Program


The Broad Range of Humanisms 

 Presented by Robert Tapp

Humanist organizations, sites, writings are the most available indicators of the wide range of persons who identify as “humanist.” Those are also the best correctives for humanists’ many hostile critics. Some of us are “religious,” some “secular.” But our values are typically “secular/modernist,” stemming from the Enlightenment, emergent from reasoning, enlarged by the sciences, enhanced by the arts, fostered by the emergence of democratic societies. In contrast, the values of traditional religions are conservative, resistant to progress from cultural status quos. For humanists, there is but this world; values are human-made -- and tested by consequences: will they promote human well-being.

 

The Paul Kurtz Legacy

Presented by Robert Tapp

The Paul Kurtz legacy trumps that of any academic I have known: scholar, activist, publisher, organizer, fundraiser, international facilitator, manifesto stylist and mentor to many successors. On a few occasions his humanist pioneering led to institutional rejections, from which he recovered. The humanism he shaped and lived was indeed planetary.

 

 

The Human Prospect: A Neohumanist Perspective” ISHV’s Journal

 Presented by Charles Murn

The Human Prospect is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed, scholarly and professional journal founded by Dr. Paul Kurtz to advance society’s understanding of the juncture of science and values in the form of humanist ethics. The journal focuses on contributions addressing the tasks of: (1) understanding the implications of recent scientific discoveries and conclusions for daily life, (2) discerning how refinements in naturalist epistemology support, or compel refinement of, specific humanist values and ethics flowing from them, and (3) with the tools of reason and science, deriving pluralistic ethical rules on specific issues that implement humanist values based in scientific understanding.

 

 

Against the Dying of the Light: Is Radical Life Extension Pseudoscientific Quackery, Medical Science, or a Moral Imperative?

Presented by D. J. Grothe

Is aging a curable disease? Surveying both recent advances in the medical sciences aiming to extend human life indefinitely, and also the secular social movements promoting and supporting such technologies, D.J. Grothe details how much of the life-extension trends are based on false hopes and delusion vs. solid science and evidence-based medicine. If you could live forever, or at least dramatically extend your life expectancy, should you? Or should you just accept the fact that everyone should die at some point?

 

Why does the concept of suicide cause such outrage? 

Presented by Janis Landis

Why do many psychologists allege that ‘rational suicide’ is an oxymoron?  The Final Exit Network (FEN) is the only organization in the United States that advocates for the right of competent adults to determine that due to irremediable medical conditions,  the quality of their life is insufficient.  This paper looks at the legal landscape in several States that have waged war against FEN and the right to self-determination. It provides an update on current rules, including the Canadian Supreme Court decision, and it examines why the right to individual autonomy in the way we exit life has become the next battleground in the evolution of basic human rights.

 

How religious hospital policies could affect your end-of-life choices

Presented by Lois Uttley, MPP

An increasing number of hospitals in the United States are owned by or affiliated with Catholic health systems that use doctrine to restrict patients’ rights and access to care, according to a 2013 study published by the MergerWatch Project and the ACLU.  The consequences for reproductive health access have been publicized, but the potential impact on end-of-life care and decision-making is less well recognized. Lois Uttley, MPP, founder and director of the MergerWatch Project, will explain what the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services say about informed consent, advance directives and end-of-life care. She will explain the role of Catholic Bishops in interpreting these Directives for administrators and clinical staff of hospitals in their Dioceses and the potential negative consequences for seriously-ill patients and their families.


 

A Different Kind of Immortality

 Presented by Anne Klaeysen

Felix Adler, founder of Ethical Culture, wrote, “The dead are not dead if we have loved them truly. In our own

lives we can give them a kind of immortality. Let us arise and take up the work they have left unfinished.” I use

this quotation whenever I officiate at a non-theistic memorial and invite family and friends to recall something

about the person who has died that they can imagine incorporating into their own lives, some way in which they

can take up the work that loved one has left unfinished. It addresses an experience of both mourning and

celebrating our finite lives. Awareness of our mortality and accepting that there is no life after death frees us to

be more fully ourselves: appreciating life with all its joys and sorrow, recognizing that we are part of the natural

world, realizing our potential and responsibilities as human beings, and choosing to engage in ethical relationships.

 


 

“Dying with Dignity: Lessons from Stoicism & Co."

Presented by Massimo Pigliucci

Preoccupation with death and the process of dying is probably as old as the appearance of self-consciousness in

human beings. Once we developed the ability to reflect on who we are and what we do, we realized that “we”

were one day going to cease to exist. Arguably, the resulting existential anxiety has been a major force behind

the development and success of worldwide religions, with their frequent promise of an afterlife. But there have

always been alternative, more secular, ways of dealing with death, developed since the time of the Graeco-

Roman philosophers of antiquity. While Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus and Zeno (the founder of Stoicism) were not

atheists, their philosophies had, and still have, much to offer in terms of non-religious approaches to dying. In

this paper I explore how the major schools of Graeco-Roman philosophy took on the last stage of human life,

and how a modern, scientifically informed secular person can profit from an update to that ancient wisdom.

 


 

Body Not Soul: Encouraging Organ and Body Donation After Death

Presented by Jamila Bey

For myriad reasons, many Americans hold beliefs and ideas that preclude them from donating their bodies to research after death. This talk examines some of these reasons, and further discusses how these concerns can be addressed, and even dismissed. The case hasn’t yet been made well enough, but as we witness increasing rates of organ donation, making the choice an easy one, telling the story of how others will benefit could turn the tide such that there may be more families and individuals making the choice for body donation.

 


 

"Stay" and the Secular Argument Against Suicide

 Presented by Jennifer Michael Hecht

There are two major secular arguments against despair suicide*: 1) what you mean to the community, and 2) what you owe to your future self. Historically people have been aware that suicides can lead to more suicides; in a school, a town, a profession and other groups. Sociology statistics now bear out these observations. Because a suicide can do fatal harm to others, it is not a morally neutral act. That means that just by persisting we are making a life-saving contribution to our community.

It can be a great relief to realize that as much as you might be a burden, your suicide would be an exponentially worse burden, so you are no longer responsible for assessing your worth. As to your future self, you do not know what you will have or what you will be wise to in ten years. You owe your future self a little respect - at least don't kill yourself. Dr. Hecht will describe some of the philosophical antecedents to these ideas throughout history.

[*Despair suicide is defined loosely as suicide that none of your loved ones or medical caretakers would think to be a good idea. End-of-life care is an entirely different matter, and should include the right to die. Of course, some cases defy immediate assessment and have to be adjudicated on their own terms.]

 


 

Do people have the "right to die"?

 Presented by Ana Lita, Ph.D.

The “right-to-die movement,” is rooted in ideas of classical Greece and gained momentum from the rights-based

culture of the sixties. It has since become a more prominent movement due to a expansion of life-prolonging

 technologies that alter the dying process as well as evolving patterns of disease burden and mortality included

(but not limited to) the HIV/AIDS pandemic, whose many faces have forced us to re-imagine inevitable death

and suffering. Recently, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman from California with terminal brain cancer,

ended her life with physician prescribed medications. Currently, only five states in the United States authorize

death with dignity, including Oregon, where Maynard and her family moved. However, her decision has

prompted both support and criticism of aid-in-dying. The Vatican official Ignacio Carrasco de Paula condemns

assisted suicide and calls Brittany Maynard’s act ‘reprehensible,’ although Brittany was not a Catholic. He is

a bioethicist who heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, defines dignity as “something other than putting an end

to one’s own life.” He clarifies that it is the act— not the person— that is to be condemned. 

 


 

Respect Beyond the Grave

 Presented by Margaret Downey

 Ms Downey will address the discrimination nontheists experience when a relative or loved one has died. She will

quote various narratives that have been submitted to the Anti-Discrimination Support Network. She will also talk

about secular funerals and the requests received from those who want to die knowing that their principles will be

upheld and how to handle them.

 


 

Keeping Clergy Away:  Preventing Unwanted Religious Intrusion

Through Advance Directives.

 Presented by Marcia Cohen, Carol Anne Johnson and Debra Smietanski

 Attorneys will discuss the drafting of various documents to ensure that religion will not be thrust upon an

unwilling non-religious person.  These advance directives include wills, trusts, health care surrogacy, powers of

attorney, living wills, special needs trusts and other documents describing the manner in which one wishes to

have one's serious or final illness conducted.

 


 

Secular Patients Graciously Accept Second Class Status

Presented by Joe Beck

Rosa Parks’ arrest for civil disobedience in December 1955 inspired the modern civil rights movement for equality, which eventually led to the 1960s civil and voting rights legislation victories. The modern gay pride movement for equality was given impetus at Stonewall in 1969, when the LGBT community began relentlessly protesting their second-class status. The secular community of humanists, atheists, agnostics and freethinkers, however, still seems to be in denial about the nationwide religious discrimination we face when we enter a hospital, hospice, rehabilitation center, assisted living facility or nursing home. We will examine religious discrimination at medical facilities in New York, Florida and California, and discuss the changes needed in order for the secular community to receive the same recognition and support as is provided to the religious community.

 


 

Cancer as Existential Crisis:

Coping styles of believers and nonbelievers -- and a role for secular humanist chaplaincy

Presented by Ralph Lewis, MD

Psychological difficulties in the context of cancer warrant a referral to a psychiatrist if those difficulties have

become a source of functional impairment, such as disabling anxiety or depression leading to social withdrawal.

Cancer patients with more average, expectable emotional and existential struggles can be served by other kinds

of professionals. Among those other professionals are hospital chaplains, who often serve as a valued source of

support for religiously oriented patients. Secular patients generally do not avail themselves of chaplaincy services,

 and chaplains tend to avoid engaging non-believers. This need not be so. Many chaplains are skilled at providing

general emotional support. They are also capable of engaging in existential counselling without invoking

 “God-talk”. Dr. Lewis is working with hospital chaplains in Toronto and at the national level in Canada to help

them to better understand and serve non-believing patients. In the process, insights are being mutually enhanced

in how to help people deal with existential crises, including terminal illness, without belief in a higher power or

belief that “everything happens for a reason”.

 


 

All things subject to change at any time without notice.

© 2015 Institute for Science and Human Values, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Institute for Science and Human Values, Inc.