December 19, 2006

The Gifford Lectures On the Internets

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 1:36 pm

I have long had a particular interest in Adam Lord Gifford, who bequeathed an endowment to four Scottish universities for public lectures on natural theology. Lord Gifford stated in his will and testament dated 1885:
Lord Gifford

I having been for many years deeply and firmly convinced that the true knowledge of God, that is, of the Being, Nature, and Attributes of the Infinite, of the All, of the First and the Only Cause, that is, the One and Only Substance and Being, and the true and felt knowledge (not mere nominal knowledge) of the relations of man and of the universe to Him, and of the true foundations of all ethics and morals, being, I say, convinced that this knowledge, when really felt and acted on, is the means of man’s highest well-being, and the security of his upward progress, I have resolved, from the ‘residue’ of my estate as aforesaid, to institute and found, in connection, if possible, with the Scottish Universities, lectureships or classes for the promotion of the study of said subjects, and for the teaching and diffusion of sound views regarding them, among the whole population of Scotland[.]

This endowment began the Gifford Lectures, which have become a treasure of unimaginable intellectual wealth on the intersection of science, philosophy and theology. Past lecturers include scientists such as Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Freeman Dyson, Carl Sagan, John Polkinghorne and Noam Chomsky, and theologians such as Albert Schweitzer, Karl Barth, Reinhold Neibuhr, Paul Tillich and Stanley Hauerwas.

The Gifford Lectures are being put online. Again from Lord Gifford’s will and testament:

The ‘patrons’ if and when they see fit may make grants from the free income of the endowments for or towards the publication in a cheap form of any of the lectures, or any part thereof, or abstracts thereof, which they may think likely to be useful.

Obviously, the internet fulfills Lord Gifford’s request for a cheap form of publication. Frustratingly, only a few are online , but there are promises for much more to be added over time.

So enjoy.

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