Every time a New Atheist post
something about humanism on atheism boards, I scoff. I scoff because this
secular philosophy has no evidence to support its most basic assertions, in
particular that each human being has some kind of inherent worth or value. More
generally speaking, humanism supposedly bases ethical decisions on reason while
trusting science when it comes to understanding the world. While the former
sentence clearly has no evidence to support it, the latter sentence practically
conflicts with itself as a philosophy that uses evidence and science to support
certain beliefs abandons evidence and science in order to behave ethically,
meaning, the ethics that are practiced are not evidence- or science-based. The
ethics often used by New Atheists are supposedly arrived by reason.
For example, The Council for
Secular Humanism maintains that they adhere to a consequentialist ethical
system. Okay, great, but there is really no consensus among philosophers as to
whether consequentialism is any better than, say, utilitarianism or deontology.
Whether a particular brand of humanist subscribes to any ethical system has
more to do with how the individual feels about the ethical system than the
ethical system being a matter of reality. (I lean towards consequentialism
myself, but this may change according to circumstance. More importantly, I
recognize this. I’m a Realist like that.) Meanwhile, groups like the
International Humanist and Ethical Union declare about their ethical system
that, “Humanists have a duty of care to all of
humanity including future generations.” I’m not saying that this isn’t a
nice sentiment, just that it cannot be arrived at by reason, much less by
evidence. If you ask this philosopher – and I’m the only one worth asking - reasons
should be based on some kind of evidence. This is to say that if anything, the
evidence would indicate that human beings care little beyond the immediate futures
of their next of kin. The divergence of ideas surrounding the basic tenets of
humanism do not lend itself to credibility.
Atheists have hammered theist about having evidence for their beliefs – and rightly
so – I believe that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. So it
seems rather odd that there should be so much ambiguity between the
declarations of various humanist organizations to say nothing of there being various humanist organizations. A
quick Google of the question “What is humanism?” yields various answers from
many humanist organizations; enough answers to categorize each organization according
to the varying beliefs they hold. The Council for Secular Humanism, the American
Humanist Association, the British Humanist Association, and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (for
starters) all give different answers to the question. To be fair, each
organization is similar enough in their answers to fall under a general
philosophy we can call ‘humanism.’ Still, a philosophy arrived at by reason
should not have as much ambiguity as humanism displays.
While I would
say many of these brands of humanism are a more positive philosophy than their
non-secular counterparts (at least more positive for one’s self-esteem, if
nothing else), I do think that New Atheist humanists should be honest about
their reasoning for committing to this philosophy. Since New Atheists demand so
much honesty in debates, they should be honest here and admit that humanism has
little to no evidential support. That, or go find the support for their ‘intuitions’
in biology or evolutionary psychology.
If one is going
to demand that others ground their beliefs in evidence and science, they should
do the same as well. Otherwise, it seems reasonable to say that two people who
act alike must be alike. And this is reasonable because the evidence dictates
that if it looks like a rat, walks like a rat and smells like a rat, it’s
probably a rat.
Gots me a BS in Philosophy. I am the author of "The New Adventures of Pi," a guide to God's' latest and most important revelation. When not promoting Pi-ism, I enjoy not believing current events, and critiquing philosophical and theological issues. I also enjoy writing fiction that dabbles in the surreal. The least you need to know is that I'm a legend in my own mind, just like you.