The west, it is sadly said, has lost confidence in the Enlightenment. It is quite common to see intellectuals state as a fact that the Enlightenment project has been tried and failed. This is a lie.
There never was one single Enlightenment project, and of the Enlightenment projects that there were, many have succeeded beyond the wildest hopes of their proponents. The Enlightenment provided the matrix I have talked of, in which scientific enterprises could flourish.
Now, our understanding of the world is better because of physical science. Our understanding of ourselves is better because of biological science. We live longer, and we feed ourselves better, and ‘we’ here includes not only people in first world countries, but countless people in the third world. We look after the environment better, and in time we will manage our own numbers better. Outside the theocracies of the east more people have more freedoms and enjoy more education, more opportunities and may even have more rights than ever before.
We owe this progress entirely to the culture forged, in the west, by Bacon and Locke, Hume and Voltaire, Newton and Darwin. Humanism is the belief that humanity need not be ashamed of itself, and these are its great examples.
They show us that we need not regard knowledge as impious, or ignorance as desirable, and we need not see blind faith as anything other than blind.