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Article: The Humanist Manifesto

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Nick P.

Recently, my philosophy professor gave our class a sheet with the Humanist Manifesto 2 on it. I have gone through it and taken a look at some things which I found of interest in it and flaws in their terminology.

In the preface, the humanists have started off their paragraph and soon said that humanity has virtually conquered the planet. I can only wonder, what needed to be conquered? When they say conquer the planet, what do they mean? If they believe in strict evolution, would it not be easier to say evolution conquered the planet or natural science? Perchance a small point but something I noticed.

Yet after that, they mention other problems. Conquer poverty and alter disease? Are they saying such things are wrong? Upon what are they basing this standard? Markedly, they say they intend to alter the course of human evolution but it makes me wonder why naturalists would say nature is not going on the proper path and needs to be altered.

In the next paragraph they speak of applying the scientific method to nature. Sadly, whenever they say scientific method in the manifesto they never say what this scientific method is. Does one use the same science on a lab rat one uses on a human or in a dig on an ancient hill for instance?

They say they have opened the door to dehumanizing institutions. But dehumanizing would mean humans have a value to dehumanize. And where do they get this value? If from nature, then who do lab rats not have this same value and undergo the scientific method (Still wondering what that means) as well?

They also see a totalitarian response but the whole manifesto is filled with such things. Wiping out religion and traditional moral codes seems to be an abundant term as we shall see as I move on.

They also state in paragraph 4 of building constructive social and moral values. But yet, what determines which is which? Do not opinions differ? If they don't, then these values must be objective but how can they be objective if all that exists is nature?

Paragraph 5 speaks of personal meaning. What exactly is personal meaning? Even Bertrand Russell admitted what he believed left him in the greatest despair. Is this what the humanist manifesto means by personal meaning?

They end by saying it is a vision of hope. Hope of what? Hope of their being right? Hope of religion being removed? Hope of utopia? It's not really said but apparently we don't seem to be any closer to that with them.

Their first section on religion states they believe religion has done a disservice. True, a lot of harm has been done in religion's name but so has much good. If one went to India, one would find Christians are noted for taking care of the sick over there with people like Paul Brand and Mother Teresa. Which of these does the humanist manifesto consider a disservice?

They then say that the accounts of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence. How does one scientifically test the past? Does one recreate Napoleon and all armies and have them refight the battle of Waterloo? Scientific evidence can't always be found in the laboratory.

But then they follow this by saying, "in our judgment." And who is to say their judgment is correct? Who is to say their judgment itsself passes scientific standards? This isn't clarified but what is clear is that this must be subjective.

They also say "We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of survival and fulfillment of the human race." If it is meaningless or irrelevant, why consider it a disservice also? That means you consider what is meaningless and irrelevant worthy enough to be a disservice.

Also, if one believes in nature alone how does one test the supernatural? One will say the supernatural doesn't act because it never has before but how do you know that without seeing past accounts? Since you can't recreate them, you say they never happened because the supernatural never intervenes with the natural. This is circular reasoning though!

They say traditional religions offer solace but inhibit humans from helping themselves. What is good about humans helping themselves? Perchance then the whole manifesto is humans helping themselves? If that's true, why should I care about what they say since they don't want to help me? They don't care about anyone but themselves then so why think they want to better the human race?

Yet in the next line, they say it impedes the will to serve others. How can one complain that religion keeps one from helping onesself and in the next breath say it keeps one from serving others?

They say they can discover no divine purpose also but in the next line say "there is much that we do not know." Is it not possible that in what they do not know, there is a God? Yet the manifesto has closed itsself to this belief. They end by saying no deity will save us. We must save ourselves. Save ourselves from what? The main threat in humanism to ourselves is ourselves.

In the next paragraph, they say, "Rather, science affirms that the human species is an emergence from natural evolutionary forces." Yet if that theory is so sound, why did Gould have to alter it by introducing Punctuated Equilibria? It seems a sound sciecne would not need altering.

On Ethics, they say moral values derive their source from human experience. I can't help but wonder, how many humans did we have to murder before we decided it was a bad idea? Did we try telling a few lies and then decided not to? Does one really have to experience some things to know they are wrong?

Yet they also go against vulgarization. But yet what is vulgarization but demeaning that which has meaning and where does this meaning come from? Does this meaning come from a cosmic accident where a bunch of molecules gathered together by chance?

In the fourth section they say art, poetry, and music will find their places along with religion and ethics. But something seems implied here. Clearly they place religion as a disservice. Do ethics belong in the same place. If so, what of art, poetry, and music? Would they consider the Last Supper or the Sistine Chapel art? What about the poems dedicated to Christ and the music written to him?

In the sixth section on the individual they speak against intolerant attitudes while at the same time being intolerant of those they consider intolerant. They say the right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be recognized. Are they not being intolerant to those who disagree? They want a tolerant state. Would not a tolerant state be open to all views? Why complain in the same paragraph that humans should not be exploited as sexual objects? If evolution is true we are just animals and are sexual objects. Also, isn't that being intolerant of those who see us as such.

In the 11th section they speak against discrimination but why speak against it while earlier saying they are against traditional religious values and call them a disservice to mankind? They say they should be open at all levels to any and all. If so, then why insist your way with birth control and such should be recognized. Be open to those who disagree.

They deplore class antagonisms including those on religion but at the same time again, they are antagonizing religion as a disservice to mankind. One wonders what standard they are using to measure.

In the 12th section under world community they say each person's future is in some way linked to all. But how is this so? If it is so, then why say whatever doesn't hurt another is okay as many atheists do. If you are linked to all mankind, maybe you will indirectly hurt another. They speak of hard choices but why are these hard choices? Why not trust the evolutionary process that has guided us thus far? What choices brought about evolution and what choices were made that taught us to not murder? Were they really hard?

In closing they say "The world cannot wait for a reconciliation of competing political or econimic systems to solve its problems. These are times for men and women of goodwill to further the building of a peaceful and prosperous world. We urge that the parochial loyalties and inflexible moral and religious ideologies be transcended."

Are not these political and economic systems made up of men and women so why count on men and women to build such a world? Why speak about being open to all and now talk about inflexible moral and religious ideologies to be transcended? Yet in the same paragraph again they speak of tolerance. Why speak of tolerance when one isn't being tolerant. Tolerance seems to apply when you want people to accept your view but not when they want you to accept yours.

They end it by saying they don't necessarily endorse every detail of the above but pledge their general support to what is written. What parts? Does this mean you pick and choose what you like? We are told we do that with the Bible but it's okay for them to do it? I'm not saying we should do that with the Bible. We certainly shouldn't. IF they can't trust this document fully, why should I?

These are just a few thoughts on the Humanist Manifesto 2.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Thoughts? (Insults were due yesterday.)



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