What do the Charlie Hebdo murders and the rise of the Islamic State owe to Islam? It would be comforting to insist, as many have done, that they owe nothing at all; but Holland, in the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture, argues that the truth is more complex. The best way to combat jihadism, he proposes, is to recognise the centrality of Muhammad to Islam – and that he comes in many forms. There is the moral leader who swallowed abuse peaceably; and there is the war leader who ordered people who insulted him put to death. How best, then, to de-radicalise the Prophet? Tom Holland is author of In The Shadow of the Sword, Rubicon, Persian Fire, Millennium and the new translation of The Histories by Herodotus. Chaired by Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times.
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
This event was recorded for broadcast on the BBC World News programme Talking Books.
The Australian writer and thinker is often described as the world’s most influential living philosopher. He is known especially for his work on the ethics of our treatment of animals, for his controversial critique of the sanctity of life ethics in bioethics, and for his writing on the obligations of the affluent to aid those living in extreme poverty. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Most Good You Can Do, The Life You Can Save, Famine, Affluence and Morality, and most recently Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter. He talks to the Festival president.
Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather. The author of The Old Ways, Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places shows that language, well used, is a keen way of knowing landscape, and a vital means of coming to love it.
In a world of broken institutions and failing states, of corrupted democracies and of post-truth politicians; in a world of fake news, faith schools and fundamentalism, we need a rational and humane voice. We need a new Enlightenment. Where do we start?
A conversation about how their Quaker faith has informed the life and work of three writers: the actor Sheila Hancock’s books include the memoir Just Me and the novel Miss Carter’s War; award-winning poet Philip Gross’s collections include The Water Table, Deep Field and the forthcoming A Bright Acoustic; Tracy Chevalier’s novels include Girl With a Pearl Earring, At the Edge of the Orchard and now New Boy.
This special event marks the UK launch of Kent Nerburn’s award-winning work of creative non-fiction depicting the epic and intensely moving journey he made over 20 years ago with a Native American elder named Dan. Musician Robert Plant picked up a copy of Neither Wolf Nor Dog whilst touring the States in 2014 and his passion for this masterpiece has led to its publication here in Britain.
How and why do we survive, and what makes us unique? A conversation between a novelist and a scientist exploring the worlds they inhabit in Doctorow’s superb new speculative fiction Walkaway and Rutherford’s A Brief History of Everyone who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes.
A theologian and a neuroscientist explore the concept of consciousness: is it unique to humans? Are we all simply machines? Do we have free will? Can we invoke an enhanced collective consciousness? Bringing together findings from science and insights from religion they unpick what it means to be conscious. Williams is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge and a former Archbishop of Canterbury. Critchlow is named as a British Council's Top 100 UK Scientists for her work in communication and author of Consciousness: A LadyBird Expert book, which will be launched at Hay.
The winner of the 2014 Wellcome Book Prize introduces his wise and compassionate book Far From The Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love. Ten years in the writing, it tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. Chaired by Hay Festival President Stephen Fry.
Karen Armstrong, former Roman Catholic nun and one of our foremost scholars of religion, speaks out to interrogate the link between religion and bloodshed.
Religion is as old as humanity: Fields of Blood goes back to the Stone Age hunter-gatherers and traces religion through the centuries, from medieval crusaders to modern-day jihadists. Today we regard faith as a personal and private matter, but for most of history faith has informed people’s entire outlook on life, and has often been inseparable from politics. Fields of Blood is a celebration of the ancient religious ideas and movements that have promoted peace and reconciliation across millennia of civilization.
Humans don’t always behave as you expect them to. Sometimes their responses and actions are completely irrational – we don’t always make perfect decisions – but the model we base everything on is a rational one. Why? If we design our systems, our government, and all the products and services we use for perfect, rational people, is it any wonder they aren’t working? The Stanford academic and political advisor believes that change is possible and necessary: that we can create a more local, more accountable, more human way of living that will make us more productive, more fulfilled and ultimately happier.
This year’s lecture is given by the Nobel Prize-winning economist, author of The Idea of Justice and Identity and Violence – The Illusion of Destiny. Chaired by Nik Gowing.
Join the superstar neuroscientist on a voyage of conscious discovery. A 1.5 kg brain tissue mass magically produces our individual view of the world, our myriad emotions, memories, associations and thoughts that make each of our lives unique. Why are neuroscientists only able to properly probe consciousness now? And what are we yet to discover? Come with an open mind...
A classicist and a neuroscientist explore the Ancient Greek words Liberty, Comedy, Charisma, Xenia, Wisdom and Peace and travel both forwards and backwards in time, investigating how these ideas have been moulded by history and have made an impact on history and the human experience. Hughes is the author of Helen of Troy – Goddess, Whore and The Hemlock Cup. Critchlow is named as a British Council's Top 100 UK Scientist for her work in communication.
Questions of masculinity have been at the heart of Sheers’ writing for 20 years, in his plays Mametz and The Two Worlds of Charlie F, in his fiction Resistance and I Saw A Man, and in his poetry – most clearly in Pink Mist. In 2012 he was also artist in residence with the Welsh Rugby Union. Here he interrogates ideas of masculinity in essay form, and reimagines a man’s world.
Following on the success of last year, the Professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE is back for part two of his now published and bestselling book Happiness by Design. Through ‘Decide, Design and Do’, he reveals the ways in which we can actually become happier without having to think too hard about it. Change what you do, not how you think, to get more pleasure and purpose in everyday life.
Born and raised in Essex, Maajid Nawaz was recruited into politicised Islam as a teenager. Abandoning his love of hip hop music, graffiti and girls, he was recruited into Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Liberation Party) where he played a leading and international role in the shaping and dissemination of an aggressive anti-West narrative. Arriving in Egypt the day before 9/11, his views soon led to his arrest, imprisonment and mental torture, before being thrown into solitary confinement in a Cairo jail reserved for political prisoners. There, while mixing with everyone from the assassins of Egypt’s president to Liberal reformists, he underwent an intellectual transformation and, on his release after four years, he publicly renounced the Islamist ideology that had defined his life. This move would cost him his marriage, his family and his friends as well as his personal security.
Nawaz now works all over the world to counter Islamism and to promote democratic ideals through his organisation, the Quilliam Foundation, and is standing for Parliament.
Two authors discuss how bereavement encouraged them to tell their own life stories against all the odds, in a society where men still often suffer silently. Historian and Professor Hywel Francis chairs Byw Nawr/Live Now, the end-of-life-care coalition in Wales. He talks to ex-miner George Brinley Evans and broadcaster Phil Steele. Taubert is a palliative and end-of-life-care consultant at Velindre Cancer Centre. They offer a clinical perspective on male depression and grief.
The uncompromising and passionate rationalist calls on us to insist that reason take centre stage and that gut feelings, even when they don’t represent the stirred, dark waters of xenophobia, misogyny, or other blind prejudice, should stay out of the voting booth. He investigates a number of issues, including the importance of empirical evidence, and decries bad science, religion in the schools, and climate-change deniers. Dawkins has equal ardour for ‘the sacred truth of nature’ and renders with typical virtuosity the glories and complexities of the natural world. When so many highly placed people still question the fact of evolution, Dawkins asks what Darwin would make of his own legacy - 'a mixture of exhilaration and exasperation'– and celebrates science as possessing many of religion’s virtues – 'explanation, consolation, and uplift' – without its detriments of superstition and prejudice. Chaired by LBC's Matt Stadlen.
Comedian, writer and performer Ruby Wax, with some help from monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura, has delved deeply into what it means to be human in an age obsessed with the latest technology. She now provides a manual to upgrade our minds so that they don’t get left behind. In this event Ruby, Ash and Thubten talk about brains, bodies and mindfulness.
Satish Kumar, a former monk and long-term peace and environmental activist, talks us through his life: his 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage, co-founding the Schumacher College, and his hopes for the future.
In 1902 HG Wells wrote ‘Humanity has come some way, and the distance we have travelled gives us some earnest of the way we have to go. All the past is but the beginning of a beginning; all that the human mind has accomplished is but the dream before the awakening.’ The astronomer boldly explores post-human evolution and offers a SWOT analysis of mankind’s short- and longer-term futures. He considers the risks of asteroid impact, climate change and, most worrying of all, the downsides of biotech, AI and other fast-advancing technologies. Chaired by Dan Davis.
The philosopher challenges long-held views on just wars, ethical conduct during war, why wars occur, how they alter people and societies; and how we might reduce their frequency, mitigate their horrors and lessen the burden of their consequences.
How will health improvements and a declining birth rate, economic uncertainty and political turbulence affect an ageing population in Britain and around the world? There are new challenges here for states and for individuals. How might we re-imagine lives that run four score years and ten, and longer? Harper is Professor of Gerontology at Oxford University and Director of the Oxford Institute of Ageing. She is the author of How Population Change will Transform Our World. On 1 May she will be become the Director of The Royal Institution. Chaired by Guto Harri.