The Controversy between Haldane and Russell from the View of?Two Cultures

The Controversy between Haldane and Russell from the View of?Two Cultures


出版:Trajectory.Inc / Journal of Zhejiang University (Humanities and Social Scienc
作者:Liu Dun




In February 4th, John Burdon Sanderson Haldane, who became a famous geneticist later, gave a speech with the title of Daedalus, or Science and the Future in Cambridge University. 'Daedalus�� in the speech title is the name of a magical craftsman who built the magnificent palace for King Minos according to Greek mythology. With the analogy between the fate of Daedalus and the influence of science, Haldane proposed that on the one hand science would challenge the traditional morality; on the other hand it would benefit human beings. This bold prophecy for the development of science caused a stir at that time. Especially in the field of bio-science, quite a few topics being in contradiction with traditional morals were brought out, such as hallucinogen��s clinical application, asexual reproduction, gender transformation, external fertilization, putting chemical knowledge into use in food production, taking medicine to enhance courage and endurance, promoting nation��s characteristics by reproduction selection, prolonging female��s youth by chemical compounds, suppressing the evil nature of human through physiology instead of jail punishment. Furthermore, the possibility of euthanasia and splice were implied. In the next year, the philosopher Bertrand Russell gave a critical response. In Icarus, or the Future of Science, he warned that the misuse of science by human beings would lead to a destructive disaster. Icarus is the son of Daedalus, who dreamed that he would fly with the wings created by his father but ended up being drown in the sea. In particularly, Russell expressed his worries about the inappropriate use of life science in society, which includes the abuse of planned parenthood and eugenics, and the prospect of psychology serving for an evil government. Hereby he wrote: Icarus, having been taught to fly by his father Daedalus, was destroyed by his rashness. I fear that the same fate may overtake the populations whom modern men of science have taught to fly. In February 14th 1923, exactly 10 days after Haldane��s Cambridge speech, Zhang Junmai��s lecture View of Life at Tsinghua University signaled that the important debate in Chinese ideological history was launched. Both of the two debates, which happened to occur in England and in China at appropriately the same time, can be analyzed in terms of broader culture background. The controversy between Florence and Padova in Renaissance, and the debate between Arnold and Huxley in Victorian period, as well as the division made by H. Rickert between the historical-cultural science and the natural science, are all the antecedents of the famous argument forwarded by C. P. Snow. Even though both of the main characters of the two sides in the 'Debate of Science and Metaphysics�� in China had a strong background of western education, there is no hint showing that they had been influenced by the controversy between Haldane and Russell. The simultaneity of the two events could be easily explained through their different social-cultural atmosphere. In the west, the unprecedented catastrophe of the First World War made intellectuals re-examine the negative influence brought by the uncontrolled desire of people for wealth and power. In China, the intellectuals under the flag of May 4th Movement regarded science as the almighty tool of saving the people and the country, with no tolerance of any doubt about the function of science. It is the fact that Russell visited China right before the start of the 'Debate of Science and Metaphysics��. From the course of his visit, including lots of meetings and activities, it can be seen that the two camps of Science and Metaphysics were formed. At the same time, it is not hard to understand that many arguments addressed by Russell in Icarus are corresponding with the views held by the Metaphysics school.


Institute of Science, Technology and Society, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China

留言Facebook 留言