Humanist Manifesto III – A Critical Analysis

Humanist Manifesto is the title of three statements outlining a Humanist worldview. The original Humanist Manifesto was published in 1933; the Humanist Manifesto II in 1973; and Humanist Manifetso III in 2003. Each of the three manifestos explains the humanist worldview, which does not include belief in any personal deity or “higher power.”

This analysis will focus entirely on Humanist Manifesto III, although the previous versions have similar issues.  Manifesto III is the shortest of the three documents; it has an introduction, six primary beliefs, and a conclusion.

There are unstated presupposed beliefs behind every statement contained in the Manifesto.  Many of these presuppositions depend on the existence of God in order to make any sense whatsoever.  The basic logical fallacy contained in Humanist Manifesto III is that, while it denies the existence of God, makes claims that are dependent on the existence of God.  In other words, if God does not exist, then the philosophies promoted by Manifesto III are irrational and unfounded.

What do I mean by this?  Take the first sentence of the Manifesto:  “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”  This sounds like a reasonable statement on the surface. However, in order to have the “ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives,” one must presuppose that such a thing as ethics actually exists.    The problem is, without God, there is no basis for the existence of ethics.  If the universe came into existence through mindless natural processes, then human beings are nothing more than highly complex chemical reactions.  There is no free will; our minds are nothing more than random electrochemical processes.  The very concept of ethics is meaningless – right and wrong do not actually exist.  Yet, right and wrong do exist, and the concept of ethics is not meaningless.  Since these concepts are meaningless if God does not exist, since they do exist, God must therefore exist.  The belief in ethics presupposes the existence of God.  For an atheist to believe in ethics, they must “borrow” from the Biblical worldview.

The first of the six primary beliefs promoted in the Manifesto states, “Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.”  Although it initially sounds plausible, this statement is actually subtly self-contradictory.  Why?  Because the statement itself cannot be derived from observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.  The statement, “Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis,” cannot be derived from observation; nor can it be derived through experimentation.  It must be pre-supposed, and any attempt to derive it through rational analysis is ultimately irrational circular logic.

Observation, experimentation, and rational analysis are only possible if one presupposes that the universe is uniform, unchanging, and logical.  However, if God does not exist, there is no reason why the universe should be uniform, unchanging, and logical; rather, it should be random.  A universe that was caused by a Big Bang from nothing should be completely random, if it would exist at all.  The laws of nature should not exist, and logic should not exist. Yet, they do exist.  The only reason that universe should be uniform, unchanging, and logical only if it came from a uniform, unchanging, and logical Creator.  Science presupposes an orderly universe, which is only possible because the universe in fact functions in a logical, ordered manner, which in turn is only possible if it was created by a logical, ordered, unchanging God.

Charles Darwin

The second point affirmed in the Manifesto states, “Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.”  There are a number of problems with this statement.  First, the “unguided evolutionary change” referred to cannot be “derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis,” because it supposedly happened in the past.  The past cannot be directly observed in the present; only the present can be observed in the present.  Could evolution be established as fact through “rational analysis?”  Humanists and evolutionists would argue it can.  I disagree.  Again, there are several unprovable presuppositions that must be accepted in order to infer evolution in the past from observations in the present.   First, one must assume that the processes in the past are the same as processes in the present.  This belief, called uniformitarianism, cannot be observed or derived through experimentation; it must be assumed.  One must also assume that enough time has existed for these processes to have occurred.  Lastly, one must ignore the fact that mutations and natural selection do not cause new information to arise, as evolutionary processes require, but rather eliminate genetic information.   Actual observational data tells us that we are not evolving, but rather, we are de-evolving.  Every generation of human beings loses several thousand genes due to mutations.  No new genes have ever been observed to have evolved.

Secondly, and “unguided” process should not cause increased complexity, as required by Darwinian evolution.  Evolution postulates that after the first cell came into existence through some sort of abiogenesis, this first lifeform somehow became more complex and eventually turned into a multi-celled organism, that eventually turned into a fish, then an amphibian, then a reptile, then some sort of mammal, then a primitive primate, eventually turning into you and me.  All of these major steps, as well as thousands of smaller, intermediary steps, somehow happened as the result of unguided, random chance.  Evolutionists must believe that each of the millions of new genes that were necessary for new structures, proteins, and biochemical processes arose through mutations – despite the fact that no mutation has ever been observed that has produced information that had not previously existed.  And, this had to happen randomly – without any kind of higher intelligence guiding the process.  This is far more preposterous than believing that the infinite, omnipotent God of the Bible created human beings.

The Manifesto states, “Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.”  The first problem is that, If God does not exist, and human beings are nothing more than highly evolved chemical reactions, as would be required by the Manifesto, then ethical values are not real.  They are nothing but extremely complex electrochemical reactions.

If ethical values are derived from human need, then they must constantly change.  They cannot be absolute.  Many atheists I have talked to have argued, “Atheists are just as ethical and moral as Christians.”  However, from the perspective of atheism, this statement is utter nonsense.  Ethics and morality are relative; what is ethical for you may not be ethical for me.  There is no absolute standard for ethics; morality is whatever a person decides it is.  When an atheist claims, “Atheists are just as ethical and moral as Christians,” my response is, “According to whose definition of ethics and morality?”  Since there is no universal definition, the statement is nonsense.  It may be true that atheists are moral, according to one person’s moral framework, but not according to another’s.  Only if there is an absolute standard does the statement even make sense, and there cannot be an absolute standard unless God exists and has communicated His absolute standard to humankind.

The Manifesto’s next major point:  “Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.”  My response is, why?  On what basis can such a claim be made?  If we are the mere “result of unguided evolutionary change,” then why do “humane ideals” even exist?  Again, if God does not exist, and we are nothing more than rearranged pond scum, then “humane ideals” cannot actually exist.  The Manifesto continues: “We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence…”  “Unguided evolutionary change” is purposeless, by definition.  How can purposeless change create purpose?  If God does not exist, the human mind is a purposeless collection of meaningless chemical reactions – how can purpose, wonder, awe, joy, or beauty actually exist?  Yet, these things do actually exist; therefore, God must exist.  Again, the Humanist must “borrow” truth from the Biblical worldview in order to build the foundation for Humanism.  Humanism must presuppose foundational truths that are inconsistent with its core values in order to be coherent, but this makes Humanism inconsistent, irrational, and fallacious.

The last two major beliefs proposed by the manifesto read, “Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships,” and “Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.”  I would largely agree; people are social in nature, because we were created in the Image of God for the purpose of having a loving relationship with Him, and with others.  Working to benefit society does produce happiness.  These beliefs are completely consistent with Biblical teaching and presuppositions.  However, for the Humanist, they are again inconsistent.  Once again, if humanity is the result of meaningless evolutionary change, then why does meaning exist?  How can meaninglessness produce meaning?  How can purposelessness give rise to purpose?  How can unguided processes cause happiness?

The Humanist Manifesto III is utter nonsense, because it must rely on values and conditions that cannot exist if the Manifesto is true, and God does not exist.  Ultimately, any philosophy, religion, or worldview that denies the Biblical God is illogical for the same reason; without God, the universe, the laws of nature, the mind, purpose, and meaning should not exist; yet, they do exist.  Therefore, the Biblical God must exist, and Christianity must be true.  What we observe in the universe around us is completely consistent with and absolutely confirms the truth of the Bible.  And, without Biblical presuppositions, the universe would be completely unintelligible and meaningless.


The full text of Humanist Manifesto III can be viewed at http://redbankhumanists.org/PDF/HumanistManifesto_III.pdf

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One Response

  1. Hello Rich 🙂

    I stumbled upon your critique of the Humanist Manifesto III today, and thought I would offer what I think might be common responses to your criticisms. I hope these may be helpful to understanding our beliefs, even though you don’t share them. In any case, I wish you well friend!

    (I’ve tried to be as brief as possible)

    1st sentence: ethics are socially-enforced moral norms of a society. They are rules of behavior which exist to help human members of a population live together in mutually-beneficial ways, thus increasing flourishing for the whole.

    Principle 1: Induction is a less certain logical form than deduction. But induction is still a valid part of logic and necessary in many circumstances. Yet logical induction is still a far cry different than faith. Rather, it is the opposite of faith: belief because of evidence, not in-spite of or without evidence.

    Principle 2: It is rational to make assumptions when necessary in principle, if we make them in accord with Occam’s razor. While arguments such as “maybe things fell UP during this time period” may be technically ‘possible’, they would not get you out of a court case in which you were charged with pushing your neighbor off a balcony, and shouldn’t work for rational people here either. Lastly on complexity, it is simply not true that mutations do not produce extra information, and rises in complexity of complex systems is commonly observed and decently understood.

    Principle 3: Ethical values are “real”. But they are real facts about the best behaviors and ‘things to be valued’ to ensure human flourishing. They are as real as “the facts about the better ways to build load bearing structures”. Doing both wrong will objectively result in non-flourishing, or a collapsed structure, respectively.

    Principle 4: The reason “why” life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals, is because of a large body of research on human happiness and psychological well being. It has been shown time and again, and we know from experience, that healthy well-balanced individuals will be happier when focused on ideals larger than mere self-interest, when they are helping others, and when they are living compassionately and purposefully.

    Principles 5 & 6: Meaning is a thing created by an agent. Something only has meaning if it has meaning “to someone”. In your case, that someone is God. In the Humanist view, we are the agents that create meaning. Something has meaning if it means something *to us*. This is part of why Humanism is called Human-ism; because it is focused on the needs and concerns of humans, as opposed to concerns about god/s.

    Take care and best wishes 🙂

    Sincerely,

    Daniel Strain
    Humanist Minister
    Executive Director, Spiritual Naturalist Society

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