Jejudo, South Korea
In Alsace, during the extremely hard winter of 1817, when famine threatens, a peasant woman takes advantge of her husband's being absent at work to kill their little daughter, cuts off her leg and cooks it in the soup.
In Paris in 1827, Henriette Cornier, a servant, goes to the neighbor of her employers and insists that the neighbor leave her daughter with her for a time. The neighbor hesitates, agrees, then, when she returns for the child, Henriette Cornier has just killed her and has cut off her head which she has thrown out the window.
In Vienna, Catherine Ziegler kills her illegitimate child. On the stand, she explains that her act was the result of an irresistible force. She is acquitted on grounds of insanity. She is released from prision. But she declares that it would better if where kept there, for she will do it again. Ten months later, she gives birth to a child which she kills immediately, and she declares at the trial that she became pregnant for the sole purpose of killing her child.
--Michel Foucault, "The Dangerous Individual," Foucault: Politics, Philosophy, Culture, p. 129.
Jim, I don't think Humanism necessarily has to be optimistic. You're right, I think, that many Humanists, myself included, do gravitate to the socialistic direction, but it need not be that way. Socialists (some anyway) believe that once the problem of scarcity is solved, we can do what we want (become more truly human as many might say). Christians (some anyway) believe that we become most truly human in times of crisis.
There is evidence to back up both accounts, and yet the problem with both socialism and Christian accounts is that they both apply a kind of cookie cutter approach to human nature. What we want is already known.
I don't think we know what we want.
Humanism isn't or shouldn't be based on a cost/benefit analysis of what it is to be human. That presupposes what we are and one can selectively find examples to back whatever decision you've already made.
I think it is simply the recognition that we can ask what we want in a way that doesn't presuppose an answer. And, as far as I can tell, we are the only species that can do that.