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Thomas Henry Huxley

Geburtstag: 4. Mai 1825
Todesdatum: 29. Juni 1895
Andere Namen: Thomas Huxley

Thomas Henry Huxley war ein britischer Biologe und vergleichender Anatom, Bildungsorganisator und Hauptvertreter des Agnostizismus, dessen Begriff er prägte und durchsetzte. Als einflussreicher Unterstützer des Empirismus David Humes und der Evolutionstheorie Charles Darwins hatte er zusätzlich zu seinen eigenen umfangreichen Forschungen, Lehrbüchern und Essays sehr großen Einfluss auf die Entwicklung der Naturwissenschaften im 19. Jahrhundert. Wikipedia

Zitate Thomas Henry Huxley

„Meine Aufgabe ist es, meine Hoffnungen zu lehren, sich den Tatsachen anzupassen, und nicht, die Tatsachen dazu zu zwingen, mit meinen Hoffnungen übereinzustimmen.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Brief an Charles Kingsley, 23. September 1860
Original engl.: "My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations."

„Die große Tragödie der Wissenschaft - die Erledigung einer wunderschönen Hypothese durch eine häßliche Tatsache.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Presidential Address at the British Association for 1870, "Biogenesis and Abiogenesis" (Collected Essays, vol. 8)
Original engl.: "The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."

„Die Unsterblichkeit des Menschen streite ich weder ab noch bestätige ich sie. Ich sehe keinen Grund, daran zu glauben, habe aber auf der anderen Seite keine Möglichkeit, sie als falsch zu beweisen.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Brief an Charles Kingsley, 23. September 1860
Original engl.: "I neither deny nor affirm the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing in it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it."

„The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

On the advisableness of improving natural knowledge (1866) http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext01/thx1410.txt
1860s
Quelle: Collected Essays of Thomas Henry Huxley
Kontext: The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin. And it cannot be otherwise, for every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority, the cherishing of the keenest scepticism, the annihilation of the spirit of blind faith; and the most ardent votary of science holds his firmest convictions, not because the men he most venerates hold them; not because their verity is testified by portents and wonders; but because his experience teaches him that whenever he chooses to bring these convictions into contact with their primary source, Nature — whenever he thinks fit to test them by appealing to experiment and to observation — Nature will confirm them. The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.

„The antagonism between science and religion, about which we hear so much, appears to me to be purely factitious“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

fabricated, on the one hand, by short-sighted religious people who confound a certain branch of science, theology, with religion; and, on the other, by equally short-sighted scientific people who forget that science takes for its province only that which is susceptible of clear intellectual comprehension; and that, outside the boundaries of that province, they must be content with imagination, with hope, and with ignorance.
"The interpreters of Genesis and the interpreters of Nature" (1885) http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE4/GeNat.html
1880s

„Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Darwiniana: the Origin of Species (1860) http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/8thdr10.txt
1860s
Kontext: It is true that if philosophers have suffered their cause has been amply avenged. Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules; and history records that whenever science and orthodoxy have been fairly opposed, the latter has been forced to retire from the lists, bleeding and crushed if not annihilated; scotched, if not slain. But orthodoxy is the Bourbon of the world of thought. It learns not, neither can it forget; and though, at present, bewildered and afraid to move, it is as willing as ever to insist that the first chapter of Genesis contains the beginning and the end of sound science...

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„The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

On the advisableness of improving natural knowledge (1866) http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext01/thx1410.txt
1860s
Kontext: The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin. And it cannot be otherwise, for every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority, the cherishing of the keenest scepticism, the annihilation of the spirit of blind faith; and the most ardent votary of science holds his firmest convictions, not because the men he most venerates hold them; not because their verity is testified by portents and wonders; but because his experience teaches him that whenever he chooses to bring these convictions into contact with their primary source, Nature — whenever he thinks fit to test them by appealing to experiment and to observation — Nature will confirm them. The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.

„History shows that the human mind, fed by constant accessions of knowledge, periodically grows too large for its theoretical coverings, and bursts them asunder to appear in new habiliments“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Quelle: 1860s, Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863), Ch.2, p. 72
Kontext: In a well worn metaphor, a parallel is drawn between the life of man and the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly; but the comparison may be more just as well as more novel, if for its former term we take the mental progress of the race. History shows that the human mind, fed by constant accessions of knowledge, periodically grows too large for its theoretical coverings, and bursts them asunder to appear in new habiliments, as the feeding and growing grub, at intervals, casts its too narrow skin and assumes another, itself but temporary. Truly the imago state of Man seems to be terribly distant, but every moult is a step gained, and of such there have been many.

„A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

One account of his famous response to Samuel Wilberforce, who during a debate had sarcastically questioned: "whether he was descended from an ape on his grandmother's side or his grandfather's" (30 June 1860), as quoted in Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley F.R.S (1900) edited by Leonard Huxley. There were no precise transcripts of this exchange made at the time, but only various accounts which were made afterwards, in the journals and memoirs of others. Other accounts assert that after Wilberforce's query he declared to Sir Benjamin Brodie "The Lord hath delivered him into my hands" rose from his seat, gave a thorough defense of Darwin's theories, and at the end concluded: "I would rather be the offspring of two apes than be a man and afraid to face the truth."
If the question is put to me would I rather have a miserable ape for a grandfather or a man highly endowed by nature and possessed of great means of influence and yet who 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.
Response, as quoted in Harvest of a Quiet Eye (1977) by Alan L. Mackay.
The Bishop rose, and in a light scoffing tone, florid and he assured us there was nothing in the idea of evolution; rock-pigeons were what rock-pigeons had always been. Then, turning to his antagonist with a smiling insolence, he begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey? On this Mr Huxley slowly and deliberately arose. A slight tall figure stern and pale, very quiet and very grave, he stood before us, and spoke those tremendous words — words which no one seems sure of now, nor I think, could remember just after they were spoken, for their meaning took away our breath, though it left us in no doubt as to what it was. He was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth. No one doubted his meaning and the effect was tremendous. One lady fainted and had to carried out: I, for one, jumped out of my seat; and when in the evening we met at Dr Daubeney's, every one was eager to congratulate the hero of the day.
Another account, by Mrs. Isabella Sidgwick in "A Grandmother's Tales"; Macmillan's Magazine LXXVIII, No. 468 (October 1898)
1860s
Kontext: A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there was an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man — a man of restless and versatile intellect — who not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them with aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.

„The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

"On Elementary Instruction in Physiology" (1877) http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/ElPhys.html
1870s
Kontext: 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 possession, however infinitesimal its quantity may be. Indeed, if a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?

„I now propose briefly to… set forth“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Quelle: 1860s, Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863), Ch.2, p. 74
Kontext: I now propose briefly to... set forth, in a form intelligible to those who possess no special acquaintance with anatomical science, the chief facts upon which all conclusions respecting the nature and the extent of the bonds which connect man with the brute world must be based: I shall then indicate the one immediate conclusion which, in my judgment, is justified by those facts, and I shall finally discuss the bearing of that conclusion upon the hypotheses which have been entertained respecting the Origin of Man.

„The only freedom I care about is the freedom to do right; the freedom to do wrong I am ready to part with on the cheapest terms to any one who will take it of me.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

"On Descartes' Discourse touching the method of using one's reason rightly and of seeking scientific truth" (1870) http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE1/DesDis.html
1870s
Kontext: If some great Power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a sort of clock and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close with the offer. The only freedom I care about is the freedom to do right; the freedom to do wrong I am ready to part with on the cheapest terms to any one who will take it of me.

„When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

1880s, Agnosticism (1889)
Kontext: When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis," — had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble.
So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. To my great satisfaction the term took.

„Size is not grandeur, and territory does not make a nation.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

"Address on University Education" (1876) http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/Ad-U-Ed.html, delivered at the formal opening of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, September 12, 1876. Huxley, American Addresses (1877), p. 125. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey used the same words in a commencement address at the Holton-Arms School, Bethesda, Maryland, June 1967; reported in The Washington Post (June 11, 1967), p. K3
1870s
Kontext: I cannot say that I am in the slightest degree impressed by your bigness, or your material resources, as such. Size is not grandeur, and territory does not make a nation. The great issue, about which hangs true sublimity, and the terror of overhanging fate, is what are you going to do with all these things?

„Each such answer to the great question, invariably asserted“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Quelle: 1860s, Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863), Ch.2, p. 72
Kontext: Each such answer to the great question, invariably asserted by the followers of its propounder, if not by himself, to be complete and final, remains in high authority and esteem, it may be for one century, or it may be for twenty: but, as invariably, Time proves each reply to have been a mere approximation to the truth—tolerable chiefly on account of the ignorance of those by whom it was accepted, and wholly intolerable when tested by the larger knowledge of their successors.

„Physiology, Psychology, Ethics, Political Science, must submit to the same ordeal.“

—  Thomas Henry Huxley

Evolution and Ethics (1893)
Kontext: The history of civilization details the steps by which men have succeeded in building up an artificial world within the cosmos. Fragile reed as he may be, man, as Pascal says, is a thinking reed: there lies within him a fund of energy, operating intelligently and so far akin to that which pervades the universe, that it is competent to influence and modify the cosmic process. In virtue of his intelligence the dwarf bends the Titan to his will. In every family, in every polity that has been established, the cosmic process in man has been restrained and otherwise modified by law and custom; in surrounding nature, it has been similarly influenced by the art of the shepherd, the agriculturist, the artisan. As civilization has advanced, so has the extent of this interference increased; until the organized and highly developed sciences and arts of the present day have endowed man with a command over the course of non-human nature greater than that once attributed to the magicians.... a right comprehension of the process of life and of the means of influencing its manifestations is only just dawning upon us. We do not yet see our way beyond generalities; and we are befogged by the obtrusion of false analogies and crude anticipations. But Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, have all had to pass through similar phases, before they reached the stage at which their influence became an important factor in human affairs. Physiology, Psychology, Ethics, Political Science, must submit to the same ordeal. Yet it seems to me irrational to doubt that, at no distant period, they will work as great a revolution in the sphere of practice.<!--pp.83-84

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