Reason and the Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning – Niell (amendment to Article II, which will be placed on the final agenda)

Amendment:
After Line 44 and inclusive communities

[INSERT: Reason. We search for truth and meaning, informed by reason, evidence, and the results of science, motivated by wonder, curiosity, and compassion.

We covenant to listen to and respect the views of others, and to remain open to new ideas.]

After Line 21 Shared Unitarian Universalist Values
[INSERT: The UUA Board and staff will develop procedures for updating the graphic as needed.]

Clean version:
After Line 44

Reason. We search for truth and meaning, informed by reason, evidence, and the results of science, motivated by wonder, curiosity, and compassion.

We covenant to listen to and respect the views of others, and to remain open to new ideas.

Rationale:
Our UU commitment to a responsible search for truth and meaning sets us apart from other denominations. We are free of dogma. The open-mindedness we espouse in our 4th principle is what drew many of us to become UUs; it has guided youth and members in developing their faith; and it could be a key factor in attracting new members over the coming years. If our values are now to be the public face of our faith, as the principles have been, then our traditional value of reason should be among them.

Page 8 of the report states that the document should be inclusive. We need to be inclusive of our continuing members as well as the new and potential new members we welcome to our widening circle. In addition, page 10 states the Commission should reach out to the numerous stakeholders, which include philosophical and theological groups, such as UU Humanists. Whether or not they identify with one of those groups, members are stakeholders and many of them value reason and the search greatly. The current Proposed Revision to Article II de-emphasizes the role of the search and reason. It does state, in the Pluralism value, “We covenant to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Learning from one another is of great benefit, but it is only one part of a responsible search. We can be more inclusive of our stakeholders by adding the value of Reason which is so important to so many of them.

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The part that’s especially moving to me here is the way the Reason Value draws connections between reason, evidence, the results of science, all of which are values and pursuits of a conceptual nature (I think), and the emotions of wonder, curiosity, and compassion… It makes me think of the notion that humans, and other creatures as well, use emotions to focus attention on what’s important, whether within the organism (aiding perception, deliberation, conceptualization, etc.) or in communicating to others what’s important–well, if that notion (which I understand only in the most sketchy way!) makes sense, it’s quite wonderfully expressed here. :heart: :heart:

In our congregational meeting about this, it was felt that this concept was already spread out throughout the other values and in the Inspirations section.

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I am so heartened to see that this amendment has made it to this stage! Speaking as a convert to UUism from a faith tradition that required me to ignore science and check my thinking cap at the door, it was refreshing to discover that UUism values reason. I have felt welcome in the UU community precisely because, as this proposed amendment states,

Thank you to LeRae Niell, UUCLB, and all of those whose effort and energy went into clarifying that Reason is an essential UU Value to be included among the proposed Shared Unitarian Universalist Values.

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When I read the final draft of Article II, I clearly see reason and the influence of humanism in the words that are already there. I see no need to add more bulk to the text by including this amendment. The amendments sentiments are in line with my values and the values I see in the Article II draft.

  1. In the opening paragraph of the final draft of Section C-2.2. - “We draw from our heritages of freedom, reason, hope, and courage, building on the foundation of love.” Reason is getting a prime position in the listing of UU heritage. No deist faith is mentioned as part of the heritage.
  2. As part of Pluralism - “We covenant to learn from one another in our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” - This statement assumes that we as UUs are participating in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. It is not limited to only learning from one another. We covenant to be open-minded and to try to learn from others.
  3. Transformation - “Openness to change is fundamental” - Surely, this value speaks to scientific discovery and curiosity.
  4. Section C-2.3. Inspirations - “We draw upon, and are inspired by, sacred, secular, and scientific understandings” - Science is specifically mentioned as a source of inspiration. Clearly a nod to humanism and again no other historical religion gets a specific mention in the inspirations section.
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Hi. I appreciate the desire to frame reason and science as a special call-out in terms of UU core principles. However, FWIIW I would be more comfortable if the wording was slightly different. Reason and evidence are indeed critical, but through unintentional mistakes and/or corrupt manipulation, incorrect/biased reasoning and bad science has lead to catastrophic mistakes. The above wording seems to perhaps elevate science to ‘idol’ or special dogma status (thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh’s 1st principle of interbeing).

If there is to be an amendment, perhaps something more along of the following lines?

Reason. We search for truth and meaning, informed by both reason and love, acknowledging both the primacy of unbiased reasoning and science as well as the sacrosanctity of the universal love centered heart, where neither are ignored.

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