WHEN WE MEET
Harrow Humanists have a visiting speaker, or a debate, 8:00pm on the second Wednesday of each month
(except January, July, August and December),
64 Pinner Road Harrow HA1 4HZ
We also meet for Seasonal outings and dinners.
At Harrow Debenhams Cafe we have regular, informal coffee mornings on Tuesdays between 10:30 and 11:30am, and a Sunday Brunch on the last Sunday of each month at 11:00am
November 2020 : Freedom of Speech, French secularism, and violence – A discussion
This meeting was held on Zoom. With the latest upsurge of terroist killings in France, the trial of the Charlie Hebdo murder accomplices, and the French government's robust declarations and reaffirmation of French secular values, we discussed the real limits of Free Speech in the French context and more generally.
September 2020 : Discussion - Article 20, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
This meeting was held on Zoom. Article 20 has two elements, which are pertinant in this time of Covid restrictions.
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
The discussion ranged over other articles of the UDHR and reviewed Humanist philosophical and ethical stances on public responsibility. We even had a visitor from Peru contributing, thanks to Meetup.
July 2020 : David Cryer "An Illustrated Talk on the Humanism of the European Renaissance"
This meeting was held on Zoom. It can be watched on YouTube here.
The Renaissance was a significant development in the history of Humanism. It retains this reputation despite modern religious and post-structuralist criticism. The talk is also intended to provide pleasure in looking and seeing, especially in our current Covid state.
June 2020 : Jamie Woodhouse "Does Humanism Need An Upgrade? Is Sentientism The Answer?"
This meeting was held on Zoom. It can be watched on YouTube here.
Jamie Woodhouse is a prominent sentientist thinker. Sentientism is a simple, potentially unifying, philosophy or worldview that, like secular humanism, commits to using evidence and reason and rejects supernatural beliefs, but further, it grants moral consideration to all sentient beings. This means that causing harm or death to a sentient is morally negative.
March 2020 : Maria MacLachlan "Transgenderism and the Gender Recognition Act"
Maria's personal experiences and her research expertise (see her website 'PeakTrans') in the area of Transgenderism ideology has opened up many questions in relation to women's rights, free speech, and HUK's position on this debate. Her comprehensive presentation covered both the deep complexity of the debate and the breadth of the reality of gender-recognition in law, in legislature, in employment, academia, county and countrywide governance. We thank her for opening up these crucial, contended issues for our enlightenment and scrutiny. The central issue raised here should not be left to the 'bandwagon' of political correctness and its violent policing.
February 2020 : Video and discussion for Darwin Day - Professor Alice Roberts "The Origins of Us"
Current President of Humanists UK, Professor Alice Roberts, gave an inaugural lecture at Birmingham University on Darwin Day, February 12th 2012. It's subject was the theme of her TV Series 'The Origins of Us'. The filmed lecture covered a wide and general picture of our human, great ape origins, as well as a great deal of detailed knowledge of archeological and historical evidence. She had a great deal of fascinating, educated speculation about key issues which challenge our assumptions about human evolution; not challenging the theory, but challenge our assumptions: for example that the great apes' common ancestor was Pan-like perhaps the ancestor was more Homo-like, and that Pan (Chimpanzee), Gorilla and Pongo (Orangutan) have evolved 'away' from it further than we have. The group agreed on the excellence of the Lecture and our subsequent discussion 'evolved' and 'branched' in many directions.
November 2019 : Keiron McCabe 'Achieving the Right to Die'
Keiron McCabe is a long-standing advocate of the right to die, and a published critic of the UK’s current legal regime. Prior to his involvement in assisted dying, he worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election campaign and the 2017 UK General Election. He is a full-time assisted dying campaigner and shares his time between My Death My Decision, Humanists UK and the Assisted Dying Coalition, which he helped found. This is a subject that often arises at our meetings, and it was satisfying to get the fact from 'the horse's mouth'. Keiron works directly with Paul Lamb and all those others who have pushed for legislation to match the majority opinion - the public and professionals in the UK - in favour of assisted dying.
October 2019 : Paul Beard, Barnardos
September 2019 : Suvi Droga, The Reader
The Reader are a national charity that wants to bring about a Reading Revolution, so that everyone can experience and enjoy great literature. They believe it is a tool for helping humans survive and live well. 1,000 volunteers and partners bring thousands of people together each week to share and discuss great novels, short stories and poems. They call this Shared Reading. They read with schools, families and looked-after-children, adults in community spaces, people in care homes, people with physical and mental health conditions, those coping with or recovering from addiction, and people in the criminal justice system. After a short introduction, Suvi took our group into a reading session where we read aloud a section of short story and a poem, and then discussed our feelings and thoughts about them. This made for a different kind of meeting; more 'mindful', deliberately and consciously slower and reflective.
July 2019 : Trip to St Albans
June 2019 : Robin Launder, Extinction Rebellion
EXTINCTION REBELLION: Report of Robin Launder’s talk to Harrow Humanists on 12/06/2019
- It is a scientific truth that there is now both a climate crisis and an ecological crisis
- The average temperature is now 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels and will reach 1.5°C by 2030-2052
- The IPPC 1.5 report indicates that we must act now to mitigate catastrophic world effects such as loss of arctic sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet, Antarctic ice sheet, alpine glaciers, areas of permafrost and coral reefs
- Because the melted ice will raise the sea levels, all centres of population sited on the coast or on tidal rivers will be at risk of severe flooding. This includes many major cities such as London and will result in massive population movements
- There will also be increases in other severe weather events such as droughts, heat waves and wild fires
- Already the rate of species extinction is markedly higher than the natural base level and it will increase further as a result of the climate change
What we need to do
It only needs 3.5% of the population to take sustained actions in order to make changes. Extinction Rebellion recommends non-violent direct action
- The government should declare a climate and ecological emergency
- Action should be taken to make the UK at zero carbon emissions by 2025
- Citizens assemblies should be formed with access to expert advice and evidence in order to make decisions on specific problems and actions. These are much more democratic and representative than the actions of members of parliament which are open to vested interests, split loyalties, personal ambitions and short termism
What does it mean to be a good human being?
What does it mean to die without regrets?
Will you be able to look your grandchild in the eye and say you did what you could?
April 2019 : Teddy Prout, Humanists UK Director of Community Services ‘The Meaning of Community to Humanists’
"Teddy Prout talked on a subject which is often aired by humanists and by those wishing to know about humanism: What kind of community do you value. Without the structures of religion, humanists still value the human need for community. Teddy talked us through many of the ways we 'gather', and suggested ways that some of us had not considered."
March 2019 : Andrew Neilson, The Howard League for Penal Reform ‘The State of the Prisons’
"Andrew Nielson from the Howard League for Penal Reform came to tell us about the current state of the prisons in the UK and the suggestions for improvements which that organisation is trying to make."
February 2019 : Dawkins on Darwin & Darwinism - video and discussion
"The video is the second episode from Dawkins' series 'The Genius of Darwin' entitled 'episode 2 - The Fifth Ape'. Darwin Day being the day before (12th February), we discussed a particular aspect of Darwin's legacy based upon Dawkins' arguments in the TV episode: The history, use and misuse of 'Darwinism'. The conversation ranged widely from there into politics."
November 2018 : Clive Aruede & Lola Tinubu on 'The Life of an African Apostate'
"Clive & Lola formed London Black Atheists in 2012 to answer the particular need for recognition of the all-pervasive influence of religion in Black culture, and African culture. This is their personal experience, growing up in Nigeria. They told their stories and detailed the history and the structure of religion's hold on West Africa. This extends to the Black experience in Britain, and accounts for the over 600 members of their Meetup group who recognise the need for a black community apart from the religious one (though the group is open to all, regardless of colour). Personal testimony and the authentic understanding of how to counter the politics and the mind-set of "fierce" religion always elicits a strong response on hearing, and we thank Clive and Lola for sharing it with us."
October 2018 : Roger Heppleston on 'Compete Or Cooperate; The evolutionary choice that will determine our future'
"Roger Heppleston has developed a unique evolutionary perspective on human development which gives context to the big challenges facing us all today: from population issues such as immigration and aging, to the disruptive effect of new technologies and the destruction of the environment. He explores memes and the three memetic types of 1.skilful/technological 2.organisational and 3.cultural that characterise human society in the Anthropocene or 'Information' Age. Throughout, his focus is on the leading role humanism must play in our communities to promote and support the secular ideas of the enlightenment which he considers imperative if mankind is to be able to address our future challenges."
September 2018 : Christopher Geake on 'Non-Religious Spiritual and Pastoral Care - Humanist UK Approaches'
"I really enjoyed our monthly Harrow Humanists meeting this evening. I gave a presentation on the Humanists UK approach to non-religious and spiritual and pastoral support, and talked about my salaried role at the hospitals, and my role within the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network. Then we had a very interesting discussion in which some important issues were opened up. It led to an invitation to give a similar presentation to North London Humanists which I was very happy to accept. I absolutely love these occasions."
June 2018 : 'What is Humanism?' An Introduction by Terry Lilley - A public, open, interactive talk where all views are welcomed
"We welcomed members of Harrow Interfaith to this introduction and dialogue on Humanism. In a friendly atmosphere of exchange, members of Harrow Humanists and members of different religious Faiths were able to share human values and understand the need for listening in fostering mutually productive dialogue. We thank members of Harrow Interfaith for joining us and for being so interested and open about Humanism."
April 2018 : Tom Moberly, Healthwatch UK 'Promoting Science and Integrity in Healthcare'
"Tom Moberly, UK editor of the BMJ and member of the charity HealthWatch UK, informed us of the work of Healthwatch in discussing, highlighting and campaigning for evidence-based healthcare. He also ran through many recent examples of harmful practice, including common general practice's habitual use of 'screening'. A great and interesting talk on the complexity and importance of ethics and practise in medicine."
March 2018 : Norman Bacrac (Atheism UK Council member; Trustee of the Ethical Society; former Editor of the 'Ethical Record') - 'The work of Atheism UK and why it's needed in today's world'
"Norman Bacrac outlined the history, structure, and remit of Atheism UK, whilst also projecting its plans for the future. He then opened up a group discussion on key elements and definitions of humanism, in which he generously allowed a full critique of his own views, based as they are on his long experience in this field."
February 2018 : Giovanni Gaetani (Growth and Development Officer with the International Humanist and Ethical Union) - 'The IHEU and the Growth of the Global Humanist Movement'
"Giovanni Gaetani talked in a very informative and entertaining way about the work of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. A good worldwide overview of the development and priorities of humanist groups - and the formidable issues they face in some countries, such as the death-penalty, persecution, and discrimination for atheism and "blasphemy", FGM, anti-LGBT legislation. We also discussed current threats to humanism such as populism and extremism, and the need for cultural change aligned with legislative progress - not least in the UK." (Christopher Geake)
November 2017 : A Video and Discussion - 'Pacifism and Remembrance'
"In Remembrance week we took a look at the secular history of the Cenotaph in London and how Remembrance Sunday has inserted religion into a secular event. We also watched a short video extract (view it here
) of a debate between Prof. Bryan Caplan and Prof. Jan Ting on the merits and de-merits of liberal intervention and the 'Just War', followed by a discussion on war, pacifism and secularism."
September 2017 : Michael Lawrence on 'The Hypocrisy of the Church of England'
"Michael Lawrence spoke on his research into the real motives of the Church of England in its centuries-long excursions into education, slavery, and many aspects of British public life. A video of the talk will, hopefully, be posted here soon."
June 2017 : 'How Do We Understand and React To Terrorist Attack'
"Video viewing and discussion: Maajid Nawaz on his personal journey of reform and the need for the 'conversation' about Islam."
April 2017 : Aliyah Saleem on 'The Hidden Abuse of Apostates'
"Aliyah Saleem is an ex-Muslim atheist who attended an Islamic school in Britain for five years and studied the Quran in Pakistan, Having left Islam at 19, Aliyah has since spoken about ex-Muslim issues as well as advocating for secular education. She is the co-founder of Faith to Faithless which is now an official program at the British Humanist Association. Aliyah has written about her work and experiences for the Times and is a board member of the Atheist, Humanist and Secular students.
Aliyah, without notes, told her story and discussed the general picture of apostacy and closed communities across the UK. She feels the issue has decisively breached into public awareness and that change is happening and inevitable. We thank her for giving so generously of her time and her fluent knowledge of the subject. We overran!"
March 2017 : Tony Thorne on 'GALHA - Why, When and Where?' Subtitle: 'An aspect of Humanism and human progress'
"Tony's talk can be downloaded HERE
February 2017 : A video viewing and discussion - Steven Pinker on the biology of sex differences
"The video is an excerpt from an April 22, 2005 debate between Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke on the subject of under-representation of women in science. You can view the video here
. The debate was at least partially inspired by an incident involving former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, whose public comments speculating on possible explanations for gender disparity in science were widely misinterpreted and taken out of context. The video includes only Steven Pinker's prepared portion. It does not include Elizabeth Spelke's presentation, the dialogue between the two speakers or the Q&A section. You can view the entire 2-hour event 'The Science of Gender and Science A Conversation with Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke April 22, 2005' here
Pinker's argument draws on the metadata which shows, in his judgement, that sex differences in numbers employed in the STEM subjects are persistant because they are innate, not because there is discrimination: "Difference is not Discrimination". There was surprisingly little disagreement with this in the group which means that mainstays of second and third-wave feminism (patriarchy, institutional sexism) were not accepted as credible."
January 2017 : Dr Oliver Scott Curry (Evolutionary Anthropologist) - Morality as Co-operation: How Evolution Explains Ethics
"Dr Curry explained to us his ongoing research in the science of morality. The theory of morality-as-cooperation argues that morality consists of a collection of biological and cultural solutions to the nonzerosum problems of cooperation and conflict recurrent in human social life. This theory predicts that specific forms of cooperative behaviour helping kin, helping your group, reciprocating, being brave, deferring to superiors, dividing disputed resources, and respecting prior ownership will be considered morally good wherever they arise, irrespective of culture. This prediction challenges widely held cultural relativist' views of morality. The present study tests this prediction by investigating the moral valence of these seven cooperative behaviours in the ethnographic records of 60 societies. The results provide strong support for the theory: the moral valence of cooperative behaviour is uniformly positive; and the majority of these cooperative moral values appear in the majority of cultures, in all regions of the world. These findings provide new insights into moral universals and moral variation. And they indicate that morality-as-cooperation could provide the unified theory of morality that the behavioural sciences have hitherto lacked.
This highly engaging and enjoyable talk lead to a clearer understanding of the theory, especially when put to the test of some of our questions on moral relativism."
Click here to see video of the same talk delivered at the LSE
November 2016: Dr Julie Crow - Humanism - A Schools Presentation
"Julie Crow - in an excellent presentation which spawned a long debate - gave us the benefit of her qualification and experience as a Humanists UK accredited schools visior. Our aim was to see what the students see; to get an insight into the teaching of RE in schools. Humanism is still a neglected, though legally required, constituent of the RE curriculum, and Julie's job has been to present an engaging and informative introduction to the positive character and benefits of Humanism in our diversely populated schools."
October 2016: Chris Moos (Secularist Campaigner) - Segregation a new and old challenge for secularists
"Chris Moos informed us of his work researching, campaigning and demonstrating on the situation, in Britain today, of gender segregation. The principally islamist agenda has been testing complacent British law on this subject for some time. The allies of this agenda, on the Left, help bolster the notion that 'separate is equal', often under the euphemistic banner of tolerance; their motives are perhaps naive, perhaps political. It was a detailed and comprehensive talk from a person at the forefront of knowledge on this issue - and the forefront of the 'push-back' against it. "
September 2016: Gus Bell (Medical Researcher; member of Harrow Humanists)- Fire in the Blood: Malaria and other deseases
"Gus spoke on the subject of his research, specifically malaria, but generally pathogens and epidemiology. He gave us a fascinating introduction to the different pathogens, their structure and history. Many questions were raised about the history of treatment and about research efforts, drawing on Gus's informed expertise."
June 2016: Jay Harman (Humanists UK Education Campaigns Officer) - Humanism and Religion in Schools
"Jay spoke to us on the whole field of religious education - RE, SRE, GCSE, national curriculum - and also the broad picture concerning Faith schools. The current climate is quite hostile to humanist or non-religious inclusion in the teaching of faith in schools, but a change of government might prick the Westminster bubble and diminish the influence of a religious clique currently holding sway."
April 2016: Luke Donnellan Why Humanism? Putting the non-religious into religious education
"The Humanists UK's Head of Education spoke to us about the How, the When and the Why of teaching Humanism in schools. He also spoke to our questions about the state of RE and its future prospects, the situation of under-trained but committed teachers, and the opportunity for humanism to play it's role in opening young minds to the diverse reality of modern Britain."
March 2016: John Holroyd on the history and structure of religious education in England
"John is has been a teacher of Religious Studies and Philosophy in London for the past twenty years. He gave us a very interesting, detailed talk followed by a mostly philosophical questions session. Historically, there was a move from the traditional 'nurture' theological approach of religious instruction to a 'thematic' sympathetic approach in the 60s and 70s. The Conservative government re-established the primacy of Christianity in the 1988 Education Act, and the Tony Blair 'Academy' project of 1998 re-introduced a more religious ethos through the setting up of Faith schools."
January 2016: Humanism in schools and living with difference - group discussion
"It was agreed that the regulations governing both the teaching of RE in schools and the assembly for an "act of collective worship" are hopelessly out of date and not fit for purpose in 21st century Britain. There have been a number of independent reports relating to these issues published in 2015 and the major points arising from these reports were discussed. We concluded that school assemblies should include a time for reflection on moral and ethical issues rather than religious worship and that Religious Education should be replaced by a more inclusive approach such as Philosophy, Religion and Ethics which would include non-religious world views such as Humanism and would be on the National Curriculum."
November 2015: Jeremy Rodell The Big Change in Religion & Belief in Britain - A Humanist Response
"Jeremy Rodell is the Dialogue Officer for the Humanists UK. The number of Anglicans is steadily declining but the number of evangelical Christians and of Muslims is increasing, as is the number of people with no religious affiliation. There is thus a potential for societal polarisation. Dialogue with 'other' groups is important with promotion of universal human rights and secularism. Multiculturalism where different groups are leading parallel but separate lives does not encourage assimilation and understanding of others points of view. Interculturalism with integration would be better."
October 2015: Tehmina Kazi Secular Muslims: On Building Inclusive Religious Spaces
"The Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, talked on the need and possibility of religious (specifically muslim) secularism. This was followed by a wide-ranging discussion."
September 2015: Barbara Smoker Can Capital Punishment ever be juistified?
"a well-known Humanist and Secularist, Barbara discussed whether Capital Punishment can ever be justified using her detailed researches into the Moors Murders as examples."
June 2015: Dr Bill Thompson So What is Human Nature?
"Dr Thompson is a philosopher, architect and environmental psychologist. He led a wide-ranging discussion on defining human nature."
May 2015: David Savage Humanist Pastoral Care
"David is head of pastoral support at the Humanists UK. He came to tell us about his pioneer work in hospitals and prisons and on the plans to train others to carry out this important humanist role in an increasingly non-religious society."
April 2015: John Edwards Does Climate Change Matter?
"John Edwards has a background in applied science specialising mainly in applied thermodynamics and fluid mechanics. He gave us his views on Climate Change, the real dangers from Carbon Dioxide and Methane, and the wisdom of nuclear energy."
March 2015: Rachel Wright from Voluntary Action Harrow Co-operative.
"This is a nonprofit workers co-operative which helps the voluntary and community sector achieve its objectives through training, guidance and information. Rachel and her colleague Alex talked about this work and the work of co-operatives nationally and answered the many questions from our members."
February 2015: Professor Tim Crow on Beliefs and False Beliefs
"Tim recounted documented beliefs of four famous historical characters and invited us to guess who they were. We guessed Joan of Arc and Adolf Hitler but not Isaac Newton or Auguste Strindberg. The following discussion ranged widely and included the concept of delusions and how this affected these four people."