Biology Evolution Science

Julian Huxley’s Confession

Spread the love

By popular demand…

Julian Huxley’s Confession

by John A. Davison

The history of any science often reveals aspects of that science that have escaped attention in the intervening years. As someone so wisely put it -”The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” I present, in this brief essay, one particularly revealing demonstration of that phenomenon, one that is especially significant to the current status of the Darwinian hypothesis.

Julian Huxley was the grandson of the distinguished Thomas Henry Huxley, known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his spirited defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Like his illustrious grandfather Julian Huxley became a major spokesperson for Darwinism when in 1942 he published his “Evolution: The Modern Synthesis.”

Two years earlier, Richard B. Goldschmidt had published “The Material Basis of Evolution” in which he had in effect dismissed the corpuscular gene as the evolutionary unit and instead proposed that it was the chromosome and its internal structure, which had served to direct evolutionary change. It is difficult to imagine two books more opposed in perspective.

Huxley referred to Goldschmidt some 28 times, yet remained a convinced selectionist Darwinian nevertheless. It is important to remember that Darwin wholeheartedly subscribed to Lyell’s Uniformitarian Doctrine; namely, that the forces we now see shaping the world are the same forces that have operated in the past. While that is what most geologists still accept there is no a priori justification for extending that concept to the living world. That is what makes what I am about to present all the more significant.

Huxley’s book ends with the chapter “Evolutionary Progress.” On page 571, seven pages before the end he presents the following synopsis. For emphasis I have italicized key words and phrases but otherwise it is verbatim.

“Evolution is thus seen as a series of blind alleys. Some are extremely short – those leading to new genera and species that either remain stable or become extinct. Others are longer – the lines of adaptive radiation within a group such as a class or subclass, which run for tens of millions of years before coming up against their terminal blank wall. Others are still longer the lines that have in the past led to the development of the major phyla and their highest representatives; their course is to be reckoned not in tens but in hundreds of millions years. But all in the long run have terminated blindly. That of the echinoderms, for instance, reached its climax before the end of the Mesozoic. For the arthropods, represented by their highest group, the insects, the full stop seems to have come in the early Cenozoic: even the ants and bees have made no advance since the Oligocene. For the birds, the Miocene marked the end; for the mammals, the Pliocene.”

I was amazed to read this summary and was curious to find out what prompted Huxley to include it at the end of his book, as it would seem to negate much of what preceded it. Where did he get the notion that evolution was finished? This I feel I was able to do from a paper by the anti-Darwinian paleontologist Robert Broom. Huxley and Broom had corresponded on the subject as revealed by Broom:

“And a few zoologists are beginning to recognize that evolution is slowing down, if not quite stopped. In a letter I had from Professor Julian Huxley only a few months ago he says, ‘I have often thought about your idea of the fading out of evolutionary potency, and though I cannot pretend to agree with some of the philosophical corollaries which you draw from it, I more and more believe that it is of great importance as a fact.’” (Broom, 1933).

I was disappointed to discover that the only reference Huxley made to Broom was in a footnote on page 568:

“A small minority of biologists, such as Broom (1933), still feel impelled to invoke ‘spiritual agencies’ to account for progressive evolution, but their number is decreasing as the implications of modern selection theories are grasped.”

The reference to “spiritual agencies” by Broom was his suggestion that there had been a Plan, a word he capitalized.

Without referring to either Huxley or Broom, Pierre Grasse reached the same conclusions:

“Facts are facts; no new broad organizational plan has appeared for several hundred million years, and for an equally long period of time numerous species, animal as well as plant, have ceased evolving… At best, present evolutionary phenomena are simply slight changes of genotypes within populations, or substitution of an allele with a new one.” (Grasse, The Evolution of Living Organisms,1977 page 84.)

and:

“The period of great fecundity is over; present evolution appears as a weakened process, declining or near its end. Aren’t we witnessing the remains of an immense phenomenon close to extinction? Aren’t the small variations which are being recorded everywhere the tail end, the last oscillations of the evolutionary movement? Aren’t our plants, our animals, lacking some mechanisms which were present in the early flora and fauna?”(Ibid, page 71).

I unhesitatingly answer yes to each of Grasse’s three questions and I hope others can as well.

The reason I have presented this brief essay is to demonstrate that, even from within the Darwinian establishment, grave doubts have surfaced concerning its basic tenets from one of their most prominent spokespersons. I am not surprised Huxley is rarely referenced these days.

References

Broom, R. (1933) Evolution – Is there intelligence behind it? South African Journal of Science, 30: 1-19

Goldschmidt, R. B. (1940) “The Material Basis of Evolution.” Yale University Press, New Haven.

Grasse, P. (1977 “Evolution of Living Organisms: Evidence for a New Theory of Transformation.” Academic Press, New York. (Original French edition 1973).

Huxley, J. (1942) “Evolution: The Modern Synthesis.” Harper, New York and London.

10 Replies to “Julian Huxley’s Confession

  1. 1
    Xavier says:

    From Grassé;

    Aren’t we witnessing the remains of an immense phenomenon close to extinction? Aren’t the small variations which are being recorded everywhere the tail end, the last oscillations of the evolutionary movement? Aren’t our plants, our animals, lacking some mechanisms which were present in the early flora and fauna?

    Did Grassé leave his questions unanswered, or does he attempt his own answer elsewhere in his book?

  2. 2
    John Davison says:

    Thank you DaveScot

    PLEASE TAKE NOTE you denizens of “Panda’s Pathetic Pollex,” especially those at Wesley Elsberry’s inner sanctum, “After The Bar Closes,” where the indiscreet elite meet. Read it and weep!

    “War, God help me, I love it so!”
    General George S. Patton, with Albert Einstein a fellow predestinationist.

  3. 3
    John Davison says:

    Come on Xavier. Why don’t you go to the library and read all of what Grasse had to say. While you are at it read Schindewolf, Berg, Bateson, Punnett and Broom while you are there. Really!

  4. 4
    DaveScot says:

    Great essay, Professor. As you know from our private correspondence I was a bit skeptical that evolution is over but this is persuasive. It also aligns with the hypothesis that life was seeded on this planet and that the seed had everything in it needed to grow into adulthood, reproduce, then die. One particular hypothesis that gets short shrift is Lynn Margulis’ idea that all life on the earth can be viewed as single organism. Presuming the goal of the uber-organism is, like with every other discreet organism, reproduction before death, then we arrive at the question “how does an entire planetary ecosystem reproduce”? Simple. Like a dandelion it sends out seeds. How would a planet send out its seeds? Well, on this planet it appears to be by rocket propulsion. NASA is the earth’s sex organ. How do you like those appleseeds, Johnny? 😉

  5. 5
    John Davison says:

    Interesting, We better get cracking on getting off this rotating disaster as we are screwing it up at an alarming rate. Personally I don’t think we have either the time or the necessary technology to set up somewhere else and just where would that be? There is not another planet in our system that could sustain life is there? I am no astronomer so correct me if I’m wrong. AS far as I am concerned life exists only on this planet and it will die here as well. I don’t think we need to hurry the process though. Margulis may be right about the analogy of the whole earth as a single organism but I don’t think she is right about the symbiotic origin of the metazoa and it has not been demonstrated experimentally. It isn’t necessary if the PEH proves to be correct. It should be noted that we have in our bodies representatives of all three major protozoan cell types, ciliated bronchial epithelia, amoeboid white blood cells and flagellated spermatozoa. Also certain flagellate protozoa can reversibly turn into amoebas. Whole groups of animals have lost some of these. For example cilia are unknown in the Insecta or at least they were the last I heard. The loss of potentiality is an interesting feature in evolution and apparently, once lost, basic features don’t return. Again this is a feature of ontogeny as well.

    Also Lynn Margulis’ ex-husband Carl Sagan sort of gave up on SETI didn’t he? I’m afraid this is it folks. Let’s wise up and clean up our act. I don’t think we have more than a few years left. I know I don’t!

    Science is fun isn’t it although I don’t think the Darwinians are enjoying it very much these days. I say a pox upon their blind ultra-materialism. It is they, not the IDists, who are the mystics, believing devoutly as they always have in forces they cannot demonstrate because they never existed.

    “Everything is determined… by forces over which we have no control.”
    A fellow convinced determinist, Albert Einstein

    Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for Darwinian mysticism.

    I sure hope they are listening as “Panda’s Pathetic Pollex,” especially at “After The Bar Closes,” Elsberry’s “Inner Sanctum” where the elite indiscreet effete always meet after the bar closes of course. Some of them apparently live there.

    How do you like them finger foods with them neat little plastic swords stuck in them Wesley baby?

  6. 6
    Xavier says:

    It should be noted that we have in our bodies representatives of all three major protozoan cell types, ciliated bronchial epithelia, amoeboid white blood cells and flagellated spermatozoa. Also certain flagellate protozoa can reversibly turn into amoebas.

    I was thinking along the same lines. As a metaphor for origin and development of life, the conception, growth and death of an organism has appeal. Similarly, how a single human ovum divides and the daughter cells subsequently divide and differentiate into “symbiotic” groups of unquestionably related but utterly different in form and function, forming organs and all necessary structures for that human to live and die is a metaphor for life’s complexity.

  7. 7
    DaveScot says:

    “Interesting, We better get cracking on getting off this rotating disaster as we are screwing it up at an alarming rate.”

    I agree to some extent. The earth has proven pretty resilient in the past. There probably isn’t anything humans can do to it that it won’t recover from well inside its life-friendly lifetime. But I tend to agree that evolution has wound down and rational man is the last prescribed product of it.

    The story of life is one in which it consumes whatever is necessary from its environment in order to reproduce. There is a finite amount of time that the earth can support life. The sun is getting hotter. In a billion years it’s probably going to be too hot to allow liquid water on the earth’s surface. In several billion it’s going to turn it into a blackened cinder. So life on this planet is, sooner or later, doomed. If it follows the storyline it will consume whatever resources are necessary to reproduce and get itself to greener pastures while the getting is good.

    It thus appears to make sense that evolution writ large is like the life of a dandelion. Rational man in that situation would be, rather than a goal in and of itself, just the part of the plant that is responsible for floating the seed to a new location where the story of life can repeat itself. This of course begs a question of past events – is that how life arrived on the earth in the first place? Is life here the original source of life or is just one generation, neither the first nor the last?

  8. 8
    John Davison says:

    Sorry Dave but I can’t buy it. The minute one assumes life is elsewhere one accepts chance as the mechanism. Also there is no reason to believe life arrived here either. Let’s keep it as simple as possible. Anything more is pure conjecture. The one thing we learn from both ontogeny and phylogeny is that neither is reversible or repeatable. I wrote a paper to that effect.

    “Evolution as a self-limiting process.” 1998, Rivista di Biologia 91: 199-220

    I would like to think otherwise but I am convinced it is all down hill from here on in. If we alarmists, and I am one, can scare enough people maybe they will try to do something about it. We are talking a very few years before we do ourselves in: I say under a hundred years. You can’t have monocultures of 7 billion humans, 7 billion chickens, 2 billion cattle and and a few billion more of the other domesticated animals and expect to maintain a viable ecosystem, especially as we are chopping down the rain forests which are a primary sink for the CO2 that we keep cranking out with gay abandon. Frankly, I think it is already too late to do anything about it, but that is just me.

    “Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know.”
    Montaigne

    “Men are most apt to believe what they least understand.”
    ibid

  9. 9
    Xavier says:

    Dr. Davison wrote:

    You can’t have monocultures of 7 billion humans, 7 billion chickens, 2 billion cattle and and a few billion more of the other domesticated animals and expect to maintain a viable ecosystem, especially as we are chopping down the rain forests which are a primary sink for the CO2 that we keep cranking out with gay abandon.

    Hmmm… isn’t this a bit bleeding heart liberal leftie thinking. I thought Republicans dismiss climate change as an urban myth.

  10. 10
    John Davison says:

    If Xavier, whoever that really is and I don’t care to know, thinks I am a bleeding heart liberal, he probably thinks that Richard Dawkins is an arch conservative. Grow up Xavier. You are beginning to really irritate me. I think I will dispense with you by no longer responding to your obvious thoughtless taunts. Is that OK with you and the management here? If it isn’t just let me know and I will disappear in a millisecond. I don’t need this kind of crap.

Leave a Reply