Yesterday, scientist and vocal atheist Richard Dawkins accepted an award for Services to Humanism from the British Humanist Association. In his speech, Dawkins referenced Bertrand Russell and Julian Huxley, amongst other humanist thinkers.
Dawkins noted how he “was enormously impressed by Bertrand Russell’s works” when he first encountered “Why I’m Not A Christian” and “What I Believe” in the school library. He then quoted Russell, “I believe that when I die that I shall rot and nothing of my ego shall survive. I’m not a young man and I love life, but I would scorn to shiver at terror of annihilation.”
The speech is interesting in that Dawkins, speaking of Balliol College, emphasized how classical scholars and the scientific community can be complimentary in the realm of evolutionary studies. Dawkins states that evolution is a part of biology, but that it should “should become the central pillar of a much broader education… and I think that such an education would do much of what classics was traditionally supposed to do and, indeed, did do.”
“Classics was supposed to tell us about our roots,” added Dawkins. “Well, obviously evolution does that. Classics made us look at familiar things from an unfamiliar angle. You see an another world, and it makes you see your own world more clearly from that unfamiliar angle.”
For my part, the most profound moment of Dawkins’ speech was when he stated: “Classics teaches you, and of course evolution does, to see things in the long term.”
If the world’s peoples are missing anything amidst all of the information static, as well as political and economic propaganda, it is the ability to see things in the long term. To move beyond instant gratification, whether it be entertainment or financial success, to see where capitalism, religion and technology, amongst many other things, are pushing humanity and indeed the planet.
Dawkins’ proposal for a new degree course would put evolution at the center of a wide-ranging degree that would include “economics, philosophy, social science, moral philosophy, engineering, computer science, medicine, agriculture, linguistics, physics, cosmology, history of science.”
Dawkins briefly examines the relationship between evolution and a few of the aforementioned in the video. So be sure to watch it.
[Image: David Stewart]