Sunday, 3 April 2011

Stephen Fry: 'Without science, reason is almost akin to superstition' @ 8'35


Stephen Fry talks about revealed truth v discovered truth, why reason is almost akin to superstition, empiricism and science as humility before the facts, and why you should never try to own the minds of others.

1'05": 2 types of knowledge:

  1. Revealed Truth: holy text eg Holy Bible or Koran from a divinity or a secular text eg Communist Manifesto), cannot ultimately be questioned 
  2. Discovered Truth: Anagnorisis - truth that can be shown by observation and apprehension, flourished in Athens (Aristotle, Socrates, Plato), quenched for a 1000 years and replaced by Christian revealed truth. In 17th Royal Society, Isaac Newton (laws of gravity and light and motion) and in France - ideas. Slowly and absolutely remorsefully and ineluctably the power of the Church was pushed back we call it the The Enlightenment 
We call it the Enlightenment because the light of reason was shone into every corner of human experience... think with reason but more importantly empirically, which is to say, there is reason, it is reasonable to suppose this, that or another. The beauty of science and freethought is that it doesn’t stop there. 

"Reason is almost akin to superstition, surely humanism stands up for reason... no reason must be tested, 

Blaisse Pascal reasoned about light (his theory seemed so reasonable), but he did NOT test his reason. Newton demonstrated by poking his finger through cardboard and demonstrated what Pascal said was untrue.

This was a great moment of empiricism, its testing. You don’t only question, you test - that is the very basis of science. 

testing is the very basis of science"

If science has a definition mine is ‘humility before the facts’. It doesn't matter how reasonable what you say is, or how beautiful your theory is, you must be humble and supplicant in front of the facts that open up.

I want you to understand it is no part of a humanists job to mock, an individually pious & devout individual, we are not interested in persuaded them against their religion, I've got no interest in telling the religious that there is no god, if they are happy, it is none of my business.  However.... the corollary, it is not their business to impose their revealed truth on, a world of doubt, scepticism, empiricism, reason, Enlightenment values... a world that is insoluble, yet has the freedom to think and express ideas, without sense of metaphorical or literal hell-fire of abomination.

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