We Were Asked To Publish This Humanist Article… So We Did

Our friend Gobeithio has asked us to publish this piece on humanism. We’ll save our comments for later and see you in the discussion…

Discussion Of Environmental Humanism In Barbados And Guyana

We have a small group in Guyana, and want to get something going in Barbados. You can get a feel for what we are about on http://www.gobeithio.org

A quick summary of environmental humanism: Common Sense.

We are out to make better lives for ourselves, and improve the world around us, through common sense. Intrinsic to this is Rationalist Thought. A requirement of common sense is sound ecology, and because we find ourselves in a rather perilous situation with our changing environment, the major emphasis on improving our condition is environmentalism.

Some previous attempts to infuse responsible ecology into movements have ended up bringing some mystical, or even divine elements into play. That cannot happen with us because, by definition, we don’t refer to any divine revelation, magic or mysticism. We don’t have closed minds – it might well be that certain paranormal phenomena will be accepted by mainstream science in the future, and if/when that happens we would be only to happy to accept it, but we are not going to base any part of our worldview around such matters by guessing, fearing or wanting them to be true.

In Guyana recently, an old woman was battered to death because she was believed to have been a supernatural being called an ol’ higue, that fed on the blood of babies. This is a rather extreme example of irrational thought, but it serves to prove a point.

An emphasis on education, and exposure to Rationalist thought, is the best defence there is against extremism; – extremism of religosity, nationalism or various ideology.

Barbados, with its tremendous literacy level, is well positioned to take this forward.

I have posted in some other threads, both in the Environment and Religion fora. I did answer a few questions on the thread about Barbados Muslims not killing anyone.

The desire is to gather a number of individuals that the above appeals to, and who wish to be a part of it, and contribute to improving our own lives, and the wellbeing of society.

There is an urgency here. The social and environmental problems loom large in our near future. It really is going to get hot.

Gobeithio

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55 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Religion

55 responses to “We Were Asked To Publish This Humanist Article… So We Did

  1. BFP

    OK, I’ll kick off the discussion.

    I don’t have enough faith to be a humanist.

    I don’t have enough faith in my fellow travelers on this planet, nor do I have enough faith to believe that everything created itself out of nothing with no plan, no engineer and no divine intervention. I don’t have enough faith to believe that there was nothing, then there was something and the something created itself out of nothing.

    It takes real faith to believe in that scenario.

    I just don’t have enough faith to be a humanist.

  2. Inkwell

    The simple theory of evolution does not require anyone to believe that “everything created itself out of nothing with no plan, no engineer and no divine intervention”, or that “there was nothing, then there was something and the something created itself out of nothing.” These statements are simplistic.

    Science has shown that there are certain building blocks which exist even now in their primitive form that can result in the creation of life when they come together in a supportive environment. I am not qualified to teach or explain the subject, but I encourage an open mind for consideration of the concept.

    Evolution means growth, adaptation to change and adaptation to environment, concepts which we see in action around us every day

    Evolution requires no faith, just an inquisitive mind which is capable of rational thought and deduction rather than blind belief. But I dare say the theory or supporting evidence will not prevail against the unassailable and impregnable faith of those who will not admit to the possibility of any alternative to the creation story.

    So there really can be no discussion.

  3. Chase

    Well said Inkwell.

  4. Yardbroom

    Gobeithio
    I seek not to explain theories that cannot be explained, because we do not have the evidence, faith does not need evidence, but there are those who will always ask for the evidence, a request that can never be granted, a cyclic discussion.

    On a practical level:
    You stated ” An emphasis on education, and exposure to Rationalist thought, is the best defence there is against extremism;- or religosity, nationalism or various ideology.”

    Sounds very grand and noble, but how in “practical” terms will it counter religious extremism. Religious extremists will not listen to other points of view, their minds are closed to a particular doctrine, they believe they have seen the light and it is others who need to be educated.

    Extremist must be combated, but that is best done when they are outside the perimeter, when they have secretly invaded our space, is when the problems start, because they become the enemy within. Our sense of reason and moral standing, forces us to make decisions as to who is the real enemy from a seemingly seamless group, a difficulty in itself because of our respect for tolerance and fair play.

    The religious extremist has no such restraints. He knows he is right, is convinced he is right, therefore those who stand in his way are wrong, in essence they are blocking and even impeding his path to paradise, the sole reason for his existence

    In general terms there is nothing at all ignoble about the Environmental Humanism, but that it will, free standing, combat Religious Extremism is open to doubt.

  5. Firstly, thank you to BFP for publishing this.

    I also worry about Man’s likelihood of doing the right thing (am not interested in the subjective/obective analysis of what is “right” here). I would differ though, in believing that recourse to Rationalism is Man’s best chance.

    Regards intelligent design, whilst I completely disagree, I am very interested by the fact that several top scientists have come to the same conclusion as BFP, and I referred to this on the previous post about Barbados Mulims not killing anyone. Inkwell’s point is startlingly illuminative, and worthy of re-reading.

    On other threads, there have been some very strongly worded, and emotion laden, statements against Muslims within our communities. I see danger in those statements, and that base level of response. However, I wouldn’t disagree with the basic remit of not allowing them to flourish in our communities. The difference is in how we do it. I find I completely agree with Yardbroom’s analysis on the problem of extremists “within the perimeter”. We all know the 07/07 London terrorists were home grown, and believe me, those guys are only the tip of the iceberg in UK.

    One thing I would disagree with both Inkwell and Yardbroom on, is whether we should ask questions about things which, for the time being at least, we can’t explain, ie evolution. I would applaud the sceptics of evolution for demanding evidence-based discussion of the question; okay, there is an uneven playing field when rationally defending scientific theories against the explanations of Faith, but that doesn’t mean the dialogue shouldn’t take place. Indeed, this week I witnessed a fascinating public discussion between a scientist and a theocrat in Cambridge, and I think most of us in the audience went away having learned something. If Yardbroom is saying that we shouldn’t allow rapproach to founder upon an area in which neither side is likely to compromise, then by all means, lets work around it and make progress elsewhere. We have a Catholic in our small group actually, though this person’s priority is the environmental side of things anyway.

    I hope this answer is not too long, and thankyou for contributing so far. Kudos again to BFP for entertaining this subject. Society’s move toward rationalism has always been 2 steps forward 1 step back, but the confidence that there will be an outbreak of reason, combined with the industry to make it happen, give us the best chance of a good future.

  6. BFP

    Hi Inkwell

    You say “So there really can be no discussion.”

    Glad that settles the whole evolution v God thing! Whew! We can all just forget about it now. Thanks!

    Oh… bye the way…

    Your statement “Science has shown that there are certain building blocks which exist even now in their primitive form that can result in the creation of life when they come together in a supportive environment.”

    Just one question… Where did those “building blocks” come from? Where did the entire universe and all the energy come from at the start… to make the “big bang”?

    Once you’ve answered that, I’d like to discuss the concepts of time and physical space.

    Thanks!

    Robert

  7. Straight talk

    Whew!
    I can see this being a long thread that cannot possibly go anywhere.
    The way I settled my own boggled mind when contemplating the universe (usually with an empty bottle of Doorly’s) is to accept the premise that time is an infinite concept.
    Once you take time out of the argument there is no need for chickens and eggs, matter has always been here and always will be in some form or other.
    Now pass that bottle.

  8. One suspects that more than one bottle might be required whilst bottoming out the origins of life, the universe & everything…!

    Its terrific to discuss it and thanks for doing so. A move forward with environmental humanism does not hit a roadblock on this massive question; there’s an awful lot else we can talk about – we haven’t even started on the rational ecology side of it yet.

  9. BFP

    Straight talk says “matter has always been here and always will be in some form or other.”

    Really?

    But where did the “matter” come from Straight Talk?

    Frankly, your statement sounds more like a religious article of faith than science. No disrespect intended, ST.

    … but I think that your “answer” is just a cop-out that requires real faith.

  10. Crusty

    Not every scientist starts from first principles to
    prove to his/her own satisfaction that a chain of
    events/facts is “true”. Most believe what they read
    in scholarly journals and texts – at least until it is
    proved otherwise.

    Therein lies a key difference between science and
    “faith”. Science is repeatedly verifiable; faith is not.
    But at its core, any field of science holds a limited
    number of fundamental tenets that, for today at
    least, are unprovable and must be accepted as
    assumptions. Perhaps one such current tenet is that
    the Big Bang started from a point singularity.

    Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “make it as
    simple as possible, but not simpler”. Much of
    scientific research is the pursuit of this objective.
    This kind of scientific research challenges the
    tenets of the moment and causes their revision
    when appropriate.

    My questions to those holding religious tenets are:
    how many such tenets are necessary within your
    faith, and when were they last revised?

  11. Straight talk

    Time when discussing this our universe, or any other parallel ones, is an artificial construct, invented out of human conceit to relate existence to our short lifetime.
    Why should it have a beginning, or an end, just because we mere mortals have?

  12. Straight talk

    And crusty pursuing that point of singularity will,if successful, only lead to a previous collapsed universe ad infinitum.

  13. Citizen First

    As fascinating as discussions on evolution, time and the universe can be, there are more mundane and immediate concerns for the citizens of Barbados. As the ethnic and religious make up of the Barbadian population change, previously unexperienced tensions may arise. If not handled in a forthright and principled fashion unwanted problems (e.g. extremism) might develop.

    Extremism can be nourished and abetted by insensitive actions and actors from some otherwise unlikely quarters. To wit:

    A teacher of history in a Government run school, declaring to a class of 12 year olds that God allowed the nazis to kill the Jews because they killed Christ.

    A teacher of foreign languages in a Government run school, beginning each language class with Christian prayer and insisting non Christians stay to hear the prayers.

    A principal of a Government run school declaring openly (to staff and students) that the school is a decidely Christian school.

    A manual on the teaching of human values is rejected by a principal of a Government run school because the manual had been prepared by non Christians even though that manual made no reference to any particular religion.

    These and other similar actions and comments have taken place in BARBADIAN Government schools in very recent years.

    Thankfully these are ” very few and far between”. However, when challenged, each teacher and the principals sincerely explained that they had a higher purpose to spread the Gospel of Christ.

    When I attended school many moons ago, they were children of all faiths in the school. We generally got along well together and if we didn’t it wasn’t for religious reasons. Things are pretty much the same today but cracks are appearing again abetted by unthinking actors.

    To wit the Ministry of Education allowed the establishment of the Closed Bretheren school (the Belmont Grammer School) and then the Muslim schools (primary and secondary on Passage Road).

    So in the absence of explicit policy statements and rules, teachers and principals can exhibit insensitive behaviour with impunity. This can inter alia fuel demands for separate faith based schools. I wonder if then we are not on the slippery slope to conflict and division GIVEN the wider global confrontation with Islamists and the increased numbers of the resident Muslim population.

    Before anyone suggests that I am bashing Christians, I am NOT. However as the overwhelmingly largest religious group I think we have a responsiblilty to set the example of civic behaviour that maintains the peace and development of this island.

    More critically if we are to expect (demand?)similar standards of behaviour from others then those standards and norms should not be referenced to a religious authority but to those Universal standards of Human Rights and Justice.

    Unfortunately for some (those bent on mayhem) stronger responses are required (i.e appropriate law enforcement and defense measures).

  14. BFP

    Citizen First says…

    “…norms should not be referenced to a religious authority but to those Universal standards of Human Rights and Justice.”

    Pray tell, CF, what exactly are those “Universal standards of Human Rights and Justice” and how are they established?

  15. Citizen First

    to BFP,

    cannot give a more detailed reply at this time (work calls !) but some quick points

    1. Such Universal standards are NOT at variance with the MODERN practices of the mainstream Christian denominations as I understand them. In fact Christians (as representative of theological institutions) AS WELL AS OTHERS (Mahatma Ghandi for example re civic disobediance, non violence) have contributed to their development. (that’s why I do not personally accept the label of Humanist but do appreciate or share their attitude to problem solving).

    2. My position is if I am going to criticise any action/activity then it should be from a generally accepted (broadly supported) position and not to a specific religious authority (“It is written in the Book that etc…). e.g. It is wrong to steal (well accepted) or Women should be educated (not so well accepted I know).

    3. These standards are those contained in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights and other such agreed documents.

    Gotta run!

    **************************

    Comment by bfp Robert

    AHHHA!

    Finally at the end we see where CF’s “Universal Standards” come from… The United Nations.

    In other words, as far as Citizen First is concerned, whatever this eminent group of people decide are the “universal standards” are the universal standards.

  16. Crusty’s post excites me. The Big Bang is a good example because its hero, Dr Stephen Hawking, has now changed his mind and said he got it wrong. He made a good living off the back of his Big Bang work, so to be able to turn around and admit this is quite laudable. Sir Isaac Newton’s work has long since been revised, whilst so much of modern physics theory cannot yet be proved or disproved, that pursuing it can sometimes be, ironically, a “leap of faith”.

    The theories on time used to freak me out. It took me a long while to accept that time apparently has malleable qualities, but now I’ve learned a little more, the theories no longer scare nor repulse me.

    The shocking examples which Citizen First speaks of fall naturally within the sphere of env. hum. as the sort of things we need to work against. A pertinent question would be what lurks just beyond these “very few and far between” incidents: How many parents, teachers, gov.t officials or onlookers don’t disapprove of some of these acts. They are welcome to have their opinion, but before dismissing these as the actions of a dodgy people, we need to know what people really think about them. (And to be fair, there might be physical constraints which led to the call for non christian minors to stay to hear prayers)

    The wider humanism movement is opposed to exclusive faith schools.

    We may be able to clear something important up at this point: CF, why, in your point 1, do you conclude that the compatibility of some modern religions to adequate standards of human rights & justice is a reason for not being humanist ?
    Is it that you see the main point of humanism is to knock religion ? If so, I must point out that this is incorrect. Humanism is proactive – its raison d’être is not to react to religion.

  17. Inkwell

    Hi BFP Robert,

    As I freely admitted, I am not qualified to defend the theory of evolution to superior intellect and indeed it cannot be successfully defended in the absence of positive proof. That is the essence of a theory. A theory is a proposition that makes sense when the available evidence and circumstances are taken into consideration. If it could be proven, it would no longer be a theory.

    So maybe I have to accept that omnipotent, omniscient God created all things. My scepticism really comes down to one question on which hopefully you can enlighten me.

    Why would an omnipotent and omniscient God create such an imperfect being as man?

  18. Yardbroom

    Citizen First
    The extremist have no respect for the Standards contained in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other such agreed documents. To the religious extremist such documents are the edicts of non-believers, did Bin Laden not infer that the UN and America are as one.

    So although the majority might have broad principles of agreement, they will have no meaningful effect on the religious extremist. His sole allegiance is not to our society, it is to others of like mind, that is why he can commit atrocities of such magnitude, reason, it is our fault for not seeing the world as he sees it.

    To defeat extremist we must be vigilant, for those of the faith within our circle, we will protect you, but if you wish to live a life that has no respect for our values then you must make you own way outside our perimeter. We will never deny you your rights, but when there is conflict between your rights and the generally accepted norms, then perhaps it is best if you exercised those rights outside our space.

    ( A scorpion and a dog were on the banks of a fast flowing river, the scorpion asked the dog for a ride because he could not swim. The dog said no, because you would sting me, the scorpion pleaded so the dog relented, the scorpion got on the dog’s back. When they reached the centre of the river the scorpion stung the dog, as they both started to drown, the dog asked the scorpion why did you sting me we are both drowning. The scorpion replied, because I am a scorpion.
    *****************

    We – humans – have constructed answers within our experience because that is all we have, is there a construct beyond ours, that makes more sense and which will bring clarity to this discussion. There might be but we will never know of it, because it will always be beyond our experience.

    This discussion will go on for a long time at the end of it we will just shake hands and walk away, perhaps the best we can hope for is that it will not end there. We will reflect, contemplate and perhaps, just perhaps we might think outside our cosy comfort zone.

  19. David

    Hello Gobeithio
    As a former teacher of biology I taught environmentalism. The local CXC curriculum is loaded with environmentalism/ ecology with an emphasis on what is referred to as “environmental attitudes”.

    Students who go through the high school (CXC) biology program, which is mandatory at least up until 3rd form (age 14/15), develop proper environmental care attitudes if they pay any attention at all. This is very good, and we have seen (though many won’t believe it!) a decrease in the littering, pollution and dumping that goes on in our gullies, shores and highways over the last years.

    Environmentalism is for the benefit of future generations. We have global warming to contend with, water scarcity is causing famines in Africa, we are recognising this in the Caribbean by creating built in water-storage tanks that feed from our rooves.

    One of the most protective things one can do is to use a proper water filter to cleanse impurities out of the tap water, which, although it is treated with chlorine to kill bacteria, cannot take away soluble nitrates, and cancer-causing substances that are not filtered by the natural rocks of the island.

    There is more, oh so much more, and this is a very pertinent topic, highly enjoyable and relevant to today.

  20. Citizen First

    Just checking in…

    Gobeitho, I do not label myself as humanist because I do not personally reject (yet) the concept of God or that Jesus existed or that He is what Christians claim Him to be. Also, I am still learning about what Humanism is or isn’t.

    I fervently hope that we (Mankind) can agree on some basic MUTALLY AGREED standards of civic life regardless of what individuals call themselves.

    To the BFP community and the BFP administrators, I invite you to visit the following and decide whether the standards listed are reasonable or not.

    http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

    I wish to reject your (BFP administrators) unsubstantiated implication that I am in agreement with EVERYTHING decided at or by the U.N. But I see no reason to reject the Universal Declaration of Human Rights because it comes from the U.N. If the BFP had come up with these standards I would still have supported them.

  21. Citizen First

    Yardbroom

    I am in agreement with your observations re. extremists, hence my comment: “Unfortunately for some (those bent on mayhem) stronger responses are required (i.e appropriate law enforcement and defense measures)”.

    David
    I concur with with your observations.

  22. Crusty

    Whole lotta feelgood goin on here.

    But what do we do about the people of one
    “ism” who insist it is their right to interfere
    in the lives of those of another “ism”?

  23. CF, thanks for elaborating. My reason for pressing the point is that one does not have to be athiest to be a humanist. Some of the great humanists of history listed on our website were actually theists.

    David, great post, and terrific to hear. I would say that environmentalism is without doubt for this generation as well, but actually doing things now, and influencing attitudes of the young, are obviously vital. To varying degrees this is happening throughout western culture – but it is far from being a given, so to read this gives us more hope for Barbados.
    An interesting development is that, increasingly, environmentalism suffers less now from being considered a thing apart from other spheres of life. Its sphere now overlaps with a huge percentage of others; industry, commerce, sport, farming, entertainment, tourism, recreation, education, administration, transport etc. For me, it is common sense that the best way to further environmentalism, is to put it at the heart of everything. Often it must and will take a back seat to other priorities, but it is now being factored in earlier to decision making processes and weighted higher.
    Please do tell us more.

  24. Citizen First

    Crusty,

    I submit my manifesto, the Citizen First Manifesto (LOL)…

    First, we identify what I would call the centre- that body of ideas and values that the majority can identify with (i.e. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

    Second, we who support these ideas, should at all times practise in our own personal lives what we preach. Do unto others that which we would wish done to us.

    Third, campaign that these values be promoted and discussed in our schools and public institutions.

    Fourth, be vigilant and call on the authorities to censure/ restrain (in accordance with the same values) those who are clearly attempting to abridge those agreed values.

  25. Crusty

    May 12th, 2007 at 6:23 pm, Citizen First said:

    I submit my manifesto, the Citizen First Manifesto (LOL)…

    Fourth, be vigilant and call on the authorities to censure/ restrain (in accordance with the same values) those who are clearly attempting to abridge those agreed values.

    —-

    But what to do when citizens and those in authority
    are the ones acting contrary to your manifesto?

  26. Citizen First

    Stockpile food and water, build a boat, run …. learn Arabic, pull the daughter out of school…Get wife number 2 (hmm.. forget about my manifesto!)

    I don’t have all the answers, that’s why I engage in these blogs. What say you?

  27. Stealth Bomber

    BFP DELETED THIS COMMENT…

    Stealth Bomber seems to think that he has the right to copy and paste one comment into seven different discussions.

    If this persons wants to discuss, then discuss.

    If you just want to cut and paste the same comments everywhere – then get your own blog.

    BFP Robert

  28. Bif

    David, I decided not to pay much attention to this topic as it made me uncomfortable but I have changed my mind since I read your comment. Thanks for your clarity.

  29. True Native

    Stealth Bomber: How many more times are you going to post the same rubbish in one day? You don’t even believe your own words? You have to convince yourself? because you sure as heck ain’t convincing anyone else. Enough already.

    ***************************

    Hi True Native… bfp here.

    We have deleted SB’s duplicate comments and he/she will hopefully learn that this is a community, not an advertising service. As we always say… if he/she doesn’t like it, they can start their own blog in 15 minutes at wordpress.com.

    Thanks for the tip True Native

    Cheers!

    Robert

  30. Zulu

    For a change I just wanted to read the different points of view on a rather interesting topic but one sickhead a.k.a. Stealth bomber seems not to understand anything proper. He is posting the same faeces on every blog today.
    Let common sense prevail and go and follow your leader and drink some brown rum

  31. Zulu

    I heard that the boss man likes white rum. Sorry

  32. David

    Gobeithio
    One of the pioneers of environmental stewardship in Barbados was the late Colin Hutson, who founded ‘The Future Centre’ Trust. Just the name ‘The Future Centre’ is a phrase worthy of hours of contemplation. Think about it, let the three words roll off your tongue inside your head awhile.

    In addition to The Future Centre, Colin invented the sugar cane harvester, and sold the rights to it for 1 dollar, because he didn’t care about the money, only wanting to make it easier to reap cane.

    Colin always went on and on about sustainable development. He said sustainable development is the only kind of development that will matter in the long run. Many agree with him.

    Sustainable development is defined as one that makes money (a profit) when it is considered economically, but when it is considered environmentally it is defined as one that can be ongoing without damaging the environment longterm. True sustainability lies within both these definitions in modern day.

    Examples of sustainable development are investments in agriculture, gardens in tourism, wind energy as opposed to energy from burning fuels (that contributes to pollution and global warming).

    In other words, Colin said we should live within our means and be environmentally sustainable at the same time. Owen, are you listening to this?

    When we look around at the new double-laned roads, the cars, the race-tracks, the fast food restaurants, we can only wonder what Colin might be thinking if he were here today?

    We build roads and plant houses, we do not plant trees or food crops, preferring to import. When we ask farmers why; some may say that to create a food “glut” drives prices down! What do you think of that? Heaven forbid cheap food! Plantations are left fallow for years in order to subdivide.

    The effort to plant fruit bearing trees is therefore seen in this light as contrary to the development plan in Barbados, and to the interest of the land-owners.

    This is something that urgently needs to be changed in Barbados.

  33. BFP

    Hi Citizen First and other thinkers…

    As we struggle for the meaning of life and what is moral or immoral, Citizen First and some others have decided that what is moral (ie: Universal Standards) is merely what a certain group of people agree to.

    Citizen First said “First, we identify what I would call the centre- that body of ideas and values that the majority can identify with (i.e. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights).”

    But what makes your choice the “moral” or correct choice, CF? Because a majority of people in a certain physical boundary agree to it? Suppose they agree to something totally different… then what?

    If the choice of the majority is what is “moral” then we have problems should the majority choose something different from what that group of bureaucrats chose at the UN.

    If what is “moral” is decided by 50% plus 1 – a simple majority – then this “universal standard” you talk about will change with the times.

    Hardly seems a proper way to determine what is moral or not…

  34. Stealth Bomber

    Zulu

    take it easy. I am certsinly not a drinker of alcohol but certainyl if i were i’d rather follow a man who once drank it, than an opposition leader who buys, supplies and uses marijuana before every speech i make. isn’t he looking pale enough already ?

  35. Maat

    If humanism considers scientific or rational thinking as the core for salvation, then why would it appear that they first take the supernatural out of the equation?. Why consider Einstein or other past scientists more seriously than writers on God and the nature of the Creator.?
    This line of thinking does not seem to be objective as it is somewhat unreasonable to rationally discuss our future without inclusion of the probability of a guiding, purposeful entity. To put it simply; In the same way that we humans can take various sounds, mix them together to create another set of sounds, that we call music, is it too difficult to consider that other entities can also manipulate the sounds or endless variety of vibrations that make up the universe into other forms?. Be those forms trees, rivers or plants. This is not guessing, this is what we see around us.
    Humanists and many others who consider intellect as the superior guiding light, can use that intellect to investigate the bountiful information that exists on peoples experiences with God or the so called supernatural. Dismissing these experiences by referring to them as a part of the confusion that comes with religion is not a scientific approach, as one does not have to be affiliated to religion to have faith or know God.
    Each humanist can test the theory of the existence of God or the supernatural.
    We pick up information in many ways and certain parts of our brains puts it into some perspective. It is estimated that for all the great things we do and understand, that we still use only a small percentage of what seems to be our mental capacity.
    Consider that all things around us are vibrating, in effect making sounds, most of which we cannot hear and therefore bring into perspective with our minds. Try silence for a short while. Turn off your intellect for a moment if you are not afraid. Let the inaudible sounds (vibrations) that are all around you be absorbed in your mind by turning off your internal conversation and limited definitions.
    When you can do this you will have awareness of your true nature as a part of the greater creative forces.

    Peace

  36. Maat

    Sustainable environmental management is more easily undertaken if we attach it to a divine or spiritual purpose that out weighs our human criteria or direction for development. Humanity wants aluminium smelters and factories to produce cars; these create jobs etc, yet punish the environment. In the relatively short time from the beginning of the industrial revolution until now, we have utilised massive amounts of the Earths resources, seen the extinction of many more species of plants and animals than for thousands of years before and it would appear have bought the planet to the point of no return in some environmental concerns.
    This is not pessimism, but is meant to indicate that mans ability to manage the environment, without over riding divine purpose, has not been beneficial. Fortunately divine principles call for us to live a particular lifestyle that serves to preserve and enhance our environment. The enactment of these principles in daily life goes further than taking a hike in the hills after having parked our SUV down the road. It calls for daily dedication and commitment that will in turn maintain our bodies and mind and spirit in good health.

    Peace

  37. Citizen First

    to the BFP
    I really am at a loss as to your concern. Every society at any given point in time operates according to some set of rules. Whatever the rules these originate with citizens of the society. The degree to which these rules characterise and guide the general behaviour of the society will be a reflection of the popular support the rules enjoy coupled with ability/ power of ruling elites to enforce compliance with the rules. Sometimes these rules are determined out of debate and discussion and sometimes out of violent confrontation (the American revolution, the French revolution, the Haitian revolution and on and on). This process is termed Politics.

    So I can think of no other reasonable way of determining the set of rules Barbadians will abide by other than by reference to the will of the majority.

    I have two responses to the BFP

    1. Which of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights do you find objectionable or immoral?

    2. How should the rules by which Barbados organises itself be determined?

    To Gobeitho,

    Our first Prime Minister, E.W. Barrow, some 40 years ago commended the work of E.F.Schumacher
    particularly his book “Small is Beautiful”. I was privileged as a teenager to hear Dr Schumacher speak at Caribbean Devlopment Bank. I understand that his work and thoughts provided much of the foundation of what we call Sustainable Development. So it is possible that in our early years of nationhood, the philosophy of people centered development and sustainable development (with environmental sensibility) may have been in the policy matrix guiding the development of this island. Ironically, it would appear that our success at attaining and maintaining a relatively high standard of living has now become the biggest threat to achieving sustainable development.

    So my question to you, how do we pullback from the ecological precipice? What examples do you have of communities curbing their appetite for more and more of everything and being satisfied to live within their means?

  38. BFP

    Hi Citizen First

    From my view it is really all about a Philosophy 101 question…

    Without “God” how do we know what is “good” and what is “bad” morally?

    If there is no God or higher authority to declare what is moral and immoral, and we establish what is “moral” only through agreement or a democratic vote, then who is to say one position is any truer or better than the other?

    Your “Universal standards” are anything but “universal”. They are merely what you have chosen to declare as “universal”.

    The government and most of the people of Iran, for instance, would disagree with your “universal standards”. Why is your position “more right” than theirs?

    Because you feel it is?

  39. Citizen First

    My position is not “more right”. It’s just a position and if the majority shares it then that’s the way we’ll go. That’s how it works in the “real” world.

    Interesting that you should mention the Iranians as they would passionately claim that they are certainly following God so I must be wrong.

    I just called God to ask Him what His views are… seems the line is busy!

    but you can still answer my two questions! Since you brought God into the discussion, I will amend question 2 to ask: In a multi religious society how should the rules by which Barbados organises itself be determined ?

  40. Citizen First

    To the BFP,

    Not to be rude but sleep is now overtaking me. Will check in the morning. Thanks for the late night company.

  41. BFP

    Hi Citizen First…

    Know what you mean… pulling a night shift here.

    I think we are about to have a meeting of the minds although not in the way you might have contemplated…

    You say… “My position is not “more right”. It’s just a position and if the majority shares it then that’s the way we’ll go. That’s how it works in the “real” world. ”

    … Which means that you don’t claim that your position is more “moral” than another… just that you have a majority.

    Which kind of proves my point that without morality as handed down from God or divinity… there is no “wrong or right” – merely an agreement amongst people as to how things should be done.

    Do you agree?

  42. A lot of good posts here, but I want to directly answer Maat. If you go up the first post in this thread, then in the fourth paragraph you see that I already agree with you on not discounting the supernatural out of hand. We are most certainly up for scientific enquiry of religious experience, and I find the recent successes in correlating religious experience with brain activity to be incredibly exciting. If you want some reference material on that just let me know.
    We can’t rely on science for everything, but the bits that it doesn’t give us, I would rather take from personal and social experience, the recorded history of humanity (including religious texts) and a number of other variables (which could conceivably include elements of what we presently label as supernatural), than I would from accepting divine revelation. I recently completed a course in mindfulness which was run by Buddhists, and am quite enthusiastic about it. The advice that your first post closes wih is exactly the sort of thing that the monks and myself would enjoy – but again, there is absolutely no requirement to believe in specific supernatural entities in order to benefit from it.
    Okay, your second post, that’s where we diverge, big time!

    1) Whilst pessimistic about Man’s historical record, and much of what we see around us today, I am confident that we are able to do the job without needing to believe in a greater divine purpose.
    2) I don’t believe that we’ll do a better job if we attach divine purpose.
    3) I believe that we are less likely to succeed if we attach divine purpose.

    It would be churlish of me to cite the plethora of examples where Religious inspired establishments, and most definitely even Religious bodies themselves, have been proactively and often wilfully detrimental to the environment. Whilst I applaud elements of religion which emphasise living in harmony with nature, helping the poor and doing your bit for society, I find it very easy to rationally arrive at the 3 conclusions noted above.

    If religion is a source of inspiration for you to live in a more ecological way, and to do your bit to build a more environmentally sustainable Barbados, then I would encourage and urge you to do so, and I genuinely wish you the very best, and hope that we can help each other to make it happen.

  43. Citizen First asked 2 questions of me which I will do my best to answer: How do we pull back from the ecological precipice? What examples do you have of communities curbing their appetite for more and more of everything and being satisfied to live within their means?

    Your choice of words suggests you have read part of our website, thankyou for that. We pull back from the ecological precipice by integrating ecology into every sphere of life. I liked Maat’s example, where someone can drive their highly polluting SUV into the hills and then go for a hike enjoying the countryside – that might be an example of a person who has not allowed his enjoyment of the countryside to ‘pollute’ his views on socially acceptable transport. If he has 9 kids, 3 grandparents, 6 dogs and a wheelchair bound wife, then an SUV might be the most environmentally form of transport for him, but a lot of the SUVs I see are driven by Mams taking their child on the school run.
    So, the first thing is integration of ecology as a variable in all spheres of life. The second thing is embracing the concept that common sense should determine society’s actions. Whilst I favour evolution over revolution, this seems to be a pretty radical departure from normality !
    Thirdly, where the individual embraces the idea that, in addition to making himself happy, he accepts social responsibility, then we are on the best foot first in tackling ecological problems. Now, anyone with a decent grasp on reality, knows that people are imperfect, and that some despicable people will only seek to engratiate their immediate desires and thus not be environmentally responsible. The bigger problem comes next – that another category of people, who are actually good folk, environmentally conscious and want to help society, they see this despicable bunch taking the ****, and reason that they shouldn’t sacrifice short term gains if those b**tards over there are going to get away with it, and this category of people also falls off the wagon. This is a difficult one, but there are solutions. Legislation, enforcement of that legislation, and judicial account must come into play here. The infamous nany police used in China is an interesting option – these are elderly women used to ensure that the population controls are adhered to: This invidious social control is not attractive to me, as it smacks of Orwellian Big Brother. But we are now delving into the relationship between the individual and society, and onto Mill’s distinction between positive and negative liberty. I would however, favour social pressure to allow acceptability, though we must keep an eye on it.
    Fourthly – materialism must be addressed. Capitalism works, it creates wealth and fulfils needs, but the overwhelming majority of sensible people (yes, my use of “sensible” is subjectively bias to my own opinion) would not want anything other than a mixed economy.
    Fifthly, we were all perked up by David’s post on the teaching of environmentalism in schools. This would need to continue to evolve, and at an even quicker rate, to allow future generations a better stab at answering these questions than the system which produced us. I recently found an old article on the web, which invited a debate about curbing our air travel for environmental reasons. From memory, this was in 2000 – some years before air pollution was allowed to become a seriously hot topic. I suspect that if some of the contributors could revisit what they had posted 7 years ago in indignation that governments and NGOs might interfere and hamper their choice to travel where they want as often as they want, then some of them would be mortified. The environmental debate is fluid, and some options which do not appear reasonable now, may well appear reasonable when things hit the fan in a few years time, though I hope that, vice versa, the complete opposite of that will come to pass instead.

    I hope the following count well enough to be the examples you seek:
    Ten years ago, the marketing sector correctly identified that environmental factors would become an important selling point in the future, and this has indeed happened. Take the explosion in fair trade goods such as coffee, the organic market, or the campaigns against large companies who apparently act badly – Nestle, Nike, etc. Consumers are increasingly likely to inspect the country of origin of their goods and consider whether the purchase justifies it having been shipped across the world (a difficult judgement, as sometimes they come from third world countries completely dependent on the consumer continuing to buy that product). People are becoming more aware of unnecessary packaging on goods. These small things can make a huge difference. In the 1990’s, America and Germany were streets ahead of most of the world in terms of encouraging recycling. Interestingly, for all Tony (god complex) Blair’s good work in taking environmentalism up the international agenda, the principal driver in house to house recycling in UK has been the threat of litigation by the European Union for missing landfill targets.
    The package holiday season has commenced in Europe, but this Spring, the beaches on the German coast were far more packed than usual, and enquiry discovered that a considerable percentage of the tourists decided to stay local to Germany as they couldn’t justify the air pollution generated by jetting off the Mediterranean. This has huge ramifications for Barbados and Guyanas’ tourism industry, and is something we need to be ahead of the game on. In my country of origin, there is a settlement in the next county called “tee-pee valley”, which is a commune set up by people who live as ecologically as possible. Then there are examples of communities which place less emphasis on materialism, and perhaps the jain or buddhist approach would interest people with Maat’s perspective.
    We are going to have to deal with issues of choice, black marketeering, and the loss of certain luxuires, but this does not mean we cannot become more propserous in material and non material terms. Indeed, in the light of possible social upheaval, drought, rising sea levels, resource driven conflict, extremist ideology and religiosity, poverty, global heating – environmental humanism is sounding an attractive way to go.

  44. David, thankyou. A Guyanese advised me of the Future Centre Trust some while back, though my letter to them was never replied to. They are certainly people I would want to engage with. This conversation in Barbados is actually on my own initiative, and I haven’t involved the Guyanese guys. This blog introduced me to the Temas blog (temasactuales.com), and I am hoping this chap will respond to my recent letter, as we have a politician in an interior region of Guyana who is ready and willing to help us with recycling. There are other organisations also that I would like to deal with, but need more likeminded people to kick things off.
    We are trying to increase the wind energy sector in Guyana – through approaching potential sponsors, and speaking with other groups. I am waiting for a Dutch friend to approach a company in Curacao at the moment.
    Perhaps the remark about creating a food glut would resonate with those of Irish descent, especially if their ancestors came to the Caribbean as a result of the famine in the 1840′s, which occurred in spite of there being plenty of grain in the British Isles overall. This is the sort of lack of common sense that I spoke of in my previous post.
    Ultimately, we have to find a way to work wihin the system to ensure that the short term desires of landowners do not determine the longterm wellbeing of the island. This requires motivation of people who might be happy to complain, but less willing to contribute to a coordinated attempt to ensure common sense prevails.

  45. Citizen First

    Morality is about how I treat others. What is “Good” or “Bad” is determined by the effect my behaviour has on another. An individual therefore cannot independently of others establish a moral code. ALL good (moral) codes, standards or norms arise out of discussion between numbers of persons who sincerely intend to bound by the agreed code. It can be objectively determined if a particular course of action or behavior is moral by observing the effect on others. The most moral position is thus that of the Golden Rule. If you believe that this came from the Divine that’s allright but even if you don’t believe in God and still approve of the Rule then that’s allright too.

    There are lots of gods in the human mindscape and given that nearly every community is today multi-ethnic and multi-religious, please answer question 2 that I posed before.

    On reflection I will retract my comment that my position is not “more right”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the moral position and I am yet to hear any rational argument that dismisses the articles contained therein.

  46. Rumplestilskin

    But one can know what is right or wrong in a specific situation without first discussing it with the other participants i.e. driving daily and seeing the absolute disregard for both the ‘rule’ of law, disregard and disrespect for the other participants (drivers) and downright brutal attitude as evidenced by many drivers, the most common example being ZR’s, but not limited thereto.

    Such reflects the downward spiral along which we have sunk in behaviour.

    No doubt many will say that such reflects the move away from churches/ representations of whatever faith.

    To some extent this may be true, to some extent. It also reflects the lack of family values and the family structure. While such structure has previously been aided by ‘structured’ religion as a method of coommunity adhesion, it does not depend on those structured choices of community religion but moreso on favourable retention or adverse adandonment of family and individual values passed from previous generations.

    People ask such questionsas why have the West Indies team failed for the last few years. Management structure and planning, team building and committment and individual committment certainly appear to be the culprits, but such derives from the communities from where the participants come. Thus, their actions and behaviour reflects their individual and collective experiences.

    Unfortunately, we hear so often, as noted above, that we are a Christian society.

    What does this mean? Are the ‘sinners’ those many who are fornicating, imbibing, gambling, stealing etc etc?

    Fornication and drink seems to be a national pastime.

    So, are the sinners the few or the many?

    Will a few confessionals ‘sort out’ the problems of these sins?

    How exactly does being a ‘Christian’ society help us move forward?

    I personally have no problem with any religion or belief system. Such is individual in my opinion.

    I refuse to accept that persons do not know right from wrong. The behaviour exhibited reflects one thing.

    They do NOT CARE. They were never taught to care by parents and their environment llent itself well to the belligerent, disrespectful behaviour seen today.

    Thus, my point is that no faith-based structure will solve our problems unless such structure also places strict limitations on actions. And by strict limitations does not mean a few confessionals.

    Likewise, without such a faith based system, the dependence is on education (true & full education), rules and laws, and STRICT application thereof.

    Pretty draconian and not a good way to be going.

  47. Inkwell

    I am disappointed, but not surprised that BFP Robert has not attempted to answer my question….why would an omnipotent and omniscient God create an imperfect being…man?

    Seems I was right after all; there can be no discussion on the evolution/creation subject.

  48. BFP

    Why would a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?

    Why would a perfect God create imperfect man (and woman)?

    Ever read Job, Inkwell?

    Most folks miss the most important part in the story. We all know the story… good guy Job is attacked by Satan, loses everything, still loves God and ends up begging in the streets. No friends left, all his children dead. Beggar.

    Most important part of the story…?

    Satan could not attack Job without God’s permission… and Satan doesn’t even bother to ask permission until God says…

    “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”

    So the Lord invited the attack upon Job – for His purpose.

    Some things have to be taken on faith. When my father was alive I would hate him at times for how hard he was with me.

    Now I understand.

    This might not be enough of an explanation for you, but for me it is fine.

    Perhaps some other more scholarly folks might want to reply to Inkwell.

    g’ night folks… I’m off to bed.

    R

  49. Yardbroom

    Citizen First
    ” Morality is about how I treat others. What is “good” or bad is determined by the effect my behaviour has on another”

    I can see the point you are making, but the morality aspect presents certain difficulties. I cannot address it now as I have a plane to catch, but if this tread is still live later. I will “attempt” to address it.

  50. True Native

    Fresh off the British Daily Mail newspaper: “The Australian government has banned its cricket team from playing in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.” Prime Minister John Howard has even threatened to suspend the players’ passports if the sport’s governing body did not abide by his decision! Oh, what a courageous hero this man is! Would that we could find at least one politician here with such guts! Mr. Howard and his government have also made it unmistakably clear to Muslims living in Australia that they MUST abide by Australian laws or GET OUT!
    In another section of world news, Mr. Nicholas Sarkozy of France has vowed to “tear down” the Sangatte refugee centre at Calais and to get tough on illegal immigrants. There is a glimmer of hope in the world!

  51. Crusty

    It is unclear to me why religion must be invoked
    in the formulation of a moral code. Is it because
    the unconstrained human nature is essentially
    bestial and it is convenient to cite an external
    authority in efforts to constrain it? The “noble
    savage” does not exist. Life in earlier times was
    “nasty, brutish and short”.

    For a large and growing portion of the human race,
    we live in a time of surplus. Those who accept the
    evolutionary theory will also accept that the human
    mind developed under very different circumstances.

    A hundred thousand years ago it was:
    - Eat what you find/kill today or die tomorrow.
    - The mass of humanity barely impacted on nature
    despite local deforestation, slaughter of local
    animal herds, and local pollution of groundwater.
    - Defend your family or tribe from the slightest
    attack with the greatest offensive behaviour to
    avoid any perceived threat.
    - Patriarchal structures are sensible when might
    is right.
    - Magic was more powerful than science. Lack of
    medicine meant death was possible from a simple
    cut.

    These factors applied as recently as 1850 when the
    world population reached one billion people.

    Today we have:
    - Burgeoning waistlines and obesity related chronic
    diseases are the threat to personal well-being.
    - Disciplined forces (police, military) substitute for
    individual force applied at levels beyond the family.
    - It is now accepted that human action is altering
    global climate.
    - Science is well established at explaining cause
    and effect, including the behavioural consequences
    of brain chemistry.

    Human circumstances have changed. Why should
    I or anyone else believe that something written
    4000 (Torah, Confucius, or Hammurabi’s Code),
    2000 (Bible), or 1100 (Koran) years ago is in anyway
    relevant to prescribing or proscribing human
    behaviour today?

  52. Apologies for interrupting a stimulating part of the thread,. May we please turn to Guyana for a moment?
    The extraction companies are lining up to tear the rainforest to pieces. Not only has too much logging been allowed there, but the loggers are also taking a lot of ancient hardwood illegally. We’ve all grown up hearing horror stories about the destruction of the rainforest, but things are different now.

    Protecting the Guyanese rainforest is something Bajans can actually do something about. Can you disagree that inaction in this situation amounts to contributory blame ?

    The leader in today’s The Independent newspaper:

    http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/climate_change/article2539349.ece

  53. I see nobody disagreed.

    This story is timely and pertinent to the discussion we have had so far:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6648265.stm

    It relates how some US evangelists are dismissing global warming as liberal hype, whilst others are positively engaged in addressing it. The article concludes by pointing out that opposing factions apparently quote the same extracts from Scripture to support their views – which ties in nicely with the point made by many people, and quite succinctly by Crusty, that surely we can do better than refer to holy books and religion, whose natural agenda can prevent clarity.

    One can understand the difficulties of “The Right” in America in trying to present a cohesive world view for evangelicals and the industrialist lobby alike, when many of the former are not blind to what is going on around them.

    They reckon this summer is going to be an atypical swelterer on the North East Seaboard – perhaps this will move the debate forward again. But tell me, why do Caribbean people need to wait for America to come to the conclusions which many of us arrived at a long time ago ?

    The longer we delay, the more difficult it will be.

  54. Inkwell

    BFP Robert,

    It is interesting that no one took up your invitation to reply to my question, how could a perfect being create imperfect man? Does anyone have a reasoned or plausible answer?

    I have read Job and have done research on the various interpretations and I have to conclude after consideration that the story in no way answers my question. And it really is a sincere question, not one attempting to goad you.

    The story of Job does possibly treat to the question you raised.. why do bad things happen to good people and I think you may be on safer ground there. However your statement that Satan could not tempt Job without God’s permission and that God invited the attack on him raises yet another conundrum, in my mind at least. Has God given Satan permission to inflict endless trials and tribulations, pain and suffering on all generations past and future to test their faith?

    Why then do we continue to see so many bad things happening to so many good people?

    Some enlightenment would be appreciated.

  55. rights

    Check out the creation story.

    God made us individuals and gave us rights, including the right to make our own choices here on Earth and we screwed up so he put plan B into place so that we had more options and more chances to do things differently.

    We still have choices and the way I look at it we are living here for a very short time but whatever comes after, if anything, will be forever.

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