How exciting is all this for the New Year? ("Astrology (ignorant & rubbish) is interesting, but Astronomy is ‘very interesting’ – if not mind blowing" The Astronomer Royal)
"The giant halo of dark matter that surrounds our galaxy is shaped like a flattened beach ball, researchers say."
"The oldest evidence of four-legged animals walking on land has been discovered in southeast Poland." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8443879.stm
"Scientists claim to have the first persuasive evidence that Neanderthals wore "body paint" 50,000 years ago." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8448660.stm
"The Prehistoric Mind. How did Prehistoric Man Think? The Primitive Mind." http://luckyme0.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!A18BF3FCC5E126A2!1520.entry If you can find any truths, which I find very hard to do? "The truths (polite or culturally PC? In that of the stork, i.e., truth – a bird) contained in religious doctrines are after all so distorted and systematically disguised," writes Sigmund Freud, "That the mass of humanity cannot recognize them as truth. The case is similar to what happens when we tell a child that new born babies are brought by the stork. Here, too, we are telling truth in symbolic clothing, for we know what a large bird signifies. But the child does not know it. He hears only the distorted part of what we say, and feels that he has been deceived; and we know how often his distrust of the grown-ups and his refractoriness actually take their start from this impression. We have become convinced that it is better to avoid such symbolic disguisings of the truth in what we tell children and not to withhold from them a knowledge of the true state of affairs commensurate with their intellectual level". Ref, ‘What shall we tell the children?’ Nicholas Humphrey (Structural World View) http://www.mindmeister.com/13207398 Why is ‘faith and belief’, Church and ‘spirituality’ (The Word) important in UK Schools, when in 2010 it is a truth that, ‘we cannot feed our children properly’ (madness = extremely foolish or ill-advised, or in the belonging to a species called Homo sapien, and in being not much better ‘than some rabid dog’) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8451828.stm ’10 minute attention span’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8449307.stm Home Secretary, Alan Johnson MP, ‘courageous and correctly’: banned, Islam4UK and its associated groups http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8453560.stm Under the Terrorism Act 2000, a group can be banned if it, "Commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for, promotes or encourages terrorism or is otherwise concerned in terrorism". Groups can also be outlawed if they, "Unlawfully glorify the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism".
"So far no one has uncovered evidence of any cross-species romps – at least none that left a trace in our DNA. The 3-billion-nucleotide Neanderthal genome is our best chance yet of finding out." http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427395.700-2010-preview-arise-neanderthal-brother.html
What is wrong with this ‘worksheet’ (below) for my children in ‘Year Six’ and at their school? Makes you want to Home Educate? Education – UK. Surely, this is the only question that should be asked; even at their age, and in this current era of stupid muddle that exists between science and superstition (‘facts of superstition’ are incorrect on worksheet) in our schools! 10., 1 ‘The Creation’. Looks like ‘Church of England’ stuff (incorrect and dumbing-down – moralistic pious claptrap, mixed with the exacting science and scientific reasons for Global Warming: do not mix with superstition), but I am far too embarrassed to ask any of the kids, or teachers, and so very sad and angry to waste time, or, even, bothering to ask! (Of course, Church Schools and Faith Schools, and Private Schools – ISC, UK, GB; cannot be trusted to self-monitor themselves, they have been shown up, and to the general public on countless occasions). ‘The Age of Stupid’ http://www.ageofstupid.net/
"Schools have an obligation to teach real science. Science is also undemocratic in the social sense, i.e., those who do not have the scientist’s special knowledge, skills, and experience cannot have equal voice in achieving a scientific consensus concerning a class of phenomena. The public school has no authority to impose opinions on its students. But it has the duty to explain to them the consensus of scientists on any particular issue, and the methodology by which scientists proceed to discover new knowledge and merge it into that consensus. A few scientists follow their religious beliefs rather than the scientific method. Biological evolution is just one of the most important of many broad issues on which substantially all working scientists agree. There may be a few persons with scientific credentials who disagree, but they do not contribute to the progress that is the hallmark of science. It is not simply that these dissenters are wrong, because wrong answers can sometimes stimulate controversy that helps lead to correct answers."
Rather, as the physicist Wolfgang Pauli liked to say, "They are not even wrong. That is, their arguments are useless and even detrimental to the pursuit of further knowledge." And, ‘Living In Another Culture’, Francis Crick http://cid-a18bf3fcc5e126a2.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Daddys%20Space%20The%20Gutter%20Or%20The%20Stars%20-%20Journal%20^0%20Book/Schools%20have%20an%20obligation%20to%20teach%20real%20science.docx
The Gutter. Many, Europeans blame the ‘Anglo Saxon Model’ for the $1.2 Trillion Banking Rescue (starvation, backwardness, and death; in many parts of the World). Blame – The High Priests of the Basel Committee – Why do we trust the financial priests? http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2010/01/why_do_we_trust_the_financial.html Banking and Religion -The Illusion (of gold, Au 79 and religion) "A system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating concepts of a general order of existence and clothing these concepts with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic" Clifford Geertz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clifford_Geertz (‘suspends your disbelief in a religion-like way’)
British Humanist Association e-bulletin
11th January 10
If it hurts even a little, make as much noise as possible
Already in 2010 we have seen Archbishop Nichols attacking all secularists as “dogmatic”, news reports lamenting the decline of religion, and Christian groups alleging increasing discrimination against religious people in Government policies and in wider society. This is despite the appointment of new ‘faith advisors’ by Communities secretary John Denham, despite assertions from the Prime Minister on Christian radio that “we are not a secular state” (he meant this as a good thing), and despite the deepening entrenchment of religious schools into the education system.
So the rule of thumb for many religious lobbyists seems to be that if something hurts them even a little (even when it’s society making a principled step in the direction of equality and fairness), then they must make as much noise as possible in denouncing it. Thus the volume ever increases on an ever more vociferous debate.
Just looking at the swathe of new amendments to the Equality Bill highlights growing hostility by some religious groups to being treated equally (removing their “more equal” status). There are now amendments that seek to privilege religion over philosophical beliefs such as Humanism in law, to grant even wider exceptions to permit religious organisations to discriminate in their employment on a number of grounds, including sex and sexual orientation, and to permit people providing public services to refuse to provide a service should that conflict with their personal beliefs.
All of these proposals would be backwards steps and reduce the legal equality and human rights protection that is already in place. We’ve been working for months on the Equality Bill to ensure that it’s the best that it can be. We’ve encouraged parliamentarians to reject negative and regressive amendments such as these. We are confident that they will be rejected.
There is still a long way to go before religious privilege is properly tackled, entrenched as it is in our laws, education system, constitution and wider. In this new year, the BHA will keep working with our supporters in Parliament, as well as our members, supporters and affiliated groups, to keep the humanist perspective relevant, heard, on the agenda.
If you’re not already a BHA member you can join today and support our vital work.
Darwin Day Lecture 2010: Prof Chris Stringer on Darwin and Human Evolution
Chaired by Prof Richard Dawkins, run in conjunction with South Place Ethical Society.
11th February 2010, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL, Doors open 6pm
Tickets are £12 or £7 for members of the BHA or South Place Ethical Society.
When On the Origin of Species was published in 1859 the only recognised human fossils were from Europe, and this was still the case when Darwin completed The Descent of Man in 1871. Nevertheless, he argued by inference that humans had probably originated in Africa. However, it was not until 50 years later that Africa started to produce a fossil record which showed that Darwin’s educated guess was correct.
Professor Stringer is Research Leader in Human Origins at the Natural History Museum where he has also been Head of Human Origins Programme and Head of Anthropology. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and Visiting Professor at Royal Holloway, University of London. His Homo Britannicus: the incredible story of human life in Britain (2007) won the Best Archaeology Book and Kistler Book Award in 2008 and he is a leading proponent of the ‘Out of Africa’ theory of modern human origins.
BHA opposes undermining of equality and human rights of humanists in the UK
The BHA has expressed deep concern at an attempt by the Conservative Party to change the definition of the term ‘religion or belief’ in the Equality Bill. Baroness Warsi, who is leading for the Conservatives on the Equality Bill as it makes its way through the House of Lords, has tabled an amendment to the Bill which would remove the phrase ‘and philosophical’ in the definition of belief, which currently reads: ‘“belief” means any religious or philosophical belief”’.
Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, explained, ‘We are deeply concerned that this amendment has been tabled – an amendment that we consider would affect humanists in particular. In practice, this could mean that humanists would be unprotected against discrimination and unequal treatment in the provision of, and access to, public services, employment, education, funding and elsewhere.’
Read the BHA’s briefing for Peers on this amendment. The amendment is likely to be debated in Lords Committee next week on Monday 11th or Wednesday 13th.
Read comment from the Conservative Humanist Association.
Read more about our work on the Equality Bill.
BHA responds to government appointment of new ‘faith advisers.’
The BHA was disappointed to learn that the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) has appointed 13 ‘faith advisers’ to advise the government department on “the big issues facing society such as the economy, parenting, achieving social justice and tackling climate change.”
Communities Secretary John Denham announced the appointments by stating that, “For millions of people the values instilled by their faith are central to shaping their behaviour. We should continually seek ways of supporting and enhancing the contribution faith makes to the decision-making process on the central issues of our time.”
Pepper Harow, Campaigns Officer, responded, ‘That the Department for Communities and Local Government are suggesting that these advisers have “unique insights” due to the fact that they are religious is insulting to non-religious people. To go on to assert that this is because they hold particular “values” is outrageous, as it appears to be suggesting that non-religious people do not share these values.’
Read more about our work on Government and ‘faith communities.’
BHA supports British Muslims for Secular Democracy in call to hold a counter demonstration against Islam 4 UK
The BHA supported calls from British Muslims for Secular Democracy to counter a demonstration planned by Islam 4 UK in Wootton Bassett. Islam 4 UK, a group who have held demonstrations in the past calling for Shariah law in the UK, plan to hold the march in the town which has become a symbol of mourning for British service men and women who have died in conflicts abroad.
If the march goes ahead, British Muslims for Secular Democracy are planning to organise a counter demonstration bringing together a number of religious and non-religious groups.
BHA requests action after latest attempts to inject creationist ideas into school science
The BHA has asked Education Secretary Ed Balls to act against a new wave of propagandist material dressed up as science that has been sent to secondary schools by the creationist organisation Truth in Science.
The BHA previously wrote to the DCSF about Truth in Science in 2006 after the organisation attempted to infiltrate teaching of creationism and ‘intelligent design’ in school science lessons by posting free teaching resources to all secondary school heads of science and by encouraging parents to challenge teaching on the origins of species.
The new daily content site www.HumanistLife.org.uk hosted by the BHA is an opportunity for humanists everywhere to have their say and present the bold, diverse nature of modern Humanism to the world. To this end we have a new Community page which has tips on getting involved, including information on subscribing to RSS feeds, commenting on and rating the content, customising your avatar, and a new contact form for submitting your ideas. Also see Suggested Topics and Themes for content we’re especially looking out for at the moment – which you can provide!
Right now on the site, there is an article each from BHA members Jeremy and Marilyn from South West London Humanists arguing for and against humanists using the term ‘spirituality’. There’s a feature on Nigerian Humanist leader Leo Igwe, an article by Labour Humanists’ Chris Clark trailing their upcoming debate on Bishops in the Lords, member Rob Wheeler introduces Popperian critical rationalism with a little help from Diogenes, and at the top of the site member Glen Slade wonders aloud if the Malaysian response to Christians using the term ‘Allah’ has less to do with theology and more to do with brand protection.
Central London Humanist Group
Wed 20 January 2010, Hughes Parry Hall (Chancellor’s Room), The Garden Halls, 19-26 Cartwright Gardens, WC1H 9EF, 6:30 PM
Newly appointed BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson will be speaking to the group at this special meeting. Join the CLHG to have your say on the future direction of the group and run for their committee. See the Meetup page.
Coventry and Warwickshire Humanists
Thu 21 January 2010, Waverley Day Centre, 65 Waverley Road, Kenilworth, CV8 2HB, 7.15 for 7.30pm
Morality -Subjective or Objective? – Religionists believe (at least in theory) in moral absolutism. The word of God is final. Moral relativism is the view that there are no objective ethical truths; that moral truths only hold good relative to a given time and society. Is this the Humanist view or are matters more complicated? A discussion led by Dr Brain Nicol.
27 January 2010, Committee Room 10, Portcullis House, Bridge Street London SW1A 2LW, 7:30pm
Should the bishops be evicted from the House of Lords? – A parliamentary debate on the future of the Lords Spiritual. (Also read Labour Humanist Chris Clark on HumanistLife.)
Yes: Polly Toynbee, President of the British Humanist Association and Jonathan Bartley, Co-director, Ekklesia, No: The Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual and Rt Hon Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss. Chair: David Aaronovitch,
Tickets: FREE and open to all, though you have to book. Parliamentary Passholders still need to register.
Find a local humanist group near you.
Trick or Treatment: alternative medicine on trial
30th January 2010, Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL, 10.45am-3pm
A day discussing alternative medicine, with speakers: Simon Singh, author of Trick or Treatment, Andy Lewis, runs Quackometer on the web and Professor John Garrow, founder member of the charity “HealthWatch” which promotes proper testing of the health claims of all therapies, alternative or orthodox.
Free to members of the BHA. To book go to www.cfiuk.org and hit button “support cfiuk” and follow instructions. Credit and debit cards welcome. Alternatively send a cheque payable to ‘Center for Inquiry London’ to: Executive Director Suresh Lalvani, Center for Inquiry London, PO Box 49097 Centre for Inquiry London N11 9AX, and include names of those coming, phone number, return address, etc. £10 on the door.
Very Important call for evidence!
The BHA needs to gather evidence of discrimination against non-religious people. We are collecting recent (within the last 3 years) case studies to send to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The most useful examples will be from the following policy areas:
Education (Have you or your child been refused entry to a school due to your non-religious beliefs? Have you been treated badly by a school regarding collective worship? Have you been refused membership of a SACRE? Have you been turned down from a job at a faith school due to your beliefs?)
Public Services (Have you ever been refused a service due to your non-religious beliefs? Do you know of any services in your area contracted out by the council to religious organisations? Have you ever felt harassed when receiving a public service?)
Equalities/employment (Have you ever been refused a job due to your beliefs? Have you ever been refused a place on a local authority group due to your beliefs? Have you ever felt harassed at work due to your beliefs?)
Other examples are also welcome! Please send them before the 15th January to firstname.lastname@example.org
We are fundraising to keep our faith schools officer for another year!
Donate at justgiving.com/nofaithschools (this site is separate from the BHA website – your BHA username and password won’t work here).
Faith Schools appeal”. (If you receive this e-bulletin directly then you already have a profile on our website. Visit here if you don’t have your login.)
Not already a BHA member? Join now and support our vital work!
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