Humanists have long contended that morality is a strictly human concern and should be independent of religious creeds and dogma. This principle was clearly articulated in the two Humanist Manifestos issued in the mid-twentieth century and in Humanist Manifesto 2000, which appeared at the beginning of the twenty-first century Now distinguished economist Rodrigue Tremblay has published this code for global ethics, which further elaborates ten humanist principles designed for a world community that is growing ever closer together. In the face of the obvious challenges to international stability -- from nuclear proliferation, environmental degradation, economic turmoil, and reactionary and sometimes violent religious movements -- a code based on the "natural dignity and inherent worth of all human beings" is needed more than ever. In separate chapters Tremblay delves into the issues surrounding these ten humanist principles: preserving individual dignity and equality, respecting life and property, tolerance, sharing, preventing domination of others, eliminating superstition, conserving the natural environment, resolving differences cooperatively without resort to violence or war, political and economic democracy, and providing for universal education. This forward-looking, optimistic, and eminently reasonable discussion of humanist ideals makes an important contribution to laying the foundations for a just and peaceable global community. — Prometheus Books
Few are more poised to speak about economics and ethics and how they relate to each other than economist and philosopher Rodrigue Tremblay, an emeritus professor of economics and finance at the University of Montreal and a part time resident of Marco Island with his wife Carole. Dr. Tremblay is the author of thirty nonfiction books, including a basic textbook in Economics, and the 2010’s The Code for Global Ethics (Prometheus Books), and he writes an international blog about geopolitics on the Internet (www.TheNewAmericanEmpire.com/blog) that is posted in ten languages.
Now that he is semi-retired, Dr. Tremblay feels that he has more time to devote to big issues. He is particularly worried that our current economic and financial problems are as much moral as technical in nature. “Why do political leaders seem to be lying most of the time? Why is uncontrolled greed so prevalent in corporate boardrooms? … Why does materialism seem to trump everything else? Why do we have the uneasy feeling that our society is going in the wrong direction? The very fact that we have to raise such questions may be a sign of the times,” Dr. Tremblay wrote in a recent blog entitled “The Moral Dimension of Things”. “Historically”, he says, “it can be shown that when the moral environment in a society is deteriorating, problems tend to pile up.”
Tremblay thinks that we are presently living in one of those times, characterized by deep and entrenched political corruption, by routine abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law in high places, and by unchecked greed, fraud and deception in the economic sphere. The results are all there to see: Severe and prolonged economic and financial crises, rising social inequalities and social injustice, increasing intolerance toward individual choices, the disregard for environmental decay, the rise of religious absolutism, a return to whimsical wars of aggression (or of pre-emptive wars), to blind terrorism, and to the repugnant use of torture, and even to genocide and to blatant war crimes. These are all indicators that our civilization has lost its moral compass.
And devising such a moral compass is the central object of his most recent book, The Code for Global Ethics. In it, Dr. Tremblay postulates that many of our problems and threats are not only severe but they have also become global in nature. He also thinks that our scientific and technological progress is advancing faster than our moral progress, with the consequence that problems seem to arise faster than our moral ability to face them and solve them. Dr. Tremblay doesn’t hesitate to place part of the blame on old religion-based rules of morality, essentially because they have not incorporated new scientific knowledge discovered over the last four centuries.
Indeed, Dr. Tremblay stresses three facts that have changed forever our worldview and humans’ vision of themselves in the Universe. They are:
• Galileo’s proof, in 1632, that the Earth and humans were not the center of the Universe.
• Darwin’s discovery, in 1859, (“On the Origin of Species”) that humans are the outcome of a very long natural biological evolution.
• And, the Watson-Crick-Wilkins-Franklin’s discovery, in 1953, of the structure of the double helix DNA molecule in human cells, and the devastating knowledge that humans share more than 98 percent of the same genes with chimpanzees.
These discoveries have tremendous consequences for our moral stance and for the pursuit of a global civilization.
Asked what a more universal civilization would look like, Dr. Tremblay answers the following:
“First and foremost, the scope of human empathy would be more universal and more comprehensive, and would not merely apply to some chosen people, to members of a particular religion or to persons belonging to a particular civilization. In practice, this would require that we establish a higher threshold of human morality, beyond the traditional norm of the Golden Rule (“Treat others as you would have others treat you.”) It would require that we adopt what I call a Super Golden Rule of humanist morality that incorporates the humanist rule of empathy: “Not only do to others as you would have them do to you, but also, do to others what you would wish to be done to you, if you were in their place.” — Of course, the corollary also follows: “Don’t do to others what you would not like to be done to you, if you were in their place.”
Dr. Tremblay does not believe that we currently live in such a global civilization. “My best hope, he says, “is that we will avoid falling back into an age of obscurantism and of decadence, and that we will be able to build a truly humanist civilization for the future.”
To meet the basic criterion for such a future global civilization, Dr. Tremblay establishes ten fundamental principles in The Code for Global Ethics.
“Tremblay’s ten principles provide us with a rational jumping-off point toward a new society no longer exploited by the power elites of church, state, and business.” —Victor J. Stenger, author of the New York Times bestseller God: The Failed Hypothesis
“This book represents a valuable and indispensable guide through the complexity of modern life and moral issues facing us every day. It offers a natural and far superior alternative to traditional religious moralities.” —Marian Hillar, MD, PhD, professor of philosophy and religious studies, director of the Center for Philosophy and Socinian Studies, and author of The Case of Michael Servetus (1511–1553) and Michael Servetus: Intellectual Giant, Humanist, and Martyr
“Dr. Tremblay offers historical argument and proposals for integrating humanist philosophy into both our everyday lives and our social institutions. Policymakers and laypersons alike should heed his account of humanist principles, for in them lies a path to greater peace, tolerance, and societal progress.” —David Koepsell, JD, PhD, former executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and assistant professor of ethics at the Delft University of Technology
“Rodrigue Tremblay points out in The Code for Global Ethics that we need to abandon selective moralities . . . [and] move to a higher plane in which all members of the human family are treated equally as persons. . . . Dr. Tremblay eloquently defends this form of rational humanism.” —Paul Kurtz, PhD, founder of the Center for Inquiry "The principles proposed by Dr. Tremblay are dignity and equality, respect for life, tolerance and openness, sharing, anti exploitation, reason, ecology, peace, democracy and education. -This is a timely book to read." —Daniel Baril, Canadian anthropologist and author. Top of page
by Dr Rodrigue Tremblay (Prometheus Books), August 17, 2011
This is an absolutely fantastic, unapologetic dose of reality. It lays out a very clear picture of ten vital, humanist principles to live by. In great detail, using examples we can all understand, this book explains the pitfalls of religious thought when designing and living by a moral code. In many terrifying ways, organized religion always has and always will push humanity through mazes of violence and war, justifying death and destruction in its wake. This book explains how religion is completely unnecessary in crafting the perfect moral code and is, in fact, a detriment to the development of a more perfect moral code.
I couldn't believe how perfectly this system fit with my own philosophies. Every page was so full of perfect, sound rationale, that I now want to go out and buy thousands of copies and just start passing them out on the streets. The American political system now is so shaky, and is now teetering back on the brink of religious fundamentalist conservative thought, that the public is allowing its own intellect to be hijacked by the Tea Party and their radical anarchist views, that I do seriously fear for our future as a nation. I truly believe that unless the United States returns to the humanist principles of the Founding Fathers, we are in a collapsing system.
by Dr Rodrigue Tremblay (Prometheus Books), August 17, 2011
Review of: The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles, by Rodrigue Tremblay (Prometheus Books)
Great minds such as Voltaire, Hume, Locke, and others made the eighteenth century the century of the Enlightenment. They showed humanity that there was a better way to organize its affairs on a firmer moral foundation than what various religions had provided until then. This was the way of humanism and empathy. For them, human beings have an innate capacity for basic morality, for developing sympathy for others, and for treating others with empathy by putting oneself in the context of other people. Such a natural inclination does not come from gods, but is the end result of natural evolution. In that, they were worthy precursors of Charles Darwin and his "moral sense or conscience".
Three centuries later, there is a most urgent need to remind humanity of these fundamental truths, before catastrophe strikes again, i.e. that man has inalienable natural rights, that man is naturally a moral animal and that, in return, man has a duty of not abusing his power over nature.
In “Global Ethics: Ten Humanist Principles”, Mr. Tremblay has expanded on these great thoughts by showing how a commitment to humanist values can help everyone in developing a moral conscience. -How the classical 'Golden rule' can be expanded to embrace empathy for other people, outside of our immediate social or political groups. –Why a truly global approach to morality is needed today to tackle global problems. –How the disasters of the past can be prevented in the future. The answer is to be found in the great humanist principles of global ethics that can be applied worldwide, beyond borders, to build the foundations for a better world community.
-A lot of myths and sacred cows are demolished in “The Code for Global Ethics” without even a hint of remorse or hesitation by the author. This makes it thrilling to read. We are not accustomed to being told things so openly and frankly about ethics and religion, at least in the United States.
In other pre-Vatican II times, the Catholic Church would have put such a book in the Index.
The Code for Global Ethics Dr Rodrigue Tremblay Prometheus Books
I have one rule for reviewing books: They must be by local authors. So when Carole Jean Tremblay asked me to have a look at Rodrigue Tremblay's Code for Global Ethics, I was tickled to discover they're Vaudreuil-Dorion residents.
Dr. Tremblay is a rare bird - an academic who understands market forces and politics well enough to be elected to the first Parti Québécois government in 1976 and be named to René Levesque's first cabinet as minister of industry and trade. Whenever you pop into a dep for a bottle of wine, you have Rodrigue Tremblay to thank for breaking the SAQ's monopoly.
Apart from that three-year break, he taught economics at the Université de Montréal since 1962 until 2002, when he was named professor emeritus. He's written 25 books in economics and politics, including some harsh indictments of American hegemony such as his New American Empire. He was even associate editor of Les Affaires, Quebec's financial weekly.
In The Code for Global Ethics, Dr. Tremblay warns the human race isn't going to make it unless we learn to work together - and fast. Read against a rear-screen projection of BP's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Islamic jihadists, Israel's Gaza blockade, Europe's entitlement-driven economic meltdown and a perfect storm of ethical crises here in Quebec, it's hard to argue with Dr. Tremblay's case for a 10-code of global ethics or the urgency in adopting it. My only question would be who bells the transnational fatcat. You can bet they'll not be talking of the need for a code of global ethics when the G-8 and G-20 meet in Huntsville.
He's equally contemptuous of religious extremism, gender bias, environmental irresponsibility and corporate excess, but it's a contempt born of logic, rather than emotion - the same coolness that won him the sobriquet "Cool Rod" when I was covering him back when he was in the Lévesque cabinet.
Those familiar with his work will recognize threads from past works, such as his 1981 warning that Quebec could not afford universal entitlements. Societies, he writes, have a responsibility to their citizens, but not to the point that "it gives rise to a problem of moral hazard, where people come to depend on society and on government handouts, knowing that even if they act irresponsibly and behave as parasites, the government will always bail them out. In any society, there is a moral requirement to be productive, just as there is a moral requirement to be fair and generous."
Top of page Positive and Generous Morals for the Future April 7, 2010
I found this book to be a fantastic breakthrough as a way to present humanist ethics. The book is both revealing and extremely informative. It is well written, clear, concise, and persuasive. The author thoroughly investigates what humanism is all about and how it presents a superior worldview and ethics to solve human problems on an increasingly shrinking planet. --Humanism is not a religion without a god. It is a positive, rational, practical, generous and ethical philosophy of life.
In "The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles", the author presents a humanist moral compass that is straight and worth following. This is done in three hundred pages of pedagogically clear prose.
Most humanists will greet such an accessible and jargon free presentation of the fundamental humanist principles at a time when humanist moral philosophy seems to be sorely needed. The book is not a book of philosophy proper, written for the specialist. It is rather a clearly written and easily readable demonstration for the nonprofessional reader that moral values are necessary for human survival in the long process of human evolution. That's what the author calls "the moral dimension" of things.
Tremblay makes clear that "humans are social animals, and human interaction is a requirement for survival," and that means acting reciprocally or better, empathically. Human morality is partly innate, partly a product of the long natural evolutionary process and partly learned. This is a distinction that the author clearly emphasizes when he writes, "human morality is both an intuitive phenomenon and a learned attribute of human behavior" (p. 25). Thus, the pedagogical tone that he adopts throughout.
The book contains the potentially more controversial and debatable demonstration, at least for some readers, that humanist values are better adapted to our time of global challenges than more sectarian religion-based values. --The author deals here with universal utilitarian morality as opposed to in-group theistic morality. Indeed, being a pragmatic economist, Tremblay follows David Hume in thinking that ethical systems must primarily be judged according to their results. As he writes in the Introduction: "Since our worldview affects how we interact with others, any moral code must be judged as to how its adherents treat other people and whether or not it improves people's lives. If the adherents treat others badly and their moral values reduce others' quality of life, it is a bad moral code; if the adherents treat others with dignity and respect and their actions improve the lives of the greatest number, it is a good code of ethics. This is the ultimate pragmatic test of reality and results." (p. 22)
Of course, I cannot agree more. A moral code must be a meaningful guide to action, before being esthetically, conceptually or intellectually attractive. Tremblay is no utopist. He devotes a full chapter (chap. 11) to the applicability of moral rules in general and of humanist rules in particular.
In the real world, one rarely encounters absolute pure human good or absolute pure human evil. In reality, people have the capacity to be both good and evil. In fact, we can observe a spectrum of good behavior to bad behavior, following a sort of normal curve from the very good to the very bad. The trick is to avoid the very bad behavior with better morals, better knowledge and better institutions. --That's what the book outlines. Gastongravel (Naples, FL, USA)
I've read many books about morality. Some are deadly dull, but this one stands out for its clarity and purpose. In "The Code for Global Ethics", economist Tremblay argues that while organized religions may have contributed to civilizing uneducated and superstitious peoples in the past, they are still prisoners of their group origin and are a major source of international strife and conflicts. That's why he thinks human ethics should be separated from religion. He explains how different organized religions can be seen as clubs or political parties that often rely on the powerful assistance of social conformity to gain political monopoly power in some societies. When that happens, various forms of theocratic rule replace democracy. That's because large organized religions have their own specific agenda and goals. But, that's the hic, their codes of ethics are usually very ambivalent, forbidding lying, plundering and killing in some circumstances, but authorizing it and glorifing it in other circumstances.
The book's message is straightforward: In this age of globalization and of global problems, and with the risk of global nuclear conflicts, humanity needs to move to a better code of global ethics; and that's the universal humanist code of ethics that the author develops out of ten fundamental humanist principles. This is the next step that humankind needs to take, and, the author argues, there is no need for organized religions to do that; rather, organized religions can be an insurmountable hindrance to such moral progress.
Most religions, indeed, are based on a fundamental moral contradiction: They are as much proponents of intolerance as tolerance, of hatred as love, and of war as peace. Especially the Abrahamic ones (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), these proselytizing religions still condemn to eternal hell those who happen to be outside their narrow ideological circles (the infidels), ...and that's the majority of people now living on this planet or who have lived in the past.
First and foremost, their morality is a morality for the "fidels", and is rarely fully extended to the others, the outsiders or the "infidels". Thus the basic moral ambivalence of very religious people toward "non-Judaists", "non-Christians" and "non-Islamics". Therefore, it is easy to understand why Tremblay, together with other humanist authors (Paul Kurtz, Victor J. Stenger, Michael Shermer, Stephen Pinker, Dan Barker, Austin Dacey, Darrel Ray, ...etc.) considers that religions are an important factor of divisiveness and that their moral codes are deficient and must be either improved or replaced. As the author says, "most people understand that it is in [their] best interest to be moral. It is the surest way to foster individual and collective survival and to attain happiness for all. " (p. 30). But the notions of good and evil are complex, and even though a moral sense is innate in our genes, advanced morality has to be learned and practiced. In the end, as Tremblay reminds us, "moral principles are never substitutes for one's judgment and personal responsibility." (p. 63). Lesson learned.
For me, the high point of Tremblay's book is its serious warning about what could happen if we continue down the path we have been following for centuries. Indeed, Tremblay wonders aloud whether "humans are not the dinosaurs of the modern age, destined also to disappear one day from the surface of the Earth. Indeed, because of our neglect of the environment and because of our wars, we humans may become the dinosaurs of our era. The Earth can last without humans, but humans cannot survive without planet Earth." (p. 123). This is strong stuff. The literary style is fluid, lucid and elegant. It's a very fine book, full of useful quotes, references and observations. I learned a lot reading it. It inspired me and reinforced me in my own thinking. I intend to give it as a gift to some relatives of mine with whom I like to discuss such things. I believe this could be the nonfiction book for 2010. I'm giving it two thumbs up and five stars. A Reader (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
This is an important book that should be read by everyone. Yet it is easy to read, speaks to the heart of the problems we face and offers solutions that bring hope. Never in humanity's history have humans been so affected by events happening half a world away. Over consumption in one part of the world results in severe shortages or pollution elsewhere. Our hunger for more and more "cheap" stuff creates toxic environments and social upheaval in countries far away. However, the air pollution resulting from the manufacturing of that stuff reaches us eventually just as surely as social inequity eventually leads to wars.
If we are to start solving the urgent and important problems we face, we need a code for global ethics. This book offers behavioral imperatives that can work just as well in India and China, as they can in Canada and the USA. They address corporations as well as governments and people. It offers a roadmap for humanity to come to terms with complex issues in a peaceful way.
Dr. Tremblay's book emphasizes equality and dignity of all human beings and recommends tolerance and respect for others. While most of us agree that these are admirable qualities, we also understand they cannot exist unless "others" share a basic philosophy with us, for one cannot respect or tolerate a bully. That basic philosophy is at the heart of "The code for global ethics" which is why it should be read by all world leaders. It offers the best chance I can think of for humanity to work together to solve the urgent issues we all face. Vitale
I love "The Code for Global Ethics." This is one of the most original, constructive, perceptive and thought provoking book I have read about ethics and humanism. It presents the permanent value of humanism, its place in western civilization and how it can help make the world a better place, and this is done in a most enjoyable and pedagogical way.
In eleven magisterial chapters, full of useful content, the author presents and explains the essence and applicability of ten basic humanist principles that could help us escape the present cesspool of corruption, greed and violence. The author's objective here is imposing: He wishes that just as Homo erectus eventually evolved into Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens must evolve into Homo humanus, on a global scale, if humanity is to survive and thrive in the future. Is such a Global Ethics realistic? --Perhaps not. But all moral codes are idealistic as they aim for perfection while reality settles for compromise. This is no reason not to try.
The author, Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, an economist and professor, is also a public intellectual who speaks and writes frequently on economic and financial topics, but also on issues of geopolitics and of ethics. The author of some 30 books, Tremblay publishes an international blog that is read in many countries. That may explain why the book is a sort of a synthesis of many things, ranging from morality and philosophy, to economics, politics, geopolitics, critical thinking and history. Reading it is truly an enjoyable learning experience.
Highly religious people may not like this book because it is not politically correct in its treatment of religious myths and superstitions. But for the rest of us, it is a voice of sanity and a breath of fresh air. Most strongly recommended. M. Marshall (Los Altos, CA.)
Ethics Without the Crutch of Religion April 26, 2010 Tremblay's previous book, The New American Empire, was a popular and much needed rendering of America becoming increasingly militarist and imperialistic. This assessment was right on the mark. In this even more ambitious and more recent book, the author applies his analysis to the world of ethics, particularly humanist ethics, on the global stage; he offers a new code of global ethics and challenges the paradigm of religious morality, that he judges incomplete, inadequate, even dangerous and counterproductive. The result is "The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles." Its purpose is to acquaint readers with humanist ethics and how its most basic principles can be of assistance in solving some very contemporary personal and collective moral problems. The book raised fundamental questions, such as: What is the best moral code in a free and open society? How can a code of ethics be truly global in an age of globalization? Is humanist ethics superior to religious ethics and, if so, why? Should superstitions in all forms still be followed as guides to thought and action? Is private charity enough in a world still mired in much poverty? Why do we still have destructive wars after everybody thought they had been outlawed? The book has also a section about some applied ethical questions, such as the ethics of abortion, sexism, racism, euthanasia, death penalty, separation of church and state, religious superstition and wars of aggression, all issues that are timely and that can give rise to nice debates and discussions. One does not need a background in philosophy to read the book. In fact, the book is clearly written and very accessible. The core of the book is made out of the ten basic humanist principles outlined by the author. Except for chaps 6 (superstitions) and 8 (wars), which appears to me to be unduly long, the other chapters are relatively short and the concepts and principles are presented in a clear and logical manner. Tremblay is a practical moral ethicist. In that, he joins the selected club of philosophers who have argued and demonstrated that one does not need to be religious to be moral (see Socrates and Plato in ancient Greece, and Peter Singer and Paul Kurtz today). However, Tremblay goes one step further and argues that being too religious can lead to fundamental immorality in fostering exclusion, discrimination, racism, sexism, violence, and even persecution and torture. History and daily news reports seems to prove him right. All in all, this is a very penetrating, thought-provoking and very enlightening, although somewhat controversial, book. Nobody can ignore this book. There is a very comprehensive set of footnotes at the end of the book, although I would have preferred them to be at the bottom of each page for easiness of reading. The bibliography and recommanded reading is up-to-date and would be very useful to anyone reading or writing on the topic. Come Xmas, I intend to give this book as a gift to a few relatives and friends whom I know would gain from the intellectual stimulus. Overall, I strongly recommend this book. Bernie W. (New York, NY)
Great minds such as Voltaire, Hume, Locke, and others made the eighteenth century the century of the Enlightenment. They showed humanity that there was a better way to organize its affairs on a firmer moral foundation than what various religions had provided until then. This was the way of humanism and empathy. For them, human beings have an innate capacity for basic morality, for developing sympathy for others, and for treating others with empathy by putting oneself in the context of other people. Such a natural inclination does not come from gods, but is the end result of natural evolution. In that, they were worthy precursors of Charles Darwin and his "moral sense or conscience". Three centuries later, there is a most urgent need to remind humanity of these fundamental truths, before catastrophe strikes again, i.e. that man has inalienable natural rights, that man is naturally a moral animal and that, in return, man has a duty of not abusing his power over nature. In "Global Ethics: Ten Humanist Principles", Mr. Tremblay has expanded on these great thoughts by showing how a commitment to humanist values can help everyone in developing a moral conscience. -How the classical 'Golden rule' can be expanded to embrace empathy for other people, outside of our immediate social or political groups. -Why a truly global approach to morality is needed today to tackle global problems. -How the disasters of the past can be prevented in the future. The answer is to be found in the great humanist principles of global ethics that can be applied worldwide, beyond borders, to build the foundations for a better world community. -A lot of myths and sacred cows are demolished in "The Code for Global Ethics" without even a hint of remorse or hesitation by the author. This makes it thrilling to read. We are not accustomed to being told things so openly and frankly about ethics and religion, at least in the United States. In other pre-Vatican II times, the Catholic Church would have put such a book in the Index. This only makes its reading more compelling, whether you are a blind faith believer or a secular humanist. I would hope that everybody would read this book. AJ “AJ Review” (Columbus, OH)