Daedalus; or, Science and the Future

J.B.S Haldane

“J. B. S. Haldane, a British scientist, wrote a book titled Daedalus; or, Science and the Future, which was first released in England in 1924. It was a speech delivered to the Heretics Society for academics at Cambridge University on February 4, 1923.

Haldane, specifically in reference to his own field of biology, utilizes the Greek tale of Daedalus as a symbol of the revolutionary nature of science.

The Prometheus is always the chemical or physical inventor. No great creation, from fire to flight, has ever gone unrecognized as an insult to a deity. But if every discovery in physics and chemistry is a heresy, then every discovery in biology is a perversion. Very few would not seem indecent and out of the ordinary to an observer from any country who had never heard of them before when they were first brought to his attention.

He also expressed pessimism over the positive effects of some scientific advancements on people, contending that such advancements would cause humankind more harm than good unless an equivalent advancement followed them in ethics.

His portrayal of a future in which people may control their own evolution through deliberate mutation and the use of in vitro fertilization (known as “ectogenesis”) had a significant influence on Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The book is an early example of transhumanism. The book finishes with a picture of a lab biologist resembling Haldane, who is described as “just a poor little scrubby underpaid man fumbling hopelessly.”

Other authors have extensively examined the book, including Sal. P. Restivo’s “Science, Society, and Values” and Freeman Dyson’s “Imagined Worlds,” and the idea has been employed in modern science lectures.”