On the ladder of evolution, near the rung of religion, you will find humanism. It’s a fairly straightforward and simple philosophy, which is to its advantage. Typically humanism focuses on the value of human beings, and supports rational decisions that will improve the lives of humans as a whole. Which sounds great… if only the reality weren’t lacking. Unfortunately, like its sibling Philosophy, humanism is a ideology that has difficulty moving forward.
Humanists in the past likely would have found current medical techniques grotesque perversions of nature. Cutting someone open and placing technology within them? A defamation of what it means to be human, all those with pacemakers or cochlear implant should be put out of their unnatural (or is it unholy?) misery. Prosthesis? What value does life have when you’re forced to live as an abomination to humankind. etc. (it’s unfair to put words in the mouths of the dead, but this is a realistic analysis.)
Once a technology becomes mainstream (ie, once religious people have accepted it), then humanists will praise a technology as a way of preserving and repairing damaged humans, or if it’s unpopular, criticize it–all in the same manner as the mainstream. This timid attitude assures that humanists will usually not be standing in the way of progress directly. But their apathy and “me too” philosophy is damaging in itself.
Two steps back
In some ways humanism is a step back from religion. The religious desire to be greater than what they are now, even if their methods of going about that are warped and counter-productive. Humanists on the other hand, are more pronounced to apathy, weakness, and share a similar level of self-delusion with the religious (obsession with abstract philosophy, meaningless moral questions, etc).
Instead of viewing science and technology as a way forward, humanists view it as maybe a tool they can accomplish a couple of things with, if it doesn’t kill them first. Humanism doesn’t want a way forward, it wants humans to stay where they are, or go backwards. Why become immortal and infinitely intelligent when we can all just cuddle in a tent and then die, you know?
I don’t know. Apparently being suicidal and self-destructive are now considered positive traits, as long as you have some fun on the way down. I’m sure a lot of groups have tried this in the past, and they succeeded, and therefore are now dead–is this to be celebrated?
When it’s all said and done
It’s unfair to sweepingly generalize entire groups of people. A number of people commonly considered humanist, such as Richard Feynman and Richard Dawkins, have undoubtedly contributed greatly to science and society. As have a much larger number of religious people. What ideology any particular person claims to prescribe to is not necessarily relevant. Each person’s individual actions show what kind of person they are.
Just don’t assume that humanism is an unusually intelligent or rational group simply because their technical principles are sound, they are simply the same as every other group: a mixed bag, with their majority no more immune from the idiocy of the masses than any other group.