History, Philosophy, and Ethics of Biology

The Quarterly Review of Biology, vol. 85, no. 2

By Stephen G. Post

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) delivered his most famous lecture, Evolution and Ethics, in 1893 at Oxford University. It remains one of the most penetrating and original statements on Darwinian thought in relation to the moral life that has ever been written. Specifically, Huxley offered a compelling counterpoint to the writings of Herbert Spencer and the other so‐called Social Darwinists, who held more or less that ethics is about the survival of the physically fittest in a refrain that would abandon the vulnerable and hint at the eugenics to come. But Huxley refused such fallacies, to his great credit. His “ruthless and ferocious destructiveness” (pp. 51–52) were assets long ago, but with civilizational advance, “deeply ingrained serviceable qualities have become defects” (p. 52). Indeed, civilized humanity, in extreme cases, “does his best to put an end to the survival of the fittest of former days by axe and rope” (p. 52).

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(Something interesting I found)Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2010 by cait
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