What is the Origin of Man?
by Dr. Maurice Bucaille
Chapter 2: The Evolution of Man compared with that of other living beings similarities and differences
The successive waves of Human types from Primitive Man to Homo Sapiens
If we apply the same criteria to man as to the rest of the animal kingdom; his anatomical characteristics would seem at first glance to place him in the order of primates that gave birth to the lineages containing present day apes. As P. P: Grasse has stressed, however, the ancient forms of these lineages have still not been discovered. We are faced with an enormous gap in our knowledge.
"In the history of the primates, we must be careful not to take at face value the reconstitutions of our ancestors based on on a few scanty vestiges (some teeth, a fragment of jawbone, the top of a skull) which were put forward in all seriousness by highly imaginative palaeontologists. This explains why genealogical trees of Man are quickly devised, and just as quickly discarded. The most recent works on the subject appear to be fairly mediocre, even though they concern new and interesting discoveries; the researchers engaged in these studies have neither the knowledge nor the good sense to interpret the discoveries correctly."
What is striking in many publications is the existence of a very strong wish to announce the reconstitution of a man dating from an age that is even older than that of the oldest man so far discovered. To achieve this, insignificant debris is used which by no means lead to certainties. Exaggerated claims resulting from imaginative interpretations in this field are legion.
One of the latest discoveries concerning the oldest man yet known is the Ramapithecus. It was found in India and Kenya in sediments dating from the tertiary era, around fifteen million years ago. The fossil in question (which is in fact limited to a few vestiges of bones) cannot seriously be integrated into the ancestry of man. According to P. P. Grasse': "Even if one had the genius of Cuvier, one could not reconstruct an animal from a few bits of debris." Whatever certain observers may say, therefore, these modest remains do not represent an ancestor of man.
The same applies to another so called ancestor, the Oreopithecus, which is in fact a fossilized ape: The animal clearly lived in the forest, for its arms are very long much longer than its lower limbs as is the case for apes which swing from tree to tree. It is roughly twelve million years old, very small in size in comparison with today's man (1.10 metres to 1.20 metres), and its cranial capacity is quite 'small (400 cc.) As in the case of the Ramapithecus the fossilized remains, are not accompanied, by any sign of activity that might be considered human. E. Genet Varcin puts the Oreopithecus in an independent family, for she does not consider that it can be the ancestor of the hominids that were to follow.
Given the present state of knowledge, there seems to be general agreement that the Australopithecus is a specimen that belongs to the most ancient wave of authentic hominids who lived, not in the forest like the great apes, but in the savannah. The first example of this type was discovered in South Africa in 1924, and other remains were subsequently unearthed in the same region. More recently, vestiges come from near the great African Lakes (Leakey, 1959.) Remains may also have been found in Java in sediments that are possibly one to four million years old. Some observers think that a form of Australopithecus, called Meganthropus, because it is larger than the others, was found in Java in terranes dating only from 600,000 years ago. They probably belong to the type in question, even at this era, but doubts remain and we cannot state for sure that this first great ancestor of man lived until this time.
We must also mention the fact that French palaeontologists, among them Y. Coppens, have discovered remains of the Australopithecus in terranes between one and four million years old. The discoveries were first made in 1967 in the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. The fossilized remains of a woman in her twenties, subsequently named 'Lucy' were discovered in 1974 in the Afar, in sediments that date from 3.5 million years ago.
The specimens are generally small in size: One type might measure roughly 1.5 metres, another, more slender specimen, could measure some 1.25 metres. The skeleton of the face presents ape like features: The skull sometimes displays a sagittal crest. In these specimens, however, characteristics are present that are undeniably human: The biped posture, the curvatures of the spine, which resemble those of man on account of the protuberance of the fifth lumbar vertebra, the broad pelvis, the femur, which is adapted to the biped posture, the anterior position of the foramen magnum or occipital foramen (large opening in the basal part of, the skull through the occipital bone.) The dentition also displays human characteristics: The teeth are small at the front, but the premolars and molars are very large.
While its cranial capacity remained small (roughly 500 to 550 cc.), the Australopithecus was capable of thought, and of using tools, which he fashioned himself. Among the sites containing human fossils, pebbles have been found that were fashioned so as 2o form a cutting edge; they were probably used for hunting. These sharpened flints indicate a capacity for invention and creation that is not possessed by the apes. Such qualities enabled the, Australopithecus to produce even more sophisticated implements, which he held in his fist or used as a small hatchet. He also fashioned tools made of split bone, employing a technique that allowed him to use the implements as daggers and clubs (R. A. Dart.) The discovery of animal bones, in particular the bones of antelopes, suggest that the Australopithecus also hunted these animals. There is no trace of a fireplace in any of the excavated sites. These are the most relevant aspects of the details provided by E. Genet Varcin on these ancestors of men, and the men who were to follow.
The second wave of hominids was the Pithecanthropi or Archanthropians.
A Dutch military doctor, named Eugene Dubois, is said to have requested a post in Indonesia in the hope of finding there what he thought was the `missing link' between the apes and man. In 1890, he discovered in Java the top of a cranium, and a femur, which seemed to display human characteristics. Not until 1936, however, were further fossils of the same type discovered in Java, identical to the specimen named by Dubois Pithecanthropus Erectus. A large quantity of remains of a type later called Sinanthropus was uncovered between 1928 and 1937 in the Chou Kou Tien Caves near Peking. Over the last twenty years remains have been excavated by L.S.B. Leakey in Tanzania and by Y. Coppens in Chad, and vestiges have been found in Asia and Indonesia. E. Genet Varcin is doubtful about discoveries of this type of man in Europe, but P. P. Grasse classes among the Pithecanthropi the Tautavel Man; which was discovered near Perigean in France. The human remains found in the Lazaret Caves in Nice, and those uncovered at Ternifine in the Oran region of Algeria also seem to P: P. Grasse to belong to the same type. He thinks that the Pithecanthropi may have lived some 500,000 years ago, surviving for roughly 350,000 years.
At this point, man seems to have grown in size: Interpretations of the skeletal fragments uncovered indicate heights between 1.58 metres and 1.78 metres, depending on the site in which the remains were found. The human characteristics of these remains are quite marked, and the upright posture can be discerned.
The average cranial capacity is roughly 900 cc. (in a range of 775 to 1,200 cc.) A bony protuberance is always present above the eye sockets (orbits), and on the back of the head. The orbits are extremely large. The general look of the face resembles the human types that were later to follow.
From the time of the Australopithecus, intellectual powers began to develop. The Pithecanthropus used fire, as indicated by the discovery in the Chou Kou Tien Caves of burnt animal bones, and stones blackened by fire arranged in a circle. The Pithecanthropus shows a more sophisticated ingenuity than the Australopithecus, as evidenced by discoveries both in China and in Tanzania. We find this again in Europe at Tautavel near Perpignan, where H. de Lumley uncovered scrapers and pointed implements. In the Lazaret Caves in Nice, there are traces of picks driven into the ground and stones arranged in rows, which may have marked the limits of various habitations. All these discoveries indicate a certain capacity for reasoning and reflection.
In comparison with modern man however, the Australopithecus and the Pithecanthropus possessed a very small brain. This is an important point, for in all likelihood; there is a direct link between the volume of the brain and the development of its functional capacity, which is conditioned by the number of neurones present. Today, a person whose brain ceases to develop once it attains a volume of less than 1,000 cc. will most probably show signs; of mental ret9rdation that prevent him from leading a normal life: The first two waves of hominids possessed a brain volume of less than 1,000 cc., and yet they displayed powers of invention and creation. P. P. Grasse considers that: "This proves the rule whereby the various states through which a lineage passes during its development must be functional, balanced and irreversible. The Australopithecus and the Pithecanthropus, each with their respective brain capacities of 500 cc. and 800 cc., lived and prospered in harmony with their environment, thus indicating the truth of the statement that evolution never takes place in abnormal or disorderly conditions."
The third wave of hominids were the Neanderthals (or Paleanthropians.) According to some sources, they appeared roughly 100,000 years ago and lived approximately 60,000 years. Other observers, such as E.Genet-Varcin, think that, they appeared much earlier, perhaps as much as 500,000 years ago. The Neanderthals lived in Europe, Asia and Africa.
The first remains of Neanderthal Man were discovered in 1856 in the Neander Valley near Diisseldorf in West Germany. Not until 1908, however, was the first more or less complete skeleton uncovered at La Chapelle aux Saints in the Correze region of France: Later, identical types turned up in Spain, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Palestine, Iraq and Java.
Although Neanderthal Man was of medium size, perfectly biped, and endowed with well developed muscles, his facial morphology was different from that of man today: His forehead was low, being reduced almost to a large bony protuberance above the orbits, and the absence of a chin gave his face a muzzle like appearance. Compared with the hominids of the second wave, however, Neanderthal Man's skull is more developed: Its capacity increased at this point from 1,300 cc. to 1,600 cc. The development of his intellectual level is born out by 'the quality of weapons and implements discovered near, the remains of Neanderthal Man. He most probably found shelter in caves, in which he made fire and arranged his surroundings to suit his convenience.
It has been suggested by some palaeontologists that the existence in burial sites of objects thought to be required in the afterlife (large pieces of animals, antlers and horns, stone implements) indicates certain spirituality (?). The halo like arrangement of antlers around the head of the deceased, and various deposits of ochre may likewise bear witness to a certain aesthetic sensibility (E.Genet-Varcin.)
One wonders whether Neanderthal Man gave birth to Homo Sapiens the latter simply following on from the former or whether they both coexisted side by side. Fossilized remains, such as the Qafzeh Man discovered in Palestine, possess a skull that is almost the same as that of Homo Sapiens, displaying only a very minor frontal protuberance (a feature that resembles Neanderthal Man); the coexistence of the two types may well have led to interbreeding. According to P: P. Grasse, there are solid paleolontological arguments to support the idea of the coexistence some 100,000 years ago of Homo Sapiens and Neanderthal Man (the absence of the bony protuberance above the orbits, and the fact that the occipital foramen magnum is located very far forward are particularly important in this respect.) Does this therefore mean that we may talk of a Praesapiens type?
While the above is simply a hypothesis, there is reason to think that man as we know him today displayed these principal anatomical characteristics some 35,000 to 40,000 years ago, thus constituting the species known as Homo Sapiens:
The following is a brief summary of the data on Homo Sapiens supplied by E. Genet Varcin:
Compared with the third wave of hominids, the fourth displays a higher, more spherical skull, with a well-developed occipital region; the bony protuberance above the orbits has disappeared, and, owing to the appearance of a chin, so has the muzzle like aspect of the face. The cranial capacity has been reduced to an average of 1,350 cc., and the limbs have acquired the proportions we know today.
The first representatives of this latest wave were discovered in many parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. The best-preserved and most accurately dated skeletons were found in France; for example, the Combe-Capelle Man, and in particular the Cro-Magnon Man, which was discovered in 1868 at Les Eyzies in the Dordogne region. The height of Cro-Magnon Man is greater than that of Combe-Capelle Man (1.80 metres), and he still possesses certain archaic features: The occipital region of the skull is not yet entirely developed, the face is very wide but the orbits are situated at a lower position and the nose is protuberant. These few remaining features were quickly, to disappear, however, and thereafter, there were no noticeable changes in human morphology.
"From the moment he first appeared, Homo Sapiens displayed a degree of psychic activity superior to that of any hominid preceding him: He was able to sharpen stones, with considerable skill, versatility, subtlety and aesthetic sensibility. He made great use of bone and ivory, no longer in their quasi raw state, but fashioned into various tools: picks, awls, batons; implements for smoothing objects or casting projectiles, needles, tridents, harpoons, hooks, etc. "... "His habitations... were quite varied. As in the past, when faced with a harsh climate, he found shelter in caves and rocks. In regions without natural shelters, he knew how to dig and prepare the ground, and to construct huts made of branches; traces of a fireplace indicate what was once the focal point of the habitation.
"Man lived as a predator cum gatherer; he hunted game and picked fruit, thus supplying himself with food and clothing. His skill as a hunter is evident from the remains of animals found at sites such as Solutre' in the Saone-et-Loire region of France; he sometimes used these animal remains to furnish his home. In order to light his habitation, he knew how to choose wood that would burn without leaving much soot, and he also made use of stone lamps."
He "was able to create works of art, no genuine traces of which have ever been found from periods prior to him"... "Representations of animals form his main pictorial theme." Among other works of art, E.Genet Varcin cites the cave paintings at Altamira and Lascaux.
It is useful to remember, that in the Altamira Caves near Santander in Spain, there are wall paintings and engravings of bovines and cervidae, which cannot easily be dated precisely. Various contents of the caves have been analysed by carbon 14 radio chronology, and an estimated figure of 13,500 years has been suggested. It is not possible, however, to be absolutely certain that the figure represents the age of the paintings themselves: Some estimates would seem to indicate that the works of art are much older. The Lascaux Caves in France are remarkable for the wide range of animals depicted and the variety of artistic skills employed. The paintings are thought to date from roughly the same period as those found at Santander, but here again, some observers think they may be even older.
In E.Genet Varcin's opinion, the man of this period "displayed preoccupations of a metaphysical kind. The numerous burial grounds contain human remains that are often arranged in the foetal position, daubed with red ochre, decorated with ornaments fashioned into headdresses, necklaces, bracelets, and pendants, and composed of shells, teeth, and round pieces of bone. In the vicinity of the human body were placed stone weapons, the remains of animals, and the antlers of reindeer and stags. The body was surrounded by large slabs of stone, and sometimes even covered by them. "... "When it came to expressing his sentiments ", the man of this period "attained a psychic level equal to that of modern man ".
Although he subsequently underwent a few morphological variations, these changes only superficially affected man's organs and functions. Since heredity has continued these modifications right down to the days of recorded history, the concept of different races has been put forward. In fact, these were primarily entities that were initially grouped geographically, and within which dominant mutations occurred and were subsequently perpetuated. Various groups appeared prematurely which displayed distinctive characteristics, but they all retained the basic features of modern man. For example, P. P. Grasse cites the 'Negroids' of Grimaldi (Monaco), the oldest `race', the Cro-Magnon Man, European in type, and, the Chancelade Man, whose kinship with the Mongoloid race is currently in dispute.
Very quickly, however, mixed characteristics began to appear in the various fossils uncovered, causing P. P. Grasse to add the following note: "Racial purity is an entirely imaginary concept. It does not exist at present, if indeed it ever did exist. All men are hybrids derived from various races, but in differing degrees."
Studies of mutations which may perhaps grant certain very minor advantages to particular human groups indicate that man does not at present display any tendancy toward a new type of organization: For man, evolution has come to a halt.
Evolution in the Various Human Groups
The Gaps In Our Knowledge
In the previous chapter, we provided a 'very broad and simplified summary of the data on the predecessors of man that arise from an objective, unbiased examination of scientific discoveries. From this summary, certain facts emerged that were patently clear: Next to the indisputable material for thought imposed by palaeontology concerning periods which are in fact only roughly defined, there are equally indisputable gaps in our knowledge, in other words places where links are missing. In particular, these gaps concern the birth of the order of primates and the link with the three animal branches that descend from it. Almost the only material for study that we possess for these branches are the present day forms of these animals. In actual fact, our knowledge of the most primitive hominid forms begins with the very recent Australopithecus; 'recent' because it is only one to five million years old (six million years old according to some), which in terms of evolution is not very old at all.
If we leave aside forms such as Homo Erectus, and Homo Habilis, which may be linked to the main waves of human types or may simply be forms very similar to those already mentioned, there would seem to be four main waves in the succession of hominids that appeared on earth [This is the figure provided by the current state of knowledge. It by no means rules out the possibility of further waves that still remain to be discovered, nor does it exclude the addition of forms already known today but which may become more significant later on.]. Each wave displays a more developed structural organization compared with that of its predecessor, leading toward the appearance of the perfectly adapted final type. For example, primordial human features began to appear, such as the biped posture, the functions of the hand and articulate speech. These characteristics developed simultaneously with the growth of the intelligence and psychical powers (the expanded cranial capacity indicates the increasingly sophisticated organization of the brain.) This suggests a constant march toward greater organizational complexity: Each wave displays a progression in comparison with the one preceding it, as part of a decidedly discontinuous march which came to a halt roughly 35,000 to 40,000 years ago, according to today's calculations. The latter are subject to future revision, but it is highly unlikely that the experts responsible for determining the age of the terranes in which the fossils were found are far wrong in their estimates. Geochronology is based particularly on the measurement of the radioactivity of rock samples that contain radioelements: for example lead or strontium, or potassium argon for the datation of specimens that are millions of years old, and radioactive carbon for samples no more than 50,000 years old.
It is important to bear in mind, however, that palaeontology can only provide a fairly definitive estimate of the period in which a particular type lived when there are many samples present: Their existence in large numbers enables us to state that a certain form lived from point A in time to point B, but that does not rule out the possibility that remains exist which are as yet undiscovered, lying hidden in terranes that are perhaps older or younger than those under study. Unfortunately, as far as the most ancient ancestors of man are concerned, very few fossilized remains have so far been uncovered. Given the present state of knowledge, therefore, we must limit ourselves to stating that a certain form lived at a certain time, and we should be very wary when giving approximate dates for its possible appearance or disappearance.
Were the Waves Independent or Interdependent?
The major question facing us today is the nature of the links that may or may not have existed between the waves at present identifiable. We know for sure that man's functional and psychical powers and in particular his creative intelligence all developed at the same rate as certain of his anatomical features (cranial capacity, for example.) This development occurred with perfect regularity within the progress of time, and there is no evidence of any regression toward a less evolved form. In the light of these facts, there seems at first no, reason why we should not apply the same rules to man as to the rest of the animal kingdom, thus allowing the four waves of hominids to derive one from another in succession: From the Australopithecus came the Pithecanthropus, which gave birth to Neanderthal Man, the direct ancestor of Homo Sapiens not to mention various secondary branches.
Diagram to be inserted:
Simplified Diagram Showing the Phylogeny of the Hominids According to E. Genet Varcln (Encyclopaedia Universalis, volume 8, page 499)
As may be seen, E. Genet Varcin considers that at the beginning of the tertiary era, some sixty million years ago, the lineage that was to produce the great apes (shown on the left) and the lineage that was lead to present day man (indicated on the right) are quite separate from each other. Even for periods prior to the tertiary era, there is no evidence to suggest the existence of a common origin.
As a palaeontologist, however E. Genet Varcin finds that this theory `presents many difficulties.' It implies that the four main groups have probably existed independently of each other from a very early stage. The phylogeny (see diagram) of the hominids, which appears in the Encyclopaedia Universalis (volume 8, page 499), indicates that the first three waves, which may share a common origin with the fourth, ceased to flourish one after the other, the third wave dying .out some 40,000 years ago. The succession was continued by the fourth wave, which gave birth to Cro-Magnon Man and present day Homo sapiens. All of the above statements are no more than a hypothesis: New discoveries of fossilized men may one day confirm or invalidate the diagram. Given the present state of our knowledge, however; we should accept it: We shall see the reasons why later on.
The independence of the four waves of hominids from a very early stage seems doubly certain due to the fact that no fossils have ever been found that indicate the existence of a common archaic breed. As in the diagram, this absence is marked on the genealogical tables of the hominids by a series of dots which form lines that do not meet they mark the development of independent branches, some of which indicate a more extensive growth. It is not possible therefore to accept as the one and only feasible hypothesis the theory that there is a common lineage between the present day great apes and man. There is nothing to suggest that evolution occurred in exactly the same way for man as for the rest of the animal kingdom. Nevertheless, although the famous `missing link' has yet to be found, transformations have undeniably taken place in the hominids through additions to the genetic code. These transformations are in harmony with the theory of creative evolution outlined at the end of Part One. Thus humanity may have begun at a very distant period not yet located by science, a period that is at least as old as the most ancient authentic human vestiges so far brought to light.
Gradually Acquired Stability
For the reasons discussed in the preceding chapter, evolution of some kind undeniably occurred in the various human groups. It definitely seems to have come to a halt, however, shortly before the beginning of recorded history.
Since that time, in other words since the stage at which the form Homo Sapiens was reached, evolution does riot seem to have continued to create. This stability was attained when man acquired a completely biped posture, with all the structural and other anatomical features that such a posture implies, and simultaneously, with the development of the brain as the cranial capacity expanded. Man's growing psychic powers and the development of his ability to perceive, reason and decide all of which led to the loss of his automatic behavioural patterns helped him in the course of tens of thousands of years to adapt to external circumstances.
As P. P. Grasse has stated: "Man is one of the most cosmopolitan terrestrial animals; he can live in any part of the world. He has undergone several thousand different types of mutations, if we judge by the number of alleles [Author's Note: Alleles are mutations that take place at the genetic level.] whose existence is proven by the variety to be found among human beings. There are currently [This quotation is taken from 'Evolution du vivant' (The Evolution of Living Organisms). published in 1973] three billion two hundred million people in the word, all of whose genotypes are different (except for those of identical twins.) Consequently, there is an ample supply of people who can undergo mutations to fulfil the needs of natural selection. But what in actual fact is happening? The answer is that nothing of any importance is currently taking place, or at least nothing that is worth noting. The last anatomical feature acquired by man was the chin (which developed some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, and probably earlier than that if we take into account Homo Praesapiens.)
"Mutations are what make one person different from another, and they perform this task extremely well. But as for the human species as a whole, the favourable conditions for evolution provided by the various human populations and the diversity of their habitats do not change the fact that man's present anatomical and physiological structure is stable.
"In every population, human individuals differ from each other according to their genotype. In spite of this, the species Homo Sapiens is undergoing no change whatsoever, either in its organizational plan, its structure, or its functions... Against a background of common features, an infinite number of differentiating and personalizing `embellishments' appear, none of which has any value in terms of evolution. "
The gradual progression towards stability is obvious.
The evolution of the human species was very rapid (a point to which we shall return), but that does not mean to say that it was sudden or abrupt. Each change resulted in modifications which mutually complemented one another in the course of time, both with regard to form as well as function. This fact is born out by the progress made in terms of intelligence, reasoning and creation, as may be seen in the case of the increased skill with which stone was fashioned, as mentioned above.
Fortuitous Variations Do Not Provide An Answer
Too often, we tend to overlook the tiny number of human generations that separate the Australopithecus from Homo Sapiens. At a very generous estimate, roughly two million years passed between the end of the first wave of hominids and the fourth wave; if we view these notions in the light of theories currently upheld by some observers, we arrive at the following conclusions: Fortuitous mutations affected only one lineage, and natural selection or some other factor determined the role of chance, channelling its actions in the desired ultimate direction. In fact, however, we can quickly see how impossible this is; two million years represent some 80,000 generations of humans, and at the time, the human population of the world was very small, as evidenced by the rarity of fossils discovered. How can we imagine, therefore, that in such a short period of time and in such a tiny population, the mutations could have taken place that were necessary for the coordinated organization of cerebral development (complete with billions of neurones) in the final stage of the evolution of the brain? The above theory cannot possibly provide an explanation: P. P. Grasse thinks it is `absurd..' The evolution of the human species cannot be the result of chance, any more than that of the rest of the living world.
In contrast to this, however, man acquired many new attributes: We shall quickly see that simple references to the rest of the animal kingdom do not allow us to speak of fortuitous mutations or to suppose that these attributes were passed down from one generation to another.
The Most Debated Origin: The Apes or their Ancestors
The Importance of Dealing With This Subject
In spite of certain gaps in our knowledge, the firmly established facts described in the preceding chapters allow us to think that we possess some extremely relevant data concerning the origins of man and the transformations that he underwent during the course of time. In addition to this, our knowledge of evolution in the animal kingdom may also supply insights on certain points concerning man, providing we make careful and objective use of the general ideas to be drawn from such data. It is of course a pity that the study of specimens that are visible to the naked eye (palaeontology, zoology) contains gaps that we would naturally like to see filled. Without wishing to diminish in any way the importance of the contribution made by these disciplines, however, we must draw attention to the tremendous progress made in the comprehension of evolution due to the studies of the cell performed by molecular biology and genetics. Nevertheless, according to some of the most brilliant specialists in these disciplines, all the questions have been solved through the discoveries made by the most recent research (let us not forget J. Monod and the manner in which he set forth his infallible dogma!) In actual fact, by bringing to light certain aspects of cellular life through study at the molecular level, investigation has revealed the existence of the most formidable enigma as far as the organization of the living world is concerned: It consists in the origin of the genetic code which, as it subsequently developed, conditioned the course of all living beings, as noted in our discussion of creative evolution.
Unfortunately, there are far too few specialists in the basic sciences that have arrived at this conclusion. Most of them are more inclined to come to a hasty decision that squares with their own ideologies than to direct their attention to the precise point they are trying to solve; they strive to set forth ideas that tend constantly to 'animalise' man. As far as the spirit governing the approach to the problem is concerned, one is forced to wonder whether it has changed all that much since the time of Darwin. In practical terms, the discussion inevitably comes back to the same question: "Is man descended from the apes or at least from one of his close ancestors?" Many modern researchers convey the feeling that they are motivated by a need to reinforce an old theory with scientific arguments, providing us with a kind of 'update' that appeals to modern day tastes. While the arguments themselves may not date from the time of Darwin, in the case of many researchers, the basic spirit shared by the first partisans of Darwin's theory (who were probably far more fanatical than the master himself) shows through with perfect clarity.
As for the controversies of the past, we must not forget the heated exchanges that took place, at the meeting of the British Association in 1860, between Bishop Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley. In reply to Wilberforce, who rejected the theory that man was descended from the apes, Huxley, as a defender of Darwinism; stated that he would rather be the descendant of an ape than the offspring of a human being who demolishes the work of a scientist championing the defence of truth.
These controversies, which were once limited to a small circle of experts, are now open to a very large public due to radio and television programmes; we are well aware of the tremendous impact these media possess compared with other forms of mass communication. Sad to say, the language used in these media tends more often than not to 'animalise' man: That is .why two particular programmes that appeared on French television came as such a surprise to me when I watched them: In speaking of subjects connected with biology arid man, the head of an important research institute actually referred one day to `divine genius' in connection with the genes. On another occasion, I listened to a former professor at the Sorbonne raise strong objections to theories, which tend to turn us all into descendants of the apes. How unusual it is to hear ideas publicly expressed that contradict today's predominantly materialistic theories!
Those Presented As Our Grandparents
Later on, we shall examine the obvious differences between the apes and man; we shall refer to certain features present in each respective group, thus indicating that the existence of certain human attributes prevents us from sharing a common ancestry. First however, we must outline the origins of the apes and describe certain important features that concern them.
It is possible to suppose that some seventy million years ago there lived various species that were half insectivorous and half primatial, and which formed the origin of the lineage; there are very few fossilized remains, however. Specimens have been brought to light in terranes that are roughly thirty million years old, and these are said to represent the first forms of ape like types. Many more examples from later periods have been discovered. We should note, however, that in referring to these various fossils, certain palaeontologists mention forms that `might have similarities to are likely to be linked to or 'stem to have given birth to...' a particular form that exists today.
This is indeed an indication of the uncertainty that pervades ideas concerning the origins of the apes. If we turn back to the preceding chapter, we shall see from E. Genet Varcin's diagram of the lineages of the pongids and hominids that a few dots indicate the discovery of ancients forms, such as the Ramapithecus of the tertiary era, which was thought by some to be an ancestor of man. While we find that between four (or six) and one million years, the development of the first hominid considered at present 2o be such (the Australopithecus) is marked in right hand column of the diagram (at amore recent period, Neanderthal Man), we find on the side devoted to the pongids a series of interrupted dots indicating uncertainties due to lack of fossilized forms discovered. Not until we reach the top of the `Pongid' column do we find any development of forms similar to those known today. The latter may indeed have possessed distant precursors with forms indicated by the fossilized remains we have discovered from the tertiary era, it is however very difficult to reach any positive conclusions based on such meagre vestiges. Nevertheless, there are those who maintain that the great apes reached anatomical stability nine million years ago. If that were the case, however, the great apes would have been too `mature' to give birth to the first human form known today as the Australopithecus, which did not in fact appear until much later.
At this point, some people will immediately say that the pongids and hominids possessed a common ancestor. There is, however, not one single discovery to prove this. Nobody has succeeded in finding the form that provides the link between the two lineages indicated on the diagram. That is why they remain quite separate.
"It has been claimed that the human branch is an offshoot of an archaic form bearing ape like features. This is by no means sure, however, for the oldest known primates already possess features indicating an adaptation specific to life in the trees. These features are not present either in the anatomy of man or than of the Australopithecus" (P. P. Grasse). If this common branch had existed, a divergence would have occurred at a much earlier period than that of the appearance of the first apes: Thus we are left with nothing but conjectures. One thing is certain, however: Man could not have been formed at the cost of the evolved forms such as the pongids (chimpanzees, gorillas, orang outangs, for example).
There are two extremely important characteristics common to all monkeys and apes (with a few very rare exceptions): The fact that they live in the trees, and therefore possess extremely long and well developed upper limbs, and the fact that they do not display a biped posture. The few species of monkeys and apes that do not climb trees but live in mountain regions still remain quadrupeds. As far as I know, the gibbons are the only species, which occasionally displays a biped posture, but they nevertheless possess upper limbs that are long and well developed. These two distinguishing features of the lineage composed of monkeys and apes are not present in man.
Similarities and Differences Between the Anatomical Features of the Two Lineages
The general anatomical features of man and the great apes appear on first sight to possess striking similarities. There is no point in denying this fact. The structures present in the two lineages must be compared in much greater detail, however, than is afforded by a cursory examination of the obvious.
In this context, it is worth noting that some of Darwin's most ardent supporters such as Thomas Huxley were perfectly well aware of the evident differences that 'exist between man and the apes. As Huxley himself wrote: "I shall therefore take, this opportunity plainly to state that, on the contrary, they are both considerable and significant; that every bone in the body of a gorilla bears a feature that distinguishes it from the corresponding bone in a human, and that, at least in creation today, no intermediary form bridges the gap separating man from the troglodyte." The opinions of modern researchers seem to indicate the exact opposite; however, for they claim that 98 % of the genes present in the chimpanzee are shared by man (J. de Grouchy, `De la naissance des especes aux aberrations de la vie' [From the Birth of the Species to the Abnormalities of Living Forms].) [Published by Robert Laffont, Paris, 1978]
General inventories have been compiled listing the purely anatomical characteristics of the great apes as compared with those of man. One such inventory was drawn up by A. Keith, who in 1915 set out to study all the possible anatomical features that might be shared by man and various species of apes: The chimpanzees and gorillas were found to be more or less related, according to the study, while the orang outangs were only distantly linked. Classifications of this kind are however, quite arbitrary. It is possible to arrive at similar inventories by using as terms of comparison the pig, the dog or the mouse: We are bound to find many points in common between them. Similarities between the species are inevitable from an anatomical as well as biological point of view. The reason for this is that the living beings in question all share the same general structure. In the case of animals that breathe, for example, pulmonary alveoli must be present. Nutrition requires a digestive tract and appended glands, and these must of necessity possess a similar structure. The elimination of waste products requires kidneys... There is nothing new or special about any of this. Where we should stop and look more carefully are cases in which there are features present in man that are specific to him alone and that are not to be found in the lineage of the apes.
There is much to be learned from a comparison of the skulls found in the great apes with those of the various human groups mentioned earlier; especially with regard to cranial capacity. In the case of the chimpanzee and the orang outang, in round figures, the cranial' capacity is 400 cc., and 500 cc. or even more in the case of the gorilla. When we come to man, however, the figure gradually rises higher and higher until man reaches his final stage of development. The average figure for man is 1,350 cc., although there are of course variations. The cranial capacity of Neanderthal Man was even slightly greater than this. While the development of the brain kept pace with that of the cranium, it is important noting that the Australopithecus, who made skilful use of the implements he fashioned, possessed a brain that was slightly smaller than that of modern day gorillas. Man's brain therefore developed first of all in terms of quality: The number of neurones increased, and the system of relays and centres grew more and more complex. In this respect, evolution in the apes came to a halt, while man continued to develop until he reached Homo Sapiens: The slow evolution of. the brain, which was coordinated with the expanding volume of the cranium, was the result of a strict organizational order.
The second extremely important feature concerning the cranium is the occipital foramen magnum. In the apes, the foramen magnum of the occipital bone, through which the brain is connected to the spinal chord, is located in the posterior part of the occipital bone; in man, it is situated .in a more anterior position. Thus in the case of man, the centre of gravity of the head coincides more or less with the vertical axis of the cervical column which supports the skull of the individual when in the biped posture, as if the head were balanced on the neck. The foramen itself is almost vertical in the apes, whereas in man it is horizontal.
Other anatomical differences are present, but these are generally less important. Many specialists have; however, drawn attention to the U shaped form of the mandible (lower jaw), which developed at the same rate, as the palate gradually grew longer. There can be no doubt that the first hominids possessed cranial crests, such as the very pronounced crests we see in today's apes the male gorilla, for example. The dentition is quite different, however: The canines present in the hominids are not at all the extremely powerful fangs that we find in the male apes. Man's posterior teeth also display a very distinct development.
Let us return to the important question of the long and well-developed upper limbs of the apes arid monkeys, for it constitutes a feature of this lineage that is characteristic, even when, as the case of certain species, it serves no functional purpose. The upper limbs, which are in fact the anterior limbs in the case of quadruped apes, help to support the animal as it rests on the ground, the weight being distributed on the second phalanges of the second, third, fourth and fifth fingers. With regard to the feet, the weight rests mainly on their outer sides. Almost all apes live in the trees there are very few exceptions indeed and the powerful muscles of their upper limbs enable the apes to hang from branches or to swing from one tree to another; these features arb in harmony with the functions of the lower limbs which end in prehensible feet (i.e. the big toe is separated from the main body of the foot, like the thumb on the human hand), thus allowing the ape to hold branches in a powerful grasp. These fundamental features of the apes are not present in man.
In contrast, the arched sole of the human foot is perfectly adapted to walking on the three points in contact with the ground: the heel, the joint between the big toe and the first metatarsal (commonly called the ball of the foot), and the joint at the base of the fourth and fifth toes with their corresponding metatarsals. The apes walk and stand on the external side of the feet, and they do not possess the concave form which in man constitutes the arch of the foot.
The vertebral column and pelvis in apes and man present differences due to the biped posture of man. Man possesses a broader pelvis, and his vertebral column displays curves not present in the apes: The dorsal column displays backward convexity, while the entire lumbar and sacral column is marked by forward convexity. In the case of the apes, the entire vertebral column displays a backward convexity. All of these features result from the fact that the upright posture and biped-walking pattern are recorded in man's genetic inheritance. As we shall see in the next chapter, however, the biped walking pattern is not an innate feature of human behaviour: A child has to learn how to walk, even though his anatomical structure is already adapted to this specific function.
Biochemical and Genetic Features
As far as its essential characteristics are concerned, each evolved living being is composed of the same kind of tissues. Every handbook of biology describes the general features that are valid for a large number of tissues: Covering tissue, nervous tissue, osseous tissue, muscular tissue, glandular tissue, etc. Each of these possesses a cellular organization with chemical components that are identical from one species to another. The proteins specific to a particular tissue in one animal are very likely to be the same as those in the corresponding tissue of another, even though there is no relation between the two. In the very distant past, a particular gene was responsible for the orientation of a certain cellular function, and this directive remained in the inheritance of the lineage, passing from one descendant to another without any change. Every living being that breathes requires pulmonary alveoli in order to allow the passage of oxygen into the blood and to eliminate carbon dioxide; man requires them just the same as any other animal that breathes. An examination of each and every organic function would reveal that, in order for any animal to survive, its strictures must be adapted to its functions. For example, the substances required to sustain life, such as the haemoglobin contained in the red blood cells, result from the specialized functions of certain cells that are controlled by specific genes. Precise chemical characteristics are of necessity shared by all the haemoglobins. They are present in the haemoglobin of man and many other animals, for there is no alternative. In his book 'L. Homme en accusation' [Man. Stands Accused], P. P. Grasse quotes an extremely judicious comment made by J. de Grouchy on the cellular proteins to be found in both man and chimpanzees: "The manner of utilizing proteinic molecules is probably what accounts for the fact that, in spite of everything, there is a big difference between chimpanzees and man."
Attempts have been made: to connect man with the apes by examining their respective genetic inheritance, in particular the number of chromosomes they each possess. The number is not the same: 46 in man, and 48 in the great apes. Since the figures are fairly close to one another, it has been suggested without a scrap of evidence that in the case of the ape's two chromosomes fused together in order to pass in the case of man from 48 to 46. What counts, however, are the genes. Here we find that one body of opinion holds that the inventory of genes has not been compiled for the apes and is probably very incomplete for man, while another body maintains "probably less than 2 % of all the genes vary from one species to another" (J. de Grouchy.) Researchers are extremely intrigued by the study of the chromosomes; even today, in spite of the solid discoveries made by palaeontology, they are still trying to amalgamate apes and man.
Last but not least, we come to the question of the significance to be attached to the difference in the sexual activity of apes and man, which is linked to the various commands issued by the hormones of each respective species. Leaving aside certain anatomical differences which give rise to minor variations, the main point to be noted is that in man sexual activity is continuous and does not strictly depend on the menstrual cycle of the female. In the apes, the situation is quite different; the menstrual cycle is longer and is marked by a rutting period which is particularly apparent due to the considerable intumescence of the ano vulvar region, accompanied by a pinkish colouring of the covering skin. These physiological features naturally have a direct influence on the behaviour of apes. Their conduct should been seen in the light of the much more general phenomena that direct animal behaviour.
How Relevant Is the Debate Today?
Since it is hardly possible any longer to defend Darwin's original theory; one might suppose that our better knowledge of man's origins would tend to render somewhat obsolete the controversy surrounding the part played by the simian lineage in our ancestry. Let us make no mistake, however: There are still those who uphold Darwin's theory, and who hunt high and low for arguments to confirm their ideas. These people seem to fall into two categories, The first is composed of a number of palaeontologists who make what appear to be extremely flimsy pronouncements; the second is made up of psychologists who are new to the debate.
Among the first, we find palaeontologists who begin by noting the discovery of a few teeth, a fragment of mandible or some other meagre fossilized remains, and, once they have given a scientific sounding name to the individual they have reconstructed largely from their own imagination, they immediately jump to `solid' conclusions. This is exactly what happened in the case of the Ramapithecus, am ancestor if that is really what it is of the pongids, presented by some as a precursor of man. Over the last ten years, importance has also been attributed to the remains of another possible ancestor of the apes, the Dryopithecus. Although there is not the slightest evidence, the Dryopithecus is said to be the form in which the divergence between hominids and apes actually took place.
Specialists in evolution, who are used to constructing their theories according to objective observations, are particularly incensed by a certain tendency to see in psychology an effective way of solving the problem. P. P Grasse, in 'L Homme en accusation' [Man Stands Accused], has the following remark to make on this subject
"There are many psychologists who today see in man nothing more than a chimpanzee, marginally more artful than the other primates. They 'humanize' the apes and 'animalise' man: Anthropomorphism in one case, zoomorphism in the other. According to these psychologists, all human conduct exists in a state that is either dissimulated by appearances, or broadly outlined in the behaviour of the anthropoids. The chimpanzee makes use of implements; he reasons and is capable of conceiving abstract concepts; he possesses a gestural language (pongo linguistics) that can be perfected through a learning process and which he can use to communicate with man; the chimpanzee also possesses the same sensibility as man, and he is able to express this through painting (Desmond Morris, 1962). This theory has gained widespread popularity among psychologists in Europe and America. A major symposium is planned for Paris at which subjects will 'be discussed such as the "Self Awareness and Person Perception of Experimenters by Chimpanzee Psychologists" (sic), a paper to be presented by G. Woodruff of the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A.; "Use of 'Pongo linguistics' to determine Mental Representations in the Great Apes: Room for Improvement" (re sic), a paper by R. Fouts of the University of Oklahoma, U.S.A.; and a score of other papers of the same ilk."
In the following chapter, we shall examine the many points on which the behaviour of the two species is in fact quite different.
Innate and aquired Behaviour: A comparison between Man and the Animals
The Role of Innate Behaviour in the Animals
As far as behaviour is concerned, there is a broad gap separating man from the animals. The apes happen to be closer to us than to other species in terms of their anatomy and numerous aspects of their physiology (including the brain functions); it is natural therefore that their behaviour should be the one most frequently compared with our own. Comparative investigation is hampered; however, by the fact that the apes do not possess the power of speech. Furthermore, the experimenter may himself exercise a marked influence on the animals under study, for certain of them display a capacity for observing, memorizing and imitating. Thus it is easy to make animals appear extremely `intelligent', when in fact all they are doing is expressing themselves through conditioned reflexes, as we shall see in a moment. The apes and not just the apes learn much from their contact with man, even if the contact is not particularly recent; this implies that in order to arrive at useful results, the entire past of these animals must be reconstructed. The environment in which the 'zoo psychologist's' 'examination takes place may also affect the outcome of the tests; the animal should be observed in its natural habitat. The enormous difficulties raised by this kind of study are easy to imagine.
In spite of these drawbacks, however, modern research has been able to distinguish the parts played by the innate and the acquired. We mentioned earlier the innate character of certain animal behaviour; it is worth returning to this subject to highlight even more clearly the contrast with the conduct of man.
There are abundant examples of innate animal behaviour to be found in any handbook of zoology : There is no point in dwelling on the fact. What is of interest, however, is, that behavioural patterns may not necessarily be absolutely automatic, owing to a possible adaptation to circumstances. In the case of our friend the 'mutton bird', the complicated six month journey could not be performed with such stunning regularity and precision unless the flight programme were adapted to the atmospheric conditions the bird encountered on its way. The duration of the programme and the extremely wide range of external circumstances through which the bird passes make this a truly remarkable example. A much more classic illustration is the case of the nectar gathering bee which has to identify familiar landmarks in order to find its way back to the nest. It must also indicate to other bees the exact location of pollen and nectar to be gathered. Another example is provided by a certain type of bird which fish for its food. The bird has to learn how to use its beak, for its first endeavours to peck at the fish miss their target. The reason for this is that in seeing from air to water, the bird has not yet learned to make allowance for the refraction of light rays that occurs between the two. Only after a number of unsuccessful attempts does the bird finally catch the fish. In order to ensure this ultimate success, complex cerebral and medullar pathways must first be established.
All of the above phenomena should be examined in the light of our knowledge of the nervous organization that conditions them. At some early stage, nervous `frameworks' had to be fabricated, as it were, which allowed these complex reactions to take place in response to the stimuli triggering them. The structuring of such a `framework' is governed by the genetic code; it is the existence, in the D.N.A. tapes of the reproductive cells, of genes, which, during embryogeny, dictate that certain cells will differentiate themselves and acquire the functional properties of nervous cells. The genes are transmitted by these same reproductive cells, which likewise contain the pre-established programme. The receiving organs must also be sensitive, however, to the stimuli reaching the animal; the latter must be recognized as factors educing specific responses. These functions all take place within the cells that receive the stimuli
They result from the action of the same complex: D.N.A. R.N.A. 'messenger' decoding of the messages response of the ribosomes and participation of the cytoplasm.
In view of the above, how can we account for the modulations in the animal's responses, or for the adjustment of its innate behaviour according to circumstances? As we know, animals do not have the powers of reasoning or, reflection that we find in man. An aeroplane pilot or ship's captain who embarked on the `mutton bird's' journey across the Pacific would require navigational instruments; he would have to add the data provided by them to his reading of charts and maps; he would have to plot his course with a ruler, set square; and a pair of compasses. The `mutton bird' simply uses its eyes and possibly various other sensory organs and a very small brain in which everything is programmed with a startling degree of miniaturization. If man were to construct a computer to replace the bird's natural attributes, it would have to contain an incredibly complex structure in order to process the same pre-established programme. In this respect, we may perhaps argue that the bird is much more capable than man, owing to its structures. The latter are formed by the proteinic molecules held on the D.N.A. tape that is roughly 1 /5,000 millimetre wide and which contains the genetic programme inherited from the bird's progenitors. When the innate behaviour is programmed with such a `luxurious' complexity, the animal is undoubtedly capable of performances that, without exaggeration, can be described as quite sensational, for man is incapable of similar achievements. As we shall see later on, however, man is endowed with considerable powers of a different kind. Precisely because he has lost his innate behaviour, one of his powers consists in a freedom of action that no animal possesses. This sets him apart from even the most highly organized living beings.
The Capacity for Imitation in Animals and Its Possibly Delayed Effects
We must draw a distinction between true imitation; which consists in the spontaneous reproduction of an action performed by others, and training, which involves a forced apprenticeship in a behaviour that the animal is subsequently to repeat.
Spontaneous imitation is a feature characteristic of the apes, and man makes use of it for training purposes. Left to themselves, apes appear to enjoy mimicking what they see: Chimpanzees are past masters in the art of imitation. They seem to derive pleasure from it; especially if the action they are imitating provides them with a certain degree of satisfaction. It has been said that chimpanzees do not behave consistently, but they, are perhaps able to attach a certain significance to the action imitated if, at the end of the imitation, they receive some kind of reward. Over and over again, we read reports of how chimpanzees have watched humans open a cupboard containing titbits and have repeated the exact same movements in order to obtain the desired food. Imitations can be performed after only a short period of time, as well as after a more or less long period; they may also be repeated, especially if the chimpanzee experiences a certain satisfaction in his mimicry.
Chimpanzees are also able to imitate human movements that have remained in their memory, even after a certain time has elapsed, and even though these movements may not have the slightest significance for them. In one of his works, P. P. Grasse relates the following anecdote: In Africa, one of his chimpanzees on several occasions watched a worker use a machete to cut grass and dig holes in the ground. When transported to an island to undergo observation in its natural habitat, and thus left to itself, the chimpanzee seized an implement of this kind left lying there and began to cut the grass and attempt to dig a hole in the ground, just as it had seen the worker use the same tool for the same purpose at least ten days earlier!
As for training, we are all familiar with its many spectacular forms; from the acts performed at the circus; it is not limited, however, to the most highly evolved animals on the scale of mammals. The apes are joined by such animals as bears, elephants, dolphins, dogs, etc., all of which might at first sight suggest the existence of types of intelligence which tend too quickly to be assimilated with human intelligence. It is difficult not to be astounded by the various actions that dolphins are able to perform; they have even been trained to act as auxiliaries in the execution of naval operations. There is every indication that the performance of the dolphins can be very sophisticated indeed.
Only when we read about them in such eminently serious studies as P: P. Grasses `L Homme en accusation' [Man Stands Accused], can we credit the amazing performances of dogs, for they have been scientifically investigated.
At the Laboratoire d'Evolution des Etres Organises [Laboratory for the Study of Evolution in Organized Living Beings], an Italian dog trainer presented the performances of a female poodle, named Dana, who not only knew the figures 0 to 9, the signs + and =, but also the twenty five letters of the Italian alphabet. Dana was perfectly able to recognize the twenty-five letters and arrange them in such an order that a very brief and simple Italian phrase appeared. Obviously, Dana's cerebral structures and functions did not permit her to understand what she was actually doing, but she nevertheless possessed an extraordinary ability to memorize, which enabled her to distinguish between so many figurative signs; she obeyed a series of conditioned reflexes ordering her to arrange the letters in the desired order.
Thus, the dog trainer commanded Dana to fetch and arrange on the ground the figure 3, the sign +, the figure 4, and the sign =. Having carried out these four orders, Dana of her own accord fetched and added to the sum the figure 7. This final action was executed without any command being issued, as far as the laboratory observers could detect.
Nobody is suggesting that the poodle was able to read and count: Her brain would not enable her to do either. Dana was simply following orders received from her trainer. Had anyone else given the commands, Dana would not have reacted. In P: P. Grasse's opinion: "It is certain that Dana recognized a fairly large number of words when spoken, and replied by a posture, or a series of barks that were always the same... The wish to receive a lump of sugar or a biscuit generally motivated the animal's actions... With its relatively small brain, the dog was able to perform astoundingly complex tricks, which for the public would mean that Dana was highly intelligent. As far as I am concerned, however, all I could find was the result of conditioned reflexes to the exclusion of the awareness of the situation."
If the tight bond that exists between the animal and its trainer is broken, the experiment is doomed to failure. In contrast to this, my grandson's knowledge of figures is roughly equal to Dana's, and he is able to count up to ten: Providing he is well disposed toward the person who asks him, he will give an exact reply to anyone who gives him figures to add. At a stage where the child must count with his fingers, he will make more or less overt use of this trick, which has been taught, to him. His reply will therefore be the result of intelligence and will be based on reflection; it will be given in the absence of the parents who taught him the fundamental principles of simple reasoning, and as a consequence, the problem may be solved in any circumstances whatsoever (except for the occasional childish fit of obstinacy.)
The considerable development of certain capacities for imitation and memorization may, however, lead to behaviour among apes that could appear to be acquired. Young chimpanzees are able to identify poisonous fruits in the forest, once they have been taught by their mother to recognize them. This useful aspect of the chimpanzee's behaviour in its natural environment is quite different from another this time innate feature of its conduct which is often stressed : This is the chimpanzee's innate ability to build a night shelter in the trees, even in cases where the chimpanzee in question has never experienced life in the forest before. In contrast to this, certain apes in Gabon seem to obey an imitative tradition in washing manioc tubers. Perhaps their ancestors watched humans washing the tubers at some point after manioc was first introduced into Africa in the seventeenth century. Nevertheless, the role of the parents in the education of the young ape remains not only effective, but beyond dispute: The young apes imitate their parents, but that is as far as their intellectual capacity goes.
It is a shame that totally false notions are. so often spread concerning the intelligence and reasoning faculties that certain animals supposedly possess. The public impact of these mistaken ideas is very great indeed when they are put forward by important authorities and supported by the sort of pictures one is likely to see in the course of a major television programme. Such was the case during a recent broadcast, in which an underwater explorer provided a commentary on a sequence of film intended to illustrate these very qualities in animals. According to the commentator, the sequence demonstrated that the octopus was endowed with a capacity for reasoning. In fact, however, the mollusc in question displays a. nervous system composed of a few meagre ganglions and two nerves that is about as rudimentary as that of the annulated worm. In common with all the molluscs, the octopus does not possess a brain; its behaviour is automatic, for it is guided by various tropisms. If we ascribe to the octopus powers that it cannot have, we are in fact overlooking its anatomy and physiology: It does not contain any more powers than the mussel. It is as if we decided to study the properties of the bile in an animal that has no liver to produce it. In this particular case, the experimenter took for a deliberate action what was in fact nothing but the purely accidental result of an automatic impulse in one of the tentacles of the octopus. In spite of this, millions of television viewers, unaware of the real situation, must have been convinced that the experiment indeed demonstrated a certain level of intelligence in the animal. The fact is, however, that the octopus does not possess the nervous organisation, which is required for the expression of any form of reflection.
Animals Rarely Use Implements
Apes are not the only animals to use tools. Less evolved species sometimes use implements for precise purposes gathering food in particular. In this context, ornithologists have discovered the existence of astonishing behavioural patterns. which are specific to certain species, as follows:
The origins of this use of implements by birds are unknown. It would seem, moreover, to be an extremely rare phenomenon.
While the great apes that live in the forest are able to use branches to strike an attacker, they also have many other capacities for using implements. I can well remember the stories told to me long ago at Yale University in the United States by specialists in ape behaviour and their collaborators at J. F. Fulton's laboratory devoted to this purpose. The sometimes-successful attempts of the apes to escape their cage by using whatever tools lay to hand, and their endeavours to rid themselves of the electrodes implanted in their brain, indicated definite skills on the part of the chimpanzees or macaques in question. There are plenty of examples to support the idea behind the expression `as artful as a cartload of monkeys', although we should beware of taking the phrase too literally, for it has its limits.
Goodall has noted that chimpanzees sometimes use a twig to capture termites. They push the twig into the termitarium and wait for the termites automatically to accumulate on the twig. This action would appear to be full of cunning ingenuity. P: P. Grass6 nevertheless expresses doubts as to this `invention' of the apes: In many regions of Africa, he has noted that the natives, who regard soldier termites as something of a. delicacy, use the same procedure to attract the insects. P: P. Grasse wonders whether the chimpanzees happened, at some point, to see humans in the process of capturing termites with a twig and simply imitated them. He himself observed a chimpanzee capturing termites in this way in the Ivory Coast. Others may perhaps go so far as .to speculate that it was in fact man who imitated the chimpanzees.
Whatever the case, one fact is sure concerning the animal's use of implements, and it is of fundamental importance: No example exists of the spontaneous and deliberate fabrication of an implement by an animal. The great apes, which in terms of nervous organization are the most evolved of the animals, are intellectually incapable of realizing that it is possible to use one implement to 'fashion another destined to serve a specific purpose. The logical connection between the two actions is totally beyond them.
Let us remember that millions of years ago, the most primitive hominid, the Australopithecus; was capable of performing the two operations, one after the other: The point is proved by the existence of tools whose cutting edge was produced with the help of another implement. This constitutes a characteristic feature dividing the great apes from the representatives. of the first wave of hominids at present known.
The Loss of Man's Innate Behaviour
Man has almost completely lost his innate behaviour, but that does not mean that he is born without it: In his heredity, which is recorded in the genetic code, there is a wide variety of potentialities connected to his structures, all of which are ready to ensure many different functions and to play their part once man decides that the time has come. Through the loss of numerous instinctive complexes, man has gained his freedom.
At birth, man still possesses the innate behavioural pattern, which consists in sucking; a pattern that is vital for the nourishment of the newborn infant. Although by nature a biped, man still has to learn how to walk in the posture to which his structures are adapted. In contrast to this, however, his conduct is in no way determined by any of his genes, a point on which he differs. from the animals, whose behaviour is innate and whose conduct is only influenced by factors connected with circumstances. In this context, the phenomena of imitation (mentioned above) and their accompanying consequences might perhaps be confused, in the case of the animals, with what seem essentially to be acquired behavioural patterns, but in fact are not. On the other hand, it is not possible to generalize or to take the exception as the rule. Indeed, the origins of exceptions such as the extremely rare examples of the use of implements have not at all been explained and therefore remain shrouded in mystery. The point here is to establish a general principle on a wide variety of facts; for if we insist on the exceptions and ignore the majority of cases, we are bound to draw the wrong conclusions.
We can state for certain that innate behaviour in man has almost disappeared. At birth, our genetic code provides us, not with automatic behavioural patterns, but rather with general capabilities: It is up to man to ensure that these capabilities ace `brought to fruition', as it were.
Everyone is born with nervous centres in which stimuli are received, analysed, interpreted and transformed into a wide range of responses. Apart from cases of identical twins, which are formed from a single fertilized ovum, everyone is different from a structural point of view. This implies ipso facto that nobody has exactly the same capabilities. This inequality is linked to our constitution. Within a single family, where the inherited chromosomes are the same, there will always be differences between the offspring. Side by side with obvious physical resemblances, vast differences in Intellectual ability may exist although there may be major physical differences as well. The latter is always a possibility, even though in certain families dominant features may be noted in several generations.
Man's Mental Faculties Highlighted By Social Intercourse
In this respect no two people's capabilities are the same. Their faculties depend first and foremost on their structures. The genes govern the development of the brain and exercise a constant influence on the biology of the cells and the functions of the associative neurones. Their number is so great that we do not know to which power we should multiply the billions of neurones in order to arrive at an exact figure [A recent estimates suggested a figure roughly equal to 1 followed by fifty-nine zeros! (J. Hamburger)]. Each brain cell differentiates itself from cellular substances that have not yet acquired specialized functions at the embryonic stage, but each cell contains the entire code that is to govern the subsequent course of evolution. It possesses its D.N.A., on which the genes are held, and all .the other substances required for the transmission of messages, on which depends the quality of the particular function provided; this may vary from one individual to another with regard to certain relays and nervous centres.
Certain families exist that are particularly well endowed with individuals who, for one reason or another, display talents that single them out from among their contemporaries; often themselves extremely competent in their field. There are also people who may be classed as `exceptionally gifted; either they are child prodigies or they are people whose abilities are way above average. This type of superiority is not necessarily present, however, in all the members of a same family.
Their family and those surrounding them exert a considerable influence on the young. One may indeed ask, in general terms, just what would become of us if we did not live in society. For it is indeed social intercourse, in its widest possible sense, which, through education, upbringing and the transfer of knowledge, enables us to make use of our abilities. In the case of the animals, most of the information they use comes from their individual inheritance. They do not possess the wide powers of adaptation that man enjoys owing to the loss of the innate behaviour controlled by the genes. By and large, the animals follow patterns of conduct that are rigidly set.
P. P. Grasse has defined the role played by social intercourse in the following terms: "An evolution that was purely biological would not in itself have been sufficient to shape man; the assistance of life in society was needed, with its accumulation of knowledge beyond the genetic code, in order for the human spirit to be freed of all instinctive automatism."
For life in society to play a part, however, communication was necessary. The most ancient and most direct form of this is articulate speech, which is a phenomenon that exists only in man. It first requires a thought, and then, it needs words to express that thought. In the case of deaf mutes, the two are separated; for while such people are able to think, they are not able to express themselves in speech.
As for the animals, the sounds emitted by parrots and other birds are mere acts of imitation, and therefore do not pose any problems. Other animals do indeed communicate, however, exchanging information by acoustic processes: They employ sounds that are audible to the human ear or inaudible (ultrasonic sounds), as the case may be. They also communicate by visual and even olfactory (chemical) signals, all of which are governed by the animal's automatic behavioural patterns. Higher mammals are able to convey messages to each other, thus transmitting their understanding of a particular situation: They undoubtedly emit inarticulate sounds. These have been recorded in the animals' natural surroundings, and it has thus been possible to distinguish vocalizations whose variety and abundance are not at all in keeping with the animals' psychic powers. Thus the gibbons and cercopithecoid monkeys, although psychically less evolved than the gorillas and chimpanzees, nevertheless display a much wider vocal repertory. All the same, there does not seem to be much real dialogue between individual apes or monkeys.
In the United States, psychologists have tried in their own way to coax the great apes to speak, and they claim to have succeeded. As in the case of Dana the performing poodle mentioned above, however, this is primarily a matter of training. R.A. and B.T. Gardner were able to teach a chimpanzee eighty-five signs in the deaf mute code
The test chimpanzee was able to use three or four signs at a time to express its wishes. Another trainer used different symbols with another animal. The outcome of all these tests was in fact very much the same as the results obtained with Dana: The animal learned the letters and figures taught to it in advance by the trainer in countless question and answer sessions. When the time came to perform, the animal merely appears to have repeated what it had learned.
In contrast, true language results from a highly sophisticated intellectual process. It not only transmits an image, but also acts as a vehicle for abstract ideas. Through language, we are able to convey these ideas, and express our sentiments. For man, language is an infinitely precious acquisition, which is unique to his species.
The Influence of Creative Evolution in Man's Development
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, great progress has been made in research into the origins and evolution of man, due to contributions supplied by many different disciplines. Ultra microscopic and biochemical studies of the cell would seem recently to have brought the most light to bear on the factors governing the course of events. Far be it from me, however, to minimalise the contributions of the natural sciences, zoology in particular, or palaeontology, which are the fundamental underpinnings of any investigation in this field, for it is these, and related disciplines, that are responsible for our knowledge of the ordered course of evolution.
Today, we know that the first wave of humans appeared on earth some five million years ago (six million years ago for certain researchers, and less for others). The waves that were to follow have also been more or less precisely located in time. What gaps still remain, however, in our knowledge due to the rarity of fossils! What large quantities of statements have appeared concerning the supposed relationship between human groups and the lineage that produced the apes (which is placed next to the human lineage on the genealogical table), none of which is supported by any valid argument! What else are they but simple hypotheses designed to square with certain researchers' preconceived ideas?
The very small quantity of paleolontological specimens documenting the origins of mankind should make us proceed with extreme caution. There can be no doubts that many fossils exist which have not yet been discovered; some of them never will be. Chronological data bearing on apes and humans alike may, one day be modified by future discoveries. Whatever happens, however, there are solid arguments to reject the theory that man is descended from the apes.
Even if it becomes possible to trace the human lineage much further back in time than the oldest human forms at present thought to be known, we shall never arrive at the idea that man was born of simian forms; whose descendants` are today's great apes.
While discoveries made over the last few decades have gradually pushed back the appearance of the first human forms to more and more distant periods (from hundreds of thousands to` millions of years), the basic problem remains the same. Whatever the answer, the discoveries do not indicate that man is descended from a fully developed lineage of apes.
What is new is our knowledge of the activity that takes place within the cell and the information every human cell contains which is recorded in the genes. These are held on the helix shaped D.N.A. tape, which is over one metre long. When compared with the dimensions of the cell itself, which are measured in units of 1 / 1,000 millimetre, the length of the tape is colossal. In the case of primitive life forms, such as bacteria, the essential characteristics of the species, which govern its functions and reproduction, are recorded on the same D.N.A. tape, except that for the bacteria, the tape is roughly a million times shorter. The general concept of evolution can only be explained in terms of this difference. Whatever ideas we may entertain on the factors that have determined the course of evolution, the basic fact remains the same. The anatomical features and the functions of the living beings to come later on, which will differ from species to species, will all be dependent on the genetic code governing their appearance, maintenance and possible modifications.
We have already noted how some scientists, although constantly preoccupied with the need to push back the frontiers of knowledge, stop short at the very question they themselves have raised : What is the origin of the genetic code? J. Monod seems to have been content to dispense with the `problem' by simply stating that `it is an enigma'. In fact however, this is only the first of our problems, one which science seems incapable of answering. A second enigma exists and that is the factor determining the increase of information over the course of time in the genetic code, a phenomenon that is strikingly evident. Scientists are currently trying to discover why an original plan was devised which was subsequently enriched to a considerable degree over the course of hundreds, if not thousands of millions of years.
It is easier to understand the capacity of the genetic code for giving orders when we take into consideration the part the code plays in the formation of the individual, a process that is more readily accessible to us. As we all know, our genes are inherited from our father and mother. After the spermatozoon has united with the ovule, our genetic inheritance is initially contained in a single cell. A series of cellular divisions then takes place, which transmits this same inheritance to all the cells thus formed. The genes held on the D.N.A. tape govern the differentiation of the cells within the embryo, which, after a series of extremely complex transformations, result in tissues and organs that each has very specific functions. In normal individuals, all these different features function together in perfect harmony.
Let us take, for example, two human characteristics that have not always been the same in the various human types: These are (as we have seen) the size and development of the brain. The size of the brain depends on the capacity for growth, of the body as a whole, according to various influences. The genetic inheritance of the Australopithecus cannot in this respect have been the same as that of man, because certain fossils of the Australopithecus indicate a body height of 1.25 to 1.50 metres, while modern man is some 40 centimetres taller. The factors influencing size are very diverse: A large number of genes cannot fail to play a role (in spite of the possible existence of genes that fulfil multiple functions). New information must of necessity have been added to modern man in comparison with the Australopithecus. It may be, conditioned by new genes that are active, or indeed by the appearance of new genes which perhaps inhibit the activities of pre existing genes. The same applies to the many factors governing the development of the brain: This latter process must have been coordinated with a large number of modifications, including that of the cranial capacity, for we know that the cranial capacity of the Australopithecus was roughly one third of that of present day man.
The action of the genes does not, however, explain everything concerning man and his evolution. As me have mentioned above, the genetic inheritance governs the attribution of various capacities which man uses with greater or lesser effectiveness. While the latter certainly depends on the quality of these capacities, man's personal wish to use his natural gifts also plays a part, for man has the freedom to choose. The animals bear the burden of innate conduct and are unable to escape from a host of behavioural patterns dictated by their genetic inheritance. In this respect, comparative studies of human and animal behaviour have provided us with extremely important data. Furthermore, man possesses characteristics and qualities, which he owes to the society, in which he lives and from which he draws a fund of knowledge accumulated over generations.
It is up to each individual to make the personal effort required to increase this intellectual capital, so that, in their turn, those who come after him may reap the benefits of this new knowledge.
The appearance of new attributes in man does not simply owe its origin to the genes and the increase of information, which has progressively been added to our inheritance. These facts allow us to join P: P. Grasse in stating that: "To a certain extent, man influenced his own development by contributing to the enrichment of his inherited assets; without this active participation in his own evolution, man would not be what he is today. This form of evolution, which is unique within the animal kingdom, radically separates man from the animals."