A Tail, Like The Other Foxes

By 1859, when Charles Darwin’s Origin was published, its author had a continuing history of multiple somatic complaints. He needed long periods of convalescence, and the inevitable debates that followed were shouldered, for the main, by the greatest science educator of the 19th Century, Thomas Huxley. Of prodigious intellect, and with an outstanding debating skill whether at the Royal Society (of which he later became President), or in public halls open to all-comers, Huxley carried the torch for this monkey to man hypothesis.

It is clear, when reading Adrian Desmond’s splendid biography of Huxley, that he was driven more by revulsion of the Church’s views than by science. His superb knowledge of The Bible and Church History enabled him to debate church leaders effectively.

But he had no personal religious or philosophical label. As he writes in an 1889 essay “most of my colleagues were -ists of one sort or another…atheist, theist, idealist…”. He felt, well, put-out. He wanted a belief so that he, too, had “a tail, like the other foxes” So he coined the term “agnostic” for himself.

Now, this is not about agnosticism per se. It is about the astonishing observation that Thomas Huxley, FRS (with Medal), the best-known scientist of Victorian England, “Darwin’s Bulldog”, grandfather of author Aldous and Nobel Prize winner Andrew, wanted to be like everyone else! Part of the group. With a label of his own. Reassuring, isn’t it?

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry