The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science

Author: Ernst Haeckel. Born in 1834, died in 1919. He was born in Potsdam- in what was then Prussia. He was a German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, professor and artist. Haeckel established and named thousands of species and devised many biology terms (i.e. anthropogeny, stem cell, ecology, and phylogeny). He also read Charles Darwin’s work and encouraged it, spreading it throughout Germany. He believed that races were separate species and that caucasians were the highest among these. According to him, the lower races (or primitives) were subject to annihilation. In 1905, he established a group called the “Monist League” in order to incite his ideas as well as his political and religious beliefs. The Nazi’s later unfortunately used Haeckel’s rationalizations as evidence for fueling their anti-Semitic propaganda and dogma as a means to support nationalist sentiments in the interwar and World War II era.

Context: This work was published in 1892 and was influenced by Darwinism and German idealistic tradition.

Language: This piece is opinionated, and written in a knowledgeable manner with evidence to support reasoning. Haeckel confers with the audience directly (“this assembly”, “we”, “our”, “I”).

Audience: Other monists, darwinists, and philosophers of his time.

Intent: Haeckel’s intent in this document was to emphasize that faith is central to monism and open people’s eyes to “a true knowledge of nature”, believing that this understanding was necessary to content the individual’s pursuit for comprehension of mankind.

Message: The inorganic and organic universe which we perceive are intertwined and spirit is ubiquitous throughout nature and natural beings. Monism, or believing that we are all a part of one type of spirit under one God, is a primary sentiment which Haeckel holds, and which he believes the human mind embraces. He realizes the need man has to understand nature and where it originates. Haeckel discusses the prevalent equation of god with nature, god being an atomic force within all organisms. He coins this notion “gaseous vertebrate”- that god is an unseen backbone for all that is living. To Haeckel, monistic exploration is an attempt to comprehend the truth of nature, exercise proper morals, and ascertain beauty. Once man synthesizes these distinguished segments of monism, he can “gain the pure idea of God” (Haeckel).

One thought on “The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science

  1. I agree that this piece was very opinionated, and I think Haeckel’s beliefs stem from his desire to synthesize his belief in God with his understanding of the biological and evolutionary processes which guide nature. I believe he was attempting to form a rational relationship between two ideas (God and evolution) that could otherwise be viewed as contradictory.

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