J. B. S. Haldane, fully John Burdon Sanderson Haldane

J. B. S.
Haldane, fully John Burdon Sanderson Haldane

English Geneticist, Biologist, Author

Author Quotes

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 cannot separate the phenomena of life from those of its environment.

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.

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.

I am quite sure that our views on evolution would be very different had biologists studied genetics and natural selection before and not after most of them were convinced that evolution had occurred.

My final word, before I'm done, is 'Cancer can be rather fun'? provided one confronts the tumor with a sufficient sense of humor. I know that cancer often kills, but so do cars and sleeping pills; and it can hurt till one sweats, so can bad teeth and unpaid debts. A spot of laughter, I am sure, often accelerates one's cure; so let us patients do our bit to help the surgeons make us fit.

I had it for about fifteen years until I read Lenin and other writers, who showed me what was wrong with our society and how to cure it... Since then I have needed no magnesia.

My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we *can* suppose.

I have come to the conclusion that my subjective account of my motivation is largely mythical on almost all occasions. I don't know why I do things.

My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.

I have tried to show why I believe that the biologist is the most romantic figure on earth at the present day. At first sight he seems to be just a poor little scrubby underpaid man, groping blindly amid the mazes of the ultra-microscopic, engaging in bitter and lifelong quarrels over the nephridia of flatworms, waking perhaps one morning to find that someone whose name he has never heard has demolished by a few crucial experiments the work which he had hoped would render him immortal.

No, but I would to save two brothers or eight cousins.

I think, however, that so long as our present economic and national systems continue, scientific research has little to fear.

Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. I have read and heard many attempts at a systematic account of it, from materialism and theosophy to the Christian system or that of Kant, and I have always felt that they were much too simple. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy myself, and must be my excuse for dreaming.

I will give up my belief in evolution if someone finds a fossil rabbit in the Precambrian.

One discovery after another has shown that what was previously taken as inert matter is in reality a center of intense activity.

I'd lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.

Author Picture
First Name
J. B. S.
Last Name
Haldane, fully John Burdon Sanderson Haldane
Birth Date
Death Date

English Geneticist, Biologist, Author