Zoe Weil

“No judgement… just how do we solve this?” – Humane Educator Zoe Weil – New Conversation on the Sentientism YouTube and Podcast

Zoe (@ZoeWeil​) is the co-founder & president of the Institute for Humane Education​). She is considered a pioneer in the comprehensive humane education movement. She has authored seven books both for adults & children, including Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World & Meaningful Life. Zoe writes the Becoming a Solutionary blog at Psychology Today. She has made numerous TV & radio appearances and has given six TED talks, including “Extending our Circle of Compassion.”

In these Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.”

The audio is also on our Podcast – subscribe on Apple here & all the other platforms here​.

We discuss:

  • Humane Education: Human rights, animal protection, environmental sustainability
  • Growing up non-religious in New York but with Jewish heritage
  • Having the label “Jew” but not knowing what it meant
  • Taking courses on Orthodox Judaism at NYU. Finding the questioning & debate fascinating, but the “proofs of god didn’t seem like proofs”
  • Taking a sense that “what you do mattered more than what you believe”
  • Semester at Sea, staying on an ashram, visiting Israel & Japan. Exploring religion & meaning making
  • Choosing to study religion rather than a scientific veterinary track
  • Doing a Masters in Theological studies at Harvard Divinity School, focusing on what religions taught about animals & environment
  • “I still don’t believe in god – the way god is described in most religions”
  • “The mystery of the universe is awe-inspiring”. Calling it “god” feels like it’s narrowing something huge into something small
  • Is religion restricting wonder rather than revelling in it?
  • Does religion constrain the concept of god as the “universe” into something that looks remarkably like a human male?
  • Awe and wonder and connection within a naturalistic worldview
  • Unitarian universalism & the power of numinous, communal experience
  • Is a secular life missing something profound? Do we need to make more of an effort than religious people to connect with it?
  • Religious ethics often reflect the values of ancient, powerful humans (sexism, homophobia, caste discrimination)
  • Being told “god is the only reason that prevents me from killing people”
  • The MOGO principle: Striving to do the “Most Good, Least Harm” for people, animals and the environment
  • Making personal choices & transforming systems.
  • Zoe’s book “Most Good, Least Harm”
  • Setting the scope of moral consideration
  • Stopping for every dog on the street in Manhattan. Loving animals as a child
  • Growing up during the Vietnam war & asking why “American” lives seemed to be more valued
  • “Humans didn’t evolve to care about all 8 billion of us … yet we now live in a world where our choices impact other people and other species”
  • Enjoying eating meat as a child + the conflict of realising what that did to animals
  • Encountering Dr. Spock in Star Trek. Being vegetarian purely through logic
  • It’s much easier being vegan now than 31 years ago
  • Most people just go along with the default, with the system
  • Changing the system (e.g. clean meat) will make it easier for people to act in line with the ethics they already have
  • Being a “Solutionary”. Identify unjust, unsustainable, harmful systems and devise MOGO solutions
  • “No judgement… just how do we solve this?”
  • Ecocentrism, biocentrism, sentientism. Intrinsic & instrumental value
  • The inconsistency of environmentalists ignoring the interests of many sentient beings
  • A concern for species (endangered, invasive) vs. individual sentients
  • Legitimate conflicts of interest vs. win-win-win situations (e.g. ending animal farming)
  • The need for solutions & Just Transitions that show compassion for all sentients (including humans)
  • Animal advocates compartmentalise too. Helping companion animals while eating farmed animals
  • From Humanitarian to Sentientarian?
  • Humane education as the route to a better world
  • Education underpins all of our systems & thinking
  • If we can educate a generation we can build a better world
  • What’s important, what are you good at & what do you love to do?
  • Open learning, engage all stakeholders, focus on solutions, via creative & systems & critical strategic thinking
  • Evidence-based optimism & a Star Trek future.
  • “Hope isn’t a pre-requisite – Just do the work”

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at https://sentientism.info/​​​​​​​​​​​. Join our “wall” using this simple form​.

​Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome to join our groups. Our main one is here on FaceBook​.

Thanks Graham for the post-production. Follow him @cgbessellieu.

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