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From religious fundamentalism to pseudoscience, it seems that forces are attacking the Enlightenment world view – characterised by rational, scientific thinking – from all sides. The debate seems black and white: you’re either with reason, or you’re against it. But is it so simple? In a series of special essays, New Scientist looks more carefully at some of the most provocative charges against reason. The results suggest that for all the Enlightenment has achieved, we still have a lot of work to do.
The 21st-century passion for “Enlightenment values” owes a lot to the 18th century. Philosopher A. C. Grayling discusses where those values come from and what they mean today.
Shaping a moral and humane world requires more than reason, says Archbishop Rowan Williams.
If we had to think logically about everything we did, we’d never do anything at all, says neuroscientist Chris Frith. Watch a related video
Science is routinely co-opted by governments and corporations to subvert people’s ability to make their own decisions, say sociologist David Miller and linguist Noam Chomsky.
Watch a related video.
Reason is lost without art, says Turner prizewinner Keith Tyson. Watch a related video.
Real people don’t live their lives according to cold rationality, says bioethicist Tom Shakespeare. Watch a related video.
Even in formal mathematics, reason breaks its own rules, says mathematician Roger Penrose. Watch a related video.
Unconditional reliance on a single authority is never sensible, says philosopher Mary Midgley.
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