I just attended Stephen Fry's acceptance of the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, given by the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.
His speech was quite different than the one he gave for the Intelligence² Debate. The main theme tonight was "I will not be told."
To be told is to wallow in revealed truths. Bibles and similar religious texts are all about revealed truths which cannot be questioned, and the origins of which require the readers to make many assumptions. And it was even worse in the dark times of religious book control and illiteracy in which you might not even be allowed to read the book--you have to get the mediated verbal account from someone supposedly holier than you.
Discovered truths, on the other hand, are not told. Of course somebody could tell you a discovered truth, but if you don't trust them you can question it. Discovered truths are can be discussed. They are questioned and tested.
Fry suggests humility before facts--reason or sounding reasonable is not enough. Back to question and test. And so on.
Stephen Fry then fumbled through a quick version of history to describe how the Greeks had some free inquiry and attempts to discover truth around 2000 years ago, but that was almost extinguished for 1500 years by the Christians. But not all hope was lost, and then the Enlightenment brought discovered truths back into action. Science kicked into gear, the United States was born, and so on.
Later on, Fry was discussing Oscar Wilde's adventures--somewhat like the Beatles, Wilde was not well known in England and then burst onto the scene in America in large part just by being an interesting character. When somebody asked him how America, born from the greatest ideals of freedom and reason, could have disintegrated into the Civil War, Wilde responded that it's because American wallpaper is ugly.
The concept is that violence breaks out when people have no self worth because, which in turn is assisted by ugly artificial habitats.
Stephen Fry says how he used to see posters of Che and Marx in college dorms mixed in which pictures of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. People thought that revolutionary politics and rock music could change the world for the better. But they can't. The posters he prefers to see on people's dorm walls are Einstein and Oscar Wilde--the life of the mind instead. Fry then said something about the Oxford way to "play gracefully with ideas."
Stephen Fry tells us (note this is not verbatim): "It's not humanists' job to tell religious people they are wrong. However," and there is a pause as the crowd laughs, "it is none of their fucking business to impose their revealed truth on the wonderful world of doubt."
Amidst anecdotes of Oscar Wilde, Fry repeatedly asserted his second theme, which is that humanists should not tell other people how to live. In fact, he accepted the award on the condition that the Humanist Chaplaincy would not try to convert religious people and smugly tell them they are wrong. It's all about showing vs. telling.
As Fry so splendidly puts it: "You can tickle the minds of others, you can seduce the minds of others, but don't try to own the minds of others."
The high point of the question and answer session, which Fry compared to a KGB interrogation, was a serenade by a young lady with a ukulele, in which she offered the homosexual actor her baby-making apparatus in no uncertain terms. "I have all the tools that you require to breed / So send along your seed."
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Mindfulness Is Not A Waste Of Time
- Low Hormone Levels Linked To Obesity In Teens
- Silencing Cholera's Social Media
- How Did The Giraffe Get Its Long Neck? Clues Now Revealed By New Genome Sequencing
- Malnutrition Results From More Than Just Inadequate Diet
- Catching The 750 GeV Boson With Roman Pots ?!
- Prohibition 2016: Assessing The UK's Psychoactive Substances Act
- "Correction, I say that 20 kg of algae solution was needed per person to provide all the oxygen..."
- "Very interesting article Edzard. Not that I disagree with you and those who commented, I would..."
- "Great article about a great study. What is known of African American history jibes with this..."
- "Sweet simple and to the point. The anti sexual harassment training could begin and end right..."
- "Am I correct when I state virus can exchange certain molecules with other virus? If that is the..."
- Our Audience Is Up 700% – And Anti-Science Groups Are Going Nuts
- Tiny Vampires of the Ancient Seas
- Incentivizing Antibiotic Research
- Party Drug for Post-Surgical Pain Prevention
- Hey De Blasio-Get Off Your Sodium Podium!
- The Name Game: How Unethical Environmental Groups and Toxic Fanatics Scare You With Words
- Wind turbines on Galapagos replace millions of liters of diesel since 2007, meet 30 percent of energy needs
- Study shows patients require less painkilling medication after breast-cancer surgery if they have opiate-free anesthesia
- Quiet please in the intensive care unit!
- Premature babies may grow up to have weaker bones
- 90-90-90 HIV initiative would yield 'extraordinary returns' in South Africa