Sunday, December 18, 2005

Farewell Terry Lane

Terry Lane, the presenter of the National Interest (who, EoR is sad to relate, has announced his retirement) was interviewed by Geraldine Doogue on ABC Radio National on the 17th of December (listen online at

Terry, who describes himself as a Marxist-Depressive (EoR can sympathise with this) was a clergyman who became a broadcaster and, along the way, an atheist.

During his interview he related how interviewing David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins had a profound effect on him, but he also told a tale from his clergyman student days which obviously had a deep and longlasting effect as well.

In the early 1960s the students were taken to the local mental hospital, presumably to broaden their worldly experiences (speaking as one who also once toured a mental hospital as part of his work, including the closed wards, EoR can understand how profound and shocking this experience can be). They were shown a ward of hydrocephalic children, deformed, able to communicate only minimally with squeaks, and who needed constant and total care.

Later, a doctor asked them if they still believed in a god. Terry pointed out that the fundamentalist students immediately answered that the disabled children existed so that others could show their compassion. Terry was not so quick to answer and, eventually, came to the conclusion that no sort of beneficent god could create such suffering simply so other people could show how 'good' they were (of course, this doesn't necessarily exclude a malevolent or deranged god, but then we're getting into gnostic issues).

The fundamentalist answer also shows what's wrong with fundamentalism (be it religious, alternative or whatever). There's no room for thought, doubt, or, most importantly there is no room for growth, development and change. Ideas are fixed and immutable, be they right, wrong, or completely inappropriate.

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