'The arrogance of humanism'

Tuesday 19th December, 7.30 at the Rose & Crown Tintern


Herbie Girardet on

NEXT MEETING 19th December 2017

David Ehrenfeld is an American professor of biology at Rutgers University, New Jersey, and is the author of over a dozen publications, including The Arrogance of Humanism (1978), Becoming Good Ancestors: He is often described as one of the forerunners of twentieth-century conservation biology. Ehrenfeld's work primarily deals with the inter-related topics of biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability. He is also the founding editor of Conservation Biology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal that deals with conserving the biodiversity of Earth, and has written for various magazines and newspapers including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Harper's Magazine.

This talk takes the seminal 1978 book The Arrogance of Humanism by ecologist David Ehrenfeld as its starting point, which is about about a 'religion of humanism' as a source of a supreme faith in human reason, and asks: Is technology's dehumanisation of people and its devastation of the natural world a departure from humanism or at its heart? is belief in our virtually infinite possibilities deeply flawed? 40 years on, answers to these questions are more important than ever. E. F. Schumacher and others have discussed how we need to make a profound understanding of natural systems the basis for human activities. In this age of the 'anthropocene' we urgently need a new perception of human limits, a new applied philosophy of science, and a new ethics of humility and responsibility towards the living earth.

Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher (1911 –  1977) was a German statistician and economist who is best known for his proposals for human-scale, decentralised and appropriate technologies. He served as Chief Economic Advisor to the British National Coal Board for two decades, and founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group in 1966.

In 1995, his 1973 book Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered was ranked by The Times Literary Supplement as one of the 100 most influential books published since World War II. In 1977 he published A Guide for the Perplexed as a critique of materialistic scientism and as an exploration of the nature and organisation of knowledge.

Complimentary mulled wine and mincemeat pies in the interval

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Updated 10 December 2017

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