In 1893, at an event in Oxford, biologist Thomas Henry Huxley (and staunch supporter of Darwin’s ideas – support which earned him the nickname “Darwin’s bulldog”) laid out his theory of human nature and morality. His theory posited that the laws of nature were unalterable but if humans managed to keep their nature under some control, the impact of these laws could be eventually softened. He depiction this metaphorically, paralleling humanity to a gardener who struggles to stave off the growth of weeds in his garden. Human ethics was a victory over a nasty, at times unruly and vicious, evolutionary process. Therefore, despite his strong affinity for Darwin’s ideas, Huxley essentially argued that it was not evolutionary theory that explained our morality but rather the opposite: we developed morality by opposing our nature. An obvious omission here, according to primatologist Frans de Waal, was why and how humanity unearthed the will power and ability to defeat the conditioning of its own nature.
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