Why the humanistic worldview is the best stance to survive the environmental crisis.
Amsterdam Declaration, Humanist Manifesto 2022 is such a concise and thoughtful document that we should start by quoting it.
1. Humanists strive to be ethical
- We accept that morality is inherent to the human condition, grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish, motivated by the benefits of helping and not harming, enabled by reason and compassion, and needing no source outside of humanity.
- We affirm the worth and dignity of the individual and the right of every human to the greatest possible freedom and fullest possible development compatible with the rights of others. To these ends, we support peace, democracy, the rule of law, and universal legal human rights.
- We reject all forms of racism and prejudice and the injustices that arise from them. We seek instead to promote the flourishing and fellowship of humanity in all its diversity and individuality.
- We hold that personal liberty must be combined with a responsibility to society. A free person has duties to others, and we feel a duty of care to all of humanity, including future generations, and beyond this to all sentient beings.
- We recognize that we are part of nature and accept our responsibility for the impact we have on the rest of the natural world.
2. Humanists strive to be rational
- We are convinced that the solutions to the world’s problems lie in human reason and action. We advocate the application of science and free inquiry to these problems, remembering that while science provides the means, human values must define the ends. We seek to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, and never callously or destructively.
3. Humanists strive for fulfillment in their lives
- We value all sources of individual joy and fulfillment that harm no other, and we believe that personal development through the cultivation of creative and ethical living is a lifelong undertaking.
- We, therefore, treasure artistic creativity and imagination and recognize the transforming power of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts. We cherish the beauty of the natural world and its potential to bring wonder, awe, and tranquility. We appreciate individual and communal exertion in physical activity, and the scope it offers for comradeship and achievement. We esteem the quest for knowledge, and the humility, wisdom, and insight it bestows.
4. Humanism meets the widespread demand for a source of meaning and purpose to stand as an alternative to dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism
- Though we believe that a commitment to human well-being is ageless, our particular opinions are not based on revelations fixed for all time. Humanists recognize that no one is infallible or omniscient and that knowledge of the world and of humankind can be won only through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking.
- For these reasons, we seek neither to avoid scrutiny nor to impose our view on all humanity. On the contrary, we are committed to the unfettered expression and exchange of ideas, and seek to cooperate with people of different beliefs who share our values, all in the cause of building a better world.
- We are confident that humanity has the potential to solve the problems that confront us, through free inquiry, science, sympathy, and imagination in the furtherance of peace and human flourishing.
- We call upon all who share these convictions to join us in this inspiring endeavor.
For the first time, stringing the line of past manifestos, this one uses the term “worldview”. It is a relief: “I am not a humanist, or not only a humanist, I just have a humanistic worldview. I can be many things at once, including a disappointed Catholic boy, deep in my guts.”
I am a humanist, I have a humanistic worldview. It is a big difference, isn’t it? Unlikely “being a Catholic versus Catholic worldview”, no humanist objects.
With religion it is not enough – you need to be it!
While this manifesto is the most rational, intellectual, and objective description of humanism, at the same time it brings its origins, and motivation to the primordial instinct, and is “grounded in the ability of living things to suffer and flourish”. Our morality, instead of divine scriptures, comes straight from human nature, where else?
And religious people holler at this moment:” Aha*, Gotcha!” And: “ Which human nature? The morality of caveman? Or Marks’, or Lenin’s? God forbid!”
Really, can you sacrifice, and fight to defend “human nature”?
This is the crux (pardon the pun) of the matter. How can you base all your philosophy on something so elusive and controversial as human nature? No surprise that there are fewer humanists in the US than snake-handling and tongues-speaking fundamentalists.
So, first, make humanistic morality and purpose not so elusive:
It is actually much easier to have a humanistic worldview than the Declaration suggests: you just like humans more than corporations, more than the government, and more than the religious authority. The origins of human nature are not so elusive as neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and paleoanthropology converging over the last few decades. Cooperation and altruism was the hallmark of the evolutionary developmental success of our ancestors over the last 8 million of years (and then of Homo sapiens). New data on language and on hypersociality point out that we are more interdependent than we ever dreamt of. This gives meaning and purpose: you need to be a little bit like an anti-establishment hero- do great things for people, against the authorities, monsters, demons ( including those inside you), and even gods. Fun.
Second, think about environmental disasters.
These days “humanist” actually means “eco-humanist”.
Humanists see the world literally made by humans, messed up by humans, and with humans as the only resource and responsibility to fix it. In “” Shared reality” and “Hybrid mind and where does it come from”**, I described the details of constructing the world (I wanted to say “our World” or “the World as we see it” but it would suggest that there is another World somewhere. It is not.)
It is how nature made us, we are curious, resourceful, cooperative, and funny. It is a gift, we need to use it and duck again in the last minute before extinction.
The world is divided: the religious people on one side, the science on the other, also individualistic, the Aristotelian West on one side, and The East of Confucius and Buddha on the other.
Religions are older than humanity and they help to live for billions of people. But they were made to make people passive, resigned with their ignorance and powerlessness (except in smothering heathens), awaiting a better afterlife. We need to fix the world now, be joyful, and teach nature new tricks.
The same with science: it teaches misanthropy, “ look around and sulk!”, “insignificant speck in gazillions of galaxies”” maybe this or that colorful gadget makes you feel better, maybe this pill?” Determinism tells us that everything has already been decided, so what is the point?
As humanists, we know that we are children of the past but have to think about the future globally and we do not worry about science and religion much- we invented both quite recently.
To fix the world, the first couple of questions have to be: “what’s wrong?” and “how come?”
The Religion says: we lost love ( or we do not understand /know how it is done).
The science says: ( as always – long on facts, short on whys)
”We are like overcrowded lab rats, exhausted our resources and fighting each other”
Well, remember we are Houdini -like humanists. We have this trick in our sleeve: consciousness ( which is thinking, free will, memory, hopping from paradigm to paradigm, etc).
We fearlessly examine our past and boldly design the solution.
We need utopian social engineering combined with knowledge of the ancient past and the wisdom of religion and science.
There are two distinct modes of happiness: the first is related to material possessions and power, (which is also dependent on material possessions). The new red tricycle you always wanted, the rise, the promotion in the company’s hierarchy. The other type of happiness is listening to your favorite music, watching a sunset with a friend, and learning how to do mosaics. The first type is like sharing a pie, the more I get, somebody will get less of it. The other type is the opposite, the more I get the more others can get. The first is regulated by money, and the other depends on the quality of experience, the quality of relationships, and skills. The first inevitably requires using material resources, and the other is much more sustainable.
If we can change the proportions of those two types of happiness in society we could be really happier, freer, living with less valiance and with less inequality.
The good thing is that we cannot force this type of change- no Orwellian “happiness”.
Old people are difficult to change, but if we teach our children well change is possible.
Actually, this type of change is underway. The program devised by French philosopher Frederic Lenoir and his team teaches children to be mindful and think critically. It is called “savoir etre, vivre ensemble( SEVE)”- learning how to be and how to live with others. The courses are offered in 6 francophone countries, the French Canadian version is closest to the US.
I don’t think, these programs are labeled as “humanism” but it looks non-materialistic and non-dogmatic. Let’s start something similar in the rest of the world.
UNESCO and pope Francis promote education for global citizenship and peace. It is not very popular in the United States because of political or religious overtones. Would SEVE be better accepted or “too much philosophy”?
*Aha- American Humanist Association.
** in my blog: ecohumanistlab.com.
Eco-humanism, African cosmology and ubuntu:
Essays related to covid 19 and environmental crisis- opening for the new world?
Pope Francis’s “Laudato si” and the liberal agenda:
SEVE (savoir etre vivre ensemble)