This I Believe

Dale, Henry H. (Henry Hallett)

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Nobel Prize winning President of the Royal Academy, Henry Dale describes his belief in the "supreme value of truth" and the need for science to join forces with religion to help explain both material reality and our immaterial feelings of free will and a moral purpose in life.

Subjects
Purpose
Moral conditions
Truth
Science
Materialism
Free will and determinism
Progress
Meaning (Philosophy)
Great Britain
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/75752
ID: tufts:MS025.006.005.00009.00002
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Sir Henry Dale is a foremost English scientist and statesman of science. He is a big, broad, white-haired man, who at 77 preserves a tremendous zest and a lively sense of fun. His achievements have won him a Nobel Prize and the presidencies of both the Royal Academy and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Here is Sir Henry Dale's creed.
I believe in the supreme value of truth, and in man’s unrestricted search for truth is one of the first conditions of his moral, as well as his material, progress. The truth found by man’s searching will be liable always to be superseded, revised, or extended with the unending progress of his discoveries. Yet, it is something to be revered and to be defended against any attempt to suppress or to distort it for any purpose.
This reverence for truth, with so much else that we prized, was rudely disturbed by war, and some effect of that violence seems still to linger. But it must be restored to its position of central authority, in any code of morality, as a main bastion of defense against a creed which degrades truth into a mere expedient, to be mutilated or discarded in the service
of political dogma. Truth belongs to all mankind and it has no political frontiers or national varieties.
To me, as a physiologist, it is especially clear that all my knowledge of material nature, of which my own body and brain are a part, comes to me through messages which nerves transmit from sense organs to my brain, where they somehow evoke a picture of what my conscious mind takes to be an external reality. While this link between brain action and mind remains, as at present, a mystery, no scientist can with full conviction be a materialist. Yet, in his scientific work he must assume the material reality of what his mind perceives, and an unbroken sequence in it of cause and effect; an assumption, indeed, not different from that which we are all obliged to make in the normal conduct of our daily life. Yet each of us, whether
saint or scientist, finds himself under a like compulsion to assume, in the conduct of ordinary life, that his mind has freedom of choice and decision, and therewith to accept a moral responsibility.
The progress of knowledge is making ever clearer the dependence of mind, character, and personality of the integrity of the brain, and is tracing the lines of a physical basis for the heredity by which so much of personality is transmitted. As I watch this progress, I find it impossible to believe in a personal survival after body and brain are dust. Yet, I am conscious of a paramount need to believe in a moral purpose in life, and of a desire for common action with all who share
that belief in defense of the great ethical and cultural heritage of our Western world.
Would it be possible in such a cause for scientists, with their devotion to the changing and progressive truth which man’s discovery is winning, to form a common front with those who claim to expound a truth divinely revealed and subject to no change? Perhaps a rallying point could be found in A.N. Whitehead’s conception of religion as “world loyalty.”
There the beliefs of Sir Henry Dale, a British scientist who was knighted and awarded the Order of Merit for his outstanding contributions in bringing science to the ordinary citizen.