Posts Tagged ‘Anti-reductionism’

J.B.S. Haldane: Atheism, Communism and the Anti-Reductionist Case for God

May 12, 2013

One of the major figures in British biology in the 20th century was J.B.S. Haldane. Haldane was not only a distinguished physiologist, but a Communist who wrote articles for their newspaper, the Daily Worker. Some of these were determinedly anti-theist. One, ‘The Godmakers’, was a polemic against the belief in God and particularly Christianity, urging his fellow atheists and Communists to be on the guard against the theistic impulse and further attempts to create new deities. Yet Haldane himself was certainly not immune from this impulse to seek the existence of the divine.

At the end of his career Haldane wrote The Philosophy of a Biologist. This argued for the existence of the Almighty based on a consideration of the limitation of a purely scientific view of the world. If the world is examined purely from the point of view of physics, then only physico-chemical answers are produced due to the nature of the questions asked. The world, however, is not limited only to the realm of physics. To form a more complete picture of the cosmos, biology must be added. Haldane, a biologist, naturally considered that biology gave a truer picture of the universe than physics. Biology, however, is also incomplete, as it does not include the personality. So psychology must also be included as the scientific discipline that best approaches reality. Psychology, however, is also incomplete as the cosmos includes universal principles of goodness, truth and beauty. These elements in the constitution of the universe mean that the cosmos is also personal, and that individual human personalities exist in a relationship with the universal personality, God. Although it is not always clear whether Haldane believed that God was either the same as the biological universe, or transcended it, nevertheless he appears to have believed in God as the basic fact of creation and that the various physical laws were partial revelations of His nature. It’s a fascinating argument, which is similar to others advanced by contemporary theologians. It also shows that however exciting and tempting atheism appears when one is young, healthy with an exuberance for life, for many it becomes bleak and comfortless in old age, when one naturally thinks of one’s mortality. It is ironic that in this instance the ardent anti-theist became a God-maker himself.