President’s report to the 2023 Annual General Meeting

June 20, 2023

The New Enlightenment Project was created to protect and expand humanist values, rational inquiry, and evidence-based decision-making in the face of challenges from people who believe truth is revealed or socially constructed by ideologies.  We seek to alert the humanist community to these challenges and expand the application of enlightenment skills to modern or contemporary conditions. Your board will be presenting a mission and vision statement for your consideration at this AGM which will result in both focusing an expanding our activities, but we have not been inactive this past year.

Our podcast series has included interviews with Steven Pinker, Meghan Murphy, Shahdin Farsai, Francis Widdowson,  Gregory Biniowsky, and Keith Goulet. Dr. Pinker discussed his recent books including Rationality and Enlightenment Now along with his more classical work on the mind and the nature of cognition. He expressed concern with the movement to restrict free thought and expression in academia. Meghan Murphy discussed feminism and transgender ideology with NEP board member Joann Robertson. Shahdin Farsai discussed her experience as a newly graduated lawyer with cancel culture. Francis Widdowson was fired from a tenured position at a Canadian university for questioning cancel culture and for asking difficult questions about so-called mass graves at former Indian residential schools. Gregory Biniowsky took a 25 year hiatus to Cuba and returned to find the social justice movement he had been part of on leaving had changed, and he tried to make sense of it. I interviewed Cree/Metis elder Keith Goulet with respect to the Doctrine of Discovery, lessons from the study of the Cree language and aboriginality and humanism. The common thread of these interviews which include discussions about thought control, cancel culture, the erasure of women, and so-called critical social justice is what Dr. Pinker, in 2005, called the “proto-religion” of the blank slate, the ghost in the machine, and the noble savage. That religion does not have a formal name, but it is commonly referred to as Wokism.

Edan Tasca from CFIC and I had an article entitled “Waking from Wokism” published in Free Inquiry this last June.  Humanist Freedoms published “Requiem for a humanist discussion page” this last summer, an article about how Humanist Canada cancelled an open discussion group that had been in existence for 25 years after it was mobbed by Wokists. In April the journal In-Sight published my article “Is Humanism Compatible with Indigeneity?”  It has since been re-published in Humanist Freedoms and Humanist Perspectives.

I have also been active on a speaking circuit. This last fall I discussed the objectives of the New Enlightenment Project in a presentation to an international conference on men and domestic violence. Later this fall, I met with the Bruce/Grey humanist for a discussion of indigenous gifting as an alternative to capitalism – a topic that was also broached in my interview with Keith Goulet. More recently, I delivered a slide presentation on the Doctrine of Discovery to “Outrage Canada,” a new organization concerned about the failure to deal with physical, sexual and psychological abuse within the Catholic Church. Most recently, I was interviewed by the Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists in Italy about the Doctrine of Discovery, humanism and the New Enlightenment Project.

I would like to thank the team that comprises the NEP board: Vice-President Robert Hamilton who has kept us abreast with Humanists International, linked us with the Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists in Italy, and provides us with workshops and guidance on street epistemology. Thank you as well to our Secretary, Michel Virard who is examining the state of secularism in Canada for a Humanists International survey, and who keeps us abreast of issues in Quebec including Bill-C21, has developed our initial web site, and has guided us through the intricacies of being a non-profit corporation. Thank you, as well, to Michel Pion who, in addition to being our treasurer, is our technical person for our podcasts and in maintaining our website. Thank you to Joann Robertson who, in addition to contributing the odd interview, handles our newsletter and on-going communication with our membership. Thank you too to Bart Broom who chairs our conference planning committee and links us with what is happening with respect to the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism. Last, but not least, thank you to Ullrich Fischer who manages, no nurtures, our facebook page and discussion group and keeps us abreast of what is happening on social media.

Lloyd Robertson