Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Scientific Naturalism: A Manifesto for Enlightenment Humanism

ABSTRACT The success of the Scientific Revolution led to the development of the worldview of scientific naturalism, or the belief that the world is governed by natural laws and forces that can be understood, and that all phenomena are part of nature and can be explained by natural causes, including human cognitive, moral and social phenomena. The application of scientific naturalism in the human realm led to the widespread adoption of Enlightenment humanism, a cosmopolitan worldview that places supreme value on science and reason, eschews the supernatural entirely and relies exclusively on nature and nature’s laws, including human nature. KEYWORDS Scientific naturalism; Enlightenment humanism; scientism; is-ought fallacy; witch crazes

In June of 1510, 64 women and men were burned at the stake in Val Camonica, Italy, for causing drought and fires and for harming people, animals and land. In July of 1518, 60 women and men were burned at the stake in Breto, Italy, for triggering thunder and lightning and for causing sickness and death of nearly 200 people. In June of 1582, the wife of an English sawyer named Alice Glosscock from the town of Chelmsford was stripped naked and her body searched for “the marks of a witch,” which were found, leading to her conviction and execution. In May of 1653, a Connecticut colonialist named Elizabeth Godman asked her neighbor Goodwife Thorp if she had any chickens to sell, but none were available. The next day Thorp’s chickens dropped dead, leading to Godman’s arrest and trial. In May of 1692, seven teenage girls writhed on the floor of a Salem, Massachusetts, courtroom during the trial of a suspected witch named Martha Carrier, crying out “There is a black man whispering in her ear!” Carrier was one of 20 people executed in what became the most famous witch trial in history. What were these people thinking?1 It is convenient to dismiss them as unthinking naïfs caught up in the hysterics of a moral panic, but in fact they were thinking quite clearly and they had the authority of the Bible behind them, as in Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” They also had the power of the Roman Catholic Church behind them. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued the Papal Bull, Summis desiderantes affectibus, in which he pronounced that many people had … abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain...

(Michael Shermer, continues)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Is Your God Dead?"

...AS A YOUNG BOY, the idea of exempting no one from redemption tested my mother, who was a Baptist. One night I asked her if I could pray for the Devil. Strange, I admit. My mother eventually said yes. So there I was on my knees,
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
God bless my mother, my sister and my friends. And God bless the Devil.”
George Yancy, nyt Stone (continues)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Baggini on atheism

What do you understand by atheism?
That’s not as easy a question as you might think. Atheism, on the face of it, seems straightforward: it’s not theism. It’s a belief that there is no God or gods. But it’s slightly more complicated than that because, for most self-identifying atheists, it’s not just that they don’t believe in a God or gods, but that they don’t believe in any kind of supernatural realm. So I think an atheist is, 95% of the time, a naturalist. Atheists believe that whatever may be in the universe, the only kind of stuff is the stuff of physics, and the only fundamental forces are those of physics.
So atheism isn’t defined against religion so much as for a particular kind of physics-based explanation of the universe?
That’s right. It’s a big myth about atheism that it’s parasitic on what it denies. People say ‘Look, it’s even in the name itself: ‘a-theism’’. But that’s just historical accident. It just so happens that western civilisation has, for many centuries, been predominantly religious, and so the alternative worldview ended up being defined in contrast to that. I always say, if people say that atheism is parasitic on religion, ‘What would happen if no one believed in God any more? Would that mean there were no atheists?’ Of course not. It would mean that everyone would be an atheist and perhaps, in that situation, there wouldn’t be a special name for it, because there would be no need.
You might still want to distinguish it from agnosticism. Some agnostics make the bold claim that atheists, if they’re rational at all, must be agnostics really, because there isn’t sufficient proof to warrant being an atheist.
That’s extremely misleading because that argument works on the assumption that to be an atheist implies an absolute certainty, that there is no possible doubt you could be wrong. People rightly say that’s unjustified because you can’t know for sure there’s no God with our limited experience, and so on. That’s rather asymmetric for a start. There are plenty of people who have a belief in theism who would deny that they’re absolute about it, and they maintain some doubt. Bertrand Russell said something along the lines that, in a technical sense, he was an agnostic, because he couldn’t know for sure that God didn’t exist — but that to label him agnostic would be profoundly misleading because the hypothesis of God is one he doesn’t take to be a real possibility, and plays no influence in his life.
“Atheism is not something that defines your every moment of existence. I don’t wake up in the morning reminding myself that I don’t believe in God.”
I think an agnostic is someone who is really just unsure, someone who can’t make up his or her mind whether they believe God exists or not. An atheist is someone who has a pretty settled view that there is no God, but within that, there’s a spectrum of people who are absolutely convinced, and those who simply think that the balance of evidence is strong enough that they don’t want to sit on the fence, but beyond that, they’re not going to claim any absolute certainty.
You’ve written a book about atheism, you’ve spoken about atheism, you’re involved with the British Humanist Association. Do you read widely in the literature of atheism?
To be honest, I don’t, and in some ways I’m always quite surprised that a lot of atheists do. If you’re pretty convinced of this position, then why would you want to read every new book that comes along telling you you’re right? It does seem to be a strange kind of desire for reinforcement. Like a lot of people, my biography of belief is a bit complicated. As a child, I was religious by default, and then religious by conviction, and then I came to atheism. But after a while, when you’ve thought through the issues, and you’ve decided that’s where you stand, you don’t close your mind. You want to go on and think about other things... (continues)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

All too human

“Religion is created by humans rather than by gods, and it is defined by its social function rather than by the existence of deities. Religion is anything that confers superhuman legitimacy on human social structures. It legitimises human norms and values by arguing that they reflect superhuman laws.” 
― Yuval Noah HarariHomo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Bill Gates recommenmds Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari. "I recommended Harari’s previous book Sapiens in last summer’s reading list, and this provocative follow-up is just as challenging, readable, and thought-provoking. Homo Deus argues that the principles that have organized society will undergo a huge shift in the 21st century, with major consequences for life as we know it. So far, the things that have shaped society—what we measure ourselves by—have been either religious rules about how to live a good life, or more earthly goals like getting rid of sickness, hunger, and war. What would the world be like if we actually achieved those things? I don’t agree with everything Harari has to say, but he has written a smart look at what may be ahead for humanity."

Read Bill Gates' full review of HOMO DEUS here
“You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.” 

“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.” 

“Voltaire said about God that ‘there is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night’. Hammurabi would have said the same about his principle of hierarchy, and Thomas Jefferson about human rights. Homo sapiens has no natural rights, just as spiders, hyenas and chimpanzees have no natural rights. But don’t tell that to our servants, lest they murder us at night.” 

“According to the science of biology, people were not ‘created’. They have evolved. And they certainly did not evolve to be ‘equal’. The idea of equality is inextricably intertwined with the idea of creation. The Americans got the idea of equality from Christianity, which argues that every person has a divinely created soul, and that all souls are equal before God. However, if we do not believe in the Christian myths about God, creation and souls, what does it mean that all people are ‘equal’? Evolution is based on difference, not on equality. Every person carries a somewhat different genetic code, and is exposed from birth to different environmental influences. This leads to the development of different qualities that carry with them different chances of survival. ‘Created equal’ should therefore be translated into ‘evolved differently’.” 

― Yuval Noah HarariSapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Monday, April 17, 2017

Can a Christian deny the resurrection, Mr. President?

Nick Kristof had a question for Jimmy Carter:

Christians celebrate Easter on Sunday. But wait — do we really think Jesus literally rose from the dead?
I asked questions like that in a Christmas Day column, interviewing the Rev. Tim Keller, a prominent evangelical pastor. In this, the second of an occasional series, I decided to quiz former President Jimmy Carter. He’s a longtime Sunday school teacher and born-again evangelical but of a more liberal bent than Keller. Here’s our email conversation, edited for clarity.
ME How literally do you take the Bible, including miracles like the Resurrection?
PRESIDENT CARTER Having a scientific background, I do not believe in a six-day creation of the world that occurred in 4004 B.C., stars falling on the earth, that kind of thing. I accept the overall message of the Bible as true, and also accept miracles described in the New Testament, including the virgin birth and the Resurrection. 
With Easter approaching, let me push you on the Resurrection. If you heard a report today from the Middle East of a man brought back to life after an execution, I doubt you’d believe it even if there were eyewitnesses. So why believe ancient accounts written years after the events?
I would be skeptical of a report like you describe. My belief in the resurrection of Jesus comes from my Christian faith, and not from any need for scientific proof. I derive a great personal benefit from the totality of this belief, which comes naturally to me... (continues)
My husband and I are cradle Catholics, but my husband’s aunt used to refer to us as “cafeteria Catholics,” picking and choosing what we believe... 
Isn't that just called thinking?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Illegitimate legislation

Peter Boghossian (@peterboghossian)
Even by 2017 standards, this is deranged. twitter.com/GodDoesnt/stat…

Republican lawmaker in Tennessee proposes bill designating children born via artificial insemination "illegitimate."

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Necessity of Secularism

“We’re living in the midst of a revolution in human attitudes and belief. In much of Europe and North America and other areas of the developed world, such as Australia and Japan, large portions of the population are now nonreligious, that is, they reject belief in God and transcendent spiritual entities of any sort. This is an unprecedented moment in the history of humanity. As far as we can tell, belief in gods and spirits was nearly universal until the late eighteenth century; widespread religious skepticism, such as we are now experiencing, is a phenomenon of just the last few decades.
The consequences of this dramatic shift in beliefs are still unknown, because we are living through this change. All we can say with certainty at the present is that we’re in unfamiliar territory. Humanity has never been in this situation before.”

–Ronald Linday, The Necessity of Secularism, pg 13

via RDF