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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another manifesto that I won't be signing

The new "Neo-Humanist Statement" on Paul Kurtz's website is in many ways a good attempt at a synthesis of what I and most of my friends believe and would want to support. Importantly, it contains a very useful let-out clause that I recommend to people who are drafting manifestos: "Those who endorse this Statement accept its main principles and values, but may not agree with all of its provisions."

With that in mind, you may want to sign it. However, you might also want to consider the counter-argument over here, from Ron Lindsay - and the comments following. In the end, I'm with Lindsay. I could just about agree with the statement's "main principles and values", but there is just too much detail that might come back to haunt me. In particular, it is too specific in its plans for international regulation and is too negative about the current "New Atheism". Given the let-out clause, I might have been prepared to sign something shorter, less specific, and less carping about the efforts of allies.

However, my readers will want to be aware of such developments. By all means sign the statement if you think you can do so without too many reservations (and bearing in mind the let-out clause).


Mike Haubrich said...

When I first saw this, I wondered just how many "manifestos" and statements that atheists and humanists need to make.

I also object to the mischaracterization of the "new atheists" and the gratuitous singling out of us.

NewEnglandBob said...

I reject it just from the summary. I see everal things that I do not care for the wording.

I would never sign anything declaring myself a "neo-" anything.

Ophelia Benson said...

I think it's just way too long for something people are expected to sign. I'm sure I agree with a lot of it, but that doesn't mean I want to sign it. I can vaguely agree with things without wanting to swear to them.

I've had experience with "just too much detail that might come back to haunt me." I signed the Euston Manifesto, which also included a disclaimer saying that not all signatories agree with every word - but that disclaimer doesn't really do any work. If you sign it, you're assumed to agree with every word. I get called a NeoCon in various places solely on the basis of having signed the Euston Manifesto. Now I sign NOTTINK, NOTTINK unless I agree with every syllable. That never happens, so I sign nottink. Except petitions of course - that's entirely different.

Anyway there's the new atheist bashing in PK's statement; no thanks.

Sigmund said...

It looks like a completely arbitrary positioning of 'New Atheism' at the extreme end of the scale. One could just as well say old style secular humanism is at the end of the scale and new atheism is the moderate position. In so far as it's completely open to new evidence I would say that it should be considered so.
As for the 16 points in his list I happen to think that you could just as well say that apart from the "green economy" and taking "progressive" positions on the economy (whatever those two actually mean), you could use the same list to describe new atheism.
Even the first item is, on a day to day basis, how most atheist scientists work with religious colleagues - we have common goals and work together within a secular framework of methodological naturalism to achieve those objectives.
I think it would be funny if Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, Hitchens and Stenger put their names to this document while pointing out and disagreeing the mischaracterization of the new atheist position.
It's clearly a political document aimed at pushing the Overton window back to where it was a few years back so a little political tact from the new atheist side might be in order.
By the way, why is it that those who claim to be the shining lights of 'positive' atheism spend so much of their efforts being negative about other atheists?