"According to Teleology, each organism is like a rifle bullet fired straight at a mark; according to Darwin, organisms are like grapeshot of which one hits something and the rest fall wide. For the teleologist an organism exists because it was made for the conditions in which it is found; for the Darwinian an organism exists because, out of many of its kind, it is the only one which has been able to persist in the conditions in which it is found. Teleology implies that the organs of every organism are perfect and cannot be improved; the Darwinian theory simply affirms that they work well enough to enable the organism to hold its own against such competitors as it has met with, but admits the possibility of indefinite improvement."
* Insight into 19th century theories that were battling evolution
* More understanding of the academic reception to Darwin's theory
* Great and precise deconstruction of philosophical teleology (design)
* Perfectly clear and cohesive explanation of evolutionary mechanisms
* The coexistent theories to evolution are now outdated and forgotten
* Quotes from someone writing in French with most of it untranslated
"Cats catch mice, small birds and the like, very well. Teleology tells us that they do so because they were expressly constructed for so doing--that they are perfect mousing apparatuses, so perfect and so delicately adjusted that no one of their organs could be altered, without the change involving the alteration of all the rest. Darwinism affirms on the contrary, that there was no express construction concerned in the matter; but that among the multitudinous variations of the Feline stock, many of which died out from want of power to resist opposing influences, some, the cats, were better fitted to catch mice than others, whence they throve and persisted, in proportion to the advantage over their fellows thus offered to them. Far from imagining that cats exist 'in order' to catch mice well, Darwinism supposes that cats exist 'because' they catch mice well--mousing being not the end, but the condition, of their existence."
T.H. Huxley here demonstrates why he was nicknamed 'Darwin's Bulldog', with a forceful takedown of 19th century arguments against evolution from his academic contemporaries. I was pleased to see that these opponents of Darwin actually postulated an alternate hypothesis to the diversity of life rather than baselessly asserting that all life was created in its current form via magic. Even so, Huxley demonstrates that not only to these objections fall flat, but so do the alternate hypotheses proposed.
There are arguments from two different scientists here that Huxley addresses - the first being a well respected professor in Germany. Huxley shows, in a very respectful manner, that this professor has misunderstood Darwin's entire premise, and that they actually agree on nearly every important point. Next, Huxley offers his argument against the professor's alternate hypothesis, called 'Heterogeneous Speciation'. All of this is done with the highest amount of civility and comradery. This is due to the professor giving Darwin the utmost credit for his scientific contributions
The second person, who is not met with this same air of civility, was a very condescending member of the French Academy of Sciences. Instead of simply asserting his arguments, this man decided to personally insult Darwin and other scientists that he disagreed with, even though he failed to grasp even the most basics tenets that his opponents held. Because of this, we see why Huxley was Darwin's Bulldog instead of Darwin's Chihuahua. I will just say that after reading this, I would certainly not want to be Huxley's enemy. Unfortunately, much of this scientist's argument was recorded in its original French with no translation, so I wasn't able to see what he actually said that offended Huxley so much.
My favorite part of the book is the small portion that is actually relevant to the 21st century, and that is a part about teleology and the basics of evolution. Huxley masterfully shows, in a way that is even more refined than most philosophers, how Darwin crushed the notion that there exists any semblance of intelligent design within the organic world. Not only this, but Huxley explains the evolutionary process in such a way (a priori) that it would be impossible to deny unless you have a religious agenda that forces you to deny even the most basic facts of the universe. Yet another astounding work from Thomas Henry Huxley.
"Those who are ignorant of Geology, find no difficulty in believing that the world was made as it is; and the shepherd, untutored in history, sees no reason to regard the green mounds which indicate the site of a Roman camp, as aught but part and parcel of the primeval hill-side."