Excerpt from a event entitled ‘Something for Nothing’ recorded at The Australian National University on 10 April 2012.
My foundation is called the Richard Dawkins foundation for reason and science, and my primary motivation is that a reasoning approach to science is enthralling. It’s such a privilege to be alive in the 21st century and to look out at the stars and reflect on exactly the things that you’ve just been saying Lawrence, to look down a microscope, to look down an electron microscope, to look into a single cell and see the prodigious, stupefying complexity of a single cell. And then to realize that there are trillions of those cells in your body all conspiring together to produce a working machine that can walk, and run and eat and have sex and think! Reflect. Understand.
Understand why we exist. Understand where we came from. Understand where the universe came from. Understand the magnificent fact that it could all have come from nothing. And built up from nothing into galaxies, into stars, into chemistry, into primordial life, into genes, into primitive bacteria, protozoa, and then right up; the evolutionary progression to become, in Julian Huxley’s words, conscious of itself.
What a privilege it is for each one of us to have in our heads an organ which is capable of comprehending that; of constructing a model of the universe inside our heads. It is sad that that model will die when our brain dies. But my goodness what a privilege it is before we do die, to be able to construct that model in our heads and to understand why we were ever born in the first place.
And perhaps the most exciting part I’m sure for both you and I, and I hope for those of you who are students in the audience, is that we don’t know all the answers, and that’s the other fundamental difference between science and I would say religion if you want, is that religion assumes the answers and ask the questions, and we, the great thing about science is not knowing!