Man's Place in Nature: And Other Essays by Thomas Henry Huxley

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Thomas Henry Huxley
Forgotten Books
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Man's Place in Nature: And Other Essays

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Excerpt from Man's Place in Nature: And Other Essays

Forty years ago the position of scientific studies was not so firmly established as it is to-day, and a conflict was necessary to secure their general recognition. The forces of obscurantism and of free and easy dogmatism were arrayed against them; and, just as in former centuries astronomy, and in more recent times geology, so in our own lifetime biology, has had to offer a harsh and fighting front, lest its progress be impeded by the hostility born of preconceived opinions, and by the bigotry of self-appointed guardians of conservative views.

The man who probably did as much as any to fight the battle of science in the nineteenth century, and secure the victory for free enquiry and progressive knowledge, is Thomas Henry Huxley; and it is an interesting fact that already the lapse of time is making it possible to bring his writings in cheap form to the notice of a multitude of interested readers. The pugnacious attitude, however, which, forty years ago, was appropriate, has become a little antique now; the conflict is not indeed over, but it has either totally shifted its ground, or is continued on the old battlefield chiefly by survivors, and by a few of a younger generation who have been brought up in the old spirit.

The truths of materialism now run but little risk of being denied or ignored, they run perhaps some danger of being exaggerated. Brilliantly true and successful in their own territory, they are occasionally pushed by enthusiastic disciples over the frontier line into regions where they can do nothing but break down. As if enthusiastic worshippers of motor-cars, proud of their performance on the good roads of France, should take them over into the Sahara or essay them on a Polar expedition.

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