From the crushing emptiness of heroin dependency to the ersatz intimacy of sex addiction, Russell Brand – an English icon whose increasingly extensive repertoire incorporates everything from comedy to compering – was for a long time synonymous with the more depressing aspects of the United Kingdom’s entertainment industry. No longer. Once a staple of the dire celebrity-dominated London freesheets that clogged the capital’s public transportation system for much of the second half of the noughties, Brand has pulled off one of the most compelling reinventions of modern times: drug-free, teetotal, married and monogamous, he is as likely to be seen protesting against the actions of the G20 as presenting an MTV awards ceremony.
However, even by the standards of rebranding, the Essex-born entertainer’s latest creative outing takes some beating. Writing in the 11th April 2011 issue of the New Statesman – guest edited by the slightly less implausible Jemima Khan – Brand posits a witty, generous and ultimately convincing argument in favour of religion: Why Richard Dawkins is the best argument for the existence of God.
Of his numerous acerbic points, Brand’s contention that ‘…God exists beyond the current reach of science, that one day our fast-evolving minds will know God empirically as they do now only intuitively. That the mystical will become physical’ is perhaps the most interesting as it highlights a phenomenon that the scientific community barely acknowledges: that even its most sacred paradigms are subject to reinterpretation and jettisoning. In his classic Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man (1967), renowned scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr reminds us that for much of human history, inventors have been ignorant of the science of their day, and have applied theories that have proved to be false; Nasr gives the example of the nineteenth-century inventors of the steam engine, who used a physical theory which is now considered to be scientifically incorrect.
Brand concludes by posing the rhetorical question of whether ‘a witless miasma of molecules and dust [could] ever have created anything as ingenious and incredible as Richard Dawkins‘; whether the scientific community demonstrates future reflexivity towards its shibboleths is perhaps something for a higher power to ascertain.