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Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022

2022-11-15

Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: November 1, 2014

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com 

Location: Fort Langley, Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Journal: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Journal Founding: August 2, 2012

Frequency: Three (3) Times Per Year

Review Status: Non-Peer-Reviewed

Access: Electronic/Digital & Open Access

Fees: None (Free)

Volume Numbering: 11

Issue Numbering: 1

Section: E

Theme Type: Idea

Theme Premise: “Outliers and Outsiders”

Theme Part: 26

Formal Sub-Theme: “Would You Be My Neighbour?”

Individual Publication Date: November 15, 2022

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Herb Silverman

Word Count: 1,285

Image Credit: None.

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 2369-6885

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations, after the interview.*

Abstract

Dr. Herb Silverman is the Founder of the Secular Coalition for America, the Founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, and the Founder of the Atheist/Humanist Alliance student group at the College of Charleston. He authored Complex variables (1975), Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt (2012) and An Atheist Stranger in a Strange Religious Land: Selected Writings from the Bible Belt (2017). He co-authored The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America (2003) with Kimberley Blaker and Edward S. Buckner, Complex Variables with Applications (2007) with Saminathan Ponnusamy, and Short Reflections on Secularism (2019), Short Reflections on American Secularism’s History and Philosophy (2020), and Short Reflections on Age and Youth (2020). Silverman discusses: civilizations and periods; less effective traditions; rounded ethics; rationality; human wellbeing and species survival; a creative life; alternative meaning; and human fallibility.

Keywords: Amsterdam Declaration, eudaimonia, democracy, Glasgow, Humanism, Humanists International, Scotland, The International Humanist and Ethical Union, universalism, Would You Be My Neighbour?.

Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We have done a number of sessions back-and-forth for some time. It’s been a real pleasure and privilege to keep doing these when the time permits. It’s a rare intergenerational access. We have covered the 1952 and the 2002 Amsterdam declarations and, at the time, the prospective 2022 Amsterdam Declaration. It has been approved by the global democratic body of Humanism, Humanists International, in Glasgow, Scotland. This was the 70th anniversary of Humanists International, formerly The International Humanist and Ethical Union. I was unable to go because of work at an equestrian facility 6 or 7 days per week. (The event was in competition season.) I wanted to cover this declaration. It opens with noting humanist beliefs are as old as civilization and bears semblances in most societies. Are there any civilizations or periods in which humanist beliefs were simply not present in any way?

Dr. Herb Silverman: I think Humanist beliefs and values have always been present in every society, long before Humanism was defined. Many people have been and are humanists who hadn’t heard of Humanism. I used to be one of those people, as I suspect most Humanists were. Unfortunately, Humanism has not and does not dominate most cultures (think Nazi Germany, and authoritarian regimes today).

Jacobsen: It claims Humanism as a culmination of these traditions of meaning, ethics, and reason. What does Humanism shed from other less effective traditions in the light of this culmination mentioned?

Silverman: Humanism sheds religious beliefs based on so-called “holy” books written thousands of years ago. Many well-meaning religious people pick and choose from their preferred ancient book and ignore embarrassing parts. They haven’t taken one addition step of rejecting their holy book and treating it as any other book where we keep the good parts and reject the bad parts. A friend who supports gay marriage pointed out that that the Bible has countless passages about social justice and only five that condemn homosexuality. He didn’t have a good answer when I asked how many condemnations of homosexuality it would take to reverse his position. Humanists don’t have rules etched in stone. We have principles and values written on paper, and some of our ideas might change through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking. Reason usually hasn’t been present in religious traditions, and our ethics sometimes change as we learn more about how better to interact with and treat others.

Jacobsen: Its main point starts on being ethical. Inherent in its stipulations is the umbrella of eudaimonia, by my reading of it, they have explicit mention of democracy, diversity, individuality, nature, rule of law, peace, and universal legal rights. Ones seemingly more new would be diversity, individuality, and nature or the environment. Although, I haven’t done a systematic review of the three declarations. As you have seen these changes over time in the declarations, what makes this more rounded as a humanist perspective?

Silverman: I think successive declarations have become more rounded because over time Humanists have learned about possible errors we have made and how to correct them, and also about new problems that must be worked on. In the past, Humanists concentrated on humans, the worth and dignity of all human beings and the need for universal human and legal rights. All good things, but this latest incarnation also focuses on all living things that we want to help flourish and avoid suffering. After all, we know that humans are just naked apes. We now realize we must accept responsibility for the impact we have on the rest of the natural world, especially regarding climate change.

Jacobsen: Rational is stipulated as the second point. I like the combo of reason and action. It’s a small touch, but it’s important to make doing something as explicit as possible. What can be impediments to acting on rational and ethical motives? 

Silverman: Acting rationally is generally a good thing, but not always. If the only consideration for a business is making a profit, then it’s acting rationally when it charges exorbitant prices for a drug that people need. This is where ethics should trump profit, but I also see potential problems with ethics. For example, some people (usually Bible-based) believe it is unethical for anyone to engage in gay and lesbian sex, and they try to pass laws to make such activity illegal. One person’s ethics can be viewed by others as bigotry or racism.

Jacobsen: As science is an epistemology and technology is ethically neutral, but comes out of discoveries from science, they followed in the footsteps of the other declarations about never using science and technology “callously or destructively”. How important is this note for human wellbeing and the species’ survival?

Silverman: Science and technology can be used wisely by Humanists, while considering human values. I first thought about this as a child when I read about Frankenstein (an example of science and technology gone haywire). We need to use science and technology to enhance human well-being, not simply because we have the technical know-how. Though we have lethal weapons, we should try to avoid using them. We should promote peace and peaceful negotiations whenever we can. I consider myself a pacifist, except for World War II.

Jacobsen: They emphasize something dear to me: The pursuit of a creative life. To me, this is core. I value the pursuit of creative and enjoyable pursuits of open discovery more than most things. For a life of fulfillment, have you found any limits in humanists known to you? 

Silverman: I think some Humanists can be too woke for me. Some insist that everybody proclaim which pronoun they identify with, and they criticize those who say “Black” instead of African-Americans. Those who try to restrict people from using language that others might find offensive should know that the antidote to offensive speech is your free speech right to rebut. I think Humanists acting too woke can be counterproductive when we try to bring others into the Humanist camp. I’m also concerned when Humanists publicly criticize other Humanists unfairly. One recent example is when the American Humanist Society took back the 1996 award to Richard Dawkins as Humanist of the Year, mostly because they disliked some of his tweets that they felt demeaned some marginalized groups. I think Dawkins has done more to bring atheism and humanism to countless Americans than any other individual. If the AHA stopped respecting Dawkins, they could just not give him any more awards. Such public rebuke, in my mind, was unconscionable.

Jacobsen: The declaration ends on a fourth point. This is a shortlist, but comprehensive: ethics, rationality, fulfillment, and alternative meaning (signification) and purpose. They mention Humanism as an antidote to “dogmatic religion, authoritarian nationalism, tribal sectarianism, and selfish nihilism.” This is a full list. The demands on oneself are high with Humanism, but humane. That’s what I gather from this. The building of the better world is a recognition of both human refinement by oneself and others, and human fallibility to make mistakes and then to work to be better the next time around. How do you view this fourth point, especially in relation to the other points about ethics, rationality, and fulfillment? 

Silverman: I especially agree with the point that all humans, including Humanists, are fallible. That is why we try to learn from our mistakes, exchange ideas with other Humanists and people who are not (yet) Humanists. We can learn from others and sometimes change our own ideas. I like when this happens to me. By sharing our values with others, I think we can help build a better world.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Dr. Silverman. 

Silverman: Thank you.

Bibliography

None

Footnotes

None

Citations

American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022. November 2022; 11(1). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2022, November 15). Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022. In-Sight Publishing. 11(1). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 1, 2022.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2.

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (November 2022). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2022) ‘Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(1). <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2022, ‘Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo.11, no. 1, 2022, http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Would You Be My Neighbour? 2: Amsterdam Declaration 2022 [Internet]. 2022 Nov; 11(1). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/neighbour-2

License

In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Based on work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, or the author(s), and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors copyright their material, as well, and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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