We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others, be hard on your beliefs, take them out onto the veranda and hit them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous, identify your biases, your prejudices, your privileges. Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies and then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.
… Please don’t make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another. That is a recent, stupid, and damaging idea. You don’t have to be unscientific to make beautiful art, to write beautiful things. If you need proof, Twain, Douglas Adams, Vonnegut, McEwan, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens, for a start.
You don’t need to be superstitious to be a poet, you don’t need to hate GM technology to care about the beauty of the planet, you don’t have to claim a soul to promote compassion. Science is not a body of knowledge, nor a belief system, it is just a term which describes human kind’s incremental acquisition of understanding through observation; science is awesome. The arts and sciences need to work together to prove how knowledge is communicated.
The idea that many Australians including our new PM and my distant cousin, Nick Minchin, believe that the science of anthropogenic global warming is controversial is a powerful indicator of the extent of our failure to communicate. The fact that 30% of the people in this room just bristled is further evidence still. The fact that that bristling has more to do with politics than science is even more despairing.
We’d read each other like books we were endlessly fascinated by.