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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Tuesday, August 21

Rebooting Humanism

Basically, this little post is a sort of an elaborate bookmark for myself.

One thing that bothers me about the principles behind secular humanism is the anti-religion orientation. While I'm not a big fan of religion, I do happen to have friends who are religious and don't consider their belief in the supernatural nearly as important as some of their other qualities.

While I'd like to see religion go away, I think a lot is yet to be done in the area of ethics and, *gulp*, spirituality before giving up religion will be appealing to most people. I was pleased to see this article on the atheism.about.com website, discussing a proposal for a new, improved humanism.

In short, a re-booted humanism would recognize ethics and naturalism as its core. It would then be best defined as a sociopolitical philosophy, both democratic and non-hierarchal, which is informed by scientific naturalism, and promotes individual freedom, economic and social equality, human cooperation and planetary peace.

I traced it back to the original author's site, just in case he's written anything else interesting.

Monday, August 20

Ten Moral Principles Part 2 - Secular Humanism

Looking for some inspiration about best moral principles, or revised TEN commandments, I want to take some time to look at the Affirmations of Humanism


We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
Sounds good to me. I wouldn't have thought of it as a moral principle but maybe it is. An alternative might be following "God's will" or "We are committed to the application of God's will to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems." However, since this is coming from a disbelief in God and a belief in the use of science and reason to understand things, including moral ideas, I suppose it really is a moral principle. Now, how to word it as a commandment.
"Thou shalt apply reason and science to understanding the universe and to solving human problems." I feel uneasy about putting "science" in there but I think it IS good to have something about practical, testable ideas, to commit to revising our ideas as we learn more. Then again, I rather like the idea of wording it as something one has chosen to do, so how about.
"I commit to using reason and science to aid in my understanding of reality and how to act on that knowledge."

I thought it best to leave off "human" because there is the slight possibility that there will be other creatures, intelligent or not, that I might run into problems about. Also, there may be other important things to consider in gaining knowledge of reality. For example, imagination can be extraordinarily helpful, but I don't know whether people would consider it "reason" or "science".

We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
I wouldn't use deplore. I also don't like the negative slant of this nor the presumption it makes about the truth about "supernatural." While I do think that everything is explainable, I'm not sure humankind will get to the point where everything is explained, and it may be useful to keep an open mind about difficult-to-explain things. For example, there may be beings with special abilities which might seem "beyond natural" to us. I think we're better off assuming there's some explanation but not better off assuming we can know what the explanation will look like. If there were some superly intelligent and benevolent beings, it might be "best" to follow their lead... treat them as something like gods. It wouldn't be outside nature, but it might not be entirely predictable by science. Maybe there should be a principle about having an open mind - supportive of creativity and imagination.

"I support intelligence and to act as if explanations of reality are possible and to look for them."
I think I want to reword the first principle to this:
"I commit to using reason, science, creativity, and imagination to aid in my understanding of reality and how to act on that knowledge."
"I will seek to explore new ideas as they come up and revisit old ones, for truth is not always obvious."

We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
I suppoe this is in contrast to avoiding science and technology. I think it's a bit redundant with the last few principles but possibly useful to have in mind as an implicaiton.

We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
I don't know about having politics as part of a philosophy. It seems like an area where there is so much yet to learn. Democracies aren't free from oppression although they may be the best we can do.

Whew, it's tiring work, thinking through these things. I'll have to take a break and come back to it another time.

Wednesday, August 15

The Revised Ten Commandments - Part 1

If you had to pick the 10 most important moral laws for all of humankind to follow, what would they be?
 
I think it would be an interesting project to come up with my own list. I don't think I'm particularly qualified for this project, but I figure it never hurts to spend some extra effort thinking about ethics.  Now, onto my first candidates - mostly inspired by the Bible's commandments.
 
Killing would be up there. I mean, a law about NOT killing others would be up there. Or maybe
"Thou shalt not kill humans or other sentient beings except in self-defense." Hmm. I think this would make abortions unlawful. I'm not sure where I stand on that. Definitely, I think a lack of killing of most humans would be up there as very important.
 
What else could be in the top 10?
 
"Thou shalt give me, the creator of these laws, half of all your wealth."
I don't think that one would go over very well and I guess wouldn't necessarily be helpful for the rest of the population besides myself. I guess I wouldn't want folks to do that if it meant they didn't do some other important things.
 
"Thou shalt not take slaves nor act in any way to take advantage of slave labor." I wonder why that isn't in the original - at least the first part of it. The Jewish people were even escaping slavery and yet Moses(or God if that's your belief) didn't put that in the top 10. Why not? I mean, isn't the freedom of people important? Apparently it wasn't then.
 
Ok, what else.
 
Lying. Well, I can think of good reasons to lie, but then I think the original commandment was something about not bearing false witness. That certainly seems good, but I'm not sure whether I won't think of others that are more important. I'll keep it in mind.
 
Envy. Coveting your neighbor's wife or husband or stuff. I don't really see how that's so terrible although I'd think there was something wrong with a person who felt they HAD to have those things to be happy. It'd be more productive to appreciate the good things another has and try to learn how to get good things for oneself. I'll have to put more thought into that one.
 
Thou shalt worship no other gods before me. I'd just throw that one out entirely, but I can't help thinking there's some way of thinking about it that might be useful. Like, one might do better to have some basic ideas/principles that are most important and maybe ONE that is most important. *note to self to continue pondering that one*
 
Honor thy parents. I'd question this one. Parents aren't always particularly nice people. You could have empathy or even sympathy for the hardships they may have had which contributed to their not being "nice" people, but I don't know if I'd call that honoring them. Also, I'm of the opinion that since parents have all the choices in deciding to have children, they have responsibility that goes with it. A child should be honored by being taken care of well. If all children were honored in this way, I think we'd progress a lot more as a species. OTOH, children can't learn to honor parents if parents don't teach them such things. Therefore, if I were to proclaim something like "Honor thy parents" it would be in the form of "Parents, treat your children such that they will honor you."
 
to be continued...
 
 

Wednesday, August 8

Peace, Justice, and Pacifism

I had this sudden urge to defend my decision to include links to Peace organizations. For the time being, I am not a pacifist. I am very skeptical that the state of human knowledge about how to get along is so well developed that the use of defensive force, which might prove deadly, is never in order.

However, on a personal level, I don't want to be involved in the use of deadly force or in promoting it. I am interested in developing the sort of knowledge which might lead to a more peaceful and just humanity.

If I were a camera...

I am a Disposable Camera. I need constant change and tend to avoid commitment. I like things no-frills and easy, and I don't want to mess with untidy and complicated details. If things get too stagnant, I look for stimulation in new areas. In a relationship, I am fun to date but unreliable.
How about you? Take the personality quiz and find out What Type of Camera Are You?


I must be getting flakey in my old age. I usually hate these little quizzes but suddenly I'm starting to find them appealing. I was looking for tips on video camera use for the access show I help out with at my church (a fairly unique, long-running public forum type thing). I got distracted from my search by the sudden urge to know what type of camera I am.

I think the test is a bit off. I really don't like disposable cameras. I prefer digital, so I can take all the pictures I want without having to print them all. The drawback is I don't have much patience for organizing all those photos into anything others might want to see...