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This Week in Humanism 2018–05–20


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/05/20

“The headlines in the newspaper and blared on television news often tell of ways in which the world may be getting worse, but the importance of seeing the world as it really is cannot be overstated.

In his new book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Steven Pinker, the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, urges readers to set aside these lurid headlines and prophecies of impending doom and consider the facts underlying the reality of a happy and prosperous world.

Appreciating Modernity

Pinker provides an unapologetic defense of Enlightenment ideals — such as the belief in progress, the primacy of science, and self-determination — explaining just how the world has become better over the centuries.

“More than ever, the ideals of science, reason, humanism, and progress need a wholehearted defense,” Pinker writes. “We take its gifts for granted: newborns who will live more than eight decades, markets overflowing with food, clean water that appears with a flick of a finger and waste that disappears with another, pills that erase a painful infection, sons who are not sent off to war, daughters who can walk the streets in safety, critics of the powerful who are not jailed or shot, the world’s knowledge and culture available in a shirt pocket.””


Sincere Kirabo, writer and social justice activist, has been the social justice coordinator at the American Humanist Association for years. His posts at The Humanist have always been provocative and insightful, puncturing the pieties of the vague up-with-everybody universalism that passes for humanism in our not-so-new millennium.

Now he’s the former social justice coordinator at the AHA, according to the masthead, and Kirabo hasn’t clarified the reasons for his departure there. (I tweeted to ask him why he’s leaving, but his Twitter account hasn’t been updated for several days.) It can’t have been a very acrimonious split, since Kirabo says his final articles for the Humanist are still pending. But what gives?

It could be that Kirabo is banging his head against the wall at the AHA, and that humanists would rather pay lip service to social justice issues than engage with them.

Beware The Village Atheists

Kirabo’s articles at The Humanist have always outraged an organized secular community that’s continually patting itself on the back for its dedication to truth and reason, because he has always pointed out that we’ve failed to live up to our ideals. In posts like Three Warning Signs That Village Atheism Is Your New Religion, he describes a community who think skepticism is only about critically examining other people’s beliefs:

This subset of nonbelievers is overly wowed by the low bar it requires to recognize the inadequacy of the God hypothesis. Meanwhile, in many ways, they preserve or encourage a bounty of beliefs that are just as oppressive and pernicious.


“Faculty inducted into UBs chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society were, from left, front: Weidun Alan Guo, MD, PhD; Paula A. Del Regno, MD; and David M. Thomas, MD; Back: Andrew B. Symons, MD; Lynn M. Steinbrenner, MD; Dori R. Marshall, MD; and A. John Ryan Jr., MD. Wayne R. Waz, MD, was also inducted.

Fifty-four exemplary medical students, residents, fellows and faculty members have been inducted into the University at Buffalo’s Richard Sarkin Medical Emeritus Faculty Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS).

All of the honorees — who are medical trainees and physician-teachers at various stages of their careers — have demonstrated excellence in humanistic clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to service.

The society is a program of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that strives to elevate the values of humanism and professionalism in medicine worldwide.

“Arnold Gold was the sort of physician who truly personified what humanism in medicine is all about,” said Leonard A. Katz, MD, professor emeritus of medicine.”


“Chairman of the Bayit Yehudi party, Education Minister Naftali Bennet, who also serves on the Security Cabinet, spoke with Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) on Tuesday, 29 Iyar, explaining “humanism is not preventing the deaths of the enemy but to defend the citizens of Israel. The following is a synopsis of the interview.

Bennet told host Rino Tzror that in his eyes, “Hamas in Gaza is continuing to bang its head against a metal plate for Israel is not going to yield and not going to permit them to cross the border and threaten and harm the area kibbutzim. Together with the metal platter on the east, we must work to assist them to succeed economically. One of the solutions might be a port, perhaps in Cyprus.

I do not care if it is in one place or another. We cannot say there is an embargo in Gaza as we permit all legitimate items into Gaza.””


“CANNES, FRANCE — Hirokazu Kore-eda — who won the top prize at the Cannes film festival Saturday — is Japan’s answer to Ken Loach, a director whose stories about struggling ordinary people never fail to touch.

His gentle slices of ordinary life have been praised for their humanism, with “Shoplifters,” a film about a group of Tokyo misfits and crooks who form a kind of alternative family, called a “modern-day ‘Oliver Twist.’ ”

Variety said its “protagonists’ rough-and-ready lifestyle demonstrate that people can find comfort even in the worst economic conditions.”

Critics said that the film also exposes how the “state fails its neediest individuals.””


“What does it mean to be human? New York’s MoMA has amassed the world’s leading contemporary photographers to capture the concept of existing amidst a shift in human perception with its exhibit “Being: New Photography 2018.”

The museum’s “New Photography” series takes place every two years, spotlighting a prevalent societal theme through a creative lens. The notion of “being” has taken on a breadth of complexities throughout the past year alone: racial tensions, gender discrimination, and the polemic on immigrant rights have been thrust into the limelight of American culture, echoing global struggles. These have both enlightened and distorted the way in which individuals’ perceptions of each other evolve.

The 17 artists on display boldly challenge the traditions of photographic portraiture. Their techniques include masking, cropping, fragmenting, and overlaying — portraying clear depictions of human beings to the absence of them altogether.”



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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