An excellent article, particularly for those atheists who are not excited by the pervasive left-liberal bias in humanist organisations today.
Secular humanists on the real planet of the apes
By Michael Lind
For all the variations, the common theory of human nature underlying contemporary secular humanism seems to be cosmopolitan utilitarianism, the conviction that human beings, if liberated from superstition by science, would behave less like selfish, scheming social apes and more like self-sacrificing social insects, giving their all for the good of the 7 billion members of the global human hive. “Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of human ideals…” says Humanist Manifesto III. “Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.”
The secular humanist movement avoids the difficult question of the coexistence of in-group altruism and inter-group rivalries by imagining, with John Lennon, that conflicts would vanish if only people stopped being religious and patriotic…
Unfortunately for Humanist Lennonism, evolutionary biology does not provide much hope for the sort of altruistic personal commitment to planetary solidarity that secular humanists want to encourage. Humanist Manifesto III claims that the joy in Stakhanovite that enlightened human beings liberated from religion are expected to feel—an “ought”—can be derived from an “is”—biological fact. “Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.”
But social animals are not altruists. Nor are they strict individualists. They are nepotists. As a rule social animals, like wolves, deer, humans and chimps, show favoritism to their relatives and friends and allies, with little or no concern for members of their own species with whom they have no close connection. Abrahamic monotheism insists on the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. Darwinism insists at best on the distant cousinhood of humanity.
Among humans, nepotistic solidarity can be transferred, with difficulty, to political units larger than the extended family. But national patriotism is much harder to promote than city-state patriotism, and global patriotism may be a bridge too far.
The illogical leap from the acceptance of evolutionary science to the call for world government and world taxation is typical of the intellectual legerdemain practiced by secular humanists. They assert scientific naturalism leads to the currently fashionable attitudes of North Atlantic left-liberals, but they never provide any convincing arguments for the thesis that if you believe in Darwin, you must follow Dewey…