The Humanist Hour #166: Exploring Humanism through Science Fiction, with Scott Burdick

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In this episode, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with world-renowned artist and humanist science fiction author Scott Burdick about how his travels led him to a humanistic world view, and how his latest science-fiction novel, Nihala, explores many humanistic issues.

Scott’s bio from

Scott Burdick studied art at Chicago’s American Academy of Art and then film and writing at Chicago’s Columbia College, where his short story “Fear” was published in the Hair Trigger anthology while a student. Burdick subsequently illustrated covers for TSR’s Dungeon and Dragon magazines, as well as working on the development team for Dreamworks’ animated feature film, Spirit (uncredited).

Unsatisfied with the prospect of living in Chicago or LA and working for others, Scott and his wife, fellow artist Susan Lyon, moved to rural NC in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, as a home base between traveling extensively across the world–researching many cultures and indigenous tribes for his artworks, novels, and short stories.

Burdick’s paintings are widely shown in galleries and museums across the country, and he’s directed three independent documentaries on religion–In God we Trust?, Sophia Investigates the Good News Club, and In Reason We Trust, (featuring Richard Dawkins, Adam Savage of Myth Busters, Eddie Izzard, Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Lawrence Krause, Greg Graffin of the band Bad Religion, and a dozen other prominent freethinkers from the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington DC.)

Many of the themes of his films overlap those of his novels–religion, science, philosophy, the direction of technology, and morality.

Nihala description from

Steven Hawking recently warned that artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to the human species. And yet, how to stop such a singularity without halting scientific advancement itself? Some claim that humanity should abandon the enslavement of technology altogether for a return to nature and a way of life more in sync with our psychological needs. But who is to say exactly how much technology is too much? And who will ensure none crosses some arbitrary line of demarcation?

Kayla Nighthawk, crippled and orphaned from birth, has been raised in the theocratic society of Potemia. Hundreds of years have passed since the Neo-Luddite War cut Potemia off from the rest of mankind. The Founder predicted that sciencecraft would destroy those on the Outside, but what if the pursuit of scientific advancement has created wonders beyond imagining? Will Kayla risk leaving her homeland in search of the forbidden knowledge that might cure her—even at the cost her immortal soul?

Through a series of dialogues with the strange creatures she encounters, Kayla’s religious convictions come under attack. Her search for the divine, an absolute basis for morality, and the meaning of existence itself becomes a matter of life or death for Kayla—as well as for all of humanity.

This is the history of the next millennia. An epic tale of technology and the backlash against it. A journey of war, love, revenge, and heartbreak—a philosophical adventure story.