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Making wise and moral choices requires education
Submitted by admin on 3 October, 2010 - 00:12
Not for the first time, nor probably the last, IHEU is faced with the task of explaining that although everyone is entitled to choice, some choices are morally repugnant. What is the difference between, say, witchcraft in Africa and religious opposition to medical treatment in the USA?
I am aware that medicine cannot cure every disease, but at the same time it can usually help either to control its effects or to alleviate the pain it causes. I am aware that science cannot solve all the problems of the world. That would be far too much to expect. Science has its limitations: its results are in themselves neither good nor bad; it all depends on how they are used. Humans have to learn how to use them responsibly, and to achieve that a sound, liberal education is needed.
Such an education opens the way to being able to think for oneself. As well as imparting skills like reading and writing, it must foster and develop natural curiosity about what is going on in the world around us and how nature works. Just as importantly, it must allow students to discover how society is organised and managed, and give them the ability and confidence to question the system. They need to understand how people can be manipulated to believe that those in power, whether political or religious, are beyond criticism.
One of the biggest challenges facing us is how to use science and technology for the benefit of humanity and not to its detriment.
As I write, nearly all of Europe is unreachable by air. One volcanic eruption has been enough to destabilize normal daily life. Thousands of people are unable to go home after a business trip or a holiday, or to start a journey. Thousands of people are technically out of work because of the suspension of flights. Goods intended for air freight lie waiting at airports, while food and other products liable to deterioration are simply destroyed. Organs cannot be transported from one country to another by air: the only way to get them to their destination in time. A society that normally runs fairly smoothly and efficiently is experiencing severe disruption, as transport and communications stop working as expected.
At the same time an earthquake has happened in China. Again, there are many victims. It has proved difficult to bring adequate help to the remote mountain villages. Despite our technological development, we have not been able to do enough.
Victims of both the volcano and the earthquake are suffering from the power of nature. Whether any human actions may have contributed is a matter of debate.
Unfortunately, people are threatened not only by nature but also by human-engendered wars and violence. Sometimes it is difficult to remain optimistic. Sometimes it is difficult not to give up. But do we have a choice? Of course not! So many things have been achieved by people, individuals as well as small groups, who have striven to bring about change for the better. We have to continue working for a better world. Indeed, in times of uncertainty, we see that compassion and solidarity can grow when difficulties or disasters assail us. Then we can more easily believe in the perfectibility of mankind and find the necessary courage to continue. The Jewish saying that “he or she who rescues one man or woman rescues the entire world” may be a universal truth guiding us to think about what solidarity in this world might mean.
As Humanists we ought to try to build a better world. Urgent help is needed in Uganda. The school projects need our help, in the form not only of words but also of money. So please read the appeal carefully and see what you as an individual can do and what your group or organization can do! The schools and their pupils are in great need and deserve our support.