The age-old doctrine that "man is the measure of all things" takes contemporary form in the Humanist Manifesto, as neat a one-page summation as you will find anywhere of the belief that people are perfectible, the future is bright, and God is unnecessary. "Analysis by critical intelligence" is the touchstone of knowledge, according to the humanist worldview. Yet by this very standard, the manifesto itself proves to be groaning with questionable assumptions and assertions. Among them, listed in less than an hour the other day, as fast as I could type, were the following:
(References are to the 11 paragraphs of Humanist Manifesto III, online at www.AmericanHumanist.org)
1. Questions on Paragraph 1
a. How is “progressive” defined, and what is the evidence for its validity as a concept?
b. Why is supernaturalism excluded?
c. How is responsibility justified and enforced?
2. Questions on Paragraph 2
a. What are the specific antecedents in human thought from which humanism has “evolved through the ages”?
b. What values and ideals, if any, are not subject to change?
3. Questions on Paragraph 3
a. Is there anything we must believe?
4. Questions on Paragraph 4
a. Does science itself define the problems to be solved and the criterion for what is beneficial, and if not, how are these things determined?
b. What is the difference between science and critical intelligence?
5. Questions on Paragraph 5
a. Does the belief in unguided evolutionary change rest on evidence or faith?
b. How do you know that nature is self-existing and that our life is all there is?
c. By what empirical standard do you apprehend “things as they are”?
d. What do you mean by “the future”?
6. Questions on Paragraph 6
a. Do these contingent values exclude the notion of truth, or unchanging categories of right and wrong, good and evil?
b. Does concern for the global ecosystem imply animal rights?
c. Is the inherent worth and dignity of each person merely an arbitrary stipulation, and if not, where is it grounded?
7. Questions on Paragraph 7
a. How do you know life’s fulfillment does not emerge from selfishness?
b. What is so good about tragedies and death, and to that extent, why seek to avoid or resist either of them?
c. What warrant is there, and why, for private property and voluntary charity in times of want and times of plenty?
8. Questions on Paragraph 8
a. Does this mean you accept human nature as a given, something permanent, with all that this implies about relationships?
b. What causes cruelty, and how is it be eliminated?
c. In the world as it is now, what place is there for self-defense, punishment, and war?
d. Is your stance peace at any price, and if not, what price is too high?
e. By what process and authority is justice to be defined and enforced?
f. What evidence do you find in history that such a world as this is attainable?
9. Questions on Paragraph 9
a. How will you then treat someone who seeks happiness in the opposite direction?
b. What progressive cultures are those, and where do you place the United States and the United Nations in this context?
c. By what process and authority will this “just distribution” be effectuated?
d. Do you consider the problem of production and scarcity to be solved, leaving only distribution as consideration for policy?
e. Will the fruits of human effort be maximized through private property and free markets, or if not, how?
10. Questions on Paragraph 10
a. How do you define diversity, and why is it important?
b. How will you then treat someone of inhumane views – which are defined how?
c. What place is allowed for religious belief and practice in your secular society?
d. How are these civic and planetary duties to be enforced?
11. Questions on Paragraph 11
a. What obstacles do you acknowledge, internal or external to human beings, in the way of this progress?
b. How do you balance personal responsibility, as stated here, with the interdependence and global community mentioned above (Para. 8 & 9)?