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Ethical Culture - reply to Ralph

From: Don W.
Sent on: Thursday, November 19, 2009 7:31 PM

WES has a new leader who came in roughly three years ago, after I left.  She was trained in the Unitarian tradition so she is not even an ethical culturalist.  I am also told that she uses the ���God��� word.  As the proper name of a fictional character it is grammatically correct to capitalize ���God���  although freethinkers are obviously going to differ on that.  WES (the last I heard) now has dual affiliations with national bodies.  They pay dues to both the Ethical Culture and Unitarian national organizations.

Some of my friends in Machar report that it is very nearly a requirement to engage in social service and activism.  That would clearly fall into your ���goody-two-shoes��­� category.

In terms of a humanist ���creed��� I was rather positively impressed with the AHA effort titled: HUMANISM AND ITS ASPIRATIONS
Humanist Manifesto III, a successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933

It can be read at:

More later,


--- On Thu, 11/19/09, ralphellectual <[address removed]> wrote:

> From: ralphellectual <[address removed]>
> Subject: Re: [atheists-27] Ethical Culture - reply to Dean
> To: [address removed]
> Date: Thursday, November 19, 2009, 6:12 PM
> I had a conversation recently with
> someone who once belonged to WES, but I think it transpired
> at the Goethe-Institut, so it wasn't you. This person left
> the organization only because of the
> legal-financial-bure­aucratic structure, i.e. WES's relation
> to the national organization. He had no other complaints.
> I subscribed to the WES newsletter circa 1990, so I'm not
> competent to judge it now. However, I recall the membership
> then seemed to be divided between atheists and New Agers.
> There were seminars like "how to unleash your inner goddess"
> or somesuch.
> I've had no personal contact though, so I can't judge.
> While my contacts with Unitarians have been limited, the
> ones I've met in the past couple years are airheads.
> There is also Machar, a local representative of Humanistic
> Judaism. I believe they broke with Beth Chai a couple
> decades ago because the latter crossed the line into
> religiosity, so I was told. But my only first hand
> experience with Machar, other than running into a couple of
> its members at other venues, is from a series of historical
> lectures which were quite instructive and free of any BS.
> I'm not upscale and respectable enough or enough of a
> soft-and-cuddly social service type to feel at home in such
> organizations, I surmise. (Machar in any case is probably
> only really useful for families.) I suppose conceptually
> that Ethical Culture would be the first choice, but looking
> at it historically and conceptually, maybe not ideal. I'm
> not even so excited about formulating the principles of
> Secular Humanism as a creed (or non-creed), not because I
> disagree with them, but because goody-two-shoes ethical
> proclamations seem unreal to me.
> It seems, though, that churchy organizations have been the
> most successful format for establishing an organized
> community, organized charitable, social service, and
> political work, and a tax exemption. Decades ago I had a
> great experience at a community center that emerged from the
> spirit of the times of the '60s and '70s. It wasn't a
> humanist organization, but I think something on that order,
> tweaked to make it consonant with a secular humanist
> mission, more suits my style.
> At 05:41 PM 11/19/2009, Don Wharton wrote:
> > This is a reply to Dean in regard to his question on
> Ethical Culture.
> > 
> > Let me start by saying that ethical culture is
> probably the �������church�������­� environment that a
> freethinker would find most to his or her liking.�� My
> guess is that if I went back to WES for a meeting I would be
> surrounded by a dozen old friends and it will be a joy
> renewing my contact with them.�� None of my following
> comments should reduce in the slightest the very real human
> positives that can be found in an ethical culture
> community.�� I very much want to include finding
> interesting information in areas of science.�� These
> people in general will be better informed and have more
> thoughtful and progressive values than the average in the
> population.
> > 
> > My problem with ethical culture rests with a more
> detailed examination of the structure of intelligent
> conversation and the nature of civil discourse.�� We
> need to examine culture and the constraints that are imposed
> on our abilities to think and communicate.
> > 
> > I think I want to start with a more stark example to
> illustrate my point.�� Barbara Forrest in the AHA panel
> discussion I attended, asserted that academia was so open
> that it was becoming closed.�� That seems like an
> oxymoron.�� How can this be?
> > 
> > One of the witnesses for the opposition in Kitzmiller
> v. Dover was a postmodern philosopher who with a straight
> face asserted that the creationist nonsense from the
> Discovery Institute deserved equal standing with the
> biologists who were working hard to understand biological
> science.�� They had to dismantle the various arguments
> presented by this witness.�� Science in general cannot
> survive if fictional accounts are given equal
> standing.�� It is much easier to write fiction and if
> the writers of fiction are given equal standing, the fewer
> voices of reason will be overwhelmed.�� Since the issue
> in that case was what was to be taught in science classes,
> what was at stake was the ability of our society to teach
> science in science classes.
> > 
> > For any given scientific proposition to be true, the
> negation of that proposition must be false.�� Scientific
> validity has no meaning if that which is false cannot be
> publicly asserted to be false.�� There is a problem that
> arrizes when people presume that a false understanding of
> the world is part of their identity.�� If in that case
> someone states that the specific false understanding can be
> demonstrated to be false, there can be a perception of
> emotional pain.�� The hurt comes from the perceived
> insult to their personal identity.
> > 
> > I explicitly and knowing assert that all my knowledge
> about the world rests only on the empirical evidence for it
> and in no case is that knowledge part of my identity.��
> If I have placed undue confidence in a given source of
> knowledge and others around me have countervailing evidence,
> in almost all cases I can hear that evidence with no
> problem.�� I am usually delighted with the opportunity
> kick a piece of rubbish out of my cognitive space.
> > 
> > Obviously neither I nor anyone in our community wants
> to create emotional injury to anyone anywhere.�� This
> last sentence may not be empirically true, but a presumption
> of such positive ethical character is an essential
> assumption needed to enable intelligent discussion of
> anything whatsoever.
> > 
> > Let us return to the comments that prompted Dean to
> pose his question:
> > 
> > �������Even rather innocuous forms of religion such as
> ethical culture now have effects that are obvious evils to
> me.�� This includes the demonizing of atheists as 'just
> another form of fundamentalism.'����­����
> > 
> > For most people on our list a charge of
> �������fundamentalis­m�������� would be a personal
> attack.�� It implies a blind faith in something in spite
> of any countervailing evidence.�� It implies that the
> person is ignorant and stupid in important ways.�� Such
> personal attacks are often labeled with the Latin term
> �������ad hominem.���������� Empirically the use of such
> attacks tends to diminish or eliminate communication.
> > 
> > What I experienced while I was with ethical culture
> was a gradual increase in �������religiosity��­������ an an
> increasing acceptance of acupuncture, homeopathy and
> varieties of new age nonsense.�� I also noticed that I
> was increasingly the only person with the courage to be
> skeptical of such nonsense.�� The general culture in
> accepting the ad hominem attacks on �������atheists�����­���
> resulted in no one with the courage to talk about scientific
> realism and the implication that some views might actually
> be false.�� The �������niceness police�������� had their
> way and varieties of nonsense flowered with no limits.
> > 
> > A corollary of the proposition that atheism is just
> another form of fundamentalism is that there are numerous
> sources of knowledge other than scientific empiricism.��
> Obviously we have meditation, poetry, art, humor, and direct
> experience which which our lives are enriched.��
> However, all of these are, if examined closely, theory
> intensive.�� My thesis is that in no case do we have a
> valid claim concerning the nature of the world unless we
> examine the underlying theories implicit in a given claim.
> > 
> > I know of people who claim to be allergic to
> electrical radiation in any form.�� I have heard stories
> of people who fall down on the floors of elevators because
> of the supposed influence of such radiation.�� There are
> whole communities of people who who minimize any exposure to
> electricity in order to avoid their supposed EMF
> allergy.�� The claim is one of direct experience.��
> However, they cannot tell the presence of EMF in a double
> blind laboratory condition.�� (This is from Dr. Robert
> Park, the speaker I got for the WASH February meeting.��
> I need to get his reference on this.)�� Is then
> �������direct experience�������� in and of itself a reliable
> source of knowledge?�� Perhaps we need the tools and
> framework of science to validate all claims about the
> reality of our experience.
> > 
> > Don Wharton
> > 
> > PS: I need to get out of the trap of needing to post a
> philosophical essay in response to modest queries.��
> However, my goal is to create a social space where acts of
> intelligent communication are possible and
> appreciated.�� I will keep doing this until the wisdom
> in our community starts flowing like water.
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > --- On Thu, 11/19/09, Dean <[address removed]>
> wrote:
> > 
> > > From: Dean <[address removed]>
> > > Subject: Re: [atheists-27] New Meetup: Meet the
> Organizer
> > > To: [address removed]
> > > Date: Thursday, November 19, 2009, 12:11 AM
> > > Mr. Wharton,
> > > Please kindly elaborate on how ethical culture
> has effects
> > > that are obvious evils to you. I am looking
> forward to
> > > meeting you.
> > >
> > > Best,
> > > ���� ���� ���� ���� Dean
> > >
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > --
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> > This message was sent by Don Wharton ([address removed])
> from The DC Atheists Meetup Group.
> > To learn more about Don Wharton, visit his/her member
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> This message was sent by ralphellectual ([address removed])
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