Archive for the ‘Thomas Huxley’ Category

Evolution provides us no basis for morals

September 12, 2009

I hear much of the “ethics of evolution.” I apprehend that, in the broadest sense of the term “evolution,” there neither is, nor can be, any such thing. The notion that the doctrine of evolution can furnish a foundation for morals seems to me to be an illusion, which has arisen from the unfortunate ambiguity of the term “fittest” in the formula, “survival of the fittest.” We commonly use “fittest” in a good sense, with an understood connotation of “best; ” and “best” we are apt to take in its ethical sense. But the “fittest” which survives in the struggle for existence may be, and often is, the ethically worst.

Thomas Huxley, An Apologetic Irenicon, The Fortnightly Review (November 1892)

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Liberal ‘optimistic figments’

September 12, 2009

The doctrines of predestination; of original sin; of the innate depravity of man and the evil fate of the greater part of the race; of the primacy of Satan in this world; of the essential vileness of matter; of a malevolent Demiurgus subordinate to a benevolent Almighty, who has only lately revealed himself, faulty as they are, appear to me to be vastly nearer the truth than the “liberal” popular illusions that babies are all born good and that the example of a corrupt society is responsible for their failure to remain so; that it is given to everybody to reach the ethical ideal if he will only try; that all partial evil is universal good; and other optimistic figments, such as that which represents “Providence” under the guise of a paternal philanthropist, and bids us believe that everything will come right (according to our notions) at last.

Thomas Huxley, Life and Letters, vol.3, p.220, ed. L.Huxley, Macmillan, 1903

online source

There is a reason why these ‘faulty’ doctrines ‘appear’ to comport so well with our experience of the real world, Mr Huxley. They (except the mistaken idea of the vileness of matter – had he read Genesis 1?) are not faulty.