Absolute Trust in Our Senses: How to Build a System of Principles Without Religion

What would it take to create a system of principles that guide our behavior without a religious grounding?

What would it take to create a system of principles that guide our behavior without a religious grounding? Lex Bayer, a non-profit organizer, and John Figdor, a chaplain, who both serve the Stanford University community, boldly attempt to find out in their book Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart. The two begin by establishing the assumptions such a system would require since, as they adroitly argue, overcoming philosohpical skepticism is not a realistic goal. 


Bayer and Figdor take a cue from fourteenth-century philosopher and theologian William of Ockham, whose Ockham's razor holds that the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions while explaining all of the facts is most likely to be correct.

From this position they arrive at three core assumptions:

1. An external reality exists.

2. Our senses perceive this external reality.

3. Language and thought are tools for describing and understanding what our senses perceive.

After some argumentation, the authors arrive at these more developed assumptions which they hold absolutely true:

1. An external reality exists, and "truth" signifies an accurate description of that reality.

2. Our five senses are our only means for perceiving this reality.

3. Language and thought offer ways to analyze, communicate about, and contemplate the nature of reality.

Here, author and journalist Robert Wright addresses the question of whether or not humans must abandon religion to achieve true moral progress:

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Cheers! How the physics of fizz contributes to human happiness

The phenomenon that makes our favourite drinks bubbly is, alarmingly, the same one that causes decompression sickness in divers. Why do we still love it?

Surprising Science

Think of the last time you had something to celebrate. If you toasted the happy occasion, your drink was probably alcoholic – and bubbly.

Keep reading Show less

Why the south of Westeros is the north of Ireland

As Game of Thrones ends, a revealing resolution to its perplexing geography.

Image: YouTube / Doosh
Strange Maps
  • The fantasy world of Game of Thrones was inspired by real places and events.
  • But the map of Westeros is a good example of the perplexing relation between fantasy and reality.
  • Like Britain, it has a Wall in the North, but the map only really clicks into place if you add Ireland.
Keep reading Show less