Adding to that a 2nd question: If a person seeks ‘secularization’ (cf. laïcisation), i.e. ‘more secularity’ in their life and in the lives of those around them, in their hometown and in the nation in which they live, and even globally, does that qualify for the operational term ‘secularist’? In this sense, is ‘secularism’ the proper term for the ideology that such a person is promoting?
One might think it a polite necessity for certain voices to avoid all contact, and any proper and timely discussion of ideology, when addressing these two terms – secular & secularism – semantically, philosophically & especially ‘skeptically’. Some people of course just don’t make a priority focus on ideology, as Paul Nelson recently revealed here (re: ideological MNism, while avoiding ideological IDism), saying “‘Ideology’ is fine with me as a descriptive noun,” but is “[n]ot one of my lexical habits”. Even though Nelson is certainly not representative of TSZ voices, it might make a person wonder if there is a healthy skepticism at TSZ about conflating the terms ‘secular’ & ‘secularism’, since it has also proven difficult here to differentiate them, just as it has at Peaceful Science. For others, the notion that ‘secular’ is now broadly considered as a condition, while ‘secularism’ counts as an ideology, isn’t all that difficult to acknowledge and accept.
In a rare visit to TSZ, for example, S. Joshua Swamidass wrote: “For the record, I consider myself a secular scientist.” Is Swamidass 1) over at PS & 2) at his host institution, the same kind of ‘secular scientist’ as most readers of this? Or does he instead just work (as a natural scientist) at a ‘secular institution’, more accurately meaning a ‘public university’ rather than a ‘private’ one? As for me, I’d rather consult someone like Charles Taylor, than a philosopher of biology or computational biologist/MD about ideology and the contemporary meaning of ‘secular/secularism’. That just seems more appropriate.
Swamidass would surely decry being called a ‘secularist’ (though likely wouldn’t accept calling secularism an ideology), and doesn’t appear as one. Yet at the same time, he has not convincingly distinguished the two terms, and instead often poorly, improperly (or at least unconventionally) used the term ‘secular’ as if it were a synonym for ‘fair’ or ‘unbiased’. Is that how people at TSZ view these terms, ‘secular’ & ‘secularism’, as indicating ‘fair’ & ‘unbiased’? Surely that is among many definitions of ‘secular’, one that a certain community of people prefers more than another?
If Swamidass is indeed actually promoting ‘the secular’, would it not be fair to say that he is proposing a kind of ‘secular Science of Adam’, for example, and a ‘secular Genealogy of Adam and Eve’, apparently as an attempt at a kind of new compromise mainly for YECists, even without outwardly using the term ‘secular’ to try to persuade them? There remains some confessional-professional clarification on Swamidass’ part needed to untangle the science he is proposing from the scientistic-evangelicalistic ideology. A lot of important thinking beyond only ‘secular vs. confessional’ seems to be missing in his analysis.
In case it were not already clear, we are not talking about ‘secular’ & ‘secularism’ as ‘strictly scientific’ or even ‘loosely scientific’ terms. That’s obviously not the main point, though ‘scientificity’ often gets mistaken for a goal, even the primary one, these days. Scientists themselves gain no upper hand from the average person on the street in the prospect of clearly understanding the difference between these two terms. The goal of understanding and properly articulating ‘secular’ & ‘secularism’, therefore, should not be a ‘strictly scientific’ one, but should rather go beyond ‘mere science alone’ to address some of the deeper needs (e.g. epistemological), values & motivations involved. Secular humanism, for example, including its ideological impact on science, differs significantly from religious or spiritual humanism, the latter which can still include and promote so-called ‘secular politics’, yet without promoting, secular anthropology, cultural materialism, and an anti-religious or ‘religiously neutral’ approach to society.
Let respondents to this OP state their own understanding, impressions, and goals in defining ‘secular’ and ‘secularism’ as they see fit, preferably within a broader science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversation for those who speak the collaborative language. Can both positive and negative meanings of these two terms be revealed? ‘None’, as an alternative term & worldview, in contrast, seems obviously self-defeating. Another way to ask it: is The Skeptical Zone (TSZ 1), really just as much The Secular Zone (TSZ 2), according to the way Elizabeth Liddle framed it?