Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism.
That’s how Wikipedia starts its article on Humanism. Humanists (and I count myself as one) believe that it is possible to ethical and fulfilling lives without the need to rely on supernatural explanations. As the British Humanist Association says:
We take responsibility for our actions and base our ethics on the goals of human welfare, happiness and fulfilment. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves, individually and together.
Surely it’s hard to take offence at these beliefs?
Step forward Nadine Dorries. In a blog post late on Friday night she took an altogether different view of Humanism, saying “I am not sure why anyone would admit to being a humanist and part of an organisation which has such extreme views.”
And what are these “extreme views” that some humanist organisation holds? She explains:
A humanist recently commented that, not only did he believe that abortion was acceptable right up to the moment of birth, but that termination of a child’s life was acceptable up until the point where the child had the ability to reason, understand and justify life.
Now, I don’t know if a humanist recently said that or not. Dorries doesn’t deem it important to give us a reference so that we can confirm her claim. So, of course, the claim should be seen on the same level as something that some bloke down the pub said he’d read on the internet once. In fact her blog post is likely to become the source that is used to justify conversations like that. Spreading unsubstantiated rumours like this is never helpful. But it’s a tactic that Dorries specialises in.
And, of course, even if someone say what Dorries claims, extrapolating the beliefs of a whole group of people from one extremist is ridiculous. To illustrate that, here are a few other “facts”. Just to redress the balance.
- A Christian once commented that all homosexuals should be chemically castrated. I’m not sure why anyone would admit to being part of an organisation which holds such extreme views.
- A Tory once told commented that he wanted to make the NHS into a marketplace. I’m not sure why anyone would admit to being part of an organisation which holds such extreme views.
- An MP once commented that she thought it was acceptable for a politician’s blog to be 70% fiction. I’m not sure why anyone would admit to being part of an organisation which holds such extreme views.
You might be wondering what humanists have done to invoke Dorries’ anger. The New Humanist magazine holds an annual “Bad Faith” poll to dishonour “the year’s most outspoken enemy of reason”. This year’s poll opened last week and Dorries is one of the nominations. Even before her bizarre outburst, she was in the lead. Now she has over twice the number of votes of her nearest competitor. I never thought I’d write this, but please… Vote For Dorries.
Update: In a blog post yesterday, Dorries published the “proof” of her claims. It turns out that the “recent” comment by a humanist is an out-of-context quote from a book that Peter Singer wrote in 1979. It’s clear that Dorries has a vastly different understanding of the meaning of the words “proof” and “recent” to the rest us.
The Ministry of Truth does a fine job of deconstructing Dorries’ claims.