Monday, February 12, 2007

Bully for Darwin, But What About Huxley?


Today, many bloggers are celebrating Charles Darwin's birthday, and rightfully so. Check here. And here. And here. That should get you started.

But what many people don't realize is that Darwin wouldn't be the household name it is today without the unwavering support of Thomas Henry Huxley. God Delusion author, Richard Dawkins has become known as Darwin's rottweiler, but without Darwin's bulldog, as Huxley was known, there may never have been a rottweiler.

Due to illness (his own and his children's), not to mention a private and retiring personality, Darwin was unable to publicly defend the theory spelled out in On the Origin of Species. Fortunately for us, Huxley was willing and able, debating—and trouncing—any and all comers. Humanity owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Huxley, not only for advancing the cause of natural selection, but also for advancing the cause of free speech itself. Indeed, as H.L. Mencken observes in his tribute to Huxley, "The row was over Darwinism, but before it ended Darwinism was almost forgotten. What Huxley fought for was something far greater: the right of civilized men to think freely and speak freely, without asking leave of authority, clerical or lay. How new that right is! And yet how firmly held! Today it would be hard to imagine living without it. No man of self-respect, when he has a thought to utter, pauses to wonder what the bishops will have to say about it. The views of bishops are simply ignored. Yet only sixty years ago they were still so powerful that they gave Huxley the battle of his life."

Huxley's grandson, Aldous, it should be noted, is the author of the nightmarish sci-fi tragedy, Brave New World.

1 comment:

Blue Gal said...

thanks for the linky love Big Daddy.