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Why our movements are failing and how we can make them succeed
Posted: 06 April 2009 07:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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The sense I’ve gotten from the brief time I’ve spent monitoring this forum fits well with the responses I’ve seen on this thread

Most of the posters have some loose sense of unity with the other posters, at least as an online community.  But, it doesn’t seem to go much beyond sharing some common interest in favoring rational thought and reason over superstition and supernatural beliefs.

Frankly, for me, that’s all I’m looking for and I appreciate it for that.

So, good luck to PLaClair and his crusade to rally people around a humanist banner.  But, I think you’re going to have a difficult a time establishing the church of humanism, at least with this bunch.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 03:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Hawkfan - 06 April 2009 07:35 PM

The sense I’ve gotten from the brief time I’ve spent monitoring this forum fits well with the responses I’ve seen on this thread

Most of the posters have some loose sense of unity with the other posters, at least as an online community.  But, it doesn’t seem to go much beyond sharing some common interest in favoring rational thought and reason over superstition and supernatural beliefs.

Frankly, for me, that’s all I’m looking for and I appreciate it for that.

So, good luck to PLaClair and his crusade to rally people around a humanist banner.  But, I think you’re going to have a difficult a time establishing the church of humanism, at least with this bunch.

Thanks. I’d be satisfied with a recognition that religion and faith have many facets, only one of which is belief in the supernatural, and that therefore a scientific naturalist (who thinks rationally and objectively at all times and never lets his emotions overcome his reason) need not categorically reject them, toss them on the floor, stomp on them until every trace is obliterated and get PO’d and walk out if anyone dares to suggest that there might be something in them worth having.

Shame on me, in a sense, for using the word “them.” There’s no “there” there. This heated discussion has been about labels for human categorizations for abstract concepts; reading the discussion, one might think that it was about concrete entities like steel or water. That’s why so much in these discussions is just silly. These are just words. Much of this arguing isn’t about whether we are going to promote a rational, secular and scientific world view - we all agree on that, supposedly. The arguing is about how “we” are going to categorize things. What many of our members overlook is that there are many perfectly valid ways to categorize things, especially human artifices like faith and religion.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 04:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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I am following the ‘PLaClair’ discussions with interest for a while, but find it difficult to react, e.g while it is close to the ‘do not hurt my religious feelings’ thing. I may repeat some thing others said, but I will just offer my 2 cents (or even less…).

I think the problem with ‘a-theism’ is really in the ‘a’: one cannot bring people together on just being against the others (what the heck did Chaves and Ahmadinedschad have in common? Oh, it is their anti-americanism. Wonder what they really have in common…). Being non-something leaves a very broad spectrum of life views.
The word Omnibus brought in, ‘rationalist’ is also a key: a rationalist thinks for himself, (or is at least prepared to do this when needed), (s)he does not accept some truths just on authority. But exactly this kind of authority comes in when we would have some ‘Reverend Ratio. Prof Dr Knowitall’. A reverend (priest, whatever) is the one who knows better or more, or has a directer thread to reality, and therefore you can trust his word, it surely will be rational. I know, Paul, that is not what you mean, but for some kind of Secular ritual, anybody could be the ‘majordomus of the party’: parents, some best friend, you choose.
Part of the problem, I am afraid, lies in the fact that the human brain really is ‘religion prone’. Looking for security and reasons why things happen: it feels better to have an answer, even if it is not empirically justified. Mimicing church structure would induce such demeanor. I think most CFIers I read here, are quite allergic against such structures.

Then the use of the words ‘faith’ and ‘religion’: I both agree and disagree with you. I think I know what you mean, I personally have no problems with these words (I used to call myself a ‘religious materialist’) and I really think that at least the feeling of ‘having faith’ is a very important condition for being happy (otherwise one must live in fear continuously). But one should not try to answer in any detail what it is that you have faith in: as soon as one is trying to answer this with an objective mind set, (s)he is excluding people with a faith in something different. And there the quarrel starts, at the end are religious wars. So for me the use of these words reduces to strategy: is it a good idea to use these words when argumenting for my case? And there I think in general: no. As Mriana said, I assume a lot of people coming out of some religion will hate these words. But there might be exceptions, and I think you, Paul, referred to this in one of your first postings about these topics: it depends on who you are talking to, and what you want from the conversation. If you want to explain that secularism is not just ‘cold, deadharted philosophy’, go ahead, name your secularist and religious feelings.

But trying to gather under this banner to make the secularist movement stronger is not a good idea, I think. There are too many different ideas below the surface of secularity. We cannot unite, but we can at least support each other in that what we have in common: opposition to unjustified claims about reality, especially when they are the basis for (political) actions.

Between the lines (but here I might be wrong) I have the idea that in your ‘born again’ religious experience you feel you have seen some truth, that would be valid for all of us, and that there lies one reason why you argument your case so vehemently. And I think there lies also the point where most secularists/humanists/rationalists will not follow you.

GdB

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Posted: 07 April 2009 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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dougsmith - 06 April 2009 09:47 AM

Some things that help keep communities cohesive:

—Unity of aims
—Charisma of leadership
—Effectiveness of marketing
—Strength of opposition

... among others. The last one should not be overlooked.

I think Doug sees the more likely pathways here towards Humanism emerging from the shadows. I once felt, as Paul does, that somehow canonizing Humanism as a de facto religion would by itself bring things forward, but not anymore. It is bad enough that H’s ranks are rank with simple atheists who are social climbing over our inert bodies. Let’s not involve ourselves further with theists or atheists, to any purpose - I have come to believe the input of others here that any association with religion will be distasteful and counterproductive to nascent or would-be Humanists.

Back to Doug’s points, above.

—Unity of aims
So we are not to be a religion - so be it, instead let’s be a cause. The obvious cause for a Humanist is to be an apologist for and a critic of our own species, of Humanity. Believe it or not, that’s largely unclaimed ground; as a Humanist I’m ashamed of that fact. Our Albert Schweitzers are in short supply these days.

The next three - Charisma, Marketing, Opposition -  cry out for a Joan of Arc figure to galvanize the troops. But that’s not truly necessary, we do have the Net and YouTube etc. and this medium is also why local communities like church gatherings may be passe or at least not sine qua nons.

Perhaps twittering shall announce our call to arms - bring it on.

In summary, if Humanists become identified not as a congregation but a body politick championing pro-Human causes and a simple pride in, and celebration of the species, we could suddenly be a mass movement if the Google gods were nice enough to genuflect in our direction.

And soon may it happen, Paul is certainly apropos with his impatience for some signal that the great sensibility is at hand.

[ Edited: 07 April 2009 12:19 PM by Martinus ]
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Posted: 07 April 2009 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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GdB - 07 April 2009 04:45 AM

I am following the ‘PLaClair’ discussions with interest for a while, but find it difficult to react, e.g while it is close to the ‘do not hurt my religious feelings’ thing. I may repeat some thing others said, but I will just offer my 2 cents (or even less…).

I think the problem with ‘a-theism’ is really in the ‘a’: one cannot bring people together on just being against the others (what the heck did Chaves and Ahmadinedschad have in common? Oh, it is their anti-americanism. Wonder what they really have in common…). Being non-something leaves a very broad spectrum of life views.
The word Omnibus brought in, ‘rationalist’ is also a key: a rationalist thinks for himself, (or is at least prepared to do this when needed), (s)he does not accept some truths just on authority. But exactly this kind of authority comes in when we would have some ‘Reverend Ratio. Prof Dr Knowitall’. A reverend (priest, whatever) is the one who knows better or more, or has a directer thread to reality, and therefore you can trust his word, it surely will be rational. I know, Paul, that is not what you mean, but for some kind of Secular ritual, anybody could be the ‘majordomus of the party’: parents, some best friend, you choose.
Part of the problem, I am afraid, lies in the fact that the human brain really is ‘religion prone’. Looking for security and reasons why things happen: it feels better to have an answer, even if it is not empirically justified. Mimicing church structure would induce such demeanor. I think most CFIers I read here, are quite allergic against such structures.

Then the use of the words ‘faith’ and ‘religion’: I both agree and disagree with you. I think I know what you mean, I personally have no problems with these words (I used to call myself a ‘religious materialist’) and I really think that at least the feeling of ‘having faith’ is a very important condition for being happy (otherwise one must live in fear continuously). But one should not try to answer in any detail what it is that you have faith in: as soon as one is trying to answer this with an objective mind set, (s)he is excluding people with a faith in something different. And there the quarrel starts, at the end are religious wars. So for me the use of these words reduces to strategy: is it a good idea to use these words when argumenting for my case? And there I think in general: no. As Mriana said, I assume a lot of people coming out of some religion will hate these words. But there might be exceptions, and I think you, Paul, referred to this in one of your first postings about these topics: it depends on who you are talking to, and what you want from the conversation. If you want to explain that secularism is not just ‘cold, deadharted philosophy’, go ahead, name your secularist and religious feelings.

But trying to gather under this banner to make the secularist movement stronger is not a good idea, I think. There are too many different ideas below the surface of secularity. We cannot unite, but we can at least support each other in that what we have in common: opposition to unjustified claims about reality, especially when they are the basis for (political) actions.

Between the lines (but here I might be wrong) I have the idea that in your ‘born again’ religious experience you feel you have seen some truth, that would be valid for all of us, and that there lies one reason why you argument your case so vehemently. And I think there lies also the point where most secularists/humanists/rationalists will not follow you.

GdB

GdB, thank you for engaging in this discussion. My comments to yours:

Regarding ritual, you have expressed what I mean. I don’t envision rituals led by priest-equivalents, though that would be fine if that’s floats someone’s boat. For us Humanists, the only authority is expertise, so I would expect trained and knowledgeable people to speak and teach in their respective fields, but a successful ritual-equivalent is about whatever satisfies.

People are religion-prone in at least one good sense and at least one bad sense. The good is that we seek answers to the unknown. The bad is that we tend to make up answers and personify the inanimate. OK, so that’s two. So as long as I’m expanding this, religion is also good in the sense that it helps people develop their sense of meaning, a sense of purpose, direction, community – I listed nine items in another post. It’s fascinating to me that no one touched them. See the final paragraph below.

It’s easy to misinterpret what I’m saying because the description of my experience stands out in this group – like a diamond or sore thumb depending on how one views it. What I saw in my own born-again experience (epiphany) was that being stuck in “can’t” doesn’t accomplish anything. It was that simple. The “Faith” of “can-do” works much better. I do maintain that any organization that doesn’t function that way doesn’t function well. But not only does no one else have to do or interpret it my way; no one else could because I was stuck in my own unique way. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for anyone else. And yet, the ability of members in this group even to hear what I’m saying is a function of their degree of openness; openness, in my opinion, does not characterize this group or secularist groups generally.

We are stuck in “no” and “can’t.” Everything meets an objection and almost nothing meets enthusiastic support – except critiques of theism and the like. We argue everything interminably and often pointlessly, getting lost in dead-end arguments about whether we’re in danger of acting like “them,” instead of rolling up our sleeves and developing and implementing strategies for growing our organizations. And this shows in the way we relate to our adversaries. We’re spending all this time arguing objections to what is really a very basic point, when we should be supporting each other in the development of successful strategies. You’re right, it won’t take off while the people who frequent secularist/Humanist organizations approach it as they are now; that’s my point. We need to come from enthusiasm about potential strategies instead of constant objections to everything. My occasional use of words like “religion” and “Faith” isn’t the key to our success, but openness is; in itself, my use of these words is just one way of doing things that I have found useful. The real issue here is the openness of the group that someone might successfully do it this way and therefore merit the group’s support.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Martinus - 07 April 2009 12:09 PM

I think Doug sees the more likely pathways here towards Humanism emerging from the shadows. I once felt, as Paul does, that somehow canonizing Humanism as a de facto religion would by itself bring things forward . . .

That’s not what I said. Some will see it as a religion, some won’t. As a group, we must accept the fact that some will see it that way, and we’ll be much better off if we can support those of us who see this as a religion - and those who don’t. That is not happening now. Right now we’re fighting over it, as though it has to be one thing or the other. That’s all I said about that point.

Your substantive idea is well worth exploring in my opinion. Do you have ideas how CFI can help make it happen?

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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PLaClair - 07 April 2009 12:25 PM

Do you have ideas how CFI can help make it happen?

I think you need talent, not ideas. Carl Sagan and David Attenborough could inspire millions to do the greater good—they helped me, at least, to want to be a better person—but individuals like them are rare. CFI is lucky to have D.J. Grothe who, I believe, is very talented and who can attract a large audience. Inspire people, bring them together, and the rest will take care of itself.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Not that this is any indictment, or critique, who here is familiar with The Who and Tommy? I see correlations. Neutral Correlations-Neutral!! LOL

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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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George - 07 April 2009 12:54 PM
PLaClair - 07 April 2009 12:25 PM

Do you have ideas how CFI can help make it happen?

I think you need talent, not ideas. Carl Sagan and David Attenborough could inspire millions to do the greater good—they helped me, at least, to want to be a better person—but individuals like them are rare. CFI is lucky to have D.J. Grothe who, I believe, is very talented and who can attract a large audience. Inspire people, bring them together, and the rest will take care of itself.

George, I don’t think that an emerging Humanism need be a personality cult, no matter how successful it may seem for a while. Look at the Dawkins phenomenon, supposedly a grand intellectual but not much more than a professional atheist flogging books, and of little account scientifically. With the Bush era over, atheism and him are too.

Sick transit, Gloria.

Better to emulate the global warming bandwagon. Convince the press that they must become Humanly-correct. They should identify anti-Human activity as such; e.g. torture, corruption, the manufacture of war materiel, abuse of women, children, elderly, poor and so on.

Change CFI to CFH, and lift up thine eyes from the theistic latrines they’ve been mired in for a decade, pro- or anti. Away with atheists too, I don’t count beers anymore either - stop covering it like it’s mindworthy. “Rationalism” impresses only the insane.

I could go on, but it just gets dirtier…

[ Edited: 07 April 2009 01:21 PM by Martinus ]
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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Martinus - 07 April 2009 01:07 PM

George, I don’t think that an emerging Humanism need be a personality cult

Well, when I look up at the sky at night, and I see all the “billions and billions” of stars, I feel inspired to to good not to please Sagan’s ghost, but to help our “Pale Blue Dot” in any way I can.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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George - 07 April 2009 01:22 PM
Martinus - 07 April 2009 01:07 PM

George, I don’t think that an emerging Humanism need be a personality cult

Well, when I look up at the sky at night, and I see all the “billions and billions” of stars, I feel inspired to to good not to please Sagan’s ghost, but to help our “Pale Blue Dot” in any way I can.

I fear that the Reagan era brought to the fore more Fagan’s than Sagan’s, if Wall St. is the evidence. And the skills of the former shall soon be in even higher demand.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Talent and ideas are both useful. Why would we spend a single moment arguing over a false choice?

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 07 April 2009 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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Indeed we shouldn’t, but talent appears on its own schedule, and it helps if someone has built the set and lit the stage?

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Posted: 07 April 2009 11:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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PLaClair - 07 April 2009 12:20 PM

So as long as I’m expanding this, religion is also good in the sense that it helps people develop their sense of meaning, a sense of purpose, direction, community – I listed nine items in another post. It’s fascinating to me that no one touched them. See the final paragraph below.

I assume you mean these?

PLaClair - 05 April 2009 05:02 PM

My brand of Humanism is a religion in the following particulars:

1. It encompasses everything.
2. It involves the search for meaning.
3. It helps me identify how I can my life more purposeful than if I didn’t have a Humanistic framework.
4. It provides direction in what I will do.
5. It provides a way of looking at things. This includes but is not limited to supporting the sense of awe and wonder that most people identify as religious.
6. I would like it to be more communal. If our organizations were as I wish them to be I would spend more time practicing Humanism explicitly in community.
7. It’s about everything I value and certainly about what I value most.
8. In my idea of Humanism, people value something “bigger than themselves,” such as the community of people.
9. I even have a liturgical calendar. That’s my personal practice. I use it mainly to match music and art to days of the year.

(From here.)
I only want to give the short answer: as most religious groups, there will be or endless fundamental discussions, or a fixed Weltanschauung will be presented, and who does not agree can leave. The problem I see is that people will hang on their way to make life purposeful, and will see this as something objective. Which means that nobody is really allowed to touch it. Compare it with Freud and its psychoanalytical school. That is what would happen.

If you do not want that, you get what we have right now: a bunch of very different people, loosely organised, opposing to others who want to base their political actions on unjustified beliefs, opposing to toxifying science (our only sacred activity!) with stupid ideas like creationism. Don’t you see that society got more and more secularised already for ages? Now that (traditional) religions get stronger, the atheist movement is more clearly recognised than ever. That is because this is the only unifying principle of us: we are opposing the dirty effects of believing in the supernatural. Let’s keep it at that, and keep in mind what Kant said ‘enlightenment’ is:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another.

GdB

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Posted: 08 April 2009 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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GdB - 07 April 2009 11:31 PM
PLaClair - 07 April 2009 12:20 PM

So as long as I’m expanding this, religion is also good in the sense that it helps people develop their sense of meaning, a sense of purpose, direction, community – I listed nine items in another post. It’s fascinating to me that no one touched them. See the final paragraph below.

I assume you mean these?

PLaClair - 05 April 2009 05:02 PM

My brand of Humanism is a religion in the following particulars:

1. It encompasses everything.
2. It involves the search for meaning.
3. It helps me identify how I can my life more purposeful than if I didn’t have a Humanistic framework.
4. It provides direction in what I will do.
5. It provides a way of looking at things. This includes but is not limited to supporting the sense of awe and wonder that most people identify as religious.
6. I would like it to be more communal. If our organizations were as I wish them to be I would spend more time practicing Humanism explicitly in community.
7. It’s about everything I value and certainly about what I value most.
8. In my idea of Humanism, people value something “bigger than themselves,” such as the community of people.
9. I even have a liturgical calendar. That’s my personal practice. I use it mainly to match music and art to days of the year.

(From here.)
I only want to give the short answer: as most religious groups, there will be or endless fundamental discussions, or a fixed Weltanschauung will be presented, and who does not agree can leave. The problem I see is that people will hang on their way to make life purposeful, and will see this as something objective. Which means that nobody is really allowed to touch it. Compare it with Freud and its psychoanalytical school. That is what would happen.

If you do not want that, you get what we have right now: a bunch of very different people, loosely organised, opposing to others who want to base their political actions on unjustified beliefs, opposing to toxifying science (our only sacred activity!) with stupid ideas like creationism. Don’t you see that society got more and more secularised already for ages? Now that (traditional) religions get stronger, the atheist movement is more clearly recognised than ever. That is because this is the only unifying principle of us: we are opposing the dirty effects of believing in the supernatural. Let’s keep it at that, and keep in mind what Kant said ‘enlightenment’ is:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another.

GdB

I’m not at all convinced that there isn’t a middle ground between the rigidity in many traditional religions and where we secularists are now. Of course I see that secularization has been on the march, for centuries; we are already winning in many ways, but our organizations and our formal movements are not reaping the benefits.

I strongly disagree that our opposition to supernaturalism is the only thing we have in common. The main thing we have in common is our humanity; that’s the Humanist message at the core of a nutshell. We also have in common our commitment to a universal and planetary ethic, which means that we seek to help create an environment in which human beings can thrive in sustainable ways. We are committed to reason, the scientific method and (dare I say it) Love. The response a youtube video drew in the General Discussion forum yesterday is a perfect example of how we hard-nosed curmudgeons at CFI can take delight, together, in something beautiful and inspiring.

You posted my list, but you didn’t address it. Take purpose, for example. A mature understanding does not dismiss purpose as a superstition; it reinterprets it as something that develops through the evolutionary process - because that’s what it is! [See Brian Boyd, “Purpose Driven Life,” American Scholar, Spring 2009 at http://www.theamericanscholar.org/purpose-driven-life/. ] The central difference is that the superstitious view sees purpose as a priori, while the scientific view recognizes that it develops by natural processes. And yet in our movements many are inclined to dismiss “purpose” because the traditional religions have made it central to their theologies. That is plumb foolish, pun intended. A plumber doesn’t throw away a perfectly good wrench just because the plumber from a competing company once used it improperly. If we do that – and we do! – then we give our adversaries nearly complete control over the scope of our activities and enterprises. If they have used it, then we cannot use it. If they talked about it and misinterpreted it, then we can’t talk about it and get it right. Can someone explain why we would want to limit ourselves like that? If science had taken that approach, biology would never have gotten past spontaneous generation.

Not to mention the fact that when we do that, we put ourselves in the untenable position of having to deny most of the population’s dignity. To me, your argument is just a recapitulation of what I maintain is our fundamental mistake.

[ Edited: 08 April 2009 05:27 AM by PLaClair ]
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