FreeThought Fort Wayne

        Be Reasonable

Affirmations of Secular Humanism – #1

Posted by mikebftw on June 28, 2008

(This post is the first in a series discussing the affirmations of secular humanism. The introduction to the series can be found here.)

We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.

This first, important statement affirms the basis of what we freethinkers believe. As one of the core values embraced by FreeThought Fort Wayne, we act upon it so naturally that we can sometimes take for granted its implications. I’d like to discuss in this post a couple of potential criticisms that theists may direct at this affirmation.

I think the most obvious criticism is, “Aren’t you just worshiping reason and science?” For example, replace the words “reason and science” in the affirmation with “our faith in God and His Church.” We hear this criticism often, as believers try to project their belief structure onto ours, replacing “priest” with “scientist” in the vernacular. However, it is important to note how differently we operate. The most renowned scientists in the world still have the burden of evidence when presenting a claim – no one gets a free pass. Even when we don’t have the time or resources to replicate an experiment that supports the findings of science, we have methods of bolstering and cross-referencing what limited resources we do have to independently verify a claim.

However, we do not just hold our scientists to this burden of proof and practicality. Also key to this affirmation is the notion that, if necessary, reason and science themselves could be further scrutinized, examined, or otherwise put on trial to verify their effectiveness. This brings me to my next potential criticism, “Why reason and science?” Simply put, they work. In all of the years of human self-awareness, reason is the only way we’ve ever known to communicate entire ideas regardless of personal contingency. As Thomas Paine demonstrated in “The Age of Reason,” there is no way to rely on personal revelation when more than one person is involved. All religious systems ultimately reduce to a reliance on the unverifiable personal revelations of one person. To this point, we only have these two methods of gaining knowledge – reason and revelation. We freethinkers chose the one that carries with it the weight of evidence. Even if an altogether new method of “knowing” became available, it would first have to stand the test of reason to have any practical use.

Regardless of one’s religious background or lack thereof, we all share as an ultimate goal a better understanding of the universe and the solving of human problems. While we don’t hold them beyond reproach, we are indeed committed to the use of reason and science as the most effective method to achieving this goal.

One Response to “Affirmations of Secular Humanism – #1”

  1. andyscathouse said

    This is a good post. I missed it somehow.

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