Re: A Classical Humanist Worldview

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 06:55:55 MDT

Rick Potvin posted this URL

Others have responded. I'll take a crack at a couple of critical

Quotes from the main page
> new universal physical principle that contributes to the progress
> and well-being of future generations of mankind

There isn't any "universal physical principal" devoted to the progress
and well-being of future generations of mankind. There is a universal
physical principle that anything (molecule, bacteria, plant, animal, meme,
etc.) that manages to develop sufficient complexity to make copies
of itself will evolve and perhaps survive in some form in the long term.
There is an alternate physical principal that says that if you are clever
(complex?) enough to trump your "local" hazard function you can achieve
physical immortality for a significantly extended period.

"Mankind" is only an instantiation of an animal in the middle of the
complexification process that produces better survival machinery.
Individuals must evolve past current instantiations of the human
physical body if they expect to achieve "physical immortality".

> political progress that recognizes human equality

I think we need a reality check here. I think it would be political
progress if we recognized fundamentally that humans are not "equal".
I'm moderately certain that both Eliezer and Anders are smarter than
I am -- I am *not* their equal. Natasha is certainly more artistic than
I am -- I am *not* her equal. Most of the people on the list can probably
sing better than I can -- I am not their equal. The only thing potentially
"equal" regarding humans is that they should perhaps be granted some "equal"
rights. Even this should be viewed with a raised eyebrow (I don't have
a "right" to pilot a plane for example). If the capacities of sentient
beings expands as I expect it to, then there will be a substantially larger
range of the "rights" granted to beings at different levels of development.

> "Classical humanism" is an historically proven web of ideas that lays the
> best foundation for progress.

"Best foundation"? How do we know this for certain? What fraction of the
other possible systems have been tried and measured for success or failure?
Do we even know how many other possible systems there might be?

> The ideas which constitute it can be found in a wide array of times and
> cultures throughout human history, though more strongly and notably at
> some points than others.

This sounds like "classical humanism" is nothing more than the common
moral code derived from biological and social principles that have
their roots in human tribalism and group survival strategies. This
was discussed in previous postings pointing to E. O. Wilson's article
about consilience.

I see nothing wrong with supporting "classical humanism" if it is the
best strategy for "complexification". However there doesn't seem to
be much evidence on which that claim can be made. The complexification
of Russia was accomplished at a very high price but was carried out in
1/2 to 1/4 of the time Western civilizations took to accomplish the same
development. It certainly didn't use a "classical humanism" approach.

> 600 years if the problem of biological aging can be completely solved

If aging can be completely solved, average longevity at current U.S.
hazard function rates would be > 2000 years. If those rates continue to
improve as they have over the last half century, then by 2100 average
longevity will be in excess of 6000 years.


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