Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
Huxley's Personal Views
Harold F. Roellig
Department of Earth Science
Adelphi University Garden City, New York 11530
From: JASA 26
(September 1974): 131-132.
Lest some readers use the Aldous Huxley quote in Journal ASA 25, 166 (1973), I think we should print a fuller extract which certainly sheds a different light on Huxley's personal view if not on the basic thrust of the quote:
"No account of the scientific picture of the world and its history would be complete unless it contained a reminder of the fact, frequently forgotten by scientists themselves, that this picture does not even claim to he comprehensive. From the world we actually live in, the world that is given by our senses, our intuitions of beauty and goodness, our emotions and impulses, our moods and sentiments, the man of science abstracts a simplified private universe 0f things possessing only those qualities which used to be called "primary." Arbitrarily, because it happens to be convenient, because his methods do not allow him to deal with the immense complexity of reality, he selects from the whole of experience only those elements which can be weighed, measured, numbered, or which lend themselves in any other way to mathematical treatment. By using this technique of simplification and abstraction, the scientist has succeeded to an astonishing degree in understanding and dominating the physical environment. The success was intoxicating and, with an illogicality which, in the circumstances, was doubtless pardonable, many scientists and philosophers came to imagine that this useful abstraction from reality was reality itself. Reality as actually experienced contains intuitions of value and significance, contains love, beauty, mystical ecstasy, intimations of godhead. Science did not and still does not possess intellectual instruments with which to deal with these aspects of reality. Consequently it ignored them and concentrated its attention upon such aspects of the world as it could deal with by means of arithmetic, geometry and the various branches of higher mathematics. Our conviction that the world is meaningless is due in part to the fact (discussed in a latter paragraph) that the philosophy of meaningless lends itself very effectively to furthering the ends of erotic or political passion; in part to a genuine intellectual error-the error of identifying the world of science, a world from which all meaning and value has been deliberately excluded, with ultimate reality."
(Aldous Huxley, Ends end Means (1937)