Monday, March 06, 2006

"Not a creed, but a method"

Thomas Henry Huxley, who as much as anyone can be credited with inventing the 20th century, was just months older than me when he died, at the ripe old age -- in Victorian times -- of seventy. It is because of the secular, liberal, scientific values Huxley fought for so valiantly all his life that I enjoy health and vigor at an age when he was in terminal physical decline.

Physical, but not mental. In a letter to a friend a few years before his death, Huxley took note of his infirmity, then wrote: "But for all that, the cosmos remains always beautiful and profoundly interesting in every corner -- and if I had as many lives as a cat I would leave no corner unexplored."

As part of his obituary, the British journal Punch penned this epitaph:
The great Agnostic, clear, brave, true,
Taught more things may be, than he deemed he knew.
Every time I see a picture of Huxley in later life, I am reminded of our own E. O. Wilson, another champion of secular, liberal, scientific values.