Herr Lecture Series presents Dr. Ronald E. Osborn

Herr Lecture Series presents Dr. Ronald E. Osborn

“Values After Darwin” latest in Burman University speaker series

Dr. Ronald E. Osborn is the latest speaker in Burman University’s ongoing Herr Lecture series and will be presenting his talk titled “Values After Darwin”.

The lecture will be in the McKibbin Centre’s Underhill Lecture Hall at Burman and will run from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4th.

Osborn is the author of several books, including Humanism and the Death of God: Searching for the Good After Darwin, Marx, and Nietzsche.

His talk will focus on how whether Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection, “And evolutionary biology can provide an adequate or compelling basis for values.”

Osborn, who describes himself both as Christian and a believer in Darwin’s theory, said an issue with Natural Selection is that it can have, “Corrosive influences on values” — something Darwin himself recognized when he wrote the Origin of Species in the 19th Century

“If values are adaptive traits, the same as sharp teeth or talons, then that could mean values become completely malleable and irrelevant,” he said.

The problem, according to Osborn, is that for those who reject religion for naturalism, the question remains of where do values come from.

“I accept Darwinian Theory as a scientific matter, but I don’t think philosophical naturalism is adequate for having a cohesive, coherent ethical framework,” Osborn said.

To outline the problems with creating legitimacy for morality, Osborn referenced Canadian Philosopher and Scholar Charles Taylor, who describes a, “Three cornered fight” between secular humanism, post-modern anti-humanism and “Acknowledgers of Transcendence” — what Taylor uses to describe religious believers.

Secular humanists are people who value human rights and human dignity, without the need for metaphysical frameworks like religious institutions; post-modern anti-humanists trace their lineage to thinker Friedrich Nietzsche and views liberal ideas like human rights as, “Language games that mask agendas of power”; and Acknowledgers of Transcendence approach things from the perspective that metaphysics are needed beyond rationalism.

For Taylor, each of these groups teams up with one of the other groups to discredit the other with anti-humanists and humanist pushing the other to reject metaphysics; anti-humanist and religious groups rejecting humanist for having baseless lofty values and humanists and religion criticizing anti-humanist for being against liberal values.

“The short answer is liberal values and humanistic values are under attack,” Osborn said. “I think for a long time people took them for granted, but now we see globally a rise of authoritarian figures including in the United States and now Brazil. There is a sense these values are being exposed as fragile politically and also fragile intellectually.”

For Osborn, anyone who has an interest in defending human rights should have, “A coherent, compelling basis for our commitments.”

Part of that commitment is for humanists to realize, according to Osborn and other thinkers, that much of the Enlightenment narrative came from theological ideas, even though humanists look to reject religion.

“Many of the enlightenment’s highest values and aspirations actually took directly from powerful theological ideas. Ideas about the human being and the integrity of the human being. Can the project of enlightenment and humanism have the tools to be self-sustaining once it is cut off from religious wellsprings,” Osborn asks.

Despite this criticism of humanism, Osborn also points out that Christians in the United States have a lot to account for with the rise of Donald Trump.

“I tend to think that many people who call themselves Christian and Evangelical in the United States today are actually worshipping the religion of nationalism. Christians will have an awful lot to account for in this period of our history. It won’t look well for them or Christianity,” he said, adding that he believes there is a link between the loss of moral clarity and a commitment to virtue.

“There is something corrosive in adopting a strictly materialistic framework that doesn’t give us the resources we need to resist the forms of violence and intolerance we see in the world today,” he said.

Ultimately, Osborn is hoping to create more honest dialogue with his project regarding morality in our world.

“A lot of people assume the ideas of how we should behave and a lot of people take it for granted. A lot of these values steeped in our culture have a genealogy and cultural origin and a lot of it traces back to ideas that were grounded in theological claims,” he said.

Osborn points out that, obviously, non-believers are good people all over the world but worries whether Nietzsche’s idea of the “Death of God” means that non-believers would eventually not value human rights.

“With the Death of God, does that mean the death of the image of God in the other? What does it mean when we stop looking at the other, no matter how unsavoury, as a child in the image of God? Is there slippage? Do we lose our grasp on the idea of the self-evidence of human rights?” he asks.

Osborn said he believes the questions he will pose on morality at the lecture are already on the minds of many thinking people.

“Partly what I am trying to do is add clarity to conversations that people are already having with family members and friends that aren’t always addressed in a careful, systematic way,” he said, adding he is looking forward to having a Q and A with the audience.

“I hope we can model good conversation in an age where that is increasingly rare,” he said.

Tickets are available at www.burmanu.ca/herrlectures.

todd.vaughan@lacombeexpress.com

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Most Read