The Empty Dogma Of The Radical Humanist

The idea of today's neuroscientists and radical secularists that human beings are nothing more than cell matter is not only arrogant, it is a theory that is self-defeating to the core.

Atheist Richard Dawkins and bus campaign creator Ariane Sherine in London
Atheist Richard Dawkins and bus campaign creator Ariane Sherine in London
Santiago Montenegro


BOGOTA — Are science and philosophy the new dogma of our age? Remember that dogma itself was what science was purported to have overthrown when it was cloaked in the garb of religion. But these days, some of the world's great scientists, philosophers and psychologists are offering a worldview more regressive than even the infernal visions of Dante back in the 14th century.

Like Dante, they see a universe with a clearly defined and definitive order in which humans are rendered helpless. But they go even further. The scientists of today tell us that humans aren't actual subjects, that we are merely objects without free will.

Dante expand=1] envisioned a universe in which every living thing had its place, role and inevitable destiny in a strictly hierarchical setting. At its summit was the Great Ordainer, God, and below were the saints and angels, then monarchs, noblemen and traders. Below these came women, followed by the lower classes, slaves, animals, then plants and inanimate objects or natural elements.

Such conceptions evolved in leaps and bounds over the next 500 years, and our vision of humanity even more. From beings shaped by an impenetrable resolve, humans have become the center and masters of their actions, creators of laws and norms to govern their conduct.

This was the apotheosis of the individual and his autonomy, which prompted Immanuel Kant to postulate the idea of heteronomy to designate anyone controlled not by his will, but by outside forces and determinations.

Two centuries later, many neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, physicians and philosophers — and their popularizing disseminators such as Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker — are saying that the mind and everything it permits are just cells, chemical elements and atoms, ordered in complex forms that will one day be definitively explained by the natural sciences, physics in particular.

There is, they say, no dichotomy between subject and object. All things and all human beings and their minds are just objects. Living material is, fundamentally, akin to dead matter, and therefore nobody has free will or autonomy, nor are there subjects that can "have" and "enjoy" them.

Everything we do, they argue, is but a dream or illusion.

The consequences of this vision of the universe are terrifying. If there is no will, autonomy or liberty, then there can be no blame or merit, no justice, no rights.

By this logic, Mother Teresa was no saint, and terrorists and drug traffickers commit no crimes. For there are simply neither saints nor sinners.

In Dante's world, where God ordered everything, there were nonetheless pockets of autonomy — for Abelard and Eloïse, for example, who disobeyed for loving and earned themselves a terrible punishment.

It may be that in describing a world of mindless illusion, modern thinkers are showing the weaknesses of their own arguments. Because if everything is object and material, one may legitimately ask who — or what — is dreaming or deluding itself? Perhaps the greatest proof of the existence of humans as subjects is precisely our existence as thinking beings. It wasn't enough to declare that God was dead: Certain thinkers in their presumption and arrogance are now telling us that we, as human beings, do not exist either.

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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