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The Naturalistic Outlook: Skeptical Inquiry & Secular Humanism Justin Trottier Executive Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada.

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Presentation on theme: "The Naturalistic Outlook: Skeptical Inquiry & Secular Humanism Justin Trottier Executive Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Naturalistic Outlook: Skeptical Inquiry & Secular Humanism Justin Trottier Executive Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada

2 Presentation Agenda Free Thought - origins, definitions Principles of Humanism/Naturalism The Scientific Outlook History of Disbelief (video) FAQ About Us Questions "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." (Isaac Newton)

3 The Naturalistic Outlook FREE & CRITICAL THOUGHT ---> a) skeptical inquiry (methodology) PART 1 ---> b) scientific naturalism (worldview) PART 2

4 Critical Thinking Review Scientific, Skeptical, Critical reasoning - science comes from latin scire "to know" - science can deal with purely academic or intellectual concerns and more practical concerns - scientific reasoning the most popular form of attainng knowledge concerning cause and erffect relationships of physical world - double blind experiments increases objectivity: neither the researchers nor the subjects are aware of who are in the control group and the test group - levels of explanation: -->hypothesis (educated guess, working idea to explain particular phenomenon accepted tentatively) -->model (analogy, like a map or DNA double helix) -->theory (strongest type of scientific explanation, well developed and confirmed explanation) -->law (rules by which things function, general principles in which to understand particular instances) - scientific method - ex. what killed the dinosaurs? (disease? ice age? meteor?) - pseudoscience: generally appeal from ignorance, pseudo = fake or not real -> CSICOP extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (Carl Sagan)

5 Important Terms Weak atheism: - a disbelief in the positive claim of god’s existence - similar to some forms of agnosticism - god claim is “Temporary Agnosticism in Practice”, not “Permanent Agnosticism in Principle” Strong atheism: - a belief in the claim of god’s non existence Agnosticism: - A suspension of judgement in light of not having enough information - strong or weak depending on whether individual believes god’s existence and non-existence are equally likely or that it is impossible to approach the question Secularism: -“of or relating to the worldly or temporal, not ecclesiastical or clerical - political neutrality with respect to religion or belief vs. unbelief

6 Important Names atheist (secular) humanist freethinker secularist infidel/heretic

7 Planetary Humanism Principles of Humanism Read from Humanist Manifesto 2000 (Section on V Ethics and Reason and III Scientific Naturalism) Scientific worldview The Centrality of Evolution Scientific outlook and Democracy

8 Brief History of Disbelief Video

9 Notable Freethinkers/ Humanists Voltaire Robert Green Ingersoll Albert Einstein Thomas Jefferson Charles Darwin Gloria Steinam Mark Twain Susan B. Anthony Lance Armstrong Julia Sweeney Ron Reagan Margaret Sanger Carl Sagan Bertrand Russell David Hume Clarence Darrow George Carlin George Clooney Barbara Ehrenreich Harrison Ford Jodie Foster Sigmund Freud Ulysses S. Grant Lorraine Hansberry Alice Walker Mary Wollstonecraft Frances Wright

10 Frequently Asked Questions Why do I care about people’s personal beliefs? - People have the freedom to express themselves openly - But actions which hinder the freedoms of others should be curtailed eg. medical issues like denying blood transfusion, leads to violence, intrudes on secularism, stops children from appreciating science - Indoctrination which Limits a child’s ability to make a free choice later in life should concern us - All beliefs should be open to public criticism and debate Must religion and ethics go together? - not necessarily, religions cherry pick from their books and traditions and must decide to follow their religion based on a personal conscience based decision - religious leaders take inconsistent positions on most major issues (eg. suffrage, slavery) - Euthryphor paradox? do gods love actions because they are right or are they right because gods love them? - Ethical progress occurred in places and times in which religious power was lessened - Evolutionary psychology – groups tend to promote moral strategies in all complex social species

11 Frequently Asked Questions What is the response from religious groups?  Great, lots of organizations to work with! eg. One School System Network  Pro-secular moderate religious allies include: Muslim Canadian Congress (co-hosted secular muslim meetups at CFI) Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity (book launch) Oraynu Congregation for Humanistic Judaism (joint conference)  Cross promote events  CFI becoming a major part of the ethical landscape  Humanist councillor at U of T  Does God Exist debates with campus for christ  Globe and Mail and Michael Coren show panels

12 Frequently Asked Questions Would anything convince you of god’s existence? - First, Define god clearly (what is omnisciences?) - Second, Reconcile the contradictions in the definition of god - I could be convinced of a very powerful being (eg. stars lining up to give a message) - Creator/deistic god: no evidence could ever disprove this so none could prove - Whose god? - What evidence would convince you of god’s non-existence? Dangers of religious belief - reaffirms acceptability of choosing beliefs on bad evidence - can lead to bad public and parental decisions - can lead to self righteous infallibility (eg. Spanish conquest)

13 Frequently Asked Questions What is it like to be an atheist? Does life have meaning and purpose? Purpose not defined for us, not defined externally, but is our own (not absolute, but objective by consensus) is it really meaningful to YOU if someone tells you what’s meaningful? Religions never define what meaning is -> Is it just spreading belief? Worshipping god? What is your response to suffering and evil? An unfortunate part of human existence But we can use human reason, science, technology and critical thinking to pull through We should not be arrogant to attribute our personal suffering and salvation to god

14 Frequently Asked Questions What do you think about death and afterlife? We live through our accomplishments and the way we change the people around us Consider how unlikely we are to even be living now Is it satisfying being an atheist? It is refreshing and beautiful seeing world as really us and being open to fallibility Humanist worldview offers a sense of deep connection to web of life, 15Billion yr cosmic evolution, born from star stuff, etc Being open to anything, not worried that next discovery will shatter our worldview

15 What is the Centre for Inquiry Mission: to promote “science, reason, secularism and freedom of inquiry” in all areas of human endeavour CFI’s rational and motives: “Although modern world civilization is based upon the achievements of science and technology, until this time there has been no authoritative and credible voice defending the scientific outlook in examining religion, human values, and the borderlands of science.” Interested in 3 main areas: 1. Paranormal & fringe science claims (UFOs, psychics, ghosts, etc) 2. Medicine and Health (complementary and alternative medicine) 3. Religion, ethics & society What do we do? Events (presentations, debates, discussions) Social/Community services Political advocacy Campus outreach Multimedia Welcomed over 3,000 people to CFI

16 What is the Centre for Inquiry Major accomplishments - Established the first physical home for humanists in Canada - Built a coalition that stopped public funding to currently private faith schools - Worked with a coalition that ended religious arbitration, establishing One law for all Ontarians - Built the first series of alliances between humanists and faith groups - Attained National TV, radio or newspaper press every month - Given regular appearances in the Globe and Mail and Michael Coren TV show faith/ethics panels - Invited to address a legislative committee during the Lord’s Prayer review - Established over 30 campus groups and 3 Communities for Inquiry across Canada - Established the first humanist councillor among campus chaplaincy

17 Political Activities Education Issues: see below Atheism Equality Issues: - Charity law - Involvement in multicultural discussions and ethics panels - Changing traditions to reflect “theist club” (eg. public prayers) - Religious accommodations - Campus funding to faith centres that do not include atheists Church-State Separation Issues: - Government-funded Catholic schools (expensive, discriminatory, insulting to science and free inquiry, atheist schools?) - Supremacy of god in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Inclusion of god in the National Anthem

18 Political Activities Individual Rights over Group Rights: - Public funding to faith schools - One common law for all citizens Integrity of Science Issues: - Evolution covered poorly - No class in critical thinking - Government cuts to research, science and the Office of the Science Advisor: Free Speech Issues: Free Speech is the most Fundamental Human Right; There is no Human Right to Not be Offended!

19 Conclusions Get Involved Apply Free Inquiry in your daily life (skepticism, naturalism, etc) Further Reading Questions?

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