This panel discussion topic for WASH's MDC's September meeting will on the Q "Is This the Humanistic Century?" Perhaps more fully we might propose an answer this way: "The 21st century still can, should & needs to be a humanistic century."
Our panel for this session will consist of:
* Stuart Jordan: emeritus NASA scientist, served 4years as WASH president, 20 years as a WASH board member, and 12 years as the Maryland DC chapter coordinator.
* Fred Edwords, Director of Planned Giving, American Humanist Association is a humanist celebrant & a longtime member of Washington Area Secular Humanists
* Sarah Henry is the Communications Associate at AHA and a past winner of WASH's Robert G. Ingersoll Oratory Contest.
In some ways this is a reflection and update on some of thoughts current when WASH was founded.
Among the important topics he discussed in the 80s and 90s and into the new century was that secularism needs to be adapted to diverse cultural conditions if it is to gain ground. One point stressed then and relevant now was that we need to enunciate the positive thrust of humanism. That is why humanism must be committed to an alternative set of ethical values & not simply be negative naysayers. We need to have a constructive, alternative perspective full of meaning and significance.
Part of this is an meaningful emphasis on the value of "Free Inquiry & Tolerance" which are even more challenged now. As Humanists like Paul Kurtz said then:
"Free inquiry entails recognition of civil liberties as integral to its pursuit, that is, a free press, freedom of communication, the right to organize opposition parties and to join voluntary associations, and freedom to cultivate and publish the fruits of scientific, philosophical, artistic, literary, moral and religious freedom....Free inquiry requires that we tolerate diversity of opinion and that we respect the right of individuals to express their beliefs, however unpopular they may be, without social or legal prohibition or fear of success.”
Also relevant for these times also is a modern, positive skepticism (for example, Kurtz's "The New Skepticism" 1992) which argues that there are objective standards for judging truth claims in science, ethics, and philosophy. While in the the 80s and 90s there was special interest is the application of the new skepticism to paranormal claims such as reincarnation and faith healing, and to religious beliefs, we might apply it in a more focused way to ethics and politics.
Among the many critiques that are worth considering in these times are that of climate denial and fake news. Now more than ever we need to consider effective strategies for criticizing rigid, tribal, faith-based beliefs and do this especially where they are patently false, injurious, and widely destructive.
The secular/civic world constantly needs to be defended against those who would undermine it, and we need to responsibly examine the transcendental and moral claims arsing from tribal traditions and criticize their pretensions—especially when they impinge on things like natural and constitutional rights & personal freedoms.