Atheism’s Real Problem Going Forward: Universal Humanism vs. Johann Gottfried Herder, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Friedrich Nietzsche

The fact that we evolved from social primates, and not, say, loner sharks, is sufficient to account for human moral impulses. Aristotle famously defined us as the political (or social) animal.

But being a tribal species in which demonized out-groups are as real a part of our evolved psyches as cooperative in-groups, we have a problem. If God does not exist, there is no obvious reason why we should ever bridge the gap of tribalism and ethno-nationalism—or even more narrow self-identifications—over to humanism. I know that Matt Ridley makes a strong rational case for global trade as a tie that binds humanity together, and maybe it is. But taking away the religious affirmation of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man has consequences.

It means, for example, that the field of possible human futures opens, not just to humanists (the brotherhood of man absent God) like Richard Dawkins, but to Herderians (ethno-religious nationalists) like Carl Schmitt, Machiavellians like Leo Strauss, and Nietzscheans like, well, Nietzsche. So my question is this: once a culture, or the elite subset of a culture (its wealthy and its intellectuals), breaks the spell of universal religion and humanism, what restrains it?

Absent regulation by force, I say nothing. You see this already in the behavior of Wall Street elites. You see it in China’s blatant eugenic pursuits.

My point is this: the fact that God is dead or hidden, and that humanism struggles for justification absent pragmatism, makes the human predicament, going forward, very precarious.

A century from now, were you and I to see it, I think we would exclaim, like Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “O brave new world that has such men in it!”

And I worry that those men will not be religious universalists embracing the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, or humanists embracing the brotherhood of man absent God, or Ridley-like democratic and cooperative globalists with ethical moorings, but cyborgs with rather narrow loyalties, enhanced by both the manipulation of their genomes and by robotics, with little stake in the survival or thriving of the mass of naturals (that is, humans like you and me), and rapidly displacing us.

A century from now, natural humans may be the new Neanderthals, our habitat relentlessly being eaten by a new, more lithe and clever species born of the crown jewel of Enlightenment humanism: science.

At that point, Enlightenment humanism will be no more able to save us from this Frankenstein–either philosophically or pragmatically–than, say, intellectual Neanderthals could have saved their species by an assertion of Neanderthalism (the universal brotherhood and rationality of Neanderthals).

Instead, my guess is that a survival-of-the-fittest Darwinian logic of some sort will trump atheist humanism.

In this sense, Tea Party suburbanites, urban progressives, evangelicals, conservative Muslims, environmentalists, and humanists are all in the same boat: they’re fighting, from different vantages and for different reasons, the blind Moloch that is, in ever more accelerating fashion, eating the human world and usurping the direction of history.

I think my argument will only become more obviously correct as the century proceeds. We’ve been in serious intellectual trouble from the day that Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859. Fundamentalist religionists don’t articulate it well, but their unsettled intuition about evolution is correct. In discovering that species possess no fixity, Darwin discovered that the human species has no fixity, that it can be changed. And over the next century, scientists with different tribal loyalties will race to change it. And religion and humanism will be impotent to stop this new eugenics race.

Nietzsche, in my view, saw all of this coming. He drew the right conclusions about the consequences of Darwin’s discovery and absorbed it intellectually.

But isn’t it curious how few contemporary Western atheists speak of, or debate, Nietzsche? They debate a humanist like Dawkins, and enthuse about science, but are generally silent about Nietzsche. Why? Because Nietzsche is in contemporary atheism’s blind spot (even as he is the elephant in the room).

Nietzsche is what humanism is designed to conceal.

But, like Darwin, Nietzsche is inescapable. He saw the chess board and where the checkmate for humanism was at (where contingency, evolution, and the justification for human action intersect). Or, to put it another way, Nietzsche saw that, with God dead, the shadow that great body casts is humanism.

Beyond that shadow is emptiness and Moloch.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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30 Responses to Atheism’s Real Problem Going Forward: Universal Humanism vs. Johann Gottfried Herder, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. Brian Westley says:

    taking away the religious affirmation of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man has consequences

    It looks like you’re assuming your conclusion. I don’t see religion leading the way in ethics, but rather playing catch-up. In my view, religion often retards ethical advancement.

    For contemporary examples, see gay rights. One of the consistent foes of gay rights have been organized religions. Same for women’s rights.

    For earlier examples, who defended the divine right of kings, vs. the power of government coming from the consent of the governed? While some religious organizations fought slavery, there was no shortage of defenders, either.

    I just don’t agree that religion is very good at ethics, period.

    Religions have been changed by society throughout history when they (the religions) found themselves too far outside the new social norms. Just look at how the LDS church changed their theology concerning polygamy and blacks; they magically “received new revelations” just when their earlier theology caused too much social friction.

    In my view, religion is a distraction when it comes to deciding ethics.

    • santitafarella says:

      Brian,

      I agree with you that religion is characteristically homophobic, conservative, patriarchal, tribal, reactionary, and murderous. That’s why I included Herder among the figures contemporary humanists must contend with.

      But religion also has historically tapped the breaks on our aggressive impulses as well. Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King were all enamored (for example) by Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and this fact has clearly impacted human history. Gandhi also took his nonviolence from his meditations on the Baghavad Gita (Arjuna refusing to fight in battle).

      The idea that human beings have a free and autonomous will is another belief born within religion. It’s hard to imagine Enlightenment humanism absent some hangover notion from religion (however false) that we have free will.

      And Nietzsche clearly believed that Christianity was more potent as an ethical system than you do. In fact, he set his nihilistic ethical system as a counterpoint to Christian slave morality. At the end of the Geneology of Morals, Nietzsche says that his whole philosophy can be summed up this way: Dionysus against the Crucified.

      So my question for you is this: what makes you confident that, should atheism win the historical day over the next century or two (with elites first to embrace atheism and the general population gradually joining in over time), what makes you think that atheism will retain its humanistic character?

      Or will it be humanism for the masses and Machiavelli and Nietzsche for the elite?

      Will humanism be the new Christianity (the thing parents tell frightened children to get them back to sleep and politicians mouth support for without taking seriously)?

      I’m pretty confident, for example, that the next systematic national eugenics program in history will not come out of a Catholic country like, say, Brazil, but will almost certainly come from a non-humanist driven atheist-led society like China.

      What should be the humanist atheist’s response to this coming eugenics race? Is it consistent with humanism (in your view) to take control of the human genome?

      —Santi

  2. Brian Westley says:

    The idea that human beings have a free and autonomous will is another belief born within religion.

    I disagree; I’d say it’s like morals — religions say a lot of things about morals (and free will), and they might claim sole ownership, but religion doesn’t own either one.

    And Nietzsche clearly believed that Christianity was more potent as an ethical system than you do.

    I don’t really care.

    what makes you think that atheism will retain its humanistic character?

    I haven’t said I think that.

    I’m pretty confident, for example, that the next systematic national eugenics program in history will not come out of a Catholic country like, say, Brazil, but will almost certainly come from a non-humanist driven atheist-led society like China.

    Hey, burn all the straw men you like. I think Uganda is very close to exterminating gays, thanks largely to religious influence, including American evangelicals. Or doesn’t that count?

    How about Omar al-Bashir of Sudan? He was charged with genocide and war crimes in 2008 and 2010 by the International Criminal Court. He’s a Sunni Muslim and he’s been instigating Sharia law in Sudan.

    Is it consistent with humanism (in your view) to take control of the human genome?

    Depends entirely by what you mean by “take control of the human genome.” I’m certainly in favor of things like eliminating birth defects.

    • santitafarella says:

      Brian,

      Well, then, taking your responses in reverse order, here are follow up questions (should you choose to answer them):

      —Genes for IQ, temperament, and physical characteristics like height. Change them if we can? Take control of our evolution at that level?
      —Who gets these enhancements? All, or just those willing to pay?
      —Uganda and Sudan are Herderian cultures. I’ve already said I agree with you that narrow religious nationalism is a problem. Atheist China, I think, is also a problem on the eugenics front. You disagree?
      —Why dismiss Nietzsche? A nineteenth century thinker has nothing of relevance to say to 21st century people?
      —Do you think atheism will retain its humanist character?
      —Insofar as I can tell, contra-causal free will is a religious idea that contemporary physics, chemistry, and neurobiology deconstructs. How, in your view, does humanism survive that deconstruction? Aren’t notions of freedom and choice at the core of humanism and the universal declaration of human rights?

      —Santi

  3. Brian Westley says:

    —Genes for IQ, temperament, and physical characteristics like height. Change them if we can? Take control of our evolution at that level?

    Some people might, but I’d guess that most people wouldn’t bother. Extreme cases, like mental retardation and dwarfism/gigantism will probably be tested for in the future. I have no problem with any of that.

    —Who gets these enhancements? All, or just those willing to pay?

    What economic system do you live under? Nothing is free, particularly cutting-edge medical treatment — so the choices should be whether the individual or the government covers the cost. My guess is it would eventually be covered by insurance. And I wouldn’t call preventing e.g. mental retardation to be an enhancement.

    —Uganda and Sudan are Herderian cultures. I’ve already said I agree with you that narrow religious nationalism is a problem. Atheist China, I think, is also a problem on the eugenics front. You disagree?

    I’ve pointed to actual deeds in Uganda and Sudan; you’ve stated that you think China will commit genocide, but that appears to be due totally to your prejudice against atheists.

    —Why dismiss Nietzsche? A nineteenth century thinker has nothing of relevance to say to 21st century people?

    Why give Nietzsche any special weight over thousands of other philosophers? I like J.S. Mill, and at least he didn’t go insane (I think following insane people is a bit dumb).

    —Do you think atheism will retain its humanist character?

    Atheism qua atheism has no character; it is just the absence of belief in gods. I think western democracies will retain their humanist characters.

    —Insofar as I can tell, contra-causal free will is a religious idea that contemporary physics, chemistry, and neurobiology deconstructs. How, in your view, does humanism survive that deconstruction? Aren’t notions of freedom and choice at the core of humanism and the universal declaration of human rights?

    I don’t consider the concept of “free will” to be coherent. I’ve never seen a definition of free will that’s testable, and I’ve never heard of a way to determine if something has free will or not.

    • santitafarella says:

      Brian,

      It’s nice that you like Mill’s “On Liberty,” but it’s not obviously coherent with your views on free will, is it?

      As for Nietzsche, the reason you should read him today (in the pick of philosophers available) is because his concerns are our concerns. Just as we are trying to fully absorb what Darwin means for our lives and society going forward (in relation to survival of the fittest, the contingency of species, the nature of change, etc), so did Nietzsche. Just as Aquinas was the philosopher to read if you lived in, say, the 13th century, Nietzsche is the philsopher to read in the 21st century.

      Nietzsche also made a serious effort to reflect on the consequences of a world absent God, a subject to which, I would think, an atheist might be a tad interested in as well.

      As for Western democracies retaining their humanist characters, it’s not obvious to me that this is happening in the United States. We just went through eight years of a Straussian-driven presidency (Strauss was a Machiavelli and Nietzsche-loving atheist, an anti-humanist and anti-liberal intellectual, and Bush’s advisors were all thoroughly influenced by him, most especially Paul Wolfowitz and Karl Rove). Wolfowitz and Rove are atheists, by the way. The Christianity veneer was just that, a veneer for the dupes (Bush being among the dupes, and the prop held up to the mass of dupes). The politics of torture, the concentration of executive power, the deregulation of banking for purposes of pillaging, blowing off the rule of law (international or otherwise), war, deception, and the assault on our civil liberties were all being carried out by Straussian atheist intellectuals, not religious or atheist humanists.

      As for China, eugenics is openly practiced. It’s not a secret. It’s not a guess of some future horror. You can search my own blog engine in the upper right for more information on this. I’ve talked about this elsewhere.

      As for eugenics itself, it’s interesting to me that you avoid the question of enhancement above the current mean (and assume it would be an individual decision, not a decision driven by, say, an atheist led nation). But it’s not a hard question: if a nation or a wealthy individual energetically seeks to enhance, via genetic manipulation (in vitro or otherwise), the intelligence of a subset of its citizens or children, do you favor such attempts? Are they consonant with humanism? What moral principle should inform or direct the issue of any genetics race by nations or wealthy individuals to vastly increase average human intelligence?

      —Santi

  4. Colin Hutton says:

    Santi – interesting post, as is the discussion evolving between you and Brian.

    Genetically targeted biological warfare, disruptive climate change, eugenics, artificial intelligence – all are on the horizon. And these are only some of the ‘known unknowns’. You and the next several generations will surely live in interesting times.

    It seems to me from your post that you view these interesting times as a curse that has been visited on you and yours by the scientific discoveries of the last 150 years. (I have in mind that old Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’).

    For myself, I am continually grateful that my life has been spent in times that are surely more interesting than any earlier time in human history. (Ignorance may be productive of bliss, but when that is the case it has to count as boring). I regret that I will not be around to find out what happens over the next century, which will be even more interesting – provided neither Christianity (improbable) nor Islam (possible) succeed in dragging humanity back into another millennium of stagnation.

    Colin

    • santitafarella says:

      Colin,

      I think you hit the bases of our future pretty clearly, and the tensions going forward. My kids are now 5 and 7. I won’t know how these things play out, but they will. I see good and bad things coming; I’m not wholly a Cassandra. I’m capable of also being Pollyanna (sp?).

      Certainly, if the Pakistanis, the Iranians, and the Israelis can keep their nuclear weapons in their pockets for just a few more decades, and can settle out their historic tensions, we’ll find out what our emerging global technotopia will evolve toward. I suppose the big question (after the Islamic bomb issue) is which country or group of scientists gets to the genetic intelligence enhancement “moon” first (a humanist country or a Nietzschean one). Chinese intellectuals are enthusiastically gobbling up Strauss and Carl Schmitt, but then so are the neoconservatives in America. I wonder if the United States will even be a humanist driven society half a century from now. I’m more hopeful about Australia and Europe.

      —Santi

      • Paradigm says:

        I don’t understand why you think IQ will mean so much in comparison to other variables. The Chinese already have higher intelligence than Americans and Europeans, but they can only compete with cheap manual labor. The Japanese have even higher IQs and they are looking less impressive with every year that passes. Not to mention North Korea with an IQ average of 104.

        At the same time India is showing much more creativity in IT, financing and such. Next year they are predicted to overtake China in economic growth. And they have an average IQ of 85 or thereabouts. Could it be that you and others in Academia are proud of your IQ and over-generalize its value outside of your own domain ; )

  5. Brian Westley says:

    It’s nice that you like Mill’s “On Liberty,” but it’s not obviously coherent with your views on free will, is it?

    Hey, I hardly expect to agree 100% with anyone on anything. I can cope.

    As for Nietzsche, the reason you should read him today (in the pick of philosophers available) is because his concerns are our concerns.

    That still doesn’t distinguish him from thousands of other philosophers, and since I disagree with a lot of his assumptions, and since he went insane, I see no good reason to pay much attention to him.

    As for China, eugenics is openly practiced. It’s not a secret. It’s not a guess of some future horror. You can search my own blog engine in the upper right for more information on this. I’ve talked about this elsewhere.

    Oh, the old “I said that elsewhere, so I won’t bother now” excuse. Cite some solid examples.

    What moral principle should inform or direct the issue of any genetics race by nations or wealthy individuals to vastly increase average human intelligence?

    It certainly shouldn’t involve invisible superbeings.

    • santitafarella says:

      See the video I posted here for China’s blatant eugenic pursuits:

      https://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/what-is-humanism-and-where-is-21st-century-atheism-taking-us-really/

      Also, see page 83 of Francis Fukuyama’s important book, “Our Posthuman Future,” for a discussion of eugenics, including in China. Here’s what Fukuyama says on page 83: “China has pursued eugenics actively through its one-child population control policy . . .” Fukuyama also mentions on that same page a law in China, on the books since 1995, that limits the right of low-IQ people to reproduce.

      Here’s a link to the book at Amazon:

      http://www.amazon.com/Our-Posthuman-Future-Consequences-Biotechnology/dp/0312421710/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1306774565&sr=8-10#reader_0312421710

    • santitafarella says:

      Here’s an interesting quote from Samuel Lipoff’s review of a book on eugenics in China (in the Harvard Asia Pacific Review):

      “Although the state has only recently taken an official role in the control of human reproduction, its current policies stem from the age-old concept of the individual’s responsibility to the collective. It is this emphasis on the collective good that has driven modern eugenics discourse since the late nineteenth century, when Chinese intellectuals the well-to-do gentry, and government officials explored how to improve the Chinese race after the arrival of the stronger Western imperialist nations. Indeed, nationalism in its many forms remains an important force in eugenics today.
      Dikötter shows that it is the introduction of modern science in China, particularly after World War I, that opened the real possibility of implementing the eugenic vision. It is in the republican era (1911-1948) that elites called for increased intervention of medical professionals and the state into the sexual lives of citizens.”

      Here’s a link to the full review:

      http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hapr/summer00_tech/bookreview.html

      A here’s the Wikipedia article on the journal itself:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_Asia_Pacific_Review

      • Brian Westley says:

        Well, your arguments don’t seem to be self-consistent. You previously said:
        I’m pretty confident, for example, that the next systematic national eugenics program in history will not come out of a Catholic country like, say, Brazil, but will almost certainly come from a non-humanist driven atheist-led society like China.

        …but now it sounds like you’re arguing that China is conducting such a program now.

        Why aren’t your arguments consistent?

        Also, what’s your answer to this question you asked me?
        What moral principle should inform or direct the issue of any genetics race by nations or wealthy individuals to vastly increase average human intelligence?

        Keep in mind I won’t accept any answer that involves gods.

      • santitafarella says:

        Brian,

        It’s not clear why you would expect an answer from me that involves appeals to gods (I’m an agnostic).

        As for China, until geneticists identify the genes clearly associated with high intelligence, certain temperamental characteristics, and certain physical characteristics, eugenics will not be able to ramp up to the “space race phase.” That’s what I should have said. China has a less sophisticated eugenics program now; it will have a much more precise and extensive one as the science develops. We will probably feel compelled to keep up, and so we’ll have one as well. A generation from now, once the basic research pieces come together, eugenics will be a laboratory phenomenon: a direct messing with eggs and sperm prior to implantation into a female’s uterus.

        As to the ethical component, I think things have to be made universal to retain any universal humanist character. Morality isn’t really morality if it is something you do, but not me. It has to be applied to all. The majority of people cannot function as horses that the elite ride. Two sets of rules cannot apply. (The banking crisis is an example of how easily morality can break down among nihilist elites, and this is what I worry about when it comes to eugenics.)

        But if we’re going to go down the road to greater enhancement of human children (their IQs, their physical characteristics, etc), we have to make it a form of global “share ware”. People should have universal access to the knowledge and technology, and people who opt out must have their rights and security protected by the enhanced. There has to be a philosophical commitment to our shared humanity on this.

        Maybe we’re up to such a task. It will cost money and people will have to restrain their impulse to fully maximize their advantages over others. Maybe if everybody’s IQ starts to drift closer to 200 than 100, the arguments for why eugenic technology should be shared will be obvious to them and people will, over time, do so voluntarily. Maybe the future will be bright. Maybe the genes that are selected for temperamentally will enhance impulse control and sociability among ever increasing numbers of humans. But whatever lies ahead of us, eugenics is going to play a huge role. I think that humanity taking over its own evolution is as certain to predict as flight was for people living in the nineteenth century.

        So I guess that the moral principles involved are these: we’re all, by virtue of our shared humanity, in this journey of history together. It’s in our children’s interest not to be cruel to one another, to share what we learn, and be friendly with one another.

        The moment we exclude anyone (or any nation) from this vision, or treat others as suckers to exploit or disregard, or treat our nation as having a unique destiny apart from the rest of humanity, we’re in trouble.

        I hope that Jefferson beats Strauss (and, by extension, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, and Herder).

        The human future will be deist or atheist in some form. I just hope it’s the one form most closely akin to Christianity (universal humanism).

        —Santi

  6. Colin Hutton says:

    Santi :

    “……… my guess is that a survival-of-the-fittest Darwinian logic of some sort will trump atheist humanism”.

    I think you are right. (As I said yesterday “I like this post of yours”!).

    In my opinion secular humanism is a nice idea but is ‘affordable’ only in ‘affluent times’ – such as we in the dominant West have been experiencing for, effectively, several hundreds of years (courtesy of the enlightenment and scientific development and partly at the expense of the ‘savages’ we have been ‘civilizing’).

    I think that the odds are quite high that one or more of the threats on the horizon (nearly all manifestations of global overpopulation) could prove overwhelming and result in some rapid Darwinian selection. A secular humanist approach is unlikely to prove to be a good survival tactic. Nice guys come last.

    As regards Nietzsche, I completely agree with you that he is important and has to be dealt with. But I think that you oversimplify when you say that “Nietzsche is what humanism is designed to conceal”.

    Your post of 26 Dec ’09 on Nietzsche was one of the first I ever read here on Prometheus. It bothered me then, and sorting that ‘bother’ out is still on my ‘to do’ list.

    I have read N’s principal works [(exception : Z)] (Tr. Kaufmann) without ever getting the impression that Darwin had any influence on N. (Also, I am alert always to references to D and the only one that I ever registered – in BGE – was derogatory). Elsewhere, in a note, K states that N was a supporter of Lamarckian ideas rather than of the mechanisims proposed by D. So, I’m not too convinced by what Hollingdale has to say.

    I think that even if N was influenced by D it is unlikely that he would have realised that the human moral impulse (within the ‘in-group’) is compatible with Darwinian evolution. In fact, was that possibility considered realistic at that time, or is it the result of another 100 years of research?

    Colin

  7. Anonymous says:

    Interesting post, I really love your blog.

    During the last month, there has been a lot of talk on the atheist blogosphere about comments made by William Lane Craig regarding genocide of children in the Old Testament. While his comments are truly disturbing, I couldn’t help but being reminded of an idea of Peter Singer, that killing a newborn isn’t as bad as killing an adult human. Now I don’t know much about Singer, I’ve heard he “isn’t as bad as he sounds” and I’d be very curious to know what you think about him. But regardless, my point is the number of disturbing sound-bytes coming from the atheist/rationalist side is pretty high too.

    (Also as someone with a mental illness, I certainly take issue with the idea that someone who is insane at some point can’t have made any useful contributions during their lifetime, and I assume consequently should be screened out in the future. I apologize if I’m putting words in Brian’s mouth, but I figure I have reason to be anxious regarding this whole topic. I am extremely grateful to science in making it possible to treat my illness, but it will be truly sad and ironic if science ends up making medicine obsolete by getting rid of the so-called weakest links who can actually contribute a lot.)

    • Colin Hutton says:

      Anon. – the question you raise goes to issues which are ethically complex – hence, interesting. I will put a question to you, if I may.

      Congenitally deaf (and, resultantly, dumb) people lead (via ‘signing’) productive lives and, I understand, frequently become part of close, happy and mutually-supportive groups of similarly affected people. Children of couples from within that group are likely to be similarly affected and, historically, have grown up to thrive within that group. Over the past decade it has become possible to provide babies with a cochlear implant which largely overcomes the ‘disability’. I use inverted commas because I understand that sometimes the parents of such babies claim it is not a significant disability and wish to reject the treatment on the grounds that it would alienate the child from them and their community.

      Question is, should they be forced to accept it? (I note that here in Australia the – very costly – treatment is provided by the state. I note, also, that I don’t know whether or not parents here have the option. I note, finally, that my own view is that the treatment should be compulsory and my answer to the question would be “yes”. Probably!)

      On the other hand, if (hypothetically) a treatment had been available which would have made Bobby Fisher a more ‘normal’ and happy person, should his parents have been obliged to accept it if there was a consequent risk that it would deprive the world of a chess genius? My answer would be “no”. And should the treatment be offered at all, if it would definitely deprive the world of such genius? Again, “no”. But then, I am a chess player! (a very average one).

      Peter Singer is a fellow Australian. I met him once briefly when one of his daughters was at high school with one of my sons. His views were contentious here, but did not cause anything like the outrage they cause in US now that he is faculty at Princeton. I personally think his views on animal rights are extreme and on humans overly idealistic.

      Colin

  8. Brian Westley says:

    Also as someone with a mental illness, I certainly take issue with the idea that someone who is insane at some point can’t have made any useful contributions during their lifetime, and I assume consequently should be screened out in the future. I apologize if I’m putting words in Brian’s mouth

    I don’t even recognize what you’ve written. Try reading what I write instead of what you imagine.

  9. Pingback: Eugenics Revival Watch: Scientific American editor, Mariette DiChristina, calls eugenic goals expressed in 1911 “lofty aspirations” | Prometheus Unbound

  10. Anonymous says:

    It wasn’t my intention to get involved in the debate, as I am just starting to probe these questions and feel pretty out of my depth here. Also you could say I’m in the mental illness closet (hence the Anon), and I don’t think it’s fair to carry on debates with people if you’re unwilling to identify yourself. Plus I’m probably too emotional about this whole topic. But I did want to respond to Colin’s comment.

    I certainly agree that these issues are complex and without easy answers. If we’re talking medical things as a response to existing disabilities or sickness, my feelings are much less complicated. But even in those “clearer” circumstances, the sheer number of concerns can have a cascading effect which only brings up more questions. For example, I don’t think parents have the right to refuse cancer treatment for their children. But in your cochlear implant example, it has to do with how the children will be raised and which community they will identify with. Even if you did make all recommended medical treatments compulsory for children only, and left adults free to choose, what about the extra cost they may impose on the health care system by refusing? Certainly not easy answers, but less of an emotional response to sort through.

    Your second example, however, hits to the root of my anxieties. To me there is such a big difference between treating someone, for physical or mental illness, to either save their life and/or get them to a point where they can function more productively and more consistently in society (and even then how do you define that?) versus engineering the problem out of existence. Now I will even admit there are still possible exceptions to deal with. What about babies who will live only hours in extreme pain? But as much as the phrase is overused, I do think there is a slippery slope that we must be vigilant about. How much of genius is linked to disability or at least the struggle that comes from being disabled? Now I am the last person to want to romanticize the kind of suffering people go through, but on my good days I’m glad I was born and can see how my my gifts, both genetic and circumstantial, are not independant of my illness.

    Very interesting to hear about your thoughts regarding Singer. I certainly don’t think either him or Craig are actually bad people, who would do the things they justify. I think they are both examples of spending too much time in your own head and sacrificing your own good sense for the sake of a coherent worldview.

    @Brian – I admitted that I was extrapolating from what you said, but you twice cited insanity as a reason to dismiss Nietzsche. If we were to dismiss the thoughts or creations of every person who has been insane at some point, there would many gaping holes in our intellectual and creative heritage. But considering your rude tone towards with our gracious host, I shouldn’t have let your comments bother me.

  11. Brian Westley says:

    I admitted that I was extrapolating from what you said, but you twice cited insanity as a reason to dismiss Nietzsche. If we were to dismiss the thoughts or creations of every person who has been insane at some point, there would many gaping holes in our intellectual and creative heritage.

    Well, I think lunatics are iffy people to follow along their intellectual deductions; it makes their reasoning powers suspect. Insanity isn’t such a problem in, say, the arts.

    But considering your rude tone towards with our gracious host, I shouldn’t have let your comments bother me.

    Well, since I took your “screened out in the future” crack to suggest that I would advocate killing all insane people, I wouldn’t carp about a “rude tone,” Mr. Kettle.

  12. Anonymous says:

    @ Brian. I did overreact and I apologize. But I was in no way meaning that you would advocate killing all insane people, but rather that you might group it in the defects to be eliminated through genetic testing.

  13. Brian Westley says:

    Brian’s position—that Nietzsche needn’t be read because he suffered from madness—is a form of ad hominem

    Only if you consider insanity to be irrelevant to clear thinking. I think it’s kinda pertinent.

    • Horapollo says:

      Now you’re committing the genetic fallacy, dumbass.

      Humanism is retarded on two basic grounds:
      1) Humans have no intrinsic worth. Nothing does.
      2) People are not equal.

      If you little pseudo-scientific dirt-worshippers would face up to those facts you’d see your crypto-Christian cult implode. You’re nothing but the latest generation of priests and smug pseudo-intellectual pigs.

      • Now you’re committing the genetic fallacy, dumbass.

        No, I’m not. I think it’s pretty clearly established that insane people are not as lucid in philosophy as people who are not insane.

        Humanism is retarded on two basic grounds:
        1) Humans have no intrinsic worth. Nothing does.
        2) People are not equal.

        That’s not humanism.

        If you little pseudo-scientific dirt-worshippers would face up to those facts you’d see your crypto-Christian cult implode. You’re nothing but the latest generation of priests and smug pseudo-intellectual pigs.

        I’m sure a society based on people like yourself would be pure sunshine and daffodils.

  14. Pingback: George Church’s Brave New World (and Ours) | Prometheus Unbound

  15. Pingback: [INTJ] Am I the only atheist who thinks Humanism is just stupid? - Page 6

  16. Horapollo says:

    Fuck “Atheism”. Of course God doesn’t exist, but people who make that their primary identity (Humanist fags, UU-types) are just more herdish little piggies worshipping their latest cult; in this case the State and pseudo-science (which is what all this Marxoid drivel and Orwellian egalitarian shit is; science clearly demonstrates that people are not the same, you fucking idiots). I don’t take Humanists seriously or give a shit what they think, they can go drown in a lake, mealy-mouthed sissies and morons playing Priest for the State.

  17. Horapollo says:

    Oh, and Stirner makes Nietzsche look like a bitch.

    Humanism is for moralizing emotional cowards, just like Christianity and any other crutch for these little status-obsessed meatbags.

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