Humanism – The Only Valid Foundation for Ethics

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Professor Sir Hermann Bondi
Professor Sir Hermann Bondi (1919 – 2005)
Dame Anne Laura Dorinthea McLaren
Dame Dr Anne Laura Dorinthea McLaren (1927 – 2007)
Conway Memorial Lecture
Conway Memorial Lecture
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Moncure Conway photo by Edward Steichen, 1907. Courtesy of Dickinson College.
Delivered at Conway Hall 24 January 1992. Chaired by Dame Dr Anne McLaren and presented by Professor Sir Hermann Bondi.

There is viability in the religious view that the enormous complexity of the universe points to a supernatural architect, and one who may be accessible to human understanding. However, this view does not justify revelatory claims to knowledge made by religious believers, even when some of those claims are identical amongst the various religions.

Also, in ethics, Christians cannot both claim that humanist morality derives from Christianity, and that true Christianity has never actually been practised. Further, religionists have no grounds for faulting humanist morality for being subject to change, when the moralities of the various religions have themselves changed (if slowly).

Humanists see ethics as being all about living peacefully and fruitfully with others, and about valuing human variety, per se. For humanists, the golden rule is central. While they differ in a number of attitudes, they are tolerant of these differences, and do not revert to authority or to notions of absolute truth in efforts to resolve controversy. That humanists do not have a cast-iron position on morality is not a weakness but a strength: an index, in fact, of their basic humanity.

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