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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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