Why We Need To Teach Secular HumanismAuthor of this text: Kaz Dziamka
What is undoubtedly the
first course in secular humanism at a technical/vocational institute has sparked
controversy and plaudits in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Foundation member Kaz
Dziamka's honors course, "The American Humanist Tradition," at the
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute has resulted in features in the Albuquerque
the newspaper of his institute, and other periodicals.
Brewer with the Journal wrote: "Hollywood's not likely to come knocking on
Kaz Dziamka's door, though in many ways his story mirrors 'Mr. Holland's Opus'
or 'Dead Poets Society,' movies about teachers brimming with enthusiasm for
"Dziamka's passion is
neither music nor poetry. It's humanism, a controversial way of looking at the
world that doesn't include God."
Kaz' course, „The Humanist Tradition of American
Democracy" has been approved for the spring 1997 course offerings. A version of this article was reprinted in the TVI community college newsletter
It is time
to recommend the adoption of secular humanism in the curricula of all public
educational institutions, particularly high schools and junior colleges.
requirement will, of course, spark an endless controversy because secular or
scientific humanism (the two are synonymous) teaches that nobody has the
monopoly of truth; that if human beings don't solve their problems, then nobody — no
God or gods-will.
Christian theologians and
educators talk eloquently about America's Christian heritage, about America as a
"City upon a Hill," and about a personal and caring god; but if we
have to be honest to our students, we must tell them that there is not an iota
of scientific evidence that such a being exists.
is revealing a universe infinitely complex yet knowable; a universe neither
friendly, nor hostile, nor purposeful. According to Richard Dawkins, an
outstanding modern biologist, evolution — the
scientific law of natural selection discovered by Charles Darwin — "has
no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the
future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to
play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker."
universe also seems to be a godless universe. As Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking
have pointed out, it is a universe „with no edge in space, no beginning or
end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do."
to modern astronomy, the observable universe seems to expand and contract in an
apparently endless cycle of birth and death, of explosion and implosion: a mind-boggling and mindless succession of big bangs, supernovae, and black holes.
The universe couldn't have been created „out of nothing" at a particular time in the past, as religionists claim, if only because it is still
being „created." Just recently, NASA released spectacular pictures of
the cradles of star creation from cosmic dust in the Eagle nebula in the
constellation Serpens, 7,000 light-years away. We are on the verge of
discovering new planets and life in solar systems outside our own. In fact, two
such planets may already have been discovered by astronomers from San Francisco
of being "God's only son," Jesus of Nazareth as described in the Four
Gospels of the New Testament was apparently a well-meaning but undereducated and
prescientific Galilean carpenter who thought he would return, "within a generation," after his death to save humankind. It is a scientific fact
that He did not.
Bible says nothing about the Doppler effect or red shift, nuclear fusion,
alternating phosphate and deoxyribose units, or quasars. It talks about the
Earth as a special creation of God in the center of the universe with Heaven
above and Hell below. None of this is verifiable and true. In the Bible, the
universe is described as a „firmament" (Genesis 1:6, Psalm 19:1). No
such thing exists.
God's only son had thought human beings at the time could understand only simple
moral fables, but were incapable of comprehending the modern science of
astronomy or physics, then at least He should have reminded them of the great
Greek astronomer Aristarchus from Samos, who in the third century before our
era, had already discovered that the Sun, not the Earth, is at the center of our
planetary system. (Aristarchus' heliocentric theory was eventually popularized
eighteen centuries later by Copernicus and became accepted only after a vicious,
murderous campaign by the Christian Churches to suppress scientific research had
son should have mentioned Eratosthenes and Archimedes, the most accomplished
scientists of the ancient world. Yet, again, Jesus did not.
let me repeat: Nobody has the monopoly of scientific or religious "truth" — at
least not in a democracy like the United States. The role of the government is
to be an impartial arbiter between different contending factions in a free and
open society. „The great desideratum in Government," said James
Madison, the Father of the Constitution, is that it be "sufficiently
neutral between the different interests and factions."
humanism, like any other ism or faction, must be allowed to compete freely in a democratic market of ideas. It should be neither promoted nor opposed by the
federal and local governments.
how can the U. S. government be „sufficiently neutral" if none of the
members of the U. S. Congress is a scientific humanist? If over ninety-nine
percent of our senators and representatives, including the President, publicly
pray to Hebrew gods and take a public oath on the Bible in direct violation of
Article 6, Section 3, of the Constitution? If the First Amendment is repeatedly
circumvented by the powerful Christian factions when, for example, they tamper
with and distort the secular meaning of the original draft of the Pledge of
Allegiance by illegally adding the Christian superstition „one nation under
God" and by printing „In God We Trust" on our money?
advantage of scientific or secular humanism is that it teaches us to be
self-reliant and rational, that we mustn't wait for or pray to gods to solve our
problems. Scientific humanists make claims that are verifiable and correctable,
whereas religionists believe in dogmas, which are neither. Clearly, secular
humanism is not a religion. To argue that secular humanism is a religion-as
the Christian Coalition does-is
to argue the absurd idea that science is a religion.
may exist somewhere in intergalactic space, but they don't seem to be concerned.
Such a verifiable observation was made over two millennia ago by Protagoras
(„the first great humanist"), Epicurus, and Lucretius-all
outstanding ancient agnostic philosophers. Today agnosticism is still our best
pragmatic philosophy of life. This is why most humanists are either agnostics or
if gods don't care, then what's the difference between an agnostic and an
atheist? Even if they exist, gods don't respond to prayers and do not break at
will Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation or any scientific law ever discovered
by man or woman. So why pray in the classroom or in the Capitol?
left? Human intelligence, human compassion, humanitarian science — as I told my students in the American Humanist Tradition class I taught at the
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute in the fall of 1995. Technology, if
abused, may destroy us all-but
so will Nature when the Sun, „whom" we used to worship, eventually
burns up its hydrogen fuel and becomes a red giant, reducing all living things
to ashes. In the long meantime (which may take up to eight billion years), we
will have only us to blame if we annihilate ourselves sooner than eventually
being annihilated by the Sun or some other natural cosmic disaster.
is high time we brought the science of secular humanism to the attention of all
our high school and college students. We must teach them to study freethought
and rationalism from which modern science was born and upon which it is based.
We must teach them to make very informed decisions about Nature, human life, and
the universe. Those who cannot make such a decision will eventually have to
choose between the Pope or Carl Sagan, between Pat Robertson or Thomas Jefferson,
between what their grandpa told them and what Albert Einstein tells them.
Department of Education, if it survives the present onslaught by Christian
Republicans, must show its commitment to science and reason by allowing secular
humanism to be part of every scientific and educational program in the country.
The Department can no longer afford to avoid this responsibility to our students,
while humanists are bogged down in endless debates with politically influential
religionists about evolution, creationism, school prayer, and abortion.
of whatever nature-religious,
and can permanently cripple the young mind. Public educators have no business
supporting prayer or promoting Christian metaphysics. Religious indoctrination,
if at all necessary, must be left at home and in the churches, not in the public
we disallow or continue to avoid teaching secular humanism in our public schools,
we may destroy our only hope to survive the current environmental and political
crises, we may destroy our only hope to create a better life for our children-without
the horrors of the Holy Inquisition, religious wars, and murders committed in
the name of „God."
published in Freethought Today,
and the American
Rationalist ©, Sept/Oct 1997)
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