"To save the world requires faith and courage: faith in reason, and courage to proclaim what reason shows to be true."
- Bertrand Russell in "The Prospects of Industrial Civilization" (1923)
My own ideas on the quote:
This idea by Bertrand Russell is very hard to understand wholly, especially as the bad word "faith" creeps into the discussion here. However, the crucial point here is to understand what Bertrand Russell really means by "faith".
It can be hard to believe that, for example, air consists of wide collection of different gases. In the end, you need a certain amount of 'faith' to believe that science can give reliable answers even to this simple question. Of course, this faith in science is based on thousands and thousands of well-demonstrated cases where science has proven to be right beyond any reasonable doubt.
Still, deep down is the issue of "faith". However, the word "trust" just could be a much better choice in this case. That trust (or in other words 'faith') is in the case of science built on real world achievements and concrete results that science has made.
Science has simply succeeded in making our lives easier in many ways. It has also successfully explained the world in meaningful ways. On the other hand, in the case of religions 'faith' is normally built on just wanting things to be as religions so soothingly claim to be.
On the other hand, if we do not think that problems are best solved with rational processes, what do we have? We have a situation where can start accepting all possible things at face value, just because we so dearly want them to be true as is the case with religions.
This does not mean at all that humans would be rational creatures, far from it. Rationality is about even trying to harness our inherent irrationality to a certain degree. The goal could just be that decisions at least in the level of a whole society could be based on rational arguments as much is possible.
The aim could just be at least not to base decisions on the level of society, for example, on irrational claims and ancient texts written in strikingly different societies.
Humans are in the end quite irrational beings. However, that does not stop us form striving constantly to achieve a greater degree of rationality. Perfect and full rationality is of course quite unattainable. However, achieving even a little bit higher degree of rationality in our the decision-making process of our society can only benefit it.
(This piece was completely refurbished on 19th of September, 2012)
Bertrand Russell is in Facebook at:
"After the first World War broke out, Bertrand Russell took an active part in the No Conscription fellowship and was fined £ 100 as the author of a leaflet criticizing a sentence of two years on a conscientious objector. His college deprived him of his lectureship in 1916. He was offered a post at Harvard university, but was refused a passport. He intended to give a course of lectures (afterwards published in America as Political Ideals, 1918) but was prevented by the military authorities. In 1918 he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for a pacifistic article he had written in the Tribunal. His Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy (1919) was written in prison."