JBS Haldane

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Haldane looking reasonably dapper
We're all Homo here
Icon evolution.svg
Relevant Hominids
A Gradual Science
Plain Monkey Business

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892–1964) was a British geneticist, evolutionary biologist, and mathematician known for his contributions to the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory. He is also known for his adherence to Stalinism and for being a eugenicist, so....


It was Haldane who first thought of the genetic basis for human cloning, indeed it was he who introduced the word "clone" in the first place, modifying the original term clon which was originally a farming term.[1] He introduced the term in his speech on "Biological Possibilities for the Human Species of the Next Ten Thousand Years" at the "Ciba Foundation Symposium on Man and his Future" in 1963. He said:

It is extremely hopeful that some human cell lines can be grown on a medium of precisely known chemical composition. Perhaps the first step will be the production of a clone from a single fertilized egg, as in Brave New World… On the general principle that men will make all possible mistakes before choosing the right path, we shall no doubt clone the wrong people (like Hitler)… Assuming that cloning is possible, I expect that most clones would be made from people aged at least fifty, except for athletes and dancers, who would be cloned younger. They would be made from people who were held to have excelled in a socially acceptable accomplishment.[2][3]

He was also the first to come up with the idea of designer babies, envisioning them as a means of coming up with "superior humans."[4]


Haldane was the first to demonstrate the concept of genetic linkageWikipedia in mammals, that certain traits are inherited together.[5] As the paper was written during Haldane's service in the First World War, James F. Crow called it "the most important science article ever written in a front-line trench".[6] He was the first to demonstrate linkage in chickens in 1921,[7] and (with Julia Bell) in humans in 1937.[8]

Haldane also played an important role in developing the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, and he also revitalized natural selection as the driving force of evolution by explaining it mathematically with Mendelian genetics.[9][10] He wrote a series of ten papers, titled "A Mathematical Theory of Natural and Artificial Selection", deriving expressions for the direction and rate of change of gene frequencies, and also analyzing the interaction of natural selection with mutation and migration. Haldane's book, The Causes of Evolution (1932), summarized these results, especially in its extensive appendix.

His contributions to statistical human genetics included: the first methods using the maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) for human linkage maps; pioneering methods for estimating human mutation rates; the first estimates of mutation rate in humans (2×10−5 mutations per gene per generation for the X-linked hemophiliaWikipedia gene); and the first notion that there is a "cost of natural selection".[11]

In 1923, in a talk given in Cambridge titled "Science and the Future", Haldane, foreseeing the exhaustion of coal for power generation in Britain, proposed a network of hydrogen-generating windmills. This is the first proposal of the hydrogen-based renewable economy.[12][13][14]

Haldane also was the first to demonstrate that the size of an animal determines what "bodily equipment" it has, specifically noting that in insects oxygen is simply absorbed through the skin, whereas in more complex critters like vertebrates oxygen is filtered through complex respiratory apparatuses like lungs and gills. This is called "Haldane's principle" in his honor.[15]

In 1949, Haldane proposed that genetic disorders in humans living in malaria-endemic regions provided a phenotype with immunity to blood-borne haemophiles. He noted that mutations expressed in red blood cells, such as sickle-cell anemia and various thalassemias, were prevalent only in tropical regions where malaria has been endemic. He further observed that these were favorable traits for natural selection which protected individuals from receiving malarial infection in the first place.[16] This idea was eventually confirmed by Anthony C. Allison in 1954.[17][18]

Haldane also observed that during the early stages of speciation, if one sex of a species hybrid is infertile or sterile, that sex is likely to be the heterogametic sex, or the sex with two chromosomes. This principle is called "Haldane's rule," not to be confused with the aforementioned "Haldane's principle."[19]


Haldane became a socialist during World War I; supported the republicans during the Spanish Civil War; and then became an open supporter of the British Communist Party in 1937. A pragmatic dialectical-materialist Marxist, he wrote many articles for the Daily Worker. He also showed some signs of being an impossibilist, in On Being the Right Size, he wrote: "while nationalizationWikipedia of certain industries is an obvious possibility in the largest of states, I find it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge."

Haldane has been accused by authors, including Peter Wright and Chapman Pincher, of having been a Soviet spy codenamed Intelligentsia.[20][21] While Haldane became critical of the Soviet regime, he continued to admire Stalin, even calling him a "great man who did great things" at one point.[22]

The Narnia Wars[edit]

Haldane was notoriously criticized by noted Christian writer and apologist CS Lewis for so-called "scientism."[notes 1] Haldane responded to these attacks in his essay "Auld Hornie," which is an old Scottish folk name for the world's first human rights lawyer Satan. Haldane furthermore accused Lewis of moaning about capitalism being a so-called "by product of the fall of man whilst doing nothing to replace it with a better system." Haldane also mockingly refers to Lewis and his followers as "LewisitesWikipedia" after a poisonous chemical with the same name, indeed it's even part of the name for one of his essays, "More Anti-Lewisite."[23]


  1. Scientism is both a misguided philosophy asserting that all that can be learned and studied can only be known through science, as well as being a derogatory bullshit label for metaphysical naturalists and skeptics.


  1. Thomas, Isabel (2013). Should scientists pursue cloning?. London: Raintree. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-4062-3391-9. 
  2. Haldane, J.B.S. (1963). "Biological Possibilities for the Human Species in the Next Ten Thousand Years". In Wolstenholme, Gordon. Man and his future. Novartis Foundation Symposia. London: J. & A. Churchill. pp. 337–361. ISBN 978-0-470-71479-9. 
  3. Haldane, J.B.S.. "Biological Possibilities for the Human Species in the Next Ten Thousand Years". World Transhumanist Association. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  4. James, David N. (1987). "Ectogenesis: a reply to Singer and Wells". Bioethics 1 (1): 80–99. PMID 11649763. 
  5. Haldane, J. B. S.; Sprunt, A. D.; Haldane, N. M. (1915). "Reduplication in mice (Preliminary Communication)". Journal of Genetics 5 (2): 133–135. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. 
  6. Crow, JF (1992). "Centennial: J. B. S. Haldane, 1892–1964". Genetics 130 (1): 1–6. PMID 1732155. 
  7. Haldane, JB (1921). "Linkage in poultry". Science 54 (1409): 663. Bibcode 1921Sci....54..663H. PMID 17816160. 
  8. Bell, J.; Haldane, J. B. S. (1937). "The Linkage between the Genes for Colour-Blindness and Haemophilia in Man". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 123 (831): 119–150. Bibcode 1937RSPSB.123..119B. 
  9. Haldane, JB (1990). "A mathematical theory of natural and artificial selection--I. 1924". Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 52 (1–2): 209–40; discussion 201–7. PMID 2185859. 
  10. Haldane, JB (1959). "The theory of natural selection today". Nature 183 (4663): 710–3. Bibcode 1959Natur.183..710H. PMID 13644170. 
  11. Haldane, J. B. S. (1935). "The rate of spontaneous mutation of a human gene". Journal of Genetics 31 (3): 317–326. 
  12. "An Early Vision of Transhumanism, and the First Proposal of a Hydrogen-Based Renewable Energy Economy". Jeremy Norman & Co., Inc.. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  13. Hordeski, Michael Frank (2009). Hydrogen & Fuel Cells: Advances in Transportation and Power. Lilburn, GA: The Fairmont Press, Inc.. pp. 202–203. ISBN 978-0-88173-562-8. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  14. Demirbas, Ayhan (2009). Biohydrogen For Future Engine Fuel Demands (Online-Ausg. ed.). London: Springer London. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-84882-511-6. Archived from the original on 7 March 2017. 
  15. Marvin, Stephen (2012). Dictionary of Scientific Principles. Chicester: John Wiley & Sons. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-118-58224-4. 
  16. Sabeti, Pardis C (2008). "Natural selection: uncovering mechanisms of evolutionary adaptation to infectious disease". Nature Education 1 (1): 13. Archived from the original on 9 January 2015. 
  17. Allison, AC (1954). "The distribution of the sickle-cell trait in East Africa and elsewhere, and its apparent relationship to the incidence of subtertian malaria". Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 48 (4): 312–8. PMID 13187561. 
  18. Hedrick, Philip W (2012). "Resistance to malaria in humans: the impact of strong, recent selection". Malaria Journal 11 (1): 349. PMID 23088866. 
  19. Turelli, M; Orr, H.A. (May 1995). "The Dominance Theory of Haldane's Rule". Genetics 140 (1): 389–402. PMID 7635302. 
  20. Wright, Peter (1987). Spycatcher. Heinemann. p. 236. 
  21. Pincher, Chapman (2011). Treachery: Betrayals, Blunders and Cover-Ups: Six Decades of Espionage. Mainstream. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-84596-811-3. Archived from the original on 11 November 2017. 
  22. "JBS Haldane" - The Ten Thousand Year Explosion
  23. "JBS Haldane" - Lewisiana