History of Psychology


Charles Darwin was among the first people who came up with the theory on the origin of species that was published in the year 1859 on 24th November which subsequently led to a controversial debate that took place in the year 1860. Thomas Huxley was one of Darwin’s close associates whom he had shared his theory before it was published and was among the people who participated in the debate (Hesketh, 2009). The contrasting difference between Huxley and Darwin was what was at the centre of attention; this made the British Association for the Advancement of science to convene a meeting that was held at the new Oxford University Museum of Natural History in June (Seegert, 2010). It took place after the publication of Charles Darwin’s book titled the origin of species. Some of the participants in the debate included several British scientists and philosophers who came to listen to these two great men defend their positions.  They included Samuel Wilberforce, Benjamin Brodie, Joseph Dalton Hooker and Robert FitzRov. It is one of the most remembered debates due to the heated exchanges that took place. Wilberforce purportedly asked Huxley whether it was through his grandmother or grandfather that he got his descent from the monkey. Huxley replies by saying that he is not ashamed to have a monkey to be his ancestor (Thomson, 2000).

Thomas Huxley was one of the advocates for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Initially, he was an opponent of any evolutionary theories and believed that the living world had been the same since time immemorial and that the modern would still be found in the old rocks. He changed his perception later on when he wrote the book how stupid of me not to have thought of that. During the Debate, his opponent Archbishop Samuel Wilberforce who was coached by Richard Owen, ridiculed, laughed and asked Huxley if he was a descendant from the apes from the grandmother’s or grandfather’s side. Huxley answers him saying that, he would rather be the off springs of two apes than to be a man who is afraid to face the truth. All accounts of the debate that have been put across say that Huxley defeated Wilberforce in the debate. In his argument Huxley does not blindly follow Darwin’s theory giving it the necessary critic it deserves besides defending it. He says that Darwin had seen the evolution as a slow, gradual and continuous process; Huxley thinks that in an evolving lineage, there must be some rapid jumps and changes that occur in the process of growing (Seegert, 2010). Huxley goes on to present his evidence of human evolution arguing that the brains of humans and were fundamentally and basically the same in all aspects of the anatomical details (Thomson, 2000).

According to Wilberforce and his colleagues, three points come out exclusively. The first is that over the course of human history, there was no evidence whatsoever of new species that was developing. The second point is that selective pressures have an effect on the human species. Lastly, the third point is that the phenomenons of the sterility of the hybrids that are told only favor the fixity species that exist (Ruse, 2001). On the first point, he is right while on the second and third he is wrong. For instance, he says that horses, dogs and pigeons have selectively been bred for many generations yet there different breeds still remain fertile and are liable to slip back to their original state. In his argument Wilberforce goes on to say that the obvious changes that are found in the phenotypes are less significant compared to what Darwin claims (Smout, 1998). He adds that species are genetically very stable than what Darwin said.  Family resemblances between different species are fully recognized, this does not mean that they had automatically evolved from one another.

Sir Joseph Hooker says that the debate that took place was of no small importance in the career of Huxley, not only did Huxley save a great cause from being ridiculed but helped to seek attention for it to be heard in the public domain.


It therefore goes without say that Darwin’s theory is only but a hypothesis and not a theory. Darwin’s theory can only be a real theory if he provides and produces and explanation of how the organisms of a given species could evolve into that of another species (Hesketh, 2009). Huxley believed that human species originated from apes evolving from stage to stage to where they are today while Wilberforce believed in a scientific evolution. Wilberforce speech did not favor the Darwin’s theory of evolution but succeeded a great deal in challenging and giving new ideas to the evolution of human species. His arguments brought forward a serious argument which according to Tuckwell and Hooker was effective and did not meet Huxley explanations (Smout, 1998). Just like anybody else, Huxley was also confused on some of the finer points that scientific methodology had in place. In a nutshell, the debate provided an avenue for more critics on the differences between the creationists and those who believe that evolution is a reality.

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