Past Meetup

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

Location image of event venue



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 "


  • 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.

    3 years ago
  • DAVID H.

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

    3 years ago
  • 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.

    3 years ago