Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley
It is an error to imagine that evolution signifies a constant tendency to increased perfection. That process undoubtedly involves a constant remodeling of the organism in adaptation to new conditions; but it depends on the nature of those conditions whether the direction of the modifications effected shall be upward or downward.
‘The Struggle for Existence in Human Society’ (1888). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 199.
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Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley
The publication of the Darwin and Wallace papers in 1858, and still more that of the ‘Origin’ in 1859, had the effect upon them of the flash of light, which to a man who has lost himself in a dark night, suddenly reveals a road which, whether it takes him straight home or not, certainly goes his way. That which we werelooking for, and could not find, was a hypothesis respecting the origin of known organic forms, which assumed the operation of no causes but such as could be proved to be actually at work. We wanted, not to pin our faith to that or any other speculation, but to get hold of clear and definite conceptions which could be brought face to face with facts and have their validity tested. The ‘Origin’ provided us with the working hypothesis we sought.
‘On the Reception of the Origin of Species‘. In F. Darwin (ed.), The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Including an Autobiographical Chapter (1888), Vol 2, 197.
I’m in way too much danger of quoting Huxley way too often. He’s just so damn quotable. Did he ever say anything stupid, ever?

Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley
The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage. If knowledge is real and genuine, I do not believe that it is other than a very valuable posession, however infinitesimal its quantity may be. Indeed, if a little knowledge is dangerous, where is a man who has so much as to be out of danger?
Thomas Henry Huxley
‘Instruction in Physiology’, in Science and Culture and Other Essays (1882), 91.
Another stonker from the Hux.

Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley

Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before. Some day, I doubt not, we shall arrive at an understanding of the evolution of the aesthetic faculty; but all the understanding in the world will neither increase nor diminish the force of the intuition that this is beautiful and that is ugly.

Thomas Henry Huxley
‘Evolution and Ethics’ (1893). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 9, 80.
Can this man be any more wise?

Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley
Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed.
Speech at the Museum, South Kensington, on unveiling of a statue of Charles Darwin. Quoted in Herbert Spencer, ‘The Factors of Organic Evolution’ (April/May 1886), The Nineteenth Century, Vol. 19, 770.
Hear hear. Though I don’t think it’s in any danger of doing that.

Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley

Any one who has studied the history of science knows that almost every great step therein has been made by the “anticipation of Nature,” that is, by the invention of hypotheses, which, though verifiable, often had very little foundation to start with; and, not unfrequently, in spite of a long career of usefulness, turned out to be wholly erroneous in the long run

Thomas Henry Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley
Some experience of popular lecturing had convinced me that the necessity of making things plain to uninstructed people, was one of the very best means of clearing up the obscure corners in one’s own mind.
‘Preface’. In Man’s Place in Nature and Other Anthropological Essays. Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 7, Preface, ix.
I find that the only time I really learn anything is when I have to teach it to someone.

Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley
Mathematics may be compared to a mill of exquisite workmanship, which grinds you stuff of any degree of fineness; but, nevertheless, what you get out depends upon what you put in; and as the grandest mill in the world will not extract wheat-flour from peascods, so pages of formulae will not get a definite result out of loose data.
— Thomas Henry Huxley
‘Geological Reform’ (1869). In Collected Essays (1894), Vol. 8, 333.
Happy new year, everyone!
It feels a little odd saying this in January, when I’m uploading it. Who knows what will have happened in this previous year. Maybe Huxley will have turned out to be a massive paedo like Jimmy Savile was, in which case this will be in terrible taste.
Regardless, have a good one!

Thomas Henry Huxley

huxley
Every philosophical thinker hails it [The Origin of Species] as a veritable Whitworth gun in the armoury of liberalism.
‘The Origin of Species’ (1860). In Collected Essays (1893), Vol. 2, 23.
Though I sometimes wonder whether these days, evolution is too often associated with liberalism, hence why vast swathes of america still subscribe to creationism, as a reaction purely against liberalism.