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Their press and radio take good care that they should not know how people are thinking in Europe.

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An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. What Is Life? No cover image. Read preview. Those who hold the contrary view inevitably regard the reform of society as a dangerous dream, and natural science as unworthy of serious study. And they consequently end up by making friends with the mammon of unrighteousness.

But this friendship, so far from qualifying them for an eternal habitation, may not even secure them a competence in this present world. It was men, not angels, who cast him out. More Anti-Lewisite. Lewisite is a poisonous liquid with a poisonous vapour, called after an American chemist, Lewis. British Anti-Lewisite, or B.


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Fortunately, it can also be used against other arsenic compounds than Lewisite, including the familiar poison, arsenious oxide, generally though incorrectly called arsenic. Lewis is a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, which has become one of our principal defenders of Christianity. His arguments seem to me to include many which definitely muddy the stream of human thought.

If I can precipitate some of them, I shall help to clear this stream, thus performing in the mental sphere a task similar to that of Peters in the chemical sphere. I shall deal particularly with Mr. The first part of these talks is devoted to proofs of the existence of God. It is rather interesting to list some of the arguments which Mr. Lewis did not use. First comes the ontological argument used by St. Anselm and others, and revived by Descartes, which is roughly as follows. We can conceive of a most perfect being.

But existence is a kind of perfection. Therefore the most perfect being must have existence. Lewis allows this argument to fall by its own weight, perhaps because it might be used in an inverted form to prove the non-existence of the least perfect being, namely the Devil, in whom he believes passionately. Nor does he set much store by any of St. The plain fact is that St. Thomas had not the intellectual equipment to deal with infinite series, and we have this equipment to-day.

They turn out to be much simpler than finite ones. But if we revise our definition of sum to cover the sum of an infinite class, we can say that the sum of all its terms is exactly unity. Lewis makes very little use of the argument from design, which, as I have pointed out, leads, if logically pursued, to the conclusion that even the animals and plants of our own planet suggest the existence of a million or more mutually hostile designers. His main argument is from the fact that almost all human beings recognize the existence of moral obligation.

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At an early stage p. Perhaps Mr.

What I require from life :

Lewis would be only slightly uncomfortable in a society where cannibalism was the rule, or one in which a murderer was not punished, but was compelled to adopt the children of his victim. The plain fact is that different cultures have or have had almost every morality which is compatible with the existence of society even in its crudest form. Societies have certainly existed in which the killing of babies and of old people were regarded as praiseworthy acts.

However, let us suppose for the moment that Mr. Lewis is right, and that moral codes show a greater agreement than is necessitated by the bare existence of society, let us see how his argument continues. He is impressed by the fact that people are aware of the existence of moral obligations, but yet do not conform to these obligations, and that people regard one moral code as better than another. But the standard that measures two things is something different from either.

If it is formally correct, it will still be true if we alter the terms in it. Let us apply this experimental method to Mr. Here is Mr. The conclusion is obviously untrue. One can tell that one man is taller than another without any reference to a standard of measurement, and doubtless primitive men did so and do so. There are standards of measurement, but there is no absolute standard. If people thought as loosely about length as they do about right and wrong, Britain and France would have waged a series of religious wars between the adherents of the yard and those of the metre.

But the transformation shows us something more. Lewis writes about measuring a set of moral ideas, a notion which I find unduly materialistic. But his notion of a standard is a standard of moral perfection to which nobody conforms all the time. In fact it might be possible to grade different moralities, as one can grade, say, mathematical or musical performances.

But one could not do so in terms of moral perfection. One can say that one piece of conduct or one set of moral ideas is better than another. But one cannot say there is a best standard. A simple example will show why this is so. I find a man bleeding by the roadside. I certainly ought to help him in some way. But the help that I can give depends on my knowledge and skill.

If I know nothing about first aid I can do a little, if I have taken a fist aid course I can do more, if I am a surgeon a great deal more. I must always do the best I can, and it can be argued that every one has the duty to learn some first aid, so that he can stop a bleeding artery. It can hardly be argued that everyone should learn surgery.

Book What I Require From Life Writings On Science And Life From Jbs Haldane 2009

The ideal man is doubtless skilled in surgery, psychiatry and other cognate subjects, and if Mr. Lewis is correct, can even pray with enough efficiency to pull off at least an occasional miracle. But he is useless as a standard in this case. An absolute or ideal standard of conduct is useless. And because it is useless it is immoral, in the sense that it actually leads to a less good life than the practical standard. This is one of the main reasons why, as a matter of hard fact, religion does not produce a higher level of moral conduct in its adherents than does irreligion.

It sets standards which are impossible because they are self-contradictory. I cannot learn surgery, Chinese, diving, fire-fighting, infantile hygiene, wrestling, rock-climbing, weight-lifting and all the other accomplishments which might enable me to save a life. In the same way I cannot be a moral paragon in all respects. But I could always, or almost always, have done a little better than I actually did. Lewis finds it unintelligible that we should be dissatisfied with our actual conduct unless an absolute standard of conduct exists. He can understand it if our ancestors fell from such a standard.

It seems to me quite equally intelligible if our standard is, on the whole, rising. Once a conscious being can form any idea of the future he will wish it to be in some respects more satisfactory than the present. He will realize that some of the unpleasantness of the present arises from his own past actions, and will wish not to repeat such actions in future. For example, he may wake up with a headache and determine never again to drink so much whisky. This is a very elementary type of moral decision, but it is one.

The passage to altruistic conduct is a more complicated matter. But one can regret past behavior and resolve to do better without any altruism, and the possibility of doing so without any supernatural standard is the point at issue.

John Maynard Smith - JBS Haldane's intelligence (23/102)

Our own moral behavior is complicated by two facts. We have a cerebral structure which sometimes generates emotions more appropriate to a primitive savage than a civilized man. And we live in a society whose customs and laws are at least several generations out-of-date in relation to its productive forces, that is to say, to the jobs on which people are engaged. For both these reasons, we are frequently dissatisfied by our own conduct and that of our neighbours.

I can see no reason to postulate either a god or a devil to explain this state of affairs. Supposing there were an extra-human, or at least superhuman, standard of morality, a doctrine which I regard for the reasons explained above as dangerous and untrue, Mr. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on. Lewis can make no such claim. Now, supposing I were a performing sea-lion extremely anxious to please my keeper, and aware that I could not yet balance as many balls on my nose as he wished, it would not follow that I had made any one big mistake.

Much more probably I should have made a lot of little ones. I am a critic most people think too violent a critic of our present social system. I think it a mistake that I should be allowed to own ten acres in the City of Westminster, though this was not unreasonable five hundred years ago when this area was open country. I think it a mistake that I should be paid to give lectures to a few students rather than make really good talking films for a larger number, but this method of teaching was quite reasonable even fifty years ago.

And so on. Supposing that the moral obligations which we recognize are the standard set by a superhuman personal being, it seems just as probable that such a being for some reason prefers us to improve our conduct gradually by learning from our own mistakes, rather than use more drastic methods to make us good.

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The history of man in the last few thousand years can be regarded as a series of moral challenges to which men have responded by remodeling their conduct. Sometimes this remodeling involved the collapse of a political system, as with the Roman Empire, sometimes only its transformation, as with the decay of feudalism in Britain. Such challenges have been met more or less satisfactorily in the past. They might have been arranged by a superhuman being. However, I think they are mainly the result of changes in productive forces.

Thus improvements in transport and food production made it possible for a hundred thousand or more people to live in one city, and this demanded a new code of right and wrong. Further improvements in transport made the city too small a political unit, and so on. We are up against a very severe moral challenge at the present time. If we think it came out of the blue from a supernatural being it seems to me that we are much less likely to meet it effectively than if we think that it came about through changes in industry and transport which have given us on the one hand the possibility of universal plenty in a world community, and on the other hand the atomic bomb and the long-range bomber.

If we think our only course is to go back, we shall not meet it at all. So much for Mr. He has a few others, perhaps rather better. For example, if the universe is not the work of a creative mind he argues that thought is merely a by-product of chemical reactions in the brain. On one they are endowed with free will, which they use to such effect that most of them, after unhappy lives, go to eternal torment after death.

On the other, they behave well and live happily, either ceasing to exist when they die, or going on to eternal bliss. They are all, however, afflicted with a peculiar mental set-up which leads them to believe, when they think of such matters, that there is only a finite number of prime numbers; and a good deal of time is wasted in tabulating them, in the hope of finding the largest one.

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