What are you optimistic about?

Edge, the quite-pleased-with-itself forum for “some the world’s most interesting minds”, has posed its 2007 World Question: what are you optimistic about and why? [World Question Center] And it’s worth dipping into.

I particularly liked the contribution from Daniel Dennett, the American Philosopher, that combined urgency about real-world concerns like climate change and development, with inspiration from society’s capacity to change attitudes and behaviours (drawing on experience with smoking), to justify a robust optimism about what he calls The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion as knowledge technologies and communication blast away at the enclaves that can still shelter the strange systems of belief that constitute the main world religions. As he puts it, “eventually the truth will set us free“.

It left me wondering what I am optimistic about… Continue reading “What are you optimistic about?”

The despairing nihilism of intelligent design – please keep away from schools

Oh dear…. the creationists have returned to planet earth and appear to be fanning out from their landing site in the United States. After a week away, I see a Newsnight podcast on creationism in schools, following a Guardian report, Revealed: rise of creationism in UK schools stating that 59 schools are apparently using new materials about ‘intelligent design’ that had been circulated by a British creationist group called Truth in Science. The language of the proponents of intelligent design is infuriating: it appropriates the ideas of challenge and open-mindedness to counter-argument, testing theories by evidence and examination of paradoxes, opposition to dogma and even offers a scientific justification for intelligent design (‘irreducible complexity’). In fact it is anything but scientific and anything but a useful or valid challenge to the alleged dogma of Darwinism and the theory of evolution. Let us examine this more closely. Continue reading “The despairing nihilism of intelligent design – please keep away from schools”

Civil partnerships – increasing the sum of human happiness

I attended a civil partnership ceremony this weekend – an arrangement for same-sex couples to make a life-long commitment and to secure the same sort of legal rights as married different-sex couples. These came into being in December 2005 through the Civil Partnership Act 2004. The ceremony and whole day was absolutely terrific and congratulations to James and Andreas who looked happy, relieved and resplendent in their D&G jackets.

What struck me most was the simple elegence of the words of personal commitment between the two, unsullied by the intrusion of a mythical supernatural creator; the entirely secular but very moving readings; the merciful absence of sermons and hymns (does anyone ever read the words of these absurd chants before singing them?) and replacement of the baying flatulance of the church organ with a sublime solo harpist. It was altogether a much more uplifting and 21st century experience than any wedding I have ever attended in a church. Continue reading “Civil partnerships – increasing the sum of human happiness”

Faith no more

I’m just reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (Guardian review). For those of us that spent our school days making intense, and supposedly clinching, arguments to religious friends of the type: “if God made the world, then what made God?”, Dawkins’ polemic offers an unvarnished orgy of smugness – the simple joy of having what you have long held to be certain read back to you with great erudition and scholarship. One of his best and angriest propositions relates to the indoctrination of children with religious ideas. Continue reading “Faith no more”