Friday, 2 June 2017

The Hay Festival:The Christopher Hitchens Platform: A New Enlightenment

The second Hay festival event I went to was in the big, 'Tata' tent (which seats around 1,700 people, so 'tent' feels like a bit of an understatement.

Such an awesome line up: Stephen Fry, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Lawrence Krauss,  historian Bettany Hughes, and astrophysicist Martin Rees, (the Astronomer Royal). It made for a fascinating conversation to listen to.

The starting point of the discussions was whether we need (and whether we are likely to get) a new Enlightenment, with debate about whether we are seeing a beneficial democratisation of knowledge, or a dumbing down - Martin Rees pointed out that knowledge is more readily available but harder to distinguish from 'crap'.

The discussions also covered religion and science and stories "Science is a story. It's a story that makes predictions. But the arbiter of truth is not the story, it's observations.  It's a story you can test" [Lawrence Krauss]

There was also consideration of fanaticism, and whether the modern availability of knowledge and communication might mean that the current wave of fanaticism might pass faster than previous, historical incidences - perhaps the phase will pass faster than it did for, say, Christianity.. which is, I guess, a hopeful view.  

It was a very interesting and thought-provoking conversation, (although the tent did get very stuffy!)

The BBC was present and the whole talk is available online, although it may be region-locked.

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