BHA Voltaire Lecture: Lessons from the past: science&rational­ism, medieval Islam


We are proud to promote this BHA event.  Information from the BHA website states: 

"Voltaire Lecture 2014 with Jim Al-Khalili

About the lecture

We often hear these days about the tensions between science and rationalism on the one hand and devout religious beliefs on the other, whether it’s concerns over teaching of evolution in faith schools or the funding of stem cell research, or simply the attitudes of some towards science in general, either when seeing it as a threat or, at best, as no more than a driver of technology and economic power, a view often found in many countries in the developing world. This lecture will focus on attitudes towards science in the Islamic world and will serve as a reminder of a period a millennium ago, during the Golden Age of Arabic Science, when scholars and thinkers were allowed the freedom to question and study the world around them within a spirit of free, rational enquiry that is often sadly lacking today. What lessons can we learn from the past if we are to move away from muddled thinking, superstition and ignorance?

About Jim Al-Khalili, President of the BHA
‘We should make the most of our time on earth and not waste this brief opportunity to shine as brightly as the stars that created the atoms we are all made of. That, for me, is what defines Humanism.’ 

Jim Al-Khalili is an Iraqi born theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is a professor at the University of Surrey where he teaches and carries out his research in quantum physics.

Jim currently presents The Life Scientific on Radio 4 on Tuesday mornings, where he interviews prominent scientists about their life and work. He has presented a number of science documentaries on television, particularly on BBC4 where he says he is happiest as he can really get his teeth into a subject.

His work includes Atom (2007), The Secret Life of Chaos (2009), Chemistry: A Volatile History(2010), which was nominated for a Bafta, Everything and Nothing (2011), Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity (2011), Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines(Taylor&Francis), Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Penguin Press), and Paradox: The Nice Greatest Enigmas in Science (Bantam).

About the Voltaire Lecture:
The Voltaire Lectures Fund was established by the legacy of Theodore Besterman, biographer of Voltaire, for lectures on “any aspect of scientific or philosophical thought or human activity as affected by or with particular reference to humanism.” The British Humanist Association now oversees the fund.  Previous Voltaire lecturers have included: Herman Bondi, Barbara Wootton, Bernard Crick, Richard Dawkins, Antony Flew, Michael Foot, Robert Hinde, Ludovic Kennedy, Simon Blackburn, Natalie Haynes, Robin Ince, Kenan Malik, Ray Tallis and Dick Taverne.

Event Fee:      General £15.00                  Member / student / unwaged £10.00  "

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  • Bigus D.

    Thanks to random internet links, Marcus de Sautoy, and now Jim Al-Khalili, I have a far greater understanding of the history of philosophy, science, and mathematics through what was a fairly dark time in Europe for free enquiry.

    Many people do not understand what the great Arabic thinkers did for us in not only keeping that knowledge, but by expanding it. Without them, the world would be a vastly different place.

    April 17

  • DAVID H.

    A clear but little known history which needs more air time in european/US media. A brilliant communicator.

    1 · April 17

  • Amy

    Did anyone pick up a shopping bag with a jumper and random useful stuff in it?
    I'm sure I must have left it in the pub, but its not been handed in.

    April 15

    • Bigus D.

      Yes, Steve picked it up, as it was left on the table. You'll need to contact him to get it back.

      1 · April 15

  • Steve I.

    Hadiths not Hastings- Damn auto correct!

    April 15

  • Steve I.

    Interesting and informative, delivered with Jim's usual enthusiasm. On the question of the decline of Islamic science under the Abbasids, there was a sort of counter reformation led by Al-Ashari. His sect thought discussion of scientific ideas like motion, colour,density as an 'innovation' and a sin since if they were important Muhammed and the early leaders would have discussed them. They turned away from rational speculation and empirical research to concentrate on the Qu'ran and the Hastings. Gradually this sect came to dominate and the Mu'tazilites were persecuted out of existence.

    2 · April 15

  • Christopher C.

    Very informative, fair and well balanced.

    April 15

  • Mihai M.

    Great lecture on subject we should really know more about.

    1 · April 15

  • Jim

    Great speaker: informative and amusing.

    1 · April 14

  • Andre

    Looks like it's sold out. I click the link provided, but the option of buying a ticket doesn't seem to be available.

    April 14

    • Erin N.

      It just be the time, maybe they close it early? I bought mine this late morning. Im sure if you come they will let you in, no?

      April 14

    • Andre

      Thank you Amy and Erin for pointing that out. I decided not to take my chances, as I'm currently living outside London. Hope to see everyone on Wednesday. Enjoy the lecture!

      1 · April 14

  • Fiona W.

    If anyone wishes to hear more of Jim Alkhaili, he'll be in converation at the Royal Society the next day with Bill Bryson, 'The Importance of Science: An Outsider's
    View'. 18.00 for 18.30. There will also be a live video.

    1 · April 13

  • Steve I.

    Hi all. Jo can't make it so I have a spare ticket if anyone needs one?

    April 13

    • Andre

      Hi Steve, I haven't purchased mine yet and would be happy to buy the spare one you have.

      April 13

  • terence f.

    ssad to miss this but already in demand

    February 14, 2014

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