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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

remains relatively small, without convolutions on its surface; while
other parts which are known to be the regulating machinery for
complicated but more automatic and more emotional actions, are in
birds relatively larger than in four-footed creatures.
But enough of this generalizing. What I wanted to show at the
outset was the fact that in the lives of birds we are not merely studying
the actions of creatures which, though small and feathered, had minds
of the same type as ourselves, albeit on a lower level, but of a branch of
the tree of life which, in mind as in body, has specialized along a line
of its own, showing us mind of a different quality from ours. They
have raised emotion to the highest pitch found in animals; the line
of mammals has done the same thing for intelligence.
Perhaps the most obvious way in which birds differ from men in
their behaviour is that they can do all that they have to, including
some quite complicated things, without ever being taught. Flying, to
start with, is an activity which, for all its astonishing complexity of
balance and aeronautical adjustment, comes untaught to birds.
Young birds very frequently make their first flight when their parents
arc out of sight. Practice, of course, makes perfect and puts a polish
on the somewhat awkward first performance; but there is no elabor-
ate learning needed as with our learning of golf or tennis or figure-
skating. Furthermore, the stories of old birds " teaching " their young
to fly seem all to be erroneous. Some kinds of birds, once their young
are full-fledged, do try to lure them away from the nest. But this
merely encourages them to take the plunge; there is no instruction
by the old bird in the movements of flight, no conscious imitation by
the young.
But flight, after all, is something very organic. What is much more
extraordinary than that a bird should be able to fly untaught (though
this demands a formidable complexity of self-regulating machinery
provided ready-made by Nature in the form of muscles and skeleton,
nerves and nerve centres, eyes and balance organs) is that it should be
able to build its nest untaught And of this there can be no manner
of doubt. Young birds, mating for the first time, can make perfectly
good nests, and nests of the usual type found among their particular
species. Some people have suggested that this may be due to their
having absorbed the necessary knowledge from contemplating the
structure of the nest in which they were brought up. But even if we
were to admit that this was possible—which is very unlikely, con-
sidering that the young of small birds are very stupid, only live a few
days in the nest after their eyes are open, and arc never given any
lessons in nest-building by their parents—it is negatived by the facts,