2005-09-06

Virian Flux and I had a conversation on Skype today;

We came up with three things that we can do to promote Humanist values:

  • Connect with the people who are working on promoting them.
  • Write stories. (Such as: Harry Potter, which does a great job of promoting humanist values.)
  • Explain. (Science.)

We also talked about the possibility of a “moral method.” It would be similar to the scientific method in that it would be a process for discovering moral truths, rather than a fixed set of conclusions. It would likely intersect with the scientific method around psychology.

Just as the scientific method is pointed at as the ultimate authority for claims of science, the moral method would be pointed at as an utlimate authority for claims of morality. It wouldn’t mean that there was is no controversy. It would mean that controversy would settle with time, through the application of the process.

As for explanation, we talked about the WikiDebateBase and VisualLanguage.

I assert that education can proceed 10x, perhaps 100x, faster than it does now, with the proper educational tools. I argued that materials are the primary stumbling block in education. “What’s this have to do with debate?” Debate has everything to do with education.

We talked about music, and it’s role in uniting humanists.

We also talked about communities. Scientific papers speak mutely to teenagers wondering how to court a girl. Religious communities have a lot of encouraging things to say to a teenager in this situation. Scientists have a hard time being heartfelt, and only talk about hormones and chemicals.

There is a gap here, a very, very, very, large gap.

I personally feel it’s one of the major reasons why religion still has such a foothold in a world that so obviously should know better.

I think the wish to create an ultimate moral authority ist obvious, old (religions, philosophies, ideologies) and vane. People seek freedom and this means to have choices, not to reduce them. Only in times of fear they seek shelter.

I agree that education could become 100x more efficient, maybe 1000x more. I’m currently thinking a lot about that, because of my speaking at a conference for remote learning in Hamburg about wikis. But the price for getting at this efficiency would probably be to completely destroy and revolutionize the current education and science system. There is no business model, that can drive that, because “100x more efficient” to a large extent must mean “education without money” and “open education”. It is unclear whether people within the system will want to go that way and take the personal risk. It is unclear whether one should even talk about that situation openly, because of the expected fears und reactions involved.

With respect to teenager courting: part of the fun is probably to do your own explorations. But one could of course create a wiki with stories and insights. Probably a number of different strategies would turn up, hopefully not a “handbook how to … correctly”. My preferred model would be the wiki peer-communication-model: seek to be together, talk and listen, help and receive help, seek resonance, “unfold and help to unfold”, go step by step.

About courting girls : well, you do have this (via seb) but I do see your point :) (And I don’t have a good answer, apart from, probably : stories)

I’m not very optimist about a “moral method” - we may get one some day, but I don’t think we have anything to strive towards right now, we’ve got loads of things to explore first. Or, maybe we’re not talking about the same thing, but I can’t imagine mankind suddenly adopting some set of rules about morality.

As for debate and education : Wikipedia. I now tend to think that all debate should be well-grounded in wikipedia - or at least, that if I want to argue about something, my arguments and what they are based on should first be explained somewhere on wikipedia, preferably in good, heavily interlinked articles. That means much more time is spend on defining things rather than arguing about them, but on the long run, I think that’s good :)

(By the way, is it true that “humanist” is a bad word in the US ?)

Humanist, I think, connotates intellectual selfishness. I was uncomfortable with Virian’s use of the word, because I was uncertain about just what it meant.

My personal subjective feeling is that humanism’s humanitarianism is suspect or hollow. Sort of like Libertarian claims to be humanitarian strikee me as suspect or hollow: “We all know that you just want a big fat property, to disdain others, and then to be left alone. (You aren’t serious about liberating people; Where are Libertarians Against Racism?)” Humanism, (and I say this without having ever met a self-identified humanist,) feels to me like: “We all know you just want to be irreligious, to disdain others, and then to be left alone.”

I think to a lot of Americans, humanism would appear to be intellectually stifling, dead, mechanical, atheist, boring, and false, both in terms of fact (“is it true,”) and in terms of essence (“pretense.”) Star Trek fans might be humanists, and well meaning, but that’s about it.

I say, “Would appear to be,” because I think the vast majority of us only have a very basic and primitive understanding of humanism. I know that’s true for me, at least. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s simply fact. (“I think I read Miyazaki say humanist in an interview…”)

I don’t think I’ve heard the word “humanist” show up in politics, once, ever.

The word “humanism” makes me think of the ideal gentleman of the Renaissance, that’s well-learned in all arts and sciences, a fit mind in a fit body, etc. The humanist thinkers of that period, etc. I don’t think it has any negative connotations, and “atheism” doesn’t spring to mind when I hear the word (“Christian humanism” makes perfect sense to me, I’d say a lot of christian thinkers are in the humanist tradition).

One exception I can think of - Jean-Paul Sartre doesn’t seem to have liked humanism, but I don’t know enough about his thought (plus, it changed with time). I don’t know much about what is humanism exactly, but it doesn’t seem to have ther same connotations on both sides of ther atlantic.

Maybe we just give different names to the same concepts :

In the US you say :In France you say :
LibertarianLiberal (libéral)
LiberalHumanist (humaniste)
AnarchistLibertarian (libertaire) / Anarchist (anarchiste)
HumanistAtheist (athée)
AtheistBaby-rapist

It’s pretty approximative, but I could go on … what would the other europeans around say ?

I’ve always had problems when these labels turn up and drop out of the discussions soon, because misunderstandings are unavoidable. The “atheist / Baby-rapist” is a joke, isn’t it? It is evident that when you use the term “social” this is seen as communism in the US. There is no single party in Austria that would not talk about “social”, “social politics”, “social net” or “social justice” without even considering such a connection.

(Yes, it is a joke.)

And, yes: “social” implies communism in the US, ,so it’s not used politically.

That said, in daily speech, people feel free to use the word “social,” even as a mark of self-identification (“I am a social libertarian,” for example.)

labels: Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. :)

I am a Humanist. I am a member of the HumanistMovement (sometimes called NewHumanism? or the NewHumanistMovement?). I am NOT an atheist. I object to the stance of the AmericanHumanistAssociation? that humanism = atheism. For me the human being is central, not anything about my or your personal beliefs about god or Goddess or spirituality or religion. It seems to me that many people use the word humanist when they mean atheist and they use freethinker when they are not thinking freely or recognizing that others have different experiences of the world.

Oh, the above shouldn’t be taken too seriously, it was mainly sparked by my curiosity about Lion talking about “promoting humanist values”, which doesn’t sound like the stuff he usually says :) Apparently to Lion “humanism” means Secular Humanism (though I’m not sure that ties up much with the original discussion), I’d tend to associate the word with Renaissance Humanism.

Now, TedErnst brings in the HumanistMovement, which is a different kind of fish, probably closer to what Lion and VirianFlux? talked about originally (I guess it’s what’s Humanist International on wikipedia; over there New Humanism is an early XXth century conservative school of literary criticism).

Yes, the HumanistParty? (HumanistInternational?) was started by members of the HumanistMovement. You’ll notice that wikipedia article has a link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanist_Movement. Definitely not secular humanism. Not sure about renainssance humanism. You’re right that the NewHumanism? at wikipedia is different. Very confusing to use this one word humanism in all these different ways.

Heheh, I just created that page this morning (I’m “Flammifer” on Wikipedia and IRC), thanks for expanding it ^-^

The German Wikipedia definition of Humanism admits that the meaning of “humanism” varies with the person calling himself or herself a humanist. I think we need to personalize the term in order to use it on this site. In other words, we need to state something along the lines of “I call myself a humanist because I believe that …”

“I call myself a humanist because I believe that human values - like human rights and peacefulness - are more important than differences of political, economical or religous world views. The primary goals must be: to have peace, to have nobody starve or die from simple diseases, to give everybody a chance in life, to reduce all forms of violence.”

Hmm; Interesting!

I’m not a humanist, I guess, because I believe transcendental values are supreme. Values that I don’t even know, can’t even conceive of. Specificly, the eternal Spirit, whatever it is. I don’t have to know what it is, to know that it’s there.

If the eternal Spirit, for some bizarre reason, required that the air was burned off the Earth, and every human was left to horribly suffocate to death in agonizing pain; Then what are we: but grains of dust in the wind? 1

That said: All reason and intelligence indicates to me that humans evolved, the scientific method is best, and aversion to knowledge is horribly destructive. Judgement without explanation should be investigated. Unfounded religious beliefs should be systematically questioned, at this point in time. Faith is okay, but on the condition that uncertainty is recognized and advertised. 2

These thoughts make me highly sympathetic to humanist thinking.

But I can’t focus on humans. Eternity is, quite simply, too big. Going far beyond humans- The greatest matrioshka brain, computing for trillions of years, have only experienced a child’s dream, the briefest moment in eternity. Eternity is a really really really long time, is it not? There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in human-centric philosophy.

Chrysalis Collasus makes much more sense to me than the humanist manifesto.

To focus on the human vehicle, to my way of thinking, is to miss the adventure. The vehicle is momentary, the adventure is forever. Right now we need to protect the vehicle and it’s knowledge from the crazy people, so I guess that makes me a temporary guest in the humanist fort. But the adventure is what I really care about.

I stumble over the term “humanist.” It feels like the term humanist places too much emphasis on the vessel (the human body and mind). To me what is really cool is life itself … If I had to label the currently dominant mindset of the Brandon body, I’d choose “lifeist”. Humans are cool because we have so much “life” potential.

I don’t call myself a humanist, mainly because the word doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody, so just saying “I believe in human rights, non-violence and improving the human condition” is simpler. I probably fit into most definitions of humanism, though, so maybe I’d call myself a humanist with sufficient prodding.

I guess the main reason I don’t like labels that much (I mean, what does “liberal” mean ?) is that it tends to be implied that you agree with everybody who uses the same labels. Labels are useful, but only when enough people know what they mean / who they represent - so I’d say there’s a set of “usable” labels today (like “neo-conservative”, “geek”…), but that there are also a lot of other “depreciated” labels who have lost a bit of their edge (“humanist”, “liberal”, “right wing” … oh, I don’t know, I’m no labelologist 3), so you’re better off just saying what they mean instead of using them (I’d also put words like “democracy” in that category).

Agreed. The connection with folksonomy is interesting; I guess that’s what we’re dealing with. I never thought of it that way.

I think that Brandon’s “lifeist” has to do a lot with “humanist”. Life, as Christopher Alexander sees it, is a process of stepwise refinement, where each step is judged and maybe undone by its perceivable value added to living structure. This is an empirical and pragmatical approach which fits quite well to humanism. I would name CA an humanist, because he favours the human users of his architecture and let’s them make the decisions how to create their living environent fitting to their needs. “Humanist” as I see it, has nothing to do with atheism, and is very compatible with religious believes as long as there is no fundamentalism. I see humanism as a pragmatic least common denominator of religions.

(Hmm, this page should probably be moved to HumanismDiscussion? or or DiscussionOnLabels? or TagsAndLabels? or something - if we think it’s worth keeping.)

Historically, I think humanis arised as a reaction to the medieval conception that the only thing that mattered was the afterlife, and that we shouldn’t worry about this crappy world that’s just a minor stop on our trip to the eternal glory of God. Humanism was like, heck no, this world matters too ! Humans matter ! We’re not just leaves tossed in the wind !

Nowdays, it seems that those ideas spread to most religions, so humanism doesn’t seem that “atheist” any more. At least, that’s how I see it, I haven’t studied the subject extensively :)

Even though I called myself a humanist above, I almost never refer to myself that way. I do say I’m a volunteer with the HumanistMovement. I do not at all believe that belief in trancendence is contradictory to humanism. What does it mean to trancend? If tracendence can happen through my own actions, then it’s those human actions that need to be the center of my value system. If this trancendence doesn’t have to do with me at all, then it doesn’t really matter what my values are, does it? And if there’s no trancendence, acting in life as if there is hasn’t really hurt me or anyone else, has it?

And lifism is also great. For me, however, human beings are in a unique position on Earth in that we’re at a place where we can make choices. No other life form on this planet can make that claim. This doesn’t mean that we’re free to just wipe out other forms of life. For me it means that human beings have to be the center of my value system as I build toward my meaning in life. And that whole web of life is of course tied up in our evolution so putting human beings as the central value again doesn’t contradict the premise that life is precious.

I agree about humans being in a unique position to direct where life goes next. This is an enormous responsibility that we need to acknowledge and own. And, for me personally, the term “humanist” is a slight turn-off because it feels disconnected from the rest of life.

Which do ya’all prefer, lifism and lifist or lifeism and lifeist?

I think that the “I am a humanist because…” statements are certainly the right way to start defining this, but I find that if most mainstream political or political-philosophical viewpoints are put before me, they sound reasonable; it’s not until you present specific examples, and say, “viewpoint A says do this, but viewpoint B says do that” that I can understand what A and B really mean. A related question is, “what does viewpoint A disagree with that other prominent viewpoints endorse or don’t mind?”, or more simply, “What do they NOT want?”

For example, Helmut’s desire to, “have peace, to have nobody starve or die from simple diseases, to give everybody a chance in life, to reduce all forms of violence” is probably universally agreed upon by people of almost all political philosophies. But I think we mean “humanist” to be more specific than that, right?

ChicagoHumanistWiki:HumanistMovement is more specific; to quote it:

What do we want?

  • To think globally and act locally…
  • A Universal Human Nation
  • Multiple in ethnicity, languages, cultures, creativity, localities

What we do not want?

  • Leaders or bosses
  • A centralized state
  • A para-state (controlled by banks and multinationals)

Bayle, ideas are simply misused sometimes. In this case the idea of “humanism” is misused for a polical agenda. And you can’t say, people agree universally on peace and “anti-poverty” and “simple chances for all” and … accept them leading war after war for their interests.

In a world where no-one died from hunger, we all would feel better. There are no economic or technical reasons that hinder that goal. We need to regain control of “rational egoism” that has been institutionalized in out political and economical systems. No to remove freedoms, but to establish the most rudimentary standards of humanity.

Helmut, what is “rational egoism?” Do you mean the rationalism for endorsing selfishness? (things like: “Things work out best, if everyone looks out for just themselves. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; Beware altruism.”)

I agree with you on food. I do wonder if there are social reasons that hinder the goal.

I’ve always thought that a basic income, a portion of which could only be spent on food, would be a good deal for everybody. Fraud would be dealt with the same way that Alaska deals with their basic income.

But this thinking has never grown beyond: “I think this would be a good idea. I support it, and propagate it.”

Not sure if Helmut means that we should delete the EgoBug? I believe deleting the EgoBug is the most important thing we can do to improve the health of the body of all (including of course humanity).

I think “rational egoism” means that people (or states) act to their advantage. In a way this is natural. The problem only starts in social systems, when the advantage is coupled with damaging the interests of others or the community as a whole. There was never a rational benefit in improving the life conditions in underdeveloped countries. But now we are all about to pay for this in terms of globalization problems, job loss or terror risk. The same is true for the world climate. Why care for a few degrees rise of the average temperature … except if you live in some hurricane region.

Footnotes:

1. A brief suggestion, though: Don’t put me, or anybody but the most stubborn secular humanist, in charge of the future Terra environment controls system!
2. No, I don’t really know that the eternal Spirit is there. But, it’s not worth considering that it’s not.
3. folksonomist ?

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