21st January, 2018. ‘Descent of Man’ 2.

Part one of Darwin’s On the Descent of Man dealt with many lines of thought discussed in the Origin of Species but now as directly relating to Man the animal rather than avoiding that species (s.p.b.). Darwin argued that as well as anatomically (see previous illustration) Man’s mental faculties can be explained as having gradually evolved from natural processes, factors such as language, reasoning ability, morality, religious notions, memory and imagination. The issue of language was particularly hotly debated having previously been seen as tangible evidence of Man’s special identity. (My own view on view on this would be to wonder whether other species do have their language and ‘if we could talk to the animals’ (from a musical I believe) we would know; the problem is that inter-species language understanding is as unknown to modern society as it has been throughout history). Darwin used many studies of animal behaviour to support his ideas. (Obviously the language of some specious is far more audible to us than say the language of small mammals. Geese on the nearby wetland seem to be almost constantly ‘gabbling’, particularly so before setting-off in flight, so it is as if they have had a group discussion before deciding on a collective course of action. So might not this language have been taught by the adults rather than us just assuming that a limited range of sounds are implanted in their brains by instinct the meaning of which they understand by instinct?).

The final chapter of Darwin’s part one dealt with the issue of human races, a big problem area for modern society. Whatever criticisms may be made of Darwin’s ideas in this context he always believed that all human races were one and the same species, that variations were superficial and explainable by ‘sexual selection’. (To be continued).