…in animal life time does not play the role it plays in human life. Animals are limited by death permanently. If animals make any progress from generation to generation, it is so small as to be negligible. A beaver, for example, is a remarkable builder of dams, but he does not progress in the way of inventions or further development. A beaver dam is always a beaver dam. (1)There is no indication that he was aware at the time he wrote this of Abraham Lincoln’s “Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions” first delivered in 1858. In this lecture, Lincoln clearly pointed out the difference between humans and animals (also using the example of beavers) that Korzybski had observed.:
All creation is a mine, and every man, a miner…In the beginning, the mine was unopened, and the miner stood naked, and knowledgeless, upon it. Fishes, birds, beasts, and creeping things, are not miners, but feeders and lodgers, merely. Beavers build houses; but they build them in nowise differently, or better now, than they did, five thousand years ago. Ants, and honey-bees, provide food for winter; but just in the same way they did, when Solomon referred the sluggard to them as patterns of prudence. Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one who improves his workmanship. This improvement, he effects by Discoveries, and Inventions.(2)In the rest of his speech Lincoln provided a brief history and discussion of the conditions of human progress as he saw it. Lincoln noted the importance that cooperation, the use of speech, and the inventions of writing and the printing press, had in the sharing and transmission of knowledge. He pointed out a given generation’s dependence on the discoveries and inventions of the past, including the discovery and invention of methods of discovery and invention. He also mentioned the accelerating aspect of the growth of human knowledge especially notable after the invention of the printing press: “…discoveries, inventions, and improvements followed rapidly and have been increasing their rapidity since.”(3)
(1). Manhood of Humanity (1921), p.111.
(2). "Discoveries and inventions: A lecture delivered by Abraham Lincoln in 1860." (1915), San Francisco: John Howell. Also available at << http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/discoveries.htm >> (accessed 5/31/2006). Lincoln gave another version of this speech in February 1859 (see The Library of America’s Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1859-1865, pp. 3-11.) Lincoln appeared devoted to the subject but the lecture was generally not considered a success (See Harold Holzer’s Lincoln At Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President, pp 19-20, 210.)