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Animals Looking into the Future

Nature volume 119, page 233 (12 February 1927) | Download Citation



THE author aims, in this book, to demonstrate that in all animals, from the lowliest protozoa to man, prescience is a marked characteristic, and one that fundamentally distinguishes the organic from the inorganic world. Both mice and men have plans, and from a brief consideration of the habits and organisation of certain colonial and solitary insects, and of the structure and physiology of more lowlv animals like Hydra, Microstoma, and even the protozoa, the author seeks to emphasise this point of view. Even plants look into the future. It is true that a distinction is made between the conscious prescience of man and the instinctive prescience of insects or Hydra. The author, however, in his enthusiasm for the text of his sermon, has imparted too anthropomorphic a bias to his presentation. “Therefore, in the formation of nematocysts by the interstitial cells of Hydra we see these living units sacrificing themselves in a prescient manner with reference to the welfare of the individual polyp.” This quotation, which gives an idea of the author's thesis, may easily suggest conscious thought to the layman, and it is for the layman that this book is written. It is a little dangerous to attempt the popular exposition of biological phenomena in language which may convey an erroneous interpretation to the lay mind.

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