Delivered at Conway Hall 23 March 1954. Chaired by Professor C D Darlington and presented by Dr. Jacob Bronowski.
Religious obscurantism was temporarily defeated in the 19th century by the march of science, but it has staged a comeback by exploiting the fact that science has become immensely complex and cannot offer final certainties. Religion’s riposte to science – absolute dogmatism– must be resisted, because it threatens to undermine freedom of thought.
Freedom of thought lies at the heart of science, since science attempts to establish a more ample and coherent picture of the world than was previously available. This picture hinges on universal concepts under which particular facts are organised. These concepts are the product of human intelligence, and are not God-given. Similarly, in ethics there are universal concepts and values under which our behaviour is organised. These too emanate from the human mind and are not God-given.
Neither our scientific nor ethical outlook is final: each will evolve according to the results of free enquiry. Free and rational enquiry is the hallmark of being human. Through it, human potential is fulfilled.