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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

For instance, the celebrated mound-buihiers or brush-turkeys of the
Australian? region build large mounds of rubbish and decaying leaves
and deposit their eggs at the end of tunnels in the mounds, leaving
them to be hatched out by the; heal of (he fermenting vegetation.
The young brush-turkey on hatch ing scrambles oul of the tunnel; it
can get no instruction from its parents, since they have long since gone
about their own business; and not only does it not slay around the
mound long enough to observe how it is constructed, but docs not
bestow on it so much as a look. None the less, when the time conies
for it to mate, it will build a mound just as its ancestors have done.
Secondly, even young birds which have been brought up by hand
in artificial nests—boxes lined by cotton wool or what not will build
the proper kind of nest, for their species when the time comes for
mating, and will not attempt to reproduce their own early homos.
We are reminded of Dr. Johnson's comment on the suggestion that the
attraction which woman's bosom lias for the male sex is chut to its
pleasurable association with food during infancy. Tie* did not notice,
he said, that those who had been hand-fed when babies evinced any
passionate fondness for bottles. In fact, the impulse of sex attraction
in the one case, the impulse to construct a nest of a certain type in the
other, cannot be explained by any rationalistic- arguments of this sort;
the one and the other are based not upon reason, not upon association,
but upon instinct. The finch, for instance, has the impulse1:, when its
mating urge is upon it, to weave coarse material into a rough cup,
and then to line this with some finer material; the tailor-bird has the
impulse to take leaves and sew them together; the house-martin to
collect mud or clay and construct a cup against the side of a dilFor
a house.
In a not dissimilar way, the bird which is in the physiological state
of broodincss will have the violent urge to sit on eggs, or, if no eggs are
available, it will often take something else. Grows have been known
to brood golf-balls, gulls to sit on tobacco-tins substituted for their
eggs; and the majestic emperor penguin, if it loses its egg or cluck,
will even brood lumps of ice in its inhospitable Antarctic home.
This fobbing off of a natural urge with an unnatural substitute is
doubtless unintelligent; but we may ask whether it is more unin-
telligent than the behaviour of elderly maiden ladies who spend their
maternal impulses upon lapdogs or canaries, or that of disappointed
old bachelors who turn their energies into a useless hobby.
In all probability, however, the bird's behaviour is more unintelli-
gent; for undoubtedly it does not even rationalize as we do, or seek
to find reasons for its behaviour. How un-humanly a bird regards