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EL ESPECTADOR

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

-OpEd-

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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Green

Fading Flavor: Production Of Saffron Declines Sharply

Saffron is well-known for its flavor and its expense. But in Kashmir, one of the flew places it grows, cultivation has fallen dramatically thanks for climate change, industry, and farming methods.

Photo of women harvesting saffron in Kashmir

Harvesting of Saffron in Kashmir

Mubashir Naik

In northern India along the bustling Jammu-Srinagar national highway near Pampore — known as the saffron town of Kashmir —people are busy picking up saffron flowers to fill their wicker baskets.

During the autumn season, this is a common sight in the Valley as saffron harvesting is celebrated like a festival in Kashmir. The crop is harvested once a year from October 21 to mid-November.

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