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We Are Amphibians

We Are Amphibians: Julian and Aldous Huxley on the Future of Our Species

R. S. Deese
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt9qh2rq
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  • Book Info
    We Are Amphibians
    Book Description:

    We Are Amphibianstells the fascinating story of two brothers who changed the way we think about the future of our species. As a pioneering biologist and conservationist, Julian Huxley helped advance the "modern synthesis" in evolutionary biology and played a pivotal role in founding UNESCO and the World Wildlife Fund. His argument that we must accept responsibility for our future evolution as a species has attracted a growing number of scientists and intellectuals who embrace the concept of Transhumanism that he first outlined in the 1950s. Although Aldous Huxley is most widely known for his dystopian novelBrave New World,his writings on religion, ecology, and human consciousness were powerful catalysts for the environmental and human potential movements that grew rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century. While they often disagreed about the role of science and technology in human progress, Julian and Aldous Huxley both believed that the future of our species depends on a saner set of relations with each other and with our environment. Their common concern for ecology has given their ideas about the future ofHomo sapiensan enduring resonance in the twenty-first century. The amphibian metaphor that both brothers used to describe humanity highlights not only the complexity and mutability of our species but also our ecologically precarious situation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95956-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: “The Question of Questions for Mankind”
    (pp. 1-21)

    Yoga Berra was right when he quipped, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”¹ In the broadest sense, this is a story about what the future used to be. Julian and Aldous Huxley were born during the reign of Queen Victoria, but each made his mark during the most tumultuous decades of the twentieth century. Born in 1887, Julian established his reputation as a biologist just prior to the First World War and later worked to advance the “modern synthesis” in evolutionary biology by integrating new discoveries from across the spectrum of the life sciences.² As the first director-general...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Late Victorians
    (pp. 22-55)

    On the 28th of April 1900, the Prince of Wales visited the Natural History Museum in London to unveil a statue of the legendary man of science, Thomas Henry Huxley. At the dedication of this monument to his grandfather, Julian Huxley stood beside his ostentatiously erudite father, the schoolmaster and author Leonard Huxley, then at work on theLife and Letters of T.H. Huxley.On his other side stood his beautiful and quick-witted mother, Julia Arnold Huxley, a scion of the Arnold family who would soon found the Prior’s Field school for girls in Surrey. It fell to Julian was...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Twilight of Utopias
    (pp. 56-85)

    In the winter of 1915, the young biologist Julian Huxley was teaching in Houston, Texas, as part of the founding faculty of the Rice Institute. Although Houston was still a small city, the completion of a new deepwater port, officially opened by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, and the wartime demand for petroleum had combined to accelerate its growth. Within a decade, Houston would be the largest city in Texas, its skyline would be a respectable sawtooth of skyscrapers, and the Rice Institute would become Rice University. Julian’s career was advancing just as fast. Then twenty-eight, he had already published...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Spiritual Biology
    (pp. 86-107)

    In the winter of 1927–28, Julian and Juliette Huxley rented a cabin near the village of Les Diablerets, high in the Swiss Alps. They brought their young children, Anthony and Francis, and persuaded Aldous and Maria, along with their son, Matthew, to winter there as well. All of the children were under ten, and with Juliette’s mother and a few other relatives and nannies as part of the mix, this was a very full house, with days given over to cross-country skiing, sledging, and the construction of an igloo for the boys, well crafted by Julian and Aldous to...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Ape and Essence
    (pp. 108-135)

    In December 1938, the London Zoo acquired three panda bears that had recently been captured in Szechuan Province. When Conservative Member of Parliament Winston Churchill expressed an interest in a private visit to the zoo to see the pandas up close, Julian Huxley, who had been director of the zoo since 1935, was happy to oblige. While touring the grounds, Churchill inquired how, in light of the growing likelihood of another war with Germany, the zoo planned to deal with the possible bombardment of London. Julian responded that he had ordered his staff to shoot any dangerous animals that might...

  9. CHAPTER 5 We Are Amphibians
    (pp. 136-176)

    In November 1870, T.H. Huxley gave perhaps his most memorable lecture to the Metaphysical Society in London, entitled “Has a Frog a Soul, and What is the Nature of that Soul, Supposing it to Exist?” He opened the lecture by observing, “If the leg of a living frog be cut off, the skin of the foot may be pinched, cut, or touched with red-hot wire, or with a strong acid, and it will remain motionless.” He then added that if the same actions are performed on “the other leg, which remains in connection with the body . . . it...

  10. Epilogue: The Future of Our Species
    (pp. 177-184)

    The physicist Niels Bohr loved to quote an “old Danish proverb” that “prediction is always difficult, especially of the future.”¹ In contrast to twentieth-century “futurists” such as Alvin Toffler, Julian and Aldous Huxley were not in the habit of making specific predictions about future trends and events. On the occasions that they did, their record was mixed. Although they foresaw the power ofHomo sapiensto radically change the biosphere through pollution, radiation, and the creation of transgenic species, their essays and speculative fiction did not discern the emerging trend of climate change through the widespread combustion of fossil fuels,...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 185-186)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-210)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-222)
  14. Index
    (pp. 223-230)