Martin Rees’ Reith Lectures

I think I listened to one of Martin Rees’ Reith Lectures last year, but I listened to a couple yesterday and thought they were very good. I like a public lecture where the author skilfully throws of intimations of his own perspectives on life on the way to making his central points. (I think I like this a lot more when I agree with those perspectives than when I don’t ;)

Anyway, I liked this passage, and hadn’t heard the quote before.

When asked about religion, Darwin diffidently responded “The whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe as he can”.

To which Rees adds “A glaringly different stance from some of his present-day disciples!”

All the Reith lectures back to 1978 can be podcast. Our ABC seems to be doing a bit more of this as well, though on a quick squiz I can’t find anything going back beyond 2009.  You can also get the e-book of Peter Cosgrove’s lectures on iTunes. It costs $10.99.

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wilful
wilful
10 years ago

Could we, like, get a link?

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

What do we want. A link. when do we want it. now

Dehne Taylor
Dehne Taylor
10 years ago

Nick, a truly perspicacious quote. Do we know how likely it is that CD actually said it? (apart from Martin Rees’ speech which we are all having difficulty finding).

Dehne Taylor
Dehne Taylor
10 years ago

Nick, sorry very clumsily put as I wasn’t trying to cast aspersions on Rees. Was wondering whether Rees had a reference to the Darwin quote as it would prove very useful for those religious/secular ‘discussions’ that occasionally start at friends and family gatherings.

Will endeavour to chase down link – at the moment all I get is Google.

wilful
wilful
10 years ago

Is this how Web 2.0 works?

“Hey I saw something great on the internet. You should go find it yourself!”

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

maybe he is telling us to Nick off

derrida derider
derrida derider
10 years ago

Maybe Darwin did say it – it’s the sort of thing someone wanting to avoid the issues in the interests of peace would say. He was a timid man, and his fear of confrontation with enraged believers held up the Origin of Species for years. As blaspheming writers like Dawkins point out the lack of ontology in evolution does tend to render God an unnecessary hypothesis.

Of course “each man hope[s] and believe[s] as he can”. But so what? Why is that a reason for the religious not to try and shape others’ beliefs? And why is it a reason for silence by those who believe that the beliefs of the religious are overly influenced by their hopes?

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

the US reaction was far different to Darwin.

Benjamin Warfield ( he was one of the original writers of the Fundamentals from which we get the term Fundamentalist from) wrote he saw no contradiction from believing in evolution alah Origin of the Species and believing in the bible.

Darwin also studied to become an Anglican minister.

derrida derider
derrida derider
10 years ago

Yes, Darwin was originally a devout believer. But it was his exposure to the seemingly random cruelty of “nature red in tooth and claw” that converted him to non-belief – “I cannot believe a benevolent deity would have made the ichneumon wasp”.

The loss of belief predated his evolutionary theory, but was an important enabler of his development of that theory. Which makes my point that what we hope and believe in these things actually matters for human development, and so justifies the passion of Dawkins and his ilk.

KB Keynes
KB Keynes
10 years ago

DD I know we disagree on Christianity.

The evidence on Darwin losing his belief, however weak it was to start with and clearly his understanding of theology was very limited, is a very argued issue.
So we differ on this issue as well/

There appears to be evidence either way.

I do agree with Warfield as I see little in his book that contradicts Christianity.

Mel
Mel
10 years ago

Gee you people are lazy.

Jason Collins
10 years ago

The present-day disciples of Newton appear to have taken a glaringly different stance on alchemy.

The Feral Abacus
The Feral Abacus
10 years ago

According to Stephen Jay Gould in his essay ‘Nonmoral Nature’, the quote comes from a letter Darwin wrote to the American botanist Asa Gray. And yes, certain of Darwin’s latterday defenders seem devoid of his humanity and generosity of spirit.

The Feral Abacus
The Feral Abacus
10 years ago

…sorry – missed Mel’s link on first reading.