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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

THE UNIQUENESS OF MAN
impart: the transmission of experience never bridges .more than one
generation. In man, however, tradition is an independent and
potentially permanent activity, capable of indefinite improvement in
quality and increase in quantity. It constitutes a new accessory
process of heredity in evolution, running side by side with the bio-
logical process, a heredity of experience to supplement the universal
heredity of living substance.
The existence of a cumulative tradition has as its chief consequence
—or if you prefer, its chief objective manifestation—the progressive
improvement of human tools and machinery. Many animals employ
tools; but they arc always crude tools employed in a crude way,
Elaborate tools and skilled technique can develop only with the aid
of speech and tradition.
In the perspective of evolution, tradition and tools arc the char*
acters which have given man his dominant position among organisms.
This biological dominance is, at prison t, another of man's unique
properties. In each geological epoch of which we have knowledge,
there have been types which must be styled biologically dominant:
they multiply, they extinguish or reduce competing types, they extend
their range, they radiate into new modes of life. Usually at any one
time there is one such type—the placental mammals, for instance, in
the Cenozoic Epoch; but sometimes there is more than one. The
Mcsozoic is usually called the Age of Reptiles, but in reality the
reptiles were then competing for dominance with the insects: in
earlier periods we should be hard put to it to decide whether trilobites,
nautiloids, or early fish were the dominant type. To-day, however,
there is general agreement that man is the sole type meriting the title.
Since the early Pleistocene, widespread extinction has diminished the
previously dominant group of placental mammals, and man has not
merely multiplied, but has evolved, extended his range, and increased
the variety of his modes of life.
Biology thus reinstates man in a position analogous to that con-
ferred on him as Lord of Creation by theology. There are, however >
differences, and differences of some importance for our general out-
look. In the biological view, the other animals have riot been created
to serve man's needs, but man has evolved in such a way that he has
been able to eliminate some competing types, to enslave others by
domestication, and to modify physical and biological conditions over
the larger part of the earth's land area. The theological view was not
true in detail or in many of its implications; but it had a solid
biological basis,
Speech, tradition, and tools have led to many other unique pro*
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