Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge

painting of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, looking like he's been thinking this over for a very long time

This work contains hardly any original facts in regard to man; but as the conclusions at which I arrived, after drawing up a rough draft, appeared to me interesting, I thought that they might interest others. It has often and confidently been asserted, that man’s origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science. The conclusion that man is the co-descendant with other species of some ancient, lower, and extinct form, is not in any degree new. Lamarck long ago came to this conclusion, which has lately been maintained by several eminent naturalists and philosophers; for instance, by Wallace, Huxley, Lyell, Vogt, Lubbock, Buchner, Rolle, etc., and especially by Haeckel. This last naturalist, besides his great work, ‘Generelle Morphologie’ (General Morphology, 1866), has recently (1868, with a second edit, in 1870), published his ‘Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte,’ in which he fully discusses the genealogy of man. If this work had appeared before my essay had been written, I should probably never have completed it.

from Darwin’s introduction to
The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1871
by Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882)
Image – Turin Museum of Human Anatomy

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2 Responses to “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”

  1. Rantz Says:

    This is delicious – another example of the many grand words from Mr Darwin.

  2. Ron Z Says:

    If you believe, as do I, that “it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science” you may like my review of “The Belief In Progress” by John Baillie. You can check it out on Amazon.