English Evolutionary Biologist, Humanist and Internationalist
Julian Huxley, fully Sir Julian Sorell Huxley
English Evolutionary Biologist, Humanist and Internationalist
Man ... differs from all other animals in having a brain which can and largely does bring all the various elements of experience into contact, instead of keeping them in a series of wholly or largely separate compartments or channels. This not only provides the basis for conceptual thought, and so for all man's ideas and philosophic systems, ideals and works of art and creative imagination, but also for his battery of complex sentiments unknown in animals, such as reverence and religious awe, moral feelings (including hate and contempt arising from moral abhorrence), and love in its developed form.
Nearly a million species of animals are already known. Of these, only a few thousand are endowed with anything which can be called intelligence, only a few tens with high intelligence, and only one with conceptual thought. In the same way, there are hundreds of known religions; it had better be left to more orthodox writers than myself to enumerate those which can be called high religions. Animal evolution witnesses to a central upward trend of biological progress; it also shows us the retention of low types along with high, the throwing out of blind-alley side branches of specialisation at every level, and sometimes even degeneration. Religious evolution also shows a central progress—but equally the production of bizarre side-branches, the permanent confining of the religious spirit in low-level embodiments, its projection into every conceivable cul-de-sac, its too frequent bending over from upward to downward growth.
A religion is essentially an attitude to the world as a whole. Thus evolution, for example, may prove as powerful a principle to coordinate men’s beliefs and hopes as God was in the past. Such ideas underlie the various forms of Rationalism, the Ethical movement and scientific Humanism.
Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.
The scientific doctrine of progress is destined to replace not only the myth of progress, but all other myths of human earthly destiny. It will inevitably become one of the cornerstones of man's theology, or whatever may be the future substitute for theology, and the most important external support for human ethics.
Not only is natural selection not the instrument of a god’s sublime purpose, it is not even the best mechanism for achieving evolutionary progress.
The doctrine of original sin is a theological perversion of natural fact. It is a fact that all human beings begin life with an equipment of instincts, impulses, and desires, at war with one another and often out of harmony with the realities of eth physical, social, and spiritual world. Sin and the sense of sin will always be with us, to torture and weigh down; but… the religion of the future will try to prevent men’s being afflicted with the sense of sin, rather than encourage it, and then attempt to cure it.
The future must have as its basis the consciousness of sanctity in existence – in common things, in the events of human life, in the gradually comprehended interlocking whole revealed to the human desire for knowledge, n the benedictions of beauty and love, in the catharsis, the sacred purging, of the moral drama in which character is pitted against fate and even deepest tragedy may uplift the mind.
The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself… not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps trans-humanism will serve: man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature… I believe in trans-humanism: once there are enough people who can truly say that, the human species will be on the threshold of a new kind of existence, as different from ours as ours is from that of Peking man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny.
The lineaments of the new religion that we can be sure will arise to serve the needs of the coming era... Instead of worshipping supernatural rulers, it will sanctify the higher manifestations of human nature, in art and love, in intellectual comprehension and aspiring adoration, and will emphasize the fuller realization of life’s possibilities as a sacred trust.
There are two complementary parts of our cosmic duty – one to ourselves, to be fulfilled in the realization and enjoyment of our capacities; the other to others, to be fulfilled in service to the community and in promoting the welfare of the generations to come and the advancement of our species as a whole.
I believe in transhumanism”: once there are enough people who can truly say that, the human species will be on the threshold of a new kind of existence, as different from ours as our is from that of Peking man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny.
If the self-conception of novelty is the basic wonder of the universe, this eliciting of mind from the potentialities of world-stuff, and its intensification and increasing importance during evolution is the basic wonder of life.
It is our duty… to place our whole tumultuous life of feeling and will under the joint guidance of reverence and reason.
`Mind’ and `matter’ appear as two aspects of our unitary mind-bodies. There is no separate supernatural realm: all phenomena are part of one natural process of evolution. There is no basic cleavage between science and religion; they are both organs of evolving humanity… This earth is one of the rare spots in the cosmos where mind has flowered. Man is a product of nearly three billion years of evolution, in whose person the evolutionary process has at last become conscious of itself and its possibilities. Whether he likes it or not, he is responsible for the whole further evolution of our planet.
“Learn what is true in order to do what is right” is the summing up of the whole duty of man.
Any conflict which prevents the personality from attaining wholeness is a hindrance: all taboos against considering any part of the universe in relation to man and his destiny are hindrances; so, too, are all restrictions upon the free use of reason, or the free appeal of conscience. In other words, any religion which is not an affirmation of the ultimate value of truth and knowledge, beauty and its expression, and goodness and moral action, which ever sets itself up against these, is in that respect a false, low and incomplete religion.
Any religion which is not an affirmation of the ultimate value of truth and knowledge, beauty and its expression, and goodness and moral action, which ever sets itself up against these, is in that respect a false, low and incomplete religion.
Biology… has thus revealed man’s place in nature. Hs is the highest form of life produced by the evolutionary process on this planet, the latest dominant type, and the only organism capable of further advance or progress. Whether he knows it or not, whether he wishes it or not, he is now the main agency for the further evolution of the earth and its inhabitants. In other words, his destiny is to realize new possibilities for the whole terrestrial sector of the cosmic process, to be the instrument of further evolutionary progress on this planet.