It is with sadness that I write this post having learned of the death of Sir Harold Kroto on April 30, 2016 at the age of 76. He was a scientist of remarkable abilities and a man of great humor too. In this series I posted the Memorial by Richard Dawkins for Dr. Kroto and I also looked at Kroto’s membership in CSICOP and his admiration for Bertrand Russell and his 2 emails he sent to me on 9-18-14. Peter Coles, Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex gave an excellent tribute Dr. Kroto which I posted too.
I did not know Harry Kroto personally but I did have the opportunity to correspond with him in 2014. I sent him a letter in the spring and two in the summer and he responded with an email on 9-18-14 and I thanked him for responding in an email and then he emailed me again and even sent me a letter on 11-21-14. In that 11-21-14 letter he referred me to the You Tube film series Renowned Academics Speaking About God which has over 300,000 views on You Tube and that prompted me on 11-29-14 to start my blog series RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! Below are the links to the posts I have already done on previous Tuesdays in this series:
Arif Ahmed, Haroon Ahmed,Sir David Attenborough, Mark Balaguer, Horace Barlow, Michael Bate, Sir Patrick Bateson,Patricia Churchland, Aaron Ciechanover, Noam Chomsky,Alan Dershowitz, Hubert Dreyfus, Bart Ehrman, Stephan Feuchtwang, David Friend, Riccardo Giacconi, Ivar Giaever , Roy Glauber, Rebecca Goldstein, David J. Gross, Brian Greene, Susan Greenfield, Stephen F Gudeman, Alan Guth, Jonathan Haidt, Theodor W. Hänsch, Brian Harrison, Hermann Hauser, Roald Hoffmann, Bruce Hood, Herbert Huppert, Gareth Stedman Jones, Steve Jones, Shelly Kagan, Michio Kaku, Stuart Kauffman, Lawrence Krauss, Harry Kroto, George Lakoff, Elizabeth Loftus, Alan Macfarlane, Peter Millican, Marvin Minsky, Leonard Mlodinow, Yujin Nagasawa, Alva Noe, Douglas Osheroff, Jonathan Parry, Saul Perlmutter, Herman Philipse, Carolyn Porco, Robert M. Price, Lisa Randall, Lord Martin Rees, Alison Richard, Oliver Sacks, John Searle, Marcus du Sautoy, Simon Schaffer, J. L. Schellenberg, Lee Silver, Peter Singer, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Ronald de Sousa, Victor Stenger, John Sulston, Barry Supple, Leonard Susskind, Raymond Tallis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, C.J. van Rijsbergen, Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John Walker, Frank Wilczek, Steven Weinberg, and Lewis Wolpert,
Sir Harold Kroto is Francis Eppes Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State University. In 1996, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of C60 Buckminsterfullerene.
Ignorance, irrationality and irresponsibility of concession to faith based programs, Templeton Prizes, creationism, intelligent design, books, TV, FoxTV, mega-churches, and banks undermine education, science, economics, executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
(mega-churches benefit financially by borrowing from BOA:
1. Tax exempt initiative;
2. No tangible product offered;
3. No real risk;
4. The congregants – Bank of America customers,
5. no wealth creation
Sir Harold Kroto with models of C60 Buckminsterfullerene
Sir Harold Kroto – Beyond Belief Conference 2008
39. Sir Harold Kroto – Beyond Belief 2008
In the video above Harry Kroto talks about the Carl Sagan’s book Demon Haunted World and here is the link to my review which is below:
THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. New York: Random House, 1995. 457 pages, extensive references, index. Hardcover; $25.95.
PSCF 48 (December 1996): 263.
Sagan is the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences at Cornell University. He is author of many best sellers, including Cosmos, which became the most widely read science book ever published in the English language.
In this book Sagan discusses the claims of the paranormal and fringe-science. For instance, he examines closely such issues as astrology (p. 303), crop circles (p. 75), channelers (pp. 203-206), UFO abductees (pp. 185-186), faith-healing fakes (p. 229), and witch-hunting (p. 119). Readers of The Skeptical Inquirer will notice that Sagan’s approach is very similar.
The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal is an organization of scientists, academics, magicians, and others dedicated to skeptical scrutiny of emerging or full-blown pseudo-sciences. It was founded by the University of Buffalo philosopher Paul Kurtz in 1976. I’ve been affiliated with it since its beginning. Its acronym, CSICOP, is pronounced sci-cop C as if it’s an organization of scientists performing a police function CSICOP publishes a bimonthly periodical called The Skeptical Inquirer. On the day it arrives, I take it home from the office and pore through its pages, wondering what new misunderstandings will be revealed (p. 299).
Sagan points out that in 1991 two pranksters in England admitted that they had been making crop figures for 15 years. They flattened the wheat with a heavy steel bar. Later on they used planks and ropes, but the media paid brief attention to the confession of these hoaxers. Why? Sagan concludes, ‘Demons sell; hoaxers are boring and in bad taste’ (p. 76).
Christians must admire Sagan’s commitment to critical thinking, logic, and freedom of thought. He takes on many subjects in this book, and the vast majority of his analysis is exceptional. However, his opinions on religious matters are affected by his devotion to scientism. Sagan believes only that which can be proved by science is true. He disputes psychologist Charles Tart’s assertion that scientism is‘dehumanizing, despiritualizing’ (p. 267). Sagan comments, ‘There is very little doubt that, in the everyday world, matter (and energy) exist. The evidence is all around us. In contrast, as I’ve mentioned earlier the evidence for something non-material called `spirit’ or `soul’ is very much in doubt’ (p. 267).
Science can only prove things about the physical world, and it cannot prove anything about the spiritual world. Does that mean that the mind and soul don’t exist? Of course not! First, we must realize that science is not the only way to truth. Even Sagan must admit that he must justify values like ‘be objective’ or ‘report data honestly’. Where do those values come from? They came from outside science, but they must be in place for science to work.
Sagan gives an illustration that contrasts physics and metaphysics. He shows that the physicist’s idea will have to be discarded if tests fail in the laboratory. Therefore, the main difference between physics and metaphysics is that the meta-physicist has no laboratory. This is a cute story, but can science answer the basic questions that underline all knowledge? Metaphysics is necessary for science to take place. It is not true that science is superior to metaphysics like Sagan would have us believe. The presuppositions of science can only be validated by philosophy. J. P. Moreland has correctly said, ‘The validation of science is a philosophical issue, not a scientific one, and any claim to the contrary will be a self-refuting philosophical claim’ (Scaling the Secular City, p. 197).
Second, the absence of scientific evidence for the soul does not mean the soul does not exist. Sagan himself states, ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ (p. 213).
I was impressed with the way Sagan put his inner thoughts on the table. For instance, he comments, ‘Plainly, there’s something within me that’s ready to believe in life after death…If some good evidence for life after death was announced, I’d be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote’ (pp. 203-204). What kind of evidence is Sagan looking for? It certainly is not vague prophecies. He states, ‘Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy…Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs…Yet has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science? (p. 30). The answer to that question is yes. Christianity can point to very clear passages such as Isaiah 53 and Daniel 11 written hundreds of years before the events occurred.
While comparing science to religion, Sagan comments, ‘Science is far from a perfect instrument of knowledge. It’s just the best we have (pp. 27-28). Here Sagan is only half right. Science is imperfect, but it is not better than the Bible.’
The Demon-Haunted World is a thought-provoking book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Some of Sagan’s anti-Christian views come through, but on the whole, this book uses critical thinking and logic and applies them to the claims of the paranormal and fringe-science of our day.
Reviewed by Everette Hatcher III, P.O. Box 23416, Little Rock, AR 72221.
The Twentieth Century – A Scientific and Secular Age
The twentieth century saw a revulsion against war, partly because of the horrors of the first and second World Wars, and partly because the mass media make us aware of atrocities and suffering all over the world. Both world wars, and especially the Nazi genocide against the Jews, made many question their faith in a loving god. We still have wars and the threats of war, but the United Nations exists to encourage negotiation and resolution of conflict by other means, and to police international law on the conduct of war and on human rights. Generally, there has been greater awareness and spread of human rights and democracy in the twentieth century.
Because of their belief that this world is the only one we have and that human problems can only be solved by humans, humanists have often been very active social reformers. The early Ethical Societies set up Neighbourhood Guilds to undertake social and educational work in city slums, where it was much needed in the days before a welfare state. Most humanists believe in democracy, open government and human rights, and support action on world poverty and the environment. Some were and are pacifists, and many are active in charities and politics. Ethical societies came together as the Ethical Union, which in the 1960s became the British Humanist Association, its first director being Harold Blackham and its first President Julian Huxley. The English social scientist and academic, and founder member of the British Humanist Association, Baroness Barbara Wootton (1897-1988) became the first woman to chair the proceedings of the House of Lords. She always spoke up for humanist causes, especially on social policy.
Religion and philosophy
The twentieth century saw a decline in religious belief and an increase in secularisation in the developed world. Fewer people in Europe are actively religious and people are free to declare their disbelief in gods with little fear of reprisal or social disadvantage. Mobile populations and the mass media have made most parts of the world aware of a range of belief systems, and more liberal attitudes mean that people often feel free to choose a philosophy for themselves. The growth of studies such as anthropology, pioneered in Sir James Frazer’s exhaustive collection of myths and customs, showed religions as natural human creations, and encouraged a more tolerant attitude towards other cultures.
Few Christian intellectuals nowadays defend the literal truth of the Bible, but focus instead on its metaphorical truth and the exemplary life of Jesus. Religious beliefs have tended to evolve, casting some doubt in the minds of sceptics about what exactly Christians believe these days, or what they mean by “truth” or “God”. Theologians such as Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), Deitrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45), William James (1842-1910) and Paul Tillich (1886-1965), and developments such as liberation theology and the ideas of the Sea of Faith group, have done much to liberate academic Christian theology from religious dogma and to integrate secular and scientific ideas into Christianity. Many humanists today see little point in attacking beliefs that are no longer held except by a tiny minority of people.
On the other hand, there is still much popular conventional belief and there is a growing trend towards new religions and ideas, many of which are little more than superstition, and some of which are dangerous. In some countries there has been a growth in religious fundamentalism. Religion is still given special status and privileges in most countries, and non-religious people have often had to organise and campaign for their views to be heard.
Most twentieth century philosophers have worked on the assumption that morality is independent of religious faith e.g Sir Karl Popper, A J Ayer, G E Moore, Mary Warnock, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Wallace Matson, Antony Flew, Peter Singer, though it was still possible to cause a scandal in Britain by suggesting, as did Margaret Knight in a radio talk in the late 1950s, that morality and religion could usefully be separated.
There have been huge developments in science and medicine which have affected people’s lives and the way they think. As more and more people around the word acquire education, understanding of science has become much more widespread, and once controversial ideas such as Darwin’s theories about evolution are generally accepted. Thanks to the relatively new sciences of sociology, anthropology and psychology, our understanding of human nature and society has developed rapidly. Many scientists were and are humanists. Some, such as Sir Arthur Keith (1866-1995), Scottish scientist and anthropologist J B S Haldane, Sigmund Freud, Sir Julian Huxley and John Maynard Smith did much in the 20th century to spread understanding of science, of human nature and of evolution. Albert Einstein, who worked out the theory of relativity, one of the greatest achievements of the human intellect. was essentially a humanist and an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association.
Scientific and medical progress has produced new ethical dilemmas, and traditional religious teachings have not always been able to rise to the challenge.
Despite continued laws against blasphemy, artists and intellectuals have increasingly challenged religious privilege and conventions. In the first half of this century, the Bloomsbury Group (which included J M Keynes, Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), Leonard Woolf, E M Forster, Betrand Russell) were an influential group of writers, academics and artists, who were heavily influenced by the ethical theories of G E Moore, which stressed the values of friendship and aesthetic experience. Writers such as Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, H G Wells, and Joseph Conrad, were well-known free-thinkers and the novelist Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association from 1916.
Modern atheists and humanists
Surveys indicate that at least a third of the population of Britain are agnostic or atheist, and about 36% of the population also share the positive moral values of humanism and the British Humanist Association. Amongst them are many well known people who support the aims and values of Humanism. The work of many of these people underlines the fact that you don’t need religion to be concerned about what is right and wrong.
The non-religious tradition of Humanism has survived through centuries of writers’ work, and the written word is still important in spreading positive views. Humanist writers include novelists Philip Pullman, Ian McEwan, Terry Pratchett, John Fowles, Arthur C Clarke, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Iain Banks, Maureen Duffy, and Stephen Fry, and poets Seamus Heaney, Alan Brownjohn and Tony Harrison. The author Naomi Mitchison was an influential rationalist, and Isaac Asimov was President of the American Humanist Association for many years. Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz was a lifelong humanist. Umberto Eco, Italian novelist and semiotician, is a member of the American Academy of Humanism. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, was a humanist, as was writer, actor and raconteur Peter Ustinov. Novelist Salman Rushdie became an international cause celebre when he was the subject of a fatwa for offending Islam in his 1988 novel, Satanic Verses and spent many years in hiding in fear of his life.
Humanist journalists include Jonathan Meades, politician Roy Hattersley, and Sir Ludovic Kennedy (who is also a broadcaster, campaigner, and past President of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, now Dignity in Dying). The well known “agony aunt” Claire Rayner was a writer, broadcaster and humanist. Previous BHA President Polly Toynbee is well-known as a columnist for The Guardian.
The visual arts, theatre and music
World-acclaimed sculptor Anish Kapoor supports Humanism, as does the art historian and former director of the National Gallery, Sir Michael Levey, who has written about Renaissance humanism, and painting during the Enlightenment. Painter Francis Bacon, generally considered one of the world’s most important post-war artists, challenged conventional religious imagery and had anti-clerical views.
Sir Michael Tippett the English composer, was an opponent of organised religion, and was a conscientious objector in the 1939-45 war. The well known director of plays and operas, Jonathan Miller, trained as a doctor and has retained an interest in medicine and psychology, for example, making television programmes about the human body and the history of atheism. Playwrights David Hare and Arthur Miller support Humanism, as do actors Steven Fry and Jane Asher. Harold Pinter and Vanessa Redgrave worked with the British Humanist Association in the 1960s, trying to reduce the religious bias in broadcasting, and to improve human rights.
Politicians and social activists
Politics is an important way of improving human rights and the quality of life, here and abroad. In India radicals like Nehru and M N Roy were humanists, supported in this country by activists such as MP and humanist Fenner Brockway. Many of the mid-20th century founders of international co-operative institutions – such as Brock Chisholm, Peter Ritchie Calder and John Boyd Orr were humanists. Well-known humanists in the period included Baroness Blackstone, Nick Brown, Frank Dobson, Michael Foot, Lord Peston, Ken Livingstone, and many other MPs and peers. The late Earl Russell, Lord Dormand, and Lord Jenkins of Putney were all members of the Parliamentary Humanist Group. Today, the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group has over 100 members.
In Britain, humanist Sir Kenneth Clucas was chairman of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux for many years, while Sir Lou Sherman chaired the Housing Corporation.
Internationally, humanists continue to work for progress in human rights and overseas aid. Humanist organisations exist worldwide, varying their concerns and activities according to the situation in their country. For example in the USA, humanists are in the forefront of opposing the erosion of the constitutional commitment to separation of church and state. Humanists such as Conor Cruise O’Brien are ambassadors for the UN and international relations. Humanist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Joseph Rotblat was also an important campaigner for nuclear disarmament and world peace. The Russian leader Mikhael Gorbachev, who led the USSR out of Communism, is a humanist.
From Aristotle and the ancient scientists in India and China onwards, scientists have been at the heart of the search for knowledge and truth without traditional ideas of god.
Writers and broadcasters on scientific topics, such as David Attenborough, Steven Pinker, Carl Sagan, and Richard Dawkins have done much to increase public understanding of science.
Today, there are many humanist biology professors such as Robin Dunbar (evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology), Richard Dawkins (Darwinian evolution), Sir Alec Jeffreys (genetic fingerprinting), Sir David Smith (symbiosis), Robert Hinde, Lewis Wolpert (embryology), Peter Goodfellow (biotechnology), Steven Rose (brain function), Steve Jones (genetics), Sir Hans Kornberg (biochemistry) and Sir Thomas Blundell (plant biotechnology); chemistry professors such as Peter Atkins (physical chemistry); Nobel Prize-winning scientists such as SIR HAROLD KROTO and Sir John Sulston; and eminent physicians and medical scientists such as Sir Anthony Epstein (who discovered viruses linked with herpes), Sir David Weatherall (blood disorders), Sir James Gowans (immunology and AIDS), Sir Kenneth Stuart (liver and cardiovascular disorders), and Sir Roy Calne (transplant surgery). The late Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of DNA, biologist John Maynard Smith, and Sir Richard Doll, epidemiologist and discoverer of the link between smoking and cancer, were all humanists.
Astronomers, mathematicians and physicists include the late Sir Hermann Bondi (former President of the British Humanist Association), Sir Michael Atiyah (former President of the Royal Society), Lord Flowers (atomic structure), Sir Roger Penrose (topology and relativity) and Sir Francis Graham-Smith (radio astronomy, and former Astronomer Royal).
Many philosophers reject traditional ideas of god. They continue the non-religious tradition in philosophy, which has thrived from ancient times, and was developed by great thinkers such as David Hume, the Utilitarians, A J Ayer and Bertrand Russell (read his Why I am not a Christian), Sir Isaiah Berlin, philosopher and historian of ideas, was a non-believer and a member of the American Academy of Humanism. Humanist academics today include Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer (perhaps the most widely read current writer on ethics), Richard Norman, A C Grayling and Sheila McLean (medical ethics and law). The British Humanist Association sponsors a Humanist Philosophers’ Group.
Historians such as Sir Keith Thomas have researched and written about human beliefs and attitudes. Humanist sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists such as Laurie Taylor, Richard Leakey, Lord Runciman, Professors Robert Hinde and Robin Dunbar have studied human behaviour and thinking, and contributed to our understanding of human development. Professor Bernard Crick (politics) was chosen to lead the Government’s work on Citizenship Education. The economist and Nobel prize winner Professor Amartya Sen is a humanist.
Read more about current Patrons of Humanism.