English Geneticist, Biologist, Author
J. B. S. Haldane, fully John Burdon Sanderson Haldane
English Geneticist, Biologist, Author
The idea of protoplasm, which was really a name for our ignorance, [is] only a little less misleading than the expression Vital force.
The reality of God?s existence appears as love in the manifestation of goodness, beauty, and truth? Apart from God?s existence as living and active, existence has no ultimate meaning. However far we may look backwards in time, we cannot reach a time when the ordered beauty of the heavens ? that beauty which seems overwhelming when we contemplate it ? was not present. The existence of truth, order and beauty are eternal, since God is eternal.
The time has gone by when a Huxley could believe that while science might indeed remold traditional mythology, traditional morals were impregnable and sacrosanct to it. We must learn not to take traditional morals too seriously. And it is just because even the least dogmatic of religions tends to associate itself with some kind of unalterable moral tradition, that there can be no truce between science and religion.
The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder
There are 400,000 species of beetles on this planet, but only 8,000 species of mammals.
There does not seem to be any particular reason why a religion should not arise with an ethic as fluid as Hindu mythology, but it has not yet arisen. Christianity has probably the most flexible morals of any religion, because Jesus left no code of law behind him like Moses or Muhammad, and his moral precepts are so different from those of ordinary life that no society has ever made any serious attempt to carry them out, such as was possible in the case of Israel and Islam. But every Christian church has tried to impose a code of morals of some kind for which it has claimed divine sanction. As these codes have always been opposed to those of the gospels a loophole has been left for moral progress such as hardly exists in other religions. This is no doubt an argument for Christianity as against other religions, but not as against none at all, or as against a religion which will frankly admit that its mythology and morals are provisional. That is the only sort of religion that would satisfy the scientific mind, and it is very doubtful whether it could properly be called a religion at all.
To the biologist the problem of socialism appears largely as a problem of size. The extreme socialists desire to run every nation as a single business concern. I do not suppose that Henry Ford would find much difficulty in running Andorra or Luxembourg on a socialistic basis. He has already more men on his pay-roll than their population. It is conceivable that a syndicate of Fords, if we could find them, would make Belgium Ltd. or Denmark Inc. pay their way. But while nationalization of certain industries is an obvious possibility in the largest of states, I find it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge.
Until politics are a branch of science we shall do well to regard political and social reforms as experiments rather than short-cuts to the millennium.
We must, I think, regard the normal death as a feature characteristic of life. Normal death is sometimes regarded as a wearing out of the machinery of life; but it is evidently a quite unsuitable metaphor, since living structure, when we consider it closely, can easily be seen to be constantly renewing itself, so that it cannot be regarded as mere machinery which necessarily wears out. Normal death must apparently be regarded from the biological standpoint as a means by which room is made for further more definite development of life.
In ultimate analysis, the universe can be nothing less than the progressive manifestation of God.
Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he's unwilling to be seen with her in public.
Capitalism, though it may not always give the scientific worker a living wage, will always protect him, as being one of the geese which produce golden eggs for its table.
It is in our personal relations with other persons, and with other forms of unity which are independent of ourselves as mere individuals, that we become aware of the personality of God. The fact that man is subject to error does not belie the fact that it is in the search after truth that the presence of God in man is revealed.
The conservative has but little to fear from the man whose reason is the servant of his passions, but let him beware of him in whom reason has become the greatest and most terrible of the passions. These are the wreckers of outworn empires and civilizations, doubters, disintegrators, deicides.
Coming to the question of life being found on other planets, Professor Haldane apologized for discoursing, as a mere biologist, on a subject on which we had been expecting a lecture by a physicist [J. D. Bernal]. He mentioned three hypotheses:
It is my supposition that the Universe in not only queerer than we imagine, is queerer than we CAN imagine.
The Creator, if He exists, has a special preference for beetles, and so we might be more likely to meet them than any other type of animal on a planet that would support life. The Creator would appear as endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other, for the simple reason that there are nearly 300,000 species of beetle known, and perhaps more, as compared with somewhat less than 9,000 species of birds and a little over 10,000 species of mammals. Beetles are actually more numerous than the species of any other insect order. That kind of thing is characteristic of nature.
Every Christian church has tried to impose a code of morals of some kind for which it has claimed divine sanction. As these codes have always been opposed to those of the gospels a loophole has been left for moral progress such as hardly exists in other religions.
It was a reaction from the old idea of protoplasm, a name which was a mere repository of ignorance.
The future will be no primrose path. It will have its own problems. Some will be the secular problems of the past, giant flowers of evil blossoming at last to their own destruction. Others will be wholly new.
From the fact that there are 400,000 species of beetles on this planet, but only 8,000 species of mammals, he [Haldane] concluded that the Creator, if He exists, has a special preference for beetles.
Life implies constant activity, and the vital principle was accordingly regarded as something essentially active, constantly controlling and therefore interfering with physical tendencies towards disintegration of organic structure, and building up new organic structure in the process of nutrition and reproduction.