INFORMATION

This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are essential to make our site work and others help us to improve by giving us some insight into how the site is being used. For further information, see our Privacy Policy. Continuing to use this website is acceptance of these cookies.

Humanism and science

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
Post Reply
Message
Author
Maria Mac
Site Admin
Posts: 9268
Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 10:34 pm

Humanism and science

#1 Post by Maria Mac » March 8th, 2010, 11:54 am

Margaret's latest blog got me thinking.

I think most people who define themselves as humanists are attracted to humanism because of the 'good without gods' part of it, while the 'underpinned by a commitment to the scientific method' (or however it is phrased in so many definitions of humanism) sounds OK but isn't really something they give much thought to.

This was certainly true of me.

It so happens that learning to argue about religion on various discussion boards - something I used to enjoy when the internet was a novelty to me - got me interested in all sorts of other subjects and I gradually developed something of an interest in all the scientific enquiry stuff...though I will never be a science buff and I often find such people rather dull.

But I know there are people who've been humanists for years and (for example) use homeopathy religiously. I also hear them repeat the tired old argument about how one day science will catch up and discover how such things work. One humanist (now dead) who was a celebrant for many years, even told me a story of how a relative of hers would carry nutmeg in her coat pocket because "it eased her (lumbago/arthritis/sciatica/can't rember) pain". The celebrant obviously believed this and even said that the pain "suddenly came back" and the person looked in their pocket but found they had lost the nutmeg. Of course they got more nutmeg for their pocket and the pain went away again. 'No doubt, science will one day be able to explain why a piece of nutmeg in a coat pocket should relieve physical pain', was how she saw it.

I think there are many people like that who think their views are entirely in keeping with a commitment to the scientific method.

What attracted you to humanism? Did the 'commitment to the scientific method' play much of a part in it?

User avatar
jaywhat
Posts: 15807
Joined: July 5th, 2007, 5:53 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#2 Post by jaywhat » March 8th, 2010, 12:12 pm

I think there are some people attracted to humanism in odd ways. For example the atheist bus campaign opened a few eyes.

For myself, having retired, I was giving thought to my eventual death and thinking about the funeral (which now does not concern me as I shall not be here). Somewhere I came across the existence of the BHA's 'Funerals without God' booklet. I had never heard of the BHA and probably not about 'humanism' either. I sent for the book and in no time at all joined the BHA. That was as recently as around 1988 although I had been an atheist since about 1956.

User avatar
Paolo
Posts: 1474
Joined: September 13th, 2008, 9:15 am

Re: Humanism and science

#3 Post by Paolo » March 8th, 2010, 12:47 pm

I think I come at Humanism from the other angle - the scientific method has long been my main consideration and I found Humanism to be one of the few belief systems that makes a virtue of acknowledging the place of science in understanding how we function socially (and thus morally). Science is atheistic, but it is also amoral. The morality required to function in society is well provided by Humanism, without requiring the additional assumptions inherent in adopting theism.

Fia
Posts: 5480
Joined: July 6th, 2007, 8:29 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#4 Post by Fia » March 8th, 2010, 1:17 pm

Maria:
What attracted you to humanism? Did the 'commitment to the scientific method' play much of a part in it?
Humanism initially appealed to me as being good without god/s, having become mighty fed up with the "see where atheism gets you - look at Stalin" brigade. Being arty-farty touchy-feely I knew very little of the scientific method, and had dabbled in homoeopathy for a condition conventional medicine could only offer mega pain killers and drastic surgery for. It did make me feel better for a while, but then I'd never heard of placebo :redface:

Like Maria I
...gradually developed something of an interest in all the scientific enquiry stuff...
and hopefully have now grown a little wiser :wink: I still find it hard to argue the scientific point against the emotional though...

tubataxidriver
Posts: 375
Joined: August 3rd, 2007, 10:39 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#5 Post by tubataxidriver » March 8th, 2010, 4:07 pm

I think with me it was gaining a certain level of scientific knowledge and understanding as a child (I was given a super science encyclopedia at about 7 or 8, had a chemistry lab in the garden shed by about 9 or 10, and a cat which supplied dissection subjects quite regularly).

This I think gave me a level of immunity to religious claims, which I was exposed to weekly as a chorister. I woudl listen to the sermons and readings, consider them and reject them, but not in a highly rigorous scientific way using the correct terminology, but by "gut feel". I could always come up with more likely explanations of the religious stories and claims.

Marian
Posts: 3985
Joined: August 23rd, 2009, 2:25 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#6 Post by Marian » March 8th, 2010, 6:54 pm

First, I took out my ouija board, asked a few questions. Nothing happening there. Moved on to crystals, tarot cards, energy fields. Exhausted that route. Considered satanism...just kidding! Although my obsession with pentagrams lead to a very brief interest in Wicca. Good ole fundamentalist Xianity came next after having a go at Baptist circles.

Ultimately, it wasn't the scientific method per se that attracted me. I rather fell into humanism through a friend who suggested I might find it appealing. Number one appeal to me is a focus on rational/critical thinking.
Transformative fire...

User avatar
Lifelinking
Posts: 3248
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 11:56 am

Re: Humanism and science

#7 Post by Lifelinking » March 8th, 2010, 10:47 pm

First, I took out my ouija board, asked a few questions. Nothing happening there. Moved on to crystals, tarot cards, energy fields. Exhausted that route. Considered satanism...
:pointlaugh:

Thank you Marian..that cheered me up.

I came to Humanism as I did not want to describe myself just as being against something else. In a sense, doing so allows that thing (religion) to define who I am.

Things about Humanism that strongly attracted me included the support of human rights and acknowledgment of the need to figure out and negotiate difficult questions for ourselves without reference to or reliance on arguments from authority, dogma and superstition.

I have been thinking about the relationship between Humanism and science quite a lot, and have had a go at blogging about it if anyone is interested.

Scientism, a worldview grounded in Ancient Myth
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

User avatar
Gurdur
Posts: 610
Joined: July 5th, 2007, 5:00 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#8 Post by Gurdur » March 8th, 2010, 11:48 pm

Great thread. This already tackles the question of the relationships between science, belief, atheism and humanism from several very different angles, which is great. Since I will be blogging about scientism lots in the near future, just as Lifelinking has there, I will give links in my blog back to this thread here on TH for an overall discussion.

User avatar
grammar king
Posts: 869
Joined: March 14th, 2008, 2:42 am

Re: Humanism and science

#9 Post by grammar king » March 9th, 2010, 12:05 am

Lifelinking wrote:Things about Humanism that strongly attracted me included the support of human rights and acknowledgment of the need to figure out and negotiate difficult questions for ourselves without reference to or reliance on arguments from authority, dogma and superstition.
Do humanists necessarily support human rights?

For me it was much more simple. I became an atheist and when I went to the university fresher's fair there was a society with a sign that said "Atheists come here." So I did and it was the Humanist Society. Since then I've learnt how to debate creationists, I found out what homeopathy and chiropractic is (thanks in no small part to the fine membership of TH), and I now appreciate the scientific method more than I ever could have before.

I'm more concerned about promoting rationality than the morality side; with a few notable exceptions, people tend to be moral no matter how they get there. That said I'll still rage against theistic homophobia, sexism etc.

User avatar
Lifelinking
Posts: 3248
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 11:56 am

Re: Humanism and science

#10 Post by Lifelinking » March 9th, 2010, 9:29 am

Do humanists necessarily support human rights?
Well I suppose individual Humanists will have to make that decision for themselves. I guess you don't have to if you don't want to Grammar King :D

The following is pretty clear on the point.

Amsterdam Declaration 2002

Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world's great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself.


The fundamentals of modern Humanism are as follows:


1.Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.



2.Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world's problems lie in human thought and action rather than divine intervention. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.



3.Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.

4.Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism ventures to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, and recognises our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.


5.Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion. The world's major religions claim to be based on revelations fixed for all time, and many seek to impose their world-views on all of humanity. Humanism recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process. of observation, evaluation and revision.



6.Humanism values artistic creativity and imagination and recognises the transforming power of art. Humanism affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.



7.Humanism is a lifestance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment through the cultivation of ethical and creative living and offers an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. Humanism can be a way of life for everyone everywhere.

Our primary task is to make human beings aware in the simplest terms of what Humanism can mean to them and what it commits them to. By utilising free inquiry, the power of science and creative imagination for the furtherance of peace and in the service of compassion, we have confidence that we have the means to solve the problems that confront us all. We call upon all who share this conviction to associate themselves with us in this endeavour.


IHEU Congress 2002.

The British Humanist Association, National Secular Society and Humanist Society of Scotland are all members of the IHEU
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

Maria Mac
Site Admin
Posts: 9268
Joined: July 3rd, 2007, 10:34 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#11 Post by Maria Mac » March 9th, 2010, 10:49 am

Fascinating responses and a great blog, Lifey. Btw, I see your blog as moved to the Hub - can you put a notice to that effect on the old blog or have you given it up?

User avatar
Lifelinking
Posts: 3248
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 11:56 am

Re: Humanism and science

#12 Post by Lifelinking » March 9th, 2010, 10:52 am

Good idea Maria, should have done that already but will do it asap.
"Who thinks the law has anything to do with justice? It's what we have because we can't have justice."
William McIlvanney

User avatar
Gurdur
Posts: 610
Joined: July 5th, 2007, 5:00 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#13 Post by Gurdur » March 9th, 2010, 2:45 pm

Lifelinking wrote:Good idea Maria, should have done that already but will do it asap.
I have an idea about that which I wanted to share with you before you undertake any actions, will write PM.

User avatar
getreal
Posts: 4354
Joined: November 20th, 2008, 5:40 pm

Re: Humanism and science

#14 Post by getreal » March 9th, 2010, 8:46 pm

I came accross humanism, by way of atheism and was very pleased to discover the sciency bit. I've been a rationalist longer than an atheist and that is very important to me. I still don't often describe myself as a humanist. But at the end of the day, I think I am.
"It's hard to put a leash on a dog once you've put a crown on his head"-Tyrion Lannister.

User avatar
Aphra
Posts: 94
Joined: July 7th, 2007, 1:21 am

Re: Humanism, rationalism, science, and homeopathy

#15 Post by Aphra » March 10th, 2010, 8:13 pm

Since I wrote the blog post that Maria referred to, the ME Association has published a letter from me about homeopathy.

Marian
Posts: 3985
Joined: August 23rd, 2009, 2:25 pm

Re: Humanism, rationalism, science, and homeopathy

#16 Post by Marian » March 10th, 2010, 8:59 pm

Aphra wrote:Since I wrote the blog post that Maria referred to, the ME Association has published a letter from me about homeopathy.
Nice!! Let us know if you get any replies!
Transformative fire...

User avatar
Aphra
Posts: 94
Joined: July 7th, 2007, 1:21 am

Re: Humanism and science

#17 Post by Aphra » March 10th, 2010, 11:21 pm

Thanks. If I do get any replies, it won't be for a while. The magazine is only published a few times a year.

Post Reply