The Humanist Hour #61: Rebecca Goldstein, Humanist of the Year

A new installment of the Humanist Hour is available for listening. Keep reading to find out about the guests on this month’s show.

In this month’s  podcast, Jes Constantine and Todd Stiefel reflect on the AHA 70th Annual Conference, highlighting the acceptance speech by Humanist of the Year, Rebecca Goldstein. Also, listen to an interview with a very special surprise guest.

Don’t forget to celebrate the National Day of Reason on Thursday, May 5, 2011!


Segment 1: National Day of Reason

The purpose of the National Day of Reason is to celebrate reason—a concept all Americans can support—and to raise public awareness about the persistent threat to religious liberty posed by government intrusion into the private sphere of worship.

As in previous years, this year’s National Day of Reason is scheduled to coincide with the Congressionally-mandated and federally-supported National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 5, 2011. We invite all who value the separation of religion and government to join us in commemorating the Day of Reason, and in building awareness for this important cause.

Segment 2: Jessica Ahlquist

Jessica Ahlquist, a sophomore at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, recently initiated a federal lawsuit against her school in the District Court of Rhode Island for displaying a religious prayer in the form of a banner in the school’s auditorium.

According to the complaint in Ahlquist v. City of Cranston filed on April 4, there has been an 8-foot high prayer mural displayed on the wall in the auditorium of Cranston High School West for nearly 50 years. Adopted as the official school prayer of Cranston West around 1960, the prayer begins by asking “Our Heavenly Father” to grant students the desire to do their best, to help them grow, be kind, be good sports, and the like. The lawsuit alleges that the display of the prayer violates Ahlquist’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. And, according to Supreme Court precedent, it does.

Send Jessica your words of encouragement by calling our Listener Comment Line: (202) 618-1371

Segment 3: Humanist of the Year, Rebecca Goldstein

The Humanist of the Year award was established in 1953 to recognize a person of national or international reputation who, through the application of humanist values, has made a significant contribution to the improvement of the human condition. Selection of the awardee is based on research derived from biographical data, writings, studies, and contributions to humanity. Nominations are accepted from AHA members. The Awards Committee, with the approval of the Board, makes the selection. A bronze plate bearing an inscription is awarded at the Annual Conference.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is a philosopher and novelist, who has taught at Barnard, Rutgers, and Columbia.

She is the author of six novels — The Mind-Body Problem, The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind, The Dark Sister, Mazel, Properties of Light, and 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction — and a collection of stories — Strange Attractors. Her nonfiction works include Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel; and Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity.

Among her honors are two Whiting awards, one in philosophy and one in writing, two National Jewish Book Awards, as well as the Koret International Award in Jewish Thought. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a Radcliffe Fellow, and in 1996 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Read the Humanist interview with Rebecca Goldstein here.

Segment 4: Surprise Guest Interview with Richard Dawkins

Joe Fox, a listener of the Humanist Hour, with Richard Dawkins after a book signing at the AHA 70th Annual Conference. Photo by: Leslie A. Zukor

Richard Dawkins is the former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, a position he held from 1995-2008. The Wall Street Journal said his “passion is supported by an awe-inspiring literary craftsmanship.” The New York Times Book Review has hailed him as a writer who “understands the issues so clearly that he forces his reader to understand them too.” Among his books are The Ancestor’s Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, A Devil’s Chaplain and The God Delusion.

The mission of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering.

Links from this month’s episode:

Music from this month’s episode (in order of appearance):

Editor’s Note: Though we recommend subscribing to our podcast using a program like iTunes, you can start listening right now by downloading audio file directly:

  • Direct Download: thh_61.mp3
    (right click the link to save the mp3 file or left click to listen).