Real Humanism

This latest piece by the BHA is at last a balanced collection of views from notable humanists – about what humanism is about. (I made a plea for balance earlier.)

A little too much focus on the “life after death” issue maybe – surely a non-issue to a humanist. The “why we hold science in high regard” section is pretty balanced too; emphasising the contingency of layers of knowledge built up over time, and the open-mindedness to correction. But yet again the high priest of science put his foot in it. This was my comment on the video:

As a long term humanist / atheist I have no problem holding science in high regard. Bronowski inspired me 35 40 years ago to the massively important – awesome – place of science in human civilisation, and humans in the cosmos. BUT the self-importance of scientists who say

science is THE poetry of reality

are as closed-minded and deluded as any religious believer.

It’s a very important poetry (and rhetoric and logic) of the presumed “out there” reality, sure, probably the most important from that presumption, but poetry and reality are far more than that to a humanist. So much more to human nature and human reasoning in the world than science. Science is full of human creativity, and human creativity extends well beyond science, thank goodness, as Bronowski knew.

Humans – the A in AGW

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic (Richard Muller) in the NYT, via BBC.

Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct.

I’m now going a step further:
Humans are almost entirely the cause.

Never any doubt, but some people prefer “proof” whatever that is.

The Cult of Science

Great piece by Jonathan Ree in the New Humanist reviewing the work of Bruno Latour particularly his latest “The Modern Cult of the Factish Gods” (Hat tip to David Morey on Facebook)

But who in this great brawl is really believing naively? Not the religious believers, according to Latour, but the modern atheists, afflicted as they are by the “naïve belief … that ignorant people believe naively”. Indeed the much-loved contrast between the so-called “facts” that provide a foundation for enlightened knowledge and the “fetishes” that animate the beliefs of fools is itself a superstition – a delusion which Latour proposes to commemorate with his new hybrid word “factish”.

Factish, in short, is what happens when our own “facts” turn out to be fetishes, and the “fetishes” of others turn out to be facts.

But who is the image-worshipper at this table? Not the believers, surely, because however much they treasure their icons, they know very well (most of the time at least) that they are human artefacts. If superstition is at work here, it seems to be on the side of the idol-smashers, however modern they may be and proud of their dispassionate rationality; otherwise how could they get excited about destroying something that is after all no more than an image? Icons are thus the idols of the iconoclasts, making a cult of their anti-cultism.

(My emphasis) Has all the feel of a Foggy-Froggie / PoMo – he is French, but look at that jacket! Indeed he was one of the targets of the great Sokal hoax, but he has nailed the superstition – the psychological disease I call scientism – the delusion he calls factish and Maxwell calls scientific neurosis.

Value-free science is a superstition.

(PS Looks like the New Humanist / Rationalist Association is the antidote to the naivete of the BHA. Time to switch subscriptions.)

Battle Lines @rickygervais

This is trending in the twittersphere (via @rickygervais who else?)

Post – My son is 15 he gave his heart to the Lord when he was 4, but now he claims to be an atheist. I’ve been praying for him day and night I don’t know what else to do. PLEASE help.

Response (example) – Let go and let God. At 15 he is still at that age where uncertainty is at its best. Keep praying for him and lead by example. If you force him to believe in God he will move further away. Ask God to soften his heart. Keep praying for him. take care.

What atheists should notice is that even unsophisticated theists understand how to make progress with other human beings. You can always pick a fight if you want one – but unless war is your objective, it pays to use more subtle “co-evolutionary” tactics.

Uncertainty is best, lead by example, don’t force, care … it’s all there.

Society has always needed “court jesters” and we need Ricky to poke fun at the expense of theistic madness. The point of the court jester IS to point out things that those actually responsible for progress probably shouldn’t say. A court made up entirety of jesters is not the optimum solution.

Anyway, I’ve made enough points about being pissed at the BHA for being a stream of simply one negative campaign against another. Atheists need to up their game for the sake of humanism / humanity. Listen to the poets (as well as the jesters).

You must go, and I must set you free,
Only that will bring you back to me.

Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy)


Saw this clip the other day – Craig Bellamy being interviewed about being in the GB Olympic football team – and thought as well as being surprisingly articulate, his school-boyish enthusiasm and all round good humour made such a change from all the usual earnest and corporately correct punditry and commentary.

I wasn’t the only person to notice.

[Post Note – And ironic that Welshman Bellamy should score the opening goal, only to have the Daily Express report him scoring for “england”.]

Imperfect Knowledge

If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do much what as wisely as he, who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.

John Locke – “On The Understanding” (1670-80ish)

Been looking for this quote. Two purposes; firstly the general idea of pragmatism – ie it’s better to do something than sit and worry about rules and definitions, and secondly the more specific god vs science – proven / not-proven stalemates, where each holds up an impossible (disingenuous) truth test to the other. All truth – except our immediate personal empirical experience –  involves some faith in the current state of authority and some level of creative metaphor, or both. There are no absolute facts in theology or science.

Couldn’t remember where I’d come across it or even that it was John Locke, and actually gave up when searches for the key words on quotation sites failed to find it. Then noticed it was the motto I’d seen on the BrewDog web pages. Funny old world.

In vino veritas, well, craft-beer anyway.