Friday, December 18, 2009

Humanim Defined

A need for a Humanist Consciousness

Are you an agnostic? An atheist? Or simply non-religious? If so, you probably happen to identify with Humanism.

"Humanism," according to the British Humanist Association, "is the view that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values and that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We choose to take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good."

"Humanism provides non-religious individuals with a step to take after first embracing atheism; it describes explicitly what many non-religious individuals agree on, what they aspire to and that they aim to work together for the greater good."

Bipin Shroff

What will u Prefer?Morality of Constraint,or an autonomus morality or Moral Maturity?

Moral Development

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Morality Final Paper

BY- Nellie Gotebeski


RUNNING HEAD: Child-Rearing, Autonomous Morality, Expertise Intuitions


Child-Rearing Techniques Promoting an Autonomous Morality Based on Expertise Intuitions


Nellie Gotebeski


University of Notre Dame


 Morality must be studied through many different scopes and across a multitude of domains. The multidisciplinary approach examines morality from a multi-perspective analysis and gains insight into moral development. From this point of view, it is accepted that morality prioritizes relationships, both with known and unknown others. The preservation of these relationships is central to human survival and development. Human flourishing can only be achieved through sensibilities and expressions, cooperating and taking perspectives, reasoning about distributing rights and responsibilities, and through sharing the benefits and burdens of a community. This form of living, puts morality at the forefront of human life. 

(2)--Morality Defined

 While the importance of morality is indisputable, the definition of morality has stirred heated controversy in the field of psychology. Kohlberg's rationalist approach argues that morality is based on reasoning and originates from the moral principles of justice and reciprocity (Kohlberg #). His six stage moral model demonstrates the development of morality through the three major levels of reasoning. Individual moves from preconventional stages including obedience or instrumental exchange to a conventional morality based on interpersonal concordance or the letter of the law. Finally, the individual can graduate to the postconventional level by reasoning prior-to-society or reorganizing their understanding of personal principles. 

 James Rest applauded Kohlberg's research, but transformed his hard invariant sequential stages into soft stages, which allowed each moral decision to be made with an access to all prior stages (Rest #). Other psychologists were less accepting of the six stage model and criticized Kohlberg's overemphasis on justice and limited account for cultural difference in moral reasoning. 

 Jonathan Haidt developed a new theory to emphasize the implicit processes occurring during moral functioning. The intuitionist approach claims that moral judgment is made quickly and effortlessly using emotion-based heuristics as a guide (Nazvaez 2). Within this model, reasoning was limited to post-hoc rationalizations and held little significance in moral judgment. The social intuitionist model has made many innovative contributions to psychology, but can be critiqued for its oversimplification and misrepresentation of moral functioning (Narvaez 4). Intuitionism is only applicable to simple moral evaluations ignoring the complexities of moral dilemmas in everyday life. Furthermore, the model belittles the role of reasoning and deliberation and places too much emphasis on naïve intuitions (Narvaez 4). 

 Therefore, the definition of moral functioning cannot be captured by focusing on rationalism or intuitionism, but can best be understood by an integration and transformation of the two. According to Darcia Narvaez, "Both come together in ethical expertise and moral deliberation, where well-education intuitions and good reasoning are vital" (Narvaez 1). This paper will focus on the integration of these two theories and the development of expertise morality from the scope of neuroscience. 

(3)--Defining Moral and Immoral

 The moral "rightness" or "wrongness" of actions is another area of intense debate. Individual circumstances and cultural differences largely determine the morality of an action and must be accounted for when judging their moral value. There is no absolute definition of a moral or immoral act that is applicable to all societies. Similarities exist across-cultures, but cultural conventions complicate the establishment of a universal moral code. Furthermore, even though moral commonalities are shared amongst cultures, other cultures have distinct moral expectations that break from a possible moral mold. 

 In order to pinpoint a shared moral code, psychologists have shifted their focus back on intuitions. Intuition provides some quick and effortless power over the ability to determine if an action is "right" or "wrong," but this intuition is usually based off assumptions about human nature, acquired schema formation based on experience, and can be overridden by reason and deliberation. Therefore, further investigation of assumptions and experience is necessary to gain a better understanding of morality. 

(4)--Human Nature 

 The Hobbesian view of nature claims that "war is natural" (Fry #). This view of human nature has become widely accepted despite the false assumptions that lie behind it. These unrealistic assumptions have lead to unrealistic conclusions, which have obscured our thinking about morality. Moral development is often clouded by a negative view of human nature leading to less motivation for moral action and a narrower scope of social responsibility. In order to reach the expertise level of moral functioning, the existing view of humanity needs to change. Douglas Fry dismantled the implicit assumptions that war is ancient, intergroup relations were hostile, women were captured as a goal of war, resources were scare, and leadership was evolutionary favored (Fry #). Through archeological evidence and research on nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes, Fry offers an alternative view of human nature, which he calls the human potential for peace. 

(5)--Moral Evolution

 The human potential for peace is a segway into the comprehension of moral evolution. According to Kreb, who's research is based off Darwin's account of the moral sense, there is a set of stages to account moral evolution. These stages include a recognition of social instincts, intellectual abilities, language development, and the ability to learn habits in response to community influence (Kreb 152). The recognition of the evolutionary importance of cooperation is central to the understanding of morality. The research of Jean Piaget is central to the understanding of a morality of cooperation and his findings had innovative implications for moral development. 

(6)--Moral Development

 According to Piaget, moral realism is "a natural and spontaneous product of child thought" (Piaget 189). Piaget claimed that young children exclude intention from the moral compass and focus on the result or consequence of their actions (Piaget 190). Young children do not have the mental ability to understand that other people have different opinions and beliefs from others. The interpretation of the world in terms of the self limits introspection and leads to egocentrism. The egocentrism of the child is a consequence of adult constraint rooted in rules and commands.

 The moral training techniques implemented by parents are infective and strengthen egocentrism. During the first years of life, children are bombarded with moral commands and duties which remain incomprehensible. Morality remains external until the child is capable of grasping the reasons why these commands and duties exist (Piaget 191). The child develops a morality of external rules which leads to a certain degree of realism (Piaget 191).

 Parents moral training techniques are compliment the child's naïve belief that rules constitute an obligatory and untouchable reality. Parenting techniques focus on catching the child committing a wrong-doing and punishing their actions to promote obedience and order (Piaget 192). The child is dominated by the continued search for the parental approval and inwardly admit the authority that wields over him (Piaget 192). The natural and spontaneous mentality of the child synthesizes with the notion of objective responsibility (Piaget 191).

 Fortunately, the child can break away from this egocentric tendency through cooperative interactions (Piaget 189). Through peer interactions, children begin to recognize the perspectives of others and become interested in the intentionality of their own actions (Piaget 189). This movement towards an idea of cooperation heightens the importance of morality. 

 Piaget argues the presence of two separate moralities in children and one intermediary phase. The first process is moral constraint, which leads to heteronomy and moral realism. Moral constraint originates in the adult and leads to a moral obligation based on unilateral respect (Piaget 195). The rightness and wrongness of an act is based on heteronomy. Right is to obey the will of the adult and wrong is to have a will of one's own (Piaget 195). The relationships between parents and children are not restricted to those of constraint. Mutual affection motivates children to act generously and can spawn a morality of good. This morality develops concordantly with the morality of right or duty, and in some cases completely replaces it. 

 The intermediary phase involves the internalization and generalization of rules and commands. During this phase, the child begins to understand that punishable behavior is bad in itself and even if it were not punished, one should not engage in the behavior. Piaget emphasizes the importance of intelligence in the process of generalization of moral rules and the differentiation between them (Piaget 196). The intermediary phase paves the way for the second morality of children, a morality of cooperation (Piaget 194). 

 The morality of cooperation leads to autonomy. The individual recognizes the perspectives of others and strives to treat others as he himself would wish to be treated. Therefore, reciprocity and mutual respect are the determining factors of autonomy (Piaget 196). The child discovers that moral goodness is necessary in the global community and the child is finally independent of external pressure (Piaget 196). 

(7)--Account for Individual Differences

 According to Nucci's studies, the child's moral understanding is independent of specific religious rules and separate from one's religious concepts (Nucci 50). Nucci analyzed the responses of devout Christians and Jews and secular children and found that morality was composed of the same set of interpersonal issues; justice and compassion.

 Gilligan claims that there are two modes of moral reasoning, which include this set of interpersonal issues identified in Nucci's studies. The two modes of moral reasoning are distinguished in boys' and girls' discussion of moral dilemmas. Boys are oriented to a morality based on justice and rights, and girls focus on compassion and care (Gilligan 199). When faced with a moral dilemma, males use logic to resolve the issue and females use care. Gilligan believes that, "the contrasting images of hierarchy and web derive from childhood experiences of inequality and interdependence" gives rise to the ideal of justice and of care (Gilligan 199).

 The emergence of care and compassion as moral guidelines evoked skepticism in many psychologists due to the common understanding of development as a progress of separation and a movement toward individual success and independence. Development as a progress of human relationships was an unfamiliar representation, but it has taken precedence in recent psychological research.

 The importance of relations can be understood by our tendencies towards cooperation. As social beings, humans interact with each other on a daily basis. These periodical interactions trigger moral dilemmas and opportunities for moral action with known or unknown others. From the standpoint of development, it makes sense for humans to make moral judgments based off of justice and care, because this set of interpersonal issues are central to the formation and preservation of relationships. 

 Gilligan's bimodal design is critiqued because the decision-making process of females can be boiled down to the basic underlying principle of justice. Women simply used a broader landscape of relationships when making moral decisions, while men's reasoning was narrower regarding relationships. 

(8)--Cultural Differences

 When examining cultural differences and their emphasis on relationships, Nucci suggests that there are moral concerns comparable across societies and groups. His findings suggest that moral education can be independent from religion and some presence of universality (Nucci 51). 

 Miller further analyzed cultural influences on moral reasoning by comparing the domain categorization of American and Indian subjects. His findings challenge the assertion that there is a universal moral code (Miller 21). In concordance with Nucci, Miller found that both samples considered moral issues ones that threatened justice (Miller 20). The differences between the two cultures pointed toward a morality within a cultural framework, of which individuals become interdependent parts of a social whole. Moral commitments are deemed those obligations to the social whole by responsiveness to the needs of the interdependent parts. 

 Miller emphasized the marked cultural differences observed among children in comparison to college students. According to his research, American children more frequently classified more violations as objective obligations than did American adults. Similarly, both American and Indian children categorized social responsibilities as objective obligations, which "reflect common cognitive and affective experiences of human infancy" (Miller 23). 

 Infants depend on their primary caregiver to fulfill their needs. These earliest relationships based on dependency could result in the impression that mandatory obligations exists to help others who are also in need. This universal experience among infants in all cultures may explain the commonalities in American and Indian children's views despite other cross-cultural differences (Miller 23). As children are exposed to belief systems and values within their cultural contexts, the constructs present during infancy are modified. In India, the children's initial construct is supported as children acquire conceptions that valorize the importance of other relationships aside from paternalistic familial relationships. On the contrary, as children in the United States grow older, they begin to narrow their construct to stress the voluntary aspects of interpersonal commitments (Miller 23). 

(9)--Moral Education for Children

 From Miller's research, we can see that there are very little differences between the moralities of children within and across cultures. The child's dependency is a shared experience which influences their perception of morality. Furthermore, based on the developmental stages of Jean Piaget, moral development commences from a morality of constraint. This morality originates from parenting techniques that cause the child to view morality as a form of obedience. In order to explain this child experience, it is necessary to delve into neuroscience, specifically focusing on the research of Margot Sunderland. 

 According to her research, the reptilian brain evolved around 300 million years ago and is responsible for controlling body functions to secure survival. The reptilian brain instinctively controls bodily functions such as breathing, hunger, digestion, and territorial instincts (Sunderland 16). When we feel unsafe, impulses from the reptilian brain and mammalian brain can override higher human functions, and we either fight or flee. This part of the brain also control territorial instincts and can lead us to behave like a threatened animal. 

 The mammalian brain, or lower brain, is also known as the emotional brain. This region evolved 200 million years ago and introduced new programs for bonding, playfulness, caring, and nurturance (Sunderland 18). The lower brain is synonymous to the limbic system, which functions to control the primitive flight-or-fight impulses (Sunderland 18). The mammalian brain is the emotion control system and needs to be managed by the rational brain. 

 The rational brain, or higher human brain, evolved 200,000 years ago. It located in the frontal lobe or neocortex. It functions to promote creativity and imagination, problem solve, reflect, empathize, and reason sophisticatedly (Sunderland 19). 

 The development and interactions of these brain is essential for human behavior. Positive parenting styles promote brain development and help form connections in the child's brain necessary for communication and control. 

 There are three systems genetically wired at birth to secure surival. These systems include rage, fear and separation distress. (Sunderland 24). They are genetically predisposed in order to help protect infants from predators and promote attachment with caregivers. The underdevelopment of the high-brain causes the infant to become overwhelmed by the activation of these systems, because there are few tools intact to help them think, reason and calm themselves down. Sunderland advises parents to do anything possible to calm a distressed baby. Responsive parenting techniques helps develop the frontal lobe of the baby's brain and form pathways that will, over time, help manage stressful situations effectively (Sunderland 24). If the baby is not comforted, his brain will not be able to calm the alarm states in the lower brain and later in life he will not develop the higher human capacity for concern or self-reflection (Sunderland 24). This child's actions will be driven by the primitive systems set up at birth and an overactive alarm system in the lower brain.

 As parents, we are responsible to move our child from a morality of constraint toward a morality of autonomy. This only occurs through secure and responsive parenting techniques and an education system similar to the developmental discipline model. Parents must understand that intense outbursts of rage and distress is a cry for help. These bursts of emotions represents the immaturity of the infant brain and the underdevelopment of the higher brain. If parents do not comfort the intense feelings of their child, the child will have trouble controlling these emotions later in life and could develop and overall skepticism of others and a general fear or distrust of the world. There is also evidence that more reserved or even antisocial and depressive personalities could develop from ineffective parenting. These types of personalities will not promote movement toward an autonomous morality and the child may remain stuck in the morality of constraint. Furthermore, any chance at reaching moral maturity will be unattainable. The importance of effective parenting and moral education is crucial for the moral development of children. 

)10)--Moral Maturity 

 From a morality of autonomy, individuals can move into moral maturity and reach expertise intuitions. This morality is achieve through immersion, focused practice, and expert to novice instruction (Narvaez 10). Through this type of training, good intuitions are formed, which can be applied in real-life contexts. The immersion and explanations from mentor educate intuitions and improve reasoning skills. These skills will eventually be applied automatically and the individuals will be capable of reacting to a moral situation in a morally appropriate way. The cooperation between the novice and expert is essential in the development toward moral maturity, but can only be achieved if the individual begins training with a morality of cooperation. 

 Narvaez stresses the importance of early experience in the process of forming moral exemplars. Experience is crucial to foster the development of chronically accessible constructs and reach moral maturity. In addition to expert-novice training, which guides our intuitions and develops reasoning, individuals also need to form habituated empathetic concern (Narvaez 12). Empathy is rooted in nurturant caregivers and through education that emphasizes community and fosters prosocial behavior (Watson). 

(11)--Morality in a Personal and Public Arena

 In order to move expertise intuitions from the personal to the public arena, the skills need to be practice and generalized over different contexts. This repetition and rehearsal will help the constructs and schemas become automatic, unconscious and generalizable (Narvaez). The child will be able to take what they learned and apply it to different contexts leading the life of a moral exemplar. 


 Moral development is a three stage process beginning at birth. As infants our rage, fear, and separation systems, control our destiny for a morality of constraint in early childhood. The shift toward a morality of cooperation is influenced by supportive and secure parenting styles. Once the child is able to act cooperatively, they will be able to develop toward becoming a moral exemplar with expert intuitions. This level of moral maturity is achieved through an expert-novice pedagogy, which is designed to educate intuitions and foster deliberative reasoning (Narvaez). 


Colby, A. & Damon, W. (1999). The development of extraordinary moral commitment. In M. Killen & D. Hart (eds.), Morality in everyday life (pp.342-370).  New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gilligan, C. (1982). New maps of morality: New visions of maturity. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 58, 199-212.

Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108, 814-824.

Kohlberg, Lawrence (1968). "The Child as a Moral Philosopher." Psychology Today, 2, 24-30.

Kohlberg, L. (1976). Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive-developmental approach. In   T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral development and Behavior (pp. 31-53). NY: Holt, Rinehart, & Wilson. 

Miller, J. G. (1994). Cultural diversity in the morality of caring: Individually oriented versus duty-based interpersonal moral codes. Cross Cultural Research, 28, 3-39. 

Miller, J., G., Bergsoff, D.M., Harwood, R.L. (1990). Perceptions of social responsibilities in India and the United States. Journal of Social and Personality Psychology, 58, 33-47.

Piaget, J. (1932/1965). The moral development of the child (Chapter 1, pp.13-100

Narvaez, D. (2008). Human flourishing and moral development: Cognitive science and neurobiological perspectives on virtue development. In L. Nucci & D. Narvaez (eds.), Handbook of Moral and Character Education (pp. 310-327). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Nucci, L. (2001) Education in the Moral Domain, excerpt. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Watson, M. (2008). Developmental Discipline and Moral Education. In L.Nucci & D. Narvaez (eds.) Handbook of Moral and Character Education. New York: Routledge.

































Bipin Shroff



The Superior Rationality = Atheism

The Superior Rationality: Atheism



Does thinking logically, clearly, and objectively mean one is more rational than someone who is delusional, muddled, and purely subjective? Not necessarily, as there are certainly rational thinkers on both sides of the religious debate, but when it comes to proving an argument correct, it has been my experience that the clearly stated, strictly objective, and highly logical arguments are the ones which tend to fare better than those which lack these necessary tools for applying critical thinking to the subjects which concern us. In this short essay I intend to prove that although religious believers and atheists both use rational thought, that they use different forms of rationality, and that one form is superior in getting closer to the truth than the other.

Strong Rationality Defined
Strands of philosophy combined with the scientific method and enhanced by evidence and hard won proof along with critical analysis and good objectivity often culminates in the total sum to form a strong rationality. Strong rationality, then, is the combined traits and skills each of these independent disciplines allow for. From the scientific method to critical thinking and beyond, anyone who incorporates the full gamut of these things will be able to form better, well rounded, and keener arguments than a person who uses one, or merely a few, of these traits.

Atheism, a rationally cogent position of nonbelief in the supernatural based off of logical inferences provided by the plethora of evidence and the deduction, using strong rationality, that the lack of support leads one to make the summation that the supernatural is not rationally sustainable. This doesn't mean, however, that a religious believer is incapable of thinking logically or rationally. It simply means, there is more going on behind religious thought than meets the eye.

Arriving at a position of atheism is relatively easy when relying upon strong rationality. It is sustainable by the very arguments themselves, which work to enhance each other, and work in tandem to reveal a naturalistic state of existence (confirmed by the scientific method), but seems to discredit the idea of the supernatural (an unfounded hypothesis lacking in adequate support) typically believed in by religious cohorts. In other words, the atheist's position is enhanced by science, in turn the implications of science is better revealed through philosophy, and philosophy is more accurate when it incorporates and utilizes critical thinking and objectivity, and so on. If one element should fall short jeopardizing the balance between the various strands of thought and disciplines, fret not, for in whole the process of strong rationality will balance itself out as more data becomes available and as more evidence comes in. Therefore the more knowledge one can attain, the better chances one has for either constructing a powerful theory with minor flaws that will work themselves out in due time, or else, by inference via an understanding of the reality depicted thereby gain a deeper knowledge of the bigger picture, so to speak.

This is what rationalists, including the recent advocates for new atheism, such as Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, A.C. Grayling, and Victor Stenger all have going for them—they are exceedingly rational in their thinking processes. They utilize strong rationality, in its fullest sense of the term, just as the greats before them, such as Plato, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Thomas Paine, Einstein and many other free thinkers along that vein. Their combined teachings and theorizing seek to raise our consciousness to a higher level, whereby strong rationalism becomes the truest form of mindful contemplation and crystal clear thinking.

One might compare this version of strong rationality with the cosmological concept of a unified theory of physics. A unified theory is the collection of multiple, often mutual theories, which although are incomplete in themselves, all point to the same truth. Logically, it follows, the more correct theories you have the more likely you will be in discovering the correct answers about that which you seek to know more fully. Like any decent scientist, an atheist will be forced to discard inadequate theories in favor of the theories which best explain, or describe, the events observed as it makes heads or tails of the evidence. The closer one can get to an all encompassing theory which explains just about everything with utmost efficiency, the closer to the real truth one gets. I am arguing that much like a unified theory of everything looked for in modern physics, the new atheists (and rationalists in general) are using a similar practice of taking each new bit of evidence which come to light, disregarding the weak and throwing out the failed theories, thus progressively move toward a higher truth. At least, a truth which is more acceptable given what we know and after all is considered, because this strong rationality I speak of has multi-faceted capabilities in dealing with the dissemination of information, it is highly adaptive and much better suited to reveal actual truths about reality as we know it, at least more so than the oft wayward, vague, nebulous, frequently incomprehensible variety of religious modes of thinking.

Granted, this is a big accusation, so let me explain why I think religious thinking is less capable and less rational than secular modes of thinking. Consider Christian apologetics, something which I feel lacks the same prowess in dealing with the dissemination of information, as its approach is not quite as adequately suited for the task as the atheist approach is. That is to say, that even though some apologist thinkers and theologians may use some of the above processes which can lead to higher rationality, they don't, or more likely can't due do several reasons I will discuss.

Why can't theists and religious adherents reach the lofty status of strong rationality? For starters, because the dogma of faith makes pious followers uncritical of its inherent weaknesses, and if one is not allowed to be critical of her own set of beliefs, or faith, then she is not likely to take the time to explore the myriad of possibilities that her faith is incorrect or in some way deficient. This means, faith which is maintained by dogma does not allow for the full investigation into each little fault or failing of its premises specifically because to do so may put the entire faith into jeopardy. It will allow for exploration into certain nooks and crannies which comprise the religiously held convictions, but if critical analyses should yield skepticism, then dogma steps in and the creeds and diktats of the institution supplant the methodology and processes which yields higher rationality.

Basically, if one begins to doubt too much there is a string of self buttressing techniques, often the fall back arguments apologists like to overstate when pressed into a corner, which fit hand in hand, conveniently enough, with the overall consensus of the over arching religious scheme. Therefore, it stems to reason, faith is restricted by dogma, which in turn is necessary to sustain faith and protect it from too much skepticism, and moreover, is needed to advance the agenda of the institution where too much critical thinking may detract, or otherwise, hinder the goals and aspirations of the religious mind. This way of thought might be defined as weak rationality.

The Consequences of Weak Rationality
What this means then, is religionists, religious apologists, fundamentalists, and moderates, most theologians, and believers in general are confined to thinking only within the confines of the bubble of what is allowed by their particular faith or belief system as kosher. Anything which is not kosher is rejected, even if it happens to be the truth! Take the denial of Darwin's theory of evolution as a prime example of such a sad expression of a dwindling faith. Atheism, on the other hand, is without a belief system and so has nothing to protect, except for perhaps one's own intellectual honesty. Atheism is not codependent on any one particular article or belief, or collection of beliefs (what I call appreciations), and so any bit of information or philosophy may be adjusted freely according to the new evidence. Or, if necessary, such may be altogether abandoned without jeopardizing the position of the atheist. The same cannot be said of the convictions of the religious person, as devotion is a key part of being devout, and so dogma is innately tucked under the layers of belief as a bedrock, a foundation, for faith to rest upon.

The pious dare not risk infidelity to their faith by thinking too clearly or too much about their faith. As such, the religious person of faith is only left with a limited capacity to work with the prescribed tools required to make sense of the wealth of disseminated information. Of course, the nonreligious are free to bask in the unbound and unlimited freedom of flirting with and intermingling with an endless sea of ideas, which they can draw on and gain from in such great capacity as if to exploit everything for all it's worth.

This allows the scientific minded atheist and skeptic to be genuinely heuristic in their quest for answers. Meanwhile, the religious devotee is stuck in the muddled up mess of faith's politics, where the creed trumps any skeptical inquiry, and where the theories or factual evidence must be readily thrown out completely lest they become too much like their rival atheists. Sadly, it is too often the case that the dogmatist will throw out the baby with the bathwater without so much as an afterthought about the consequences of such a hasty ill-informed action. Why? Because their faith demands it of them. In every religious establishment there has been a tenet, creed, or doctrine expressly forbidding too much free thinking, always reminding believers that to walk away from the faith would have disastrous consequences. Predictably, devout followers love nothing more than to re-affirm their faith, restrict questioning to a minimum lest it breed skepticism, and thinking scientifically is only allowed insofar as one does not learn to disregard failed hypothesis in favor of better explanatory theories.

Doubt is a crippling force for religious believers, as it is a powerful tool for opening one's mind, by forcing us to examine in detail what it is we profess to believe. Doubt is followed by curiosity, for not knowing is just too much to bare for us inquisitive humans, and so we set about searching for the answers promptly. But as the adage goes, curiosity killed the cat, and nowhere is that more true than under the banner of religious faith. Dare not go this far, dear believers, for you will turn away from faith and so it is no surprise that religious texts like the Christian Bible and Muslim Koran have safeguards in place protecting the institution of faith with scripture which condemns all kinds of heretical strands of thinking, namely different way of thinking, but most of all, condemns apostasy—a crime which is often deemed punishable as one of the greatest offenses in the realm of faith. Although, it is a curious thing, for how on earth can changing one's mind be deemed a crime? Let alone a crime punishable by death, torture, banishment, or at the least ridicule and distrust? It seems to me tthat the punishment is disproportionate to the crime.

And if the punishment doesn't fit the crime, and clearly this is the case where apostasy is concerned, then clearly we can be sure that religious theocrats are deliberately seeking to bolster a weakening faith, and this overcompensation has been going on for thousands of years. For why else would the ardent faith in what religious proffers to be the truth need to be safeguarded from critical thinking and inquiry, unless it wasn't true to begin with?

It seems to me, that the logical deduction is this: because of the self inflicted weakness of religious rationality, or weak rationality, the religious proponent simply can't go toe to toe with the stronger rationalists, whether they are atheists, free thinkers, humanists, or something other. Quite truthfully, because the rationalist is allowed access to all human knowledge accumulated up till now, as well as all which is still forthcoming, they are in a better position to argue from a standpoint of knowing. The religious person of faith, however, is in a sad state of affairs, for his shoelaces are tied, and more often than not they are not allowed unbridled access to the same bulwark of human knowledge. Furthermore, the believer is specifically instructed to reject potentially dangerous theories and facts in favor of maintaining the institution of faith, even if this should breed ignorance rather than bring enlightenment. The sacrifice of intellectual honesty, if you ask me, is too great to bear.

Thus, whenever a believer and a nonbeliever debate about the implications of religious faith, we can be sure that the religious proponent is instantly inflicted with a self-imposed handicap, one which they cannot overcome, otherwise they would turn into the very heretics they detest.

An Example 
An example of weak rationality would be as such: William Lane Craig, a popular Christian apologist famous for the Kalam cosmological argument [the Kalam cosmological argument being a variation of the cosmological argument that argues for the existence of a Sufficient Reason or First Cause for the universe. Its origins can be traded to both medieval Christian and Muslim thinkers] might be able to concede that his cosmological theories are not well enough informed and have grown outdated, but he will never concede that the big bang "singularity" never actually occurred as he thinks it did, not even if science can reveal that Craig's theory is altogether predicated on incorrect, if not wholly inaccurate, information. This would make Craig's Kalam cosmological argument, a favorite among apologists, completely a false premise. Therefore, believer's like Craig allow their dogmatic convictions to force them into holding on to antiquated and outmoded theories precisely because they appear to enhance his faith, and without them his faith would be that much more difficult to sustain (as if it was sustainable to begin with). Regardless of whether or not such a conviction is "sufficient" reason to maintain a devotional allegiance to any single belief, oddly it seems, the cosmological argument Craig developed in the late 70's, which may have been sound back then with the limited knowledge available to cosmologists at the time, but now has the opposite effect as the wealth of newly discovered cosmological knowledge today detracts from his faith, in spite of what Craig and others might think. The Kalam cosmological argument is now void expressly because modern cosmology has proven that the big bang was not a once off event, and this proves the theological conjecture of a first cause entirely wrong.

Luckily for us atheists, however, there is more than enough evidence which, as a matter of act, with great precision shows that the big bang was a real event which happened 13.7 billion years ago, and more than this, cosmologists have discovered that the big bang is one of many, perhaps an infinite cycle, of universe catalysts and inflation incidents. Craig's idea of a one off "singularity" that corresponds with the account in Genesis of his faith's holy book, low and behold, has been completely falsified. That is, his theological premise is untenable. How does William Lane Craig account for this startling evidence which negates his first cause assertion? He doesn't. Why? Because Craig's holy book has no account of it, nor can it adequately explain what we now know.

Venturing a guess, though, I predict that someone as well verse in rhetoric as Craig is will one day try and back peddle furiously, as many apologists are want to do when pressed into a corner (and after the fact), and state parsimoniously that the Bible doesn't mention whether or not God might have created numerous prior big bangs or not, appealing to what we all already know, that God is unknowable, that we just can't know for certain, that it's just impossible to tell for sure. And from his faith based perspective that may even be true, but that's filling a gap with the idea of God. The bottom line is, it's insufficient precisely because it is a God of the gaps type argument. It explains nothing, but instead, brings up more questions than it can possibly answer while attempting desperately to safeguard the faith with diversionary tactics which always lead back to a currently (but not necessarily indefinite) unexplainable event. This is a defensive position, and ultimately, perhaps the only position for one who ignores the merits of strong rationality in favor of weak rationality simply because weak rationality is less provoking and doesn't put their faith into conflict like strong rationality does.

Although, I don't think I have to point out that an atheistic thinker has no such qualms; and if the big ban should in the future be proved to be entirely different from what we know, or altogether false, it has no direct impact on what the atheist is allowed to accept as the truth or how deeply they can continue inquiring about the truth of the matter. Christians have to stop investigating the truth when the truth becomes apparently in favor of the atheistic outlook—that is to say, when the evidence begins to show favoritism toward a Godless universe, then the Christian has no alternative but to reroute the conversation, taking many detours, before finally settling for a God of the gaps defensive. That is to say, if science or philosophy or any other way of thinking should lead toward unbelief, perchance initiate a sustainable nonbelief, the Christian must abandon the search for truth totally. Especially if the evidence compounds to show 1) religious belief is inadequate in light of better understanding, 2) and skepticism is bred via hard won proof and scientific advancement which, 3) contradicts the holy text or otherwise makes it more incomprehensible or unfeasible as a consequence, and 5) shows that God may altogether be nonexistent, or, that God is provably imaginary and that the idea of God is not easily sustainable given what we do know.

I would like to remind the reader that the atheist is free to carry on carrying on in her search for answers without having to worry about such complications. In fact, atheist rationalists gladly welcome such complications, because they are a good sign that a theory or idea is lacking or is insufficient, and it challenges them to think more deeply about what it is they believe by examining their beliefs more carefully and fully. 

In conclusion, the atheist and rationalist are traversing the high road towards strong rationality and better understanding all the time. Regrettably, however, the religious person of faith is stuck combating their restrictions as well as dodging the bullet of raison d'etre, which would shoot down their beliefs and stop them dead in their tracks, and so they are forced to do the only thing a pious person of faith can do in such a situation, retreat, count their losses while refusing to admit defeat, and then boast to their comrades about how victorious they were as they spread the propaganda about how their enemy fled in awful terror—thus riling up the troops and getting the zealots worked up into a frenzy for one last hurrah against the superior adversary. The truth being, the opposition's arms and stockpiles are growing vaster by the day—so much so that it's not so much going to be a battle between David and Goliath as it is going to be between David and Godzilla.

Strong rationalism, as defined earlier, offers the atheist a more satisfactory means of explanation of how things work, lends a better understanding of the natural world and all it entails, and yields real world results which enhance and sustain our secular convictions such as humanism and naturalism, just to name a couple. Religious apologetics, however, is not up to the task of combating or even dealing with the never ending onslaught of new data, and must work vigorously to avoid, or else denies every scientific discovery which seeks to dethrone faith from its pedestal of exaltation, thus take it down, bringing the supernatural into the realm of the natural where it stand no chance against the mighty forces of reason and intellect honed for generations by rationalists, skeptics, and atheists. Unless God makes himself known to us today in a surprising comeback, I think it's safe to say who the future champion in this no holds barred, know down drag out, fight between religion and atheism will be. Clearly, atheism has the upper hand—and a weary and beaten down religious faith can only win by a miraculous KO, and only if God steps in to do it for them. And I ask you friends… what are the chances of that happening?



Posted by Tristan D. Vick

Tristan D. Vick

My Atheistic Glamour Stare, Resistance is Futile!

About Me

Tristan D. Vick

Tristan D. Vick has degrees in English Literature with a focus on Literary Criticism and Advanced Theory and Japanese History from Montana State University. He lives in Japan with his wife and daughter and is working in the recesses of Hiroshima where he teaches English to the natives amongst the glistening rices fields and ancient temples.


Bipin Shroff

Thursday, December 17, 2009



ITC's Gardenia weaves in art, architecture and the urban language
Economic Times - Gurgaon,Haryana,India
In its appropriation both of Mies van der Rohe's exquisite transparency and the corporate rationalism of `responsible luxury' the hotel creates a language ...
Students urged to learn from history
The News International - Karachi,Pakistan
He advised the students to change their thinking and adopt rationalism to resolve issues. Bangladeshi Prof Dr Muhammad Yousaf said the seminar must not be ...
Robert Meyer column: Church-state separation misunderstood
Appleton Post Crescent - Appleton,WI,USA
"'Rationalism' was never so widespread as liberal historians, or those fascinated by Jefferson, have imagined." The reason why nativity scenes got placed on ...
New Humanist (Rationalist Association) - discussing humanism ...
By (Paul Sims) 
We managed to catch up with legendary graphic novellist Alan Moore before the show last night - here he is explaining why he joined the bill, why we need rational celebrations like Nine Lessons, and demonstrating his amazing outfit: ...
New Humanist Blog -
Confessing Evangelical » Grundt work
By John H 
Kierkegaard's family was heavily influenced by two contrasting reactions to this rationalism: pietism (particularly that of the Moravians), and a movement known as Grundtvigianism. Grundtvigianism was named after Nikolai Grundtvig, ...
Confessing Evangelical -
The Anti-Preterist's Toolkit (2009 Deluxe Edition) « The Anti ...
By Brian Simmons 
It is important that Christians realize the nature of the oft-unseen spiritual warfare being waged between real evangelicals and pseudo-evangelical rationalists. Preterism becomes all the more prevalent when it is ignored. ...
The Anti-Preterist's Blog -
Germs.Sporoi: "Science and Metaphysics" by Wolfrid Stalker Sellars ...
By alexandros sfakianakis 
Like Quine, then, Sellars moved decisively away from classical Kantian rationalism, but in the direction of a Kantian empiricism which preserved logical space for a theory of semantic meaning and the correlative distinctions between ...
Germs.Sporoi - / Science fiction and fantasy / Blog posts / Why Lovecraft ...
By Bennett Lovett-Graff 
Ringe argues that this hard-bitten American rationalism would change after the Civil War with the rise of spiritualism and the sudden cottage industry of spirit-rappers and Ouija-boarders. The loss of over 600000 American lives, ... / frontpage -
Find a Meetup Group Near You! - Rationalism Meetups - Ft Mitchell
Find Meetup Groups in Ft Mitchell, KY, us about Rationalism.

Bipin Shroff

Monday, March 2, 2009

Memoriam -H-Blackham

Harold Blackham [3 ] (1903-2009) died on 23 January 2009 at the age of 105. He was a founder of
both IHEU [4 ] and the British Humanist Association [5 ]. The BHA has provided an obituary [6 ].
The only brother of four sisters, Harold Blackham was educated at King Edward VI School, but
left early at the end of the First World War to be a farm labourer, where he worked with and
developed an abiding love of horses. He went on to Birmingham University where he was a
student of literature and ethics. For two years he taught at Doncaster Grammar School but left
to work as a freelance lecturer and writer in Birmingham. In 1933 he moved to London where his
active involvement in organised humanism [7 ] began. He became the assistant to and then the
successor of Stanton Coit, the American who ran the West London Ethical Society in Bayswater,
and who had founded a British Union of Ethical Societies in 1896 after a long career of social
reform in his native USA. In 1934 Blackham became chairman of the Union and it was this
organisation that eventually became the British Humanist Association (BHA), of which he became
the first director.
Blackham's father, a Birmingham bookseller and lay Congregationalist preacher (as was his
grandfather), died when he was a child but left him with a life-long love of the written word and
his many articles and books over almost 70 years helped to make him one of the most significant
figures in twentieth century Humanism. Living as a Humanist, a collection of essays he edited in
1950, published by the Rationalist [8 ] Press Association, was his first book and at the age of 98,
he wrote the epilogue to the revised version of J B Bury's classic History of Freedom of Thought,
published by the University Press of the Pacific in 2001. His Six Existentialist Thinkers, published
by Routledge in 1952, became the standard university textbook on the subject, and was reprinted
a number of times, but it was on Humanism that he wrote most widely. The Human
Tradition was published by Routledge in 1953 followed by Religion in a Modern Society
(Constable, 1966) and Humanism (Penguin, 1968). He had edited Objections to Humanism,
published by Constable in 1963 and Penguin in 1965, in which humanists responded to criticisms
of the humanist worldview, and this critical openness also informed his Humanists and Quakers:
an exchange of letters, published in 1969 by the Society of Friends. His other books included The
Fable as Literature (1985) and The Future of our Past: from Ancient Greece to Global Village
2/6/2009 In memoriam Harold Blackham: an I…
(1996). His fellow humanist writer, Barbara Smoker, in her anthology Blackham's Best (1988 and
various reprints), describes his writing as driven by a desire to distil and communicate the
wisdom of the past to others, and as 'condensed, taut, aphoristic … with multiple layers of
meaning – often more like classical poetry than modern prose'.
It was not just in writing, however, that he earned his reputation as the effective founder of
modern Humanism in Britain and internationally, but through a long life of practical action. As he
said himself, 'Faith without works is not Christianity, and unbelief without any effort to help
shoulder the consequences for mankind is not humanism.' (Objections to Humanism, 1963).
During the Second World War he worked in the London Fire Service, driving a fire engine
throughout the blitz in the London docks, finally becoming liaison officer to the Port of London,
while continuing to work part-time as a philosophy lecturer and writer and the secretary of the
West London Ethical Society and the Ethical Union. After the war he set out to revive the
freethought [9 ] movement under the banner of 'Humanism', a concept which had already been
adopted in the United States, India and the Netherlands. As he wrote in 1981, 'When, as the
Second World War came to an end, I took on the secretaryship of the Ethical Union, it was with
the idea of recovering for expression in a modern Humanism the full body of the age-old tradition,
with its accumulating scientific, social and ethical content.' He saw this tradition as originating in
the ancient world, with Greeks such as Epicurus, through the Renaissance and Enlightenment to
emerge in the utilitarians, rationalism [10], secularism [11] and the ethical movement, converging
into 'a modern consensus that human beings are of age and on their own, and have in their
hands the technical means of providing for all the conditions of a life worthy to be called human.'
In 1944 he launched a quarterly magazine, The Plain View, which ran for twenty years and in
which he worked out his ideas together with a group of colleagues and outside contributors,
especially Julian Huxley and Gilbert Murray - in fact Blackham attracted the formost minds of the
day to contribute to this exceptional journal.
In Birmingham in the 1920s he had founded a local branch of the League of Nations Union and in
1938 he had helped to organise a World Union of Freethinkers conference in London, which
turned out to mark the end of the old freethought movement in the face of Fascism and
Communism (he was himself involved with bringing Jewish refugee children from Austria to Britain
to escape Nazi persecution.) Still thinking internationally after the war, in 1946 he called a
London conference of the World Union of Freethinkers to discuss 'The Challenge of Humanism'.
The need, however, was for a new international organisation and Blackham, working with the
ethical organisations in Britain and other countries, and also with new Humanist organisations
around the world. Visiting Holland after the war he met with the Dutch philosopher and humanist
leader Jaap van Praag [12], with whom he went on to found the International Humanist and
Ethical Union [13] (IHEU). Today, the IHEU is a worldwide union of over 100 organisations in 40
nations which continues to develop Humanism internationally. Blackham served as its secretary
from 1952 to 1967 and Julian Huxley became its first president, just as he was to become the
first president of the British Humanist Association. (Blackham worked closely with Huxley in many
ways including helping him to revise his Religion without Revelation.) As well as serving as its
secretary, Blackham represented the IHEU in its dialogue with the Vatican Secretariat for Non-
Believers. In recognition of his many contributions to international Humanism, he received the
IHEU's International Humanist Award in 1974, and the Special Award for Service to World
Humanism in 1978.
At the same time as he was working on building the international humanist movement, Blackham
worked to bring together Ethical and Rationalist organisations in Britain, and in 1963 his efforts
led to the formation of the British Humanist Association, of which he was the effective founder
and first director, retiring in March 1968. Today the British Humanist Association is the national
charity supporting and representing non-religious in Britain, renowned for its work in education, in
the provision of non-religious funerals and other ceremonies, and active in campaigning for an
open society and a secular state. Without Harold Blackham it would not have existed. Working
2/6/2009 In memoriam Harold Blackham: an I…
with leading British humanists such as Huxley, Barbara Wootton, A. J. Ayer and Jacob Bronowski,
Blackham inspired and contributed to pioneering practical work in sheltered housing, adoption and
non-directive counselling (he co-founded the British Association of Counselling) even as he
continued to develop the philosophy of Humanism in his writing and lecturing, including part time
at Goldsmith's College.
Blackham cared deeply about education, and moral education in particular. This focus on
education persists in the agenda of today's BHA, stimulated by this decade's sad expansion of
state-funded faith schools which would have been unimaginable at the time of the BHA's
founding. Blackham himself had been involved in founding the Moral Education League while with
the Ethical Union. Working with people like Cyril Bibby, Lionel Elvin, Sir Gilbert Flemming and
Edward Blishen, he went on make the BHA a significant advocate of moral education and personal
development in schools, recognised as such even by the Church of England Board of Education.
He co-founded the Journal of Moral Education – which continues today as an internationally
renowned journal and of which he remained an honorary associate until his death – and edited
Education for Personal Autonomy: Inquiry into the School's Resources for Furthering the
Personal Development of Pupils (1977). Working with Dr James Hemming, his fellow humanist and
educationist who died in 2007 aged 98, Blackham ensured that the humanist voice was a feature
of debates over religious, moral and values education throughout the second half of the
twentieth century, always seeking to work with non-humanists find agreed solutions. To that
end he founded the Social Morality Council (now the Norham Foundation), which brought
together humanists and eminent religious believers to produce agreed solutions to moral
questions affecting society.
On his retirement in 1968, Harold Blackham joined the advisory council of the BHA, to which he
had himself recruited such luminaries as Karl Popper and E M Forster, and he remained a member
until his death. He was an appointed lecturer at London's South Place Ethical Society from 1965
until his death and an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Association from 1977 until his
death. He continued writing, lecturing, and officiating at humanist funerals into his nineties,
eventually retiring to the Wye valley, where he used his 'uninterrupted leisure in spectacular
natural surroundings' to grow vegetables and continue his reading and writing. Although he
described his personal philosophy as Epicurean, others have seen him as a stoic. He wrote of 'a
resourceful, self-dependent, realistic, constructive attitude to life' – and his long and productive
life, committed to a variety of progressive causes, is a monument to the Humanism he espoused.
Harold Blackham's first wife was Olga, with whom he adopted a son, Paul, who, with his wife
Wenol, now has three sons and two grandchildren. He was also pre-deceased by his second
wife, Ursula.
On his retirement as director in 1968, the BHA described him as 'the architect of the British and
international humanist movements' and said, 'In Britain, he has guided the development of the
movement as philosopher and scholar, principal administrator and activist since the war-time
days…his retirement is a change of roles, a relief from an arduous programme which has involved
something like 2,500 committee meetings and 4,000 speaking engagements since 1945.'
David Pollock, a former chair of the BHA, paid tribute to him at his 100th birthday celebrations in
2003, saying, 'Harold created today's vision of Humanism as a philosophy of life, a lifestance with
equal depth as the religions and far greater justification, deserving of equal standing and
promising far better results both for the individuals who adopt it and for the world as it grows in
significance. That was Harold's contribution, for which we owe him our eternal gratitude.'
Former editor of New Humanist Jim Herrick described him as living 'the exemplary humanist life,
that of thought and action welded together.'
Barbara Smoker, writer, lecturer and humanists activist, recalled, 'On breaking free from
2/6/2009 In memoriam Harold Blackham: an I…
Catholicism, sixty years ago, I used to cross London to replace Sunday Mass by a lecture at the
Ethical Church, Bayswater, whenever the New Statesman listings named H J Blackham as the
lecturer. He had a quiet sense of humour and occasionally a witty turn of phrase. I thought he
looked very much like John Stuart Mill, and he was a charismatic speaker, though not an easy
one. His lectures largely comprised my further education – not only in humanistic philosophy, but
also in the English language, for there were always several words to look up in the dictionary
when I got home. Later, when the Ethical Union was preparing to host the 1957 IHEU Conference
in Conway Hall, I volunteered to do some of the secretarial work at Prince of Wales Terrace, for
the 'three Bs' – Blackham, Burnett and Burall – and I have remained active in the movement ever

Bipin Shroff

Bipin Shroff