Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Happy World Humanist Day!

    Today, June 21st, is World Humanist Day, a day devoted to spreading the "good word" of humanism and free-thought.  This video, created by humanist, James Croft, is a celebration of humanism around the world.  Enjoy!

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Meeting Follow-Up: Dr. Quentin Wheeler

    At this week's meeting of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, we had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Quentin Wheeler speak on the importance of taxonomic research to biodiversity conservation and the greater well-being of humanity. The talk was chock-full of information, but this video (created by Dr. Wheeler and colleagues) does a good job of summing it up:

    It came as a surprise to many in attendance that our current taxonomies make the tree of life appear to be rather barren. Our knowledge of the world's species is extremely limited. By conservative estimates, 80% of life on earth remains to be classified. In order to raise awareness of the importance of taxonomic research, Dr. Wheeler and the International Institute for Species Exploration host a "Top 10 New Species" contest that highlights unique, newly-identified species from the previous year. The finalists from 2010 can be seen at  For more information on Dr. Wheeler and his presentation to the HSGP, please see our previous post, located here.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    HSGP Meeting: "Fact-based Biodiversity Sustainability"


    On June 19th, the HSGP will host a presentation by entomologist, Quentin Wheeler. Dr. Wheeler follows in the footsteps of Carl Linnaeus with his goal of establishing a taxonomy of beetle populations around the world.  Beyond simply creating a laundry list of species, Dr. Wheeler focuses on the broader implications of generating such taxonomies.  Specifically, a comprehensive map of global species distributions could aid in assessing the impact of climate change or the introduction of a non-native species on biodiversity, thus facilitating and guiding efforts at conservation.

    In a 2004 paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Wheeler argued vehemently for a return to taxonomic research, suggesting that no understanding of a species' origins is complete without a thorough grounding in its taxonomic context.  Wheeler closed his call to action by stating:

    Had Linnaeus had the kinds of digital tools available today to visually describe and share morphological and species knowledge, it is doubtful that taxonomy would have lost ground in funding or prestige. The time is at hand for taxonomy to take its rightful place among big sciences and to lead society in a meaningful response to the biodiversity crisis (p. 580).

    Please join us at the Humanist Community Center on Sunday to take part in what is bound to be a lively discussion following Dr. Wheeler's presentation.  More information on the HSGP can be found at our website,

    Wheeler, Q. D. (2004). Taxonomic triage and the poverty of phylogeny. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B, 359, 571-583.[link]

    What exactly is Humanism?

    Well, please forgive the Wiki definition (the first part anyway) but it's a start.

    "Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. The term can mean several things, for example:

    1.A cultural movement of the Italian Renaissance based on the study of classical works.
    2.An approach to education that uses literary means or a focus on the humanities to inform students.
    3.A variety of perspectives in philosophy and social science which affirm some notion of 'human nature' (by contrast with anti-humanism).
    4.A secular ideology which espouses reason, ethics, and justice, whilst specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making.
    The last interpretation may be attributed to Secular Humanism as a specific humanistic life stance.[1] Modern meanings of the word have therefore come to be associated with a rejection of appeals to the supernatural or to some higher authority.[2][3] This interpretation may be directly contrasted with other prominent uses of the term in traditional religious circles.[4] Humanism of this strand arose from a trajectory extending from the deism and anti-clericalism of the Enlightenment, the various secular movements of the 19th century (such as positivism), and the overarching expansion of the scientific project."

    The fourth definition most closely fits what I refer to as Humanism, but I believe there is much more to it than that. Feel free to add or change as you see fit, you crazy Humanists!!