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Advantages of Humanism - Comments

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 1 by Premiseless

It would be absent the evil of fixed point rules made by sticking ones neck out and saying "God says...." therefore the rule is universal and everlasting. This is the major evil of multi faiths all insisting on rules each other finds repugnant whilst somehow having to legitimise them ALL as holy.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 04:47:41 UTC | #929199

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 2 by aroundtown

A world without religion would certainly force us to grow up and not pin our fear and frustrations on a god that wipes away our perceived inadequacies. I love the list and the prospects. I believe a community of cooperation would become far more possible without the myriad conflicting religious views that separate us now and the moral imperative would be easier to contemplate without the goofy fairy tales.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 05:24:05 UTC | #929204

Anonymous's Avatar Comment 3 by Anonymous

Comment Removed by Moderator

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 09:39:45 UTC | #929228

potteryshard's Avatar Comment 4 by potteryshard

"God says..." is the adult equivalent of "Because I said so!" We have all had to throw the "Because I said so" card as not all concepts can be explained to a three-year-old.

Because adults can and should fully understand, allowing anyone to put off our questions and concerns with the "God says" zero-content argument is is willingly sacrificing their adulthood so that the religious manipulator need not provide a real answer.

Religion strives to keep the human race in perpetual childhood.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 12:30:53 UTC | #929251

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 5 by AtheistEgbert

For me, human evil is too great to ever consider myself a humanist. My view of morality is more existentialist, where virtue is a form of personal heroism against both internal and external forces that tend toward evil.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 16:11:09 UTC | #929316

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 6 by xmaseveeve

Comment 4, Potteryshard,

Yes. It's like the old game, 'Simple Simon Says'. But who says he says it?

Egbert,

I've seen you say this on other posts and I kept meaning to ask you why. Why? Yippee!! It's on topic this time, and you are brilliant. Explain. Are you like one of the toe-cutters in 'The Big Lebowski'? My humanist lily pad has felt shoogly since you and a few others made these noises. I help snake people.

I probably agree with you but how do we proceed? I was almost murdered. 'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers' but no matter how often I get kicked, I'm too stupid to stay down. 'You may fear too far.' 'Safer than trust too far'. I always get taken for a mug. Give us some emotional armour.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 17:45:30 UTC | #929343

Viveca's Avatar Comment 7 by Viveca

"Humanism" is one of those words that mean virtually nothing to me, much like the word "progress". I'm as opposed to religious dogma and stupidity as much as anyone, but it by no means follows that if we get rid of religious domination the floodgates of reason, humanity and happiness will burst forth in all their majesty.

Since I remain unconvinced by meme-theory, i'm afraid I can only explain the persistence of religious ignorance and cruelty as the result of benifits (perceived or real). This can only mean that for very many people ignorance and cruelty are desirable. The task then for "humanists" is to either:

a) Show people that the ends they seek are better attained by non-religious forms of ignorance and cruelty.

Or, b) To show that ignorance and cruelty per se can be dispensed with.

I'm all for reducing drastically the power that religious interpretations enjoy in our society, for continually pointing out that not only are they usually wrong but that they are harmful to many of us and impediments to the sort of society that some of us want. What i'm not prepared to say is that everyone will benefit in a post-religious society (they won't) and that ignorance and cruelty will somehow wither away (it won't).

Nevertheless, I realise that rhetoric of a very different kind is necessary in order to weaken religious power, because if merely pointing out the truth was sufficient then we would never have found ourselves in this position in the first place.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 18:34:44 UTC | #929359

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 8 by ZenDruid

Viveca, I would propose, for argument's sake, a humanist 'god' which just happened to evolve along with the species. This entity would comprise the full potentials of the species, transcend gender barriers, and give value (if not a precise definition) to the instincts we were all born with.

Of course, I defer to any anthropologist's reasoned definition of a 'humanist theory'.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 18:54:32 UTC | #929368

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 9 by Alan4discussion

The list @OP certainly has its merits, but there are always likely to be some religio-format political ideologies which are centred on tribal evolutionary trends.

Humans have great difficulty in coping with community populations beyond certain sizes. This leads to cults, cliques and teams and banner-waving nationalism, with the associated ideologies and group identity being competitively promoted. - religious cults, political parties, armies, sports teams, supporters/fans, worker groups, commercial companies, special interest groups, regions, states etc.

Some can be herded like sheep, - led like packs of dogs, gathered in flocks like birds - or be independent like most cats. There are various population models.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 23:11:44 UTC | #929457

starvoyager5150's Avatar Comment 10 by starvoyager5150

No one else need die, or take a life, in the name of a deity. No mere breath of wind, mistaken by a fanatic for a command from god, would result in the slaughter of the innocents. The 'morality' of theism has shed more blood than any other emotional motive.

Do not see a winged horse in the night sky, see the stars that suggest one, and nothing else.

Wed, 21 Mar 2012 23:33:11 UTC | #929461

maria melo's Avatar Comment 11 by maria melo

Of course, I defer to any anthropologist's reasoned definition of a 'humanist theory' comment 8 by Zen Druid

Was humanism derived from anthropocentrism (giving every social aspect a human dimension) that came out from re-discovering the greek classics in Renaissance? As an intellectual movement that affected european history ever since. I tend to imagine how Freud well understood this human dimension from greek myths giving them a humane interpretation of the human psyche; re-discovering also the love for natural explanations (the logos) I don´t know if there is really or ever was a theory for humanism. And basically has been also an intellectual movement that diminished religious status in the end of medieval age ? Sadly, a few days ago, while reading some philosophers about the humanist crisis/structuralism (or neostructuralism, which Freud belonged to) I read very ugly ideas about humanism, which I don´t quite agree. I´ll try to translate a few sad sentences. (I don´t even know why but philosophers are strange sometimes).

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 00:59:24 UTC | #929481

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 12 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 6 by xmaseveeve :

Egbert,

I've seen you say this on other posts and I kept meaning to ask you why. Why? Yippee!! It's on topic this time, and you are brilliant. Explain. Are you like one of the toe-cutters in 'The Big Lebowski'? My humanist lily pad has felt shoogly since you and a few others made these noises. I help snake people.

I probably agree with you but how do we proceed? I was almost murdered. 'I have always depended on the kindness of strangers' but no matter how often I get kicked, I'm too stupid to stay down. 'You may fear too far.' 'Safer than trust too far'. I always get taken for a mug. Give us some emotional armour.

I don't know what you want me to say? What do you mean you were almost murdered? I'm sorry if such a thing happened.

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 02:51:33 UTC | #929497

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 13 by xmaseveeve

Egbert,

Sorry I was unclear! I was wondering how people still manage to be humanists with all 'man's inhumanity to man'. I'm interested in your take on Humanism.

I was strangled, many years ago now - though I still have rotten nightmares. I know that it's a different situation, but I was hoping that Amos would come on and explain, much better than I could, how it makes people feel when another human being is trying to take your life (and, in the case of soldiers, you are being asked to kill them.) I was just luckier than millions of others. Some people lose 'faith' in goodwill.

It could easily make you despair for humanity, every time you watch the news, but we have to run the risk of trusting 'too far' in human good, or else we live in fear. I have always liked people until they prove me wrong. I suppose that I see the good in people all the more, because if I don't, the attempted murder charge might as well have been murder. What haunts you is that it's the same mens rea.

Humanist is not a label I've usually slapped on myself, because the usual context demands the word 'atheist'. (I find it best to be direct if a theist asks.) I don't feel part of an official group, but humanism seems the safest common ground. Atheist Richard Dawkins would not be so scary to theists if he was Humanist Richard Dawkiins. Try as the preachers may, the word will sound like humane and humanity.

Comment 7, Viveca,

'This can only mean that for very many people ignorance and cruelty are desirable.'

I am more hopeful than that. And I don't think anyone believes that evil deeds would disappear if religion did.

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 04:26:23 UTC | #929515

maria melo's Avatar Comment 14 by maria melo

I would like to have found a transcript of the translated interview of Michel Foucalt by Madeleine Chapsal in 1966, but couldn´t access.

Among other things Michel Foucault thinks Humanism is a dull heritage from the XIX century which we should get rif off.

But the link above quotes Foucalt as a humanist (?)

History of Structuralism: The rising sign, 1945-1966

Here´s what I found out of interesting, which I did´t read yet:

Humanism, a new idea UNESCO

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 13:24:30 UTC | #929865

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 15 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 7 by Viveca

"Humanism" is one of those words that mean virtually nothing to me, much like the word "progress". I'm as opposed to religious dogma and stupidity as much as anyone, but it by no means follows that if we get rid of religious domination the floodgates of reason, humanity and happiness will burst forth in all their majesty.

I share those sentiments, but I don't think that's the real issue. Atheists are loath to face up to the fact that the reason religion perpetuates is in large part because people seek some sort of 'ultimate meaning' in their lives. All else, including humanism, is often seen under a single banner of 'nihilism'.

People don't want to be told they live in a cold, indifferent universe and that their lives are essentially meaningless. They'll fight to hang on to 'meaning'....whether via Catholic doctrine or via some new fangled woo where our enlightened 'space brothers' will save us. It is why there are ghost shows, UFO shows, conspiracy theories, unexplained mystery shows, etc.......all attempting to persuade people there is 'something more'.

Not only that, but I suspect the true reason religious attendance has fallen has less to do with mass conversion to atheism and more to do with most people being too busy with their hedonistic lives to think about death or any ultimate fate. That people live much longer these days also makes death seem further away and thus less relevant.

I suspect there is only a certain percent of the population for whom reason will actually work. Whether it is genetic or cultural or whatever.....I think it will be a very long time before the 'meaning' meme disappears, if ever.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 16:02:50 UTC | #929883

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 16 by aquilacane

I would add something along the lines of being aware that we are not under the care of an all powerful sky fairy makes us our own caretakers, It's us or nothing.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 16:41:11 UTC | #929889

Viveca's Avatar Comment 17 by Viveca

comment 14, maria melo,

This would be the same Foucault that was enraptured by potential of the Iranian revolution?

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 22:44:52 UTC | #929978

Viveca's Avatar Comment 18 by Viveca

comment 8, Zen Druid,

(sorry, it's not letting me quote others directly for some reason)

But what about all the stupid and destructive instincts we undoubtedly posses?

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 22:49:46 UTC | #929980

Viveca's Avatar Comment 19 by Viveca

Comment 15 by Schrodinger's Cat :

People don't want to be told they live in a cold, indifferent universe and that their lives are essentially meaningless. They'll fight to hang on to 'meaning'....whether via Catholic doctrine or via some new fangled woo where our enlightened 'space brothers' will save us. It is why there are ghost shows, UFO shows, conspiracy theories, unexplained mystery shows, etc.......all attempting to persuade people there is 'something more'. Not only that, but I suspect the true reason religious attendance has fallen has less to do with mass conversion to atheism and more to do with most people being too busy with their hedonistic lives to think about death or any ultimate fate. That people live much longer these days also makes death seem further away and thus less relevant.

I suspect there is only a certain percent of the population for whom reason will actually work. Whether it is genetic or cultural or whatever.....I think it will be a very long time before the 'meaning' meme disappears, if ever.

I agree with much of what you say (the "meme" concept excepted). Mankind's vanity, vulnerability and mortality, along with its propensity to avoid complexity and to settle for edification and superficial intelligibility, all work against "reason" ever being taken too seriously by most. I don't see that ever changing. Times of crisis and catastrophe facilitate a rise in stupidity, but times of affluence and increased leisure time also seem to have the same general effect (see my OP on another thread). What changes, it seems to me, is principally the specific types and toxicity of the stupidity. A vast ocean of stupidity is always there.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 23:28:04 UTC | #929991

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 20 by ccw95005

There is no absolute and universal morality, including the precepts that humanism is supposed to represent. The closest to an absolute morality is the commonality of empathy almost all of us feel towards most of our fellow human beings (and to some extent animals). But we all draw the line between those who are worthy of our compassion and those who aren't. That line varies greatly from one person to the next. Some of us would say that only serial killers, rapists, and child molesters are on the other side of that line - in other words, those are people for whom we feel little if any sympathy. Radical Muslims may feel that everyone who doesn't accept the teachings of the prophet are beneath comptempt. Some fundamentalist Jews and Christians may have similarly extensive exclusions. But all those folks probably behave very kindly toward those they love or respect. Thus, most of us have a different set of moral standards for those on this side of the line as opposed to those on the other side.

The most I've thought about it, morality comes down to personal opinion and emotion. Luckily, most of us are somewhat similar in our ethical beliefs - based on a sense of fairness, the greater good for the most individuals, and the golden rule - at least for those who we consider worthy of our concern.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 23:28:51 UTC | #929992

Arthur Noll's Avatar Comment 21 by Arthur Noll

No absolute and universal morality? Hmm. It is true that one cannot say that even the laws of physics are absolute and universal. We have no proof that they will always be the same, no proof that they are universal. But I think I can give you a morality that is as good as the laws of physics, since it is ultimately based on them.

First moral principle would be to follow scientific method. You attempt to predict the future based on cause and effect observed to happen in the past. You avoid correlations, traditions, superstitions, and any mystical ideas, and deal only with cause and effect, with mechanisms.

The second principle would be to observe that human beings are social creatures, and it isn't optional. If you have doubts about this, the scientific experiment to test your independence is quite simple. Everyone has the naked body to test their independence of other people.

The third principle is that as a living creature, you have needs to eat, be sheltered, and reproduce. All three are subject to the laws of physics. The food you eat has energy in it, with that energy you must move in ways that bring more food and shelter if needed, and reproduce when needed. This ratio of food energy eaten to food energy returned, can be called food EROEI. It is a ratio that defines life and death. Since humans cannot get food and shelter and reproduce without a team, the team has a food EROEI, as well as individuals on the team. Since a ratio below one is the path to death, and a ratio of one is dangerously close to slipping below one, many creatures, including people, show signs of having instinctive attraction to having a high ratio of food EROEI. With a high food EROEI, it is possible to rest, relax, explore surroundings for food and shelter opportunities and possible threats. Reproduction is resource expensive, and generally requires a food EROEI well above one, to be successful.

A last basic moral principle, is that the team would look at the rates of all resources used in obtaining a favorable food EROEI ratio, and make scientific estimates that this could be maintained into the future. Looking at unsustainable rates of resource use and making claims that "God will provide", or that "scientists have previously found replacements for things used up, therefor they will always do that", will be dismissed as unscientific nonsense, immoral and dangerous. People understand that investigating the unknown is perfectly acceptable, potentially valuable, but they do not base their lives on what might or might not be found there. No assumption is made that the universe was designed around our emotional wants. Nobody would be so unscientific as to say that "solar energy will replace fossil fuels", or nuclear energy will do that", without having the specific way to do that in hand and tested. Agricultural methods that cause soil erosion, soil depletion, salting, would be immoral. It would be recognized that predicting the future exactly is difficult, so use of vital resources would be given a factor of safety, using them at lower rates than estimated rates of replacement. And with this factor of safety, society gives itself some space for emergencies. Just as the individual body in an emergency will secrete adrenaline and work at long term unsustainable rates, a social body may do the same. If factors of safety get burned through, though, people will die. You can redline a body, a machine, a society, but you can also blow up all three.

If couples can reproduce independently of a social team, that is no different from an individual living independently. If they cannot reproduce independently, then how much reproduction is a social issue, that goes back to how fast resources are used. People who deliberately reproduce without group approval are acting like cancer cells, highly immoral behavior. Punishment for severe immoral behavior on anything, would be banishment. If people behave independently, are defiant about it, they get independence.

It takes a lot of energy, a lot of resources, to raise a child to be a functioning adult. Nobody would be thrown out without very careful consideration. Every attempt is made to make people satisfied, productive members of the team. Nobody is born without being wanted, without expectation of a place for them.

Medical attention is also a function of looking at the amount of energy to replace someone. Children have progressively higher value, more and more has been invested in them, functioning adults have the highest value, and this value slowly fades, as older people will end up dying no matter how much care is given to them. Some people in a team may be more expensive to replace than others, they deserve more care if needed. Larger amounts of education, experience, can make certain people more expensive to replace. Just as certain organs in a body are more valuable, brain, eyes, heart, lungs, more valuable than fingers, toes, some people are more valuable than others. But if the brain of an individual does a crappy job taking care of the body, addicted, perhaps, it all dies, and the same can happen with social groups.

The most efficient social structure, and efficiency is important to maintaining high factors of safety in resource use, would be the way an individual body works. Specialized organs trade their goods and services to the whole rest of the body, which in turn can provide the mix of nutrients needed. Social organizations can work by the same pattern. This is not limited in size to small groups. Groups could specialize and work with other specialized groups.

Just as this structure has been selected repeatedly by evolution, social groups that work this way can also be selected. Social organizations that are highly inefficient, have large amounts of internal friction and fighting about who and what is valuable, large amounts of friction with other groups who are only different in superficial ways, who nearly universally are driven by mystical or superstitious beliefs about the future, can fail. Human beings are animals that can overpopulate and have dieoffs no different from any other animal. Surviving a dieoff requires extraordinary abilities to be efficient in dealing with all possible threats, and seeing reality with the greatest accuracy is part of that. Currently, billions are highly dependent on world trade in food, fuel, fertilizer, machine parts. Conflict that cripples this trade could bring down the whole thing.

Obviously one can go into a lot more detail with this, but the original matter, to me, was whether a system of morality based on principles of physics, could be done. I think this is enough to say yes, it can. Absolute, universal, no, I don't claim that. But as good as the laws of physics, yes.

Arthur

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 07:10:46 UTC | #930331

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 22 by ccw95005

Arthur, many of the moral principles you listed I personally agree with. But that's because we both evolved to have sympathy for our fellow creatures and a desire for our species to prosper. There are also people who because of genetics and/or upbringing have a mostly absent conscience and almost no concern for others - people like Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and similar serial killers in countries other than the US. They would say that there's absolutely no reason for them to feed a starving child. Who's to say that we are right and they are wrong? Morality by popular vote is unreliable. Look at the Inquisition and Hitler's Germany and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

So when you say that there can be a moral system based on logic alone, what I suppose you mean is that we can devise rules for ethical behavior based on what's best for the human race in accordance with the direction that evolution took for our species. Fine. But why are those goals necessarily the best? There are people who believe that the lives of animals (even, in some cases, insects) are just as precious as those of human beings. By their standards - which admittedly seem silly to me - our moral system would be very different. And there's no way to prove that we are right and they are wrong.

What I'm saying is that there has to be some basis on which any moral system is based. And that basis is somewhat arbitrary. Intelligent people of good will differ in what they consider moral. Look at capital punishment, abortion, assisted suicide, gay marriage, socialistic sharing of wealth vs self reliance, protecting the planet for future generations vs prosperity for people alive today .. and so on. You'll never get consensus. And while many of my moral rules may be similar to yours, I'm well aware that mine are essentially based on what feels right to me, not on any absolute principles.

I believe that like me, most people develop their moral precepts according to what feels emotionally right to them, and then come up with logical arguments to bolster their position - not the other way around.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 08:37:49 UTC | #930336

maria melo's Avatar Comment 23 by maria melo

comment 17 by Viveca

This would be the same Foucault that was enraptured by potential of the Iranian revolution?

Perhaps, I don´t know too much about Michel Foucalts´s life, but that´s surprising if we was (although it doesn´t really surprises me that much).What a shamefull humanist he must have been, if I ´d call him humanist. What was your source of information ?

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 13:22:12 UTC | #930370

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 24 by QuestioningKat

I can see that my choice of title may be throwing some people. Oh well, live and learn. This post is no longer on the main page so it will not attract many responses anymore.

Anyway, I think that whether or not an absolute or universal morality can ever be achieved, is irrelevant. We will still try to find the closest thing because people with children care about their children's future and what they learn. To say we need a code of morality that is set in stone comes from an ancient way of living that we have outgrown is seeing the issue with eyes of old. We are adaptable and are able to rethink when something is not working. Change is always an option. Unfortunately, we need to deal with people and groups of people who are inflexible. Yet, we need to move forward since the religion is clearly not teaching our children well.

I selected what I wrote in the list because I feel that they elevate a person toward being psychologically sound and helps them to advance in life to be productive in who they are. It also takes into account other people without the person sacrificing their own sense of self. I think if I could live by this list, I would be a better person for myself and toward others.

15.Sees other people, species, etc. worthy of respect and fair treatment.

16.Helps a person live the best life in the here and now.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 18:10:10 UTC | #930391

Viveca's Avatar Comment 25 by Viveca

Comment 23 by maria melo :

comment 17 by Viveca

This would be the same Foucault that was enraptured by potential of the Iranian revolution?

Perhaps, I don´t know too much about Michel Foucalts´s life, but that´s surprising if we was (although it doesn´t really surprises me that much).What a shamefull humanist he must have been, if I ´d call him humanist. What was your source of information ?

His rapturous musings on the possibility of great things emerging from the 1979 Iranian Revolution are well known and well documented. He wrote quite a bit about it, so it's far from a secret. Put Foucault and Iranian revolution into google or see the relevent section in his wikipedia page to get a flavour . . .

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 18:19:42 UTC | #930393

maria melo's Avatar Comment 26 by maria melo

Comment 25 by Viveca

His rapturous musings on the possibility of great things emerging from the 1979 Iranian Revolution are well known and well documented. He wrote quite a bit about it, so it's far from a secret. Put Foucault and Iranian revolution into google or see the relevent section in his wikipedia page to get a flavour .

Of course I did first googled around about Michel Foucalt and the iranian revolution and the results were surprising, I got the "flavour": Michel Foucalt is loved and quoted by islamists as though he was not a "western" person but an islamist himself but for a moment I thought it might be a different read of historical reality, although I cannot have any clue about what could have been considered as a positive potencial regarding the iranian revolution, from a humanist view point (that is mine , of course). Although we atributte "evil" to human nature and "good" to divine, we are just humane. Perhaps if humans knew better themselves and loved their own humanity and freedom that derives from this consciousness, they wouldn´t remain manicheists. I am not either expecting a perfect final solution , but I will never diminish however the importance of humanism.

Sun, 25 Mar 2012 19:17:40 UTC | #930407

Arthur Noll's Avatar Comment 27 by Arthur Noll

Well, ccw, I was not concerned about whether this system of morality has some ultimate good or bad to it. That is a notion of mystics, that there is some ultimate good or bad, some deep purpose to life. I don't believe such a thing exists, and I'm not concerned about what doesn't exist. This system of morality would simply exist because it works. It is very similar to noting that I'm strongly programmed to want to live. It is easy to understand why that is true- creatures without such strong programming, die.

People who do not want a morality like what I'm giving here, who are programmed to easily believe in things that have no evidence regarding morality, who adamantly run on what they were taught as children, can be like a creature that has instincts that function ok in one set of circumstances, but dies out in changed circumstances. It was ok for human beings to have these mystical beliefs, these habits of following tradition, in the stone age. It was ok for us to not be concerned about sustainability, because no matter how hard we worked with the primitive tools and understanding of the time, we could not take too much. Under such circumstances it was ok for people to have mystical beliefs that spirits or gods were making things grow back up behind them, that life was magical, if you appeased the right gods or god, you would be protected, that simply copying everything you did for a successful hunt, was the way to ensure another. But give such people abilities to take more, and things go haywire. They expect magic around the corner, but magic doesn't exist. Anyone who is satisfied with using resources at unsustainable rates, is going on these ancient instincts, I think, to use things up and move on, with expectation of magical things restoring it all behind you. I am reminded of Moses seeing "god" in the burning bush. Makes sense, from this perspective. They were herding nomads, they burned the bushes in a place, came back years later, and there were the bushes again. Burned but not consumed, they grew back, magic, the hand of god at work.

Expectations of science to find whatever is needed, is just a modern extension of this old faith in magic. Many scientists are obviously prone to this as well. As I pointed out before, it is irrational, nobody knows what is currently unknown. People are postulating the existence of things as if postulating made them real. Philosophers have given themselves the job of checking logic of scientists and society in general- they haven't done much of a job on this issue. I'd say their instincts have stopped them from looking closely at it. Their brains say, all is ok with that, they don't look further.

I once had opportunity to train some donkeys, in Maine. I found they were a very poor fit to that climate. There instincts were all wrong. They were terrified of puddles, of wet ground, of anything that even looked wet, like an asphalt road. I puzzled about this and finally realized that they evolved in dry climates, where water was scarce- and predators hung out at water sources. Stepping in uncertain footing where predators could be waiting, was instinctively extremely dangerous to them. They were completely unable to think logically about the situation, that in a wet climate, predators would starve to hang around water sources, because water sources were everywhere. They also had another instinct that was totally inappropriate- going down a road, they always wanted to go down the middle. I had to constantly steer them to the side. Cars were not part of their instincts, to be in the middle of the road, equally far from cover for predators on each side, was the safest to them, but with cars in the picture it was a stupid, inappropriate instinct. In the end it was also obviously extremely dangerous. And it was impossible to deal with them off the road either, with so many small streams in the woods, and I quit trying to work with them.

I think people are in very much the same situation. Most people are running on instincts that are completely inappropriate. They do not think about what they are doing. Regarding that, I see people on this forum, and others, who talk about getting furious at how often people do not listen to reason. I suppose to some degree this feels like a safe place to vent about that, but another part of me says, ok, but lets not get too upset about this. There is no point in getting angry with people who didn't make themselves, have no capacity to learn or change. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, because you can't look at someone and tell what their capacity is, but once you learn, I see no point in obsessing about it. That just makes you as unthinking as they are. I remember getting upset at a goat once, and then laughing at myself. It was a goat, what did I expect? Einstein? I'm the one who is stupid, to expect intelligence where there is no evidence of it. However, whenever I think I'm really smart, I remember times when I was really quite stupid. Making stupid mistakes doesn't necessarily mean people can't learn. But when people have been given numerous chances, and you try every approach you can think of and it leads nowhere, I have to say, ok, maybe someone else can reach them, I can't, it is time to move on. And it can end up being dangerous to stick around too long expecting irrational people to see the light.

Enough rambling...

Mon, 26 Mar 2012 00:14:24 UTC | #930469

Arthur Noll's Avatar Comment 28 by Arthur Noll

It is too bad that you could be right, Kat, and this thread might not get much more attention. I'm a bit bemused by the attention span of people these days, always wanting to get onto the next subject, not stopping long to think about anything very much. Lots of energy in a system leads to chaos...

I looked at your list, of course, but I'm sorry to say that it didn't look very interesting to me. I've learned things from fear and pain that I'm glad I learned, and it is possible I would not have learned any other way. Of course I would have preferred to learn everything with positive reinforcement, but preferences don't give reality. There are carrots and sticks in life, there are things we should be afraid of if we want to live. Every entity, whether a rock or a human, responds to forces of attraction and repulsion, has some kinetic energy. Humans are merely a lot more complex than rocks, have many different forces of attraction and repulsion working on and through them. But that is all there is that I can see. I have a certain energy level and am attracted to some things and repulsed by others, by a wide range of amounts. Both forces are part of life. What does anyone ever do that isn't some mixture of attraction and repulsion? Even my respect for logic is really an emotional attraction or repulsion to it. Some people respect logic, are attracted to it, some more than others.

I like my set of principles for society, principles for morality, obviously I wouldn't have otherwise thought about them and written them down. I didn't just pop them off, there are decades of thought behind them. I was attracted to thinking about the subject for that length of time. I feel it is logical they could prevail in the end, be selected by evolution, but my emotional attractions aren't going to make that possibility. I can't want them into existence. That is like saying if I want to fly badly enough by flapping my arms, it might happen. I don't think so. With your list, I'm often thinking to myself, well, that is nice, but I'm not seeing how it happens with the current crop of humanity, and some things I don't see happening with any group of people.

Mon, 26 Mar 2012 00:57:04 UTC | #930474

ccw95005's Avatar Comment 29 by ccw95005

Arthur, it sounds to me as if your moral principles are based on your own personal preferences for how the world should be, and not really based on any laws of physics, except in general. And that's fine. We all have our own opinions as to what's right and what's wrong.

The problem I have with listing the moral rules of humanism is that it doesn't really accomplish anything. Those who are inclined to accept the ideas of respecting others and being kind to our fellow humans will follow those precepts instinctively, whether they've heard of humanism or not. Those who are inclined toward the dark side will laugh at the ideas in a humanist manifesto.

Mon, 26 Mar 2012 04:47:56 UTC | #930498

Arthur Noll's Avatar Comment 30 by Arthur Noll

Only based on the laws of physics in general, ccw? I'm not sure what you mean by that. The fact that we are social creatures and do not have a choice about that, is a matter of physics and the kind of body we have. You simply cannot physically walk off naked and expect to be a biologically successful animal. Tigers, bears, some other animals, are relatively independent creatures, humans aren't. You will almost certainly die without reproducing, and the chances you will die rather quickly of exposure or hunger, are very high. That would be true in most climates even if you weren't competing with social humans, but you will be competing with social humans. This has nothing to do with my wants. Given how crazy I find most people to be, I have often wished I was independent, could get away from working with people who believed and behaved insanely, from my point of view. It was trying to get away as much as possible, in fact, that taught me very firmly that this couldn't be done any more than I could flap my arms and fly.

Food EROEI, is a energy measurement, an energy ratio. It is not a matter of my opinion or personal wants that it defines life and death. If you don't get enough to eat, don't get enough calories to run your body, don't get enough protein, vitamins and minerals to use those calories and maintain structures, you die. That is very basic physics, very basic science.

The rates at which things can be used for food and shelter, rates at which things grow , rates at which soil erodes with various practices, rates at which trees grow, fish reproduce, are all matters of science, of physics, of physics working through biology. That has nothing to do with my wants. A fundamental problem with a very large part of present agriculture, is growing annual crops. An annual plant grows from seed or tuber, gets to full size, produces more seeds or tubers, and dies. The problem with that life cycle is that there are no roots to begin with, and a rather small root system at the peak. It is the size of the root system that determines how well a plant recycles nutrients, and can be very important in holding soil against erosion. Soil erosion and nutrient depletion can be serious problems over time. Perennial plants that have living roots year round, can grow very large, dense root systems, they support larger above ground growth. Soil erosion with perennial cover can be slower than soil formation, plant nutrients that get put into the system in various ways, can be recycled over and over, rather than eroding or leaching away and heading for the ocean, as very easily happens with destroying perennials and growing annuals. These can be very serious problems over time. We are dependent on synthetic fertilizers for good reason, but the synthetic fertilizers are the result of using fossil fuels to mine, refine, and transport them, some of the vital minerals like phosphorus are being mined out, and the use of fossil fuel is obviously a problem. Past civilizations have crumbled partly and sometimes completely, with soil problems. One apparent way to solve leaching-erosion problems, is with irrigation in arid climates, and you control how much water is applied, which reduces erosion and leaching. But irrigation can bring problems with salted soil. That destroyed the first city of Sumer. Many other cities and complexes of cities, have gone to ruins, surrounded by ruined soil, as well. If you are curious, I know of a couple of online books written by soil scientists on this history.

But people like annual crops. Their life cycle means they put a great deal of the energy they capture, into seeds, roots or tubers. You can get a lot of food from a small area with them- but not in a long term sustainable way. Their life cycle also means they are easy to select for better tasting and higher yielding varieties. Do I dislike how annual crops taste? No. But logic says that this practice needs to be done with far greater moderation than it presently is, and much more of the food supply should come from a base of perennial plants, perennial grasses, trees. Trees can produce fruits and nuts and browse, perennial grasses and browse is stuff that herbivores can turn into milk, meat, and other useful products for people. It is definitely not an impossible way to live. I wouldn't mind at all living that way, but I do also like food from annuals, I'm not going to say they taste bad to me, they don't. I haven't eaten any of the gluten grains for about twenty years, but there are plenty of other annuals I can eat, and like the taste. The logic of long term sustainability, though, tells me they should not be the staples of my diet. Wants are not the issue here. The physics of root system size, the physics of erosion and leaching and salting are the issue. Another problem in agriculture is monocultures, they are highly susceptible to insects and diseases that are constantly evolving around controls, and those controls can often be blunt instruments that aren't good for us, either...

All kinds of things are like this, where we have emotional wants for obviously unsustainable things. We have an immense array of machinery right now, virtually all of it made and run with fossil fuels. Obviously not sustainable. People are more and more frantically looking for a way to replace those fuels, but haven't found anything that really answers. Do I like this machinery? A lot of it I could easily do without, but I do really like this computer, like the internet, like some other things. Too bad, though. My wants don't make reality. Maybe ways can be figured out to build and run some machinery with a much smaller population and much smaller amount of machinery per capita, with reasonable expectations of long term sustainability. But what we have now, I don't see that being sustained, whether I like it or not. I would never have built it without first figuring out how it was going to be kept going. But what is done is done.

If parts of my brain and body had their way, I definitely wouldn't be putting such strict limits on reproduction. Those parts of my brain and body would love to have unlimited numbers of people. But other parts of my brain respect the logical need to avoid overpopulation, even more. We reproduce to keep the species going. Having overpopulation and carrying capacity damage, can result in crashes that could possibly go to extinction. Which wasn't the point of reproducing.

Having a large dieoff isn't something that really appeals to me. I'd much rather people would be rational about their expectations of reality. But they aren't. I accept reality about that. I accept the reality that more rational people are most likely to survive what happens to people with irrational expectations.

What was it that guy supposedly said? " Only a fool builds a tower without first calculating the cost, to be sure of finishing it". Sounds like advice current society might have done well to heed. Some guy named Jesus supposedly said that.

Say that name here in a positive light and it might bring some heat, if enough other people are reading this. That would be interesting. It is amazing, sometimes, what knee jerk reactions people have with that name. I think he had a lot of very good, completely secular advice. Or maybe it was a committee that made it all up. Makes no difference to me. If ideas make sense, they make sense, I don't care much where they come from. I don't have any use for the mystical stuff people ascribe to him, though. And curiously, that seems to make no difference to some people. Just full of anger about the subject. Oh well. I just thought maybe I'd dip my toe in the waters here, on that.

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 05:41:12 UTC | #930694