Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NEWSLETTER September 17, 2014

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango        September 17, 2014 

“Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin” 

- Thomas Henry Huxley (1825 – 1895)

Colorado to Vote on GMO Labeling Law    (Contributed by Marc Masor)

http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/GMO-labeling-bill-approved-for-Colorado-ballot/?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=27-Aug-2014&c=bWa7RqFnO%2F2x%2BAoc40%2BCilOD7lkw5q4i

A proposition seeking to label genetically modified foods will be on the November ballot in Colorado after supporters of the Right to Know Colorado initiative submitted nearly 125,000 valid signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State.

The proposed law would go into effect July 1, 2016.

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China Ends Its Experiment with GMO grains    (Contributed by Marc Masor)

http://news.sciencemag.org/asiapacific/2014/08/china-pulls-plug-genetically-modified-rice-and-corn

They are not saying why, but China has refused to issue bio-safety certificates which are necessary for research into genetically modified rice and corn.

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14-Year Old Faces 2 Years in Juvie for ‘Desecration’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/11/oral-sex-jesus-statue-photo_n_5805174.html

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/teen-desecrates-Jesus-statue-675432

pajesusstatuejesuswept

Yes, by posting this photo to FaceBook last July, this boy is guilty under Pennsylvania law of ‘desecration of a venerated object’.  Such desecration is defined as: “Defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise, physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action.”  This crime occurred in front of the offices of Love in the Name of Christ, a Christian organization in Everett, Pennsylvania.

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Texas Messes With Texbooks

http://ncse.com/files/Texas-social-studies-report-2014.pdf

The state of Texas wields enormous influence over science and social studies textbooks used throughout the U.S.  In a newly released report, entitled Analysis of Climate Change in Proposed Social Studies Textbooks for Texas Public Schools, the National Center for Science Education highlights the many problems in the texts proposed by major publishers.  One of the core problems comes when the opinions of climate change denying advocacy groups are given equal time and weight to the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.  Interesting reading.

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Climate Science Consensus documented by UpWorthy

Below is a chart describing the results of research conducted by NASA, NOAA and others .

chart-d64395e84d6043615895b6895f66c287

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Atheists Protest Speaking Engagement at Yale by Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali

http://www.religionnews.com/2014/09/15/ayaan-hirsi-ali-draws-criticism-fellow-atheists-yale/  (Pre-appearance)

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/09/ayaan-hirsi-ali-comes-to-yale.php  (Post-appearance)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the author of Infidel: My Life, a fascinating and thoroughly horrifying account of her childhood in Somalia and her attempts to leave the Islamic faith.  I totally recommend this book to the group.  Ali also wrote the screenplay for Submission, the story of the plight of women trapped by the teachings of Islam.  The director of the film, Theo van Gogh, was murdered by an islamic militant in 2004…a note pinned to his body noted that the murder was in revenge for his work on the film.  The note also vowed the murder of Hirsi Ali herself.

Atheists at Yale objected  to her blanket condemnation of the entire Muslim culture.  Quoting Ali: “…[Islam is] “the new fascism” and is “a destructive, nihilistic cult of death.”   Ayaan Hirsi Ali spoke to a full house at Yale last night under the auspices of the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program. The Yale Daily News reports that she spoke “without significant interruption or disturbance.”

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Skeptics and Atheists of Durango BOOK CLUB!

Friday, September 19th   6PM

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit

Friday, September 19th, 6:00PM at Betsy’s home: 448 E 11th Street Durango

 

NEXT BOOK!

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Monday, November 3, 6:30PM at Carolyn and Larry’s home: 35 Cedar Drive (Durango West II) 

Mention our S&AoD Book Club at Maria’s Books and get a 10% Discount!

Buy the club’s title of the month and receive a 15% Discount!

Please support the local bookstores!

td140911

 Tom the Dancing Bug is reprinted in the Skeptics and Atheists of Durango Newsletter with the permission of the cartoonist, Ruben Bolling.

To see more TtDB, or to support Ruben Bolling: http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Follow-up Links from Alternative Medicine Member Talk

For those of you whom attended our most recent Member’s Talk on alternative medicine and for those who didn’t attend but really, really wanted to, here are the links Joyce mentioned during her most excellent presentation. Also included are some of her book recommendations.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC
MEMBER TALK
REFERNCES AND INTERESTING SITES

(THE FIRST ONE IS HILARIOUS. A MUST-SEE YOUTUBE VIDEO)
http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/06/watch-epic-takedown-dr-oz-supplement-industry.htm
http://doctorskeptic.blogspot.com.au/
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/
http://www.quackwatch.org/index.html
http://www.skepdic.com/
http://info@NCCAM.NIH.GOV
http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/index.html
http://naturaldatabaseconsumer.therapeuticresearch.com/home.aspx?cs=&s=NDC l

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/31190909/ns/health-alternative_medicine/t/billion-spent-no-alternative-cures-found/#.VATMlblATmK

http://www.consultant360.com/exclusives/liver-injuries-tied-dietary-supplements-doubled-over-last-decade

BOOKS:
R.B. Bausell, Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Oxford University Press, New York, N Y. 2007
P. A. Offit, Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Non-sense of Alternative Medicine. HarperCollins.

The (In)Efficacy of Prayer

kathy with a k:

A perfect commentary on the matter:

Originally posted on Kids Without Religion:

In response to the request for prayers from the family of the 9-year-old who tragically shot her instructor in Arizona, I posted this, which I think many of you will understand:

Dear God: 

As a compassionate American, I was asked to pray for the family of a shooting victim and well as the children affected by the accident. I’m not sure what the hell you’re supposed to do about this, God, or what it even means to pray, but first, a little background.  (Read the rest here.)

View original

Proposed membership Attitudes and Opinion Survey. Suggestions sought!

DEAR MEMBERS: BELOW IS A QUESTIONNAIRE THAT I AM FLOATING TO HELP DEFINE MEMBERS’ INTERESTS AND POSITIONS ON ISSUES OF THE DAY. IT’S JUST FOR FUN. THIS IS ONLY PROPOSED AT THIS TIME…NO NEED TO FILL IN YOUR ANSWERS. IF/WHEN A FINAL VERSION IS APPROVED, WE WILL TAKE STEPS TO ENSURE ANONYMITY. FOR NOW, I AM JUST LOOKING FOR FEEDBACK: COMMENTS, ADDITIONS, DELETIONS. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME!

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango: PROPOSED Questionnaire V3.2

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS (but it would be nice to know!):

Your age to the nearest (10):   20   30   40   50   60   70   80+

Your political affiliation:     Republican     Democrat     Independent         Libertarian

Marital Status: Married Single

Educational Background: High School      2-Year College      4-Year College      Graduate School and/or Advanced Degree

Areas of Interest/Expertise _____________________________________

In the statements below, please indicate the degree to which you agree:
1 = I strongly disagree 5 = I strongly agree

1. I support the legalization of marijuana. 1 2 3 4 5
2. Every home should have at least one gun. 1 2 3 4 5
3. I support ‘open carry’ gun laws 1 2 3 4 5
4. I am happy with Colorado’s gun laws as they stand. 1 2 3 4 5
5. I support stronger gun laws, such as background checks. 1 2 3 4 5
6. I believe homeopathic drugs are effective 1 2 3 4 5
7. I support the Affordable Care Act (aka, ‘ObamaCare’) 1 2 3 4 5
8. I support new insurance regulations which eliminate ‘existing conditions’ and extend the coverage of
children under their parents’ policy until age 26. 1 2 3 4 5
9. I have health insurance (through my employer/self purchase/Medicare/Medicaid)
10. I support expanding Medicare for all US citizens. 1 2 3 4 5
11. I support the right to a Death with Dignity, aka ‘Assisted Suicide’ 1 2 3 4 5
12. I support capital punishment in the U.S.
13. I support the individual’s right to seek an abortion for unwanted pregnancy 1 2 3 4 5
14. *I am pleased with our state’s US Senators* 1 2 3 4 5
15. *I am pleased with our US Representative* 1 2 3 4 5
16. Global Climate Change is human-caused; it must be addressed 1 2 3 4 5
17. I vote in every (local/national/presidential/every) election. 1 2 3 4 5
18. Education is the most important function of government 1 2 3 4 5
19. Care of the environment is the most important function of government 1 2 3 4 5
20. Budget and deficit concerns are the most important functions of government 1 2 3 4 5
21. The military and defense are the most important functions of government 1 2 3 4 5
22. I support immigration reform, and a path to citizenship for undocumented workers 1 2 3 4 5
23. Deport the Dreamers and the kids-on-the-border 1 2 3 4 5
24. *I am happy with the performance of the US Congress* 1 2 3 4 5
25. *I am happy with the performance of President Obama* 1 2 3 4 5
26. *I am happy with the performance of the Supreme Court of the US* 1 2 3 4 5
27. My birth family was (RC, Evangelical, Protestant) Christian 1 2 3 4 5
28. *My birth family was a religion other than Christian* 1 2 3 4 5
29. I have issues with some family members regarding religion 1 2 3 4 5
30. I subscribe to the Durango Herald 1 2 3 4 5
31. *List your most frequent source(s) of news. ___________________________
32. I read for pleasure 1 2 3 4 5
33. Is there a genre of books you enjoy reading the most? _______________________

Send suggested additional questions, deletions, comments or revisions to: larrybollinger@comcast.net

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NEWSLETTER August 20, 2014

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango August 20, 2014

“It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly” - Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978)

Whooping Cough Makes a Come-Back in Idaho (Contributed by Marc Masor)
http://www.reuters.co…­
Rates of whooping cough are highest among children aged 5 to 17 in Idaho, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States.
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Fallout From the Hobby Lobby Decision
http://www.businesswe…­
http://www.forbes.com…­
http://www.tcdailypla…­
The Roman Catholic owner of Eden Foods has revived his lawsuit against the provisions of the Affordable Care Act which require coverage for contraception. A boycott of Eden Foods’ products has started in response to the company’s actions which, organizers say, discriminate against female employees.
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Personhood Amendment in Colorado Seeks Human Rights for Fertilzed Ova…Again
http://www.factcheck….­
TEXT OF AMENDMENT: http://ballotpedia.or…­)
Will the third attempt be the charm for the Colorado ‘personhood’ movement? Defeated in 2008 and again in
2010 (by a 3-1 margin), supporters hope to extend human rights to fertilized ova…opponents point out that the
proposed amendment could outlaw some common forms of birth control, including IUDs and the ‘morning-after pill’.
In the race for Senate, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall opposes the personhood amendment; Republican Rep. Cory Gardner supported the amendments as recently as 2012 – this year he has backed away from
his earlier position. However, Gardner says he still supports a national personhood law which is identical to the Colorado personhood bill…confused? Maybe that’s the point!
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Taking to the Pulpit on Behalf of Climate Change
http://www.usatoday.c…­
Rabbi Moti Rieber travels the politically red state of Kansas armed with the book of Genesis, a Psalm and even the words of Jesus to lecture church audiences, or sermonize if they’ll let him, about the threat of global warming.
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Alabama Utility Regulators Ask Citizens to Pray for Coal Power Plants
http://www.slate.com/…­
The president of Alabama’s utility-regulation commission asked citizens to pray for the failure of a proposed EPA crackdown on coal pollution. “I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done”, said Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh.
Added an incoming board member, “Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?”

Member Talk, Wednesday Sept. 3rd Himalayan Kitchen 5:30 – 8:30PM
Members Joyce and Lou Fontana will be presenting a talk on Alternative Medicine. This talk will examine the sense and non-sense of why 50% of Americans use some form of alternative medicine at a cost of $34 billion per year.
Dinner and informal chat at 5:30PM…discussion at 6:30PM.

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango BOOK CLUB! September 19th 6PM
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit
Betsy, who nominated this book, says “…it’s the best book I’ve read in a long time!”
Friday, September 19th, 6:00PM at Betsy’s home, 448 E 11th Street Durango
Mention our S&AoD Book Club at Maria’s Books and get a 10% Discount!
Buy the club’s title of the month and receive a 15% Discount!
Please support the local bookstores!

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NEWSLETTER August 20, 2014

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango        August 20, 2014

“It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly”  – Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978)

 

Whooping Cough Makes a Come-Back in Idaho    (Contributed by Marc Masor)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/12/us-usa-idaho-whoopingcough-idUSKBN0GC27B20140812

Rates of whooping cough are highest among children aged 5 to 17 in Idaho, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the United States.

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Fallout From the Hobby Lobby Decision

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-18/eden-foods-organic-pioneer-faces-boycotts-over-birth-control

http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/07/22/eden-foods-to-grocers-stick-with-us-despite-birth-control-attack/

http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2014/08/17/taking-my-local-co-op-over-eden-foods

The Roman Catholic owner of Eden Foods has revived his lawsuit against the provisions of the Affordable Care Act which require coverage for contraception.  A boycott of Eden Foods’ products has started in response to the company’s actions which, organizers say, discriminate against female employees.

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Personhood Amendment in Colorado Seeks Human Rights for Fertilzed Ova…Again

http://www.factcheck.org/2014/08/a-fight-over-birth-control-in-colorado/

TEXT OF AMENDMENT: http://ballotpedia.org/Colorado_Definition_of_%22Personhood%22_Initiative,_Amendment_67_(2014)

Will the third attempt be the charm for the Colorado ‘personhood’ movement?  Defeated in 2008 and again in

2010 (by a 3-1 margin), supporters hope to extend human rights to fertilized ova…opponents point out that the

proposed amendment could outlaw some common forms of birth control, including IUDs and the ‘morning-after pill’.

In the race for Senate, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall opposes the personhood amendment; Republican Rep. Cory Gardner supported the amendments as recently as 2012 – this year he has backed away from

his earlier position.  However, Gardner says he still supports a national personhood law which is identical to the Colorado personhood bill…confused?  Maybe that’s the point!

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Taking to the Pulpit on Behalf of Climate Change

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/15/climate-religion-kansas-church-global-warming-evangelical/12515665/

Rabbi Moti Rieber travels the politically red state of Kansas armed with the book of Genesis, a Psalm and even the words of Jesus to lecture church audiences, or sermonize if they’ll let him, about the threat of global warming.

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Alabama Utility Regulators Ask Citizens to Pray for Coal Power Plants

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/07/30/alabama_coal_power_prayer_utility_regulation_president_asks_citizens_to.html

The president of Alabama’s utility-regulation commission asked citizens to pray for the failure of a proposed EPA crackdown on coal pollution.  “I hope all the citizens of Alabama will be in prayer that the right thing will be done”, said Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh.

Added an incoming board member, “Who has the right to take what God’s given a state?”

 

Member Talk, Wednesday Sept. 3rd     Himalayan Kitchen  5:30 – 8:30PM

Members Joyce and Lou Fontana will be presenting a talk on Alternative Medicine. This talk will examine the sense and non-sense of why 50% of Americans use some form of alternative medicine at a cost of $34 billion per year.  Dinner and informal chat at 5:30PM…discussion at 6:30PM.

 

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango BOOK CLUB!   September 19th   6PM

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit

Betsy, the member who nominated this book, says “…it’s the best book I’ve read in a long time!”

Friday, September 19th, 6:00PM at Betsy’s home, 448 E 11th Street Durango

Mention our S&AoD Book Club at Maria’s Books and get a 10% Discount!

Buy the club’s title of the month and receive a 15% Discount!

Please support the local bookstores! 

 

On The Subject of Eating Animals: A Follow-up by Caleb Ontiveros

Member Caleb Ontiveros wrote a follow-up to his talk on the subject of eating animals. Read it below:

In this short post I would like to offer up an argument I wish I had given in my talk. I think this argument will be clearer and perhaps escape some of the issues of terminology people were concerned about.

I was glad to see that there was uniform agreement about factory farming—this was wonderful. Instead of swimming in consensus, I will give an argument for the claim that we shouldn’t kill animals in order to eat them.

Many people think it’s permissible to kill animals in order to eat them because humans possess higher cognitive faculties. We are self-conscious, can conceive of ourselves far into the future, are moral agents, develop plans and purposes, and so on. The possession of these higher faculties justifies the use of animals—or so the argument goes. There is a problem with such an approach however—not all humans possess these higher cognitive faculties. Let’s call these humans that don’t possess such faculties species overlap humans . For example infants, the radically cognitively limited, and those affected by severe aging do not possess these higher cognitive faculties—as such they overlap with many nonhuman animals. Would it then be permissible to kill them in order to eat them? Surely not.

The argument runs as follows:

1. It’s impermissible to kill species overlap humans

2. Species overlap humans and nonhuman animals are relevantly similar

3. So it’s impermissible to kill nonhuman animals

What are some objections to this argument? Most will object to premise (2) since most are not comfortable with denying that it’s impermissible to kill species overlap humans.

Many think being human, that is being a Homo sapiens, is a relevant characteristic. However being human is neither necessary nor sufficient for the right to life. For example, nonhuman animals that are modified to have the same psychological properties as humans or aliens with similar psychological properties as humans would surely have a right to life. So, being human is not necessary for possessing the right to life. It isn’t sufficient either. For humans who irreversibly lack consciousness do not possess a right to life.

Some might object to premise (2) because we are biologically designed to eat meat. I take it this means that we are biologically disposed to eat meat. But of course we are also biologically disposed to be violent and selfish—to say that we biologically disposed to x does not establish that x is permissible.

Some may think this argument establishes the absurd conclusion that insects have a right to life. But there is a relevant difference between insects and most nonhuman animals, namely, there is good reason to be skeptical that insects are sentient. They don’t show the behavioral signs of experiencing pain nor is it clear that they are physiologically similar enough to humans and other animals to be sentient.

Finally, some suggested that ethics are subjective, thus this argument doesn’t matter. I wonder if these same people say the same when it comes to other moral or political issues? At any rate, I think this is largely irrelevant to the issues. We find ourselves in the world with moral beliefs (such as the belief that species overlap humans shouldn’t be killed for no good reason) and we should make those moral commitments consistent, genuine, and non-arbitrary. That process will include reasoning like this.

There are of course other arguments for my conclusion as well as other objections, but I hope to have shown that, at least, this argument has promise.