To return to Darwin's further comparisons between the higher mental powers of man and animals. He takes much of the force from the argument that man alone is capable of abstraction and self-consciousness by his own observations on dogs. One of the main differences between man and animals, speech, receives detailed treatment. He points out that various animals (birds, monkeys, dogs) have a large number of different sounds for different emotions, that, further, man produces in common with animals a whole series of inarticulate cries combined with gestures, and that dogs learn to understand whole sentences of human speech. In regard to human language, Darwin expresses a view contrary to that held by Max Muller ("Descent of Man", page 132.): "I cannot doubt that language owes its origin to the imitation and modification of various natural sounds, the voices of other animals, and man's own instinctive cries, aided by signs and gestures." The development of actual language presupposes a higher degree of intelligence than is found in any kind of ape. Darwin remarks on this point (Ibid. pages 136, 137.): "The fact of the higher apes not using their vocal organs for speech no doubt depends on their intelligence not having been sufficiently advanced."
The sense of beauty, too, has been alleged to be peculiar to man. In refutation of this assertion Darwin points to the decorative colours of birds, which are used for display. And to the last objection, that man alone has religion, that he alone has a belief in God, it is answered "that numerous races have existed, and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea." (Ibid. page 143.)
The result of the investigations recorded in this chapter is to show that, great as the difference in mental powers between man and the higher animals may be, it is undoubtedly only a difference "of degree and not of kind." ("Descent of Man", page 193.)
In the fourth chapter Darwin deals with the MORAL SENSE or CONSCIENCE, which is the most important of all differences between man and animals. It is a result of social instincts, which lead to sympathy for other members of the same society, to non-egoistic actions for the good of others. Darwin shows that social tendencies are found among many animals, and that among these love and kin-sympathy exist, and he gives examples of animals (especially dogs) which may exhibit characters that we should call moral in man (e.g. disinterested self-sacrifice for the sake of others). The early ape-like progenitors of the human race were undoubtedly social. With the increase of intelligence the moral sense develops farther; with the acquisition of speech public opinion arises, and finally, moral sense becomes habit. The rest of Darwin's detailed discussions on moral philosophy may be passed over.
The fifth chapter may be very briefly summarised. In it Darwin shows that the intellectual and moral faculties are perfected through natural selection. He inquires how it can come about that a tribe at a low level of evolution attains to a higher, although the best and bravest among them often pay for their fidelity and courage with their lives without leaving any descendants. In this case it is the sentiment of glory, praise and blame, the admiration of others, which bring about the increase of the better members of the tribe. Property, fixed dwellings, and the association of families into a community are also indispensable requirements for civilisation. In the longer second section of the fifth chapter Darwin acts mainly as recorder. On the basis of numerous investigations, especially those of Greg, Wallace, and Galton, he inquires how far the influence of natural selection can be demonstrated in regard to civilised nations. In the final section, which deals with the proofs that all civilised nations were once barbarians, Darwin again uses the results gained by other investigators, such as Lubbock and Tylor. There are two sets of facts which prove the proposition in question. In the first place, we find traces of a former lower state in the customs and beliefs of all civilised nations, and in the second place, there are proofs to show that savage races are independently able to raise themselves a few steps in the scale of civilisation, and that they have thus raised themselves.
In the sixth chapter of the work, Morphology comes into the foreground once more. Darwin first goes back, however, to the argument based on the great difference between the mental powers of the highest animals and those of man. That this is only quantitative, not qualitative, he has already shown. Very instructive in this connection is the reference to the enormous difference in mental powers in another class. No one would draw from the fact that the cochineal insect (Coccus) and the ant exhibit enormous differences in their mental powers, the conclusion that the ant should therefore be regarded as something quite distinct, and withdrawn from the class of insects altogether.
Darwin next attempts to establish the SPECIFIC genealogical tree of man, and carefully weighs the differences and resemblances between the different families of the Primates. The erect position of man is an adaptive character, just as are the various characters referable to aquatic life in the seals, which, notwithstanding these, are ranked as a mere family of the Carnivores. The following utterance is very characteristic of Darwin ("Descent of Man", page 231.): "If man had not been his own classifier, he would never have thought of founding a separate order for his own reception." In numerous characters not mentioned in systematic works, in the features of the face, in the form of the nose, in the structure of the external ear, man resembles the apes. The arrangement of the hair in man has also much in common with the apes; as also the occurrence of hair on the forehead of the human embryo, the beard, the convergence of the hair of the upper and under arm towards the elbow, which occurs not only in the anthropoid apes, but also in some American monkeys. Darwin here adopts Wallace's explanation of the origin of the ascending direction of the hair in the forearm of the orang,--that it has arisen through the habit of holding the hands over the head in rain. But this explanation cannot be maintained when we consider that this disposition of the hair is widely distributed among the most different mammals, being found in the dog, in the sloth, and in many of the lower monkeys.
After further careful analysis of the anatomical characters Darwin reaches the conclusion that the New World monkeys (Platyrrhine) may be excluded from the genealogical tree altogether, but that man is an offshoot from the Old World monkeys (Catarrhine) whose progenitors existed as far back as the Miocene period. Among these Old World monkeys the forms to which man shows the greatest resemblance are the anthropoid apes, which, like him, possess neither tail nor ischial callosities. The platyrrhine and catarrhine monkeys have their primitive ancestor among extinct forms of the Lemuridae. Darwin also touches on the question of the original home of the human race and supposes that it may have been in Africa, because it is there that man's nearest relatives, the gorilla and the chimpanzee, are found. But he regards speculation on this point as useless. It is remarkable that, in this connection, Darwin regards the loss of the hair-covering in man as having some relation to a warm climate, while elsewhere he is inclined to make sexual selection responsible for it. Darwin recognises the great gap between man and his nearest relatives, but similar gaps exist at other parts of the mammalian genealogical tree: the allied forms have become extinct. After the extermination of the lower races of mankind, on the one hand, and of the anthropoid apes on the other, which will undoubtedly take place, the gulf will be greater than ever, since the baboons will then bound it on the one side, and the white races on the other. Little weight need be attached to the lack of fossil remains to fill up this gap, since the discovery of these depends upon chance. The last part of the chapter is devoted to a discussion of the earlier stages in the genealogy of man. Here Darwin accepts in the main the genealogical tree, which had meantime been published by Haeckel, who traces the pedigree back through Monotremes, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fishes, to Amphioxus.