Sunday, 15 February 2009

Original thought

I was watching a five minute interview (it took a lot longer – it was streaming slowly) of Robert Winston, the fertility chap. One of the questions was about religion and what he thought of Dawkins and his book, The God Delusion. Winston came up with the argument I would have use a while ago, that there is no real conflict between religion and science. He said he was a good mate of Dawkins and particularly admired his work on genetics but that in this book his research was flawed.
It seems that nowadays we are not allowed to think for ourselves and must derive everything carefully from precedent. Of course it is one thing to be well read – we do indeed shape our own thoughts from many sources – but we are capable of thinking things through ourselves. We are not automata basing everything on a demonstrable and provable re-arrangement of other people's stuff. This obsession with avoiding plagiarism has given rise to the almost mythical status of the bibliography in which it takes precedence over everything else.
I think it is time that we took back the idea of original thought as something valuable and important and didn’t allow it to become almost a term of abuse and the foulest criticism that a work could have.
I have been reading about Thomas Paine's argument with Edmund Burke on this very issue. It's time it was re-addressed.
Perhaps, one day, if we want to criticise a polemic or philosophic work, we might again start saying, his thought was flawed instead of his research?