The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex HTML version

On The Development Of The Intellectual And Moral
Faculties During Primeval And Civilised Times
Advancement of the intellectual powers through natural selection-- Importance of
imitation--Social and moral faculties--Their development within the limits of the same
tribe--Natural selection as affecting civilised nations--Evidence that civilised nations
were once barbarous.
The subjects to be discussed in this chapter are of the highest interest, but are treated by
me in an imperfect and fragmentary manner. Mr. Wallace, in an admirable paper before
referred to (1. Anthropological Review, May 1864, p. clviii.), argues that man, after he
had partially acquired those intellectual and moral faculties which distinguish him from
the lower animals, would have been but little liable to bodily modifications through
natural selection or any other means. For man is enabled through his mental faculties "to
keep with an unchanged body in harmony with the changing universe." He has great
power of adapting his habits to new conditions of life. He invents weapons, tools, and
various stratagems to procure food and to defend himself. When he migrates into a colder
climate he uses clothes, builds sheds, and makes fires; and by the aid of fire cooks food
otherwise indigestible. He aids his fellow-men in many ways, and anticipates future
events. Even at a remote period he practised some division of labour.
The lower animals, on the other hand, must have their bodily structure modified in order
to survive under greatly changed conditions. They must be rendered stronger, or acquire
more effective teeth or claws, for defence against new enemies; or they must be reduced
in size, so as to escape detection and danger. When they migrate into a colder climate,
they must become clothed with thicker fur, or have their constitutions altered. If they fail
to be thus modified, they will cease to exist.
The case, however, is widely different, as Mr. Wallace has with justice insisted, in
relation to the intellectual and moral faculties of man. These faculties are variable; and
we have every reason to believe that the variations tend to be inherited. Therefore, if they
were formerly of high importance to primeval man and to his ape-like progenitors, they
would have been perfected or advanced through natural selection. Of the high importance
of the intellectual faculties there can be no doubt, for man mainly owes to them his
predominant position in the world. We can see, that in the rudest state of society, the
individuals who were the most sagacious, who invented and used the best weapons or
traps, and who were best able to defend themselves, would rear the greatest number of
offspring. The tribes, which included the largest number of men thus endowed, would
increase in number and supplant other tribes. Numbers depend primarily on the means of
subsistence, and this depends partly on the physical nature of the country, but in a much
higher degree on the arts which are there practised. As a tribe increases and is victorious,
it is often still further increased by the absorption of other tribes. (2. After a time the
members or tribes which are absorbed into another tribe assume, as Sir Henry Maine
remarks ('Ancient Law,' 1861, p. 131), that they are the co-descendants of the same
ancestors.) The stature and strength of the men of a tribe are likewise of some importance
for its success, and these depend in part on the nature and amount of the food which can
be obtained. In Europe the men of the Bronze period were supplanted by a race more
powerful, and, judging from their sword-handles, with larger hands (3. Morlot, 'Soc.