The Scientific Method
Step One: The Occurrence of a Perplexity
To perplex is to be unable to grasp something clearly or to think logically and decisively about something.
Step Two: Clarification of The Perplexity
To clarify is to be free of confusion and to make understandable.
Step Three: The Appearance of Different Solutions, or Working Hypotheses of The Perplexity
To hypothesize is to form a tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences.
Step Four: Deducing Implications of the Suggested Hypothesis
A deduction is the deriving of a conclusion by reasoning, specifically of an inference in which the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises.
Step Five: Verification of The Chosen Solution
Some action or observation, engaged in for the purpose of determining which if any, of the suggestions as developed, offers an adequate solution of the perplexity.
Step Six: A Reiteration of The Preceding Thinking
Uncover any inadequacies that might be corrected.
Sources: Right Thinking, A Study of Its Principles And Methods. E.A. Burtt, Ph.D. (1928, 1931, 1946), whose analysis is derived from How We Think, by John Dewey, Ph.D. (1910).
My Journey to Humanism
I am certain I am a humanist for the same reason Hindus are Hindus, Catholics are Catholics, Lutherans are Lutherans. I was born to humanists and raised humanist. My father was a Unitarian minister for thirty-nine years, and Editor of the Religious Humanist from 1972 to 1977. My mother was second generation Unitarian, and her influence on my belief system is strong and deep.
When we are little we believe everyone thinks as we do and believes as we do. My childhood beliefs did not include god, Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, heaven or hell. When Christmas came, I thought everyone was pretending there was a Santa Claus. Easter was a time to celebrate spring and take flowers to church, not to celebrate the rising of the dead.
But, along with an excellent religious education through the Unitarian church, and two best friends, Marilyn O’Sullivan, red-headed Irish Catholic, and Laura Weiss, dark-haired Jew, I soon learned that other people really did believe in: God or gods; reincarnation; heaven; hell; angels; sin, immaculate conception, and yes, even Santa. Wasn’t life wondrous enough without all this paraphernalia?
Although I was open to discussions, it soon became apparent to me that many religious beliefs were stranger than fiction. Marilyn told me animals did not go to heaven. Animal lover that I am, I knew at the ripe age of 7 that there was surely no heaven if animals couldn’t attend. Marilyn went to a bazaar at my church, and she was in terrible trouble with her priest. She had to confess to that awful sin of entering a place where others believed differently than she. Laura couldn’t eat pork! And, how could the strange stories in the Old and New Testament be true? People carrying around rock tablets, wandering lost for 40 years, living hundreds of years, rising from the dead. It was too much!
My favorite childhood story was, and still is, “The Churkendoose. It was about a creature, part chicken, turkey, duck and goose. Every barnyard bird was afraid of him because he was different. I began to feel like the Churkendoose, quite different than the majority of people around me. And, no matter how loudly I might sing the Churkendoose song, different was not allowed.
Does the green grass ask the sky so blue,
I’m green why aren’t you green too.
A rose smells sweet cause it’s a flower,
An onion smells strong, a pickle is sour.
They’re different yet they get along,
And no one seems to think it wrong.
Chicken, turkey, duck or goose,
Can’t there be a churkendoose?
Quite often the answer is “no.” Different is too scary.
In high school, in the early ’60’s, I lost, what I thought were friends, when I was the only one in a social studies class to respond “More Alike” to the question: “Are the Russians more like us or more different?” Friends told me to go live in Russia. The logic must have been: We must all be alike to get along; we don’t get along with the Russians; therefore, they must be different; and different is bad.
For a year and one half I went to a Lutheran College in Minnesota. My boy friend told me I was the sweetest girl he had ever met, but he knew I was going to hell because I did not believe what he did. I checked out the church and was told men were better than women and we were all sinners. Hogwash. I finished my studies at the University of Wisconsin, where, because of the diversity, and encouragement of thinking just for thinkings’ sake, I felt alive, safe, sane.
(How difficult it is to have minority beliefs. I couldn’t imagine being a black humanist!) Yet with each obstacle I faced, I found my humanist beliefs becoming stronger. In order to rent an apartment in a small town in Kansas, I had to convince my landlord that I had a conscience even though I did not believe in God. I got the apartment.
When we moved to Salt Lake, my son was constantly asked, “Are you Mormon?”, “Are you Republican?” He told me that after a while it was easier to lie than to face constant rejection. We moved into a new neighborhood. The lady across the street came over to welcome us. “Are you Mormon?” “No.” “Well, that’s all right.” We went to a block party, “Let us pray before we eat.” A mother does not know when to register her child for kindergarten because the information was distributed at the ward house. A Native American friend says he has no prejudices but requires that his children marry Mormons, have the ceremony in the Temple, and that they love each other because they will be together for eternity. The Boy Scouts have Mormon troops and non-Mormon troops. The message is always: different is bad. Different will be punished.
Well, I remain a humanist, despite all the obstacles, because nothing else makes much sense to me. Humans have brains. If we use our brains, we create religions, philosophies, art, languages, sciences. Humans, in my eyes, are no better than trees, animals, fish. We are different, just as the Churkendoose is different. I value differences. I treasure my life as a humanist.
My Journey to Humanism
Perhaps I am a bit naive; I have never thought that there should be anything like a male point of view of Humanism, as possibly something distinct from feminist Humanist views. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines feminism as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” I have been supportive of this theory for many years now and consider myself to be a feminist.
Humanist Manifesto II says, “The principal of moral equality must be furthered through elimination of all discrimination based upon race, religion, sex, age, or national origin. This means equality of opportunity and recognition of talent and merit.” As a Humanist who agrees with this statement, I feel that being a Humanist means being a feminist. The viewpoint I am presenting here tonight is simply that of one Humanist who happens to be a male.
I am citing some quotations from great writers in which the word man or men is used in the old sense, as referring to human beings, that is to both men and women. If I had the right to modify these quotations, I would add the words and woman or and women after the words man and men in order to emphasize that no sexist connotation was intended.
And now to the main point I want to make tonight.
Every person can choose either of two ways of viewing the world into which he or she is born. In the first, the way of the true adventurer, she has an active and profound interest in seeking truth through using her reason and looking critically at the evidence in an atmosphere of free inquiry. In the second, he merely accepts as true the mythology of his culture or subculture and conforms to its expectations of him. The vast majority of people who have this choice pick the second option, the easier, more effortless one, in which one merely surrenders her right to think for herself to certain “authorities” who are considered the arbiters of correct behavior and belief by virtue of being spokesmen for god, the gods, or other heroes of the culture or subculture.
Robert Ingersoll states succinctly, “The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellowmen.”
Joseph Campbell describes the search for truth by the true adventurer in the analogy of the thirteenth-century legend in which King Arthur’s knights of the Round Table set forth from his castle, each on his own steed, in quest of the Holy Grail:
“And now each one went the way upon which he had decided, and they set out into the forest at one point and another, there where they saw it to be thickest so that each would experience the unknown pathless forest in his own heroic way.”
He goes on to say:
“Today the walls and towers of the culture-world that then were in the building are dissolving; and whereas heroes then could set forth of their own will from the known to the unknown, we today willy-nilly, must enter the forest…and, like it or not, the pathless way is the only way now before us.
“But of course, on the other hand, for those who can still contrive to live within the fold of a traditional mythology of some kind, protection is still afforded against the dangers of an individual life; and for many the possibility of adhering in this way to established formulas is a birthright they rightly cherish, since it will contribute meaning and nobility to their unadventured lives, from birth to marriage and its duties and, with the gradual failure of powers, a peaceful passage of the last gate. For, as the psalmist sings, ‘Steadfast love surrounds him who trusts in the Lord’ (Psalm 32:10); and to those for whom such protection seems a prospect worthy of all sacrifice, an orthodox mythology will afford both the patterns and the sentiments of a lifetime of good repute.
“However, by those to whom such living would be not life, but anticipated death, the circumvallating mountains that to others appear to be of stone are recognized as of the mist of dream, and precisely between their God and Devil, heaven and hell, white and black, the man of heart walks through. Out beyond those walls, in the uncharted forest night, where the terrible wind of God blows directly on the questing undefended soul, tangled ways may lead to madness. They may also lead, however, as one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages tells, to ‘all those things that go to make heaven and earth.'”
Campbell alludes to the dispiriting effect of orthodox belief in another statement:
“Coerced to the social pattern, the individual can only harden to some figure of living death; and if any considerable number of the members of civilization are in this predicament, a point of no return will have been passed.”
Two and-a-half years ago I told an assembled group of people that, if I were to return to belief in the traditional mythology I used to espouse, I would feel like a “walking zombie.” I would feel less alive in being untrue to my real self and having given up my precious individuality, my right to think for myself and to seek truth with an untrammeled mind. It was interesting to note the similarity between the phraseology I used in that statement and that used by Campbell in the above quotations, which I first encountered a couple of months ago. I used the term “walking zombie,” and he uses the terms “anticipated death” and “living death” to describe how an adventurer would feel about returning to an orthodox mythology.
I do sometimes, however, feel some frustration in the limitations of my own intellectual capacity; I would like to soar even higher than I realistically can in feeling the elation of discovery about the mysteries of the Universe that I would have if I had the larger capacity for understanding that geniuses like Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or William Shakespeare had. But Friedrich Nietzsche says we more limited human beings can also be useful:
“That the Great Man should be able to appear and dwell among you again, again, and again, that is the sense of all your efforts here on earth. That there should ever and again be men among you able to elevate you to your heights: that is the prize for which you strive. For it is only through the occasional coming to light of such human beings that your own existence can be justified….And if you are not yourself a great exception, well then be a small one at least! and so you will foster on earth that holy fire from which genius may arise.”
Fellow Humanist Adventurers, isn’t it nice to feel truly alive?
My Journey to Humanism
When Flo asked if I would be on this panel—give a feminist perspective on humanism, I was very reluctant; I didn’t want to open a “Pandora’s Box” or revisit old “battles and war-wounds.” However, for what it may be worth….
I was born five years after women could finally vote in this country and seven years before scientists unlocked the secret of the timing of human ovulation. I was the fifth child of immigrant parents, and by the time of that last discovery, my mother already had 10 of her 11 children. By then we were also experiencing the effects of the deepening depression. (My father built houses and specialized as a plasterer. More than once he was given property in lieu of money and, in turn, also lost the property when he couldn’t both feed us and pay property taxes.)
In my formative years, before Congress adopted the Pledge of Allegiance, the school day began with “Good Morning, Miss ______.” We attended Sunday School at the neighborhood “wardhouse,” but aside from “grace” at dinner, we were not expected to say prayers, with one notable exception when my youngest sister had pneumonia and might not live. My father decided that we’d better say a prayer, just in case it might help (and it could do no harm). We gathered around a chair, on our knees, with clasped hands resting on the chair while he asked god to intervene.
A few years later, I heard a sister ask him whether a belief in god might not be just superstition and Pop answered that it probably was but “who could be sure?” Well, I never needed to ask that question so I knew one person who was sure: myself.
In the context of the time in which I grew up, how could anyone become other than a feminist and a humanist? We learned early that men and even boys had more freedom and independence than girls did, and mothers were practically slaves to their families; most had no identities apart from their families and men ruled the roost in every walk of life.
Fifty-five years ago, being Unitarian in Salt Lake City was all but synonymous with being a humanist. That was the time when the Sunday Evening Forum was the only place in town where one could hear well-informed people address challenging subjects and match wits with their audiences after the talk.
Later, when I began attending morning services, Ed Wilson was minister and his services were not theistic. If god existed, he was almost certainly deistic, although some regarded “him” as a life-force only, comparable to Spinoza’s “life-force” that was “in all and through all.” Madalyn Murray’s lawsuit against Maryland re prayers in school was frequently reported on and collections were taken to assist her. She communicated via a newsletter and spoke here several times. Unitarians wanted to believe that mankind (including females) should and would aspire to high standards of interaction. The negative public view of humanism was a reaction to the fight to separate church and state and to the second Humanist Manifesto.
On the subject of Feminism, we have not yet achieved equality even though many laws have been changed “on the books”, and are even being observed some of the time; it feels light years beyond where we were 30 years ago until an O. J. Simpson-type problem percolates to the surface reminding us that many in society still think of us as the property of our spouses or fathers or brothers. Recently we’ve heard of women in India and elsewhere who were burned so that the husband could be rid of his wife if she hadn’t pleased well enough. In our own country, women won greater independence and freedom after wars because they had been needed and served well in industry and the military, and spouses were elsewhere jumping to someone else’s tune.
I was pleased to be reminded that Betty Friedan was acclaimed “Humanist of the Year” in 1975 by the American Humanist Association for her “Feminine Mystique,” published in 1963, it presaged the firestorm of our collective anger and our determination to improve the lot of women.
Today I celebrate being a Humanist. I am grateful to Anna Zielstra (who began this Chapter), and the many of you, along with Ed Wilson, who have cast Humanism in positive, enlightening terms in this valley and around the world. You are the leaven in life’s loaf.
My Journey to Humanism
My great-grandparents were Mormon pioneers who crossed the country into Utah pulling handcarts. Some of their offspring settled in Panguitch in Southern Utah where I was born in 1950, one of the “baby-boomers.” The story goes that my father took one look at me and said that he was not going to raise his family in the depressed economy where he grew up. He promptly packed up and made a trip to Provo where he secured a job as an apprentice at the Geneva steel mill. We went to the Provo area and then just before my 6th birthday we moved into the house in Pleasant Grove where my parents still live.
Both of my parents are active LDS, in fact they are currently serving on a “Mission.” They raised me to be faithful to LDS doctrines and I graduated with honors from “Seminary” (LDS daily classes where students are excused from regular school-work). It is ironic that one of the first sparks of humanism I encountered came from these religious classes. In my senior year the instructor vowed to prove “beyond any shadow of a doubt” the existence of God. He disassembled a pocket watch and placed all the parts in a shoe box and challenged anyone to shake the box and have the pieces come together so that the watch would work. This, he argued, was analogous to the building blocks of life being able to come together and produce the world as we know it without God’s intervention.
I doubted that I would live long enough to shake the box so that the watch would come together but I imagined that it might be possible to design some kind of shaking apparatus that would keep the box in motion for hundreds or thousands or maybe even millions of years and that maybe, just maybe, the parts might come together in a working piece. I was not alone; two or three of my friends were of similar opinion and we had many lively discussions over the subject.
As I have said this is all happening in Pleasant Grove. The High School student body was 95% LDS and the staff was virtually 100% LDS with one very notable exception: Max Shifrer (a Unitarian) who taught math. I had his class for four years and he was a truly great teacher. I remember Max raising his voice maybe once or twice during those four years. We all hated to sit in alphabetical order and would complain vociferously in other classes, but not in Max’s (I sat behind Jackie West for four years: no questions no comments). If I completed 39 of the 40 homework problems, Max would call on me to demonstrate the 40th one on the blackboard. He nearly always responded to questions with another question that would lead to an answer for the student’s query. (This is making me nervous referring to him as Max instead of Mr. Shifrer!)
Anyway back to the watch in the box: we were seniors, yearbooks were distributed, and even Max could not hope for much school work. He overheard some of our discussion, asked a couple of questions and presented what I now call the Carl Sagan argument. Namely, that by counting the number of observable stars in the visible universe and by taking very conservative estimates for the conditions for life to spontaneously evolve, the chances are overwhelming that life exists, did exist and/or will exist elsewhere in the universe. That was the beginning of the end of my Mormonism; I call it my personal Awakening.
I went on to be the only graduate from my class to attend the University of Utah (Sin City) for a year. Early in my second year I was successful in the only lottery I have ever won in my life: the Draft Lottery. I was very naive about military service and had not maintained enough credit hours to keep my student deferment. When I found out that service was inevitable, I elected to take four years in the Air Force instead of two in the Army as I thought this would decrease my chances on going to Viet Nam. I spent the four years in Germany and had a chance to see that life and living elsewhere are indeed very diverse. This is in stark contrast to what I had been taught at home, church, and school. I read and studied Existentialism, Faulkner, Shakespeare, and others. I came to an uneasy conclusion that I was an atheist, but I did not know why I was uneasy until several years later I read a letter to the editor in the Salt Lake Tribune saying how dehumanizing it is to be non-anything (non-white, non-Mormon, etc.). But I am getting ahead of myself.
I was naive about everything Military. I had no idea that a codified class system existed. I did not know how precious I held the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and it’s Amendments until the Uniform Code of Military ‘Injustice’ was inserted between me and freedom. My four years of service were an enigma: I hated everything Military and yet made many life-time friends and had a chance to go places and see things in Europe that I may never have again and might not ever have had. One of the most enduring impressions from my travels is the feelings I experienced within ancient cathedrals where everything is on a grandiose scale and you look up until your neck aches. The effect is to feel puny in the presence of God. (Thousands of people died building those shrines.) My dismay and questioning of Christianity grew into aversion, resentment and revulsion.
I attended the University of Maryland Overseas while stationed in Germany. There I had the opportunity to study under two more very good teachers: one a German national who taught physics. He impressed me with the concept that there probably isn’t anything that is not knowable–not that we know everything–only that it can be found out through application of the Scientific Method. The second professor taught Shakespeare. We had a group of eight or nine who worked together for two semesters on about ten of the plays. Each of us had a different interest or orientation in our studies. Professor Stephens emphasized the importance of a different point-of-view and showed us that if we listened to each other, we all came away with a better understanding of our subject.
The Scientific Method and tolerance for other’s point-of-view are the two most important things I learned in the Air Farce. I was discharged and returned to SLC in December, 1973. I went back to the University of Utah where I never managed to earn enough credits in one department to qualify for a degree. One day I saw a production of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Happy Birthday Wanda June.” I was amazed and went back and saw a different actor play the lead role and experienced a different play–equally good. I became a Vonnegut fanatic buying and reading all his books. Some of his middle works I read backwards, last chapter first then next to last chapter and so on to the beginning. They are as cohesive in reverse as in normal page order, which I consider a remarkable achievement. I think it is very appropriate to have Mr. Vonnegut as our Honorary President.
About this time I began to notice the right-wing decrying the evils of secular humanism. I found a definition somewhere in a dictionary or encyclopedia and decided that I was not an atheist after all: I am a humanist! I was very proud of this discovery and told nearly every one but nobody really seemed to care. Then, one Saturday a couple of years ago, I happened to notice the word “humanists” on the front of the Religion section in the Salt Lake Tribune. I read that there existed a formal organization of humanists and that a Chapter was alive and well in Salt Lake City. I could not believe it.
Since there was only one Florien Wineriter in the telephone book, I called him and he had a packet of information sent and invited me to the next monthly meeting. I have been a regular member ever since.