Wednesday, September 5, 2012

T. H. Huxley: Accidental Founder of Modern Pseudo-skepticism

The majority of Americans believe in psychic phenomena. People usually believe in psychic phenomena and the afterlife because of their personal experiences, the experiences of people they know, or their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of ignorance about the evidence for afterlife and the evidence for psychic phenomena.

There are also many people who are drawn to skepticism for several reasons. Because skeptics are influential, politicians and scientists are afraid to acknowledge belief in psychic phenomena and the afterlife or to advocate increased research in those fields.

This is a problem for Science and a problem for Humanity. What could be of greater significance to science than the huge gaps in our understanding of the universe that are revealed by our inability to explain psychic phenomena? What could be more important to humanity than an understanding of the survival of consciousness after death?

If most Americans believe in psychic phenomena, why do skeptics have such a disproportionate influence in society?

A large part of the problem is that the many scientists are skeptics and they have a lot of influence on our culture in many different areas: they advise politicians, they publish popular books, they control research funding, they influence the editorial policy of scientific journals, they consult for the news and entertainment media, etc etc. Because science has been so successful in modern times giving us improved medical care, agriculture, transportation, communication, and many other technologies, the opinions of scientists are highly respected. But the biggest problem is that scientists persecute any scientist who shows an interest in anything paranormal. This is what is really stifling greater acceptance of psychic phenomena in society and what is preventing more money from being spent on parapsychological research. Scientists' skepticism also gives moral authority to anyone else who also advocates skepticism.

Why are so many scientist skeptics? Because naturalism is an implicit part of the culture of science and science students are indoctrinated in that philosophy during their education. Naturalism is the belief that science should only study natural processes and consider natural explanations for phenomena. This is a mistake. Science should be the search for the truth where ever it leads. This flaw in the culture of science is due to a large extent to T. H. Huxley and the X club. The X Club was Founded by T. H. Huxley and played an important role in making naturalism a fundamental tenet of modern science.

The nine men who would compose the X Club already knew each other well. By the 1860s, friendships had turned the group into a social network, and the men often dined and went on holidays together. After Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, the men began working together to aid the cause for naturalism and natural history.


More importantly, the men of the club all shared an interest in natural history, naturalism, and a more general pursuit of intellectual thought free from religious influence, commonly referred to as academic liberalism.

- Wikipedia

One of the great successes of the X Club was engineering the supremacy of Darwinsim over the theories of Alfred Russel Wallace who also discovered the theory of natural selection. Darwin was an agnostic who believed in naturalism. Wallace was a Spiritualist.

Why isn’t Wallace remembered like Darwin?

The reasons are complex but largely related to the complete and sweeping dominance of Darwinian evolution. From the very beginning, when the theory of natural selection was unveiled to the scientific community at the Linnean Society on July 1, 1858, the entire program was engineered by Darwin’s colleagues and close friends, Joseph Hooker and Charles Lyell, to give their friend priority. When Origin was published a little over a year later modern evolutionary theory became Darwin’s theory. Another of Darwin’s allies, his “Bulldog” defender Thomas Henry Huxley, sought to solidify the theory by managing its every promotional and public aspect so as to gain paradigmatic status for it within the scientific community. In order to facilitate this end, Huxley composed the X Club, a group of eight kindred spirits: Huxley (the leader), Joseph Hooker, John Tyndall, George Busk, Edward Frankland, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Hirst, and John Lubbock. Under Huxley’s skillful management the X Club ensured the success of Darwinism, establishing it as the preeminent theory of biological life first in England and later throughout all of Europe. As if this weren’t enough to consign Wallace to obscurity, his insistence upon using the term “Darwinism” in the context of his own very different theory tended only to cause confusion and misunderstanding. Today, when Wallace is mentioned at all it is usually through a decidedly Darwinian lens.

This conspiratorial tradition continues today in the persecution of scientists who criticize Darwinism, advocate intelligent design, or suggest psychic phenomena are real and are deserving of scientific study.

The formation of the X Club was happening during the second half of the 19th century, also the time the Society for Psychical Research was getting started. Huxley did not want studies of psychic and Spiritualist phenomena to become part of science.

The only good that I can see in the demonstration of the truth of "Spiritualism" is to furnish an additional argument against suicide. Better live a crossing-sweeper than die and be made to talk twaddle by a "medium" hired at a guinea a séance.

Review in the Daily News (17 October 1871), quoted in Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley F.R.S (1900) edited by Leonard Huxley, Vol. 1, p. 452.

Because of T. H Huxley and the X club, naturalism has become so ingrained in modern scientific culture and education, students don't even realize they are being indoctrinated. Because of this, Huxley can be considered a major cause of modern of science's intolerance to psychic phenomena and the source of modern pseudo-skepticism.

It is unfortunate that Darwin was used this way in the adoption of philosophical naturalism and materialism by the scientific establishment. Materialism is a gross misrepresentation of Darwin's thinking. Darwin believed that natual laws were designed - which is a form of intelligent design. Darwin also doubted human reason could be reliable if it arose through natural selection. If you cannot trust reason, then it is not rational to believe in anything including materialism. This argument is a well known flaw in materialism whereby materialism refutes itself. Darwin's beliefs did not support materialism yet his theory of natural selection is a keystone in the philosophy of materialisim because it provides materialism with an explanation of how complex organisms arose naturally.

Because naturalism is such an integral part of the scientific worldview, working as a scientist tends to brainwash a person into believing in physicalism. This is because scientists spend all their time trying to find physicalist solutions to problems. They get stuck thinking that way and can't conceive there might be something that current science can't explain or that there could be significant gaps in scientific knowledge. Like the proverbial man with a hammer to whom everything looks like a nail, to a scientist every question must have a physicalist answer.

Another part of the problem of skepticism is anti-religious fanatics, some of whom are also scientists. They have been injured in some way by religion and are out for vengeance. Anything that contradicts their humanist worldview is labeled religion and equated with ignorant religious fundamentalism and labeled a threat to modern enlightened rational society. Many of these people are "activists" who use the moral authority of the scientists to justify their militancy. Skeptics are not smarter than other people, they just claim they are and use that to justify their beliefs. However, people who have more education are more likely to believe in the afterlife and ESP and most doctors believe in the afterlife.

A third source of the problem of the inordinate influence of skepticism is the government suppression of parapsychology.

Because the skeptical attitudes of scientists give moral authority to the anti-religious fanatics and allow the government to use scientists as pawns in their suppression of parapsychology, the root cause of the influence of skepticism in society stems from the intolerance of scientists. This intolerance originates in the belief in naturalism. T. H. Huxley was not a pseudo-skeptic, and it is sadly ironic that his good intentions have had such unfortunate consequences.

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