THE GUARDIAN has posted an interview with Martin Rees, a scientist who has just been awarded the £1 million Templeton Prize.

From the outset, Rees is very stroppy, even by top scientist standards.

Mind you, Ian Sample seems intent on upsetting him from the outset as well.

Ian Sample: Congratulations on the award.

Martin Rees: Thank you.

IS: Were you already a millionaire?

MR: Sorry?

IS: Were you already a millionaire?

MR: No comment.

Then, after Rees has explained very clearly that he is a scientist and not a philosopher, Sample insists on asking him lots of philosophical questions. This forces the reluctant Rees into making clichéd responses that The Guardian then posts, no doubt to be lapped up by philosophically challenged antitheists.

Firstly, Rees insists on repeating the hoary old chestnut that science and religion are two completely different things, in the same way, he suggests, that science and aesthetics are two different things. But, of course, they are not. All "orthodox" religion makes claims about reality and non-reality. If science is the study of that which exists and religion is different to science in the way Rees suggests, then god(s) is/are not a reality. A religious apologist who uses this "two different things" gambit in order to snuggle up to atheistic scientists is basically denying the existence of god(s).

The second un-thought through comment Rees makes is this:

IS: Why don't you believe in God?

MR: Um. Which God?

IS: A God.

MR: I don't think I can answer that.

IS: Really?

MR: Mm.

IS: You must have thought about it.

MR: Yes. But there's nothing very much I want to say about that. I suppose one thing I would say, from my BBC lectures, I think doing science makes me realise that even the simplest things are pretty hard to understand and that makes me suspicious of people who believe they've got anything more than an incomplete and metaphorical understanding of any deep aspect of reality. And also I see human beings as not the culmination, but only a stage in the marvellous unfolding of evolution, because the timeline ahead is as long as the time that has lapsed up to now. Those are respects in which my professional interests affect my response to dogmatic religion.

This is an example of how to destroy your own argument in the very making of your argument. What Rees has learnt through doing science should make him almost as sceptical about science as religion (allowing him a bias towards science as he is a scientist and we all champion our own causes). It is my study of science that has led me to the belief that God is, not only a possibility, but a probability. I've explained my reasoning for this conclusion of mine before (many times), so I won't bother you with it again.

You know. I think my continued determination on this blog not to divorce religion and science is worthy of a Templeton Prize. I could do with a million pounds right now. If you lot would like to launch a campaign to get me it the next time it is handed out I promise that I will buy each of you a pint of beer should your lobbying be successful.



  1. Well, I’m obviously not going to bring you all, individually, an actual pint of beer. You will each be sent £3.50 (which is a very generous pint of beer) via PayPal.

  2. Obviously, you can ship me a bottle of Grand Marnier. You’ll have £1,000,000 after all. I can only drink the good quality French champagne. The others tend to give me a headache.

  3. Don’t pretend you know what either champagne or Grand Marnier taste like, Swampy! Believe me, you will find that a pint of English beer will taste like ambrosia compared to the usual illicitly brewed hooch you imbibe.

  4. I don’t particularly like beer, and I have, too, tasted good French champagne. I was thinking about offering to be your campaign chairwoman, but I’ve now decided against it.

  5. Christ on a cracker. If answers like this, which any moron could deliber, won him a cool mil, then all of us should be rolling in dough right about now.

    But no, some of us have to work for a living. FML. 🙂

  6. I think Rees’ s response is very sensible though I understand why you wouldn’t as it doesn’t conform with your philosophical views. I don’t blame him for being cross with the interviewer for trying to interview him about religion which is not his interest as opposed to physics which is. But I shan’t say more about it over here as that way madness lies and frankly I don’t feel like dealng with being the local whipping boy.

  7. It’s his logic that is wrong and logic is as exact as science. It has nothing to do with views (as scientists would say).

    Of course, if you can show how my logic is incorrect I will have to retract. But, of course, having kicked me up the arse you have run away. Typical woman. Typical scientist.

  8. Look we’ve been down this road before to no avail. I just think it’s too bad to ridicule Rees who seems a decent fellow and takes some pains to dissociate himself from the fundies. And like me he even goes go church.

  9. Uranium. Just send me some uranium. Quietly. I can’t buy it myself for . . . reasons.

    A huge reflector with a super-concentrative crystalline lens would be useful, too.

  10. Seriously, I would’ve ended Mr. Sample’s offensive little interview after about the second question. He was aggressively offensive, and, aside from the entertainment value of watching an interviewee get angry, that manner of interviewing elicits no benefit to the reader.

  11. There is no ridicule in this post. I start by complaining about Sample’s questions and then use Rees’ response to make a couple of valid comments about clichés.

  12. MadPriest, the Dawkinsites join you in criticizing Martin Rees. So says the Guardian.

    Rees himself declined to discuss the matter on Radio 4’s Today programme. But he did take issue with the Dawkinsites – “professional atheists” he called them – for risking the possibility that a pious young Muslim who is forced to choose between God and Charles Darwin will reject science in favour of faith.

    Rees sounds like a good guy to me. Of course, I could be wrong…

  13. For fuck’s sake, I didn’t criticise or ridicule Rees. I merely riffed off what he said to make my usual point about theology and science. Why is it that every time I mention atheists everyone gets defensive? I notice that you don’t the other 99% of the time when I am ripping religion to shreds. What is it with liberals? You would defend Pontius Pilate and blame Jesus for not being Roman friendly enough.

  14. MadPriest, do you own any music by Dicky Dawkins and the Don’ts?

    Wait. That’s not right. It’s Dicky Doo and the Don’ts. I got a little mixed up there. I was close, though.

  15. Is that not a tad critical?

    Not of the man. “Critical” is not even the correct word to use in respect of my attitude to his logic. I am merely stating that his conclusions are not logical. Or perhaps you, as an American, believe that every time somebody disagrees with you about something they are being critical of you.

  16. I am merely stating that his conclusions are not logical.

    Then you are agreeing with Rees? Applauding him? Whatever you want to call it, then. Obviously, I don’t have the right words.

  17. Your problem is not that you don’t have the right words. You, like IT, are not reading the words in the post before making comments based on what you want the words in the post to be. It is the biggest frustration I feel as a blogger and a writer. I choose my words carefully but they are not read carefully. It is, of course, exactly the same with sermons. People never criticise you afterwards about what you have said. They hear a buzz word and go into automatic response.

  18. I don’t believe it! Once again, you’re using the hoary old chestnut of telling me that I didn’t read your words. I did read your words – twice.

  19. Then you are right. Your understanding of certain words are different from my understanding of them. And you appear to view all discourse as necessarily confrontational.

  20. No. Not “confrontational,” but personal. Insomuch as your logic seems to be that if you disagree with somebody’s words you are attacking that person. This could explain why Americans, as a nation, take it so personally and get so aggressive whenever somebody from another nation disagrees with them about politics or policy.

  21. The non sequiturs boggle the mind. It’s time for me to say good-bye to this discussion, argument, aggression, or whatever you name it, MadPriest.

    I can’t leave my parting shot with a spelling mistake. 🙂

  22. Mimi,

    I and MP have some similarities in our worldview – he really wasn’t attacking Rees, or ridiculing him, but pointing out logical inconsistencies. For the most part, I read his comments as questioning Samples’ aggressively nasty prying.

    It does seem to me that, at times, Rees falls back into pat answers, but – if I am connecting with MP in this – the pat answers are the result of the rather bizarrely confrontational questioning from Samples. Rees is caught off-guard and not representing himself well because of that.

  23. Mark, I never said MadPriest attacked or ridiculed Rees.

    I think Sample was rude beyond words. I’d probably have ended the interview and gotten a bad press for that. Rees was damned either way.