Monday, November 28, 2005

Paul Kurtz on "the pursuit of excellence"

Whenever I receive a new issue of Free Inquiry in the mail, the first thing I do is flip it open to that issue's editorial by Paul Kurtz, the founder of the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Kurtz is, in my opinion, the most reasonable voice of humanism on the planet alive today. He manages to express his views and defend his values without resorting to vitriol and without insulting those he disagrees with.

Which is why everytime I hear someone like Bill O'Reilly talk about the way in which secular humanists are ruining this country I have to wonder if he knows any actual secular humanists or if he's ever read an issue of Free Inquiry.

Take for example, the latest editorial by Kurtz, "The Pursuit of Excellence." In it, Kurtz explains that although humanists value toleration and defend the right to privacy, that does not mean we necessarily condone or remain uncritical of vulgarity and violence in society. He suggests that humanists must encourage a cultural Renaissance and reminds that "caring for others is essential."

I ask, is there really anyone that disagrees with such sentiment?


Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Ghost,

Depends on how they define caring now doesn't it? Please remember that Secular Humanists also define "caring" as killing other humans. Whether they are unwanted babies or unwanted adults. Refusing to acknowlege God, they put themselves in God's position and decided who will live and who will die...its powerful wine to drink...unless you find yourself in the unwanted catagory. As the scriptures say "...professing to become wise they became fools".

Hume's Ghost said...

With the exception of Peter Singer, I don't know of any avowed secular humanists who endorse infanticide. I assume you mean abortion, in which case, yes, generally secular humanists believe that a woman has the right of mastery over her own reproductive fate, although that is not a necessary position to take for the humanist (see Nat Hentoff.)

I also am not aware of any secular humanists who advocate killing "unwanted" adults, although I do know of some who believe that the individual should have the right to determine the time and place of his/her own death, especially if that choice is made in the sake of avoiding unwanted or intolerable pain. But again, this position is not a dogmatic one, one need not support the legalization of euthanasia to be a secular humanist.

This refusing to acknowledge God bit I confess confuses me. At what point does a death cease being natural or God's choice? Christian Scientists generally avoid medical intervention along a similar line of reasoning.

But regardless, that's not the point. Caring is being concerned with the well-being of others (empathy), wanting to help them and maximise their happiness, and minimize their suffering. This is the foundational belief that the acts you described are drawn from, and while we may disagree that these acts (euthanasia, abortion) are the correct action to take, most people should be able to agree about the root motivation of caring