Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley — Volume 3 eBook

Leonard Huxley
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 521 pages of information about Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley — Volume 3.

[Challenged to state his “mental bias, pro or con,” with regard to such matters as Creation, Providence, etc., he reiterates his words written thirty-two years before:—­]

So far back as 1860 I wrote:—­

“The doctrine of special creation owes its existence very largely to the supposed necessity of making science accord with the Hebrew cosmogony”; and that the hypothesis of special creation is, in my judgment, a “mere specious mask for our ignorance.”  Not content with negation, I said:—­

“Harmonious order governing eternally continuous progress; the web and woof of matter and force interweaving by slow degrees, without a broken thread, that veil which lies between us and the infinite; that universe which alone we know, or can know; such is the picture which science draws of the world.”

Every reader of Goethe will know that the second is little more than a paraphrase of the well-known utterance of the “Zeitgeist” in “Faust”, which surely is something more than a mere negation of the clumsy anthropomorphism of special creation.

Follows a query about “Providence,” my answer to which must depend upon what my questioner means by that substantive, whether alone, or qualified by the adjective “moral.”

If the doctrine of a Providence is to be taken as the expression, in a way “to be understanded of the people,” of the total exclusion of chance from a place even in the most insignificant corner of Nature, if it means the strong conviction that the cosmic process is rational, and the faith that, throughout all duration, unbroken order has reigned in the universe, I not only accept it, but I am disposed to think it the most important of all truths.  As it is of more consequence for a citizen to know the law than to be personally acquainted with the features of those who will surely carry it into effect, so this very positive doctrine of Providence, in the sense defined, seems to me far more important than all the theorems of speculative theology.  If, further, the doctrine is held to imply that, in some indefinitely remote past aeon, the cosmic process was set going by some entity possessed of intelligence and foresight, similar to our own in kind, however superior in degree, if, consequently, it is held that every event, not merely in our planetary speck, but in untold millions of other worlds, was foreknown before these worlds were, scientific thought, so far as I know anything about it, has nothing to say against that hypothesis.  It is, in fact, an anthropomorphic rendering of the doctrine of evolution.

It may be so, but the evidence accessible to us is, to my mind, wholly insufficient to warrant either a positive or a negative conclusion.

[He remarks in passing upon the entire exclusion of “special” providences by this conception of a universal “Providence.”  As for “moral” providence:—­]

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Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley — Volume 3 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.