Hi, and welcome to the Humanist Symposium #9. After the bang-up job Elliptica did with the last Symposium and the whole Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam theme, I had a seriously tough act to follow. So after trying in vain to come up with some extremely clever theme or twist for my edition of the Symposium, I decided to just relax, be myself, and do what I always do with this blog.
No, I’m not doing a dirty version of the Symposium.
Although I did seriously consider it.
Instead, I present to you the Humanist Symposium: Illustrated Edition.
We have them. No, really.
We’ve all heard the refrain: without God or religion, people would have no morality, no decency, no reason to follow a code of ethics or treat one another well, no reason not to act on every selfish desire and impulse that pops into our pointy little heads. And yet this is the largest category in the Symposium. I’m just sayin’, is all.
The Dangers of Technological Adolescence, by Eric Michael Johnson, at The Primate Diaries. A brief history of scientific “progress” in human experimentation. Eric discusses how experiments on human subjects have changed over the centuries, how they haven’t… and why it matters.
Why You Should Show Appreciation, from INTJ Personal Development. Why you should show appreciation for the little things people do — and how to go about doing that. In other words, reasons for being nice to people that have nothing to do with God.
Self-Ownership, by Shaun Connell, at Reason and Capitalism. A discussion of why self-ownership is the foundation of liberty. Shaun theorizes that without the concept of self-ownership, liberty, freedom, and any non-totalitarian type system of government are philosophically impossible.
The Hope In Weakness (Morality II), by Ian Welsh, at The Agonist. Ian argues here that most human beings are easily influenced by others, both for good and for evil — and he argues that this is actually a good thing, a thing that offers hope for humanity.
Individual vs. Group Responsibility, by Alonzo Fyfe, at Atheist Ethicist. Why a just and peaceful society needs to hold individuals responsible for their actions, rather than giving credit or blame to everyone in the groups they’re part of — and why atheists need to be watchful about this.
THE HUMANIST MEANING OF LIFE
Another common trope of anti-atheist rhetoric is that a life without God or religion is not only without morality, but without meaning. Piffle, say I, and yet again: Piffle. All the pieces in this Symposium address the question of life’s meaning in one form or another; this piece takes it on directly.
The Meaning of Life. Or, do theists ever even talk to atheists?, by Ben D, at Principles of Parsimony. An essay examining why theists accuse atheists of lacking meaning in their lives — and why, contrary to this assumption, atheism is a philosophy that offers hope, liberation, consolation, joy, value, and great meaning.
THE VALUE OF SCIENCE
Secular humanism and a love of science often go hand in hand, and atheist writers devote scads of writing to the transcendent wonders of the physical universe… and to the astonishing ability that the scientific method has to uncover said wonders. Here is one such scad.
Scientific Theory and Philosophical Idea, by Mike White, at Life According To Mike White. Mike highlights the differences between scientific theory and philosophical idea, and discusses why, although philosophy is important in understanding the world and our lives, it ultimately needs science to provide a foundation of facts — and to truly question and explore the unexplainable.
This high-falutin’ philosophy is all very well and good… but how do we actually get along and be happy in the practical day-to-day world? Without, you know, God? These bloggers offer both broad theories and practical household hints on everyday atheism.
Brain Wellness: Train Your Brain to Be Happier, by Alvaro, at Sharp Brains. Reflections on brain, mind and happiness. Since self, mind, and awareness come from the physical brain, how can we use the knowledge gained from neuropsychology to make ourselves happier?
On Atheist Janitors, by Ebon Muse, at Daylight Atheism. Is atheism a worldview that anyone can take up, or does the majority of society need religion to keep them happy and pacified? Ebon looks at how atheism can work in the lives of everyone — for janitors and sewer workers as much as for famous authors and scientists.
HUMANISTS ON RELIGION
If you want critiques of religion, you won’t find them here. In the Humanist Symposium, bloggers offer positive explorations of our humanist/ atheist/ etc. philosophies, not snarky rants about how religion is corrupting our children and poisoning our well-water and making our vegetables go all soggy. (We go to the Carnival of the Godless for that — and a rip-snortin’ good time it is, too.)
But humanists do have to live in a world of religion. So how can we do that in a constructive way? I asks ya. And so does this blogger.
Creationism In The Classroom: Is Ignoring It Worse?, by Genwi, at Big Ideas. Genwi takes a look at a specific aspect of this “how do we live in a world with religion” question that’s on many of our minds right now — namely, how should biology teachers deal with creationist beliefs in their students?
META-HUMANISM: HUMANIST COMMUNITY AND PHILOSOPHY
Thus far we’ve had humanists on ethics, science, religion, the meaning of life, and just getting along and being happy. So we wrap up this Symposium with a series of writings by humanists on, you know, humanism. (“Navel-gazing” is such an ugly word. I prefer to think of it as “community building.”)
Meta-Debunking the Empirical Rationalists, by Genwi again, at Big Ideas. How different are the different philosophies and approaches to atheism, secularism, humanism, skepticism, etc.? Genwi is back, arguing that rationalism and empiricism are, in fact, fundamentally contradictory, and that in any theory of life and truth one must take precedence over the other.
The Umbrella of Atheism, by Spanish Inquisitor. A response to the controversy surrounding the Sam Harris speech at the recent Atheist Alliance conference. S.I. argues that atheism is a useful term: an umbrella that can encompass rationalism, secular humanism, naturalism, and other positive non-theistic philosophies of life.
Options For Uniting Nonbelievers, by vjack, at Atheist Revolution. This is the second post in a multi-part series designed to explore community-building among nonbelievers. In the first part, vjack argued that uniting the secular community is a worthy goal. This post considers some of the options for bringing nonbelievers together.
Finally, we have my own contribution to this symposium: The Galileo Fallacy, and the Gadfly Corollary, by Greta Christina, right here at Greta Christina’s Blog. No, it’s not one of the pieces about my cat (although she has been known to succumb to the Gadfly Corollary). It’s a discussion of some of the pitfalls involved in skeptical thinking — specifically, the idea that having an unpopular idea that everyone disagrees with automatically makes you a genius.
Thus concludes this week’s Humanist Symposium. We’re having a casual get-together in the lounge afterwards; please feel free to peruse our library, explore our laboratory, and engage in lively but civil political discussion in our, uh, political discussion place. Further readings and discussions on humanism and atheism are available in our godless pit of doom and damnation. And, of course, please feel free to disport yourself in our tasteful and well-appointed orgy room. (Adults only in the orgy room, please!)
Many thanks to Ebon Muse, of the exquisite Daylight Atheism blog and Ebon Musings website, for organizing this esteemed gathering and for setting me loose on it. The next Humanist Symposium will be held on November 4, 2007, at Letters from a Broad. Bloggers who are interested in participating should check out these guidelines and use this submission form. Thanks for reading, and until next time, may the blessings of Poseidon be upon you.