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This Week in Humanism 2018–03–04


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/03/04

“ Psychology professor Steven A. Pinker received the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism at a ceremony administered by the Humanist Hub and the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics Sunday afternoon.

Over 100 people gathered in the Science Center for the ceremony, which recognized Pinker for his scholarly research and publications around themes of humanism.

Pinker, who recently released a book titled “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,” has worked with HCHAA and the Humanist Hub for years.”


“The recent volley of letters addressing the gun issue reminded me of the old Hindu parable about the blind men and the elephant. In this tale, six blind men encounter an elephant, and each draws his impression of the beast based on what they can feel. The person who clutches one of the elephant’s tusks has a dramatically different impression than his friend who wraps his arms around one of the animal’s thick legs or another man who strokes its curly trunk. In their own way, each is correct, but each lacks the range of information needed to really understand what the elephant is.

Some will read this and conclude that I, like all the others, can’t see the whole elephant. They may be correct. But, as a journalist, I try to be guided by facts, however elusive.

One writer, who invoked the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, suggesting that his brainwashing techniques are evident in our society, asked “How about recognizing and taking responsibility for decades of liberal, permissive, coddling, entitled society that brought us to this?” Another, along the same lines, stated that “secular humanism,” not easy access to arms, is behind the scourge of gun-related carnage. Other writers, including the managing editor, surmised that our plague of gun violence is due to the country turning its back on God and not obeying the Ten Commandments. Even abortions were suggested by one writer as a pretext for violent acts.”


“In recent months, residents and elected officials in Tompkins County have focused much attention on criminal justice reform. We could become the leader in social justice if we stops criminalizing social problems and rethinks our approach to drug use, mental health, poverty, and homelessness.

The Tompkins County Legislature has taken some encouraging steps in this direction — but we need to go further. After careful study, including an outside review from the Center on Government Research (CGR), the legislature voted against the expansion of the local jail. Now, the county must determine how to reduce the existing jail population and avoid the future cost of “boarding out” detainees to other facilities.

As part of this effort, the County Legislature recently transferred funds and personnel from the Mental Health Department to the Sheriff’s Office. Soon, there will be a psychiatric physician and a mental-health counselor in order to provide mental health evaluations, and treatment in the county jail. Unfortunately, these decisions exemplifies the troubling trend that James Kilgore, author of Understanding Mass Incarceration, calls “carceral humanism,” or the recasting of jails as social service providers. In other words, in broadening the responsibilities of the Sheriff’s Office to include psychological services, the County Legislature criminalized mental illness, making a public health issue a matter for the cops, courts, and county jail.”


“UN, March 1. /TASS/. Russia’s permanent representative at the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, on Wednesday told Western countries not to “lecture Russia on humanism” over the situation in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta district.

Speaking to members of the UN Security Council, the Russian diplomat said it was “hard even to imagine” how intense the anti-Russian campaign in the Western media would have become, if Moscow did not support the resolution on ceasefire in Syria during the February 24 vote.

“Even now, after the resolution had been adopted, our Western partners claim that all of its provisions apply solely to Damascus and Russia, and that the successful implementation of the resolution depends on our country almost completely, while pretending to be champions in love for humanity, who, for some reason, believe that they have an exclusive right to lecture us on humanism,” Nebenzya said.”


“After a federal judge said Humanism doesn’t count as a “religion” when it comes to a non-religious federal prisoner who just wanted the same perks and privileges offered to his religious colleagues, the American Humanist Association is filing an appeal. And they have support from two other major groups promoting church/state separation.

This case was originally filed in October of 2016. Benjamin Espinosa, an inmate at Northern Nevada Correctional Center, said he just wanted to start a Humanist study group, much like Christian inmates who get together to study the Bible. But he wasn’t able to do that — or a lot of other things religious inmates could do — because the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDoC) said he wasn’t part of a recognized faith group.”



In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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