Charles Darwin: The Naturalist as a Cultural Force

Charles Darwin: The Naturalist as a Cultural Force

Charles Darwin: The Naturalist as a Cultural Force

Charles Darwin: The Naturalist as a Cultural Force

Excerpt

"IN conclusion," said Bishop Wilberforce, "I should like to ask my honorable opponent whether he considers himself descended from a monkey on his grandmother's side or his grandfather's." Whereupon Thomas Huxley, who called himself Darwin's Bulldog, arose to his feet. ". . . . a man," said he, "has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling, it would 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 by an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions, and skilled appeals to religious prejudice."

It would be impossible to state the issue more clearly. Huxley's genius had compressed the real meaning of Darwin's life and work into one devastating sentence. He had carried matters back to first principles--back of any mass of scientific evidence, back of any doctrine which might be drawn from that evidence-- to the question of ultimate human dignity.

So long as scientists had confined their attention to the physical world, or even to a description of living things without getting too inquisitive as to the meaning of life, the leaders of Victorian England had been content to leave them unmolested, and . . .

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