TBC Staff

[TBC: Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), was known as "Darwin's Bulldog." He was also known for his debate with Bishop Samuel Wilberforce. It is instructive, however, to see exactly that Huxley's admitted belief in evolution must be viewed as “faith."]

But though I cannot express this conviction of mine too strongly, I must carefully guard against the supposition that I intend to suggest that no such thing as Abiogenesis ever has taken place in the past, or ever will take place in the future. With organic chemistry, molecular physics, and physiology yet in their infancy, and every day making prodigious strides, I think it would be the height of presumption for any man to say that the conditions under which matter assumes the properties we call “vital” may not, some day, be artificially brought together. All I feel justified in affirming is, that I see no reason for believing that the feat has been performed yet.

And looking back through the prodigious vista of the past, I find no record of commencement of life, and therefore I am devoid of any means of forming a definite conclusion as to the conditions of its appearance. Belief, in the scientific sense of the word, is a serious matter, and needs strong foundations. To say, therefore, in the admitted absence of evidence, that I have any belief as to the mode in which the existing forms of life have originated, would be using words in a wrong sense. But expectation is permissible where belief is not; and if it were given me to look beyond the abyss of geologically recorded time to the still more remote period when the earth was passing through physical and chemical conditions, which it can no more see again than man can recall his infancy, I should expect to be a witness of the evolution of living protoplasm from not living matter. I should expect to see it appear under forms of great simplicity, endowed, like existing fungi, with the power of determining the formation of new protoplasm from such matters as ammonium carbonates, oxalates and tartrates, alkaline and earthy phosphates, and water, without aid of light. That is the expectation to which analogical reasoning leads me; but I beg you once more to recollect that I have no right to call my opinion anything but an act of philosophical faith (Thomas Huxley, Discourses Biological and Geological: Essays, 1894, pp. 255-257).


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