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RE: [humanism-184] This Weekend, Humanism and Meaning & The Weekly Secular News.

From: Janice
Sent on: Saturday, May 18, 2013 7:06 AM

Hi Jason:


I received your phone message the other day about de Waal’s new book and meant to reply sooner.  Thanks for telling about it.  I plan to get it soon.  I love the way you get excited about new ideas.  I have the same experiences.  It’s what is for me a “reader’s high”—you read something that changes your outlook and then you want to tell everyone about it.  You’re one of the few people I know who understand this experience. 


The essay below is great.  I agree with you that focusing on what we are rather than what we’re against is the way to go, and your idea of the Ten Commitments project is an excellent way of developing this positive theme.


See you Sunday.




From: [address removed] [mailto:[address removed]] On Behalf Of Jason Frye
Sent: 17 May,[masked]:23 PM
To: [address removed]
Subject: [humanism-184] This Weekend, Humanism and Meaning & The Weekly Secular News.


Hello everyone, Jason here with the weekend’s activities and some additional thoughts. 


As a Humanist, I consider myself to be more than just an Atheist. I do enjoy reading a good Dawkins or Harris, yet there is an author that I found more profound in terms of science and humanism. He is a scientist of some renown and a truly brilliant mind. Augmenting his brain is a writing style that combines philosophy, primatology, psychology, and ethics in an accessible, conversational fashion. His name, Frans de Waal. 


If you have attended our discussions on ethics and morality, you have heard of him for sure. Dr. de Waal is an ethologist at Emory University in Atlanta. His 2009 book The Age of Empathy sparked dialogue of the rudimentary elements of morality in our mammalian cousins (e.g., elephants, dolphins, other primates, etc). De Waal’s newest offering is an outstanding expansion on “bottom-up” morality that rebukes even the discussion about morality from without. 


One constituent of The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates, is though there is a healthy dose challenging the idea that morality comes from a god, there is an even more decisive critical strike on the “neo-Atheism.” De Waal gets right to the point that the neo-Atheism will inevitably “go the way of the dodo,” if it cannot replace what it dislikes. 


De Waal follows the footsteps of William James and Daniel Dennett in not instantly going for the jugular of organized religion, but seeking the useful-origins of “morality’s handmaiden,” and what its current functionality can teach us. De Waal steps into the religion and morality debate by stating that morality was never introduced to humans, as its rudimentary elements come from our emergence from earlier social-animal forms and our biologically-driven experience of empathy. 


With de Waal’s advancement that empathy, cooperation, and better elements of our natures are at the core of our beings (rather than Spencerian assumptions of dog-eat-dog “survival of the fittest), we have a fantastic starting place about who we really are. With the accompaniment of empathy, concern for others, caring, and cooperation as hallmarks of the career of being a mammal–de Waal posits a more beautiful world of interconnection and interrelatedness, where there is “no sharp dividing line between human and animal emotions.” 


This idea of a more beautiful world caries the potential for a lot of meaning. I say carries the potential, because meaning is not inherent. Meaning implies a connection to the sum of your experiences providing context to a given idea or occurrence. Yet, meaning confers something of heavier transcendence than transience. As de Waal says in Bonobo, “What in atheism is worth fighting for?” 


As the number of non-theist-oriented groups in San Diego county surpasses a dozen and a half, the need for non, or even anti-theism is being met by an expansive number of social groups. By a goodly number of “Humanist” groups, there’s paucity in the pursuit of Humanism as the dominant focus, rather than anti-theism with some humanist philosophy painting the backdrop. This is often because the new-atheism is seductive. It appeals to a large number of people who have been traumatized by dominant religious social institutions. 


As a group and organization, we have been turning more and more toward Humanism in the last couple of years-rather than just critique of religion, and investigating what humanism means to the human condition, and what we as Humanists find of value, as moral and ethical, and what to do with both in the competing market place of meaning and ideas. 


This is not to say that we are opposed to the "new-Atheism," many of us treasure the thought-provoking writings of the Four Horsemen; it is that once the pervasive ice of religio-cultural dogmatism has been broken, it is the role of Humanism to fill the void and supplant and surpass the previous and limiting philosophical and cultural tenant. There is so very much more about life that we squander if we chain ourselves to the rudimentary steps of escaping revealed religion's tyranny. 


As we have shifted our focus, our audience has began to express different interests. One of these interests that keeps rising is that of exploration of values and ethics. We went through a period of trying to define ourselves in terms of what we were not, but we are on a new path of exploring and cultivating what we are. There is something profound in these pursuits. There is something inviting, something uplifting in the act of construction rather than (only) destruction. Sunday evening we are going to develop thoughts on the meaning of meaning.


Because in both dialogue and our daily lives, we are confronted with the question of “what does this all mean,” or even “what is the purpose of my life?”, it is a noble topic of discussion-it is one of the key questions of existence. 


Meaning is important, meaning guides us. According to Victor Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning), if a person knows why they are enduring suffering or other challenge, they can almost alway provide the “how.” 


I will go over some ideas on meaning and lead us in a great and deep discussion on what meaning is, if life has it, if life does have it-then how many meanings, and what are they, and for whom. 


“Humanism 101: Humanism & the Meaning(s) of Life”

Sunday May 19 at 6pm

Joyce Beers Center 

1270 Cleveland Ave

San Diego, CA 92103

*potluck as always and please park on the underground level. 




Also, we will be going for our Sunday hike at 11 a.m. at Mission Trails Park (meet at the dam). This is an eight mile hike up and over North Fortuna, and around the north side of the park. 




Tuesday at 7 (T-Deli) we will be covering David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion


Lastly, as always we have our weekly Freethinker’s Forum (6 pm Saturdays at the T-Deli). Here are the articles for tomorrow night’s chat. Hoping to see you all this weekend. 







                    Ancient Mayan Temple “Road-Kill” for Road-fill



                    Eight College Degrees with the Worst Returns


                    Nine Questions Atheists May Find Insulting


                    “Dances With Drones.”


                    Fish Stick Founder dead at 96


                    What 90% of Americans Agree Upon



                    10 Commandments in Class Room Lawsuit


                    “One Nation Under Allah”-Uproar




                    Sci-Fi “Hooliganism”



                    Barna Poll: More Christians “Pharisee-like”


                    End-Times for Camping’s Radio Network


                    Christian Metal Singer Attempts to Hire Hitman


                    Francis Criticizes the “Cult of Money”


                    Woman beats another with Bible


                    JP2 Look-alike arrested for “usurpation of title”



























































                    Working Families Flexibility Act







                    Physically Strong Men more likely to hold politically conservative views















                    Rich Manhattanites Hire the Handicapped to cut in line at Disney



                    RIchwine’s Racism








                    Women & Reproductive













                    Fit, Fat, and Food




















                    Yeast make evolutionary leap






Humanist Association of San Diego

3350 Sports Arena Blvd Ste F
San Diego, CA 92110

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