07 - Instinct
07-11 - Summary
I have endeavoured briefly in this chapter to show that the mental qualities of our domestic animals vary, and that the variations are inherited.
Still more briefly I have attempted to show that instincts vary slightly in a state of nature.
No one will dispute that instincts are of the highest importance to each animal.
Therefore I can see no difficulty, under changing conditions of life, in natural selection accumulating slight modifications of instinct to any extent, in any useful direction. In some cases habit or use and disuse have probably come into play.
I do not pretend that the facts given in this chapter strengthen in any great degree my theory; but none of the cases of difficulty, to the best of my judgment, annihilate it.
On the other hand, the fact that instincts are not always absolutely perfect and are liable to mistakes; that no instinct has been produced for the exclusive good of other animals, but that each animal takes advantage of the instincts of others; that the canon in natural history, of 'natura non facit saltum' is applicable to instincts as well as to corporeal structure, and is plainly explicable on the foregoing views, but is otherwise inexplicable, all tend to corroborate the theory of natural selection.
This theory is, also, strengthened by some few other facts in regard to instincts; as by that common case of closely allied, but certainly distinct, species, when inhabiting distant parts of the world and living under considerably different conditions of life, yet often retaining nearly the same instincts.
For instance, we can understand on the principle of inheritance, how it is that the thrush of South America lines its nest with mud, in the same peculiar manner as does our British thrush: how it is that the male wrens (Troglodytes) of North America, build 'cock-nests,' to roost in, like the males of our distinct Kitty-wrens, a habit wholly unlike that of any other known bird.
Finally, it may not be a logical deduction, but to my imagination it is far more satisfactory to look at such instincts as the young cuckoo ejecting its foster-brothers, ants making slaves, -- the larvae of ichneumonidae feeding within the live bodies of caterpillars, not as specially endowed or created instincts, but as small consequences of one general law, leading to the advancement of all organic beings, namely, multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die.