Posts Tagged ‘Richard Holloway’

Entitled to our own opinions


From his book Looking in the Distance (pages 101-102), here is Richard Holloway on the intersection of religion and science (emphasis mine):

It is embarrassing when theologians try to conflate the Christian story with the current scientific narrative; and it is a mistake, however understandable, when scientists try to disprove the Christian story as though it were just another set of outdated scientific claims. The scientific attack on Christianity is excusable, however, because fundamentalist groups insist on marketing Christianity as a science rather than as myth. While we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts, which is why scientists cannot avoid getting drawn into the quagmire of the science versus religion debate.

That last sentence contains the real money quote for me here:

While we are all entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts.

This is why scientists and fans of science get so het up when people deny things like the well-established and exhaustively-tested effectiveness and safety of vaccines, or the copious and consistent evidence for evolution.


Godless Morality – first glance


A while ago, I read Richard Holloway‘s excellent book, Godless Morality. I hope in time to address it in more depth. It is, very boldly, an argument that even without setting aside their god-belief, people who believe in a god can benefit from developing a moral system that does not depend on that god’s commands or instructions.

This is a valuable argument to make, not just as a personal philosophical exercise, but also as a window on how we can all – believers in all different religious ideas as well as non-believers – construct and build on common ground in our efforts to live harmoniously alongside one another.

Until I can get to a more thorough review, let me share with you what I think is basically the core of the book – a quote from the first chapter (“Ethical Jazz”): (p31 – emphasis added)

Today, authority has to earn respect by the intrinsic value of what it says, not by the force of its imposition. There is a loss in this situation, of course, because power transitions are always dangerously unstable periods in human history, but there is unlikely to be a wholesale return to the past and its values unless we are overtaken by a mass religious movement that obliterates the radically plural nature of contemporary society. Barring that unlikely eventuality, we must do what we can to construct moral agreements that will have the authority of our reason and the discipline of our consent.