Open Mind, Free Speech, Science, Religion

A friend sent me a link (https:\\ to an interview featuring Iain McGilchrist (a psychiatrist, neuroscience researcher, philosopher and literary scholar). I found myself in agreement with much of what I was reading so, for once, instead of inflicting my own scribbles on you, here is a grouping of selected and edited extracts from what he had to say ….. 

“it’s dogma that’s always the problem .. There are aspects of our culture that have become very vociferous and very irrational, and very dogmatic and very hubristic. This is right, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong .. but .. there’s good and bad in almost everything.”

“I would say that a civilisation cannot thrive if differing points of view cannot be heard. Hannah Arendt, one of the greatest philosophers of the last 100 years, who was a German Jew and experienced Nazism, said that, Once something can’t be said, you’re already in a tyranny. So, it is indisputable that we are all now living, in Britain, in 2023, in a tyranny, because there are people who say, You can’t say these things and there will be terrible consequences if you do.”

“What I mean is that we adopt a different, less arrogant, less hubristic attitude to the world; that we have some humility; that we re-kindle in ourselves a sense of awe and wonder in this beautiful world, and with it bring some compassion to our relations with other people. Not shouting them down, vilifying them, telling them they’re frightful, but reasonably talking and saying, Okay, you disagree with me. I’m interested, explain your point of view.” 

“I think there are good scientists .. but .. Scientism is a faith. Much as there are religious fundamentalists, which I very much regret, there are fundamentalist atheists, who I regret just as much. I think a reasonable person is somebody who has an open mind.”

“I would say that any religion that peddles certainties is not a religion, properly speaking. It is a dogma or doctrine. Not that there’s no reality about it, but there is no single way of thinking about this or realising it or seeing it. Everybody has to make their own way there”. 

“All the great religions – and the great mystical traditions of Buddhism and Taoism – have central truths that they hold in common, and these are a kind of wisdom that is not appreciated unless one is brought up in a tradition that helps one see them. And our tradition is dead against seeing them. It’s much simpler just to say, Oh, it’s all nonsense, because I can’t see any of this. I can’t measure any of it. But I don’t think that is reasonable”.

“We know that some things are key to human flourishing: proximity to nature; a culture; some sense of something beyond this realm .. my appreciation of the beauty of the world .. speaks to me of something beyond this realm. It’s not primarily either intellectual or emotional. In fact, it’s spiritual.” 

2 responses to “Open Mind, Free Speech, Science, Religion”

  1. Dear Ray, I am glad you enjoyed the article I sent to you and pleased you have created a blog for it. One thing about the article though I was less sure about was what you emphasise: his, what I find, rather too easy use of the word “dogma” which co-incides with much of the way in which that word is used today. That ” dogma” is a product of the left side of the brain I do not argue with; nor do I argue thatMacGilchrist’s essential concern about the effect of the dominance of left-brain-as opposed to right -in our times. They are as serious as he says. There is however a place for “dogma” ; many of those who argue against it are doing so on their belief in another dogma- possibly that of J.S Mill’s liberalism- without realising it also is “a tenet laid down authoritatively in their minds” ( to quote S.O.E.D on the word). In other words “dogma” and ” dogmatic” are words used to describe authoritatively expressed opinions we do not like. Basically we are all challenged to discover what is an authoritative belief for us – based on a mixture of left/right side brain use- so as to live by that. Where belief in science or in religion may go wrong is when we replace the spirit of discovery with a willed assertion that does not do justice to the possibilities of future discoveries (often suggested by right-hand brain)
    WE need that is balance and MacGilchrist is right that the balance has gone far too far in one direction, but the reaching out for a dogma to live by is a necessary part of that balancing.


  2. I can buy into more or less all of that, except that I don’t myself feel any desire to be “reaching out for a dogma to live by”. I like the Oxford Dictionary of English definition of dogma – “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true”.
    I’m happy with “principle” as “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the *foundation* for a system of belief or behaviour” (which allows for freedom of movement), but I’m all for at least questioning, if not challenging, all self-styled “authorities”, and I don’t sit very comfortably with the word “incontrovertibly” – it encourages me to ask ‘who says so, on what basis, and for what purpose’?!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: