Huxley, Thomas Henry
One quote worthy
of discussion is that which occurred on June 30th, 1860 (Origins of Species, Darwin, was published in 1859). In a public debate on evolution (held over 3 days) Bishop Wiberforce of Oxford made
a statement to the audience to the that “it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed descent from
Huxley next speaking responded: "If then the question is put to me whether I would rather have a miserable ape for
a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet employs these faculties
and that influence for the mere purpose of introducing ridicule into a grave scientific discussion, I unhesitatingly affirm
my preference for the ape."
by Huxley was confirmed in a letter by John Richard Green July 3rd, & by Huxley’s statement on the debate
made in 1891. A full and entertaining review of the events is found in the May-June
2000 issue of American Scientist, which can be accessed on line by members at americanscientist.org.
Our Judeo – Christian – Muslim
heritage merits special attention. I have often wondered about the people who
have made Yahweh into a monster. I also wondered how the humanitarian sentiments
expressed in the Sermon on the Mount fail affect their god. Xenophanes (was the
first known to us) to have written about ungodly gods. “Homer and Hesiod
ascribed to the Gods all things that are a shame and disgrace among mortals, stealing and adulteries and deceiving one another.”
The anonymous authors of the Old Testament ascribed to Yahweh all things
that are a shame and disgrace among mortals: jealousy, pride, vengefulness, favoritism,
cruelty, arbitrariness. And by the third century the Christian church had
heaped cruelties so monstrous that the words of John Stuart Mill (describing his father’s views) are beyond dispute:
Nations have represented their gods as wicked, in a constantly
increasing progression, that mankind have gone on adding trait after trait till they reached the most perfect conception of
wickedness which the human mind can devise, and have called this God, and prostrated themselves before it. This ne plus ultra of wickedness he considered to be embodied in what is commonly presented to mankind as the creed
of Christianity. Think (my father used to say) of a being who would make a hell-who would create the human race with
the infallible foreknowledge, and therefore with the intention-that the great majority of them were to be consigned to horrible
and everlasting torment.
Obviously the fault is man’s.
Make Twain note this: “If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”
There are other blights.
The British 20th century anthropologist J.B.S. Haldane noted the effects of the clergy upon public education:
education end religious educations are incompatible. The clergy have ceased to
interfere with education at the advanced state, with which I am directly concerned, but
they have still got control of that of children. This means that children
have to learn about Adam and Noah instead of Evolution; about David who killed Goliath, instead of Koch who killed Cholera;
about Christ’s ascent into heaven instead of Montgolfier’s and Wright’s.
Worse than that, they are taught that it is a virtue to accept statements without adequate evidence, which leaves them
a prey to quacks of every kind in later life, and makes it very difficult for them to
accept the methods of though which are successful in science.
I would add to Haldane’s observation the waste of minds
in Sunday schools and in church ran universities.
David Hume dealt with the attempts to find evidence of their god’s meadeling in human affairs, which they proffer
as a proof that their god is real. He wrote in 1748: “No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its
falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”
Hume noted that Christian faith rested upon miracles: "The Christian religion not only was at first
attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one."
I had no intention to write atheistic, but I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and I should
wish to do, the evidence of beneficence and design on all sides as there seems to be too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent god would have designedly created the Ignomonidi to feed
inside the body of a caterpillar or that the cat should play with mice.
Charles Darwin in a letter to Prof. Asa Gray.
I can hardly conclude that the sum total of effects of religion is good. Apologists argue that religions keep the masses from being even wickeder. I
fail to have observed this difference. Moreover most sociopaths believe in god. Among wicked people the violation of trust by politicians would place them as a group
first; yet the vast majority of them have faith, and the preachers are silent as to the great harm in their violation of the
public weal. Moreover few of you would wish to live in a state ran by religious
zealots. Afghanistan is one such modern state, and on the micro scale there are the Catholic monasteries.
It was Edward Gibbon who noted that "those who had little interest in this
world took over the administration of the government and military of Rome." They
replaced able pagan administrators and leaders, and in so doing brought about the destruction of Rome, Gibbon concludes. The Church barred the pagans from holding office, teaching, and soon thereafter
stripped them of their property by a law which barred inheritance. The Church
destroyed the social an political foundation which had placed Rome first among nations for 7 centuries and brought
on the Dark Ages.