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The issue at hand.

AS A HIGHLY EVOLVED SPECIES, we just can't help ourselves; we question, pick, muse, and amuse, all in the attempt to understand what makes us do the things we do. By turns noble and narcissistic, we are quite taken with ourselves as animals and subjects of study. Such analysis is simply part of being human.

To overanalyze something, however, is to render it uninteresting or to turn one's subject into an abstraction. What we offer in the May/June Humanist is something else entirely. In examining the concept of activism--the use of direct action in opposition to or support of a cause--we give you four portraits: four very different stories, which together in no way amount to a definitive portrayal of activism but give the reader an intimate experience with these individuals and their respective causes.

"It takes all kinds" is a cliche that could aptly be applied to a humanist philosophy. And what you'll see here is that movements and causes require the efforts of individuals and gathered forces. Reproductive rights activist Joni Baird, interviewed together with her husband Bill Baird, likens activists to the sand in an oyster, whose role it is to agitate for the purpose of producing a pearl. Extending the simile, you could say these folks are rough--tough and exposed, and each outsiders in their own right. Whether that outsider status is dictated by fortune (an attorney contributing his resources to a Sri Lankan orphanage) or genetics (a man working for women's reproductive freedom), by geography (an American farming in Paraguay) or unforeseen circumstances (a teacher turned radical after being fired), each succeeds by operating "in the moment" of his or her cause, galvanized by the process.

Lee McIntyre, writing in this issue about "The Dark Ages of Social Science" might very well argue that a definitive characterization of the activist personality is possible, as he champions the validity of empirical explanations for human behavior and rails against political exploitation of such science (profilers beware). Likewise, Fred March, who outlines "How to Counter Religion's Toxic Effects" might suggest humanistic means for understanding activists who champion causes directly opposed to our own.

Thomas Carlyle said: "Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct." So the deed's the thing in the issue at hand, further touched upon in the Up Front editorial about Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) and his response to the question of his religious belief. While we like to take others at face value and hold them accountable for their words, we must remember that, as one of the letter writers so aptly puts it, our beliefs are most accurately revealed by our actions.

Spring advances in fits and starts, and with it an approaching sense of renewal. Let's hop to--there's much work left to be done.
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Author:Bardi, Jennifer
Publication:The Humanist
Date:May 1, 2007
Previous Article:For the record.
Next Article:Stark's reason: how a California Congressman became the most honest person in politics.

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