DH-Humanist-Comment-February-2011

DH-Humanist-Comment-February-2011

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Humanist Comment No.22 Dorset Humanists ~ February 2011 Darwin‟s Autobiography - 1876— unabridged “The clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported. The more we know of the fixed laws of nature, the more incredible do miracles become but the men of the time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us … I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation... “Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete….[and] I have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct”…. “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic”. ( These passages and many others, were edited out by Darwin’s wife, Emma and son Francis in 1887 five years after his death in 1882.—but they were reinserted for the complete autobiography, by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow in 1959. ) See over for extracts from ―The Descent of Man‖ on social morality. Darwin‟s Dangerous Idea Fight the Good Fight Surely, with Darwin Day days away, it‟s time Blair v Hitchens now, to examine what exactly Darwin did in (From the Observer 28.11.10) 1859, and why it was, and still is, so important to Atheist Christopher Hitchens and Catholic our understanding of our world and existence. ...

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 Humanist  CommentNo.22  DorsetHumanists ~ February2011
Darwin‟s Autobiography- 1876unabridged “The clearest evidence would be requisiteto make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported.The more we know of the fixed laws of nature,the more incredible do miracles become but the men of the time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us … I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation...“Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete….[and] I have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct”….“The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic”. ( These passages and many others, were edited out by Darwin’s wife, Emma and son Francis in 1887 five years after his death in 1882.but they were reinserted for the complete autobiography,by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow in 1959. )See over for extracts from ―The Descent of Man‖ on social morality.
Fight the Good Fight Blair v Hitchens (From the Observer 28.11.10) Atheist Christopher Hitchens and Catholic convert Tony Blair debated whether religion is a force for good or evil.  Hitchens was on stage in Toronto to take on Tony Blair., He is author of the book titledGod Is Not Great: How religion Poisons Everything ...compared the almighty to a “kind of divine North Korea” with arbitrary rules and a hatred of freedom and rationality.  Religion, he said was a bargain based on ignorance and fear of death. ”Redemption is promised at the low price of your critical faculties”, he said.  Not surprisingly Blair-who often appeared slightly shell-shocked in the face of Hitchens‟sbarbs- was having none of that.“Religious people”, he insisted repeatedly, “did good in the world”.He recited a long list of charities and mercy missions… “The proposition that religion is unadul-terated poison is unsustainable”, he said before adding: “Science and religion are not incompatible and destined to fight each other”.“ [The Catholic Church] is a distillation of precisely what is twisted and immoral of the faith mentality”, Hitchensdeclared.  If it had been a boxing match Hitchens would have been described as landing blow after blow, many of them decid-edly low-especially those about circumcision or women‟s rights. Hedescribed the aid work done by religious mis-sions as “conscience money” to make up for the harm they have done. After all, why bother treating HIV-infected peo-ple in Africa while working against the use of condoms. “[Aid] is nothing compared to the harm they do”, he said. Hitchens‟s frail physical appearance did not extend to his voice or his mind; both as sharp as cut glass Continued over.
Darwin‟s Dangerous Idea Surely, with Darwin Day days away, it‟s time now, to examine what exactly Darwin did in 1859, and why it was, and still is, so important to our understanding of our world and existence.  Contraryto popular opinion, Darwin did not invent the concept of Evolution, and in fact, if you read “The Origin of Species” you won‟t find that word until the very last word in the book : “evolved”. Thiswas changed for a time, in some later editions, to the word “created” (for the relig-iously inclined ) but reversed back in later editions. His concept he called, “The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection”-Pres-subtitled “The ervation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. Hecouldn‟t explain what is the meaning of life. He didn‟t presume to know that.  Evolutionhad been a term in use for many years previously by his grandfather, Erasmus Darwinand Lamarck in France and others. Well before that even the Greeks had used the idea.  WhatCharles Darwin did show was theprocessby which life developed byNatural Selection,by competition of varietieswithinandbetweenspe-cies for resources. Species are not fixed, as was thought, but rather varying by “Descent with Modi-fication”. Themost adept and adaptable within any species, succeeds when resources become scarce, as inevitably populations of a species increase beyond the limits of resources of food or territory for that particular species. Also, most importantly, he showed how all crea-tures are related, and all developed from a single origin - human beings included; not a popular idea !
Darwin‟s “The Descent of Man”Extracts from Chapter IV (Moral Sense) “Everyone will admit that Man is a social animal.We see this in his dislike of solitude and in his wish for society beyond that of his own family.”“Now, with those animals that live permanently in a[group] the social instincts are ever present andpersis-tent...This seems to be a deeply planted socialinstinct. Those who have learnt to collaborate and improvise most effectively have survived.. this] instinct ,together with sym-pathy, is, like any other instinct, greatly strengthened by habit, and so consequently would be obedience to the wishes andjudgement of the community.”.“ His desires and passions will at last yield… to his social sympathies and instincts.Under circumstances of extreme peril, as during a fire, when a man endeavours to save a fellow creature without a moment‟shesitation, he can hardly feel pleasure; and still less has he time toreflecton the dissatisfaction he might subsequently experience if he did not make the attempt…”.Darwin continues:- Thequestion of whether there exists a creator and ruler of the universe has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed…[but]if we include the belief in unseen or spiritual agencies… this belief seems to be universal with the less civilised races. As soon as the important faculties of the imagination, wonder, and curiosity, together with some power of reason-ing, had become partially developed, man would naturally crave to understand… and speculate on his own existence. (Hence, does it not follow that the human being has no real need for supernatural guidance on how to behave in a social environment ?. Consider the following report on the 7/7 Inquest asreported in the Observer 05.12.10 :D.B. )———————————————————————————————————————— –The 7/7 Inquest On theSuicide bombings in London in 2005 “The coroner has been inspired by the tales ofheroism: One inspirational story after another hasillustrated how generously human beings can behave towards each other in extreme conditions. “Lady Justice Hallett presiding over the inquests into the 52 victims of the bombings, said: „Mr Hucklesby, you may not like the word heroic but...I have to use it because I can‟t think of any other word to describe what you did‟.„The way in which he got into that carriage, climbed through it and the way in which he tried to help so many desperately injured people was, as one person put it this morning, „simply amazing‟.”“Of all the stories we‟ve encountered, whether the small details of fellow passengers holding hands in the dark or a jacket put over a dead body to preserve their dignity, one remarkable man stands out.”(From The observer 5 December 2010) The Muslim World  Dissidentsfrom the Muslim world already know that it has become an act of some courage in the 21st century to make the sensible point that there is no god and we should grow up.Nick Cohen, The Observer9.01.11
Blair-Hitchens Debatefrom over-page Continued . Intruth Hitchens was pushing at an open door. A pre-debate poll revealed that 57% of the audience already agreed with Hitchens‟s position, and 22% with Blair‟s.But even so, the journalist‟s was a masterful and funny perform-ance that often left Blair wrong-footed. Hitchens could be brutally uncompromising.  Blairrepeatedly returned to his defence that religious men and women did good deeds in their millions all around the world every day.But it was also a position that could get him in trouble.Blair outlined the work thatreligious groups in Northern Ireland spent bridging the “religious divide” in order to work for peace.Hitchens did not allow that one to slip by. “I never miss an opportunity to congratu-late someone on being humorous, even ifunintention-ally,” he said. Then he delivered the punch-line. “Where does the “religious divide” come from?” he asked to another found of laughter from the crowd.  Blairwas on stronger ground when he argued that fanati-cism was hardly a preserve of the religious- minded and would not disappear if faith were eradicated. ..He cited Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. The only area the two agreed upon… was the Iraq war.… Hitchens attacked those who opposed the war. From The Observer,28.11.10
 To settle confusion over the terms we use frequently in our discussions: they are definedin the OED as follows: Atheism: Theory or belief that God does not exist. Agnosticism: A belief that nothing is known , or can be known, of the existence or nature of God. Secular: Concernedwith the affairs of this world; not spiritual or sacred;(in education) not concerned with religion or religious belief. Humanism :an outlook or system of thoughtattaching prime important to human rather than divine or super-natural matters;stressing rational enquiry and human experience over abstract theorising or orthodox religion.
Atheism Overtime, those of faith have conjured up many misunderstandings on atheists:atheists are immoral, and because atheists don‟t believe in god, then they must be evil. Believersclaim that morality cannot be justified with-out belief in their gods, and that life has no meaning without those beliefs.Yet there is no evidence that atheists are less moral or more evil than people of faith …The much publicised and well documented , sickening abuse of innocent children within the church … speaks volumes about the morals of those that believe in gods.  Anatheist makes sense of his life using reason... Accordingto [Government] figures, 83% of the prison population claim to adhere to a faith group of some sort. Atheists make up just 0.2%.So, purely based on prison population, one could argue, you are more likely to commit a crime if you believe in a god compared to a person who does not believe.From „Insidetime‟January, 2011(With thanks to Norman Richards) —————————————————————————————————————————————————————Send contributions to “Humanist Comment” to:Dennis Bannister, 63, Carbery Avenue,Bournemouth BH6 3LW