On the Wings of a Dove
James E. Archer
To the editor:
I would like to take issue with the recent article, On the Wings of a Dove by Nicolas Humphrey.
The problems with the article are too numerous to address in total so I will comment on only two.
The article is full of quotations from famous people from Lenin to Stravinsky. A few are relevant but most are not. They give the impression of a man who is trying to impress us with how well read he is. This sort of puffery is not in the interest of rational inquiry.
Secondly, and more importantly, he states that "in the struggle for survival that takes place between members of an evolving population every one is ultimately the rival to most if not all the others." This crude social Darwinism (as opposed to rational, humane Darwinism) has too often been used to cover for narrow self-serving behavior. It is the kind of thinking that created the brutal industrial conditions of the late 19th century.
The truth is that mutual aid between people is a stronger organizing principle than competition. One author Humphrey did not quote was Peter Kroptin whose works document the strong role cooperation has played in human evolution. Noam Chomsky (a rationalist and atheist) has also spoken eloquently to this issue.
When Humphrey writes is he not trying to reach out to others who may share his world view? Doesn't the Atheist Community Center exist because we want to share our experiences and, in turn, be validated by others? Are we competing with fellow atheists or seeking common ground despite our numerous differences?
To me, the answers to these questions are clear and they put the lie to a narrow and self-serving concept that elevates competition above cooperation and human understanding.
James E. Archer
I suppose we can read into Darwinism whatever we want -- be it socialism or capitalism or whatever suits the case we are trying to make. Christians do similar things with the Bible.
I printed Humphrey's article because I was impressed with how he juxtaposes material reality with the notion of the supernatural, going so far as to call physical reality the best of all possible worlds, and using scientific Darwinism, among other things, to make this case.
I cannot speak for Humphrey, but I believe he is trying to bring people of a different world view over to his; I doubt his primary audience is those who want to read what they already know. I know I learned several exciting new angles from each chapter of this very original book. This is somewhat rare among atheistic writings, and it is a joy to discover a new twist on atheism.
The Atheist Community Center, in my opinion, is neither competing with other atheists nor trying to seek common ground among various atheists. It is simply a place where atheists meet with one another to socialize and hold discussions, and is also vehicle whereby activists can work for social change -- particularly in the area of separationist issues. I'm sure other members of the Center have different ideas of CRT's purpose -- or, maybe, what CRT's function should be.
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