This is the letter referred to in the post “TH Huxley’s legacy, a campus building renaming controversy, and appeal for signatures”
Legacy Review Task Force
Western Washington University
Dear members of the Legacy Review Task Force,
May 20, 2021
I write on behalf of the National Center for Science Education, a non-profit organization affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers
Association that works to promote and defend the integrity of science education.
NCSE applauds Western Washington University’s thoughtful and considered approach to studying the question of the naming of its Huxley College and appreciates the invitation to the public to offer input.
On the basis of its extensive experience and expertise with organizing opposition to pseudoscientific attacks on science education, particularly evolution and climate change, NCSE wishes to emphasize the importance of attending only to reliable and objective scholarship in considering Thomas Henry Huxley’s significance.
Because Huxley was so important in the history of science, his beliefs and actions have often been
misrepresented, taken out of context, or exaggerated by ideologues with axes to grind. Unfortunately, especially in the era of the Internet, it is easy for well-intentioned but ill-informed readers to be misled by the writings of such ideologues.
In particular, Laura Wagner’s “Why is TH Huxley Problematic?” (to be found on the Research and
Resources section of the Legacy Review Task Force material) cites the following problematic
· “Richard Owen and Charles Darwin on Race: A study in contrast,” a blog post that appeared on
a website styling itself Evolution News & Science Today. That website is operated by the
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, the de facto institutional home of
“intelligent design,” the latest incarnation of creationism.
· “T. H. Huxley’s Hideous Revolution in Science,” an essay that appeared in Executive Intelligence
Review, a newsletter published by the political movement founded by Lyndon LaRouche,
infamous for, among other things, denying the harmful effects on the environment of DDT,
chlorofluorocarbons, and greenhouse gases.
· The Darwin Effect, a book published by a creationist publisher and written by a young-earth
creationist who himself, in 1985, complained that he was the victim of reverse discrimination in
a letter to the newsletter of David Duke’s National Association for the Advancement of White
People (see http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bergman-and-racism.html).
To be sure, the fact that the authors of these problematic resources have scientifically indefensible views and a record of promoting them through assassinating the characters of their opponents
does not, of itself, show that their specific claims about Huxley are mistaken. But it strongly
suggests that they are not worth taking seriously.
Instead, what ought to be taken seriously are the views of qualified scholars, and it is laudable that the Legacy Review Task Force solicited observations about Huxley’s significance from such
scholars as White, Lyons, Reidy, and Rupke. These observations do not of themselves settle the
question of the naming of Huxley College, but they, and similarly reliable and objective scholarship, rather than ideologically motivated attacks on Huxley, should be at the basis of any decision.
NCSE would be happy to discuss the provenance of the problematic resources with you further if
needed. In any case, we hope that the Legacy Review Task Force arrives at a satisfactory resolution to the question it faces.
Deputy Director, NCSE email@example.com