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Shermer on the humanist movement, and on libertarianism
Posted: 23 March 2007 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]
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http://www.objectivistcenter.org/ct-1852-M_Shermer.aspx

TNI: Now, in the past, the movement that we generally call humanism or skepticism█the movement that has accepted and defended Darwin and a scientific approach in general█has, since the beginning of the twentieth century, tended to be on the political left.

But in recent years, maybe even decades, we╠ve seen a bit of a shift. We╠ve seen more people in that camp who are self-described libertarians. I recall that you have described yourself as a libertarian. Certainly, part of this shift came from Objectivism. Objectivists, of course, favor free markets and political liberty, but don╠t come from a religious perspective. How do you evaluate the movement today that we call humanism or skepticism, say, compared to a couple of decades ago?

Shermer: I╠ve described myself as a libertarian since I was eighteen or nineteen years old. I just never publicly spoke out on it; I was busy doing other things. I didn╠t feel confident saying anything about it.

Well, the humanist movement was largely founded by academic Marxists in the 1930s. That╠s how the whole thing got started, so there╠s certain momentum there; and it╠s largely generated out of the active academy, which tends to be fairly left-leaning anyway.

I don╠t think there╠s anything inherently liberal or leftist about humanism at all, and it╠s just a cultural thing that is shifting, thanks to people like [magicians] Penn and Teller, who are libertarians, and myself. And sometimes it just works that way. It just takes somebody that other people admire to speak up and say, ¤Hey, it╠s okay to be a libertarian!Ë And because so many people admire him and love him, when Penn says this, I╠ve seen people say, ¤Really? Oh, in that case it╠s okay!Ë

Richard Dawkins makes this point in his new book. One of the reasons he wrote his book The God Delusion is that he wanted to say it╠s okay to be an atheist. And there are a lot of people who think, ¤Really? Wow, okay. Maybe I╠ll try it or I╠ll let that come out now.Ë I think such personalities speaking up will help shift the humanist movement to a bigger tent. For gosh sakes, it╠s small enough as it is, right? We don╠t want to nitpick and kick people out because you checked six of the seven boxes, but, I╠m sorry, you voted the wrong way on this one, you╠re out. Atheists can be just as bad as theists on such matters. ¤What, you╠re an agnostic and not an atheist? How can you be an agnostic? You╠re not part of our club.Ë Well, you╠ve just whittled down your club.

TNI: So, you find that the humanist or skeptic movement is more accepting now of libertarians?

Shermer: The feeling, especially among younger people, is ¤Yes!Ë

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"Few have the courage of their convictions. Fewer still have the courage for an attack on their convictions." - Nietzsche

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Posted: 23 March 2007 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Shermer on the humanist movement, and on libertarianism

http://www.objectivistcenter.org/ct-1852-M_Shermer.aspx

TNI: Now, in the past, the movement that we generally call humanism or skepticism—the movement that has accepted and defended Darwin and a scientific approach in general—has, since the beginning of the twentieth century, tended to be on the political left.

But in recent years, maybe even decades, we’ve seen a bit of a shift. We’ve seen more people in that camp who are self-described libertarians. I recall that you have described yourself as a libertarian. Certainly, part of this shift came from Objectivism. Objectivists, of course, favor free markets and political liberty, but don’t come from a religious perspective. How do you evaluate the movement today that we call humanism or skepticism, say, compared to a couple of decades ago?

Shermer: I’ve described myself as a libertarian since I was eighteen or nineteen years old. I just never publicly spoke out on it; I was busy doing other things. I didn’t feel confident saying anything about it.

Well, the humanist movement was largely founded by academic Marxists in the 1930s. That’s how the whole thing got started, so there’s certain momentum there; and it’s largely generated out of the active academy, which tends to be fairly left-leaning anyway.

I don’t think there’s anything inherently liberal or leftist about humanism at all, and it’s just a cultural thing that is shifting, thanks to people like [magicians] Penn and Teller, who are libertarians, and myself. And sometimes it just works that way. It just takes somebody that other people admire to speak up and say, “Hey, it’s okay to be a libertarian!” And because so many people admire him and love him, when Penn says this, I’ve seen people say, “Really? Oh, in that case it’s okay!”

Richard Dawkins makes this point in his new book. One of the reasons he wrote his book The God Delusion is that he wanted to say it’s okay to be an atheist. And there are a lot of people who think, “Really? Wow, okay. Maybe I’ll try it or I’ll let that come out now.” I think such personalities speaking up will help shift the humanist movement to a bigger tent. For gosh sakes, it’s small enough as it is, right? We don’t want to nitpick and kick people out because you checked six of the seven boxes, but, I’m sorry, you voted the wrong way on this one, you’re out. Atheists can be just as bad as theists on such matters. “What, you’re an agnostic and not an atheist? How can you be an agnostic? You’re not part of our club.” Well, you’ve just whittled down your club.

TNI: So, you find that the humanist or skeptic movement is more accepting now of libertarians?

Shermer: The feeling, especially among younger people, is “Yes!”

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Posted: 23 March 2007 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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DJ:

TNI: Now, in the past, the movement that we generally call humanism or skepticism—the movement that has accepted and defended Darwin and a scientific approach in general—has, since the beginning of the twentieth century, tended to be on the political left.

And it finds it’s best expression there!

Shermer: But in recent years, maybe even decades, we’ve seen a bit of a shift. We’ve seen more people in that camp who are self-described libertarians.

Re atheists and skeptics (like Shermer), not humanists.  The libertarianism DJ/Shermer refer to is a conservative, Americanized version of libertarianism which goes beyond civil liberties and anarchism (the real libertarianism everywhere in the world except post 1960’s America), and into an ultra-individualistic selfishness cult (Randianism) and/or a capitalistic libertarianism which would have been an oxymoran everywhere true libertarianism existed (since this twisted version of libertarianism is promoted and defended in the most powerful neoliberal state, many folks now more clearly call real libertarianism, Libertarian-Socialism).

Shermer: Well, the humanist movement was largely founded by academic Marxists in the 1930s. That’s how the whole thing got started, so there’s certain momentum there; and it’s largely generated out of the active academy, which tends to be fairly left-leaning anyway.

Shermer is correct here.

Shermer: I don’t think there’s anything inherently liberal or leftist about humanism at all, and it’s just a cultural thing that is shifting, thanks to people like [magicians] Penn and Teller, who are libertarians, and myself.

Here he is again confusing humanism with atheism or skepticism. Penn and Teller are hardly humanists!

Richard Dawkins makes this point in his new book. One of the reasons he wrote his book The God Delusion is that he wanted to say it’s okay to be an atheist. And there are a lot of people who think, “Really? Wow, okay. Maybe I’ll try it or I’ll let that come out now.” I think such personalities speaking up will help shift the humanist movement to a bigger tent.

As I have always argued is the main problem with “humanism” today and how CFI has defined it!  Americans are so freaked out by socialism (which was NOT what existed in the USSR, China or any other non democratic communist state), and so brainwashed by the immoral religion called ‘free market capitalism’, that they (atheists) are afraid to be true to humanism.  The big tent idea is fine for atheists and skeptics, but dilutes and currupts humanism as it turns humanism into “atheism with nebulous ethics.” 

Recall that Shermer came out of CSICOP which has nothing to do with humanism.  And I am not so sure Dawkins is a humanist either.  Why does DJ want to turn humanism into atheistic skepticism?

Shermer: For gosh sakes, it’s small enough as it is, right? We don’t want to nitpick and kick people out because you checked six of the seven boxes, but, I’m sorry, you voted the wrong way on this one, you’re out. Atheists can be just as bad as theists on such matters. “What, you’re an agnostic and not an atheist? How can you be an agnostic? You’re not part of our club.” Well, you’ve just whittled down your club.

A “humanist” club which includes free market libertarian or Randian atheism is not a club any humanist ought want to be part of. 

Anyway, humanism is not a club, it’s a socio-political philosophy with boundries which exclude unethical practices like free market capitalism!

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Posted: 23 March 2007 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Isn’t Humanism suppose to be open-minded?  I think any non-theist, Atheist (I’m not sure anymore if there is a difference between Atheist and non-theist), Agnostic, Freethinker, Rationalist, and alike can also be a Humanist, if they so choose.  I question Christain Humanists and Religious Humanists though, but I don’t deny them the right to say it though, because there are some that, amazingly, are more Humanist than Christian or Religious and they maybe afraid to drop the adjective.  So, why not Libertarians too?

Isn’t the basic, albeit extremely simplified, tenant of Humanism reason and compassion without a belief in the supernatural?  After that, I think anyone could grow as a Humanist, to rule out anyone, would not only be reducing the size of the group, not to mention being exclusive, but also denying them the chance to learn and grow freely with inquiry of whatever and ineffect denying them dignity too.  (Oh boy, that was a long winded sentence that I hope made sense)

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Mriana
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Posted: 23 March 2007 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think that’s well put, Mriana, and I’d absolutely agree with you. I am not myself a libertarian, but I don’t see any reason to narrow the humanist tent.

BTW, if you look in the past threads here, you will see some prior discussions of this issue ... :wink:

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Posted: 23 March 2007 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Myriana:

Atheist (I’m not sure anymore if there is a difference between Atheist and non-theist), Agnostic, Freethinker, Rationalist, and alike can also be a Humanist, if they so choose.

No.  Its not a matter of just choosing to call yourself something, its a matter if you ARE something. Humanists should be open-minded, but that could mean they could even believe in Moses or be racists… if it were just a matter of having an open mind about ideas.  Humanism has boundries as other such philosophies or lifestances have.

Mriana:

Isn’t the basic, albeit extremely simplified, tenant of Humanism reason and compassion without a belief in the supernatural?

No.  Those are just some qualities of a humanist.

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Posted: 23 March 2007 06:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Doug:

I am not myself a libertarian, but I don’t see any reason to narrow the humanist tent.


But American libertarianism does not meet the principles of humanism, so it was never IN the humanist tent in the first place.. until some felt they’d like to waterdown humanism to mean atheism.

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Posted: 23 March 2007 07:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Barry, clearly you believe that many of the people associated with CFI and the Council for Secular Humanism (or who write for CSH’s publication Free Inquiry) are not humanists. Do you in fact consider it a humanist organization?

What about the American Humanist Association? I note in their Humanists of the Year they include Steven Pinker, Murray Gell-Mann, Dan Dennett, Steven Weinberg, Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Ted Turner, John Kenneth Galbraith, B.F. Skinner, etc. Now, one would expect that a “humanist of the year” must first and foremost be an actual humanist. Are these then all humanists? Or does the AHA also not know what a humanist is?

What about the Institute for Humanist Studies? THERE they say that humanism is, in brief, “a philosophy of life inspired by humanity and guided by reason. It provides the basis for a fulfilling and ethical life without religion.” They also provide a number of dictionary definitions of humanism at the bottom of the webpage, e.g., “The rejection of religion in favor of the advancement of humanity by its own efforts.” Collins Concise Dictionary. Does the IHS not know what humanism is? Do these dictionaries all get it wrong by having definitions that are too broad?

Then there’s the International Humanist and Ethical Union that defines humanism as simply: “a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.” (I should add that they include the CSH as a humanist organization in their list). Do they also get it wrong by being too broad-minded?

:?:

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Posted: 23 March 2007 07:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I have to admit that I see Barry’s point. The free-market ideology of libertarianism is like fascism in that it is brutal and quite bad for human dignity and well-being. I’m not sure how serious we can take someone if they claim that Mussolini was a humanist.

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Posted: 23 March 2007 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Doug:

Barry, clearly you believe that many of the people associated with CFI and the Council for Secular Humanism (or who write for CSH’s publication Free Inquiry) are not humanists. Do you in fact consider it a humanist organization?

Yes, it was set up as such, and PK was an actual humanist… if of the old school. Kurtz is a New Deal or Social Democratic a la Sweden in the 1970s, which IS humanistic in that it’s attempt was to put a humane face on capitalism - a moral thing to do.  However, neither the New Deal or the Swedish model went far enough and have ultimately failed, so a humanistic approach needs to consider something which capitalism cannot overthrough so easily.  But since it seems capitalism is reform-proof, the only ends must be the end of capitalism altogether.  It’s not the 1970s anymore - when Kurtz began CSH - and humanism always grows in light of new information.

Doug:

What about the American Humanist Association? I note in their Humanists of the Year they include Steven Pinker, Murray Gell-Mann, Dan Dennett, Steven Weinberg, Edward O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, Ted Turner, John Kenneth Galbraith, B.F. Skinner, etc. Now, one would expect that a “humanist of the year” must first and foremost be an actual humanist. Are these then all humanists? Or does the AHA also not know what a humanist is?

It is clear that the AHA suffered some of the same results of the anti-communism movement and has also watered down humanism to a degree… Albeit a far lessor degree than CSH.  That AHA offered that award to some of these people is disturbing to me, but as I have made clear.. this is a problem with organized humanism.  It is clear that in some of the cases you cite, these people were honored either for their science or atheism and thus were more fit for awards from American Atheists or the Freedom from Religion Foundation or some science advocacy group.  Indeed, if CSICOP or CFI in general gave someone like Dawkins or Wilson awards, they would no doubt be for either their contributions to science and/or atheism (not too sure about Pinker re the former, though). 

Anyway, while AHA certainly “gets” humanism politically, far more than CSH does, and also seems to have a better grip on the problems with American Libertarianism or capitalism than CSH, AHA still seems to promote free will doctrine and a Hobbesian form of human nature at times (Pinker, Dawkins, Wilson).  My guess is that big names help promote organizations, another major problem re organized humanism. 

Anyway, both CSH and AHA promote and defend “traditional” humanism which combines 18th century Enlightenment principles with 19th century free will ideas with post-Humanist Manifesto I anti-socialist leanings.  But I do see that AHA is trying to grow into 21st Century humanism as of late, and this is a good sign.  But if I were to point anyone to either or organization to get an overview of traditional (quickly becomming both stale and scientifically and politically outdated) humanism - from which they should begin their own humanist journey - I’d point to AHA at the moment.

Doug:

What about the Institute for Humanist Studies? THERE they say that humanism is, in brief, “a philosophy of life inspired by humanity and guided by reason. It provides the basis for a fulfilling and ethical life without religion.” They also provide a number of dictionary definitions of humanism at the bottom of the webpage, e.g., “The rejection of religion in favor of the advancement of humanity by its own efforts.” Collins Concise Dictionary. Does the IHS not know what humanism is? Do these dictionaries all get it wrong by having definitions that are too broad?

These definitions are too broad, and recall that IHS is an offshoot of CSH (Matt Cherry having come from CSH), and their mission is to support groups like AHA, CSH and others.  In short, they are another example of traditional, organized humanism. 

You really have to be careful Doug, not to fall into the trap of believing that because someone (Kurtz, Cherry, etc) begins a NP company or group to “promote and defend” a philosophy, that the resulting group(s) have the authority - or are an authority - on what the philosophy they promote and defend actually is.  Stalin and other Soviet leaders, plus Mao and Castro called themselves and their countries’ socialist, but they hardly were.  If a humanist (based on as I have defined the philosophy) were to start such a group or company (probably not a company because that is from the get go corrupted by capitalism), the group would be very different from CSH or AHA… and it would soon fail to make money… Making money requires a ‘big tent’ approach and is why CSH is doing very well, AHA less well but OK, etc. 

Capitalism abhors a precise radical philosophy which both denounces capitalism itself and refuses its aid in the spreading of its ideals.  Plus, it seems that at least CFI does not even consider humanism when it hires staff… looking merely for atheists, agnostics or skeptics.  Actually, I think the four of us producers on ETFF (all politically different) provide a more percise and accurate definition of humanism re most of our guests… check it out!


Doug:

Then there’s the International Humanist and Ethical Union that defines humanism as simply: “a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”

This definition seems more to the point of what humanism really is, while not getting too technical or heady.  But it too is flawed (re “responsibility”... showing the free will bias).  Still, it at least talks about a humane (not just human centered) society, democracy and ethics… But it really leaves these ideals too open for interpretation.  Who’s idea of humane?  Some persons argue that the war in Iraq is humane because Saddam is gone.  Whose ethics?  Ethics which support Israel’s actions re the Palestinians or ethics which support the Palestinians?  What sort of democracy? Hierarchial, pseudo-democracy such as representative democtracy or inclusive democracy?

Still, this list of groups you supplied - in the order you supplied them - moved from the least percise/most vague definition to one a bit more precise and accurate.

But again, I do not “buy” your appeal to authority.

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Posted: 23 March 2007 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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It is not an appeal to authority so much as a question of definition of terms. If I want to know what it is to be a chemist, I go to chemists or chemist organizations or chemical societies and ask them. If they don’t know, nobody does.

You have one definition of humanism that involves essential reference to the end of capitalism, and if I recall correctly, the end of the state as well, to be replaced by an anarchist utopia of some sort.

These are perhaps four of the biggest humanist organizations on the planet, and they have remarkably similar definitions of what it is to be humanist. None of them refer at all to capitalism or any economic belief, and none refer to beliefs about the state.

Now, as tom_g points out, I am sure all involved would agree that Mussolini is no humanist, so one might argue that there is more involved. However the particular “more” that you are suggesting is not clearly accepted by any of them. (I would also suggest that there is some significant daylight between libertarianism and fascism ... not being a libertarian myself, I’m not going to go through the motions here, but perhaps DJ or one or another libertarian can explicate the difference).

So I would submit that you are redefining “humanism” when you say that so-and-so is not humanist. You are using a new definition of the term. This is bound to cause confusion and strife within the community, as it is demonstrably not the way the term is used by the majority of self-claimed humanists. I would suggest you look for a different term to describe your own form. How about “radical humanist”?

Then you might say, without confusion, “So and so is a humanist, but he isn’t a radical humanist, and we all ought to be radical humanists.”

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Posted: 23 March 2007 10:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Doug:

It is not an appeal to authority so much as a question of definition of terms. If I want to know what it is to be a chemist, I go to chemists or chemist organizations or chemical societies and ask them. If they don’t know, nobody does.

Well, if the folks at the chemist organization were actual chemists, of course!  raspberry

Doug:

You have one definition of humanism that involves essential reference to the end of capitalism, and if I recall correctly, the end of the state as well, to be replaced by an anarchist utopia of some sort.

No. The end of capitalism is indeed a part of a humanistic future, but as I said elsewhere, issues on the State are a bit less clear. Can we create a fair, truely democractic state or is the state inherently overly hierarchial for this?  This is a good “within” humanism topic!  And there is nothing utopian about my ideas.. and nothing purely anarchistic either.

Doug: These are perhaps four of the biggest humanist organizations on the planet, and they have remarkably similar definitions of what it is to be humanist.

Kurtz was with AHA and began CSH.  Cherry was with CSH and began ISH.  EC was independent but influenced Kurtz and perhaps Cherry.  These “humanist” apples don’t fall far from the tree of traditional humanism they came from.. and again, once humanism becomes a large Non-Profit “company,”  re humanism the philosophy, all bets are off.  It gets very tricky from there on in.

Doug:

None of them refer at all to capitalism or any economic belief, and none refer to beliefs about the state.

For reasons I allready explained.  The fact is that these issues are central to modern humanity and ethics and so central to humanism

Doug:

So I would submit that you are redefining “humanism” when you say that so-and-so is not humanist. You are using a new definition of the term. This is bound to cause confusion and strife within the community, as it is demonstrably not the way the term is used by the majority of self-claimed humanists. I would suggest you look for a different term to describe your own form. How about “radical humanist”?

No, I am not RE-defining humanism, just defining it more percisely and clearly than organized humanism has generally done (at least in their simplified definition sentences).  I see American Libertarians and Conservatives who call themselves humanists using a re-defined version of the philosophy.  Also, I do not know what a radical humanism would be?

PS:  I see the new issue of Free Inquiry states on the cover that the “Jesus Project” is “perhaps the most important commitment we will ever undertake.”  If by we, CSH is implied, I am beside myself.  The most important commitment of a humanist organization possibly ever undertaken concerns Jesus?  That’s the best CSH can come up with?  :(

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Posted: 23 March 2007 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Barry I’m just curious what, in your opinion would a humanist economic model look like?

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Posted: 23 March 2007 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The sky is falling.  I agree with Barry’s earlier post.  :D

If you dig out the AHA Humanist Manifesto III (written by Paul Kurtz before he left them), and the platform of the Libertarian party you’ll see major differences. 

The Libertarians are much more oriented toward self-interest and self-sufficiency.  If you can’t pay for a service, you don’t deserve it, and this includes those presently supplied by government, e.g., roads, education, police, fire, emergency services, etc.  All services would be supplied according to the free market.  That means no control of radio and television, and utilities would cost what the market could bear.

Central to, or at least a good part of Humanism, in my view, is humanitarianism - respecting and caring for others. 

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Posted: 23 March 2007 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]I think that’s well put, Mriana, and I’d absolutely agree with you. I am not myself a libertarian, but I don’t see any reason to narrow the humanist tent.

Thanks Doug.  smile

[quote author=“Mriana”]Atheist (I’m not sure anymore if there is a difference between Atheist and non-theist), Agnostic, Freethinker, Rationalist, and alike can also be a Humanist, if they so choose.

[quote author=“Barry”]No. Its not a matter of just choosing to call yourself something, its a matter if you ARE something. Humanists should be open-minded, but that could mean they could even believe in Moses or be racists… if it were just a matter of having an open mind about ideas. Humanism has boundries as other such philosophies or lifestances have.

[quote author=“Mriana”]Isn’t the basic, albeit extremely simplified, tenant of Humanism reason and compassion without a belief in the supernatural?

[quote author=“Barry”]No. Those are just some qualities of a humanist.

Barry, I didn’t say it was just a matter of just having an open-mind.  I also said reason and compassion without the belief in the supernatural.  Yes, they are some qualities, but there has to be a starting point for everyone who looks into Humanism and decides to become a Humanist.  You can become a Humanist, you can grow into being a Humanist by learning and studying Humanism.  One doesn’t just know how to be a Humanist from the start, they have to learn to be and grow into a Humanist.  Goes right back to Paul Kurtz’s “Courage to Become”.  One doesn’t wake up one morning and suddenly knows everything there is to being a Humanist anymore they would if they decided to be an Episcopalian, Lutheren, Methodist, Catholic, or JW even.  They take classes and learn about it.

Barry, these are for you:

From the AHA:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Sounds like Gene Roddenberry.  LOL  Seriously though, aspiring to the greater good of humanity also deals with reason and compassion, which in turn hopefully gives dignity to humans- the individual and others.  Sorry, but I don’t see Moses there.  Was he even real?

From the Council of Secular Humanism:

Secular Humanism is a way of thinking and living that aims to bring out the best in people so that all people can have the best in life. Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.

Well, seems to be a longer and more detailed version of what I said.  I still don’t see Moses there either.  Wasn’t he that Bible character who watched God zap the 10 Commandments on the tablets?  Humm…  Sounds like something supernatural to me, so nope, I don’t think a belief in Moses counts.

From the Humanist Manifesto III:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

Humm… an even longer version of what I said and I still don’t see Moses or an anthropomorphic God zapping Commandments into stone.  In fact, it’s my understanding the we Humanists reject the Bible.  We aren’t afraid of critiquing it, but we don’t have much to do with it otherwise because it’s myth, errant, and a bunch of stories. So, I don’t think a belief in Moses counts.

From Jeaneane Fowler’s book “Humanism: Beliefs and Practices”:

Humanism is concerned with the secular, rather than the religious; with this life, as opposed to projections of life beyond death when the human no longer exists; and with the immediacy of the temporality of human existence rather than any suggestions of the eternal nature of the human.

The emphasis on the human and not the divine serves to dislodge Humanism from overly religious perspectives and, therefore, though it has much to say against religious belief, Humanism encompasses atheist, rationalist, naturalist, ethicist and secular viewpoints.

Well, there goes any belief in Moses.

She quotes IHEU to I’ll go to the site:

Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

A little more detail, but it is basically a summery of what is said in the Humanist Manifesto III.  According to this, it does not accept a belief in Moses.  CFI believes in reason and free inquiry, I’m not so sure about Moses or even a racist.  Racists don’t wish to get to know others or even learn about others.  They rather stay ignorant.

COHE in their demo course has several similar definitions also (scroll down):  http://humanisteducation.com/demo.html

Correct me if I’m wrong, Doug, Barry, or anyone else.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 23 March 2007 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I’m not nearly well-educated enough to pass judgement on most of these politico-economic systems, but I have a few thoughts on defining humanism I want to share.

Briefly, as a metaphor, there have been scientists from a long way back that all had very different ideas about their respective specialties. Isaac Newton is obviously a well-regarded scientist (and we have no problem calling him one) but no one accepts his theories as accurate any longer. What matters isn’t so much the exact ideas he accepted, but how he came to his conclusions. Science is a method, not a set of dogmas or doctrines.

In the same way, it seems to me it would be perfectly fair for people to call themselves humanists even if they didn’t necessarily buy into a particular economic scheme. You may argue that that scheme is incorrect or less effective than another, but I don’t understand how that would necessarily prove that someone isn’t a humanist. You can disagree with someone’s interpretation of the facts, but I think it would be incorrect to then attack that person with a no-true-scotsman’s fallacy. If their motives are “based on compassion and informed by reason” without any deus ex machina involved, I don’t see any reason to deny them the humanist label if they prefer it. Again, here, humanism isn’t about dogmas or doctrines but hopefully about the methodology involved.

In any case, any economic theory we now have will (hopefully) be replaced by even better theories in the future; does that mean that none of us are humanists, because we’ve bought into a less effective idea? By all means, argue that your system is the most effective, but this sniping and name-calling just seems to me to be childish and, ultimately, self-defeating.

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