Who Should Win Harvard’s Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism?

For the past few years, the “Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism” has been 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 author Salman Rushdie.

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

The third award went to Joss Whedon, the man behind the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse.

Last year, it went to the Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.

See a pattern…?

Lots of testosterone.

(I’d love to see a woman receive the award.)

But in any case, who do you think should be in the running to win the award this year? Feel free to suggest more than one name. The nominating committee is paying attention to your suggestions…

What’s that, you say?

You want an incentive?

Done.

I’ll pick a random commenter from among all nominees and you’ll win a copy of Sam Harris‘ brand new book, The Moral Landscape! (It’s not even out until October 5th!)

The contest is only open to US residents (Sorry — publisher’s rules). If you’d like to enter, just insert the word “Hippo” at the end of your comment.

***Update***: The committee writes in a comment:

We just wanted to clarify a little bit what the award is about. The key words here are “Cultural Humanism.” I realize that’s a bit vague, but the idea is, this award is for people in the Arts – hence why our previous winners are an author, a musician, and 3 TV personalities. We look for nominees who contribute to Humanism by (a) popularizing it via their own popularity and (b) having their values reflected in their art.

This rules out, for the most part, scientists and “famous for being atheist” type writers (including the awesome Mr. Mehta himself.) It’s not that we don’t love these people to death – trust me, we do – but there are already several awards out there for that sort of thing. In fact, many of the people suggested above have gotten such awards in recent years from the AHA (Lori Lipman Brown, Eugenie Scott, Annie Laurie Gaylor).

So: keep this in mind as you throw out suggestions! We’re already hard at work on this year’s nominees, but we’ll be watching this space closely for new ideas!

Oh, and as for the “too much testosterone” thing: It’s certainly on our radar as well.

Much love to all of you fine internet folks,
The Cultural Humanism Award Committee

P.S. Our research suggests that Rachel Maddow is not necessarily nonreligious. Anyone have proof to the contrary?


  • http://Www.tomshamma.Wordpress.com Thomas Shamma

    Greta Christina.

    Hippo.

  • Shawn

    S.E. Cupp *ducks* j/k

  • Zach

    I’ll second Thomas: Greta Christina.

    Hippo.

  • Kordis

    Why not you, Hemant? you seem to be doing a fantastic job.

    (For those who think this is a shameless plug to get a free book rather than an honest opion, I have to ask. Why can’t it be both?)
    ;)

  • Edward

    While I do think a female winner would be great, my vote is for Phil Plait. Because, why not?

    Hippo.

  • Oliver

    I’m not sure they’d give it to him but I’ll put a vote in for Christopher Hitchens.

  • Lindsay

    Thirding Greta Christina.

    Hippo hippo hippo. This book has been on my Xmas list forever. Hippo hippo hippo.

  • http://NoYourGod.blogspot.com NoYourGod

    For a female nominee, it would be Rachel Maddow. She personifies thought and reason in the face of madness and mythology.

    To balance things out, how about Penn & Teller? Yeah – more nads, but worthy nominees.

    Hippo.

  • Vanessa

    I’d say Obama.

    Hippo

  • http://personman.com Danny

    I clicked through to nominate Greta Christina. Guess I’m not the only one who enjoys her take on things. Annie Laurie Gaylor might also be a good choice.

    Hippo

  • Roxane

    I second Rachel Maddow. The presenters seem to be choosing well-known people, perhaps to make the point that humanism isn’t just for geeks. Much as I adore Greta Christina, I don’t think she has the traction outside of the atheist community.

    Hippo.

  • mkb

    Alice Walker?

  • Claudia

    Christopher Hitchens.

    James Randi

    Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffett

    Hemant, I have relatives in the US, can I enter if I give their address and bug them about reading it before they send it to me? If so HIPPO.

  • Heidi

    My connection was going to be that I have a nerd crush on both Joss and Adam. I don’t think I have any nerd crushes on women, so this is going to be hard.

    Ok, 1st choice: Jen McCreight for Boobquake Day. Duh. Obvious.

    2nd choice: Rachael Maddow for being high profile.

    Hippo.

  • sc0tt

    Mary Roach

    Jennifer McCreight 8

    Hippo

  • http://www.devmorgan.com/blog Dave Morgan

    I have a few.. some dudes, and a woman:

    James Randi, Penn Jillette and Rachel Maddow.

    Hippo.

  • http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/ Chris Hallquist

    I’m not sure Maddow works–has she ever talked publicly about her religious views (or lack thereof)?

    My nomination is Julia Sweeney. Hippo

  • http://www.andrewmartens.com/ Andrew Martens

    I would also nominate Greta Christina.

    Alas I’m a Canadian so I can’t win your contest.

  • Tamara

    Ann Coulter…she has had a definitive influence on making humanism a better choice than Christianity… I really like the idea of Rachel Maddow from a commenter above.

  • http://droachinator.blogspot.com Deric

    Rachel Maddow gets my vote as well. Her impassioned pleas for reasonable analysis make my heart smile.

    Also, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s focus on human rights and injustices should make her a hero in any humanist’s eyes.

    Hippo

  • http://godlessgradstudent.wordpress.com/ Shelley Mountjoy

    Annie Laurie Gaylor

  • http://teapotatheism.blogspot.com Teapot

    Warren Buffet.

    Hippo.

  • Julie

    Thinking out of the box: Kathy Griffin
    Thinking in the box: Rachel Maddow
    or Julia Sweeney
    Hippo (birdy to ewe)

  • Justin

    Eugenie Scott. Oh, and I second (third?) James Randi.

    Hippo

  • Urban Ignoramus

    [off topic: what is the meaning of "hippo"?]

  • VXbinaca

    Joss Wheadon is a terrible hack writer who sank the Alien franchise.

    RKwatson should get the award is a female must get it as Hermany alluded to, otherwise, Hitchens should get it.

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    I popped in to say Greta Christina or Ariane Sherine, though I do like the Rachel Maddow idea too.

    And I’m flattered some of you guys mentioned me <3

  • Jonas

    I see several have beaten me to Rachael Maddow.
    I’d add Dar Williams.

    Hippo

  • Casey Crisp

    I second Kathy Griffin or Christopher Hitchens. Hippo.

  • http://secularshawshank.wordpress.com Andy

    It’s a shame these great women who are being suggested have not already been recognized with this award. They’re just as deserving as any of the men who’ve been given the honor. I hate Augustine of Hippo.

  • VXbinaca

    Hermant, put up a poll somewhere and let people vote on it (even though like most things in life our votes don’t count).

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com Transplanted Lawyer

    Lori Lipman Brown. First secular lobbyist in U.S. Congressional history.

    Hippo.

  • Roginbe

    My nerd senses were tingled by the list of winners. They were all important in some way helping to bring free inquiry closer to the people. I would love for Hitchens to win the award, but see the problem giving it to one of the New Atheists. For that reason I nominate Maddow, Randi, or Penn and Teller for the award.

    Hippo

  • rvkevin

    My first thought was Eugenie Scott, but I also agree with the suggestion of Rachael Maddow.

    Hippo.

  • Jasen777

    James Randi

    Hippo

  • http://ashleyfmiller.wordpress.com Ashley

    I think Greta Christina would be an excellent choice.

    Alice Walker, too.

    Hippo.

  • Jack

    Penn Jillete or James Randi

    NOT Rachel Maddow

  • Bob

    Professor Stephen Hawking, for having gotten evangelicals’ panties in a bunch by saying the universe could have created itself.

    Hippo.

  • reparker

    I really like the suggestion of Kathy Griffin. At the very least she’d have an interesting acceptance speech.

    As for other people, I think Todd Stiefel would be a good choice.

    Hippo.

  • Jenea

    Second Eugenie Scott, for her tireless efforts on behalf of science and reason.

    Hippo!

  • Danish Atheist

    I will go against my gender and say Christopher Hitchens or, as another suggested, prof. Stephen Hawking.

  • The Rationalist

    Greta Christina. More and more often I find myself, when encountering for the Nth time the same old irrational arguments, simply cutting and pasting one of Greta’s “Atheist Memes of the Day”.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Why are people saying Christopher Hitchens and Penn Jillette? Remember, the award is for “Cultural Humanism” — I suggest you ask either of those men what they think about humanism. I don’t think that they’re fans.

    This hippo votes for Rachel Maddow.

  • http://thenewhumanism.org James Croft

    Excited to see this being blogged about! We usually try to go for very high-profile cultural figures, so as much as I love Greta’s work, I think we need someone with more widespread recognition.

    I’d suggest Rebecca Goldstein or Philip Pullman, myself.

    HIPPO!! =D

  • Melanie

    Beaten to it several times over but I add my vote for Rachel Maddow.

    Hippo

  • Siobhan in Vermont

    Would Holly Near be disqualified?

    http://www.americanhumanist.org/hnn/podcast/holly_near.html

    She’s my nomination anyway. Others have made some great ones, though. :)

    Hippo

  • steve

    Christopher Hitchens. His article “Topic of Cancer” is life-changing and something I consult regularly.

    Hippo

  • CHAC

    Hi all,

    We’re pretty happy to see this post over here at HSS. Thanks for all the input!

    We just wanted to clarify a little bit what the award is about. The key words here are “Cultural Humanism.” I realize that’s a bit vague, but the idea is, this award is for people in the Arts – hence why our previous winners are an author, a musician, and 3 TV personalities. We look for nominees who contribute to Humanism by (a) popularizing it via their own popularity and (b) having their values reflected in their art.

    This rules out, for the most part, scientists and “famous for being atheist” type writers (including the awesome Mr. Mehta himself.) It’s not that we don’t love these people to death – trust me, we do – but there are already several awards out there for that sort of thing. In fact, many of the people suggested above have gotten such awards in recent years from the AHA (Lori Lipman Brown, Eugenie Scott, Annie Laurie Gaylor).

    So: keep this in mind as you throw out suggestions! We’re already hard at work on this year’s nominees, but we’ll be watching this space closely for new ideas!

    Oh, and as for the “too much testosterone” thing: It’s certainly on our radar as well.

    Much love to all of you fine internet folks,
    The Cultural Humanism Award Committee

    P.S. Our research suggests that Rachel Maddow is not necessarily nonreligious. Anyone have proof to the contrary?

  • Kris Larsen

    In keeping with the previous winners, Trey Parker and Matt Stone for their work on “South Park.”

    Hippo

  • Ubi Dubium

    This is supposed to be a lifetime achievement award, yes? How about Ann Druyan?

    I love Jen, but I think she’s a little young yet for this sort of award. (As is Greta Christina, really.)

    …I want a hippopotamus for xmas…

    Hippo, Hippo, Hippo!

  • LabRatter

    I second Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a great candidate.

    Although for pure, unadulterated entertainment, Kathy Griffin would be fabulous.

    Hippo

  • Paul Clamp

    I think Lyz Liddell should get it for all that she has done for the SSA!

  • ButchKitties

    It’s probably 5 years too late, but I would nominate Julia Sweeney.

  • http://kpharri.wordpress.com/ Keith

    I have to go with Greta Christina.

    Hippo.

  • Margy

    Anne Nicol Gaylor–who gave us both Annie Laurie Gaylor and the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

    Hippo.

  • Flail

    James Randi for his no bs approach to psychics and other nonsense.

    Hippo

  • http://www.GreenAtheist.Blogspot.com Justin Vacula

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    hippo

  • http://www.cloverwise.com/ocd Tim

    For a man, I’d say Richard Dawkins for all his work in evolutionary biology, science, and especially for his secular charity work.

    For a woman, I’d echo the above and say Rachel Maddow.

    Hippo

  • Rhiannon

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali!!!

    Hippo.

  • Jason

    my vote goes to Christopher Hitchens

  • Grumpy Mr. Gruff

    Eugenie Scott for her tireless work and engaging speaking combating pseudoscience in the classroom. I live in the Midwest; my state would be that much more misinformed without her efforts.

    or

    Christopher Hitchens. His conduct, especially since the cancer diagnosis, illustrates how secular individuals can face adversity with dignity and determination.

    Hippo

  • http://www.negativentropy.blogspot.com/ Jen

    Julia Sweeney!

    Hippo, hippo, hippo! :)

  • http://anthonyrmiller.com/ Tony Miller

    Jen McCreight. In her lifetime, so far, she has stood out from the crowd.

    This year alone she has fought for science and women’s rights in a very public fashion. She received international attention for her efforts.

  • Meanie

    Here’s another vote for Julia Sweeney.

    Hippo

  • http://Iamwithyou,JohnFrost Tracy

    Stephen Hawking

    Hippo

  • Austin

    D.J. Grothe, James Randi

    Hippo

  • Alt+3

    Ratzinger.

    His work within the church over the decades has been invaluable in getting people to discard religion and treat at least the catholic church with the distrust it sincerely deserves.

  • JulietEcho

    I honestly don’t know enough about his personal beliefs to say for sure he’s a Humanist, but I think it would be neat if Mike Rowe was a nominee… although maybe it would be weird that his show is on the Discovery Channel after just giving one to Adam and Jaime?

    Anyway, I think Dirty Jobs is one of the best examples out there of painting a clear, Humanist picture through the arts. While the show has plenty of gross-out factor and dirty jokes (just like the Mythbusters have their giant explosions), the main focus for almost every episode is on the people who, in many cases, devote their lives to thankless jobs.

    Some take pleasure in knowing that they’re keeping people safe, or enjoy the challenge of a job that’s dangerous, or cherish a family business that’s been passed down for generations. Some are just working to support their families, and their job isn’t some sort of calling – it’s just a means to an end. Additionally, many of the jobs featured involve environmentalism in one way or another, and it’s one of those shows where I learn something whenever I watch it.

    Anyway, I think there are a lot of great Humanist values bundled up in the show, and it’s been a favorite of mine for a few years now. Also: Mike Rowe would give a killer acceptance speech.

    Hippo

  • Paul Clamp

    Lyz Liddel, for all she has done for the Secular Student Alliance and campus groups!

    (I’m reposting because I forgot to add the hippo last time)

    Hippo

  • http://peternothnagle.com Peter N

    I’ll pile on and nominate Greta Christina also, but I also want to offer an honorable mention to the honorable Molly Norris!

    Augustine the Hippo

  • keystothekid

    I actually NoYourGod might be on to something, Penn & Teller for the win!

    *hippo!*

  • BigTime

    Seth MacFarlane. He is an outspoken atheist, philanthropist, successful creator of Family Guy and I especially love how Brian Griffin is an atheist, the most learned and logical of all the characters on the show and a dog.

  • BigTime

    He also supports gay rights and I forgot HIPPO!

  • http://www.cognitivedissident.org cognitive dissident

    I’ve looked over the previous comments, but have left my list of suggestions unchanged:

    Natalie Angier
    Bjork
    Susan Blackmore
    Greta Christina
    Ani DiFranco
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Ingrid Newkirk
    Camille Paglia
    Ariane Sherine
    Julia Sweeney

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

    Angelina Jolie.

    *ducks*

    Hippo!

  • Jagyr

    VXbinaca:

    Joss Wheadon[sic] is a terrible hack writer who sank the Alien franchise.

    Christ on a crutch, it’s like every time your fingers hit the keyboard, something comes out that makes me dislike you more.
    [/fanboy]

    As for the contest, I’d have to go with Rachel Maddow, since she’s a local (presuming someone can confirm her unreligiosity).

    EDIT: Almost forgot one of the angriest and deadliest creatures on earth, the HIPPO.

  • http://teapotatheism.blogspot.com Teapot

    Morgan Freeman.

    Hippo.

  • http://supercheetah.livejournal.com supercheetah

    Ann Druyan is a good choice for this, I agree. I’m also going to nominate Greta Christina, she is awesome. Annie Nicol Gaylor is yet another good nominee who would deserve this award. And I’m going to back up Ayaan Hirsi Ali, especially considering the risk to herself that she took in speaking out. I am also going to recommend Eugenie Scott because I think she’s don’t some amazing things for this community.

    Hippo

  • Carolyn


    Ira Glass

    Penn & Teller

    James Cameron


    Hippo!

  • Epistaxis

    Looks like I’m just the second one in after the ***Update*** was posted.

    Ricky Gervais
    Bill Maher
    Sir Ian McKellen

  • yaoi_myantidrug

    Jen McCreight

    Greta Christina

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    hippo

  • AxeGrrl

    Another vote for Julia Sweeney.

    and it’s LONG overdue! :)

    hippo

  • AxeGrrl

    Roxane wrote:

    Much as I adore Greta Christina, I don’t think she has the traction outside of the atheist community.

    I adore Greta Christina too, but given this specific aim: “this award is for people in the Arts”, I don’t think she’d be considered (given what they apparently consider to be ‘the Arts’, that is)

  • Claudia

    P.S. Our research suggests that Rachel Maddow is not necessarily nonreligious. Anyone have proof to the contrary?

    No, but I don’t that should disqualify her. Does the AHA only give out awards to nonbelievers? I’m aware that the vast majority of Humanists are non-believers, but I’ve heard many times that Humanism is not incompatible with theism (though I think it would be more precise to say it’s not incompatible with deism). If Maddow has done enough to advance the cause of Humanism her personal beliefs should be besides the point, IMHO.

    Mind you, I wouldn’t vote for her for the award. I love Rachel to death, but her area of influence is left-wing politics. Which is fine, but not the same thing as Humanism. I maintain my votes for Randi or Hitchens.

  • Saint Splattergut

    Penn & Teller!
    Randi!

    more Randi than P&T, through no fault of their own that Randi is older and thus had more time to spend debunking woo. Also doesn’t hurt that he set up the JREF…

  • JohnFrost

    Another vote for Seth Macfarlane.

    Also, I can’t believe no one has nominated Jon Stewart?

    hungry hungry hippo

  • http://www.cognitivedissident.org cognitive dissident

    And I forgot to add “hippo” to the end of my list…

  • Stu

    Ann Druyan. It’s the 30th anniversary of Cosmos

  • http://s2solutions.us/wordpress Seth Strong

    Nina Hartley. She’s one of those people that makes you go “what? She’s a humanist.” and then you get to remember atheists have more fun. Go Nina.

  • Jen

    Brad Pitt for his work in New Orleans
    Tori Amos for RAINN

    Hippo!

  • Aj

    I’d like to add my support for the already mentioned:

    Nina Hartley, I was very impressed with that interview I read recently with The Humanist. She’s an advocate for sex-positive feminism and she’s quite popular in her field.

    Philip Pullman, is a Humanist, a popular author who reflects his views in his art. His criticism of religious authority in his works of fiction has appealed to many.

    Terry Pratchett, my favourite author, a Humanist, and has been a great advocate for legalizing assisted suicide recently.

    Seth MacFarlane and Ian McKellen would be great, I don’t know much about them, I don’t know if they’re Humanists, they have some common cause with Humanists, and are atheists. Ariane Sherine, as much as I admire her, is not popular for her work outside of atheist activism. Ann Druyan, deserves the award for the quality of her work but I wouldn’t call her “popular” and she hasn’t contributed much recently to the arts. Sadly, science writers like Mary Roach, Ben Goldacre, or Simon Singh probably aren’t popular enough. Julia Sweeney, I didn’t think she was that popular outside of her Letting Go of God monologue.

  • Rob

    Doug Stanhope

    Hippo!

  • Ava

    I popped in to suggest Greta Christina, but I’d also be pleased to see Randi, Alice Walker, MacFarlane, or Julia Sweeney win. I like Kathy Griffin, but don’t think she’s the best public face of humanism.
    Since it is a lifetime achievement award, I’m rooting for Randi and/or Walker.

  • L. Foster

    Now I know it says that mostly scientists would be out of the running, but what about Neil DeGrasse Tyson?

    And if it’s not too late, Hippo.

  • http://droachinator.blogspot.com Deric

    Oooh! Oooh! Ira Glass for real! <3

  • A Portlander

    Hitchens is a global cultural treasure as a journalist and essayist. If not Hitch, then certainly Penn & Teller.

  • AxeGrrl

    Ava wrote:

    I like Kathy Griffin, but don’t think she’s the best public face of humanism.

    *teehee* well, she may not be the “best” public face of humanism, but she certainly garners some of the biggest REACTIONS from believers!

    Has Hemant ever said anything that prompted a Christian group to shell out $90,000 for a newspaper ad JUST to tell him how much he ‘offended’ them?!

    Well, Kathy did :)

  • http://www.triloci.com triloci

    Julia Sweeney is a great choice. So are Penn & Teller. Can’t believe no one has nominated Ben Folds. A genius on top of everything else.

    Is the award only for living people or could it go to Douglas Adams? The Hitchhiker’s Guide was my Atheist Manifesto when I was a teenager.

    Hippos are cool
    In the pool
    I see one now
    How he drools

  • Chris

    Rachael Maddow. hippo

  • Daniel M

    Julia Sweeney is an excellent choice, as is Rachel Maddow. Both have used their talents to improve the national discourse and to advocate for reason against delusion. I also think Rachel Weisz would be a fitting choice, considering her portrayal of Hypatia in the movie Agora. She also gave an excellent performance and example of a humanist character in the movie The Constant Gardener. Just to throw out a few more deserving names: Ani Difranco, Amy Goodman, Eve Ensler, Arundhati Roy, and Sarah Silverman.

    Hippo

  • michelle

    Although redundant, I would have to add my voice to the chorus calling for Julia Sweeney or Phillip Pullman.
    Hippo!

  • kris larsen

    Daniel Handler,AKA Lemony Snicket, author of “A Series of Unfortunate Events ” books.

    Hippo

  • Joe D

    What am I missing here? The answer you are looking for is Hitch, Christopher Hitchens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/B.Ryan671 B-Ryan Jenik

    I’m going to start with comedians Ricky Gervais, Louis C.K. and Eddie Izzard. All three are very prominent comedians and promote freethinking through their delivery on-stage. Eddie isn’t afraid of going against the grain of social norms (identifying as a transvestite, or a “male tomboy”). All three are extremely brilliant, both in content and delivery.

    3 TV show creators: Seth MacFarlane, Trey Parker, Matt Stone. Creating hysterical (and sometimes, or in the case of South Park, often times) offensive content and not backing down to social pressures.

    Nina Hartley. She’s a sex-positive educator and is an inspiration for many women. It also acts as a good joke to the increase in the “testosterone factor”.

    Stephen Hawking. No real explanation necessary.

    Christopher Hitchens. Again, no real explanation necessary.


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