Not Quite Sentientist

These are people who have been nominated as a Suspected Sentientist using our I Know a Sentientist form but don’t seem to be Sentientist (yet). This is either because they don’t seem to have a naturalistic worldview (committed to evidence and reason, rejecting supernatural beliefs) or because they don’t seem to grant meaningful moral consideration to all sentient beings.

Thank you for nominating people. If you have further input I’d love to hear it in the comments for each person. If you are one of these people, feel free to correct things and post yourself on our Wall of Sentientists!

Michael Shermer

Michael is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor-in-chief of its magazine “Skeptic”. Michael is an advocate for naturalism and skepticism. While he has acknowledged that animal farming may come to be looked on by future generations as a moral abomination or holocaust, he continues to purchase and consume animal products.
From this 2016 Salon article: “Michael Shermer, author of ‘The Moral Arc,’ tweeted, ‘Ugh. Watched The Earthlings last night researching moral progress. Feels like moral regress when it comes to animals,’ as well as writing an article titled ‘“Confessions of a Speciesist.’ However promising these signs were, sadly he has also admitted, ‘No I’m not a vegetarian but think we should expand the moral sphere to include marine mammals and all primates as a good start.'”
Michael on Wikipedia
@michaelshermer
michaelshermer.com

USA

Andrés Roemer

Andres Roemer
Mexico / USA

Alice Roberts

Alice Roberts

Alice is a biological anthropologist, biologist, television presenter and author. Since 2012 she has been Professor of the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham. Since 2019, she has been President of the charity Humanists UK, which campaigns for “a tolerant world where rational thinking and kindness prevail”. Alice does show concern for sentient non-human animals and seems to be working on removing them from her consumption (no meat, but does eat fish, eggs and dairy).
Alice on Wikipedia
@theAliceRoberts
alice-roberts.co.uk

United Kingdom

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

Carl was an astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author and science communicator. He had a robustly naturalistic worldview. He said: “I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.”
He counselled against anthropocentrism (centring too strongly on the human species). He called on humans “to extend our ethical perspectives downward through the taxa on Earth and upwards to extraterrestrial organisms, if they exist.”However, he was not vegan or even vegetarian, implying that, in practical terms, he didn’t extend meaningful moral consideration to sentient farmed animals.
Article: “Sciences vast cosmic perspective eludes religion”
Carl on Wikipedia

USA

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy is a politician who served as Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition from 2015 to 2020. He has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North since 1983. Jeremy says he is sceptical about having God in his life. He is vegetarian. However, he has denied being an atheist and has compared his environmental concerns to a sort of “spiritualism”. This implies he does not have a naturalistic worldview.
Jeremy on Wikipedia
@jeremycorbyn

United Kingdom

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker

Steve is a cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is an advocate of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature  argues that violence in human societies has generally declined over time. Enlightenment Now  uses social science data to show a general improvement of the human condition over recent history. Steve is a Humanist who is also comfortable also identifying as a Sentientist given he grants moral consideration to all sentient beings. He doesn’t yet seem to have applied that stance to his consumption decisions.
The closing paragraph of Enlightenment Now includes the phrase “The story belongs… to any sentient creature with the power of reason and the urge to persist in its being.” The book analyses the decline in “animal cruelty” as a sign of progress yet largely ignores the clearly anti-progress story of the rapid, relentless growth of animal farming. Maybe the next edition will be titled: “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Sentientism, and Progress”?
Steve on Wikipedia
@sapinker
stevenpinker.com

Canada

Sam Harris

Sam Harris

Sam is an author, neuroscientist, and podcast host. Sam’s book, The Moral Landscape, sets out a naturalistic ethics that is largely consistent with Sentientism, in that it grants moral consideration to conscious non-human as well as human beings. However, despite experimenting with vegetarianism and veganism, Sam continues to buy and consume products made from sentient beings, implying he doesn’t personally grant them meaningful moral consideration. He is a vocal atheist and naturalist.
Sam on Wikipedia
@SamHarrisOrg

USA

Dick Gregory

Dick Gregory

Richard (Dick) Claxton Gregory was a comedian, civil rights and animal rights and vegan activist. Gregory became popular among the African-American communities in the southern United States with his “no-holds-barred” sets, poking fun at the bigotry and racism in the United States. In 1961 he became a staple in comedy clubs, appeared on national television and released comedy record albums. Gregory was at the forefront of political activism in the 1960s, when he protested against the Vietnam War and racial injustice. He was arrested multiple times and went on many hunger strikes. He later became a speaker and author. He said: ” Because I’m a civil rights activist, I am also an animal rights activist. Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and vicious taking of life. We shouldn’t be a part of it.”

While he was described as a religious skeptic, it doesn’t seem that he held a naturalistic worldview. He said “I am god, you are god.” He often talked of spirituality and supported a number of poorly-evidenced conspiracy theories.

Dick on Wikipedia

USA

Susan Blackmore

Susan Blackmore

Susan is a writer, lecturer, sceptic, broadcaster, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth. Her fields of research include memetics, parapsychology, consciousness, and she is best known for her book The Meme Machine. She has written or contributed to over 40 books and 60 scholarly articles and is a contributor to The Guardian newspaper in the UK.

She has a naturalistic worldview and is a patron of Humanists UK. In this article, she recognises the strong evidence that many non-human animals are capable of experiencing suffering, but refers to “vegetarians” in the third person, saying “Many people become vegetarians because of the way farm animals are treated”.

Susan on Wikipedia
Susan at Humanists UK
susanblackmore.uk

United Kingdom

Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll

Sean is a theoretical physicist specializing in quantum mechanics, gravity, and cosmology. He is a research professor at the California Institute of Technology Department of Physics. He has been a contributor to the physics blog Cosmic Variance, and has published in scientific journals such as Nature as well as other publications, including The New York Times, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. He has appeared on the History Channel’s The Universe, Science Channel’s Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, Closer to Truth and Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Carroll is the author of Spacetime And Geometry, a graduate-level textbook in general relativity, and has also recorded lectures for The Great Courses on cosmology, the physics of time, and the Higgs boson. He is also the author of four popular books. He began a podcast in 2018 called Mindscape, in which he interviews other experts and intellectuals on a variety of science-related topics.

Sean is an atheist and describes himself as a “poetic naturalist”. While he does recognise that needlessly causing suffering to sentient beings is morally negative, he considers it acceptable to kill a sentient being without causing suffering if we think it lacks an ability to plan for or conceive of its own future. He uses this perspective to justify his continued use of animal products although remains open minded on the topic.
Sean on Wikipedia
preposterousuniverse.com
@seanmcarroll

USA

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Richard is an ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author. He is a vocal atheist and naturalist. He grants moral consideration to sentient non-humans in principle and hopes for a vegan world, as you can hear in these discussions (with Sentientist Peter Singer and in this talk). However, in practice he continues to buy and consume sentient animal products. The Center for Inquiry, where Richard is a founding board member, published this article about Sentientism in their Free Inquiry magazine.
Richard on Wikipedia
@RichardDawkins

United Kingdom

Jim Al-Khalili

Jim Al-Khalili

Jim is a theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster. He is professor of theoretical physics and chair in the public engagement in science at the University of Surrey. He is a regular broadcaster and presenter of science programmes on BBC radio and television, including The Life Scientific. In 2014, he was named as a RISE (Recognising Inspirational Scientists and Engineers) leader by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). He is not vegetarian or vegan. He was President of the British Humanist Association between January 2013 and January 2016.
@jimalkhalili
jimal-khalili.com

 

Iraq, United Kingdom

KRS-One

KRS-One

Lawrence “Kris” Parker, better known by his stage name KRS-One, an abbreviation of “Knowledge Reigning Supreme Over Nearly Everyone”, and Teacha, is a rapper and producer. He rose to prominence as part of the hip hop group Boogie Down Productions, which he formed with DJ Scott La Rock in the mid-1980s. KRS-One is best known for his hits “Sound of da Police”, “Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love)”, and “My Philosophy”. Boogie Down Productions received numerous awards and critical acclaim in their early years.
KRS-One is politically active, having started the Stop the Violence Movement. He’s also a vegan activist, as expressed in songs such as “Beef“:

“So just before it dies, it cries
In the slaughterhouse full of germs and flies
Off with the head, they pack it, drain it, and cart it
And there it is, in your local supermarket”

While KRS-One has turned away from traditional religions he doesn’t have a naturalistic worldview. Referring to his book, The Gospel of Hip Hop, he has said: “this book will be a new religion on the earth … I think I have the authority to approach God directly, I don’t have to go through any religion…”

KRS-One on Wikipedia

USA

Kat Dennings

Kat Dennings

Kat Dennings (Katherine Victoria Litwack), is an actress. She is known for starring as Max Black in the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls and as Darcy Lewis in the Marvel superhero films Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Since making her acting debut in 2000, Dennings has appeared in films including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Big Momma’s House 2, Charlie Bartlett, The House Bunny, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Defendor, and Suburban Gothic.
Kat seems to have a naturalistic worldview, having said that Judaism “is an important part of my history, but, as a whole, religion is not a part of my life.” In late 2020 she said she was adopting a plant-based diet, although primarily for environmental rather than ethical reasons.
Kat on Wikipedia
katdennings.com
@katdenningsss
@OfficialKat

USA

Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo Pigliucci

Massimo is Professor of Philosophy at the City College of New York, formerly co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast, and formerly the editor in chief for the online magazine Scientia Salon. He is an outspoken critic of pseudoscience and creationism and an advocate for secularism, science education and Stoicism. He argues that people, particularly Stoics, should be either vegetarian or vegan. Personally, he remains vegetarian. He says: “I’m going to redouble my personal efforts to follow this path and further reduce my intake of other foodstuff. I hope you will join me, to reduce both suffering in the world and our carbon footprint as a species. And Seneca adds, you’ll also feel better and think more clearly.”
Massimo on Wikipedia
massimopigliucci.com
@mpigliucci

Liberia, Italy, USA

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was a naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science.
While he seemed to recognise the moral worth of sentient non-humans, there seems to be little basis to the suggestion that he was vegan or vegetarian, but his great-great grandson is confident he’d be vegan if he was alive today. Darwin had a naturalistic worldview and considered himself agnostic.
He said: “We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention and curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.”, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties … The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind”, and “The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”
Darwin on Wikipedia

Charles Darwin
United Kingdom

Adam Rutherford

Adam Rutherford

Adam is a geneticist, author and broadcaster. He was an audio-visual content editor for the journal Nature for a decade, and is a frequent contributor to the newspaper The Guardian. He hosts the BBC Radio 4 programme Inside Science, has produced several science documentaries and has published books related to genetics and the origin of life. He is an atheist and a humanist. He describes himself as vegetarian.
Adam on Wikipedia
@AdamRutherford

United Kingdom

Siân Berry

Siân Berry

Siân is a politician who has served as Co-Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales since 2018. She currently is a member of the London Assembly and the only Green Party councillor on Camden Council, representing Highgate. While she has substantially reduced her consumption of animal products, she does eat meat occasionally. She is a Humanist and a patron of Humanists UK.
Siân on Wikipedia
@sianberry

United Kingdom

A. C. Grayling

A C Grayling

A. C. Grayling is a philosopher and author. In 2011 he founded and became the first Master of New College of the Humanities, an independent undergraduate college in London. Until June 2011, he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. He is also a supernumerary fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford. Grayling is the author of about 30 books on philosophy, biography, history of ideas, human rights and ethics, including The Future of Moral Values (1997), What Is Good? (2000), The Meaning of Things (2001), The Good Book (2011), The God Argument (2013), The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century and the Birth of the Modern Mind (2016) and Democracy and its Crises (2017). He was a trustee of the London Library and a fellow of the World Economic Forum, and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts. In 2013 he was awarded the Forkosch Literary Prize, and in 2015 he received the Bertrand Russell Award. Grayling was a director and contributor at Prospect magazine from its foundation until 2016. He is a vice-president of Humanists UK and an honorary associate of the National Secular Society. He frequently appears in British media discussing philosophy and public affairs. He has been vegetarian since ~1980, saying in this interview “The kinds of animals that people eat – cows, chicken, sheep and so on – are capable of fear and suffering, and experiences of pleasure. They’re sentient to that extent, and I don’t think there’s any argument about that. There is an argument about fish, and certainly an even bigger argument with shellfish, about whether they’re having a pleasant time or can be afraid or suffer – but I’m rather inclined to draw the line well beyond where it might need to be drawn, just on as-it-were safety’s sake. I can eat healthily, pleasantly and well, and enjoy myself without being involved in too much killing of sentient beings capable of suffering and fear. Now, I wear leather shoes and a leather belt and people point out this is inconsistent, and I tell them they are right. Moreover vegetarianism is actually an illogical position, because if you actually were going to take all this very seriously you should really be a vegan, but I find veganism takes up time and thought and attention and is a bit of a struggle, and there are other things to do with one’s life – so being a vegetarian is really a halfway house where you’re personally self-minimising the involvement you have in factory farming – in the slaughter of sentient beings.”
A.C. Grayling on Wikipedia
acgrayling.com
@acgrayling

United Kingdom, Zambia, Malawi

Brian May

Brian May

Brian is a musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and astrophysicist. He is the lead guitarist of the rock band Queen. He is vegan. He has described himself as an agnostic, but has also said that, at times, be believes that some sort of a god does exist.
Brian on Wikipedia
@DrBrianMay
brianmay.com

United Kingdom

Cory Booker

Cory Booker

Cory is a politician, attorney and author who has served as the junior United States Senator from New Jersey since 2013. A member of the Democratic Party, Cory is the first African-American U.S. Senator from New Jersey. Cory is vegan and a vocal political advocate for non-human animals. The Humane Society gave him a 100% 2019 scorecard for his positions. He is sponsoring the Farm System Reform Act which aims to restrict factory farming in the U.S. Cory is a Baptist Christian but his personal ethics and policy approach seems largely naturalistic and compassionate.
Cory on Wikipedia
booker.senate.gov
@CoryBooker

USA

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