About the Book
Table of Contents
Part V: Is Man An Animal?
The Expression of Humanness in
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.
underscores an important point. For reasons which
167. Novicoff, Alex, "The Concept of
Integrated Levels and Biology," Science, vol.101,
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
challenged his view that this unique creature, man, really emerged
in his present form because he became a toolmaker. Pilbeam felt
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
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
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,
pg.2 of 39
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.
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,
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
Home and Hearth ‹ Uniquely
Let us, then, turn first to an
analysis of man's culture.
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
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)
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.
emphasized the matter of slow maturing in terms of educatability:
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.
pg.5 of 39
173 Brody, Samuel, "Science and Social Wisdom," Scientific
Monthly, September, 1944, p.207.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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,
178. de Beer, Sir Gavin, Ancestors and Embryos, Clarendon
Press, Oxford, 1951, p.56.
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.
pg.8 of 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
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:
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.
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.
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."
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,
The Role of the Male in the
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.
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.
pg.11 of 39
187. Wheeler, William M., "Animal Societies" in Biology
and Society section, Scientific Monthly, October 1934,
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
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,
191. Benedict, Ruth, Patterns of Culture, Houghton Mifflin,
Boston, 1958, p.12.
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.
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,
194. Lorenz, Konrad, On Aggression, translated by Marjorie
Kerr Wilson, Bantam Books, New York, 1967, p.64f.
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
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.
pg.14 of 39
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,
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.].
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
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,
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.
pg.17a of 39
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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204. Koestler, Arthur, The Sleepwalkers, Hutchinson, London,
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