Thomas Henry Huxley Quotes

Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin.

Thomas Henry Huxley

We live in a world which is full of misery and ignorance, and the plain duty of each and all of us is to try to make the little corner he can influence somewhat less miserable and somewhat less ignorant than it was before he entered it.

Thomas Henry Huxley (On the Physical Basis of Life, 1868)

The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Science is simply common sense at its best - that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Evolution and Ethics, 1893)

Science is, I believe, nothing but trained and organised common sense, differing from the latter only as a veteran may differ from a raw recruit: and its methods differ from those of common sense only so far as the guardsman's cut and thrust differ from the manner in which a savage wields his club.

Thomas Henry Huxley (On the Educational Value of the Natural History
Sciences, 1854)

A man's worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Address on University Education, 1876)

I would rather be the offspring of two apes than be a man and afraid to face the truth.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Debate with Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, 1860)

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Lay Sermons, 1870)

Perhaps the most valuable result of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do, when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the first lesson that ought to be learned; and, however early a man's training begins, it is probably the last lesson that he learns thoroughly.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Technical Education, 1877)

History warns us, however, that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.

Thomas Henry Huxley (The Coming of Age of The Origin of Species, 1880)

Life is too short to occupy oneself with the slaying of the slain more than once.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Lecture, 1861)

No slavery can be abolished without a double emancipation, and the master will benefit by freedom more than the freed-man.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

Learn what is true in order to do what is right.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

Truly it has been said, that to a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the Infinite may be seen.

Thomas Henry Huxley (The Study of Zoology, 1861)

Science commits suicide when it adopts a creed.

Thomas Henry Huxley (The Darwin Memorial, 1885)

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing. I have only begun to learn content and peace of mind since I have resolved at all risks to do this.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to Charles Kingsley, 1860)

When Astronomy was young "the morning stars sang together for joy," and the planets were guided in their courses by celestial hands. Now, the harmony of the stars has resolved itself into gravitation according to the inverse squares of the distances, and the orbits of the planets are deducible from the laws of the forces which allow a schoolboy's stone to break a window.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Science has fulfilled her function when she has ascertained and enunciated truth.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Man's Place in Nature - Chapter II, 1863)

In matters of the intellect follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration... and do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections - Reflection 142)

In scientific work, those who refuse to go beyond fact rarely get as far as fact.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Make up your mind to act decidedly and take the consequences. No good is ever done in this world by hesitation.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to Dohrn, 1873)

Of moral purpose I see no trace in Nature. That is an article of exclusively human manufacture and very much to our credit.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to W. Platt Ball)

The great thing in the world is not so much to seek happiness as to earn peace and self-respect.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections - Reflection 261)

A man has no reason to be ashamed of having an ape for his grandfather. If there were an ancestor whom I should feel shame in recalling it would rather be a man—a man of restless and versatile intellect—who, not content with an equivocal success in his own sphere of activity, plunges into scientific questions with which he has no real acquaintance, only to obscure them with an aimless rhetoric, and distract the attention of his hearers from the real point at issue by eloquent digressions and skilled appeals to religious prejudice.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Debate with Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, 1860)

The great tragedy of Science.. Is the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Biogenesis and Abiogenesis, 1870)

Science and literature are not two things, but two sides of one thing.

Thomas Henry Huxley

The medieval university looked backwards; it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge. The modern university looks forward, and is a factory of new knowledge.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to E. Ray Lankester, 1892)

The only medicine for suffering, crime, and all other woes of mankind, is wisdom. Teach a man to read and write, and you have put into his hands the great keys of the wisdom box. But it is quite another thing to open the box.

Thomas Henry Huxley (A Liberal Education, 1868)

Not far from the invention of fire... we must rank the invention of doubt.

Thomas Henry Huxley

Not only does every animal live at the expense of some other animal or plant, but the very plants are at war.… The individuals of a species are like the crew of a foundered ship, and none but good swimmers have a chance of reaching the land.

Thomas Henry Huxley

There is no alleviation for the sufferings of mankind except veracity of thought and of action, and the resolute facing of the world as it is when the garment of make-believe by which pious hands have hidden its uglier features is stripped off.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

The only people, scientific or other, who never make mistakes are those who do nothing.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

For every man the world is as fresh as it was at the first day, and as full of untold novelties for him who has the eyes to see them.

Thomas Henry Huxley (A Liberal Education, 1868)

The man of science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by verification.

Thomas Henry Huxley (On the Advisableness of Improving Natural Knowledge, 1866)

The more rapidly truth is spread among mankind the better it will be for them. Only let us be sure that it is the truth.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections - Reflection 266)

As I stood behind the coffin of my little son the other day, with my mind bent on anything but disputation, the officiating minister read, as part of his duty, the words, 'If the dead rise not again, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.' I cannot tell you how inexpressibly they shocked me. Paul had neither wife nor child, or he must have known that his alternative involved a blasphemy against all that well best and noblest in human nature. I could have laughed with scorn. What! Because I am face to face with irreparable loss, because I have given back to the source from whence it came, the cause of a great happiness, still retaining through all my life the blessings which have sprung and will spring from that cause, I am to renounce my manhood, and, howling, grovel in bestiality? Why, the very apes know better, and if you shoot their young, the poor brutes grieve their grief out and do not immediately seek distraction in a gorge.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to Charles Kingsley, 1860)

I neither deny nor affirm the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing in it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to Charles Kingsley, 1860)

All truth, in the long run, is only common sense clarified.

Thomas Henry Huxley (On the Study of Biology, 1876)

The only question which any wise man can ask himself, and which any honest man will ask himself, is whether a doctrine is true or false.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Animal Automatism, 1874)

It is better for a man to go wrong in freedom than to go right in chains.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land, to add something to the extent and the solidity of our possessions.

Thomas Henry Huxley (On the Reception of the Origin of Species, 1887)

My business is to teach my aspirations to conform themselves to fact, not to try and make facts harmonise with my aspirations.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to Charles Kingsley, 1860)

The scientific imagination always restrains itself within the limits of probability.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the phenomena of the universe; the rules of thegame are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Lay Sermons, 1870)

As a natural process, of the same character as the development of a tree from its seed, or of a fowl from its egg, evolution excludes creation and all other kinds of supernatural intervention.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

There is but one right, and the possibilities of wrong are infinite.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life.

Thomas Henry Huxley (On Medical Education, 1870)

The saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is, to my mind, a very dangerous adage... If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?

Thomas Henry Huxley (On Elementary Instruction in Physiology, 1877)

Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.

Thomas Henry Huxley (The Coming of Age of The Origin of Species, 1880)

Time, whose tooth gnaws away everything else, is powerless against truth.

Thomas Henry Huxley

The great end of life is not knowledge but action.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Technical Education, 1877)

Whoso clearly appreciates all that is implied in the falling of a stone can have no difficulty about any doctrine simply on account of its marvelousness. But the longer I live, the more obvious it is to me that the most sacred act of a man's life is to say and to feel, "I believe such and such to be true." All the greatest rewards and all the heaviest penalties of existence cling about that act. The universe is one and the same throughout; and if the condition of my success in unraveling some little difficulty of anatomy or physiology is that I shall rigorously refuse to put faith in that which does not rest on sufficient evidence, I cannot believe that the great mysteries of existence will be laid open to me on other terms. It is no use to talk to me of analogies and probabilities. I know what I mean when I say I believe in the law of the inverse squares, and I will not rest my life and hopes upon weaker convictions. I dare not if I would.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to Charles Kingsley, 1860)

If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

I do not advocate burning your ship to get rid of the cockroaches.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Critiques and Addresses, 1873)

The motive of the drama of human life is the necessity, laid upon every man who comes into the world, of discovering the mean between self-assertion and self-restraint suited to his character and his circumstances. And the eternally tragic aspect of the drama lies in this: that the problem set before us is one the elements of which can be but imperfectly known, and of which even an approximately right solution rarely presents itself, until that stern critic, aged experience, has been furnished with ample justification for venting his sarcastic humor upon the irreparable blunders we have already made.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.

Thomas Henry Huxley (On the Hypothesis that Animals are Automata, 1874)

I know no study which is so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of humanity, as it is set forth in the annals of history. Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent than the other brutes, a blind prey to impulses, which as often as not led him to destruction; a victim to endless illusions, which make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical life with barren toil and battle.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Agnosticism, 1889)

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.

Thomas Henry Huxley

I am too much of a sceptic to deny the possibility of anything.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Letter to Herbert Spencer, 1886)

Unfortunately, it is much easier to shut one's eyes to good than to evil. Pain and sorrow knock at our doors more loudly than pleasure and happiness; and the prints of their heavy footsteps are less easily effaced.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Aphorisms and Reflections)

It is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what Agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to Agnosticism. That which Agnostics deny and repudiate, as immoral, is the contrary doctrine, that there are propositions which men ought to believe without logically satisfactory evidence; and that reprobation ought to attach to the profession of disbelief in such inadequately supported propositions.

Thomas Henry Huxley (Agnosticism, 1889)

Thomas Henry Huxley Biography

Born: May 4, 1825
Died: June 29, 1895

Thomas Henry Huxley was an English biologist. He is best known for his life long advocacy of free-thought. He was an ardent follower and advocator of Darwins theory of Evolution.

Notable Works

Agnosticism (1889)

Related Authors
Charles Darwin (1809 - 1882)