Friday, February 01, 2013

A Fake Humanist Quiz

The British Humanist Association has an online quiz called Are You a Humanist?. PZ Myers took the test and discovered that he is only 90% humanist [I think I got an A-]. He's disappointed.

So is Veronica Abbas 'cause she only scored 90% as well [Are You a Humanist?]. I scored 93% but I'm angry because this isn't a test for humanism—it's a test to see whether you are an atheist.

They are not the same thing. I'm not certain that all humanists share the same values but I am certain that there's a distinct libertarian leaning in many humanist organizations. Since I'm a socialist, I reject that point of view and I could never call myself a humanist.

Here's a guest column by Crystal Jurczynski on the American Humanist Association website: Why Humanists Should Vote Libertarian. Although it's a personal opinion it seems to reflect a common perspective shared by most humanist organizations although the libertarian influence was watered down in recent Humanist Manifestos.
Humanists and Libertarians share an optimistic vision for an America where people are empowered to make their own life choices, improve their circumstances, and employ peaceful solutions to conflict. These three areas are governed by our social, economic, and foreign policies.

Libertarians want government out of our personal lives. So, Libertarians support many humanistic causes, such as abortion rights, gay marriage, medical marijuana, and death-with-dignity. Libertarians are also faithful to the Constitution and reject curtailments of our rights, like the illegal detention of "enemy combatants" and the ironically-named "Patriot Act."

Some Humanists, however, take exception to the Libertarian rejection of social programs like Welfare, Social Security, and Medicare. These Humanists should take a hard look at the results produced by these programs. For example, we've spent trillions on poverty programs since the "Great Society" was introduced 40 years ago, but Census Bureau reports show no reduction in poverty rates. The return on the money we are forced to contribute to Social Security and Medicare is much less than can be gained on the free market (and both of these Ponzi schemes will have to be fixed soon or go broke).

Without these types of programs devouring our income, we could save more money to support ourselves as well as provide charity to those in need.
Humanism is a worldview that goes far beyond just nonbelief in supernatural beings. You won't see much exploration of that worldview in the quiz.


  1. If secular humanism has a political philosophy (and I've argued before that it does) it is not Liberianism.

  2. I got 70% but there wasn't a single answer on any question which matched my view sufficiently that I wouldn't have ticked "none of the above" if given the chance.

  3. According to this

    I'm Gandhi

  4. We calculate you are 93% humanist.

    You are a humanist or very close to humanist thinking. Many people are, often without even knowing it!

    ... whatever it actually measures. I would argue that 100% would not be really humanist, since humanum est errare. ;)

    1. So, you could be 100% humanist only when you are not 100% humanist?



  5. It tests several things besides atheism, e.g:

    - whether you take the speciecist view that humans should be privileged above animals (legit in a test for humanism, and the main reason I would not self-identify as humanist),

    - whether you think the happiness of present-day humans is more important than preserving the planet for future generations (debatable which side of this debate humanism is on, but IMO they reward the wrong answer in this one),

    - whether your thoughts tend towards tranquility or towards possible catastrophies when viewing a beautiful landscape (apparently humanists are the latter??)

    - which of the correct answers "I don't know" and "science is the best available explanation" you pick when you can only pick one (WTF???)

    In all, a terrible test.

    1. It really is a terrible test. It doesn't take itself seriously. It actually puts in answers such
      'probably true, because my Science teacher said it was true'
      'it would be a nice place for a motorway' (about seeing a nice view)
      'they are useful to me' (about how to view other people)
      'Kindly because they are sweet and fluffy and nicer than people' (about how to treat animals)

      Since nobody is likely to select these as answers, and there is no 'none of the above' provided, they have clearly limited, and hence just thrown away, options.

      It makes their admonition to me that 'humanists try to think' all the more ironic.

  6. "it's a test to see whether you are an atheist."

    That's fine because that's one of the ways I describe myself: I'm an atheist and proud of it.

  7. I am certain that there's a distinct libertarian leaning in many humanist organizations

    Never come across that before - is this a US/UK difference?

    1. Yes, I think the libertarian aspect is more pronounced today in American than in the United Kingdom. If you read the webpages of the British Humanist Association, they seem to be using the words "atheist" and "humanist" almost as synonyms.

      I don't think this is very helpful.

  8. needless to say, I didn't do too well. But the most entertaining part for me was the commentary below my score,
    "Your answers are fairly neutral, perhaps a bit dependent on authority or other people or pure emotion. Humanists try to think, and to think for themselves."

    A suggestion that I don't think for myself.
    Gave me a good laugh.

    1. @Andy
      If you thought for yourself your answers would clearly coincide with theirs - how else could it be, since they have found TRUTH(TM).

    2. Luther, that's how it works, clearly. Thinking for oneself means thinking like they do. They need to think for themselves a little more in order to understand that others can think for themselves and still think differently than they think, I think.

    3. Oh, the beastly They! Nonetheless, I can certainly see how that "humanists try to think ..." line might raise hackles. See also: "Darwinists [sic] don't see The Truth because they are stuck within their mindset of a priori materialism"

    4. aw jeez, Allan, 'they' means the people who wrote the test. I'm not saying all humanists are like that.

    5. If you look at so-called humanist organisations worldwide you'll see that they always frame their views in terms of what they're not. The whole movement has become, it seems to me, based on having a go at other people's beliefs rather than really setting out their own main tenets. I remember many years ago almost applying for a job with the UK humanists because I felt fairly closely aligned with what I took humanism to be. But when the application pack arrived they turned out be just another bunch of pricks demanding you swear an oath on a leather bound copy of the Skeptical Enquirer - they seemed to be particularly irked by newspaper astrology columns. I threw the application pack in the bin with a disdainful shake of the head.

    6. Andy, as you seem to appreciate a good joke, for a really good laugh try attending your local xtian worship hut (TM)* and watch a bunch of zombie sheep mumbling the words of the Nicene Creed.

      Simply side splitting.

      * franchise opportunities are available

    7. Your only argument appears to be that however idiotic your views are, and however much you rely on authority to tell you what you must think, there are others who are even more idiotic and even more bound by the dictats of their high priests.

      Also, still waiting for some evidence to back up your outrageous personal attack on me. Seems to me like you have nothing.

    8. steve, you should have told your point not to take that left at Alberquerque.

    9. Luther, the BHA could have really used your help setting their policy on women's rights (rape culture - what rape culture ?), homeopathy (homeopathy is exactly like vaccination) and evolution (insert some random shit that Luther has spouted recently here equating evolution with creationism). This could have been the start of exciting new policies for the BHA.

      And critical thinking, my god, the help they need in that area, and you're just the person for it, as you never stop pointing out.

      And with disdainful shake of your head, you would hold true to your principles and suffer the coarse japes hurled at you with noble (but not silent) forbearance.

      Are you perchance a fan of romance novels ?

    10. @Oberski
      I have never equated evolution with creationism. I said that the silly definition of evolution used by people like Larry when trying to pretend evolution is a fact is consistent with (consistent with not the same as) the Genesis account. And I never said homeopathy is exactly like vaccination. I said that homeopathy should not be attacked because of the idea like cures like because that notion is similar to the idea behind many modern medical treatments such as vaccination. So, two cases of you deliberately misrepresenting what I said - not a very good example of critical thinking.

      Re rape culture, the idea such a thing exists is farcical. If it did then rape would not be considered a criminal offence or would be considered a very trivial offence - like speeding. The fact is that rapists are reviled in society and (in the UK, eg) have to be segregated in prison for their own protection. Moreover, in almost all cases where men are falsely accused of rape they find the ordeal horrendous and some even take their own lives because of the stigma attached to the crime. Now, if those in prison despise rapists to the extent that they will attack them on sight, and if such revulsion is so widespread in society that some falsely accused men kill themselves due to shame and/or fear, who exactly is it that you suppose thinks rape is a fine thing and why are men accused of rape so concerned? Indeed, why not put your money where your mouth is and get a T-shirt with the words "I rape women" on it - just as an experiment you understand to see how many people come up and shake your hand. Apply your critical thinking skills to these question.

  9. As for the commentary by the Libertarian/Humanist in post:

    For example, we've spent trillions on poverty programs since the "Great Society" was introduced 40 years ago, but Census Bureau reports show no reduction in poverty rates. The return on the money we are forced to contribute to Social Security and Medicare is much less than can be gained on the free market (and both of these Ponzi schemes will have to be fixed soon or go broke).

    One one hand I suspect her calculations are extremely dubious or at least too simplistic. On the other hand, perhaps the goal of social programs is not to eradicate poverty (which is a relative thing) but rather to improve the lives of those who live under relative poverty. Empathy aside, I suspect the societal cost of not doing so is under-appreciated by the author of the commentary. In my terminology this person would not be called a humanist, she would be called a conservative and I was of the mind that these two things are, to a great degree, mutually exclusive.

  10. I am anti-authoritarian and so, I believe, are the people who run the BHA and most of its membership. The quiz, I am sure was not to be taken so seriously. It was a teaser, an enticement to get people to think about what it takes to be a humanist. I got bored playing with the test after a couple of goes. Nothing stops you trying various permutations to discover which question stopped you from reaching 100%. The BHA works on the assumption that its members are ethical atheists or agnostics. There is no star chamber that decides who is the best or purest humanist. There are cultural and historical differences in the development of humanism in the UK, the USA and other countries.

  11. Thank you Josh, yes you're quite right. We tweeted and shared it calling it 'A bit of fun to help spread awareness of Humanism'.

    99% of people who have taken the quiz appear to have accepted it as so, there are some people though who are taking it far more seriously as intended, as if it were meant to be clinical, with questions designed by psychologists and a scoring system run off a complex algorithm. I think these people may be reading a little too much into it. It didn't cost anything, was created by a volunteer, and has encouraged so far thousands of new website visitors to spend time on the 'about' pages of the website. People have commented that they had not previously heard of Humanism but realise they might be Humanists. It does therefore, fulfil its function.

    Apologies to anyone who feels wronged by the quiz, perhaps we should have made it clearer that it wasn't supposed to be serious (though the inclusion of some question answers such as the motor way one I thought would demonstrate that).

    1. Why didn't you call it "Are You an Atheist?"

      You don't actually "spread awareness of Humanism" with this quiz because I'm more confused about what humanism means after taking the quiz than before.

      Since you're an active member of the British Humanist Association, perhaps you could help me out? What are the important differences between an atheist and the British version of a humanist? Just a few brief examples will suffice.

      If possible, could you point to the quiz questions that distinguish between an atheist humanist and other atheists?

    2. Larry never ceases to perplex. If the quiz was simply 'Are You an Atheist?" it would have ended after the first, perhaps second question.
      Granted, some of the options for answers are there to screen religious beliefs, but the questions that, on their face, have very little to do with 'atheism vs. theism' are by far the majority.
      Right from wrong? Looking at a beautiful sunset? Reasons for being honest? Treating other people with respect? Treatment of animals? The most important thing in life?
      There is no atheists-think-A-and-theists-think-B regarding any of these questions.

      For that matter, even in the case of the question regarding the theory of evolution, many believers in some form of god could still provide the 'humanist' answer the quiz grade the highest. I did.

      It just might turn out that, as the quiz says is the case for many, Larry is a humanist and doesn't even know it!

  12. Also the percentages are for reasons of gamification. Things like this get shared more when done that way.

  13. As for Larry's assertions that 'Humanism is a worldview that goes far beyond just nonbelief in supernatural beings' and 'there's a distinct libertarian leaning in many humanist organizations', I would say that the burden of proof falls on him, rather than the creators of the test. It seems to me that they didn't feel the need to distinguish their definition of humanism from a broader, libertarianism-leaning worldview because, frankly, there doesn't seem to be much 'there' there.
    A brief Google search of 'humanism and libertarianism' doesn't provide a whole lot. One 'guest column' provided by Larry above hardly makes a case.

    This seems to be yet another instance of Larry chastising others for not using words in a manner that is consistent with the way HE defines them.