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Posted by on Mar 13, 2011 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Steven Poole’s Review of my VSI Humanism, yesterday’s Guardian

It’s, er, not entirely flattering!

Humanism: A Very Short Introduction, by Stephen Law (Oxford, £7.99)

Price-allergic? Perhaps you can instead find meaning in a “humanist funeral”, as advertised in this guide to being the kind of slightly smug person who congratulates himself on seeing “the world as it is”, unlike religious folk. Evidently, no one has a monopoly on epistemological hubris. Much of this book is low-grade anti-theology, arguing against arguments for the existence of God, which rather tests the opening claim that humanism is not primarily an insistent atheism.

A happy, positive story is told about philosophy classes in primary schools, which does sound like an excellent idea. Once so primed, young readers might see something wrong with the author’s taking himself to have shown that belief in God is not “reasonable”, or his claim that morality is “written into our genes”. Law gets testy about the fuzzy gods of modern theologians, though he has himself defined “humanism” so broadly as to encompass just about anyone who is a good egg and doesn’t believe in a sky-god. This “humanism”, he announces proudly, cannot be “refuted”. Of course it can’t: it’s not the sort of thing that could be. This cup of coffee can’t be refuted either. Now excuse me; I have to go to a coffeeist mass.

Source here. I find the final comment particularly odd as I don’t announce, proudly or otherwise, that humanism cannot be refuted. Nor do I claim anything so crude as that morality is written in our genes. Weird.

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