Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
WEDNESDAY 2 NOVEMBER 2005
Ms Hanne Stinson and Mr David Pollock
Q80 Bishop of Manchester:
I suspect that Alan Bookbinder, were he to be here, would be able
to show that there have been occasional programmes of that kind.
The issue which seems to be being presented to us at the moment
is not so much whether or not that kind of programme has or has
not been put on: it is whether or not the British Humanist Association
specifically has contributed to such programmes. Is that right?
Mr Pollock: No.
Ms Stinson: No, it is a different question.
You asked earlier for whom we speak. I would say quite specifically
that we are not looking for a British Humanist Association slot
on the BBC; that is not what we are looking for. If the BBC were
suddenly to say they would like some humanist features on Thought
for the Day we would come up with a pretty impressive list
of people they might want to choose. It would not include me;
it would not include the BHA. It would include humanists who I
would feel could express a view on topical issues. What we are
looking for is not that our view is represented. What we are actually
looking for is a service to non-religious people. In fact the
people who need that service most are not the people who currently
join the British Humanist Association, they are not the people
who call themselves humanists, they are the average person with
non-religious beliefs who are struggling to find a foundation
for their morality, if they think about it at all and many people
do think about it. We are looking for a service to that group
of people. We are not looking for the BHA to be represented on
To the extent that it is said to you that there are lots of other
programmes on television and radio, that rather misses the point
of what you are trying to achieve.
Ms Stinson: Absolutely; it totally misses the
Q82 Lord Maxton:
I should have thought, for instance, if there were a news itemalmost
the case you were making about Lord Joffe's Billon genetic
science in some form or other, it would be totally wrong, though
it often happens that you get the discussion and then you get
the religious point of view basically saying they are opposed
Ms Stinson: Absolutely.
Q83 Lord Maxton:
Surely at that point we could have
Ms Stinson: A humanist view.
Q84 Lord Maxton:
a humanist, or even better a genetic scientist, who probably
does not believe in god, putting his point of view, exactly why
he thinks this is right.
Ms Stinson: Yes.
Q85 Bishop of Manchester:
Or a separate religious viewpoint saying they are in support of
something. I should not like you to get away with saying it is
Mr Pollock: The situation which Lord Maxton
mentions is typical. When something in the genetic field, or whatever
it might be, comes up, the BBC looks to a clergyman, a bishop,
some religious commentator to provide the moral view on it. They
never look to a humanist moral philosopher to do that. So you
get the impression that you have a politician or scientist who
is taking a thoroughly pragmatic view of a matter and then the
morality comes in when religion comes in. It gives a very false
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.
I am afraid we have rather gone over our time, but thank you very,
very much indeed. It was very interesting and I think you put
your case very clearly indeed. If we have any other points, perhaps
we can come back to you. Thank you so much.