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Round & About
Submitted by admin on 6 December, 1997 - 03:42
Humanists might wish to participate in this years events.
Round & About
The editor of Australian Humanist (No 48, November 1997) has lamented the failure to achieve scientific literacy in Australia. In 1990 the Council of Australian Humanist Societies resolved that, as one of seven priorities, they should work towards achieving by the Year 2000 that at least 50 % of the Australian population be scientifically literate. Other priorities have seen progress - voluntary euthanasia, abortion on request, decriminalisation of drugs, sex education in schools, determination of optimum population.
The Victorian Learning Project showed a poor result for science. It is thought that science teaching is poor because primary school teachers are scientifically illiterate. Secondary school teaching of science has too much 'learning by rote' rather than 'questioning, seeking evidence.' It is above all important for people to understand the method of science, how theories are tested and changed according to the evidence. Interest in pseudo-science, popularity of horoscopes and hordes of psychics confirm that the battle is being lost.
A statement on 14-15 August 1997, to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations for Indian independence, called for peaceful relations between India and Pakistan. Issued by Citizens for Democracy based in New Delhi and the South Asian Fraternity, Lahore, the statement called for an end to antagonism: 'On this day we declare that fifty years of confrontation is enough. We are most willing to endure misery in the name of security. We want peace. We want to have sympathetic exposure to one another's country. We want to establish a warm and enduring friendship'.
The statement continued: 'We are diehard pacifists and humanists. We are willing to look into each other's problems with empathy. We are appalled at the money wasted on the arms race. We have inherited the antagonism, but we are eager to provide a peaceful healthy and friendly atmosphere for our children and grandchildren. We are galvanising into a movement for peace, co-operation and prosperity in South Asia.
The Center for Inquiry, Buffalo, US, has opened a coffee house - Le Salon - based within its building complex. This will give opportunities for social events and relaxation. Events will include poetry readings, jazz, discussion meetings, string quartets, and magic shows.
The Coffee House was opened by Matt Cherry, the Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism. It is appropriately given a French name because the French have always appreciated that the three essential ingredients of civilised culture are good company, good conversation and great coffee.
Meanwhile the Thomas Paine Coffeehouse in San Diego, a gathering place for local freethinkers and community centre for anyone in the area, has been attacked by religious extremists. First, anti-Christian books were defaced or removed. Then eggs were flung at the glass storefront-- for several days. Then a visitor entered and delivered a hellfire sermon. Neither the police nor the media showed any interest; but what would have happened if a freethinker had thrown eggs at a church? (Information supplied by Matt Cherry)
Endowment of Chaplains
The Campaign to Separate Church and State in Ireland is bringing a Court Case against the Irish State for endowing the Churches in Ireland by means of paying for Chaplains in Community Schools. They are challenging the constitutionality of the payment by the State of the salaries of school chaplains.
The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in the middle of the nineteenth century allowed for State aid to be granted to denominational bodies, provided that children can opt out of religious instruction, that citizens' freedom of conscience is not compromised and that the State does not endow any religion. By paying school chaplains it is argued that the State is endowing the Catholic and Anglican religions.
Religious education teachers should be able to adequately provide for children's needs to learn about religion. Hence 'the provision of a chaplaincy service in a publicly funded, avowedly multi-denominational community school is not a necessity to that school as an institution'. It is argued that chaplains can provide psychological guidance and counselling. If the chaplains are really performing the function of a psychological counsellor then the position should be advertised so that anyone suitably qualified, not just priests, could apply.
The Campaign to Separate Church and State object to the excessive denominational bias that runs through the Deeds of Trust of community schools - which has damaged Irish education. (Church & State, for a secular republic, No 60 Winter 1997/1998)
Humanist Philosophical Magazine
The Society of Humanist Philosophers is launching 'Philo', a magazine for humanist philosophers and philosophies. It will be the world's only academic philosophy journal for analysing humanist ethics, naturalism, and arguments for and against theism.
Lewis Vaughan, Executive Editor of both Philo and Free Inquiry, commented: 'Philo will play an important role both in the academic community and in the humanist movement. Although the vast majority of professional philosophers seem to be secular humanists, most of them are not involved in advancing humanism. We plan to change that.'
The first issue will be published in April 1998. 'Philo' means 'love' in Greek, as in 'philo-sophia' the love of wisdom. Philo is the name of the sceptic in David Hume's Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion.
Further details from Free Inquiry, PO Box 664, Amherst, NY 14226-0664, USA
Humanist Wedding in Toronto
The humanist Association of Toronto has sponsored the first humanist marrriage ceremony in the region. Terri Hope, who has completed the humanist Association of Canada's 2-day training programme for officiants, conducted the wedding.
In Canada a secular wedding usually takes place in a city hall, but humanists can choose any appropriate venue. Canadian humanists hope to expand the number of humanist ceremonies, by training more officiants.
Terri Hope has been a social worker and counsellor for 17 years. She believes that if they were allowed to advertise many more people would have humanist ceremonies.. She says that she had humanist beliefs for twenty years before she knew that such a philosophy existed.
She stated that 'We do same-sex ceremonies too, but unfortunately they are not recognised in the province of Ontario.' (Canadian Humanist News, Vol. 10 No. 3 November 1997.
San Diego Conference
The American Humanist Association is holding its 57th annual conference in San Diego 1-3 May 1998.
Eugenie Scott and Fred Pratt will be among those honoured with awards. Scott is executive director of the National Center for Science Education and holds a doctorate in anthropology. She will be presented with the Isaac Asimov Science Award for her work in opposing creationism and promoting improvements in science education in public schools. Pratt is a doctor of medicine and will be presented with the Humanist Distinguished Service Award on recognition of his volunteer service to the poor and disadvantaged of developing countries, for whom he performed reconstructive surgery to correct severe birth defects and massive injuries. There will be luncheon, dinner, workshops and possible excursions.
For fi4rther details contact the AHA National Office, 7 Harwood Drive, P. O. Box 1188, Amherst, NY 14226-7188.
Action Against Racism
March 21st was declared International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the General Assembly of the United Nations as a reaction to the murder of 70 demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960.There is to be a European-wide action week against Racism from 14 to 22 March 1988.
Hundreds of activities will take place all around Europe, organised by a wide variety of organisations. Activities range from demonstrations to film festivals and from special TV programmes to cleaning the walls of racist slogans.
Last year, events included a Festival de l'Immigration in Luxembourg and other festivals in France. Art and music was used as a weapon against racism. In Romania a film festival was organised. In Belgium, Germany and France thousands of people demonstrated against the laws that threaten the building of an open intercultural society. Students organised lessons, campus meetings and petitions. In Switzerland there was street theatre. The activities were widely reported in the media.
Humanists might wish to participate in this years events.
Please contact: European-wide Action Week Against Racism
14-22 March 1988, Postbus 413, NL-IO00 AK Amsterdam, Netherlands.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
TO BE SET FREE
Dr Matthew les Spetter:
In one of his essays Albert Camus wrote that a way out of despair is to claim the freedom to see ourselves in a context of repair, recuperation.
We are what we are with others. Even in our despair we are not by ourselves. Only because of others can the inexpressible acute pain or loneliness be expressed. It requires, as it were, a rebellion against self-pity, against seeing ourselves as a victim of whatever circumstances may be testing us.
There is much we can be part of that is plain and simple and healing. It is not the great perspectives of humanism that stir life's affirmations in us, but rather our private hopes, our private insights and commitments. These are what enable us to not give up on the ability to love. Our private intimations that life can be enjoyed must not be obfuscated by generalisations. The pathways we find marked out for ourselves with others, the values and the beauties that give us purpose are the ingredients of our precious ability to partake of life whatever the burdens we have to deal with. (Newsletter, New York Society for Ethical Culture, January/February 1998)
Truthfulness is a social necessity. Unless I am assured that the other says what he does and does what he says and vice versa, there can be no common understanding between us and so no society. Because religionists considered honesty as a passport to heaven, they could be dishonest with impunity, if prayer and worship assured them heaven. Atheism is different. It makes honesty a social imperative. Checks and counter checks maintain morality. Similarly all human kinds should live equal, as they belong to the same kind. (Quoted in The Atheist, The Atheist Centre, India, July 1997)
A PALE BLUE DOT
Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
AFTER Voyager 2 passed Neptune, I got a chance to do something I had wanted to do for many years: turn the cameras around and photograph the distant earth ....
I look at that picture and I see a pale blue dot. One pixel, one picture element, just a dot. I think that's us. That's our home and world. Everybody you know, everybody you love, everybody you've ever heard of, everybody who ever lived, every human being in the history of the universe lived on that blue dot. Every hopeful child, every couple in love, every prince and pauper, every revered religious leader, every corrupt politician, every ethnocentrist and xenophobe, all of them there on that little dot.
It speaks to me of fragility and vulnerability, not for the planet, but for the species that imagines itself the dominant organism living as part of a thin film of life that covers the dot. It seem to me that this perspective carries with it, as does so much else we know, an obligation to care for and cherish that blue dot, the only home our species has ever known. (Quoted in Humanist in Canada, No 122, Autumn 1997