J. B. S. Haldane

The item that first caught my interest about Haldane was a thoughtful refection on human consciousness, which seems relevant to current discussions.

"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere byproduct of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms." from "When I am Dead" in Possible Worlds (1927)

Haldane was a geneticist and evolutionary biologist who was one of the founders of population genetics and became quite famous in that regard. His was a very active mind and he was quite outspoken. He came up in the intense period of discussion about evolution, the Scopes Trial era, when the tremendous attack on evolution by some Christian groups may have influenced him toward atheism. He proceeded toward a position as an atheist.

"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." Fact and Faith (1934) Preface.

We would today call this "methodological naturalism" rather than "atheistic", for it is the naturalistic way you approach science experiments. It does not necessarily speak against faith in a Creator, but in his culture and profession it might well have done so.

Haldane continued his progression toward Marxism, read Lenin and is quoted as saying "...I read Lenin and other writers, who showed me what was wrong with society and how to cure it ...". He became a member of the Communist Party in Great Britain during World War II. He wrote many articles for the Communist "Daily Worker". He finally became an expatriot from Great Britain and moved to India.

Haldane was in the mix of anti-faith writers like Aldous Huxley. C. S. Lewis considered him to be an immoral man and wrote much of his three interplanetary space novels, "The Space Trilogy" in response to Haldane. Lewis modeled the character Weston, featured in "Out of the Silent Planet" and "Perelandra" after Haldane. Lewis accused him of scientism, the belief that the supreme moral end is the perpetuation of our own species ... even if in the process ... our species has to be stripped of all those things for which we value it ... of pity, of happiness, and of freedom." There was back and forth criticism between Lewis and Haldane.

On a lighter note, Haldane criticized the application of socialism to large societies like the US and Britain in an essay "On Being the Right Size", saying "Ifind it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge."

Wiki on J. B. S. Haldane

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