The Atheist Missionary tweeted me a link to a short video produced by the British Humanist Association (BHA) with the comment: “A short informative video on humanism for your seminary students”.
Here it is. It’s only two minutes so give it a go before you continue with the article…
I had two initial reactions. I will devote this article to the first reaction and a second article to the deeper (and more problematic) reaction.
So to begin with, the first reaction was initially a general puzzlement since the video, which ends with the declaration “this is humanism!” is not, in fact, concerned with humanism per se. Rather, it is concerned with epistemology, and more specifically with what appears to be a tacit endorsement of scientism. This much is evident from the fact that the video answers the question “How do we know what is true?” by invoking the methods of science.
While I was initially perplexed that the video would seem to equate humanism with scientism, a quick check online revealed that this video is one in a series of “That’s humanism!” videos, each of which is intended to address one aspect of what the BHA apparently believes to be elements in a humanist worldview. So at least that made some more sense: the BHA believes that humanism includes a commitment to scientism.
But at that point my puzzlement shifted to surprise and amusement that this video presents a self-defeating account of humanism. Let me explain.
Consider that scientific knowledge produces descriptive facts, i.e. facts about natural structures, processes, and laws. What science doesn’t give us is value facts, i.e. facts concerning what ought to be valued. And yet, humanism is predicated on value facts, i.e. the fact that the human species is valuable and the flourishing of human beings collectively ought to be valued by individual human beings.
As a result, if we accept the BHA’s endorsement of scientism, then our knowledge is limited to descriptive facts, a consequence that undermines our ability to know the very value facts that under-gird any commitment to humanism. In other words, the BHA has produced an account of humanism that undermines any rational ground to assent to the truth of humanism, and it did this in just over two minutes. That’s quite an accomplishment! I always appreciate it when atheists and humanists generously help the Christian apologist by taking the time to refute their own views. 🙂
As bad as that is, it isn’t even the worst thing about this video. For that, stay tuned for part 2.