E.O. Wilson and The New Humanism

If you’re not familiar with the famed scientist E.O. Wilson, there is a terrific article about him by Joe Foley, board member of the Secular Student Alliance.


EOandJoe

E.O. Wilson (left) with Joe Foley

If you do know about Wilson, you’ll still want to read his stance on “The New Humanism”:

To Wilson, the New Humanism is no less skeptical of religion than the old, but it is “not so much proselytizing,” he says, “as finding common ground.” He pointed out that however much the freethought movement has grown recently, the membership of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) includes 45,000 churches and 30 million people. Alone, atheists or scientists (groups with significant overlap) make up a minority that is often ignored, if even tolerated. However, if we could find partnership with evangelicals on issues like environmental conservation, the sheer numbers of the faithful could move mountains.

With the growing validation of the humanist worldview and the unique mental peace with the world that it provides, Wilson predicts religion will gradually decline. It will never disappear completely, he says, because it forms so much of our literary and artistic tradition, without which we would be very poor indeed. But slowly and surely, Wilson maintains, “We will evolve.”



[tags]atheist, atheism, Humanism, E.O. Wilson, Joe Foley, Secular Student Alliance, The New Humanism, National Association of Evangelicals[/tags]

  • Loren Petrich

    It seems to me that E.O. WIlson is chasing a mirage; I wonder if he has some romantic nostalgia for those evangelicals as a result of his Southern Baptist upbringing.

    But I think that an environmentalist save-the-planet coalition is best formed with those who already support environmentalist efforts or who are already inclined to support environmentalism.

    And I doubt if that includes believers in Interior Secretary James Watt’s infamous comment that protecting the environment is a waste of time because Jesus Christ is likely to make his Second Coming any day now.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Loren, I’m struggling with the same thing right now. I was also raised as an evangelical and now I am an atheist. I’m writing a book about my journey away from Christianity, and I am finding that as I do research to refresh my memory, I still feel good reading the bible, listening to old sermons on tape, and listening to Christian music — even though I think the message is total bunk and I would not recommend it to anyone.

    I think outsiders just can’t understand what it was (and is) like to be in that kind of environment. It’s easy to slam what you do not know. I don’t really know what I feel about all of this right now, but although I am one of the POF (pissed off faithless), I can emphathise with the faithful, even with the evangelicals and fundamentalists because I know what it feels like to be them.

    Anyway, I think what Wilson is doing is spot on and will reap substantial results.

  • Polly

    A good chunk of the NT is devoted to humanist causes: helping the poor, loving the “Samaritan”, focus on giving rather than taking, and anti-materialism. It’s only politicians stirring the pot that get fundies to focus more on sex than on these much more plentiful references.

    As long as xians are cherry-picking their holy book, it makes sense to try to influence them to pick the good parts.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    With the growing validation of the humanist worldview and the unique mental peace with the world that it provides, Wilson predicts religion will gradually decline.

    Modernists were making this same prediction 30 years ago, but most sociologists of religion these days will admit that exactly the opposite has happened, both in America and globally.

    For instance sociologist Peter Berger from Boston University’s Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs has said:

    “The assumption that we live in a secularized world is false. The world is as furiously religious as it ever was.”

    In an interview on NPR he elaborated:

    “Well, in terms of my career as a sociologist, that’s been my major change of mind. When I started writing in the sociology of religion, which now seems almost like 100 years ago, I, like almost everyone else in the field, believed in what was called secularization theory: more modernity, less religion. I began to change my mind — oh, it happened gradually, not because of some philosophical or theological change in myself, but simply because the evidence became overwhelming that this is not the case.

    And if you look at most of the world, it’s full of huge religious explosions, with tremendous passion and depth, at least in terms of feeling and emotion… So I think simply on empirical grounds, one would have to say this is a very religious world.”

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    But I think that an environmentalist save-the-planet coalition is best formed with those who already support environmentalist efforts or who are already inclined to support environmentalism.

    And I doubt if that includes believers in Interior Secretary James Watt’s infamous comment that protecting the environment is a waste of time because Jesus Christ is likely to make his Second Coming any day now.

    Loren you might be pleasantly surprised to discover that a very large number of evangelicals these days are strong environmentalists and do not agree with people like Watt. I don’t suppose you were aware of the Evangelical Climate Initiative that put out a Statement a few years ago supporting global warming theory and calling on Christians to take immediate action to counteract it. It was signed by many influential Christian leaders, including the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (the guy who replaced Ted Haggard), the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today magazine (the flagship evangelical publication), dozens of Christian college presidents, denominational heads, and many well-known pastors and ministry leaders – most from the more theologically (and usually politically) conservative end of the spectrum.

    Of course, not all evangelicals have moved in this direction, but I think this document and it’s wide range of signers is pretty good evidence that many have. At any rate, I certainly do hope that they will team up with humanists like Wilson for the good of the planet, and I hope that humanists will have no qualms about working with them as well.

  • Richard Wade

    The world is as furiously religious as it ever was.

    “Furiously religious.” What an apt phrase.

    Peter Berger just isn’t patient enough. I think secularization will continue, but on a scale of one to two thousand years. The recent blip in “religious fury” will correct itself once people get sick of the, what was his other apt phrase, “huge religious explosions.” Yeah, the literal explosions.

    In the meantime, I’m always willing to grasp at straws of hope. Mike C, has any organization grown out of the signed statement you described, and is it the same one I heard of about a year ago where evangelicals and scientists meeting in Washington D.C. cosigned a statement supporting protection of the environment? I would like to participate in such a “coalition of opposites” for the sake of the planet.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Mike C, has any organization grown out of the signed statement you described, and is it the same one I heard of about a year ago where evangelicals and scientists meeting in Washington D.C. cosigned a statement supporting protection of the environment?

    I don’t know if it’s the same one or not.

    And as for an organization, there are several Christian environmental organizations in existence, many of them on the local level. One more national (and international) one is the Evangelical Environmental Network. Our church has also made connections with a locally based ministry, New Community Project. The Sierra Club is also doing a lot more with faith community partnerships recently, and I’ve been in contact with one of their national coordinators for that in the past year. They helped us with a Faith & Environment Forum our church organized back in March.

    The main thing is just to be able to use churches as a means to get more Christians educated and involved in environmental issues – or, as we like to call it “Creation Care”.

  • Jasmyn

    hi i enjoyed the read


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