Tuesday, July 2, 2013

An Atheists Critique of Secular Humanist Progressivism



"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

Atheist Philosopher John Gray, in his new book The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths, argues that the secular humanist belief in progress based on reason goes against science and history and is nothing but a superstition. He writes:

“The evidence of science and history is that humans are only ever partly and intermittently rational, but for modern humanists the solution is simple: human beings must in future be more reasonable. These enthusiasts for reason have not noticed that the idea that humans may one day be more rational requires a greater leap of faith than anything in religion.”

In an earlier work, Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, he was more blunt: “Outside of science, progress is simply a myth.”

According to a review in The National Interest:

"Though for decades his reputation was confined largely to intellectual circles, Gray’s public profile rose significantly with the 2002 publication of Straw Dogs, which sold impressively and brought him much wider acclaim than he had known before. The book was a concerted and extensive assault on the idea of progress and its philosophical offspring, secular humanism. The Silence of Animals is in many ways a sequel, plowing much the same philosophical ground but expanding the cultivation into contiguous territory mostly related to how mankind—and individual humans—might successfully grapple with the loss of both metaphysical religion of yesteryear and today’s secular humanism. The fundamentals of Gray’s critique of progress are firmly established in both books and can be enumerated in summary.

First, the idea of progress is merely a secular religion, and not a particularly meaningful one at that. 'Today,' writes Gray in Straw Dogs, 'liberal humanism has the pervasive power that was once possessed by revealed religion. Humanists like to think they have a rational view of the world; but their core belief in progress is a superstition, further from the truth about the human animal than any of the world’s religions.'"

To read the rest of the review in National Interest, see here.

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