Noel Conway on radio again, talking about hope for a better future after COVID

On Sunday 5th July Noel Conway gave the weekly “Pause for Thought” on BBC Radio Shropshire’s Sunday morning “Faith and Ethics” program. The program is currently on BBC Sounds starting at about 1:23 on the timeline.

Noel is well known to us as an active member of Shropshire Humanists and recognized nationally as an advocate for a change in the law on assisted dying, a cause of particular relevance to people like him with advanced Motor Neurone Disease. As well as his legal campaigns, he has found time to write and publish short stories and novels, using voice recognition software as he now has no use of his limbs.

Radio: Simon Nightingale on “Anti-Science”

Last Sunday, Simon talked about “Anti-science” on the “Pause for Thought” on BBC Shropshire Radio. It can be heard by going to https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08b54q8 and listening on the timeline between 1:19:30 and 1:23:00.

If anyone wants too discuss the issues raised, they can contact Simon on chair@shropshire.humanist.org.uk

Simon’s original draft was shortened for the talk, but the full text is given below.

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Don’t worry I’m not going to talk lockdown, but my subject was prompted by some of the extraordinary things we hear coming out of the mouth of the current President of United States. It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t trust science or scientists or evidence or reason; he prefers to rely on his gut instinct, making it up as he goes along and listening to like-minded anti-science friends.

It got me thinking. Why are so many people against science and scientists? It’s hard to believe but there are international societies claiming the world is flat and that, if you walk far enough, you fall off the edge! And over 40% of the United States are young earth creationists and believe that the world, the universe, was created much as it is now about 8,000 years ago. And then there’s climate change. Despite a vast amount of high-level evidence that the world is warming up due to human activity, there’re many, including Trump and some UK politicians, who deny it.

Humanists like me believe it’s really important where we get our knowledge. So how do we know if ideas are true – or not. Humanists believe that the world, the universe, and everything in it, even the thoughts and emotions in my mind at this very moment, are best understood through natural laws and natural forces rather than the supernatural or superstition.

On the other hand there are others who prefer to use their gut instinct. You know, gut instinct is probably right more often than wrong, but when it’s wrong, it can be very wrong. There was a time when everyone knew in their gut that the world was flat! It was obvious! And there are many who believe stuff they read in sacred books written hundreds or sometimes thousands of years ago or they get their knowledge through personal revelation from what they believe is some ultimate source of truth somewhere out there.

A humanist like me believes that the best way to find out about something is to study it – carefully. That gives me an idea, a hypothesis if you like it. Then I look for things that agree with my idea, but more importantly, I look for things that disagree with it, so I may have to give up my clever new idea or more often change it a bit, so that it’s more likely to be true. It’s the constant questioning and challenging of our ideas by which science moves forward; each idea being refined with new evidence – not claiming to know it all; just claiming to have the best idea so far. Very different from ideas taken from ancient sacred books that don’t change over time. Moreover the challenging of ideas that’s so essential for the scientific method isn’t always welcome with sacred matters.

Some say that science is just for weighing and measuring and test tubes and the like, but really has no place in studying with complex and personal experiences, like our emotions and our thoughts. Well just think about the amazing advances in the science of psychology and particularly neuroscience, which has shown that how we think, the ways we behave and all that we experience, including emotions, beliefs, even consciousness and freewill, are the result of electrochemical changes in our wonderful brains.

Some sorts of questions can’t be answered by science or anyone. Okay so answer me this “Does the colour green sleep badly?” Well there are some things that sleep but the colour green isn’t one of them – so no one can’t answer this question. It’s what philosophers call a category error. Some seemingly straightforward questions of this kind can’t be answered by science, particularly questions asking about the purpose of things (like evolution) that actually have no purpose.

Then there is the mad scientist much loved by film makers. Yeah, there are a few rotten apples in any group, but actually there aren’t that many mad or bad scientists.

Some say scientists seem arrogant, but actually science is humble; science merely says “the evidence strongly suggests that such-and-such is very likely to be true, but we’ll keep an open mind, especially if new evidence turns up”. Rather different from those who say “well, I just know I’m right – I’m 100% sure.”

Does science have all the answers? Of course it doesn’t! No scientist would claim that it does. Brian Cox said on telly the other day that “it’s the not-knowing that so exciting about science!” But so far we haven’t come across anything that can’t be studied. There’s no secret area forbidden to the scientific method.

Who is to blame for these misunderstandings about science? I think to some extent the scientists are to blame. Those of us involved in science need to explain it better.

Sometime ago one of our cabinet minister said he was “fed up with experts” and this was a man claiming to be an expert on politics!

So don’t be fed up with experts. Listen to them. Listen to the health scientists about health; listen to the economists about economics and listen to the politicians about politics. Listen to people who know what they’re talking about because they’ve spent their life studying it. Don’t be a Trump!!

Radio: humanist and pastor discuss morality

Discussion on BBC Radio Shropshire between Peter Bellingham, Pastor of The Well in Shrewsbury, and Dr Simon Nightingale of Shropshire Humanists. Listen on the timeline between 1.10.30 to 1.49.40.

Don’t forget their public discussion at University Centre Shrewsbury on Tuesday 15 January 2019, 7.30pm.  All welcome, admission free.

 

Simon Nightingale on radio Pause for Thought: The one life we have

A humanist Pause for Thought about The One Life We Have on Radio Shropshire on Sunday morning.

Listen on the time-line from 1:16:30 to 1:21:00 for one month after broadcast.

It is followed by a brief discussion on the government’s opt-out organ donation legislation.

Simon has provided the following transcript.

I recently went to the Terracotta Warriors exhibition in Liverpool and it was totally amazing. Over 200 years BC, this guy Qin Shi Huang built massive burial chambers with over 8000 life-sized porcelain soldiers not to mention loads of other stuff – just to ensure his comfort in the hereafter. Then of course, there are the pyramids and other massive tombs all over the world.

Even in the west, elaborate religious rituals have been devised to ensure safe passage to the afterlife – and to try and get preferential treatment once you’re there.

From the beginning of recorded history (and even from some prehistoric studies), mankind has always been obsessed with the after life. At present vast numbers of people around the world believe there is one – or a least they hope there is! Why?

Well, in times past, life was pretty rough and often very unfair (less so nowadays though the fact that there’s still huge and unfair inequality is shameful). So a life that’s “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (a phrase used by a great humanist philosopher of his time) – a life like that may not seem quite so bad if followed by a heavenly bliss for all eternity – and eternity’s a very long time particularly towards the end! A few decades of misery down here on earth would seem as nothing compared to eternal heavenly bliss. And if you saw someone doing wrong and benefiting at the expense of others, well that may not seem quite so horribly unfair if you believe they’ll get their “just deserts” in the hereafter.

The beliefs of humanists, who live without religion, are a bit different. We believe that what we are, as conscious individuals with our unique sense of identity, is entirely the result of the amazingly complex and truly wonderful electrochemical activity in our brain. Death occurs when that activity is irretrievably lost – and so death is the end of who are we and what we are.

Does all this really matter? Well, humanists think it does. We believe we just have the one life and that’s why it is so important to have a good life and help others to have a good life. So if other people are in a bad way – do something about it. The “one life” idea is actually sort of empowering. Life ain’t no dress rehearsal – it’s up to us to make the world a better place, now.

OK, I don’t wanna to die any time soon, ‘cos I enjoy life so much – there’s still so much to do. But when death comes, I can face it without the consolation of religion belief. I hope that like the great humanist philosopher, David Hume, I’ll die in a way consistent with how I’ve lived, with composure and joy for the one life I have enjoyed among those I love in our beautiful and fragile world.

And after I die – what then? I believe I will live on. OK, maybe not in my present form, but I’ll live on in my children and their children; and I’ll live on in the hearts and minds of all who’ve known me and in any small changes I have made to the world. Their memories of Simon Nightingale may last just their lifetimes, but if I’ve influenced even just a bit how others feel and how they view the world, that influence they’ll pass on by their interactions with others and so on. In a sense a little bit of the spirit of Simon will be gradually spreading out like ripples on a lake – over time and generations, long after I’ve gone. Now that’s true immortality; that’s a real afterlife.

Simon Nightingale’s ‘Pause for Thought’ on radio: modern slavery and ethics in business

A humanist “Pause for Thought” on Radio Shropshire on Sunday, with Simon Nightingale talking about modern slavery and ethics in business generally.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p067f61s

Listen on the time-line from 1:18:30 to 1:26:00. This is available on listen-again for a month.

If you’re not too busy, you can hear Simon Nightingale talking about being too busy

Simon Nightingale gave the “Pause for Thought” on BBC Radio Shropshire on Sunday morning, 28 January, talking about “White Rabbit syndrome”.

You can hear it at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05v0927#play  Listen from 1:20:00 to 1:25:00 on the time line. It is available for 4 weeks only.

Simon Nightingale on radio: talking about why he is a humanist

Simon Nightingale talked on BBC Radio Shropshire on Sunday morning, 8 October, about humanism and atheism and explaining why he is a humanist and a member of Humanists UK.

You can hear the talk for a limited time at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05gfbtk

Listen on the time line from 1:20:00 to 1:25:00.

Paul Sturges on radio: Blasphemy and freedom of expression

Paul Sturges, who is speaking to us about blasphemy and freedom of expression, was interviewed on radio on Sunday morning on BBC Radio Shropshire.

To hear it, go to “listen again” at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054czb5 and listen from 38.30 to 43.30 on the time line.

 

Simon Nightingale on BBC Radio 3, 2 April: listen

Simon Nightingale did a short talk on distributive justice, referring to John Rawls, in Shropshire Radio’s Sunday morning “Faith and Ethics” program.

To hear it go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04wtj7c#play and listen on the time line from 1.18.15 to 1.23.50.

He then talked about the recent problems of the neurology service at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital until 1.27.00

Simon Nightingale on radio: identity, labelling, prejudice and discrimination – and humanism

Simon_NightingaleSimon Nightingale was on BBC Radio Shropshire on Sunday morning talking about identity, labelling, prejudice and discrimination – and humanism.

If you would like to hear it (available for 7 days) go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03yf1r5#play and listen on the time line from 1:16:50 to 1:22:00.

 

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