VICTORIA SECULAR HUMANIST
NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 2016
Robert Light – Writer and Editor
IS NOTHING SACRED?
Historians call it desanctification. Science moves forward discovering new things day after day. The world becomes less mysterious. The sun was a God. It is very very big ball of hydrogen gas. The moon was a Goddess. It is a rock. The stars and planets were deities. They are lifeless unintelligent orbs in the vast cold realms of the universe. A Godless universe.
It is not like scientists wake up every morning thinking “Hmm, how can I disprove the existence of Allah or Thor today.” It does not happen that way. We seek and search into the heart of the atom and find only more atom. We scan for data in the distant quasars and nebulae and find no heaven. We took a look. We call it empiricism.
Nothing is sacred to the Humanist. If we follow the evidence we find what scientists call “Physical Completeness.” All that exists is found to be atomic in nature. All energy is entropic causing heat and movement. Nothing sacred about it. No miracles. No ghosts. No after-life. No deity in sight, sound, or reason.
What meaning is there in human life if it is all prosaically natural, physical and ephemeral? There is a lot of meaning for us! There are so many meanings to life! We make them up as we go along with reason, evidence and a passionate curiosity. The universe we live in provides us with a veritable smorgasbord of meanings, joys, challenges, setbacks, utter disasters and astonishing breakthroughs. Nothing is divine but there is so much for our delight.
SUNDAY TALKS… ROCKS!
The “Sunday Talks” series of lectures is the biggest and best that we do in the Victoria Secular Humanist Association. It is the largest gathering of our membership with a public presence. It is a tradition in humanism dating directly back to the Renaissance and indirectly to the ancient Greeks.
We wish to speak and listen in the agora. It is direct involving a living loop of thinking and feeling between the speaker and the audience. There is no split experience mediated by a smart phone or tablet. It is real, direct, and vital for the life of our community.
Here is the latest listings on the up-coming speaker and subjects:
February 7: FROM CHARLES TO DARWIN, THE EARLY YEARS. A presentation on Charles Darwin’s wayward youth that somehow prepared him for later greatness and success. A talk given by Barrie Webstar and Robert Light.
February 21: PUBLIC HEALTH IN THE ANTHROPOCENE. A talk by Dr. Trevor Hancock on the ecological determinants of health.
March 6: DYING WITH DIGNITY. Susan Hughson tells us what we need to know and how to best prepare for “shuffling off the mortal coil.”
March 20: WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MIDDLE EAST? Paul Chamberlain leads an insightful examination of the issues and opportunities there.
April 3: FROM TRAUMA TO TRIUMPH. The Executive Director of “Bridges for Women,” Victoria Pruden, talks about 28 years of supporting women’s transformation.
April 14: VSHA, QUO VADIS? A group discussion by the membership on where we are going and how we are doing in a workshop on future directions.
May 1: DR. IAN MCTAGGART COWAN. The life of a revered ecologist, scientist, television pioneer and past President of UVic examined by writer Briony Penn.
May 15: CICERO – ROME’S FIRST HUMANIST. The life of the greater orator and philosopher examined and explained by VSHA Vice-President Robert Light.
THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE
The next session of our SUNDAY TALKS will be FROM CHARLES TO DARWIN, THE EARLY YEARS. Or, if you will, the Making of the World’s Greatest Natural Scientist. If there was ever an unlikely candidate for scientific greatness it must be Charles Darwin. Charles, the sweet wayward boy and teen does not fit the usual pattern of success much less towering genius that we expect in the standard hagiography of science personalities.
Or does Charles fit a pattern we rarely see or experience? A mysterious synthesis of time, place, and zigzag destiny of genius. Copernicus discovered the heliocentric nature of the Sun and planets and yet was also an astrologer and a Catholic priest. Sir Isaac Newton was a recluse and probably had autism. Kepler was born to a barmaid who also made money on the side as a prostitute. Galileo was a shy bombast and avaricious celibate. Albert Einstein was a failed patent clerk and needed help to do his taxes.
It all defies logic and balance. We almost ache to know these great lights had normal lives of hard work with early recognition in their university education and subsequent consistency in their scientific career. It happens so often for so many of us. Work plus education equals achievement. Right?
Wrong. Tycho Brahe kept a pet elk who got drunk with him one night and died after falling down a stairway in his observatory. Brahe was devastated. Nicola Tesla would obsessively calculate his food before he ate a single spoonful of it. Edwin Hubble’s co- winner of the Nobel Prize, Milt Humason, started out as a donkey driver who made money on the side as an animal skinner. He would skin the hides of his donkeys and mules who fell off the trails up to Mount Wilson observatory. He would later measure the distance and speeds of galaxies. A key discovery leading to the Big Bang Theory.
Charles Darwin was a dreamy boy and teenager more in love with catching beetles than studying dusty old books in drafty dark libraries. He had a sweet exuberance for life.
His father, Robert Darwin, was a dour disciplinarian. Charles was just this side of chaos. He hardly applied himself to formal studies at Cambridge and yet graduated near the top of his classes. He seemed doomed to becoming “…an idle sporting man.”
Young Darwin, Shakespeare, Caesar, Buddha, Lao Tsu, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Einstein defy and eschew the well worn path to success. The follow a rarer way of “creative destructiveness.” They smash convention and change the very ages they live in. Their roots are deeply set in the fertile soil of foment and their brilliant minds lead us stumbling to a brighter vision. A steady and stable start would have ruined Darwin and all those who share his sublime insight. They always start hard only to fly far.
Come to the talk, hosted by Barrie Webster and Robert Light, on how “good time Charlie” became “Darwin.” It is at 10:00 am Sunday Feb. 7Th, Cedar Hills Rec. Centre. There’s birthday cake too!
GOING TO THE SALON
The next Victoria Philosophy Salon is 6:30 pm Wednesday the 10th of February at the Serious Coffee on Cook Street. The Topic: EROTICISM.
“Plato is the bore at the end of the party who refuses to go home!” – F. Nietzsche.
“I have faith in nothing, but then again so does every Christian.” – Janeane Garofalo.
“Life is a great circle. We end where we began, in the Earth.” – Chief Sitting Bull.
“Heaven is not later and away. Heaven is here and now if we make it that way ourselves.” – Helen Keller.
“As we have been taught to love God now let us love this Earth.” – Stephen J. Gould. “Science tells us how. Philosophy’s job is to ask why.” – Martin Heidegger.
“Only humanity, of all the animals, is dumb enough to believe an entity is looking out for us. We need to grow up and get out of this adolescent illusion.” – Anonymous.
Do you have a friend or relative who is a “small h” humanist? Sure you do! Be a good friend and introduce them to us. C’mon aboard and sail with us into the future!
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VSHA PO Box 23105 Cook Street PO Victoria BC V8V 4Z8