chalk for an egg; is insensible of the increase or diminution of their number; does not distinguish between her own and those of another species; is frightened when her supposititious breed of ducklings take the water.” But it will be said, that what reason could not do for the bird, observation, or instruction, or tradition might. Now if it be true, that a couple of sparrows, brought up from the first in a state of separation from all other birds, would build their nest, and brood upon their eggs, then there is an end of this solution. What can be the traditionary knowledge of a chicken hatched in an oven? Of young birds taken in their nests, a few species breed, when kept in cages; and they which do so, build their nests nearly in the same manner as in the wild state, and sit upon their eggs. This is sufficient to prove an instinct, without having recourse to experiments

upon birds, hatched by artificial heat, and

deprived, from their birth, of all communica

tion with their species: for we can hardly bring ourselves to believe, that the parent bird informed her unfledged pupil of the history of her gestation, her timely preparation of a nest, her exclusion of the eggs, her long incubation, and of the joyful eruption at last

of her expected offspring; all which the bird in the cage must have learnt in her infancy, if we resolve her conduct into institution. Unless we will rather suppose, that she remembers her own escape from the egg; had attentively observed the conformation of the nest in which she was nurtured; and had treasured up her remarks for future imitation: which is not only extremely improbable (for who, that sees a brood of callow birds in their nest, can believe that they are taking a plan of their habitation?), but leaves unaccounted for, one principal part of the difficulty, “the preparation of the nest before the laying of the egg.” This she could not gain from observation in her infancy. It is remarkable also, that the hen sits upon eggs which she has laid without any communication with the male; and which are therefore necessarily unfruitful. That secret she is not let into. Yet, if incubation had been a subject of instruction or of tradition, it should seem that this distinction would have formed part of the lesson: whereas the instinct of nature is calculated for a state of nature: the exception here alluded to, taking place, chiefly, if not solely, amongst domesticated fowls, in which nature is forced out of her course.

There is another case of oviparous occonomy, which is still less likely to be the effect of education, than it is even in birds, namely, that of moths and butterflies, which deposit their eggs in the precise substance, that of a cabbage for example, from which, not the butterfly herself, but the caterpillar which is to issue from her egg, draws its appropriate food. The butterfly cannot taste the cabbage. Cabbage is no food for her: yet in the cabbage, not by chance, but studiously and electively, she lays her eggs. There are, amongst many other kinds, the willow-caterpillar and the cabbage-caterpillar: but we never find upon a willow, the caterpillar which eats the cabbage; nor the converse. This choice, as appears to me, cannot in the butterfly proceed from instruction. She had no teacher in her caterpillar state. She never knew her parent. I do not see, therefore, how knowledge, acquired by experience, if it ever were such, could be transmitted from one generation to another. There is no opportunity either for instruction or imitation. The parent race is gone, before the new brood is hatched. And if it be original reasoning in the butterfly, it is profound reasoning indeed. She must remember her caterpillar state, its tastes and habits: of which memory she shows no signs whatever. She must conclude from analogy (for here her recollection cannot serve her), that the little round body, which drops from her abdomen, will at a future period produce a living creature, not like herself, but like the caterpillar which she remembers herself once to have been. Under the influence of these reflections, she goes about to make provision for an order of things, which she concludes will, some time or other, take place. And it is to be observed, that not a few out of many, but that all butterflies argue thus; all draw this conclusion; all act upon it. But suppose the address, and the selection. and the plan, which we perceive in the preparations which many irrational animals make for their young, to be traced to some probable origin; still there is left to be accounted for, that which is the source and foundation of these phaenomena, that which sets the whole at work, the rvogyn, the parental affection which I contend to be inexplicable upon any other hypothesis than that of instinct. For we shall hardly, I imagine, in brutes, refer their conduct towards their offspring to a sense of duty, or of decency, a care of reputation, a compliance with public manners, with public laws, or with rules of life built upon a long experience of their utility. And all attempts to account for the parental affec- tion from association, I think, fail. With what is it associated? Most immediately with the throes of parturition, that is, with pain and terror and disease. The more remote, but not less strong association, that which depends upon analogy, is all against it. Every thing else, which proceeds from the body, is cast away, and rejected. In birds, is it the egg which the hen loves? or is it the expectation which she cherishes of a future progeny, that keeps her upon her nest? What cause has she to expect delight from her progeny? Can any rational answer be given to the question, why, prior to experience, the brooding hen should look for pleasure from her chickens? It does not, I think, appear, that the cuckoo ever knows her young: yet, in her way, she is as careful in making provision for them, as any other bird. She does not leave her egg in every hole. The salmon suffers no surmountable obstacle to oppose her progress up the stream of fresh rivers. And what does she do there? She sheds a spawn, which she immediately quits, in order to return to the sea: and this issue of her body, she never afterwards recognizes in any shape whatever. Where shall

« VorigeDoorgaan »