25 NOVEMBER 1932, Page 32

MATERIALISM By Professor J. S. Haldane After the spate of

somewhat crude metaphysics which has recently become the hobby of eminent physicists, it is refreshing to have so eminent a physiologist as Professor J. S. Haldane reasserting the dignity of biology as a separate science, and claiming that, far from being a mere branch of physics, the relation tends rather to be reversed. That seems, indeed, to be the most valuable intellectual concept in this little book of essays—Materialism, by Professor J. S. Haldane (Hodder and Stoughton, 35. 6d.)—that and the ripe, if old- fashioned, common sense which informs the whole. Pro- fessor Haldane's main point, however, is that neither vitalism nor mechanism provides an adequate explanation of the phenomenon of Life. The first is constantly driven back, step by step, by the advance of knowledge, while the second is always inadequate. In a brief notice such as this it would be an impertinence to attempt to summarize his attitude, which is to some extent mystical, though critical and full of vigour. Speaking generally, he seems to be criticizing the mechanism and vitalism of some years ago, without realizing how much more matured are their modem successors —largely, perhaps, as the result of his influence.