Friday, 22 May 2015

NTERNET QUOTES DEBUNKED - Aldous Huxley's Deepest Sin.

The Internet is full of lies... And falsely attributed quotes...

Quotes are unreliable.  Even in the days of books of quotations there were errors, deliberate and accidental, which occurred and spread through the various books.  In the age of the internet, misattribution and misquoting has exploded.  Especially if someone turns it into a picture.  One such misattribution is an alleged quote by Aldous Huxley on belief without evidence.




Ironically, people believe and share this image without any evidence it is correct:


It's popular with skeptics and atheists, obviously, but should we be skeptical?  First up, who is Aldous Huxley?

Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963) is probably best know for as the writer of "Brave New World" (1932). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in seven different years and was considered a preeminent intellect of his time.  So, a smart, literate man who could have said something like this and who is famous enough to give the quote extra gravitas.

However, a little research found something else:  The earliest reference I can find to the quote is in “Humanism” by Curtis Williford Reese from 1926.  It attributes the quote to Huxley, but not to Aldous, but to his grandfather Thomas Huxley.

Thomas Huxley (1825 - 1895) is know as Darwin's Bulldog.  Thomas was initially skeptical of the theories behind evolution because he felt that they didn't have enough evidence to support them.  Charles Darwin was anxious to convince Thomas, which he managed to do, with Thomas becoming Darwin's staunchest of defenders giving himself his famous epithet.  Although he believed in evolution and liked the idea of natural selection, as an anatomist and empiricalist he found that there was no evidence for it and remained undecided on the mechanism that evolution used.  Although considered by some to be an antitheist, he claimed to be an agnostic.  He certainly appears to be a man who is against belief without evidence.

The fact that the two men have the same surname is no coincidence: Thomas was Aldous's grandfather.  But it is that shared surname which, I think, has caused the problem.    My assumption is someone saw the name Huxley and assumed it was the one they knew or perhaps some unfamiliar with Thomas wanted to use a name they knew.

Finally, on the subject of belief without evidence:  I cannot say if it is an actually by Thomas.  Reese may have had his own agenda and used Thomas's name to support it, as often happens.

~ DUG.
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