Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Responding to Good without God: Theism Manifesto III
In response to the book, good without God by Greg M. Epstein,
Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University:
Theist Manifesto III
Theism 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 Theism—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.
This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Theism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:
Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Theists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies.
We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.
Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Theists recognize nature as self-existing.
We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.
Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Theists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond.
We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.
Life's fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death.
Theists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Theism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.
Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Theists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.
Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature's resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.
Theists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature's integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.
Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.
from "Postscript: Theism and Its Aspirations,"
Theist Manifesto III
Good with God,
The point is that as a Theist, you'd be in distinguished company along with Thomas Jefferson....Voltaire...
Good with God, page xii
NOW FOR THE TRUTH; "JUST THE FACTS"!
This article is a mild satire, a little early morning irony, because the manifesto is actually a contrary publication, THE VERY WORDS of thinkers who DENY theism!!
All I did was substitute one word, that of "theist" for "humanist."
Again, semantics rule almost everything when it comes to questions of philosophy, cosmology, and reality.
How is it that I could insert "theism" as a substitute for "humanism" throughout this publication, without a hitch?*
Clearly the Manifesto uses terms that are contrary to the central beliefs
of Nontheism, and are the same, or very similar,
to the views of generic Theism*
such as those of Thomas Jefferson
mathematician and philosopher
Alfred Lord Whitehead.
Another example of a strong theist is Martin Gardner, the creative skeptic and co-founder of the modern Skpetic movement.
For instance, contrast the Human Manifesto's word choices (look at bolded phrases in the Manifesto versus the word choices of some famous nontheists.
"committed to treating each person as having having inherent worth and dignity"
Humans are "puppets," "wet robots," and "a bag of chemicals,"
When it comes to ethical choice, humans have no more choice than the mass murderer in Texas who was forced to murder by his brain tumor. All humans are like that killer--no choice, it's "tumors all the way down."
And humans have no more choice than "a fly or a bacterium" or "than a bowl of sugar."
Humans are only "mechanical forces of nature..."
"...any fetus is less human than an adult pig."
"We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
"...long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence."
"inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all."
"Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature's resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life."
"Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature's integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner."
"inspired by compassion"
"subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance"
These very important phrases sound much more like the thinking of the Enlightenement theists than many of the negative phrases of modern nontheists.
The strangest part of all of this is that even one of the most militant atheist, Richard Dawkins, states that he doesn't get his ethics from natural evolution!
"[If] there is mercy in nature, it is accidental. Nature is neither kind nor cruel but indifferent."
A Devil's Chaplain
Altruism is a "misfiring" of evolution.
The God Delusion
"A predominant quality to be expected in a gene is ruthless selfishness.
This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behavior?.
Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare
of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense."
"I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved.
I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave."
"Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least
have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to."
The Selfish Gene
from an Interview with Richard Dawkins:
Skeptic: Well, if we don't accept religion as a reasonable guide to "what is" or even a reasonable guide to "what ought to be," does evolution give us such a guide? Can we turn to evolution to answer not what is, but what ought to be?
Dawkins: I'd rather not do that. I think Julian Huxley was the last person who attempted to. In my opinion, a society run along "evolutionary" lines would not be a very nice society in which to live.
But further, there's no logical reason why we should try to derive our normative standards from evolution. It's perfectly consistent to say this is the way it is--natural selection is out there and it is a very unpleasant process.
Nature is red in tooth and claw. But I don't want to live in that kind of a world. I want to change the world in which I live in such a way that natural selection no longer applies.
Skeptic: But given the clay from which we are made, doesn't natural selection make it relatively unlikely that some things will work? Doesn't Darwinism undercut the great socialist hope, "Why, because we will it so!"?
Dawkins: Some goals may be unrealistic. But that doesn't mean that we should turn around the other way and say therefore we should strive to make a Darwinian millennium come true.
Skeptic: But then isn't what we ought to do (as David Hume argued long ago) just a matter of preference and choice, custom and habit?
Dawkins: I think that's very likely true. But I don't think that having conceded that point, I as an individual should then be asked to abandon my own ethical system or goals."
I as an individual can adopt idealistic or socialistic or unrealistic or whatever sort of norms of charity and good will towards other people. They may be doomed if you take a strong Darwinian line on human nature, but it's not obvious to me that they are.
Skeptic: Can we use Darwinism and natural selection to analyze other events in history? To put it in its crudest form, if Hitler had won WWII would that have proved that his system was better (in a Darwinian sense) than that of the Allies?
Or does the fact that the Soviet Bloc crumbled tell us anything about the relative fitness of market-based economies versus command economies. If might (or at least survival and reproduction) doesn't make right (as well as everything else), what does?
Dawkins: I think it is not helpful to apply Darwinian language too widely. Conquest of nation by nation is too distant for Darwinian explanations to be helpful. Darwinism is the differential survival of self-replicating genes in a gene pool, usually as manifested by individual behavior, morphology, and phenotypes.
Group selection of any kind is not Darwinism as Darwin understood it nor as I understand it. There is a very vague analogy between group selection and conquest of a nation by another nation, but I don't think it's a very helpful analogy. So I would prefer not to invoke Darwinian language for that kind of historical interpretation.
Skeptic: In a Darwinian sense, isn't it somewhat meaningless to argue about any supposed displacement of "superior" beings by "inferior" beings, or that evolution "is going backwards." Don't such arguments turn Darwinism on its head?
Dawkins: Because whatever evolves is, by definition, superior? There's nothing nonsensical about saying that what would evolve if Darwinian selection has its head is something that you don't want to happen. And I could easily imagine trying to go against Darwinism. I don't see why that's inconsistent.
I can easily imagine saying that in a Darwinian world, the fittest, by definition, are the ones that survive and the attributes that you need to survive in Darwinian sense are the attributes that I don't want to see in the world. I can easily see myself fighting against the success of Darwinism prevailing in the world.
...Even if it did, and this is a stronger point, I would oppose any suggestion from any group such as the National Front, that whatever occurs in natural selection is therefore morally good or desirable. We come back to this point over and over again. I'm definitely not one who thinks that "is" is the same as "ought"
...I'm happy for people to make speculations along those lines as long as they don't again jump that is-ought divide and start saying, "therefore racism is a good thing." I don't think racism is a good...it's a very bad thing. That is my moral position. I don't see any justification in evolution either for or against racism. The study of evolution is not in the business of providing justifications for anything.
Skeptic: You also took a bit of flak for likening religion (I think specifically Catholicism) to a virus? Is that still your position?
Dawkins: Yes...I do think that the Roman Catholic religion is a disease of the mind which has a particular epidemiology similar to that of a virus.
Skeptic: But couldn't the Pope (or Evangelical Protestants for that matter), reply, "Look, we just have a terrific meme. It's winning what you would describe as a Darwinian battle and you're angry because you just don't like it."
Dawkins: Religion is a terrific meme. That's right. But that doesn't make it true and I care about what's true. Smallpox virus is a terrific virus. It does its job magnificently well. That doesn't mean that it's a good thing. It doesn't mean that I don't want to see it stamped out.
Skeptic: So once again the discussion goes back to how do you determine whether something is good or not, other than by just your personal choice?
Dawkins: I don't even try. You keep wanting to base morality on Darwinism. I don't.
by Frank Miele, Skeptic Magazine
*(Though all of this is NOT, of course, true of doctrinal and creedal religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism.)
In the Light of Meaning and Purpose,