Organizer's Report - by Don Wharton
I had the pleasure of going to the American Humanist Association panel discussion on Evolution v. Creationism on Friday Nov 6. Eugenie Scott, the Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education was one of the panel members, The NCSE is the premier organization organizing the defense of science from creationism. The two other members of the panel were Kenneth Miller and Barbara Forest, expert witnesses in Kitzmiller v. Dover Board of Education. The Moderator was Fred Edwords, a former editor of the Creation/Evolution Journal.
I was modestly pleased with the status of this battle. The other side is for now limited to several rather lame strategies. One is attempts to redefine science in such a way that an other than natural explanation for a natural event is accepted as science. Another is to presume that there are weaknesses in the theory of evolution and in the name of ���critical thinking��� argue for teaching about those supposed weaknesses. An additional legal option is a general legal approval for teacher to bring in additional materials about evolution and to protect any such action from disciplinary action. This is a battle which will continue until the propagators of religious fundamentalism stop trying to insist that ���God��� did it.
Two days later I went to the Baltimore Ethical Society to hear Fred Edwords again. He is now the communications director for the United Coalition of Reason (CoR). That organization creates advertising efforts which highlight the nontheistic organizations in various cities and regions. He was selling BES on the notion of joining the coalition for that city. Fred presented a wonderful review of billboard and bus sign efforts in the past. He made it clear that the goal was not to attack religion. The Baltimore Ethical Society is a religious humanist organization. The goal is to make visible the possibility of joining nontheistic communities and be good without God.
They currently have Coalitions of Reason in San Diego, Cincinnati, Cleveland/Akron, Columbus, Boston, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Morgantown, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Arizona and Colorado. A Philadelphia church was upset with the creation of a CoR in their city but they talked with people from the coalition. The end result is that people from the CoR and the church worked together to feed the homeless. This was wonderful creative PR proving that people can be good without God.
I asked Fred when he was going to create a CoR for the Washington DC area. He would not commit to anything that he admitted that Greg Epstein was going to speak early in December 6 at Machar. From the web CoR site, ���United CoR is excited to take part in the forthcoming launch of Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein's new book, Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.��� The ���Good without God��� theme is THE advertising theme used by CoR. In a given city or area the announcement of a CoR often has Greg Epstein making a presentation.
This Saturday, the 14th, I went to hear Rob Boston talking about the good, the bad and the uncertain in church-state separation issues under the Obama administration. The good is this admistation's support of science, better judiciary selection, $75 million for evidence based sex education ($50 million still goes to abstinence based sex miseducation) and the fact that religious right is very unhappy.
The bad is the continuation of the faith based initiative, and a religious advisory council empowered to comment on all legislation. Supreme Court justice Stevens is now 89 years old and he has hired on one clerk. He is one of the strongest person justices on the proper separation of church and state. Scalia on the other side even argued that a cross is not a religious symbol. Other ���bad��� includes the Louisiana efforts to include ���supplementary materials��� on evolution, efforts to rewrite history lessons defining America as a ���Christian Nation���, a proposed California law mandating the teaching of Christmas Carols, Oklahoma posting the ���Oklahoma��� version of the ten commandments, ���tea party��� people going to ���value voters��� conventions and getting them upset over national health care, Maine and California overturning gay rights, and a Virginia Governor educated at Regent University.
Rob was somewhat upset with segments of the atheist movement which he felt was saying, ���if you are religious you are not very smart.��� In his opinion this was not a winning message. American's United gets much if not most of its financial support from liberal and moderate religious people who do not want to see the religious right take over this nation. It is easy to see why he would have this opinion.
Sunday I went hiking with a small group that included my friend Stuart Jordan. His is the lead science advisor for the Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy. That is the group that lobbies Congress. Apparently the ���New Atheism��� debate is rather hot and heavy within CFI. Stuart feels that his lobbying efforts will be dead in the water if CFI becomes associated with the new atheism. Like Rob Boston he has a real fear of the consequences of a message which would make Senators and Representative refuse to even see him.
I loved having an opportunity to listen to our meetup members before and after the Rob Boston presentation. I need to do much more thinking and planning about what we will be doing and how it will be presented. I do want to have a system that is in large part bottom up, that is synthesizing the preferences and ideas from our community and making them visible to the rest of us.
One small step I am taking now is to define this list as a shared social space. That is anyone can reply and that reply will be visible to all other members. Before I was our meetup organizer this was precluded and no one was using our email capability to share their views. I especially want to hear from members about their interests and preferences.
Note that some members might feel that a lot of messages from other members is not what they want. If that become true for you, it is possible to edit your membership to turn off those emails.