become entirely harmful to him and in fact may very well endanger his existence as a species. Other animal species have disappeared when their environment changed or as a consequence of the predatory habits of man, but no other species has deliberately followed a course of increasingly complicating its patterns of behaviour to its own increasing detriment. Arthur Koestler attributed this to a fault in the mechanism of man's mind, a mechanism which he considered to be faulty not because it is too limited, but because its potential is altogether too great for man to control himself. He would not have 

202. See, for example, the Yahgans as reported by Thomas Bridges in C. S. Coon, The Story of Man, New York. Knopf, 1962, p.97 [unable to verify Ed.].

     pg.16 of 39    


suggested such a thing, but to me this looks like clear evidence of the Fall, sin, which has disrupted human nature in its every aspect physiologically, spiritually, and intellectually. Koestler wrote: (203)

     When we say that mental evolution is a specific characteristic of man and absent in animals, we confuse the issue. The learning potential of animals is automatically limited by the fact that they make full use or nearly full use -- of all the organs of their native equipment, including their brains.
     The capabilities of the computer inside the reptilian and mammalian skull are exploited to the full, and leave no scope for further learning. But the evolution of man's brain has so wildly overshot man's immediate needs that he is still breathlessly catching up with its unexploited, unexplored, possibilities.

     It is well known that neurologists estimate that even at the present stage we are using only 2 or 3 percent of the potentialities of the brain's built-in "circuits." (204)
    It seems as though man is operating, therefore, at an exceedingly low efficiency in terms of his potential. Either he was made this way which would be a solecism in Nature, or he is a fallen creature. In either case, since animals were not made this way, operating as they do probably at near 100 percent mental efficiency relative to their capacity, man is in a class by himself. Presumably if he had not fallen, he could safely have complexified his culture perhaps to fifty times what it is without the slightest ill effects ensuing.

continued. . . . .        

203. Koestler, Arthur, The Ghost in the Machine, Hutchinson, London, 1967, p.299.
204. Koestler, Arthur, The Sleepwalkers, Hutchinson, London, 1959, p.514.

  pg.17a of 39   

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter



Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us