The 2010 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism Goes to…

The “Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism” is given out by the Harvard Secular Society on behalf of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and the American Humanist Association.

The first year, the award went to Salman Rushdie.

The second award went to lead singer of Bad Religion, Greg Graffin.

Last year, it was Joss Whedon.

This year?

The MythBusters -– special-effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman -– take on the task of separating truth from urban legend on their television show with the same name. In true Humanist style, the pair takes on three myths per episode and uses modern-day science to demonstrate, through scientific trials, whether or not some things we take for granted really hold any ground. The award ceremony… will feature a talk and demonstrations by the pair.

Hmph. No Kari? I’m *so* not going.

Unless anyone wants to buy me a plane ticket, in which case I am totally there :)

I do like the choice, though aren’t we stretching the definition of “cultural humanism” a tad? It’s great to award those who promote scientific thinking, but the recipients of the award are getting less and less non-theistic… when did the Mythbusters ever take a stance on God or talk about the problems with religious thinking?

(And when will a woman get the award?)

The ceremony is on April 16th at 8:00 p.m. at Memorial Church on campus and tickets can be purchased here.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Although I love Myth Busters, I am waiting for them to debunk Noah’s Arc…

    But maybe they just don’t want to have to build a life-size replica and fill it with livestock and show how it is difficult to keep them all alive, fed, and shovel poop for the duration of the experiment.

    Maybe the Jonah story of being inside a whale (or fish) would be easier ;)

  • http://preliatorcausa.blogspot.com/ Joé McKen

    I dunno about the Mythies (yeah, I call them that in uber-fan style) ever took a direct stance on God or religious thinking, but for one thing, they’ve stated numerous times on the show how they despise any sort of what they call “oogie-boogie” myths – pyramid power, for one example. They consistently promote, both and off the air, critical thinking and the scientific method, so it’s really not much of a stretch to assume they’re probably quite critical of religious thinking and that sort of stuff.

    Though, of course, one must remember that they’re paid to be MythBusters, not Religion Debunkers and so on. They can’t really go out bashing religion or religious thinking, can they? I don’t think Discovery Channel – ie. their employers – would appreciate it, for starters.

    However, as anyone who follows the Mythies as I do may be aware, Adam gave an interview for Popular Mechanics a few months back where he basically completely and wholly discredited and reviled Creationism and bemoaned the whole “Creationism-into-schools” affair. (He also decried the lack of quality and resources in science education in America, thus scoring even more points in my book.) I already loved him as a host, and my appreciation of him as a person shot up as well when I read that. =P

  • James

    Simply put, the Discovery Channel wont let them do a show debunking religion.
    Penn and Teller could do it cause they are on a Pay Cable channel, Discovery, not a chance.

  • Jennifer

    I could be wrong but it seems to me Adam Savage was a speaker at a skeptics group last year…..

  • Sara

    I’m pretty sure Adam and Jamie were both at the James Randi skeptics thing, and I’ve seen them on a list of celebrity atheists….however accurate those are.

    I wouldn’t really blame them for not using their show as a soap box for religion.

  • Ed Zwart

    Well, at least one of them has a girl’s name. Small steps Ellie, small steps…

  • Evan

    As mentioned above, Adam and Jamie have both been speakers at skeptic gatherings. And even when they aren’t speakers it’s never a surprise if they are at least in attendance. I think it’s also a fair point that their network may discourage certain topics. My point of view is that with the amount of debunking they do, disregarding religion just makes it a non-issue. And I’m happy with that stance.

    Oh, and a huge Congrats to the duo! (As well as the secondary trio.)

  • http://infophilia.blogspot.com infophile

    Jamie is on record as being an atheist, from an interview with Skepticality, though Adam hasn’t said anything on record about his religion or lack thereof. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s an atheist, certainly.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I do like the choice, though aren’t we stretching the definition of “cultural humanism” a tad?… but the recipients of the award are getting less and less non-theistic

    Humanism is not nontheism. It means focusing on improving people’s lives hear on Earth, rather than worrying about how they fare in a mythical afterlife.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Jamie…

  • http://lagunatic.wordpress.com/ Lagunatic

    Anyone who promotes REAL critical thinking is good by me.
    Plus, I love these guys.
    Congrats to them!!

    Um, why is the ceremony in a church? Did I miss something? Is it UU?

  • http://lagunatic.wordpress.com/ Lagunatic

    I did miss something….the first paragraph.

    dumb-da-dumb-dumb.

    In other news – why is this site still loading soooooooooooooooo slooooooooooooooow?
    It’s running slower than I am – as in I’m slow, this site is slower.

  • Carlie

    I think they fit the category a lot better than Joss Whedon does. Really, Whedon?

  • http://www.unmails.com Tyler

    I saw Adam speaking alongside other Skeptics (Penn & Teller included) at some convention thing.

  • http://www.sarahtrachtenberg.com Sarah Trachtenberg

    Stretching the definition of humanist? Yeah, probably… but these guys are likely humanists/atheists/etc. Besides, skepticism is very important to atheism and they sure are doing that!
    Women humanists winning the award: well, women just tend not to be as vocal in fields such as this. Besides, most of these folks tend to be culled from the sciences and there are simply fewer women in these fields. All this amounts to it’ll be harder to find a woman to win this. I suggest myself, just for fun.
    I live in Boston and will def. go to this… I saw Joss Whedon last year.
    Yeah, Adam Savage was at TAM 7, as was I. I did comedy and put him in my act!

  • benjdm

    Humanism is not nontheism. It means focusing on improving people’s lives hear on Earth, rather than worrying about how they fare in a mythical afterlife.

    It’s the combination of nontheism and here-and-now ethics.

    The IHEU’s minimum statement of humanism:

    Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Humanism) is the combination of nontheism and here-and-now ethics.

    Not according to my dictionary. I appreciate the IHEU’s right to set their own goals, but they do not control the English language.

  • Laura Lou

    Adam and Jamie are certainly secular and arguably enough humanist to be considered for this award.

    Hemant, you said “the recipients of the award are getting less and less non-theistic,” and that seems to imply you think Adam and Jamie are theistic even in the slightest. Everything these guys are famous for is completely secular. They may not be outspoken atheists or anti-theists, but that should not be a requirement for the Cultural Humanism award.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Hemant, you said “the recipients of the award are getting less and less non-theistic,” and that seems to imply you think Adam and Jamie are theistic even in the slightest. Everything these guys are famous for is completely secular. They may not be outspoken atheists or anti-theists, but that should not be a requirement for the Cultural Humanism award.

    I should have said they’re less and less *openly* non-theistic.

    I know Humanism encompasses more than just non-belief in a god, but I’d like to see people being honored for spreading the wisdom of disbelief. Someone like Ricky Gervais (who jokes about it in his standup) or Kathy Griffin would be a better fit, I think.

    By no means am I implying Adam and Jamie are theistic. I just wanted to point out that they’re not known for their Humanism. They’re known for being stars of a TV show.

  • Neon Genesis

    Of course the Mythbusters have already debunked the existence of God. They just haven’t debunked Allah yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9izVu_TtAE

  • Alan E.

    I went to a Q&A thing at UC Berkeley to see them. They mentioned that they were most surprised at the kid following they are getting with the show. Of course when they allowed the audience to ask questions, more than half were kids, and about half of those were “What is your favorite/scariest/most fun/etc. myth?” Adam and Jamie tried to prevent those questions by answering before the open inquiry session, but the kids still asked them.

  • muggle

    God, that Humanist Chaplain is beginning to get as obnoxious and irritating as any other chaplain. Can he shut up and go away now? Please.

    Yes, I have a problem with scantimonious prigs of any ilk. I still rather fail to see why Harvard would hire a nontheist chaplain. Rather an oxymoron.

    Look this thing is so fake to begin with and now they don’t even care if someone’s outspoken about irreligion or not. Am I really supposed to take it seriously?

    (And no I haven’t seen Mythbusters so I don’t know these guys. Seen the show advertised and felt they were rather ripping off Snopes who were at the time, trying to promote their own show of this nature if I remember correctly. If it’s all as bad and tasteless as that You Tube clip Neon linked, I’m damned glad I took a pass.)

  • Mathew Wilder

    How is Salman Rushdie> Greg Graffin> Joss Whedon decreasing non-theism? All are outspoken, or at least avowedly, atheists. For those of you who doubt Joss Whedon as an acceptable choice, watch his acceptance speech from last year. Also, his greatest work, Firefly/Serenity is not friendly to religion, despite having a pastor character, and thematically quite obviously pushes a humanist set of values.

  • Twin-Skies

    Didn’t they do a previous segment to find out if the Ark of the Covenant could really kill anybody who touched it?

    I think that was the first time I ever saw Adam swear too XD

  • Shannon

    What does Mythbusters have to do with humanism? I love the show but I don’t get it. Skepticism, sure but humanism?

    And when will a woman get picked? Puhlease. When people make a stink and then someone decides to nominate a token one and then go back to the almost perfect string of straight, white males. The skeptic/atheist/humanist world is apparently as bad as any in believing you need to have a penis to be important.

  • ThatOtherGuy

    I guess you haven’t heard this statement from Adam…

    “My goal this year is to prove natural selection on the show. It’s gonna take a while, it’s gonna be very hard to make it fascinating on film in the context of our narrative structure, but I figure screw it. The sky’s the limit. Let’s do natural selection. I’m sick of fifty percent of this country thinking creationism is reasonable. It’s appalling. And I have the unique ability, maybe, to sell this idea to Discovery, and they’ll, they might allow me to do it, and I’m gonna try as hard as I can.”

  • Neon Genesis

    “If it’s all as bad and tasteless as that You Tube clip Neon linked, I’m damned glad I took a pass.)” You are aware that the video I posted was a parody, right?

  • http://sundialsaga.blogspot.com Modern Girl

    Congrats to the duo! I love these guys!

    I agree that debunking religion is probably not a task they want to take on if they want ratings. Still, they are awesome.

  • Jim

    Religion has no place in science and I’d like to keep it that way. So congratz to these guys for doing exactly as they should be doing, providing excellent examples of critical thinking and the scientific method.

  • GribbletheMunchkin

    Whether they do much directly for humanism is debateable by they do an excellent job at treating myth and legend with the right attitude. i.e. test it before you believe it.

    This is the attitude that skepticism springs from and the popularity of their show means little germs of skepticism being planted in brains across the discovery watching world.

    Good for them for winning.

  • Neon Genesis

    I certainly think they’re better candidates for a humanist award than Bill Maher.

  • muggle

    “You are aware that the video I posted was a parody, right?” Of course, I didn’t think the terminal patient or the experiment was real but like I said, I’ve never seen the show. I thought that was them.

    I don’t spring for cable. TV just ain’t worth it unless I really had money to spare.

  • muggle

    Oh, PS, I do agree with you on Bill Maher. He’s an obnoxious and making all of us look bad. But I’m willing to bet there are those who think that way about Lew Black, who I adore.


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