Friday, October 17, 2008

Mark Rowlands Hates Humanists

Philosopher Mark Rowlands answers Massimo Pigliucci's rejoinder to three different posts he made regarding the reasons he's not a humanist, here. I posted a response to that latest post, in the comments at Secular Philosohpy (reprinted below).

Hello, Mark. I'm a bit puzzled by some of the logic you're using here.

You seem to be saying that if an organization's manifesto does not include a reference to something you hold valuable, it is safe to assume they are actually against that particular concern? Wouldn't such an assumption be similar to reading the aims and goals of the local astronomers club, and then declaring that, "When push comes to shove, they've all got their eyes on the stars, and so care nothing for the concerns of the very planet they inhabit! Their club charter doesn't mention a thing about saving the whales; they're obviously anti-cetaceanists! And to the extent that astronomers care about anything else, they then are not astronomers, are they?"

That's quite a stretch, I think. It's also incorrect when it comes to humanist concerns. You say humanists care little or nothing for the environment, yet if you look at the Humanist Manifesto III, that's plainly not the case (emphasis mine):
"Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond."

If the astronomers lived in an astrology dominated world, their manifesto would probably be centered around describing what sets them apart from astrologers. Likewise, the Humanist Manifesto III looks to have been written with the main thrust of describing humanist values vis-a-vis a religiously dominated world. You seem to be perceiving stated humanist values as being written vis-a-vis an environmentalist worldview. That's clearly not the case.

Even if most humanists were self-centered proponents of speciesism, one would think they'd still be rational enough to accept a non-humanist's argument that taking action to save the planet, and all other species on and in it, was in the best interests of humanists and, indeed, was the only way to further the goals of humanism itself.

It appears you're making that very argument in your last paragraph. Yet, in your concluding sentences you negate its force. Basically, you're saying that humanists need to realize that it's in their best interests to save the planet, but they won't do it because you've decided that's not what humanism entails. Have I got that right?

You said: "OK, we can bleat on about how much we care about the planet, or other animals, but in general (though not always) these are just crocodile tears."

So, humanists cannot be active environmentalists, and vice versa? Why not? Because you've decided that the humanist movement largely consists of hypocrites, and those that actually do take action for environmental causes don't realize they're behaving in a logically impossible fashion (or, at the very least, that they're no longer "true" humanists - whatever that means)?

Even if you feel that I am completely in error here, is it your intention to rally people to your cause, which I assume is saving the planet and other species, or are you more concerned with everyone signing on to your definition of humanism and admitting that they're just a bunch of loathsome, deluded hypocrites? A similar question would be: Can Christians and non-believers work together on environmental issues, or must the Christians first admit that their religion is nonsense before non-believers will consider them truly and sincerely on-board?

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