Let’s imagine that aliens showed up in Washington D.C. Today. Don’t worry, these aren’t the kind of aliens that like to probe intimate human cavities. These aliens have a message for the world. They want to bring a word of warning to the human race. So millions gather to hear the words of the wise beings. The oldest of the little green man steps to a mic that has quickly been prepared for him. He furrows his brow and looks out on the crowd with his wizened face. He gives this message of wisdom to the massive audience.
“People of Earth, We have come from far away to warn you. Smoking is really bad for your health. It has been proven to cause cancer.”
The crowd would be really disappointed because, we kind of already knew that. Maybe a few people would stick around to see if there was any chance of being probed, but most would leave unsatisfied. They would be annoyed because what they learned from the little space dudes is really nothing new.
Secular Humanism has some aspects that are testable. What I mean is there are some claims that secular humanism makes that can be proven valuable, but there’s a problem. In the same way that our alien friends were disappointing, Secular Humanism is as well. It has very little that is new. Much of what Secular Humanism teaches is borrowed material. Beyond that, the secular humanist claims which are testable are not unique to Secular Humanism, and that which is unique to Secular Humanism is not testable. An example of this might be represented by the final point on the Humanist Manifesto III. It says, “working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.” Although this statement is testable and might be true, Humanism is not the only ideology that asserts this. Credit cannot be given to Secular Humanism alone if that statement is true. Credit is also due Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and to every other worldview that has also enumerated this claim.
Much of what Humanism claims is found in other world religions. Therefore, the material that is unique to Secular Humanism must be divided from that which is borrowed material. Once this is done a test of those novel assertions may be done to determine their viability. A basic knowledge of worldviews and a cursory reading of the three Humanist Manifestos1 reveal a subset of unique ideas. A list of unique assertions that Humanism makes might be limited to the following list, all taken from the Humanist Manifestos III unless otherwise stated.
1. Belief in the supernatural is irrelevant to the fulfillment of the human race.2
2. Science is the best method for determining knowledge.
4. Death is inevitable and final.
5. The Universe is self-existing3 and not created.4
6. Humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals.
7. Sexual explorations should not in themselves be considered “evil.”5
8. Commitment to all humankind is the highest commitment of which we are capable.6
1 The Humanist Manifestos are a set of documents which expound the secular humanist ideology. The first of these documents, Humanist Manifesto I, was published in 1933 by The New Humanist and written by Raymond Bragg. The second iteration, Humanist Manifesto II, was published in 1973 by the American Humanist Society and written by Paul Kurtz. The third iteration, Humanist Manifesto III, was released in 2003 also by the American Humanist Association. Each of these documents is signed by a long list of high-profile supporters.
2 Kurtz, P, and EH Wilson. “Humanist Manifesto II.” The Humanist (1973):
3 Association, American Humanist. “Humanist Manifesto III: Humanism and Its Aspirations.” Humanist (2011):
4 Humanist Manifesto I
5 Humanist Manifesto II