Possible Worlds and Other Essays

The other branches of biology, although open to theamateur, are mostly less promising because they requiremore technique; and the same is true of chemistryand physics. Here the amateur is more likely to inventthan to discover. Accurate measurements are almostalways needed in work that is to be of theoretical value,whereas a combination of luck and ingenuity may easilylead to an improvement in some well-known processwhich is of great practical importance.

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Get this from a library! Possible worlds and other essays. [J B S Haldane]

Possible Worlds and Other Essays – J.B.S

During the same period I killed two rats in the courseof experimental work intended to advance medicalscience. One of them, if we can judge from humanexperience (and we have no more direct means ofevaluating the consciousness of animals), died after aperiod of rather pleasant delirium like that of alcoholicintoxication. The other had convulsions, and mayhave been in pain for three or four minutes. I shouldbe very thankful if I knew that I should suffer no morethan it did before my death. It therefore seems to mesomewhat ridiculous that, whereas my wife is encouragedby the Government and the Press, I should becompelled to apply to the President of the RoyalSociety and another eminent man of science for signaturesto an application to the already overworkedHome Secretary, before I can even kill a mouse in aslightly novel manner.

Haldane, Possible Worlds and Other Essays

A third possibility is the rise on the ruins of Christianityof a religion with a creed in harmony withmodern thought, or more probably the thought of ageneration ago. Traces of such a creed may be foundin the utterances of prominent spiritualists, in theeconomic dogmas of the communist party, in thewritings of believers in creative evolution, and elsewhere.A new religion would crystallize the scientifictheories of its own age. The old religions are full ofoutworn science, including the astronomical theory of asolid heaven, the chemical theory that water, bread,books, and other objects can be rendered holy by specialprocesses, and the physiological theory that a substancecalled a soul leaves the body at the moment of death. Iremember hearing a former headmaster of Eton informingthe school from the pulpit that the body lostweight (or gained it, I forget which) at the moment ofdeath. This materialistic view of the nature of the soulis quite prevalent in Christian circles. A new religionwould probably include in its creed the reality of theether, the habitability of Mars, the duty of man to co-operatein the process of evolution, the existence ofinnate psychological difference between the human races,and the wickedness of either capitalism or socialism.

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Possible Worlds, and other Essays

It is probably right that some control should be keptover experiments likely to involve severe and prolongedpain to animals; but it is monstrous that with regard towholly or nearly painless procedures the scientific manshould be worse treated than any other member of thecommunity.

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Many-worlds interpretation - Wikipedia

The naturalist who can spare more time together mayembark upon the study of animal behaviour, and moreespecially insect behaviour. I do not use the wordpsychology because it is not fashionable, although tomy mind quite justifiable. Here insects and spiderswith their very definite and complicated behaviourpatterns, or ‘instincts,’ are the ideal objects of study.A lens, a notebook, and immense patience, are the chiefrequisites, and it is worth noticing that many of thegreatest observers of insect behaviour had otheroccupations. Fabre was a schoolmaster, Lord Aveburyan extremely successful banker and a politician; infact, until quite recently professional biologists hadcontributed relatively little to this branch of knowledge,and some of them had blundered pretty badlyon leaving the laboratory for the field.

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The more ambitious student of biology, especially ifhe or she combines scepticism and pertinacity, can studyinheritance in human beings. Here experiment is impossible,and facts often hard to obtain. Naturallyenough people will lie with regard to the inheritance ofa mental, moral, or physical defect. But experienceshows that they lie almost equally with regard to sucha harmless topic as the eye-colour of their late grandmother;apparently from a desire to give some kind ofan answer to a question which they are convinced isquite unimportant. First-hand evidence is thereforealways desirable and often necessary. And so mobilehas the human race become in the last generation thatthe tracing of a single family may demand railwayjourneys running into thousands of miles. It ischeaper to breed armadillos or cacti, or even, likeProfessor ——, to trust largely to one’s imagination sofar as human inheritance is concerned.