Saturday, October 17, 2009

Darwin's Bulldog, Thomas Huxley

The first to express Darwinist admiration for Buddhism was Thomas H. Huxley who, after Darwin himself proposed his theory, played the next most important role in the spread of Darwinism. Huxley appeared on the scene as Darwin's most passionate supporter and became known as "Darwin's bulldog." His debates with scientists and clergy defending the idea of creation, and the passion of his writings and speeches have made him the 19th century's most famous Darwinist.

One little-known fact about Huxley was his keen interest in Buddhism. Even while struggling with representatives of revealed religions like Judaism and Christianity, he regarded Buddhism as appropriate to the kind of secular civilization that he wanted to see established in the West. This is elaborated in the Philosophy East and West article, "Buddhism in Huxley's Evolution and Ethics," which includes the following description of Buddhism from Huxley's book of that name:

[Buddhism is] a system which knows no God in the Western sense; which denies a soul to man; which counts the belief in immortality a blunder and hope of it a sin; which refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifice; which bids men look to nothing but their own effortsfor salvation . . . . yet [it] spread over a considerable moiety of the Old World with marvelous rapidity and is still, with whatever base admixture of foreign superstitions, the dominant creed of a large fraction of mankind. 1

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