Our Beacon Forum

The Paragon of Animals
By:Richard Dawkins Foundation, UK
Date: Wednesday, 15 August 2018, 8:21 pm

August 15, 2018


Hamlet, in the play by William Shakespeare, says that humans are “noble in reason” and “infinite in faculty.” But in the 400 years since those words were written, we’ve learned that while our reasoning may be noble, our faculty is far from infinite. We may or may not be the “paragon of animals,” but animals we are, with all of accompanying benefits and baggage.

This week, we’ll look at how humans make the choice to embrace reason or reject it. Focusing on the nonreligious, we’ll look at research on why we identify as atheist, agnostic, or “none of the above,” and it’s not always just about whether we believe in the supernatural. Then, a new study will give us a glimpse at how secular people can enjoy the social benefits of a stable community without being part of a religious congregation.

Can the road to well-being include training our brains to overcome irrational biases, to which all of us are susceptible? A fascinating feature from The Atlantic will explore whether we are doomed to remain subject to our hardwired biases.

This week we also confront a shock to the conscience, as Pennsylvania now reckons with an astonishing report on how the Catholic Church covered up the sexual abuse of thousands of victims by more than 300 priests over 70 years.

Plus, Canada and Saudi Arabia are furious with each other, and at the center of their spat are names that are all too familiar to those who have followed our efforts on the international stage: siblings Raif and Samar Badawi.

Finally, the Justice Department’s new Religious Liberty Task Force reveals itself and its agenda, and it apparently involves determining the sexual preferences of pastries. Only Stephen Colbert can help us.

Don’t forget: Richard Dawkins is coming to Dallas and Nashville this October with special guest Carolyn Porco! Get your tickets now.

Robyn E. Blumner

President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science