April 2001

Rocky Anderson Addresses the Humanists of Utah

On March 8, 2001, the Humanists of Utah were addressed by the most progressive mayor in the history of Salt Lake City, Ross “Rocky” Anderson.

The mayor was introduced by veteran chapter member, Rolf Kay, who provided a brief biography: Ross Anderson was born in Logan, Utah in 1951, received a Bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in Philosophy from the University of Utah, a law degree from the National Law Center at George Washington University, and was elected mayor of Salt Lake City, taking office on 4 January 2000.

Mayor Anderson looked out at the very full Eliot Hall and smiled. “It’s heartening to see this many humanists in Salt Lake City.”

Rocky began his discussion of the challenges of being the CEO of Utah’s largest city by referring to the need for inclusiveness. “We need to value the strength that diversity can bring to our community.”

He spoke of the need for gathering places, such as the town square and the new library: “We need to create more gathering places to bring communities together.”

The mayor mentioned the challenge of listening and responding, a problem addressed through various interactions with the residents. At present there are Saturday mornings with the Mayor, often at local small businesses; News and Community conferences, attended by City department heads: and one-on-one meetings.

Rocky also described taking unpopular stands. He has committed himself to studying the issues, which led to the termination of the participation of Salt Lake City in the DARE program. His research had revealed that DARE-despite its popularity, “sacred cow” status, and the investment of over $700 million over the life of the program-was a failure. He consulted data from the Center for Drug Abuse Prevention, the Department of Education and the Surgeon General. He relied upon the research in his decision. “This isn’t religion. This is supposed to be science here.” He even compared DARE’s inadequacy to Utah’s sex education programs, referring to them as “sexless sex education.”

Despite the difficulties, Rocky loves being the mayor of Salt Lake City, valuing it even above the Congressional seat he once campaigned for.

“You have to have passion for this kind of work. I know I have the heart and passion for this job.”

The mayor concluded his talk to a standing ovation. A lively question and answer session followed.

The Anti-Humanists

Have you killed any kids lately?

No? You’re a humanist, aren’t you?

What’s this about? I suggest you read Mind Siege, by Tim LaHaye and David Noebel.

Once upon a time I would have laughed at this book. You see, Mind Siege devotes 354 pages to the claim that “Today’s wave of crime, pornography, promiscuity, venereal diseases, no-fault divorce, guilt-free sex education, out-of-wedlock births, abortion, homosexuality, bisexuality, AIDS, self-obsession, shattered dreams and broken hearts can be laid right at the door of Secular Humanism.”

Wait, there’s more:

“Today’s humanists control nearly all media by dominating a few wire services and a handful of major television networks.”

How about this:

“If the truth were told, we probably would all be shocked at the procommunist influence in Hollywood.”

Now that you’ve had a good giggle, consider this last quote:

“No humanist is fit to hold office.”

What keeps this book from being merely ridiculous and offensive is the fact that one of its authors (LaHaye) has sold over 30 million books. LaHaye is also one of the founders of the Council on National Policy, whose membership includes much of the leadership of the Republican party. LaHaye’s coauthor, David Noebel, is also a member of the CNP. Noebel’s Summit Ministries has trained thousands of high school and college age students in programs to combat humanism. Noebel is also the author of Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles (Paul wasn’t dead, just Red). I am not making this up!

Both LaHaye and Noebel are part of a growing, well-funded movement to attack what they see as a decline of Western thought and morals since the Middle Ages, when Thomas Aquinas mingled the logic of Aristotle with the theology of Paul.

Next month I will take you a little deeper into the strange land of the Anti-Humanists. Be prepared.

Oh, yes…and if there’s another school shooting before then? It’s your fault.

–Richard Garrard

Living With the Local Culture


“In his annual report for 1907, Salt Lake police chief Thomas Pitt recommended the creation of a separate district, or ‘stockade,’ surrounded by a high fence, where prostitutes could be confined, licensed, regulated by the police, and inspected on a regular basis by medical doctors.”


“In Utah the Klan was strongest in Salt Lake, Utah, and Carbon counties, where its members burned crosses, staged parades along Main street, threatened immigrant men who were seen with American women, and vandalized immigrant-owned businesses. The Utah Klan held its first state convention on Ensign Peak north of Salt Lake City, with burning crosses visible throughout the valley.”


“Because the Depression hit Salt Lake City and Utah so hard, federal programs were extensive in both cit and state. Per capita federal spending in Utah during the 1930s was ninth among the forty-eight states, the percentage of Utah workers on federal work relief projects was far above the national average, and for every dollar Utahns sent to the nation’s capital in taxes, the government returned at least seven, and by some estimates twenty, dollars through various federal programs.”

–John S. McCormick,
The Gathering Place: An Illustrated History of Salt Lake City

Humanist Education Initiative

The new millennium will be marked by a major new initiative to bring humanist education to the general public. The Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS) is very pleased to announce the Continuum of Humanist Education (COHE), a new Internet-based distance education program to be introduced in 2001. This comprehensive “e-learning” project will provide authoritative, engaging, and highly individualized humanistic education opportunities at an unprecedented range of interest levels, from brief “infotainment” for the mildly curious to in-depth college-level courses for more serious students. The IHS-COHE will also serve an extraordinarily wide range of students, from high school age upwards. Because IHS is dedicated to education not profit, the IHS-COHE courses will be provided free or at much lower costs than other on-line alternatives! This flagship IHS program is being designed to take full advantage of the revolutionary new opportunities for educational outreach provided by the Internet.

By using IHS’s interactive websites, COHE students will be able to take courses, network with fellow students, mentors, and faculty, and have their coursework evaluated by experts, all from the comfort of their own homes or offices. The Internet will also enable the COHE to be world-wide in both its faculty and students, and serve the needs of humanists and humanist organizations on a truly global scale. Commitments to work with the COHE have already been obtained from faculty and student groups in the U.S. and abroad, and many more are expected to follow. In line with the Institute’s emphasis on humanist cooperation, the Institute will also promote and cooperate with the educational programs of other humanist organizations.

Dr. Reid Johnson, a well known higher education consultant and humanist educator, will be Director of the IHS-COHE Program, and is committed to having at least a dozen new courses on-line this year. Prospective faculty, students, and other supporters or interested parties are encouraged to get more information on the COHE by contacting Dr. Johnson, IHS Director of Educational Services, at ihseddir@humaniststudies.org or cohedir@humaniststudies.org. Future announcements will mark significant milestones in the development and implementation of the COHE, as well as other humanistic innovations by the IHS.

Fooled Again!

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines Flight 007–bound for Seoul–strayed inadvertently into Soviet airspace. Two Soviet fighter planes were scrambled to intercept it, and one fired an air-to-air missile that ripped through the airliner’s fuselage and sent it plummeting into the Sea of Okhotsk. 269 people were killed. The Soviets believed they had every right to stop the Flight of an unidentified airplane that had strayed into their airspace.

The pilots’ flight plan had told them that, if the plane is on course, then the radar would show only water. For at least 25 minutes the pilots could see that the radar was showing the land mass of the Kamchatka Peninsula, but the crew did not draw what appears to be the obvious conclusion. They maintained their heading. Perhaps they were suffering from mental fatigue.

The same breakdown of logic might have been behind the meltdown at Chernobyl. Published research, says Michael Brooks in his article, “Fooled Again,” in New Scientist magazine of December 9, 2000, claims that these failures in reasoning are a common occurrence, arising whenever we are faced with scenarios that include “falsity”–things that may not be true. According to Phillip Johnson-Laird of Princeton University, we also encounter the same logical meltdowns in events both serious and trivial throughout our lives Perhaps you have experienced this breakdown while hiking or driving with the aid of a map. If you are on course, the landscape you see corresponds to the features the map tells you to expect. If you get off-course, figuring out the way back to the right road gets much more difficult. You have to deal with false situations. Attempting to compare what you didn’t see with what you should have seen leads you into confusion. Eventually you give up on the logical situation and head onwards. When you see something that relates to the map, working out your whereabouts becomes trivial. That’s because it’s easier to deal with a true scenario than a false one.

Johnson-Laird says we often don’t think by following logical rules of deduction; we usually employ shortcuts that save us a lot of time and effort. These shortcuts are our everyday mode of thinking, and they can lead us into making foolish mistakes. To illustrate how we make these mistakes, he constructs deceptively innocent puzzles like the following: Only one of the following statements about a particular hand of cards is true: 1) There is a king in the hand, or an ace, or both. 2) There is a queen in the hand, or an ace, or both. 3) There is a jack in the hand, or a ten, or both. Is it possible that there is an ace in the hand?

When he tested this puzzle with Princeton students, 99 percent of them got it wrong. If there is an ace, then the first two statements are true. But the puzzle states that only one statement is true. So an ace is not possible.

The reason for the extraordinary degree of error, he says is that there is limited space in what researchers call “working memory,” the low-capacity short-term memory that supports language, arithmetic and reasoning. To save time, space and effort, we leave vital information off the ‘drawings” of the mental models of a situation.

Ruth Byrne of Dublin University is investigating how mental models are involved with emotions such as regret and guilt. These emotions require a deliberate effort to model falsity: they rely on considering possible alternatives to the real-life consequences of events. “You couldn’t explain an emotion like regret unless you were keeping in mind the way a situation turned out and comparing this with an alternative where it could have turned differently,” Byrne says. Such counterfactual thinking might also be the root of creativity, she adds. Imagination and daydreaming involve creating these partially false situations and working through the outcomes of their models.