Faith versus Science
Excerpt from "A Lay Sermon"
On Improving Natural Knowledge; i.e. science
As regards the intellectual ethics of men,
delivered in St. Martin's Hall on Sunday, January 7th, 1866,
and subsequently published in the 'Fortnightly Review'.
Author: Thomas H. Huxley
What are the moral convictions most fondly held by barbarous and semi-barbarous people?
Some of them are the convictions
There are many excellent persons who yet hold by these principles, and it is not my present business, or intention, to discuss their views.
All I wish to bring clearly before your minds is the unquestionable fact,
that the improvement of natural knowledge is effected by methods which
directly give the lie to all these convictions,
and assume the exact reverse of each to be true.
- that authority is the soundest basis of belief;
- that merit attaches to a readiness to believe;
- that the doubting disposition is a bad one, and scepticism a sin;
- that when good authority has pronounced what is to be believed, and faith has accepted it, reason has no further duty.
The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge
authority, as such. For him,
And it cannot be otherwise, for
every great advance in natural knowledge has involved
- scepticism is the highest of duties;
- blind faith the one unpardonable sin.
and the most ardent votary of science holds his firmest convictions,
- the absolute rejection of authority,
- the cherishing of the keenest scepticism,
- the annihilation of the spirit of blind faith;
but because his experience teaches him that whenever he
chooses to bring these convictions into contact with their primary
source, Nature--whenever he thinks fit to test them by appealing to
experiment and to observation--Nature will confirm them. The man of
science has learned to believe in justification, not by faith, but by
- not because the men he most venerates hold them;
- not because their verity is testified by portents