Humanism for children
By William Lane Craig
The American Humanist Association is promoting a new Web site that is designed to furnish children with a naturalistic or atheistic perspective on science, sexuality, and other topics. The stated goal of the Web site is laudatory: “to encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and tolerance among young people, as well as to provide accurate information regarding a wide range of issues related to humanism, science, culture, and history.”
The problem is that those values have no inherent connection with naturalism, which is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that there is nothing beyond the physical contents of the universe. One doesn’t need to be a naturalist in order to endorse curiosity, critical thinking, tolerance, and the pursuit of accurate information on a wide range of topics.
Ironically, the AHA has been remarkably uncritical in thinking about the truth of naturalism and of humanism in particular.
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For example, why think that naturalism is true? The last half century has witnessed a veritable renaissance of Christian philosophy. In a recent article, University of Western Michigan philosopher Quentin Smith laments “the desecularization of academia that evolved in philosophy departments since the late 1960s.” Complaining of naturalists’ passivity in the face of the wave of “intelligent and talented theists entering academia today,” Smith concludes, “God is not ‘dead’ in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.”
This renaissance of Christian philosophy has been accompanied by a resurgence of interest in arguments for God’s existence based on reason and evidence alone, apart from the resources of divine revelation like the Bible. All of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene.
But what about the so-called “New Atheism” exemplified by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens? Doesn’t it signal a reversal of this trend? Not really. The New Atheism is, in fact, a pop cultural phenomenon lacking in intellectual muscle and blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in academic philosophy.
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