Man Stands Alone

By Julian S. HuxleyHARPERS
MR. HUXLEY’S title does not point either to human self-reliance or to human helplessness: it is simply his translation of a discarded title, The Uniqueness of Man, and it means that Homo sapiens has evolved some differentiations that set him qualitatively apart from the rest of the animal creation. One of the chief differentiations is man’s ‘cumulative tradition,’ whereby all preceding accretions of experience can be handed on. This it is that enables man, alone of animals, to play a conscious, precalculated part in the course of his own evolution — for example, by applied eugenics. That idea, rather more than any other, is the thread of continuity in a volume consisting of fifteen papers composed for a variety of audiences over the years 1927-1939. It is also Mr. Huxley’s central reason for his faith, affirmed in the title of the closing paper, that ‘Life Can Be Worth Laving.’ Agree or disagree how we may with his convictions touching eugenics, morals, the validity of the so-called social sciences, and what he is pleased to define as religion, we cannot resist the fascination of his purely biological data about the relative sizes of living organisms, the rhythmical cycle of overpopulation followed by epidemics among animals in a state of nature, the processes that lead to extinction of species, and the courtship of animals. W. F.