The British Humanist Association has announced that physicist and author Jim Al-Khalili will become the association’s new President in January. He succeeds social justice campaigner Polly Toynbee after her three-year term comes to an end and will become the Association’s eleventh president.
Al-Khalili was born and raised in Iraq until the age of 16, before moving with his parents to the UK in 1979. His main career has been as an academic working in theoretical physics but he is also known publicly as an author, science writer, and science communicator.
The BHA chief executive Andrew Copson welcomed the appointment of Al-Khalili by saying:
As well as being an academic scientist at the forefront of humanity’s quest to know the universe, Jim is also a brilliant communicator. His popular broadcasts and books have made some of the most cutting-edge and complex scientific advances accessible to millions. It is that capacity in particular that makes him a perfect choice to speak to the millions of British people who share the humanist approach to life but have not heard the word “humanist” and don’t realise that it describes what they believe. We all look forward to his time as president enormously.
Outgoing President Toynbee also added her praise and reflected upon her three-year term by adding:
It has been a joy to be president at a time of such prominent activity and unprecedented growth for the Association. From the Atheist Bus Campaign, to the massive increase in our education and ceremonies work and our increasingly dynamic advocacy work, we have gone from strength to strength. I know that Jim will enjoy a period of equal growth and success and hope he enjoys his time as President of such a wonderful and sorely needed institution.
After the results of the 2011 census revealed last week, the rise of the non-religious in the UK is gaining more and more traction. With that comes increased power culturally and politically. The non-religious now account for 25% of the population and are the second largest group after Christianity. Leading and increasing the size this group will be Al-Khalili’s biggest goal over the next three years. He has a lot of challenges ahead but he as inherited an organization in fantastic shape left to him by Toynbee. Upon accepting the role, Al-Khalili made reference to the sizeable boots he now has to fill.