Durango Skeptics and Atheists MAY 2015 NEWSLETTER

“Challenge a person’s beliefs, and you challenge his dignity, standing, and power. And when those beliefs are based on nothing but faith, they are chronically fragile. No one gets upset about the belief that rocks fall down as opposed to up, because all sane people can see it with their own eyes. Not so for the belief that babies are born with original sin or that God exists in three persons or that Ali is the second-most divinely inspired man after Muhammad. When people organize their lives around these beliefs, and then learn of other people who seem to be doing just fine without them–or worse, who credibly rebut them–they are in danger of looking like fools. Since one cannot defend a belief based on faith by persuading skeptics it is true, the faithful are apt to react to unbelief with rage, and may try to eliminate that affront to everything that makes their lives meaningful.”
― Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature

Next general meeting:                          Wednesday  May20, 2015

Meeting at Irish Embassy, 900 Main Street Durango

Dinner, for those interested, from 5:30PM.

Meeting starts at 6:30.

The topic for this month:  Compassion, wealth inequality and the roles of government and private enterprise.  This topic to be moderated by Larry Bollinger.  QUESTIONS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: Are government programs (aka the Social Safety Net), examples of ‘compassion’ for the underprivileged?  Has the War on Poverty which has been waged for some 50+ years a failure?  Is an unfettered ‘free market’ the answer to societal problems?  What is the role of Government? Bring your thoughts and opinions to the next general meeting and wade into the discussion!

News items in this Newsletter relevant to the discussion topic:  See the first item below regarding the physical damage done to the DNA of the urban poor as a result of stress caused by economic hardship, domestic violence and marginalization from mainstream society! 

Speaking of discussion topics, it would be wonderful if each member gave some thought to what topics you would like to see discussed by the group in future monthly meetings.  Perhaps you’d be willing to lead a future discussion?  It is unfair to look to Kathleen and Dan, the group’s organizers, to carry the load by themselves month after month, wouldn’t you agree?  So add your suggestions to the mix by contacting Kathleen via the MeetUp website! 

Also Be Sure to See Tom the Dancing Bug by Reuben Bolling at the very end of this month’s newsletter! Background: ‘Lucky Ducky’ and ‘Hollinsworth Hound’ are recurring TtDB characters.  Reuben Bolling’s target this time is the yawing wealth gap that separates the 1%ers from the rest of America.  As Bolling explains,  “… the Hollingsworth Hound / Lucky Ducky relationship is not a wild, satirical exaggeration, but is based on absolute truth … Alert readers know that Lucky Ducky got his start when an actual, honest-to-goodness Wall Street Journal op-ed piece called those too poor to pay taxes “lucky duckies.”   

Equal Time: For any who disbelieve the fact that the ‘top’ 1% of Americans hold wealth that is the equivalent of the combined wealth of the lowest 90% of Americans, Bolling offers this screen shot:

Bill O'Reilly on income inequality

Something for every political taste, that’s the Skeptic and Atheist Newsletter motto! 


NEXT BOOK FOR OUR BOOK CLUB:   My Stroke of Insight                          by Jill Bolte Tayor               (recommended by Betsy Norton)

Sunday, June 28 5:30PM at Betsy’s home,                         448 E 11th Street Durango

_wsb_183x276_PaperbackOn December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours … For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by “stepping to the right” of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by “brain chatter.” Reaching wide audiences through her talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and her appearance on Oprah’s online Soul Series, Taylor provides a valuable recovery guide for those touched by brain injury and an inspiring testimony that inner peace is accessible to anyone.


NEXT UP FOR THE BOOK CLUB:  The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

Friday, August 14 at Carolyn and Larry’s Home

lemontreeIn 1967, Bashir Al-Khayri, a Palestinian twenty-five-year-old, journeyed to Israel, with the goal of seeing the beloved old stone house, with the lemon tree behind it, that he and his family had fled nineteen years earlier. To his surprise, when he found the house he was greeted by Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, a nineteen-year-old Israeli college student, whose family fled Europe for Israel following the Holocaust. On the stoop of their shared home, Dalia and Bashir began a rare friendship, forged in the aftermath of war and tested over the next thirty-five 

years in ways that neither could imagine on that summer day in 1967. Based on extensive research, and springing from his enormously resonant documentary that aired on NPR’s Fresh Air in 1998, Sandy Tolan brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict down to its most human level, suggesting that even amid the bleakest political realities there exist stories of hope and reconciliation.


One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America 

oNE NATION UNDER GOD COVER http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2015/04/a-new-book-chronicles-invention-of.html#more     Just released, hardback only.    Kruse argues the belief that America is fundamentally and formally a Christian nation originated in the 1930s when businessmen enlisted religious activists in their fight against FDR’s New Deal. Corporations from General Motors to Hilton Hotels bankrolled conservative clergymen, encouraging them to attack the New Deal as a program of “pagan state-ism” that perverted the central principle of Christianity: the sanctity and salvation of the individual. Their campaign for “freedom under God” culminated in the election of their close ally Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

All meetings have limited seating!      


Want to suggest a title for the Book Club?  Start by attending the next book club meeting!


New Study Finds Alarming Deterioration of DNA in Urban Poor

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3077314/Poor-people-s-DNA-declining-quality-say-scientists-Study-reveals-stressful-upbringings-damage-genes.html    It turns out that the combination of being poor AND being in a marginalized ethnic group causes stress and damage to a person’s DNA which can significantly shorten life.  Telomeres are shorter in people who are disadvantaged economically and who do not have strong cultural support groups.


ADDITIONALLY: Research in the past decade suggests that it may be possible for parents to pass down the effects of trauma in their lives (‘trauma’ such as poor diet, poor education, PTSD from various experiences, effects of environmental toxins, etc.) to their offspring.  Such inheritance of traits is called ‘epigenetics’.  Live Science defines epigenetics this way: Epigenetics literally means “above” or “on top of” genetics. It refers to external modifications to DNA that turn genes “on” or “off.” These modifications do not change the DNA sequence, but instead, they affect how cells “read” genes”.  If true, it means that the ‘sins of the father’ may, indeed, be visited on the children!  The research is on-going and researchers are still undecided about the extent or the exact mechanisms that are involved.  But if stress and trauma in the parent is reflected in the way genes express themselves in offspring it might help explain the generational persistence of poverty and poor socialization.  For more information Google: ‘Epigenetics’.


Creationism in the Classroom – The Fight Goes On…and On and On 

This item comes from The Friendly Atheist.  “There are plenty of ways to teach evolution in a high school science class. And Brandon Pettenger of Arroyo Grande High School in California doesn’t seem to know any of them.  He thought it would be appropriate to watch the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate in the classroom… and then have his students summarize blog posts on Creationist websites.”

Nye vs Ham This doesn’t belong in a science class

In his Life Sciences class, Mr. Pettenger posed the following questions to his students in a slide presentation entitled Evolution or Creation – The Debate : “How did we get here?”, “Is God real?” “Is there evidence that God does exist?” and “Did God create the universe? If so, how?”  The Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science teamed up to write a letter to the District objecting to the teaching of “nonsense”… http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/04/24/california-educator-showed-the-bill-nyeken-ham-debate-in-class-to-teach-students-both-sides-of-the-argument/    Upon being notified that Mr. Pettenger was ‘teaching to the (non) controversy’ in his science class, Director of Secondary Education for the school district promised to look into the matter, noting: “creationism isn’t a part of California’s state science standards”, adding that the school district has an additional board policy that forbids discussion of “philosophical and religious theories” in science classes.  Follow this link for the updated details: http://www.newtimesslo.com/breaking-news/12296/arroyo-grande-instructor-accused-of-teaching-creationism/

Nye vs Fred Flintstone

Atheists United San Luis Obispo weighed in with a newspaper editorial pointing out that, in fact, there IS NO CONTROVERSY and that religious doctrine such as Creationism has no place in any science classroom, noting  “this is not a secular position, it’s a scientific position”. 

This reasonable statement was immediately challenged by a parent of one of Pettenger’s students who wrote a letter of complaint claiming, “It is indeed ironic that Atheists United SLO, which promotes itself as a “freethought” organization would lead a campaign to stifle classroom debate and limit academic inquiry…threatening schools with legal action and good teachers with dismissal amounts to intimidation and bullying. It’s downright intolerant … they want to silence anyone else who might have the audacity to question their evolutionary dogma…their strategy is censorship by intimidation.”   Read both the atheist’s editorial and the parent’s letter here: http://www.newtimesslo.com/commentary/12324/the-debate-evolution-vs-creationism/    In summary, although there is no scientific ‘controversy’, believers still conjure up arguments to rationalize the insertion of religious philosophy into the nation’s science classrooms.  By doing so, they perpetuate the myth that religious faith is equivalent to theories which are derived via the scientific method.



Multi – Media Time!

Remember the Days When Scientists Used to Burn Religious ‘Science Heritics’ at the Stake? 

Neither does anyone else.  But for one state legislator in Louisiana, the ‘memory’ of those dark days burns brightly.  He recently cited this faux-history in defense of teaching Creationism in Louisiana public schools.  Watch this brief clip on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHHnvPWLgi8

heretics burn w titles

For the fifth straight year, the LA legislature declined to repeal a law which makes the teaching of Creationism acceptable in science classrooms throughout the state.  In past years the attempts to repeal this loophole, which allows superstition to replace science in public schools at the discretion of individual school districts, has attracted the endorsement of 78 Nobel laureate scientists and countless science organizations.  However, State Senator Julie Quinn dismissed these laureates as being just people with ‘little letters’ after their names from whom she has no interest in hearing on the matter. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/06/louisiana_creationism_video_state_sen_elbert_guillory_defends_faith_healing.html



Bible Contradiction Quiz Show 

Check out this funny, short video!    https://youtu.be/RB3g6mXLEKk

Interactive chart of Bible contradictions.

Interactive Bible contradictions

The image above is from:  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/08/19/an-incredible-interactive-chart-of-biblical-contradictions/   an interactive project which attempts to link any given Bible quote to other quotes which stand in direct contradiction to it.  Go to the site and click on any of the arcs and brush up on your Bible ‘facts’.  Below is an example of what you’ll find:

example of bible contradiction REV


“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”  — Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist     (Contributed by Marc Masor)


Revisiting Old Discussion Topics 

Bill Nye Explains Why He Changed His Mind in Favor of GMOs

Nye points to the increased yields made possible by GMO technology which helps to feed a hungry world, but he is still cautious about ‘unintended consequences’ to the environment.  Listen to his recent interview on HuffingtonPost Live here: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/bill-nye-the-science-guy-interview/552d62e72b8c2a77bf0000e7

On Vaccines: Measles Vaccine Protects Against More Diseases Than Just Measles     Contributed by Marc Masor    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/07/us-health-measles-idUSKBN0NS23N20150507   By blocking the measles infection, the vaccine prevents measles-induced immune system damage that makes children much more vulnerable to numerous other infectious diseases for two to three years, a recently published study found.

Yet Another Study Shows NO LINK between MMR Vaccine and Autism    Contributed by Marc Masor    http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/autism-news-51/another-study-finds-no-vaccine-autism-link-698635.html?lexp=true&utm_expid=38353063-4.pIV1hUrQR8K_MJ1_OqjLag.1     Even among children who have siblings with autism, study shows no link between vaccines and autism.  How many studies will it take to un-do the damage done by the discredited ‘study’ from the 1990s? 

What is the Durango School District 9-R Vaccine Exemption Rate?vaccine exemptions in 9-R re-build


California  Senate Approves Bill to Eliminate Vaccine Opt Out

http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-pc-california-senate-approves-vaccine-mandate-bill-20150513-story.html   (May 14, 2015) THIS JUST IN: The controversial bill which was just passed in the CA Senate would end vaccination exemptions which are based on parents’ purely personal reasons.  The only exemptions that would still be permitted are for medical problems such as a weakened immune system.  Republicans were unsuccessful in their attempts to maintain an exemption for religious reasons.


Pew Research Shows Christian Share of US Population is in decline


Pew poll re declining Christians in U S


Some Churches Take a Tolerant Stand…god doesn't want religious nuts god prefers atheists over hateful christians  separation of church and hate church sign 'get over' gays

While Others…Not So Much!

o-DEATH-WORTHY-2-570Pastor Robert Lee of the Ten Commandments Church unveiled a new billboard earlier this week calling homosexuality a “death worthy crime.”    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/30/1381417/-Georgia-pastor-has-a-message-for-the-gay-community-Homosexuality-is-a-death-worthy-crime#


And finally…here it is, your moment of Dancing Bug:

Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug is reproduced in our monthly Newsletter courtesy of the artist, Ruben Bolling.     Visit the archive of years of TtDB cartoons at http://gocomics.typepad.com/tomthedancingbugblog/

Are there any announcements, activities, opinions or other news items you’d like your fellow Skeptics and Atheists to know about? Drop an email to larrybollinger@comcast.net with your information so that it can be included in the next newsletter! 

Thanks to Marc Masor for contributing to this month’s newsletter!


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