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Global Warming a New Religion

One of Leighton Smith’s pet topics on his talk radio show on Newstalk ZB, is global warming. He and I share similar opinions in this regard, and its edifying to hear someone in New Zealand with a modicum of sense surrounding the issue. 

I don’t know how I became sceptical of the global warming cultural phenomenon. Perhaps already being sceptical of evolutionary models that made me see the hype of global warming as the same old sensationalist rhetoric that accompanies a decisive lack of substantive evidence. Perhaps it was a dozen little things that collected and connected in my mind. 

Like the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) being chiefly composed of bureaucrats instead of scientists. Like the political momentum the debate has gathered. Like the ridicule aimed at respected scientist with doubts or dissenting views. Perhaps it was Al Gore’s reputation for honesty. Perhaps it was the late meteorologist Augie Auer puffing at the idea on Sports Cafe, calling it a ‘joke.’ Perhaps it was that I learnt that a single volcano pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere in (something like) a single hour than the whole of America does in a year.

Perhaps it was something else. Entrenching my scepticism were the videos linked bellow, especially The Man-made Global Warming Hoax, an excellent documentary. 

Now one has to point out first that Global Warming is not just the idea that the planet is slowly heating. This everyone agrees with. It is also the idea that man is responsible for the increase in temperature and it is on this point where the controversy lies. 

I don’t confess to be a scientist, but I do think of myself as a philosopher and the global warming cultural phenomenon makes for an interesting case study for the interaction with science and religion. As Leighton Smith said, global warming is not science, its a political agenda and a religious movement similar to that of the crusades in the middle ages.

So I ask, what is supporting the movement if not the science. I have a few suggestions aside from the media’s sensationalism below. Can you think of any more? Why is the global warming phenomenon gathered to itself so much momentum?

1) Humanism. A system that incorporates the belief that people are genuinely good and capable of saving themselves. Though responsible for destroying the environment through neglect and indifference, the enlightened mind is capable of renewing and restoring the natural order. In its extreme form it can manifest itself by the few intellectuals rising up to rule and manipulating and controlling the unthinking masses, and can also give justification for population control, which entails things like euthanasia, infanticide, abortion as a contraceptive method, and eugenics.

2) Misplaced Authority. It is a philosophical assumption whether one accepts scientists as authorities and what the say is true. In current culture scientist are the priests, and the popular religion is scientism. The past teaches us that scientists are fallible and often prone to error, so it questionably wise to accept a scientists word as final judgement. In fact, it is the genetic fallacy to conclude that something is either true or false based upon the origin (the scientist word) of that belief. Logic and its laws is an extremely technical sub-dicsipline of philosophy akin to mathematics so when one thinks to himself, or does any sort of reasoning he is using philosophy. 

4) Belief of an age old earth (as opposed to a young earth). The earth may well be ancient, nevertheless it is chiefly a philosophical question whether one accepts this view and denies the young earth view and the evidence for it. For when determining the age of something, this falls outside the observational scientific method and one must assume specific principles in order to hypothesise. Principles such as that the world was not created five minutes ago with the appearance of age, or that our current knowledge of the past is accurate, or uniformity. 

5) Uniformitarianism. This is the belief that the ‘past is the key to the present.’ It is the dogmatic assumption and application of the principle of uniformity, that holds that the same processes performed today in exactly the same conditions will yield the same results as they did yesterday, and the same result will result tomorrow. This principle is necessary for the success of science, but when assumed dogmatically may render predictions false or unsuccessful. For instance, this rules out a priori any world wide flood hypothesis.

6) Communism. This I hesitate to add, but the idea originated not with me but comes from the documentary The Man-made Global Warming Hoax. It suggests that the collapse of the Berlin wall and the disintegration of communism in the Soviet Union dispersed anti-capitalists throughout the west. Instead of promoting a political solution now they found in global warming a linchpin to hang their economic and social agendas.

 

More Resources:

On Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io-Tb7vTamY

 

Documentary on The Man-made Global Warming Hoax (Parts 1-8)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpWa7VW-OME

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpX-Kae00s8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BJrdSRDVlQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf6C0cMq3RU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkSmdaLkd60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlSSwErKWQs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efxToyX5cPw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGZ1bHo6jR0

 

Glenn Beck telling Irena’s Story

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjmJGMZKCOg

Atheists "doing good for goodness' sake"

William Lane Craig nicely refutes humanism in this short “Atheist Bus Campaign” MP3 podcast.

Atheists Should Not Criticise Hitler

The following is a conversation taken from http://www.youtube.com/comment_servlet?all_comments&v=YDLoxbegKGo 

It was in part a response to Rob’s excellent video entitled; 

Atheists should not criticize Hitler

Rob says:

“My video above was a reply to another video that had about 1,000,000 hits, thus has gathered many hits on the back of that one… Stats: almost 2000 views to date and almost 250 comments :-)”

That was as of 20 November, 2008. You can expect the conversation to continue. As the conversation was conducted on YouTube it may seem a little non-linear, but I have corrected the order of a few comments so reflects more accurately the dialogue we did have.

Rob is “apologeticsNZ”

Atheist objector “UppruniTegundanna”

I enter the conversation as “ThinkingMatters”

 

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apologeticsnz (16 hours ago)

It seems most people on this comment thread do not think at all! That aside, please tell me HOW you KNOW what right and wrong are?

UppruniTegundanna (1 week ago) Show Hide

Surely you recognise how self-serving your analysis of human morality is: i.e. you have constructed the argument specifically to bolster the moral rectitude of your faith, and undermine that of atheists. The thing is, there is no atheist morality – instead there is human morality. The problem I see in your argument is a denial of one of our more noble attributes: that is the capacity to engage in moral reasoning.

I would describe my morality as a combination of utilitarian principles (i.e. the promotion of happiness, health and prosperity of humans), a faithful adherence to a social contract (the Golden Rule) and an understanding of cause an effect. I don’t have one book, rather I have the entirety of human literature, philosophy, music and art to inspire me to be a good human being.

apologeticsnz (16 hours ago) 

You are question begging. How do you KNOW what a “good” book is? Mein Kampf is a book. Is it good? How do you know? How do you KNOW the golden rule is a good thing?

UppruniTegundanna (14 hours ago) Show Hide

My criterion is as follows: if a principle is a positive force for social cohesion, then I consider it good. How presumptuous of me! Please, don’t allow yourself to fall into abject nihilism in your attempt to label non-believers as incapable of positive morality. The promotion of health, happiness and prosperity is a good thing, whatever your beliefs. This may involve following teachings from a holy book, or devising new principles to deal with new situations.

As for Mein Kampf, I haven’t read the book, and I doubt I ever will – it just isn’t on my reading list! But even if I did read it, I imagine it would tell me more about what can happen to a disordered mind than anything about positive morality. It shouldn’t upset your faith to accept that non-believers can see the good and bad in things by applying their rational minds – after all, don’t you think that the “moral law is written in the hearts of all men” (paraphrase from Romans 2:14-15)?

apologeticsnz (13 hours ago) 

Hey, finally an intelligent answer!

Yes indeed, the moral law is on ALL our hearts. But in that case, why is there any evil in the world?

Biblically, the heart and mind are ‘fallen’. That is, they are perpetually driving toward sin. It is like a lust within us, thus the Apostle Paul writes of knowing what is right but desiring to do what is wrong!!! He referred to this as a war in his members e.g. a conflict between his fallen heart & mind, & the “new man”, born again “in Christ”.

Make sense?

UppruniTegundanna (13 hours ago) Show Hide

Firstly I want to say that I am enjoying this dialogue with you, despite our differences in belief system, it is important to pick one another’s brains, so to speak. While I wouldn’t use the word “fallen”, I agree with you that humans have a capacity for destructive behaviour. Why does this happen? My explanation is that humans have positive and negative impulses in almost equal measure, especially when it comes to coexisting in a society that is at odds with our “natural” existence.

By “natural” I am referring the fact that we originally existed in bands of 200 or so people, and our loyalty was primarily directed towards that kin group. As societies have grown and become more complex, we have had to adjust our interactions to become more inclusive of others in order to establish social cohesion – it is a difficult balance to maintain, but it is not impossible as long as people can differentiate between behaviour that promotes social cohesion versus behaviour that upsets it.

UppruniTegundanna (1 week ago) Show Hide

Knowing that we have gone from creatures who got by with no more than sticks, stones and fire to the current state of affairs, in which we have colonised every corner of the globe, made preliminary reconnaissance of all the major orbs in our solar system, broken matter down to its infintessimally small component parts and built machines that would, to our brave ancestors, seem like pure magic, is enough to make me wish and act in a way that is for the best for our noble species.

apologeticsnz (13 hours ago)

Noble species? According to darwinism, we are just a complex arrangement of atoms and molecules. We’re born, we die. And that is it. No ultimate meaning. Just a long heat death in an ever expanding universe.

UppruniTegundanna (12 hours ago) Show Hide

You are insisting that I cannot place a value judgement on anything because I accept evolution. This is wrong. We are an arrangement of atoms; this is true whether or not a god exists – but what an arrangement! Are you inspired by the achievements of man? Can I be too? Of course I can! I want the best for humanity but, sadly for you, I do not believe that this will be achieved merely by following the decrees of a holy text. If we want to coexist peacefully, we need to think for ourselves…

… and make judgements on the best way to behave based on the practical outcome of the behaviour. Do lying, stealing, murdering and raping help us coexist peacefully? No. By the way, doesn’t it seem odd that “Thou shalt not rape” is not part of the decalogue? I consider rape worse than coveting my neighbour’s goods! In fact, desiring what others have seems to be a great accelerant for invention and hard work!

ThinkingMatters (12 hours ago) Show Hide

I think you’re confused on one of the finer points of the argument. The point is not that atheists cannot discern or know what is right and wrong. The point is that an atheist cannot be consistent with their view if they want to affirm the existence of objective morals. The ethic you have created for yourself is like a web suspended on nothing. In the end you cannot affirm why and if your own view is good or wrong. You end up with subjectivism which is insufficient if you want to condemn Hitler.

UppruniTegundanna (11 hours ago) Show Hide

Point taken, although I would say that the difference between us is that you are looking for a moral framework that, once established, can be adhered to at all times, in all situations, whereas I think that morality should be goal-oriented, i.e. that we should behave in a way that facilitates a desired outcome – in my case, and the case of most people I would assume, greater and more peaceful coexistence between humans.

ThinkingMatters (11 hours ago) Show Hide

The problem you have just confirmed is that you cannot condemn Hitler for his atrocious actions. He too created an ethic that was goal-oriented, namely extermination of the Jews. He too presumably was acting to better the lot of humanity and future coexistence with people. His views on what constituted human was different, and how to achieve his ends were different than ours would be, but how do you affirm that he was really wrong?

Without a transcendent ground to morality ethics becomes discourse without meaning.

UppruniTegundanna (11 hours ago) Show Hide

Well, when you consider the enormous contribution to science, art and culture that the Jews have made in the 20th century, I think you can in fact say that Hitler was objectively wrong in thinking that his actions were for the greater good (which he DID think) – incidentally, I might not be here if he had succeeded, as my grandmother was a Ukrainian Jew. The fact that different people can have different goals, does not mean that all those goals are equal…

… It is up to people of good conscience, who do not allow their worldviews to be tainted by hatred and prejudice, to stand up to people who do promote vicious regimes, whether they are religious or not. It is not just the people who commit evils acts who are dangerous, but also the people who do nothing that are dangerous. I think you and I can stand together and agree on that point.

ThinkingMatters (10 hours ago) Show Hide

I certainly can agree with you there. But it seems you are content to live inconsistently with your view. How is it you can say such and such is evil? It seems you do, when it comes down to it, agree that objective morals do exist.

ThinkingMatters (10 hours ago) Show Hide

That is just knocking the question back one step. Why is the Jewish contribution to science, art and culture worthwhile on atheism?

UppruniTegundanna (10 hours ago) Show Hide

I don’t quite understand the question? Are you asking why I, as an atheist, would care about the Jewish contribution to culture? It is I, as a human, who cares about that. I am moved by literature and art, filled with admiration for people who have contributed to science, thus improving the quality of our lives, and disgusted by those who want to destroy both, not as an atheist, but as a human.

ThinkingMatters (10 hours ago) Show Hide

Thus there is a disconnect. Your human desires, moral and aesthetic intuitions do not conform with your philosophical atheism. For on atheism, these things are not anything worthwhile. Why should science that improves human life be regarded as a worthy endeavour? After all a human on atheism is only a sack of chemicals. Why should art that improves the quality of life be of any significance in an atheistic universe?…

… On atheism we live in a universe indifferent to our survival and comfort. Again its the web suspended on nothing.

UppruniTegundanna (9 hours ago) Show Hide

The mistake you are making is thinking that atheism informs my worldview to the same extent that Christianity informs the worldview of a Christian. It is simply an answer to the question of the existence of a god. All value judgements have to be derived from a different source, which I have rather glibly described as “human”. What I mean is that things have a value based on their positive impact on humanity. You seem determined to accuse me of nihilism, and that simply isn’t the case!

ThinkingMatters (9 hours ago) Show Hide

You comment here is interesting. You make “positive impact on humanity” the standard for morals. Thus you provide a transcendent ground to base your ethics but fail to show how it is not ad hoc. You fail to define “positive” without arguing in a circle and fail to answer “why” on atheism we can declare with real meaning something as right or wrong. You also admit you do not integrate your atheism with your moral intuitions – that last is a good thing indeed! …

You say: “I treat morality as something that can be discussed and evaluated, can be subject to improvement and modification …, and first and foremost, as something that is of utmost importance for human wellbeing. How is that inconsistent?”

It is inconsistent because you have not integrated your atheism with your moral intuitions. On atheism morality is not objective, yet you consistently refer above and beyond yourself, on this blog and in life with objective moral statements

ThinkingMatters (9 hours ago) Show Hide

This has been a great discussion and I am about to turn in. It’s late here in NZ. With your permission I’d like to copy and paste this to a blog at talk.thinkingmatters 

I think it will be of great interest to people. 

Sorry I’m turning in. :-(

UppruniTegundanna (9 hours ago) Show Hide

I have no trouble admitting that I do not integrate my atheism into my moral intuitions – I don’t see any need to. To go back to the old argument that atheists make about other metaphysical beliefs, I don’t incorporate my disagreement with astrology into my moral intuitions either! Anyway, don’t want to ramble too much while you are trying to turn in. Speak again another time perhaps!

Sorry, I didn’t see that you had asked permission to copy and paste the discussion. Of course you may! I hope it comes out sounding coherent, as we were jumping all over the place answering one another’s questions, so it may have lost it’s linear narrative a bit.

 

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The following is a conversation with the same person conducted simultaneously with the one above on the same topics. 

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apologeticsnz (13 hours ago) 

“The promotion of health, happiness and prosperity is a good thing, whatever your beliefs.”

Why?

UppruniTegundanna (13 hours ago) Show Hide

You could potentially ask “why” to any explanation I give ad infinitum, but rather than show that I have no grounds for my moral principles, it shows that you are willing to embrace nihilism as a tactic for undermining my assertions. I prefer food that tastes nice to food that tastes bad – similarly, I prefer a happy life for myself and others to an unhappy one. It is possible to behave in a way that promotes that. I am having trouble understanding how you can’t accept that as a valid worldview.

ThinkingMatters (11 hours ago) Show Hide

You’re actually mostly correct – we could ask “why?” ad infinitum. Morals on atheism are comparable to the preference of taste. They are subjective and ultimately arbitrary. Where the trouble lies is in understanding your worldview as valid is it does not conform to our moral intuitions – is extermination of the Jews just personal preference or is it really objectively wrong. How about surgical experimentation on live Jewish babies? Is that morally equivalent to the taste of vanilla over chocolate?

And if you think that those things are wrong and want to be consistent with your view, and if you want your answer to have real meaning, you have to find an answer to the question “why?” that isn’t arbitrary or ad hoc, and isn’t unjustified specieism.

UppruniTegundanna (11 hours ago) Show Hide

Well, I could ask “why” to the answer “because of God’s word”, since that raises the slightly different question commonly referred to as the Euthyphro Dilemma – is something good because God says so, or is God affirming something that is true anyway? I do in fact think that a certain amount of subjectivity exists in people’s conception of morality, but rather than absolve us of responsibility for our actions and those of others, as you seem to think…

… I think that this intensifies the responsibility that we all have to consider our actions and moral beliefs carefully, strip them of fallacious thinking and prejudice, to ensure the best possible outcome. This is difficult, and made all the more difficult since we, as humans, have negative impulses that we have to overcome.

ThinkingMatters (10 hours ago) Show Hide

I could ask “why” to the answer “because of God’s word”

The ethics developed on the theism finds a transcendent ground in God. The Euthyphro Dilemma is a false dilemma, that is to say those are not the only options. The third option that splits the arguments horns is that God is the standard. Rather than the good being good because God said so – thus arbitrary, or the good being above God – thus God is not the ultimate, the good flows from his nature – the good is good because God is good.

I don’t think we are absolved from our actions because we perceive morals subjectively. I think if someone were to randomly punch me on the nose without provocation that would be wrong, not just subjectively but objectively as well. I do think we have to think carefully about our moral beliefs and strip them of fallacious thinking. Which is why I come back to you, how can you say that the dude that conks you on the nose without provocation is wrong?

After all, you are yet to answer “why” on atheism you can declare with real meaning that something is right or wrong, without giving an answer that isn’t arbitrary, ad hoc, and succumbing to unjustified specieism.

UppruniTegundanna (10 hours ago) Show Hide

I think it is going to be hard, maybe impossible, for me to provide you with an answer to the moral question that you find satisfactory if I do not incorporate God into it, just as I am dissatisfied with answers to scientific questions that do incorporate God. We may lose the notion that morality is (in some cases literally) carved in stone, but we gain the opportunity to discuss, evaluate and modify, if necessary, our moral beliefs as we encounter new situations, which I take as a good thing.

ThinkingMatters (9 hours ago) Show Hide

I think it will be impossible. You either have to be content living inconsistently with your view and know your ethics is ad hoc, or accept that morals are objective.

UppruniTegundanna (9 hours ago) Show Hide

I have always liked the quote by Aristotle: “it is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it”. In the spirit of that quote, let’s imagine that I am correct in my disbelief: am I acting inconsistently? I treat morality as something that can be discussed and evaluated, can be subject to improvement and modification to deal with new situations, and first and foremost, as something that is of utmost importance for human wellbeing. How is that inconsistent?

If I accept the third option [to the Euthyphro dilemma], can I say that it is in fact a false trilemma, and that there is an additional option that we are being deceived into our beliefs about what is good or not by an evil force? As for being conked on the nose, many people would automatically react by retaliating and a fight would ensue – we benefit from maintaining an orderly society and creating disorder does us a disservice. Hopefully you aren’t going to ask me why an orderly society is better than a disorderly one!

ThinkingMatters (10 hours ago) Show Hide

That’s exactly what I was going to ask :-) You see how you end up with subjective morality if you fail to give a transcendent ground for your moral intuitions? When an injustice, like a bloody nose, or more seriously a genocide like Hitler’s, is done to you everything within you screams this was wrong, it was Wrong, it was WRONG. Then you’re confronted with the reality that morals are objective.

As for the third option [in the Euthyphro dilemma] – you could say that it is a false trilemma because there are more than three options – but all I need to do is split the horns of the dilemma. I don’t even need to argue that the third option is true, it just needs to be an option. But I do think that the third option is plausibly true – we have for instance biblical grounds for declaring it true, and we have good philosophical grounds as well, as God is defined as the ultimate being and morality is a perfection.

UppruniTegundanna (9 hours ago) Show Hide

I have a touch of the flu at the moment, which feels quite nasty at times (bloody British weather!) Do you think I have no rational basis for wanting to feel better than I do now? Because your line of questioning suggests that I couldn’t differentiate between being struck down by a nasty disease and feeling fit as a fiddle. Same goes with societal order: order improves people’s quality of life, disorder decreases it.

ThinkingMatters (8 hours ago) Show Hide

On the contrary, I do think you can differentiate between what is a social good and what is a social evil, just like you can differentiate between a biological evil [the flu] and a biological good [being healthy]. The thing your not grasping is this: we know the flu is bad because we know what it’s like when the body is running right – we have a rational basis. When it comes to morals though, we know what’s bad because we know what’s right – but you’ve no rational basis for that.

:-) Thanks for the conversation.

Humanist Amsterdam Declaration refuted point-by-point

Joel posted this at the end of his response to my “Argument from Evolution” article.

There it was slightly off topic and I thought that this warranted a full response in a separate space.

Here is what he said;

Now that we ARE here on this planet, let’s focus on making the best of it. I hope we’d all agree that using outdated textbooks (ie the old testament – full of stories about an omniscient, jealous, irritable, racist & sexist intelligent designer who is proud to promote ethnic cleansing and child sacrificing) are not good stories to teach morality. Let’s put our faith in some good, relevant, modern discussion. Let’s agree on some guiding principles that seek to expand and fulfill lives and explain our universe without the need for outdated myths and “morality for all time” predictions. I like the 7 principles of Humanism, myself:
http://www.iheu.org/amsterdamdeclaration

First, nobody (sensible) teaches morality from the ritual law of the Old Testament. You cannot impugn the moral law by citing examples of the ritual law about what is ceremonially clean or unclean, and that has no moral dimension to it. Second, nobody teaches morality from the false characterisation of God you give. God is an omni-benevolent, morally perfect being according to scripture and you’d do well to discard the false picture of the Christian view of God you have.

Here is my response, point-by-point, to the Humanist ethic communicated in the Amsterdam Declaration 2002. There is much here that the Christian can find in common with the humanist, but I think the question is which ethic (Christian or Humanist) provides a better account for our shared understanding of moral duties, values and accountabilities? Also, insofar as Humanism implies naturalism, humanism is deeply incoherent as I shall show.

The Amsterdam Declaration 2002

Humanism is the outcome of a long tradition of free thought that has inspired many of the world’s great thinkers and creative artists and gave rise to science itself. [italics mine]

The ‘long tradition’ that stretches all the way back to 1952, the first World Humanist Congress. Facts are however, the ‘many great thinkers and artists’ that humanism can legitimately claim drown in the influence made by Christianity. In thought and art it is undeniably how Christianity far out-weighs any paltry offering humanism makes. If humanism can sustain the practice of science is a discussion for another time, but the thought that Humanism gave rise to science itself is laughable. Only Christianity provides an epistemological foundation for scientists seeking to make sense of the universe, and almost every major field of science was founded by a Christian, working specifically from a Christian worldview.

Just consider these few scientists who were Christians; Isaac Newton, the father of modern physics; William Turner, the father of English botany; Johannes Kepler, the planetary laws of motion; Galileo Galilei, the father of modern astronomy; Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician; Blaise Pascal, physicist and mathematician who defended the scientific method; Robert Boyle, the first modern chemist; Louis Pasteur, inventor of the pasteurization method; Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics; Lord Kelvin, important in Thermodynamics; Max Planck, the founder of Quantum mechanics, and the list goes on.

The fundamentals of modern Humanism are as follows:

1. Humanism is ethical. It affirms the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others. Humanists have a duty of care to all of humanity including future generations. Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction.

Humanism provides no metaethical foundation for it’s ethical system. Why is a metaethical foundation necessary? One is apt to ask why the human has worth, dignity and autonomy. To finally come to rest the foundations of a morality on the worth of a human is ad hoc. Especially after the humanist’s naturalistic view of evolution makes men into mere animals. Evolution is the great leveller. What’s so special about humans on naturalism? We’re just fortunate sacks of molecules in motion that have survived against the odds by tooth and claw.

On Christian theism humans are created by God in His image. This gives us inalienable rights, guarantees the right of personal freedom of choice, as well as deep significance and meaning to life. Moreover, God expresses our worth in His eyes when he showed his love by giving His only son as a sacrifice to pay our sin-debt and conquer death on our behalf. He spared not his only son for us.

You see how Christianity gives a substantiated reason for its assertions of worth and dignity, but how humanism cannot?

2. Humanism is rational. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively. Humanists believe that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human thought and action rather than divine intervention. Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.

This self-affirmation is astonishingly presumptuous. There is no argument here: only assertions and declarations of belief, more akin to blind faith than science and reason.

Still the Christian can agree that human thought and action are for solving the worlds problems and that the application of science and free inquiry should promote human welfare. We can agree to use science creatively and not destructively, but we’re not likely to condemn the scientist who researches dynamite to pull down an old building safely, or to minimise collateral damage during justified warfare.

On the Christian view God gave humans a mind to think and engage with the world as it is. On naturalism the mind is a physiological response to stimuli, socio-cultuarl pressures and evolutionary development. It is therefore tuned for survival and not for the apprehension of truth or rationality. It is hard to see why humanism is rational given naturalism.

There are few questions that must be asked, like who determines the ‘human values’ that temper the application of science and technology? Is it Hitler, Hefner, the Humanist or the Holy Spirit? Is it science itself, and if so doesn’t it work out that science proposes the means and the ends? If so, was Hitler rational at the time to propose and carry out his ‘Final Solution?’ After all, that was in accord by the evolutionary science being propounded in his day; was supposedly for the betterment of human welfare; and was then the human value system in vogue. At Nuremberg it was quickly realised to condemn these Nazi war criminals there needed to be a standard that stood above human and societal values, and the only values they could find to do that were rooted in God.

The need for such a transcendent absolute, or law above the law, can be illustrated by what happened at the Nuremberg Trials of World War II criminals.  Those accused appealed to the fact that they were only obeying the laws of their own culture, and that they were not legally responsible to any other.  Faced with this argument, Robert H. Jackson, Chief Counsel for the United States, appealed to permanent values and moral standards that transcended life-styles, particular societies, and individual nations. While he was not necessarily appealing to biblical norms in this trial, the situation illustrates the need for a transcendent basis for moral values. For example, God’s commandment against murder was not just for the Jew.  It transcends culture, and it transcends generations.  Murder is as wrong today as it was in the Old Testament.

Christian ethics escape this problem of cultural relativity because it is based upon the nature of God.  Good is what God wills in accordance with His nature (see Mark 10:18).  God provides the moral patterns which apply to all human behavior.

Because this standard is based upon God’s holy nature, it is binding on all people.  There is no standard beyond Him that can define moral conduct. Christian ethics applies to everyone and is not merely a parochial discipline for Jews and Christians.  God’s moral revelation extends to all generations.  God is the ultimate standard for human behavior.1

Also, who is it that diagnoses the ‘world’s problems?’ Is it the humanist? The smartest? The most popular? the strongest? The bible says that the major problem with this world is sin, and there is little hope for man’s efforts to rectify that problem. Sin (defined often as failure to meet God’s perfect standard, or imperfection, or breaking God’s law) is symptomatic system-wide, and the evidence for that is clear. Only a divine solution and intervention can save us from that ultimate problem.

On Christianity the solutions to the worlds problems lie in human thought and action as well as divine intervention. God also determines to use mostly use people as his agents on earth. Woe to the humanist if God exists and he/she rejects divine intervention.

3. Humanism supports democracy and human rights. Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being. It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right. The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.

Human rights are declared to be universal rights. That is they stand above all nation’s laws for all times and all places for all people. This statement is like eating white-froth if you consider the next fundamental’s (4) claim to be undogmatic and imposing no creed upon its adherents. Christianity however provides something substantive for the table. Universal human rights were developed by the founding fathers of America from their understanding of the scriptures. In Christopher Hitchen’s words Thomas Jefferson was a deist with atheistic tendencies. However, when it came to finding a ground for unalienable Rights, he pointed to the sky and said “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”2 The abolition of slavery was a practical out-working of this same understanding from scripture: that all men are created equal.) The Bible even gives justification for democracy also, but at the moment I’m not prepared to support that contention.) Both groups of people were smart enough to recognise that if human rights are given to a human by another human, they can be taken away again. If human rights are given by God, then no man can take them away. They become inalienable and truly universal.

Humanism lacks a model of what it means to be the fullest development of a human being. On Christianity it is clear the model is Jesus. On Humanism it can only be subjective and relative. What if the fullest possible development of the human being is Hitler? You might say that he did not support democracy, but then you’d be forgetting that Hitler was the legitimate democratically elected official of that nation. You might say that Hitler was wrong because the humanist ethic is based upon understanding and support for others, but then you’d be forgetting that Hitler deeply cared for Germany and to carry out his atrocious acts all that he needed to do was create a culture that dehumanised Jews, Blacks, Homosexuals, the handy-capped, etc.

How do you decry the wicked man who says he is only becoming ‘the fullest possible development of what it means to be human,’ if he has radically changed what it means to be human. Humanism lacks a definition of what it means to be human, but Christianity has a ready anthropological definition grounded in its own basic theology.

4. Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility. Humanism ventures to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, and recognises our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. It is thus committed to education free from indoctrination.

If a person is responsible to society, then what happens when society tells you to do something that is objectively wrong, like slaughter Jews wholesale (Nazi Germany), or force husbands to watch as their pregnant wives are split open by sabres so their unborn children fall to the ground to be crushed underfoot (Saddam Hussein’s Iraq), or taking unwanted new-borns and dashing them on rocks (ancient Greeks). The list of examples is appalling in its length and brutality, but it is already clear that responsibility to society is an insufficient ethic to build a world on. There needs to be some transcendent standard above society and humanity. Christianity provides that by revealing a morally perfect transcendent God as the standard.

“Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherants.” This is self-referentially incoherant. It is dogmatic in being undogmatic. It is thus really rich when it concludes that humanism is committed to education free from indoctrination. Even if it is possible to educate people free from indoctrination from operating within a worldview, this statement is as double-handed as it gets. Humanists are experts at indoctrination. You need only look at our current education system here in NZ. An example follows in the next section.

5. Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion. The world’s major religions claim to be based on revelations fixed for all time, and many seek to impose their world-views on all of humanity. Humanism recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process of observation, evaluation and revision.

Humanism of course excludes itself from the dogmatic religious crowd, and seeks to fulfil the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion. It will do this by supplying people with another dogmatic religion (if not religion then ethical framework) and imposing it on others.

For example, take the belief that ‘morality is an intrinsic part of human nature.’ This means that humans are essentially and basically good. This is taught all throughout the education system and is one tenant of humanist indoctrination. Is it true? I leave it for you, but I think the Bible gives a far more realistic account to the state of the human heart; see Jeremiah 17:9 and Romans 3:9-19.

Christianity recognises that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises also through revelation from God. If reliable knowledge arises from observation, evaluation and revision then its not really reliable is it?

6. Humanism values artistic creativity and imagination and recognises the transforming power of art. Humanism affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.

On the surface this affirmation is fine. A deeper look at it though and you quickly realise how shallow it really is. What is creativity and imagination supposed to transform us into? What is it about literature, music and the other arts that provide us ‘human development and fulfillment.’ Humanism fails to answer the deep existential needs of human beings; ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘Where am I going?’

The purpose underlying most (if not all) creative expressions is communication. Art is a vehicle for a message. When you start to value the form, and not the message that lies behind the form, then art becomes mere mindless entertainment; a distraction to personal development rather than an aid. Is fulfilment reduced on humanism to amusement? Take from art its purpose and society will transform into a mindless mass that is far too easily manipulated.

Christianity affirms the value of art and artistic expression by imbuing the artist with purpose, answering the deep existential questions of life; by affirming the artist is created in the image of God and is therefore a creative agent; by supplying the artist with a message, inspiration and talent; and by infusing the world waiting to be captured and mirrored by great works of art, with a sense of the sublime. Naturalism on the other-hand finds beauty an awkward notion. It is difficult to see why an apes brain would appreciate the aesthetic pleasure from a morning sunrise, the star-filled sky and or the frozen waterfall.

7. Humanism is a lifestance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment through the cultivation of ethical and creative living and offers an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times. Humanism can be a way of life for everyone everywhere.

If human existence transcends the death of the body, then obviously humanism is not for everyone everywhere. Humanism become bankrupt if this life is not all there is or if there is a God. Besides this, based upon the refutation of points 1 through 6 it is not obvious humanism does supply an ethical and rational means of addressing the challenges of our times.

Footnotes:

1. Author unknown, A Christian View of Ethics, (Received 15 October 2008, http://www.fni.com/cim/technicals/ethics_t.html)

2. In Congress, JULY 4, 1776, The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America