G.G. Simpson, This View of Life (Harcourt,
Brace & World, New York, 1964), p. 131.
...It is a necessary condition and indeed part of the definition of
science in the modern sense that only natural explanations of material phenomena are to be
sought or can be considered scientifically tenable.
Julian Huxley, et al., in Evolution After Darwin,
Vol. 3, Sol Tax, editor (University of Chicago Press, 1960), pp. 45-46. The
grandson of T.H. Huxley who was Darwin's self-proclaimed "bull dog," participates
in a round table discussion broadcast on radio during Darwin Centennial.
HUXLEY: Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the
creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion. Before
Darwin, people like Paley with
his famous Evidences could point to the human hand or eye and say: "This organ is
beautifully adapted; it has obviously been designed for its purpose; design means a
designer; and therefore there must have been a supernatural designer." Darwin
pointed out that no supernatural designer was needed; since natural selection
could account for
any known form of life, there was no room for a supernatural agency in
HUXLEY: ...I think we can dismiss entirely all idea of a supernatural
overriding mind being responsible for the evolutionary process.
DARWIN (Sir Charles, grandson of Charles Robert): I do, entirely.
HUXLEY: And biologists do, with very few exceptions.
SHAPLEY (Harlow, famous astronomer, atheist): Julian, earlier this day I
gave a talk of fifty minutes on exactly this same subject--science and religion. You spoke
of their parting. But there are many kinds of religions. I have had much contact with the
liberal clergy of America in the last two or three years; and they accept evolution,
without objecting to it or worrying about it. And in that famous address in 1951 the Pope
went along with evolution.
HUXLEY: He still said there must be a God who is somehow responsible in
some way, didn't he?
SHAPLEY: Well, he didn't deny God, no. And you don't either.
HUXLEY: I certainly do.
SHAPLEY: Oh, no. If you defined God, you wouldn't.
HUXLEY: Now don't go into semantics.
SHAPLEY: You're not an atheist, Julian; you're an agnostic.
HUXLEY: I am an atheist, in the only correct sense, that I don't believe
in the existence of a supernatural being who influences natural events.
D.M.S. Watson, Nature, vol. 123, 1929, p. 233.
...The extreme difficulty of obtaining the necessary data for any
quantitative estimation of the efficiency of natural selection makes it seem probable that
this theory will be re-established, if it be so, by the collapse of alternative
explanations which are more easily attacked by observation and experiment. If so, it will
present a parallel to the theory of evolution itself, a theory universally accepted not
because it can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true but because the only
alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.
W. Thorpe, "Reductionism v. Organicism," New
Scientist, vol. 43, 25 Sept., 1969, p. 638.
...Victor Frankl who, in his study of The Pluralism of Sciences and
the Unity of Man, shows most impressively how false beliefs of this kind can lead to
some of the major psychiatric disorders current in the world today. And I believe he is
correct when he says that reductionism [effort to explain everything purely in terms of
the laws of physics] is the nihilism of today.
Julian Huxley in What Is Science?, J.R. Newman,
editor (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1955), p. 272.
...Evolution in the extended sense can be defined as a directional and
essentially irreversible process occurring in time, which in its course gives rise to an
increase of variety and an increasingly high level of organization in its products. Our
present knowledge indeed forces us to the view that the whole of reality is evolution--a
single process of self-transformation.
Charles Darwin, Life and Letters of Charles Darwin,
Vol. II, Francis Darwin, editor (D. Appleton and Co., New York, 1899), p. 105.
With respect to the theological view of the question. This is always
painful to me. I am bewildered. I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that
I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and
beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to be too much misery in the world. I cannot
persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the
Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of
Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice. Not believing this, I see no necessity
in the belief that the eye was expressly designed. On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be
contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to
conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything
as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the
working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me.
I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect.
Charles Darwin, Life and Letters of Charles Darwin,
Vol. I, Francis Darwin, editor (D. Appleton and Co., New York, 1899), p. 274. In a letter
to Mr. J. Fordyce in 1879.
What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but
myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. ...In my most
extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of
a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an
Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.
Ibid., p. 277. In a letter to a German student
I am much engaged, an old man, and out of health, and I cannot spare
time to answer your questions fully,--nor indeed can they be answered. Science has nothing
to do with Christ, except in so far as the habit of scientific research makes a man
cautious in admitting evidence. For myself, I do not believe that there ever has been any
revelation. As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting
Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin,
Nora Barlow, editor (W.W. Norton, & Company, New York, pp. 85-93.
During these two years [Oct. 1836 to Jan. 1839, editor] I was led to
think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite
orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers
(though themselves orthodox)
for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality.
I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had
gradually come, by this time,
to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the
world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., and
from its attributing to God the
feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred
books of the Hindus, or the beliefs of any barbarian. The question then
continually rose before my mind
and would not be banished,--is it credible that if God were now to make
a revelation to the Hindus, would he permit it to be connected with the
belief in Vishnu, Siva, &c.,
as Christianity is connected with the Old Testament. This appeared to me
By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to
make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported,--that the
more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become,--that the
men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by
us,--that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the
events,--that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me
to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses;--by such reflections as these,
which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I
gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation. The fact that many
false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some
weight with me. Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can hardly be denied
that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors
But I was very unwilling to give up my belief;--I feel sure of this for
I can well remember often and often inventing day-dreams of old letters between
distinguished Romans and manuscripts being discovered at Pompeii or elsewhere which
confirmed in the most striking manner all that was written in the Gospels. But I found it
more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which
would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at
last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted
even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how
anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text
seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother
and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.
And this is a damnable doctrine.1
1Mrs. Darwin annotated
this passage (from "and have never since doubted"...to "damnable doctrine") in her
own handwriting. She writes: ..."I should dislike the passage in
brackets to be published. It seems to me raw. Nothing can be said too
severe upon the doctrine of
everlasting punishment for disbelief--but very few now would. call that
`Christianity,' (tho' the words are there.) There is the question of
verbal inspiration comes in too.
E.D.[Nora Barlow, Charles' grand-daughter, editor of this edition].
Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God
until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to
which I have been driven. The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which
formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been
discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve
shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There
seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings and in the action of
natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows. Everything in nature is the
result of fixed laws. But I have discussed this subject at the end of my book on the Variation
of Domestic Animals and Plants,1 and the argument there given has never, as far as I can see, been answered.
1My father asks whether
we are to believe that the forms are preordained of the broken fragments
of rock which are fitted
together by man to build his houses. If not, why should we believe that
the variations of domestic animals or plants are preordained for
the sake of the breeder? "But if we
give up the principle in one case,...no shadow of reason can be assigned for the belief
that variations alike in nature and the result of the same general laws, which have been
the groundwork through natural selection of the formation of the most perfectly adapted
animals in the world, man included, were intentionally and specially
guided."--Variations of Animals and Plants, 1st Edit. vol. ii. p.431.--F.D.
But passing over the endless beautiful adaptations which we everywhere
meet with, it may be asked how can the generally beneficent arrangement of the world be
accounted for? Some writers indeed are so much impressed with the amount suffering in the
world, that they doubt if we look to all sentient beings, whether there is more of misery
or of happiness;--whether the world as a whole is a good or a bad one. According to my
judgment happiness decidedly prevails, though this would be very difficult to prove. If
the truth of this conclusion be granted, it harmonizes well with the effects which we
might expect from natural selection. If all the individuals of any species were habitually
to suffer to an extreme degree they would neglect to propagate their kind; but we have no
reason to believe that this has ever or at least often occurred. Some other
considerations, moreover, lead to the belief that all sentient beings have been formed so
as to enjoy, as a general rule, happiness.
Every one who believes, as I do, that all the corporeal
and mental organs (excepting those which are neither advantageous or
disadvantageous to the
possessor) of all beings have been developed through natural selection,
or the survival of the fittest, together with use or habit, will admit
that these organs have been formed so
that their possessors may compete successfully with other beings, and thus
increase in number. Now an animal may be led to pursue that course
of action which is the most
beneficial to the species by suffering, such as pain, hunger, thirst, and
fear,--or by pleasure, as in eating and drinking and in the propagation
of the species, &c. or by
both means combined, as in the search for food. But pain or suffering of
any kind, if long continued, causes depression and lessens the power
of action; yet is well adapted to make
a creature guard itself against any great or sudden evil. Pleasurable sensations,
on the other hand, may be long continued without any depressing effect;
on the contrary they
stimulate the whole system to increased action. Hence it has come to pass
that most or all sentient beings have been developed in such a manner
through natural selection, that
pleasurable sensations serve as their habitual guides. We see this in the
pleasure from exertion, even occasionally from great exertion of the
body or mind,--in the pleasure of
our daily meals, and especially in the pleasure derived from sociability
and from loving our families. The sum of such pleasures as these, which
are habitual or frequently
recurrent, give, as I can hardly doubt, to most sentient beings an excess
of happiness over misery, although many occasionally suffer much. Such
suffering, is quite compatible
with the belief in Natural Selection, which is not perfect in its action,
but tends only to render each species as successful as possible in
the battle for life with other
species, in wonderfully complex and changing circumstances.
That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes. Some have
attempted to explain this in reference to man by imagining that it serves for his moral
improvement. But the number of men in the world is as nothing compared with that of all
other sentient beings, and these often suffer greatly without any moral improvement. A
being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe, is to
our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient, and it revolts our understanding to suppose
that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings
of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time? This very old argument
from the existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent first cause seems
to me a strong one; whereas, as just remarked, the presence of much suffering agrees well
with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural
At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an
intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which are
experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindus, Mahomadans and others
might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favour of the existence of one God,
or of many Gods, or as with the Buddhists of no God. There are also many barbarian tribes
who cannot be said with any truth to believe in what we call God: they believe indeed in
spirits and ghosts, and it can be explained, as Tyler and Herbert Spencer have shown, how
such a belief would be likely to arise.
Formerly I was led by feelings such as those just referred to,(although
I do not think that the religious sentiment was ever strongly developed in me), to the
firm conviction of the existence of God, and of the immortality of the soul. In my Journal
I wrote that whilst standing in the midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, `it is
not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and
devotion which fill and elevate the mind.' I well remember my conviction that there is
more in man than the mere breath of his body. But now the grandest scenes would not cause
any such convictions and feelings to rise in my mind. It may be truly said that I am like
a man who has become colour-blind, and the universal belief by men of the existence of
redness makes my present loss of perception of not the least value as evidence. This
argument would be a valid one if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of
the existence of one God; but we know that this is very far from being the case. Therefore
I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of
what really exists. The state of mind which grand scenes formerly excited in me, and which
was intimately connected with a belief in God, did not essentially differ from that which
is often called the sense of sublimity; and however difficult it may be to explain the
genesis of this sense, it can hardly be advanced as an argument for the existence of God,
any more than the powerful though vague and similar feelings excited by music.
With respect to immortality, nothing shows me how strong and almost
instinctive a belief it is, as the consideration of the view now held by most physicists,
namely that the sun with all the planets will in time grow too cold for life, unless
indeed some great body dashes into the sun and thus gives it fresh life.--Believing as I
do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature than he now is, it
is an intolerable thought that he and all other sentient beings are doomed to complete
annihilation after such long-continued slow progress. To those who fully admit the
immortality of the human soul, the destruction of our world will not appear so dreadful.
Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the
reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows
from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and
wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into
futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel
compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to
that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.
This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can
remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species; and it is since that time that it
has very gradually with many fluctuations become weaker. But then arises the doubt--can
the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that
possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions? May not
these be the result of the connection between cause and effect which strikes us as a
necessary one, but probably depends merely on inherited experience? Nor must we overlook
the probability of the constant inculcation in a belief in God on the minds of children
producing so strong and perhaps an inherited effect on their brains not yet fully
developed, that it would be as difficult for them to throw off their belief in God, as for
a monkey to throw off its instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.2
2Added later. Emma Darwin wrote and
asked Frank to omit this sentence when he was editing the Autobiography in 1885. The
letter is as follows:--
"Emma Darwin to her son Francis. 1885.
My dear Frank,
There is one sentence in the Autobiography which I very much wish to
omit, no doubt partly because your father's opinion that all morality has grown up by
evolution is painful to me; but also because where this sentence comes in, it gives one a
sort of shock--and would give an opening to say, however unjustly, that he considered all
spiritual beliefs no higher than hereditary aversions or likings, such as the fear of
monkeys towards snakes.
I think the disrespectful aspect would disappear if the
first part of the conjecture was left without the illustration of the
instance of monkeys and snakes.
...I should wish if possible to avoid giving pain to your father's religious
friends who are deeply attached to him, and I picture to myself the
way that sentence would strike
them, even those so liberal as Ellen Tollett and Laura, much more Admiral
Sullivan, aunt Caroline, &c., and even the old servants.
Yours, dear Frank,
I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The
mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content
to remain an Agnostic.
A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a
personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule
of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the
strongest or which seem to him the best ones. A dog acts in this manner, but he does so
blindly. A man, on the other hand, looks forwards and backwards, and compares his various
feelings, desires and recollections. He then finds, in accordance with the verdict of all
the wisest men that the highest satisfaction is derived from following certain impulses,
namely the social instincts. If he acts for the good of others, he will receive the
approbation of his fellow men and gain the love of those with whom he lives; and this
latter gain undoubtedly is the highest pleasure on the earth. By degrees it will become
intolerable to him to obey his sensuous passions rather than his higher impulses, which
when rendered habitual may be almost called instincts. His reason may occasionally tell
him to act in opposition to the opinion of others, whose approbation he will then not
receive; but he will still have the solid satisfaction of knowing that he has followed his
innermost guide or conscience.--As for myself I believe that I have acted rightly in
steadily following and devoting my life to science. I feel no remorse from having
committed any great sin, but have often and often regretted that I have not done more
direct good to my fellow creatures. My sole and poor excuse is much ill-health and my
mental constitution, which makes it extremely difficult for me to turn from one subject or
occupation to another. I can imagine with high satisfaction giving up my whole time to
philanthropy, but not a portion of it; though this would have been a far better line of
Nothing is more remarkable than the spread of scepticism
or rationalism during the latter half of my life. Before I was engaged
to be married, my father advised
me to conceal carefully my doubts, for he said that he had known extreme
misery thus caused with married persons. Things went on pretty well
until the wife or husband became
out of health, and then some women suffered miserably by doubting about
the salvation of their husbands, thus making them likewise to suffer.
My father added that he had known
during his wholelong life only three women who were sceptics; and it should
be remembered that he knew well a multitude of persons and possessed
extraordinary power of winning
confidence. When I asked him who the three women were, he had to own with
respect to one of them, his sister-in-law Kitty Wedgwood, that he had
no good evidence, only the vaguest
hints, aided by the conviction that so clear-sighted a woman could not
be a believer. At the present time, with my small acquaintance, I know
(or have known) several married
ladies, who believe very little more than their husbands. My father used
to quote an unanswerable argument, by which an old lady, a Mrs Barlow,
who suspected him of
unorthodoxy, hoped to convert him:--"Doctor, I know that sugar is
sweet in my mouth, and I know that my Redeemer liveth."
Charles Darwin, More Letters of Charles Darwin,
Vol. II, Francis Darwin and A.C. Seward, editors (John Murray, London, 1903), in a letter
to D. Mackintosh, Feb. 28, 1882.
...Whether the existence of a conscious God can be proved from the
existence of the so-called laws of nature (i.e., fixed sequence of events) is a perplexing
subject, on which I have often thought, but cannot see my way clearly. If you have read W.
Graham's Creed of Science, it would, I think, interest you, and he supports the view which
you are inclined to uphold.
George Wald, Scientific American, vol. 191,
Aug. 1954, p. 46.
...The reasonable view was to believe in spontaneous
generation; the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act
of supernatural creation. There is
no third position. For this reason many scientists a century ago chose
to regard the belief in spontaneous generation as a "philosophical necessity." It
is a symptom of the philosophical poverty of our time that this necessity
is no longer appreciated.
Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall
of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the
alternative belief in special creation,
are left with nothing.
Maurice J. Caullery, Parasitism and Symbiosis,
trans. by M. Lysaght (Sidgewick and Jackson, Ltd., London, 1952), p. 168.
It follows from the brief preceding review that the processes of
reproduction in individuals after leaving the egg are both common and very varied in
parasitic forms. The result of these processes is so obviously favorable to the
perpetuation of the species, since it compensates for the destruction of a large number of
larvae which will not reach the necessary host, that the mind is much attracted towards a
teleological explanation. Quite evidently these are adaptations. But the problem is to
know how they have been achieved and how these modifications of the development of the
individual have come to ensure the propagation of the species.
Since we reject, a priori, the teleological interpretation,
there remain two possibilities: either these are pre-adaptations retained and developed by
natural selection, or else--and it is the solution to which I am drawn--these processes
manifest themselves on account of the conditions in which the egg of the parasite happens
to develop, but without an essential connection with parasitism or with the need of
conserving the species.
G.G. Simpson, Science, vol. 131, 1 April 1960,
That level of invalid perceptions [i.e., animist mythology of Kamarakoto
Indians, editor] might be called the lower superstition. It is nevertheless superior in
some respects to the higher superstitions celebrated weekly in every hamlet of the United
States. The legendary metamorphoses of my Indian friends are grossly naive, but they do
postulate a kinship through all of nature. Above all, they are not guilty of teleology. It
would never occur to them that the universe, so largely hostile, might have been created
for their benefit. ...
Perhaps the most crucial element in man's world is his conception of
himself. It is here that the higher superstition offers little real advance over the
lower. According to the higher superstitution, man is something quite distinct from
nature. He stands apart from all other creatures; his kinship is supernatural, not
Another subtler and even more deeply warping concept of the higher
superstitution was that the world was created for man. ...
Julian Huxley, Scientific American, vol. 189,
1953, p. 90, reviewing Life of the Past by G.G. Simpson (Yale University Press, New Haven,
And he concludes the book with a splendid assertion of
the evolutionist's view of man. Man, he writes, "stands alone
in the universe, a unique product of a long, unconscious, impersonal,
material process with unique understanding and
potentialities. These he owes to no one but himself, and it is to himself
that he is responsible. He is not the creature of uncontrollable and
undeterminable forces, but his
own master. He can and must decide and manage his own destiny."
Julian Huxley, The Observer, 17 July 1960, p.
...Gods are peripheral phenomena produced by evolution.