First of all, hello. I have something of a critical email, in that I would like to take you up on your position concerning rational enquiry, but, although this will take up the majority of this letter the majority of my feeling and intent are contained in these two short sentences. Namely: Thank you for being so extraordinarily lovely. And. Your presence in my consciousness, transmitted here via the World Brain, is so very illuminating and pleasant, like a favourite lamp-shade.
Please keep these most genuine of feelings in your heart while I rip into a section of your brain.
In the last QI I watched, and in keeping with [at least what I know of] your views on reality and rationality, you voiced the opinion that scientists' default setting is "I don't know". This may well be true, but is it not fair to say that many scientists are unhappy with this state of affairs; and even that science regards what it cannot explain with some contempt? To give one example of many, the 97 per cent of DNA that scientists have not found a use for have been termed "junk DNA". Why is it not called "mystery DNA"? You might call this an accident of nomenclatural indolence, and it might so be, but it could also been seen as just another case in which what cannot be understood is dismissed or cheapened. There are many more examples. Take early anthropologists descriptions of the societies they encountered as primitive, barbaric and in some cases actually mentally ill. In addition, it is worth pointing out that a great many things that science has "known" have turned out to range from the demonstrably false to the psychopathically brutal. I need hardly go into the consequences, for example, lived out by millions, of treating human beings as rational wealth-maximising automatons.
Anyway, this is all a little besides the point. Something of an introduction. I have noticed that you use religion as a straw man to extol the virtues of rational enquiry. Religion is clearly nuts, childish superstition of the most top rank. Dawkins does the same. It is not difficult to tear apart the "truth" of the Bible or the Koran, or to laugh at newspaper astrology columns or homeopathy or what have you.
The thing is old scout, and forgive me if you've heard this before, but the rational scientific view of the world that now predominates in the media of the west was born out of the monotheistic Abrahamic religions that it is so scornful of. The idea (and it was always an idea) of an abstract (and male) transcendent deity, distinct from world affairs (and most especially from nature) is a relatively recent view that started in the near East and slowly spread into Europe. Before this (and, for the sake of brevity I'll leave out a few exceptions) the predominate view of reality was that it was (like a female) a mysterious and lovingly productive immanent whole. This view was never completely lost, it bubbled up in some esoteric strands of Buddhism (notably Zen), Sufism, Taoism, Advaita and some uncatagorisable hotch-potches in such places as Japan, but was almost completely subsumed by the new idea of the Sun God and later of Zeus, Jehova, Allah and the rest of their divine gentleman's club whose myths all portray the one transcendental God overcoming the snake and the woman (symbols of the earlier imminent view) and replacing it by abstract meaning; "God in heaven", or 'the word'. If these religions (and they are what most people understand by the word religion) had not removed meaning from the world, science would not have been able to study it objectively. As you know, science was born out of Muslim and Christian attempts to understand "brute nature".
My point is this Mr Stephen Fry and I beg you to consider or reconsider it, because it is a subtle one, easily lost in the rather crude theist-athiest debate. Reality, and by reality I mean this present moment, the whole experience of what is happening now, is, at heart, mysterious; meaning that it is greater than any little idea we can have about it, scientific or religious. When we love anything, really love, we put aside our ideas in exchange for a soft wide attentive and just can't believe it wow. Science has its place, of course, it is useful in so many ways - not least of all in cutting up the absurd pronouncements of pretenders - but it can never reach naked experience, which precedes the thought of it. To put rational thought and intellectual knowledge at the forefront of experience is to place the cart, beautiful and useful as it is, before the living horse; a frustrating experience as you once so memorably expressed thus: trying to reason yourself happy is like trying to reason yourself six inches taller.
I could go on, offering much more by way of evidence and example, but I know you are a busy man. I would cut off two fingers and eat them for the chance to discuss this matter with you, but in lieu of that I will simply ask you to look into the thin sliver of mystery that lies between the twin towers of science and superstition, and see if there might be something there. I will also direct you to my blog - http://www.gentleapocalypse.com - and, finally, I will return back to the start of this letter, with a the friendliest of gestures, a slow bow, and, on rising, the gentlest and most sincere of smiles.
Thank you Stephen,