In this week’s eSkeptic:
A Manifesto for Enlightenment Humanism
This week, on our Patreon page, we present a recording of Michael Shermer’s article, “Scientific Naturalism: A Manifesto for Enlightenment Humanism,” originally published in the journal Theology and Science in July 2017, being read by the author, and introduced by David Smalley.
The abstract to the paper serves as a quick summary of it.
The success of the Scientific Revolution led to the development of the worldview of scientific naturalism, or the belief that the world is governed by natural laws and forces that can be understood, and that all phenomena are part of nature and can be explained by natural causes, including human cognitive, moral, and social phenomena. The application of scientific naturalism in the human realm led to the widespread adoption of Enlightenment humanism, a cosmopolitan worldview that places supreme value on science and reason, eschews the supernatural entirely, and relies exclusively on nature and nature’s laws—including human nature and the laws and forces that govern us and our societies—for a complete understanding of the cosmos and everything in it, from particles to people.
Dr. Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. He is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, and The Moral Arc. His next book is Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia. His two TedTalks, viewed nearly 8 million times, were voted in the top 100 of the more than 2000 TedTalks.
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SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN “SKEPTIC” COLUMN FOR OCTOBER 2017
Sky Gods for Skeptics: Is belief in aliens a religious impulse?
In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Captain James T. Kirk encounters a deity that lures him to its planet in order to abscond with the Enterprise. “What does God need with a starship?” the skeptical commander inquires. I talked to Kirk himself—William Shatner, that is—about the film when I met him at a recent conference. The original plot device for the movie, which he directed, was for the crew to go “in search of God.” Fearful that some religious adherents might be offended that the Almighty could be discoverable by a spaceship, the studio bosses insisted that the deity be a malicious extraterrestrial impersonating God for personal gain.
How could a starship—or any technology designed to detect natural forces and objects—discover a supernatural God, who by definition would be beyond any such sensors? Any detectable entity would have to be a natural being, no matter how advanced, and as I have argued in this column [see “Shermer’s Last Law”; January 2002], “any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence [ETI] is indistinguishable from God.” Thus, Shatner’s plot theme of looking for God could only turn up an ETI sufficiently advanced to appear God-like.
Perhaps herein lies the impulse to search. In his 1982 book Plurality of Worlds (Cambridge University Press), historian of science Steven J. Dick suggested that when Isaac Newton’s mechanical universe replaced the medieval spiritual world, it left a lifeless void that was filled with the modern search for ETI. In his 1995 book Are We Alone? (Basic Books), physicist Paul Davies wondered: “What I am more concerned with is the extent to which the modern search for aliens is, at rock-bottom, part of an ancient religious quest.” Historian George Basalla made a similar observation in his 2006 work Civilized Life in the Universe (Oxford University Press): “The idea of the superiority of celestial beings is neither new nor scientific. It is a widespread and old belief in religious thought.” […]
American Goblins—Part 1
MONSTERTALK EPISODE 136
In August of 1955, a farm family in Kentucky found their home under attack by strange goblin-like monsters. In the years since the attack, the case has retained a perplexing endurance. What happened that night in Kentucky? Were aliens to blame? Underworld monsters? Misidentified natural causes? This is part one of our discussion of what has become known as The Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter.