Editor's comment

Grandson of Thomas Huxley who was Darwin’s greatest advocate, brother of novelist Aldous Huxley and famous biologist/philosopher in his own right, Julian Huxley sees humankind as the agent of evolutionary progress.

In cosmic, biological and human cultural evolution Huxley sees a tendency towards increasing complexity that constitutes, what he calls, the scientific doctrine of progress.

In this optimistic vision, the human species with its use of science can reach unimagined heights.

Huxley, Julian New Bottles for New Wine Harper & Brothers, New York 1957 [abstract– 470 words] — from progress as a mythical dogma to progress as a scientific doctrine.

Mythology fills a necessary place in the history of human ideas. It is a support framed by our intellect to sustain our existence. It is eventually replaced by scientific de-scriptions of nature. It is time to reject myths of human destiny that try to mitigate cosmic chaos and indifference. One of the myths of human destiny is that of progress.

The myth of progress has taken two main forms. One is the leap forward by social change to a utopian state of general well-being and happiness. The other is the belief that education and science will make everything turn out all right. World events have cast doubt on these myths. But progress as a scientific doctrine is not myth but a fact.

Cosmic evolution, biological evolution and social evolution reveal progress of a very different kind. This scientific doctrine of progress is destined to replace all other myths of human earthly destiny.

Evolution is divisible into three very different sectors—the inorganic, the biological, and the psychosocial or human. In the human sector the struggle for existence becomes a struggle between ideas and values in the shared consciousness of social beings. It involves changes in the form of society, in tools and machines, in new ways of utilizing the old innate potentialities.

In cosmic, biological and social evolution here is an increase in complexity of organization that grows with time. Additionally, biological evolution has led to greater control over the environment, to greater independence of its changes and chances, and to an increase capacity for acquiring and organ-izing knowledge, for experiencing emotion, and for exerting purpose. This may properly be called progress.

But this kind of progress will not come about without human choice, human effort, and human purpose. The prime method of change is now change in cultural tradition. Much of the struggle and consequent selection is between tradi-tions and ideas, or between nations, classes, or other groups embodying those traditions and ideas.

Huxley optimistically looks forward to the union of all separate traditions in a single common pool rather than competitive discord. This might open the door to many human potentialities that are as yet scarcely dreamt of. Meanwhile anything that can be done to increase the interpretation of traditions and their fruitful union in a common pool will help.

Needed for future progress is the acceptance of the fact of progress, and the understanding of its nature; for we cannot expect to achieve what we do not believe in. Once we accept the fact of progress, no longer need our beliefs be restricted to anything so partial or ephemeral as a particular nation, a particular religion, a particular culture. This is a continuing process and might lead to enormous advances, impossible to visualize beforehand, in the millennia to come.