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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Hardin, Garrett (1915 - 2003)
"Religious reasons, which is no reason. I notice Skeptic had a review of Dennett's book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Religious reasons amount to what Dennett terms "skyhooks." Do you believe in skyhooks? I don't."

-- Garrett Hardin


Garrett James Hardin was a leading and controversial ecologist from Dallas, Texas who was most known for his 1968 paper, The Tragedy of the Commons. He is also known for Hardin's First Law of Ecology, which states "You cannot do only one thing".

Hardin received a B.S. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1936 and a PhD in microbiology from Stanford University in 1941. Moving to the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1946, he served there as Professor of Human Ecology from 1963 until his (nominal) retirement in 1978.

A major focus of his career, and one to which he returned repeatedly, was the issue of human overpopulation. This led to writings on controversial subjects such as abortion, which earned him criticism from the right, and immigration and sociobiology, which earned him criticism from the left. In his essays he also tackled subjects such as conservation and creationism.

Hardin and his wife Jane were both members of the Hemlock Society (now Compassion & Choices), and believed in individuals choosing their own time to die. They committed suicide in their Santa Barbara home in September 2003, shortly after their 62nd wedding anniversary. He was 88 and she was 81.

Quotations

"Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all."

"But it is no good using the tongs of reason to pull the Fundamentalists' chestnuts out of the fire of contradiction. Their real troubles lie elsewhere ... Fundamentalists are panicked by the apparent disintegration of the family, the disappearance of certainty and the decay of morality. Fear leads them to ask, if we cannot trust the Bible, what can we trust? The truth or falsity of evolution is a secondary matter. Rationalists must listen to the complaints of the Fundamentalists with a psychiatrist's "third ear", and respond to the more subtle messages.
any of the environmentalists who moved into the environmental movement after Silent Spring ... detested pollution and craved purity. Absolute purity. They wanted to enforce zero tolerance on all environmental pollutants, not just on carcinogens. With friends like these the environment needs no enemies."

"A coldly rationalist individualist can deny that he has any obligation to make sacrifices for the future. By contrast, those who, for whatever reason, regard the resources at their disposal as an inheritance from the past that they feel obliged to pass on to their descendants, have a better chance of producing future generations prosperous enough to be able to continue to wrestle with the problems of increasing the quality of life."

"It takes five years for a willing person's mind to change. Have patience with yourself and others when treading in an area protected by a taboo."

"The morality of an act is a function of the state of the system at the time it is performed."

"I started being an activist for legalized abortion in 1963. I spent most of my external time on that issue until the Supreme Court reached the famous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. I thought the fight was all over. Well, I was wrong. At the time, my wife and I were active in Planned Parenthood. She was on the local board of directors. The question came up in Planned Parenthood as to what our position should be on abortion. Some wanted to stay clear of it entirely because they realized there would he a lot of opposition. Fortunately, Planned Parenthood decided that it was a question of women's rights. Abortion is above all other things a method of birth control. To put it another way, it's a backstop for any system of birth control when the rest of the system fails. That decision to support the woman's right to abortion put Planned Parenthood in a dangerous position. As opposition developed, the opponents then went on to say that everything Planned Parenthood was doing was just window-dressing for their principal interest -- killing babies. No president could now accept such a position."

"In the specific case of abortion, the matter is particularly easy in that no woman wants a late abortion. Once abortion was made legal, the age of the aborted fetus went down. The slope slipped in the other direction. If we legalize RU-486 and other similar new drugs, the age will fall to one week or less and start approaching zero. The slippery slope will slide in the other direction. The only reason we have late abortions is because we make early abortion difficult."

 
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