When Howard Radest asked me to give the keynote address for this forum, my affection for the ethical movement seduced me into accepting the assignment. My usual good common sense flew out through my ears. Marc Chagall could have painted the surrealism of the event in bright colors.
And when I received a letter from Sherwin Wine giving me my speaking orders, my autonomic nervous system collapsed, suffusing me with cold sweat, a rapid heart and a certain dizziness. Rabbi Wine asked me to give forth for 60 minutes on how “the revolutionary developments in science affect the world view of historic Humanism. In what way are old beliefs confirmed? In what way are new beliefs necessary?” Rabbi Wine, that is a multi-volume boxed set of books. And, indeed, if I were to answer the questions, the forum could end this evening.
And to intensify my stage-fright, Sherwin gave me the good news that my remarks were to be published in Humanism Today. So my remarks need the construction of a literary work with the polish of speech.
What am I doing here? I am merely a journalist with the astounding good fortune to have witnessed some of the revolutionary developments in science in the last forty years or so. I am no philosopher, historian of science, nor a working scientist. My knowledge of Humanism I gathered mainly at Howard Radest’s knee, when he was Leader of the Bergen Ethical Society and lone of his flock.
I am truly unable to apply the finely tuned reasoning of philosophy. But perhaps I can give you some grist for your discussion mills. Maybe I can take the long way round and deal with Rabbi Wine’s kashes indirectly and open some more questions about the interaction of science and its works on the one hand, with human reach and needs on the other. I take as an axiom that the human being and his (and, of course, her) potential stand at the center of our concern. I want to see our species create a world in which each human being can achieve to the limit of his or her biological endowment. I leave the angels to their heaven.
Contrary to the naysayers of gloom and doom, I must report that never has the human condition, biologically and spiritually, been better. I do not have to reach back very far in history to encounter human beings with but dim prospects for living beyond the age of 20. It has but recently occurred to me that AIDS reigned as the major killer in those centuries. Yes, it was acquired immune deficiency disease, but of a cause different from the horror now spreading everywhere.