Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lords celebrate Darwin

Lord John Birt, member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group and former BBC Director-General, spoke in a debate yesterday in the House of Lords, celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Darwin.

Lord Birt described Charles Darwin as having ‘ushered in the era of rationalism’, yet he also expressed some dismay about the continuing reliance by some on religion and superstition.

He said, ‘If Darwin would have approved of our growing respect for nature, he would surely have been disappointed by the slow march of rationalism—here I strike a slightly dissonant note from other speakers. Fewer people now may believe in the supernatural and life after death, but some still take solace in cults or homeopathy. Some defy science and embrace creationism and intelligent design. Many still cling to the comforts of the old religions, which sought to explain existence before science did. Darwin might well be surprised that Britain still has a state religion, hardwired into our constitution.’

Lord Birt continued, ‘The challenge for humanists and for other children of Darwin is to create a world based on respect both for nature and for each other, a world where science and evidence displace prejudice and bigotry, a world based on ethical values which aim to maximise the sum total of human happiness here on earth. The most celebratory and life-enhancing funeral that I have ever attended was conducted by humanists, but the movement is not yet woven into our social tapestry.’


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