This toolkit explores the ways in which humanists approach the question of what is true. Humanists use reason and evidence to work out what is or may be true. They look for evidence, weigh up the strength of evidence, look for ways to test the evidence, and look for the simplest explanations of it. Humanists do not think that things can be ‘true for you but not for me’ or that there are special ‘religious’ kinds of truth. They prefer to use the word ‘faith’ for beliefs which are not backed up by evidence, and ‘opinion’ for matters of personal judgment.
The toolkit shows students how to use reason and evidence. Using
the example of the existence of god(s), it explores some of the
ways in which reason and evidence are used by humanists to make
decisions about what is true and how else humanists might approach
the question of whether god(s) exist. It introduces the concepts
of belief, agnosticism, and atheism as responses to this.
The issue of truth is huge and complex. This toolkit does not deal directly with questions of how far we can know if there is a world out there, or how language and sensory input mediates our experience of the world, or with metaphorical truth; however, students may raise these ideas in discussion.
Students are able to
- Explain how humanists use reason and evidence to decide what is true and give examples
- Express their own views on how they decide what is true, giving reasons and examples and compare their ideas with those of humanists
- Use religious and philosophical vocabulary.
Summary of Activities
The students have a list of statements which may or may not be true. They discuss which they think is true and why. The students then watch some video clips of humanists talking about using reason and evidence to decide what is true. In groups the students research and present the ideas of one humanist thinker about whether God is true. They then give their own views on this question, referring to the ideas they have explored. The students revisit one or more of the initial statements and give their views on whether they think it is true or not, using the religious and philosophical vocabulary they have encountered in this piece of work and explaining how far they agree or disagree with humanist viewpoints.
Religious Education, particularly the themes of ‘Beliefs and Concepts’, ‘Authority’, ‘Religion and Science’, and ‘Interfaith Dialogue’.
Science, particularly 1.1 ‘Scientific Thinking’. 1.3 ‘Cultural Understanding’, and 2.2 ‘Critical Understanding of Evidence’.
English, opportunities for Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing.
History, particularly 2.2 ‘Using Evidence’, and Range and Content (g) ‘The way in which the lives, beliefs, ideas, and attitudes of people in Britain have changed over time’.
Citizenship, particularly 2.1 ‘Critical Enquiry’ and 2.2 Advocacy and Representation.
The cross-curricular dimensions of ‘Identity and Cultural Diversity’ and ‘Creativity and Critical Thinking’.