Editor's comment

Julian Huxley was a leading figure in the reformulation of Dawin'stheory of evolution into its mid-twentieth century form.

He was a prominent humanist and a respected writer on the relationship of biology to philosophy.

Huxley sees humankind
at the apex of evolutionary development with the responsibility of carrying
it forward through cultural evolution. The unity of nature must be reflected in a unity of knowledge that precludes the supernatural.

Huxley, Julian “Man’s Place and Role in Nature” in New Bottles for New Wine, Harper & Brothers, New York 1957 [abstract– 280 words] – from inorganic or cosmological evolution to biological and on to cultural evolution

Our age is the first in which we can obtain a comprehensive picture of man’s place and role in nature based on scientific knowledge. We now view humans as much a product of evolution as animals and plants.

All nature is a single process. We may properly call it evolution, if we define evolution as a self-operating, self-transforming process that in its course generates both greater variety and higher levels of organization. It has three phases, inorganic or cosmological, the organic or biological, and the human or psychosocial.

Modern civilization is not the final product of evolution, but only a temporary phase in the process. Cultural change by the cumulative transmission of acquired experience is a new evolutionary method. Humans are, therefore, the only organisms capable of further major evolutionary advance.

Our knowledge thus now enables us to define man’s role as well as his place in nature. His role is to be the instrument capable of effecting major advances and of realizing new possibilities for evolving life.

Man’s place in nature is at the present summit of the evolutionary process on this planet; and his role is to conduct that process to still further heights.

The central organizing idea for the future is that of fulfillment—satisfaction through fuller realization of possibilities…

Cultural advance will be made by the spread of knowledge gained by scientific study. The unity of nature precludes any form of dualism, whether of natural and supernatural, of body and spirit, of actual and ideal, or of matter and mind. The duality of material and spiritual elements in civilization must somehow be resolved in the unity of psychosocial culture.