Sunday Platform - Joe Chuman: Reasons for Optimism and Hope

Sunday, September 16, 2018 - 11:00am
Ceremonial Hall - 4th floor

As we all know, we are in a dark if not ominous political moment. It is a reality I have felt compelled to address many times in my platforms at the New York Society. To put it in context, Ethical Culture by design takes a critical view of the status quo. If we are committed to Ethical Ideals, we need to conclude that the state of society falls short, and we are called to strive to close the gap between the way things are and the way they ought to be. Hence, when we survey society, we tend to veer toward the the critical, the negative. But there is another context from which we can draw very different conclusions.

If we look at human as a whole from the long view, the human condition is getting dramatically better. People live much longer, they are healthier and wealthier. Fewer die in wars or are the victims of violence in any form. They are better educated, have more leisure and hundreds of millions of our fellow human beings in the past few decades have been lifted out of dire poverty.

Such is the perspective of Harvard social psychologist, Stephen Pinker, in two magisterial volumes, The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now. Rather than mere opinion, Pinker backs up his claims with reams of empirical data and oodles of charts and graphs. Moreover, he credits the European Enlightenment as the engine of humanity's progress and ends his conclusions with a call to humanism.

In my opening address on September 16th, I will draw from Pinker's thought and inject some hope into our current situation at a time which badly needs it.  

Presider: Anne Klaeysen

Shared Charity: Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)