A Critique Of The Secular Humanist Worldview

  • Discussion:

          -Following are a handful of excerpts (in bold) from a classic humanist manifesto titled, The Philosophy of Humanism, by Corliss Lamont:

          "There are, as I see it, ten central propositions in the Humanist philosophy: First, Humanism believes in a naturalistic metaphysics or attitude toward the universe that considers all forms of the supernatural as myth; and that regards Nature as the totality of being and as a constantly changing system of matter and energy which exists independently of any mind or consciousness. Second, Humanism, drawing especially upon the laws and facts of science, believes man is an evolutionary product of the Nature of which he is part; that his mind is indivisibly conjoined with the functioning of his brain; and that as an inseparable unity of body and personality he can have no conscious survival after death.”

          It is interesting to note how the author of this book capitalizes the word nature. This could be interpreted to have religious connotations. It could even be argued that atheists themselves belong to a religion to which they themselves are their own gods. After all, there are atheist churches. There are atheist missionaries. There are evangelistic atheists who preach their worldview as being the truth. There are atheist circles that consider others who disagree with them as being heretical. Atheism is clearly a belief system with religious tendencies.

          Notice how the quotation above presupposes the validity of scientism, which is the belief that all truth is determined by the science laboratory. However, this view is refuted because there are many truths that exist beyond the realm of science (view full article). Faith and reason walk together. How can atheists be so quick to claim that there is no supernatural realm when they have no tangible evidence ruling in favor of their verdict? If we reduce the thinking processes of the human mind to being random chemical reflexes, then we have no legitimate reason to believe the claims of atheism because we would not be able to trust our own thoughts. Selfhood would be an empty illusion!

          Life without God is meaningless. If the universe came into existence by mere coincidence, and we just so happened to have evolved from a different species of primate forefathers over a period of several billion years, then it would follow that human life has no intrinsic value. The inevitable consequence of eliminating God from the equation of life would be that we possessed no more dignity than the soil, rocks, or other components which constitute the physical and chemical composition of this planet. The universe itself most certainly has no compassion for life. Time would simply progress as we wait for the natural, appointed termination of our physical existence. No afterlife means having no ultimate sense of purpose or fulfillment.

          “I believe that the facts of science offer overwhelming evidence in support of the Humanist thesis of the inseparable coexistence of body and personality. To begin with, biology has conclusively shown that man and all other forms of life were the result, not of a supernatural act of creation by God, but of an infinitely long process of evolution probably stretching over at least three billions years….”

           A Supreme Mind still could have created the universe by means of a giant cosmic explosion of expanding matter to accomplish the formation of animal species through evolutionary processes. Consequently, the "humanist thesis" does not really negate the possibility of supernatural creation. The universe and the human body are so complex that countless factors remain unexplained or unproven. It is completely wrong for one to assert that supernatural intervention in creation has been ruled out. Even if scientists did manage to successfully develop a scientific model that functions without God, proof of unnecessity is not proof of His nonexistence. Moreover, the biblical worldview presents us with a universe that absolutely depends on God for its existence.

          “Humanism believes that Nature itself constitutes the sum total of reality…and that supernatural entities simply do not exist. This non reality of the supernatural means, on the human level, that men do not possess supernatural and immortal souls; and, on the level of the universe as a whole, that our cosmos does not possess a supernatural and eternal God.”

          A concise refutation of naturalism should suffice as an analysis of the above cited excerpt. Naturalism maintains that everything existing emerged from natural properties and causes to the exclusion of supernatural intervention. In other words, this logical framework operates on the premise that all things are physical and are thus dictated by the laws of physics and chemistry. On the contrary, we know that naturalism is false because things such as numbers, moral laws, and information are nonphysical entities. These things transcend the five senses which scientists use to make observations and draw inferences. The elementary concept of free will disproves naturalism because this philosophy assumes that scientific laws and states are literally in control of all things.

          “the scientific concept of evolution…effectively negates the old religious idea of a divine creation of the whole universe.”

           Can something come from nothing? Can meaningful and functional design arise from chaos? Can intelligence arise from non-intelligence? Can rationality arise from non-rationality? Can consciousness arise from non-consciousness?

          “Matter is self-existent, self-active, self-developing, self-enduring. It is auto-dynamic.”

          Is this not a circular argument (matter has power in of and itself because that is how it is)? How can matter be self-existent when it is comprised of finite particles? What infinite source of energy do atoms possess that enables matter able to act of itself without external causes? How can physical matter come from nothing or create itself? How could non-living matter become alive by itself?

          It would be far more reasonable to believe that an infinitely powerful, all-knowing, and everlasting God set forth all things in an orderly fashion on the basis of His spoken commands. It would be far more sensible to believe in a God who infinitely transcends the boundaries of nature (Psalm 33:4-8). The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).

          ''A careful analysis of both the natural and the social sciences shows, in the first place, that we do not attain something that is to be called ‘absolute’ truth, but rather what John Dewey cautiously describes as ‘warranted assertibility''

          If there are no absolute truths, then a.) scientific laws are subjective, b.) no point in education because truth is subjective, c.) the concept of certainty is illusionary, d.) no such thing as crime because nobody can definitively declare an action to be evil, e.) no such thing as human rights, and f.) reality itself becomes an illusion. If there are no absolute truths, then there is no reason for us to believe in the arguments in favor of atheism and no point in Corliss Lamont teaching humanism in books. A society that functions consistently on a moral relativistic worldview will be characterized by utter heathenism and barbarism.

          “For Humanism no human acts are good or bad in or of themselves. Whether an act is good or bad is to be judged by the consequences for the individual and society.”

          Secular consequentialism is the ethical system which maintains that the morality of an action is dependent on its results. In other words, this worldview judges the morality of actions in accordance to their conclusions (not in the action itself). But this method of moral discernment is quite perplexing. What constitutes the authentic definition of good? Who gets to determine the meanings of good and evil? Good for who? What about bad personal motives that just so happened to produce positive consequences for other people? What about the fact that we cannot predict the outcomes of our actions before we act? From whence would morality come from in the first place?

          ''The Humanist refuses to accept any Ten Commandments or other ethical precepts as immutable and universal laws never to be challenged or questioned. He bows down to no alleged supreme moral authority either past or present…But we can say…some ends justify some means. In getting at the ethical significance of a means-end situation, it is always necessary to be specific and inquire,‘Does this particular end or set of ends justify this particular means or group of means?''

          It is unsurprising that atheists openly reject the notion of objective moral laws, since they are living in rebellion to the God who created them. The above quoted statements are symptomatic of a puffed-up heart. If individuals get to determine their own moral law codes, then what happens when they contradict each other or themselves? How would such a scenario not render the idea of building a civilization impossible?

Comments

Humanism is boarder than the humanism of the manifesto makers, There are Christian humanisms and Renaissance Humanism.
Jesse Albrecht said…
Erasmus would be an example of someone who espoused Christian/Renaissance humanism. But this article is about secular humanism in particular and the problems that arise with holding to that ideology.

This is a fine paper and you makes some good points. I will point out some problems. You need to be careful making statements about humanism if you draw documentation from evangelicals sources. Evangelicals have built secular humanism into a boogie man that's responsible for everything. I am not saying paper does this but there are some things you say that an atheist dialogue partner would see in this in this light. I'll give some examples

You say: "It is interesting to note how the author of this book capitalizes the word nature. This could be interpreted to have religious connotations. It could even be argued that atheists themselves belong to a religion to which they themselves are their own gods."

I think there is a good case to be made for the idea that science fills the void left by the abandonment of God belief in the life of the atheist. But it is just as easy that he capitalizes nature to emphasize that it is not a religious answer rather than making a new religion.


"After all, there are atheist churches. There are atheist missionaries. There are evangelistic atheists who preach their worldview as being the truth. There are atheist circles that consider others who disagree with them as being heretical. Atheism is clearly a belief system with religious tendencies."

I have not encountered atheist churches, Are they literally churches? you should footnote and document. How widespread are they? Be careful generalizing to all atheist from few examples.

"Notice how the quotation above presupposes the validity of scientism, which is the belief that all truth is determined by the science laboratory."

I did not notice that, I don't see anything in the quote itself that did that.

"However, this view is refuted because there are many truths that exist beyond the realm of science (view full article). Faith and reason walk together. How can atheists be so quick to claim that there is no supernatural realm when they have no tangible evidence ruling in favor of their verdict?"

True but an atheist reading it will ignore it because it appears to be a groundless statement. You should foot note a source.

"If we reduce the thinking processes of the human mind to being random chemical reflexes, then we have no legitimate reason to believe the claims of atheism because we would not be able to trust our own thoughts. Selfhood would be an empty illusion!"

Good point! Well said.

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