Skeptics and Atheists of Durango NEWSLETTER October 15, 2014

Skeptics and Atheists of Durango        October 15, 2014

Compiled by Larry Bollinger

“I would like, and this would be the last and most ardent of my wishes, I would like the last king to be strangled with the guts of the last priest”  – Jean Meslier, priest, from his will  (1678 – 1733) 

On the October Meeting Agenda In addition to the usual mayhem and hijinks, Kathleen will expound on the topic of Genetically Modified Organisms.  This is a timely topic as the issue of whether or not to label foods in Colorado as using GMOs is on the November 4th  ballot (Prop 105).

Other issues on the ballot:   Proposed Amendment 67 will confer ‘full human rights’ for fertilized human ova;  Amendment 68 will legalize horse racetrack casino gambling in three specific towns in Colorado; Prop 104 would require school boards in CO to conduct contract negotiations with teachers in public; we are also voting for retention of various judges (including judges on the CO Supreme Court) and for seats in the Colorado legislature and for seats in the US Senate and House.


Election day is November 4, 2014.

The Skeptics and Atheists of Durango has not, as yet, endorsed or opposed any of the above.

I, personally, will oppose at least three and possibly all four ballot measures.  Why?  What follows is my personal opinion…take it or leave it.

Amendment 67: The ‘personhood’ amendment has been rejected by Colorado voters twice before and for good reason.  It would complicate issues involving methods of birth control and severely limit and possibly criminalize women who seek abortions or who mis-carry.  The proposed amendment is redundant – the current law allows for criminal penalities for any action that injures a pregnant woman.  The term used in the language of this amendment is ‘unborn human being’ which has no legal or medical definition under Colorado law; the ambiguities of this proposed amendment lead me to oppose it…for the third and, hopefully, last time.

Amendment 68:  The proposition to allow gambling in three Colorado towns would supercede the existing state law which requires a vote in EACH TOWN to approve/disapprove of gambling.  New gambling sites in some Colorado towns would profit at the expense of other towns who would likely lose tourist revenue to the new gambling arenas.  I also am uncomfortable with funding education with gambling revenue; as taxpayers, we have the obligation to pay directly, through taxes, for the services we expect from government.

Prop 104:  Contract negotiations should not be conducted in full public view.  School boards have more flexibility to explore all options if the negotiations are NOT conducted in the full media glare.  The results of the negotiations will, as always, be disclosed to the public.  School boards are elected to conduct negotiations and are accountable to the public at election time.  This proposition strikes me as another attempt to demonize public school employees.

Prop 105:  The GMO labeling proposition seems to me to be too vague and too costly for food producers in Colorado to comply with.  I am willing to be swayed by Wednesday night’s discussion on this one.


Member Talk Scheduled for October 20, 2014

Marc Masor will present “Autoimmunity, Allergy, Tolerance and Gluten”   Monday, October 20 at Himalayan Kitchen.  Dinner at 5:30, presentation at 6:30-ish.  Please RSVP at

This presentation will be a brief review of how the immune system works under normal conditions, what leads to an allergic or autoimmune response, and asks, what do we know about true gluten allergy vs gluten “sensitivity”.



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! 


Why God Won’t Go Away by Andrew Newberg   Monday, December 15, 2014

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell   Friday, January 23, 2015

Waking Up: A Guide To Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris  Monday, February 23, 2015


Amusement Parks and Museums (Pictured: Museum of the Bible)

An artist's rendering shows the exterior of the proposed Museum of the Bible, located two blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in this undated handout image. Hobby Lobby President Steve Green is planning to begin construction on the $800 million 8-storey Bible museum in the fall of 2014, according to local media. REUTERS/Smith Group JJR/Handout via Reuters
An artist’s rendering shows the exterior of the proposed Museum of the Bible, located two blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in this undated handout image. Hobby Lobby President Steve Green is planning to begin construction on the $800 million 8-storey Bible museum in the fall of 2014, according to local media. REUTERS/Smith Group JJR/Handout via Reuters

The high-tech Museum of the Bible, set to open in fall 2017, is four blocks from the U.S. Capitol and three blocks from a global tourism mecca, the Air and Space Museum. The new museum will feature standing exhibits on the history and impact of the Bible as well as interactive features to bring viewers into Bible stories and characters.

BUT, will the museum recognize that ‘THE’ bible is, in reality, many different books as interpreted by Jews, Catholics, Protestants, etc?   Hobby Lobby CEO, Steve Green, says that he ‘wants to know’ if anything in his museum isn’t ‘true to God’s word’.

MEANWHILE, at the new Noah’s Ark Amusement Park, don’t rush over to apply for a job if you don’t believe in the literal interpretation of Noah’s Flood!  The fly in the ointment is that the proposed park is counting on taxpayer support which means that it won’t be permitted to discriminate against non-believers when they hire employees.


Tale of Two Stephens

In an interview on HufPo, Stephen King says he’s ‘agnostic’ about a life-after-death, but offers his opinion that the universe is too orderly to have happened ‘by accident’…so, he says, he ‘tends to believe in Intelligent Design’….

Elsewhere on HufPo another famous ‘Steve’, Stephen Hawking, says that he’s an atheist, arguing that science offers a “more convincing explanation” for the origins of the universe and that the miracles of religion “aren’t compatible” with scientific fact.


Texas Textbooks Entangle Moses With US Founding Fathers

The Texas State Board of Education (SBoE) is considering the proposed textbooks which were written in response to new guidelines known as TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills).  As a result, Texas’ textbooks for high school and middle schools are making national news.  Multiple studies have found the new textbooks to be ideologically slanted which result in distortions of fact, and worse.

As an example, in seventh-grade Texas history, in eighth- and 11-grade United States history, and 10-grade world history, what TEKS requires simply does not show Native and African-Americans as among history’s makers. They remain mere victims and/or outsiders.

Investigators found that outright ideological agendas are at work.  The issue that attracted the most attention revolved around the intellectual influences the Framers felt when they crafted the United States Constitution. The new curriculum standards require students to learn about the supposed influence of individuals such as Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, William Blackstone, and even Moses on 18th-century republican thought and the American founding.

One critic points out that the strategy of starting with Moses is aimed at presenting the United Statesas a unique “redeemer nation,” predestined among all others to act out God’s will. Arch-conservative David Barton, who has no historian’s credentials but who nonetheless has had a huge impact on TEKS, maintains that verse after verse from the Bible is quoted “verbatim” in the Constitution. Checking Scripture demonstrates quickly that this is just not so. The language and the ideas do not match. Any professor of history teaches history majors not to make that kind of mistake.


This Month’s Story About Vaccinations! (NOT submitted by Marc Masor this time!)

From the blog of Jeff Schweitzer, scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology.

If you oppose vaccinations, try to justify that position with the reality that in the absence of vaccinations polio would paralyze 10,000 children every year; German measles would cause birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 kids, and diphtheria would be a common cause of death in school children. Anytime you have an urge to oppose vaccination, think of your kid dying of diphtheria. If you oppose vaccinations, I believe you are for 10,000 kids each year becoming paralyzed.

Because of the anti-vaccination movement, measles is once again rearing its ugly head. Measles is highly contagious and spreads rapidly among the non-vaccinated. There is no treatment for measles, only prevention. In 2000 measles was nearly eradicated in the United States; with a drop in immunization due to unjustified concerns about vaccines, the United States is witnessing this year the largest measles outbreak since 1996. Ignorance, false claims to expertise and scientific illiteracy are threatening our children’s health.


The Day Fundamentalist Evangalist Tony Campolo’s Son ‘Came Out’ as a Humanist

Bart Campolo relates how he came to his decision to reject the miracle-and-superstition part of Christianity.  Basically, it’s the problem of ‘Theodicy’: how can an All-Powerful, All-Knowing God allow the continuation of evil in His creation?  Today, Bart serves as the humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California. He is only one of a few individuals in such a role on a U.S. campus.


Republicans Support Spoken Prayer in Public Schools by a Wide Margin…But….

The overall trend in American opinion is slowly turning against the practice of teacher-led prayers during the school day.  Gallup has some stats that break it all down…but the takeaway is that the number of Americans who want prayer reinstated in schools has decreased from 70% in 1999 to 61% today.  On the flip side, 28% opposed school prayer in 1999 compared to 37% opposed today.  See the article for breakdowns of R’s, D’s, church-going folk, etc.


Stupid News:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews cause chaos after refusing to sit next to women on the El Al plane



Indiana State Trooper Sued For Handing Out Religious Lit At Traffic Stop

Man Openly Carrying New Gun in Portland OR Robbed by Armed Man


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:

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