Be a Humanist

Jessica Hagy always simplifies the complicated:

(via Indexed)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Conspirator

    So this is saying a humanist won’t do anything for you regardless of how kind you are to them?  Yet an opportunist requires you to be kind to them in order to do stuff for you?  Doesn’t an opportunist pretend to be kind to you in order to get you to do stuff for them?   I really just don’t get this at all. 

    • AJ

      I read it as saying that a Humanist is kind to a person even if the person can do nothing for them. The Opportunist is only kind to those who can do something for them. And the Idiot is kind to no one.

      • Antinomian

        A Scooby Snack for you. I mean that as a Humanist..

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      No, it’s the other way around.  A Humanist will do kind things for those who cannot do anything for them in return.  An opportunist does kind things only for those who can do something in return.  The idiot is never kind, even when there is something to be gained by it.

      • brianmacker

        … But doesn’t the idiot do things for others no matter how unkindly they are treated, so that it is even Steven.

    • jdm8

       Horizontal axis is generally considered the input. Vertical axis is usually the result.

      • KeithCollyer

        in this case, correlation does not imply causation

        • jdm8

           I think it’s more of a definition of the terms than causation.

      • brianmacker

        So if the input is that someone can do a lot for you the only choices on the graph are to be an idiot or opportunist.

    • Conspirator

      If the vertical axis had been labeled “How kind they are to you” I think it would have perhaps made more sense.   The wording and the subject of the graph just doesn’t work well.  But now I see based on other’s interpretations what it’s supposed to mean. 

  • Nope

    It seems like opportunist is the most beneficial.  Otherwise, this graph is implying, you have to waste time and effort being nice and helpful without getting anything in return.  Humanism doesn’t sound like it’s for me, I guess.

    • machintelligence

      Spoken like a true Ayn Randian libertarian. “I’m fine, fuck you very much.”

      • Nope

        Why don’t you belligerently postulate more.  Ayn Rand was an old hateful windbag that didn’t realize one of the best ways to help yourself is to strengthen the society you live in.  

        But I’m talking about more of an immediate, social level than a political institutional level.  You’re talking…well, out of your ass.

        • brianmacker

          Actually Ayn Rand believed in strengthening society but just believed that liberal schemes actually weaken it.

      • brianmacker

        You sound like an Ayn Randian liberal (since we are making shit up).

  • Michael

    Misleading.

    There should be a diagonal line from the origin to Opportunist and horizontal lines through Humanist and Idiot.

    Hope that helps.

    • brianmacker

      So the only difference between an idiot and a humanist is magnitude?

  • Baal

    Um, its minor flaws are minor.  Humanists are kind without expectation of reward.  To do other wise is to be an oppertunist.  Idiocy is being not-nice regardless.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    Uh oh… too mathy for me.  ;-)

  • Selfification

    Come on Hemant!  You know that those things should be curves and not points.  An opportunist would probably be a line with slope 1/beta assuming that the ratio of the return on you kindness is fixed and is beta.  If beta is not constant, then the curve itself is non-linear.

    The ideal humanist would be f(x) = infty
    The more human humanist who has a maximum amount of care that they can possibly deliver is f(x) = m where m is the maximum care they can deliver.
    I guess it depends on the definition of idiot but that can be 1/x perhaps?  It could also be e^-ax where-in you are indifferent to the people who help you but affectionate to the people who hurt you the most or even f(x)=-ax which would be the proportionally unlikable person (the more you help them, the more they hate you).

    I myself believe I have a more sigmoid curve that has a positive y intercept (representing by default hope in the goodness of humanity) and perhaps some non-linearity for large enough -x where-in I begin the respect the sheer amount of damage someone can do to me and begin to learn from them (keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer etc.).

    • Thumper1990

      So… much… maths.

  • brianmacker

    Kindness is cheap so an opportunists are willing to expend it even in large quantities for those willing to trade hard goods at any quantity. Kindness is especially cheap when it involves voting to make others do it.

  • brianmacker

    So if others can do a lot for me, like in a capitalist society, then my only options are to be either an unkind idiot or kind opportunist, however if I live in some third world hellhole my only option is to be a kind humanist?

  • brianmacker

    My kindness to others is uncorrelated to how much they can do for me, but I don’t treat everyone with kindness because you’d have to be an idiot to do that.


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