Life is about problem solving. We have to find work to get money for food and shelter. Our work is about solving problems for other people. We solve problems all day long.
Some problems are easy to solve. Others harder. The reason I am a Humanist is that I find that compassion coupled with a focus on reality helps me solve my problems more effectively.
To solve a problem well, you have to have some idea of what a good outcome will be. This requires moral judgment. As a Humanist, I base good and bad on compassion. If it helps people it’s good. If it hurts people it’s bad. My goal is to do the most good and the least harm.
Deciding on a moral framework is easy. The hard part is actually figuring out what will do the most good and the least harm. Most of our debates aren’t about what is good. That we can usually agree on. Our arguments almost always about how best to accomplish it.
For instance, pretty much everyone can agree it would be really nice if we could reduce the number of abortions. Our disagreements arise when we start talking about the best way to accomplish that. Should we outlaw it? Put women and doctors in jail? Or … should we help women get access to science-based reproductive health care, family planning services and birth control so that women can avoid unwanted pregnancies? To solve this problem we need to ask ourselves: which solution will work best? Which does the most good and causes the least harm? Way too many people never bother to ask this question. They just assume they are right because their morals are right.
This is why the second part of humanistic problem solving is so important. We are firmly committed to reality-based decision making. We seek out and demand factual information. A lie or a bad guess is bad information which leads to bad outcomes.
We can’t do good if we don’t firmly base our decision making on what is real as opposed to what we imagine or hope to be true. This is why Humanists are adamant supporters of science. We want to know what is objectively true, even if it turns out what we thought we knew wasn’t true. Our goal is not to be right but to do good. Science, compassion and reason helps us achieve our goals.
There is an old saying; The path to hell is paved with good intentions. It is not enough to mean well. To do well, you need to accept reality and facts, even when they contradict your firmly held beliefs. The next time you find yourself rejecting facts as fake. Catch yourself and challenge yourself to find out if you are wrong. Your moral reasoning will improve if you do AND you will do a better job of problem solving, too.
Jennifer Hancock is the founder of Humanist Learning Systems and the author of several books about Humanism. https://humanistlearning .com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald.