British author Aldous Huxley is best known for his 1932 book ‘Brave New World’ which became a model for much dystopian science fiction that followed. Brave New World was written between World War I and World War II, the height of an era of technological optimism in the West. Huxley picked up on such optimism and created the dystopian world of his novel so as to criticise it, Britannica notes.
But what exactly were Aldous Huxley’s views? Did he in fact believe in the need for a scientific dictatorship? A scientific caste system? Was he actually warning the people that such a dystopia would occur if we did not correct our course or was it all part of a mass psychological conditioning for what was regarded as inevitable and that Huxley’s role was rather to “soften the transition” as much as possible towards a “dictatorship without tears”?
Cynthia Chung explored the true story behind Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World in a paper published as a series of four articles. Below is an extract from Part 2 which consists of three sections: the war on science; modern science begets modern religion begets a modern utopia; and, the 20th-century descent of man.
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The War on Science, by Cynthia Chung
‘A New Theory of Biology’ was the title of the paper which Mustapha Mond had just finished reading. He sat for some time, meditatively frowning, then picked up his pen and wrote across the title page: ‘The author’s mathematical treatment of the conception of purpose is novel and highly ingenious, but heretical and, so far as the present social order is concerned, dangerous and potentially subversive. Not to be published.’ … A pity, he thought, as he signed his name. It was a masterly piece of work. But once you began admitting explanations in terms of purpose – well, you didn’t know what the result might be. It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes – make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere, that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being [as happiness and comfort], but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge. Which was, the Controller reflected, quite possibly true. But not, in the present circumstance, admissible.Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’
This is the credo for all scientific dictatorships, to forbid any search for knowledge whose purpose is the discovery of a universal truth, something that “is beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere.” Something that is and will remain always true, and not just true so long as people are led to believe it is so.
Thus, a scientific dictatorship must deny purpose by all means and promote an artificial “cushy” conception of happiness and comfort, since the former makes for very bad servants/slaves and the latter for very good ones.
Purpose leads to unpredictability in the status quo, there are no sureties for an oligarchic system of governance in a world that is motivated by a purpose towards truth, beauty, and knowledge, as Mustapha Mond succinctly lays out.
It is also the case that whenever one discovers a universal truth, it unifies rather than divides, truth is thus the very enemy of tyranny, for it offers clarity. And one can no longer be ruled over when they can see a superior alternative to their oppression.
Therefore, under the rule of tyranny, truth must when possible be snuffed out, otherwise it is contorted until it is no longer recognisable, it is broken into fragments of itself to create factions, schools of opposing thought that are meant to confuse and lead its followers further astray.
To deny purpose is thus the necessary condition to rule within a scientific dictatorship. Whether its controllers believe in purpose or not is irrelevant, since it is simply not admissible.
The question thus is, where does Huxley fit into all of this?
For starters let us take a look at Aldous Huxley’s family roots to see if indeed the apple did not fall too far from the tree…
Huxley’s family roots
Aldous’ grandfather T.H. Huxley (1825-1895) had made a name for himself by the age of twenty-five and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1950. Within a span of just a few years, he would rise to become a leading member of Britain’s scientific establishment.
By the late 1700s, discoveries in geology began to contradict the accepted religious view of Creation. It was increasingly found that steady changes were the primary cause of most geological formations which developed over very long spans of time and that these changes had even led to the extinction of certain organisms/creatures. This was the first time that the biblical view of Creation was ever challenged as a mainstream argument within the sciences.
By the first part of the 1800s, the scientific community was primarily in agreement that living processes and their environments did indeed “evolve.”
In the 1820s Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) and Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844), once friends, had come into severe disagreement over the origins of anatomical forms which lead to a historic debate in 1830, raising issues that have yet to be resolved to this day.
In 1838, upon reading Thomas Malthus’ ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ – who is known for calling for the courting of the plague to address the crisis of overpopulation – Darwin formulated his theory for “evolution” based on the “natural selection” of the fittest, he coined the term as an analogy of what he termed the “artificial selection” of selective breeding, with reference in particular to the practice of horse breeding. Darwin saw a similarity between farmers picking the best stock in selective breeding, and a Malthusian “Nature” selecting from chance variants.
That is, Darwin’s ideas of “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” implied no directionality to evolution but rather was based upon Nature’s selection of random variants. But how does one part of an organism evolve without affecting the other parts of said organism?
According to Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, there is an inherent “potential” in evolution; the potential for change is inherent within the organism, and the shaping of its many parts occurs in a harmonic, coherent way. That is, change moves in a purposeful manner, not a random manner.
The evolution of wings for flight, the eyes for sight, the nervous system for thought; Geoffroy was stating that these were not the result of countless minute mutations occurring and being selected upon separate from the other, but that the transformations were occurring with the very intention to create forms of flight, sight and thought.
By Darwin rejecting this thesis, he created a paradox within his own theory. Either the potential for change is inherent in the organism in which many parts are able to change in a harmonic/coherent way, or it is not. However, if it is the latter, as Darwin claims it to be, random change of any part by itself without acknowledgement of the whole would more often than not lead to the death of the organism, as seen in studies of embryo formation, or would create a Dr. Moreau’s Island of freaks, which by the bye is another novel by our anti-hero H.G. Wells.
The elegant creations we actually do see arise through evolutionary processes would be an extreme rarity in such a world of randomness.
With everything we know today of the incredibly intricate details of biochemistry, the coordination of metabolic processes which occur in their thousands of “parts” would all need to evolve as randomly separate processes and yet, would also need to occur simultaneously and in conjunction with the other functioning parts. This would make Darwin’s concept for the selection of random variants within a coordinated functioning whole fundamentally impossible.
Not only is the evolution of the eye one of the miracles of evolution, it has countless variations upon itself, such that there is no one standard model for what is an “eye.” Are we thus to believe that this has randomly occurred not only once but thousands of times in each species with its own distinct variation of what is an “eye”?
In the early 1850s, Huxley had been introduced to Darwin and by the middle of the 1850s, they were in close collaboration. Though Huxley never fully took to Darwin’s theory, he did become an avid defender and promoter of it nonetheless.
At the time there was strong opposition to Darwin and Huxley within Europe and the United States. James Dwight Dana (1813-1895), a contemporary of T.H. Huxley, was among the American leadership that opposed this view, and argued that evolution did progress with a directionality, using examples such as the observation that biological organisms were proceeding towards greater “cephalisation.” That is, that evolution was forming a general trend toward increasingly sophisticated nervous systems that could respond to and interact with their environment. Thus, evolution was towards greater forms of complexity with more sophisticated forms of function.
However, Thomas Huxley, “Darwin’s bulldog” was vehemently against this view of purposeful directionality in Nature. It did not matter that Darwin’s theory was just that, a theory, which still failed to explain much that was being observed in the evolutionary process.
Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss this in further detail (for more refer HERE), one cannot deny two major changes that occurred in “modern science” as a result of T.H. Huxley’s avid promotion of Darwin’s theory of evolution, that
- Nature, and thus one could say the Universe, was not governed by purpose but rather by randomness, and that
- man was but a beast, no longer to be among the children of God, no longer regarded as partaking in anything that was divine or sacred.
And if man is but a beast, what does he care for higher truths? What more does a beast need than the simple forms of comfort and happiness?
About the Author
In the last quarter of 2021, Chung published a four-part series on Aldous Huxley. You can find links to all four articles HERE.
Part 1 discussed Huxley’s real intention in writing the Brave New World. Part 2 discussed Huxley’s views on science and overpopulation. Part 3 discussed how Huxley’s form of ideological spirituality went on to shape the drug-counter-culture movement. And Part 4 discussed Huxley’s ultimate revolution – the battle for your mind.
Our article above is an extract from Part 2, ‘The War on Science and the 20th Century Descent of Man’.
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