Great interview of Jim Al-Khalili with Caspar Melville of the Rationalist Association. So much better face for the BHA.
[An] introduction to the man who has recently become, at least in principle, the most important and high-profile non-believer in Britain. In January Al-Khalili was confirmed as President of the British Humanist Association.
He has been [a convinced atheist] since he was a teenager. He is also, as a scientist, a convinced rationalist materialist who believes that there is a real world out there …. his life experience and temperament, have convinced him that a “softer” approach is required: … if you focus on what’s bad about religion that doesn’t serve any purpose.
Al-Khalili credits the outspoken atheism of Dawkins (though he doesn’t agree with everything about his approach) with clearing a path for a new, gentler and more accommodating brand of public humanism … it’s because we are winning the battle that we can afford not to be so strident, belligerent, antagonistic, confrontational. Because we’re winning the battle that more and more people can see that humanism is an inclusive thing, it’s not an exclusive club, … it’s not a sect. Because that is changing we don’t need to be on the attack against people with faith. … Al-Khalili represents a new face for British humanism.
[My emphasis] Someone with a constructive streak at last. I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall with the BHA recently, pointing out that they are in real danger of defining themselves solely in puerile terms of what they’re against – just a bit of fun apparently – rather than what they’re actually for in the real grown-up world.
Be interesting to see Jim in debate with Tariq Ramadan and Douglas Murray.
Interesting also that he makes it possible to say you’re an accommodationist. Might not be the word I’d choose – maybe integrationist (after Mary Parker-Follett), but the point is the bigger the issue the less it is about taking sides (after Slavoj Zizek).
Accommodating the positions of others is not about compromising your own. It’s not about compromise at all, nor is it about opposition; it’s about integration.
[Post Note : See also the Geek Chocolate interview with Jim Al-Khalili from last year.]