The Interplay Between
Ethics and Empiricism

Alan Levin

From: “Alan Levin”
To: “Positive Atheism”
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: Saturday, 04 December 1999


I wish to thank you for your insightful essays on the Carneal matter and for publishing the e-mail from Ms Hawks.

In your article “Taking a Cheap Shot at Atheism” you correctly pointed out the ancient response to unexplained calamity of seeking out those who could be responsible for the evil. In a world in which will and natural forces were intertwined the ancient interpretation made sense.

In your reply to Ms Hawks, your wrote about your disagreement with the local Atheist leadership in Portland and you ostracism from the local organization. You wrote “Never again will you hear me make the claim that atheism is superior to religion in this respect.” You are, of course, correct in that regard. The rejection of supernatural causation may put a crimp in the type of reasoning that lead to Salem, but ethically it goes nowhere.

Your theme, “positive atheism”, and “humanism” are both efforts to construct the positive and ethical implication from our existence in nature. I am currently writing an essay for the Humanists of Iowa in which I have defined humanism as ideally the interplay between ethics and empiricism. Some of articles in which you describe the agenda of your site are a real contribution to the discussion of this interplay.

I would not hazard a guess whether a group seeking to maintain the focus I suggest would do better in avoiding the type of attack on personality you describe, but I do know that an exclusive agenda of “what is wrong with them” followed by some atheists does little to advance ethical thinking.