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Quotes of the day: J.B.S. Haldane

Published Monday, November 30, 2015 @ 10:28 PM EST
Nov 30 2015

J.B.S. Haldane, born John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, known as Jack, (November 5, 1892 – December 1 1964) (but who used 'J.B.S.' in his printed works), was a British-Indian scientist, well known for his works in physiology, genetics and evolutionary biology, and mathematics, where he made innovative contributions to statistics and biostatistics. He was son of the equally famous John Scott Haldane. He was a socialist, Marxist, atheist, and humanist whose political dissent led him to leave England in 1956 and live in India, where he became a naturalised Indian citizen in 1961. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A fairly bright boy is far more intelligent and far better company than the average adult.

An ounce of algebra is worth a ton of verbal argument.

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.

If one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of creation it would appear that God has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles.

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.

I have never yet met a healthy person who worries very much about his health or a really good person who worries much about his own soul.

I suppose the process of acceptance will pass through the usual four stages: (i) this is worthless nonsense; (ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; (iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; (iv) I always said so.

If materialism is true, it seems to me that we cannot know that it is true. If my opinions are the result of the chemical processes going on in my brain, they are determined by the laws of chemistry, not those of logic.

In fact, words are well adapted for description and the arousing of emotion, but for many kinds of precise thought other symbols are much better.

Man armed with science is like a baby with a box of matches.

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

Science affects the average man and woman in two ways already. He or she benefits by its application driving a motor-car or omnibus instead of a horse-drawn vehicle, being treated for disease by a doctor or surgeon rather than a witch, and being killed with an automatic pistol or shell in place of a dagger or a battle-axe.

Science is as yet in its infancy, and we can foretell little of the future save that the thing that has not been is the thing that shall be; that no beliefs, no values, no institutions are safe.

The advance of scientific knowledge does not seem to make either our universe or our inner life in it any less mysterious.

The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder.

There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god.

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.

While I do not suggest that humanity will ever be able to dispense with its martyrs, I cannot avoid the suspicion that with a little more thought and a little less belief their number may be substantially reduced.

The wise man regulates his conduct by the theories both of religion and science. But he regards these theories not as statements of ultimate fact but as art-forms.

We do not know, in most cases, how far social failure and success are due to heredity, and how far to environment. But environment is the easier of the two to improve.

To light a lamp as a source of light is about as wasteful of energy as to burn down ones house to roast one's pork.

We can fortell little of the future save that the thing that has not been is the thing that shall be.

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.

If human beings could be propagated by cutting, like apple trees, aristocracy would be biologically sound.

This is my prediction for the future- whatever hasn't happened will happen and no one will be safe from 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.


(December 1 is also the birthday of Rex Stout, Woody Allen, and Bette Midler.)

Categories: J.B.S. Haldane, Quotes of the day


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