It should be fairly obvious to everyone that “humanism” is a religion-substitute.
Humanists are, after all, human beings, and find that they cannot get through life without religious beliefs and commitments, and being ideologically crippled in their ability to have genuine religious beliefs and commitments, they find it necessary to invent some fake one ad hoc. Let’s take a look at the first three “affirmations” of the humanist manifesto. They are really quite funny, given that the sort of people—like Richard Dawkins—who go in for this kind of religion-substitute generally would identify themselves as some kind of “rationalist.” How rational is humanism? Not very. But let’s see why.
Here are the first three “affirmations” of The Humanist Manifesto, as seen through my philosopher’s lens:
1. Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists 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.
My readers will know that one of the first questions professional philosophers pose in their investigation of claims is that of retortion. That is, we ask, for any given attempt to formulate or state a universal principle, what happens when the principle is applied to itself? Very frequently, a purportedly universal principle, when applied to itself, defeats itself, that is, ether directly annihilates its own content or else invalidates the epistemic ground of the principle put forward.
We have such a case here. This principle makes a basic, universal claim about the nature of knowledge, and is thus being put forward as very important knowledge about the nature of knowledge—and yet, this principle, while claiming to be knowledge about the nature of knowledge, fails to count as legitimate knowledge on the grounds of itself.
According to this principle, knowledge is derived from observation, experience, and rational analysis. But this principle is not derived from observation, experience, and rational analysis. So this principle is not knowledge. Not being knowledge, this principle can only be an irrational faith commitment, that is, a believing-something-to-be-true-without-knowledge, there being no other alternative.
2. Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists 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.
Here we encounter another pair of claims that would go far beyond anything authorized by science. First is the belief that evolution is “unguided.” By what possible means could one determine this? Certainly not be any means set forth, say, in Affirmation 1 above. No, what we have here is simply a blunt atheistical blind-faith belief. Now, atheists are given to claiming that atheism involves no beliefs—this is not true, of course, but only a rhetorical maneuver which attempts to saddle theists with the so-called ‘burden of proof’—but this particular dodge is not available to the humanist, since this actually a statement of humanist beliefs. So here we have one clear case of a blind-faith belief, a belief-without-evidence, held to be true by an act of will, on the basis of wanting-it-to-be-true. That is, a case of the thing that most theists do not do in most cases, but which atheists are forever claiming that they do.
Or rather not one, but two. The belief about the unguidedness of evolution is immediately followed by the belief-without-evidence that “nature is self-existing.” This is, frankly, a metaphysical howler, since nature is composite entity composed of contingent beings, and thus cannot possibly be a candidate for a necessary being. No scientist, no cosmologist, for example, holds that the laws of nature or the fundamental constants of nature have any intrinsic necessity to them. Worst still, it is very obvious that a “self-existing” being could not not exist, and thus could not be a being that began to be at any time—and yet our best science indicates that the physical universe is NOT, in fact, eternal, but has a beginning at what we call the Big Bang. Thus it is clear that our universe is NOT self-existing.
To counter this, an atheist or a humanist might postulate that “nature” is not limited to our universe, that there is “more” out there beyond the bounds of our universe, perhaps many or an infinite number of universes—a multiverse—but a multiverse hypothesis suffers from three fatal problems:
- It is entirely speculative. There is no evidence whatever of such a thing, nor can there be, at least by any scientific means, since our scientific knowledge is necessarily limited to the universe. The “multiverse” is an ad hoc, made-up, just-so story.
- On our best understanding of the implications of our inflationary universe, any possible multiverse that could fit with what we know about the universe would have to be an inflationary multiverse, and thus, necessarily, would have to have an absolute beginning, and thus, necessarily could not be a self-existing being either. The multiverse hypothesis cannot “solve” the problem an absolute beginning without directly, unless it posits that the multiverse is radically incongruous with our universe and thus not part of the same system of nature.
- If it is then posited that the multiverse need not be “natural” but has the metaphysical characteristics which would enable it to be self-sufficient—this does solve the problem, but at a fairly high cost for the humanist; namely, you have just posited God under another name. Welcome to theism.
3. Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists 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.
And finally, to bring this humanist farce to a close, we find the humanists—after blithely asserting a bunch of things they do not and cannot know as true—blithely asserting that they can somehow solve the problem of the naturalistic fallacy, that is, of logically getting an OUGHT out of an IS. They say that “ethical values” are “derived” from “human need and interest.” But like all naturalists, they hit an eternally insoluble problem. Let’s put it in syllogistic form:
- X needs Y.
- X ought to have/be given/be allowed to obtain Y.
- X has an interest in Y.
- X ought to have/be given/be allowed to obtain/attain Y.
What’s premise 2?
Or if more premises than one are needed, what are they? At some point in the chain there must be a premise that says “if such-and-such IS the case, then such-and-such OUGHT to follow.” But no such premise will ever be available to one who remains in the realm of “is’s” about human “needs and interests.”
As always, naturalism makes ethics incoherent, and since humanism is a naturalism, humanism makes ethics incoherent.
Humanism is, I conclude, not only a religion-substitute, but a particularly bad one, at least for rational people, since it requires a number of acts of blind faith, that is, of sheerly believing things on the basis of no evidence other than wanting them to be true.
Since this is NOT true of classical theism, it seems that rational persons will elect to become classical theists rather than joining the humanist cult. As far as I can tell, the only advantage of humanism over, say, Scientology, is that it doesn’t really require anything of you. And while that sounds appealing to many moderns, they will eventually find to their sorrow that this is not a strength but a weakness.
Genuine religious faith requires much of a person, indeed, requires all, but gives much, indeed, all in return.