Instinct And Natural Selection -- By: Francis Howe Johnson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 042:167 (Jul 1885)
Article: Instinct And Natural Selection
Author: Francis Howe Johnson


Instinct And Natural Selection

Rev. F. H. Johnson

However far from a true understanding of evolution we may yet be, one result of inestimable value has accrued from its hypothetical statement. It has sent the men of the study back to nature with an urgent and pressing errand. While the scientific explorer can hardly help becoming a philosopher, the philosopher must concern himself with the facts and theories of science. Especially is this true in the department of psychology.

Probably, no one of all the artificial barriers that have hitherto obstructed the progress of thought, is less able to give a rational account of itself than that which has separated by a hard-and-fast line between man and the lower animals, on the ground that the one is a creature governed by reason and intelligence, while the other, devoid of reason and intelligence, is governed exclusively by instinct. The removal of this conventional distinction has been like the bursting of a speculation-proof dam, by which two worlds of thought, hitherto held apart, have been permitted to flow together, and modify each other. Psychology is no longer, as under the influence of Descartes, exclusively the science of the human mind. It has become the science of mind in general. This has come to pass, not alone through the recognition of the undoubted exercise of intelligence by animals, but equally, by the recognition of the fact that instinct plays an important part in the life of man. While, therefore, for a fuller understanding of the nature and origin of intelligence, we extend our research into the realm of animal life; on the other hand, for a better knowledge of the

nature and origin of instinct, we study the conditions of its appearance and modification in the human mind.

Unquestionably, evolution, the great troubler of repose in every department of thought, must be credited with having greatly hastened, if it has not altogether brought about, this way of looking at things. But if psychology has been dragged into a new field by upstart evolution, it does not follow that it is simply to play the part of a passive recipient when once it is there. Evolution may be a great modifier of our old sciences. But, on the other hand, it is no secret that it also stands in great need of modification and amplification. Its most able supporters claim only that Mr. Darwin has elaborated one side of the doctrine. The major factor in the great world process, the source of variation, is still seeking an explanation; and evolution interrogates every ancient science which it wakes up, as to its ability to throw light on this problem. While, therefore, psychology questions evolution as to its bearing upon the nature and ori...

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