February 2007

Utah-Nevada Border Waste Land!

Terry Marasco warned Humanists of Utah that if Las Vegas is successful in its effort to gain access to the groundwater in the Spring and Snake Valley a replica of the Sahara Desert will develop in the Western Utah-Eastern Nevada border country. January 11th, Marasco presented a colorful slide show along with details of the human, plant, and animal culture now residing in the area to a small group attending the January meeting. He said a population of approximately 350 presently preserves the environment that attracts several hundred tourists annually who enjoy the beautiful plant life and wild animals that roam the open space.

The Baker, Nevada resident explained how the Las Vegas Groundwater Development Project would pipe approximately 150,000 acre-feet of water via a 300-mile pipeline from the Utah border near Garrison to Las Vegas, Nevada. The aquifer from which the water would be pumped flows northward from Nevada and interacts with groundwater structures to the Great Salt Lake. Wells, now supplying water to the area, would dry up, vegetation would die, animal life would disappear and within a few years the entire area would look like the Sahara Deseret.

Marasco said, “The moral question is: Does society sacrifice rural livelihoods and natural environments for the growth of cities?”

He is asking Utah’s governor and legislators to consider the dire economic, social and environmental consequences of the project and demand further scientific studies before making a decision on the Las Vegas proposal.

–Flo Wineriter

President’s Message

Happy New Year, everyone, and may 2007 be a good one for all. I feel very optimistic that the coming year will be a successful one for the Humanists of Utah, as a number of exciting changes are underway that I believe will be positive for our chapter and help us further the cause of humanism in Salt Lake City.

The biggest event to announce regards advertising. The Board has decided to make a series of announcements in Catalyst magazine. Many of you are likely familiar with the Catalyst,: a local, monthly magazine, whose mission is “Healthy Living, Healthy Planet.” After researching the magazine’s demographics, we feel that advertising in this publication will help us reach potential members and will be an excellent vehicle to spread the word about our cause and chapter. The AHA has developed a series of advertisements that we will use and personalize with our own contact information. Our plans are to run the ads starting with the March 2007 issue, with subsequent ads placed throughout the year. The ads will be visually stunning and consist of full page and quarter page sizes for different issues.

As excited as we are about working with the Catalyst, doing so represents a significant financial outlay: the ads are not cheap. However, the Board feels strongly that we must create interest in the Humanists of Utah and do what we can to bring in new members. More information will be made available as additional details are worked out.

This year we will also work earnestly to ally with student organizations (starting at the University of Utah) to promote humanism on campuses and involve young people in the cause (and hopefully bolster our own membership). Initial contacts with the Secular Student Alliance (who are aligned with AHA) have been very successful and we feel joining with them to advance the cause and message of humanism to young people is critical for the survival of humanism. You can learn more about this student group by going to their website.

In this issue you will find additional information about our upcoming elections. Please respond to your ballots, which you will receive soon. Election results will be announced at the Annual Membership Meeting/Social on February 8th, at Distinctive Catering. Please plan to attend for an evening of great conversation, good food and live entertainment.

Your mailboxes will also soon bring you a questionnaire the Board is developing. We are seeking your input on a number of issues and urge you to respond with your thoughts, ideas and preferences. We are always interested in any way we can make the chapter better, and to do so we need YOUR feedback.

Please watch the calendar for changes as well, including “time off” in June and July, and a new, pre-autumn picnic/potluck we will be hosting in August. The March, April, and May General Meetings will have interesting and timely speakers, so please plan to attend. Yours truly will be your speaker in September, so having some friendly faces in the audience will be appreciated.

As always, the Board and myself want to thank you for your commitment to the chapter and want you to know we are here for you-to hear your ideas, concerns and thoughts about Humanists of Utah With your efforts and ideas, we can make 2007 our best year yet.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

The Nature of Thought

This essay, by Wayne L. Wessman, will stimulate you to think about human values, social cultures, and maturing attitudes. A recurring thought as I read this book, he reason we fail to mature is we are taught what to believe before we are taught to think. The author writes, “The endless search for something meaningful and striving to achieve it is the great part of life.”

The Nature of Thought: Maturity of Mind addresses the lack of physical maturation of the brain throughout the last 10,000 years of human evolution, which has resulted in an immaturity of thought throughout history to the present day. This work explores the ideal of a fundamental integrity of thought, and a maturity of mind.

About the Author, Wayne L. Wessman received his Masters in Psychology from the University of Utah. He is retired and continues his research in philosophy, psychology, biology, physics, and anthropology.

–Flo Wineriter

Jar City

~Book Review~

This novel, by Arnaldur Indridason, is based in Iceland. If you like BBC mysteries you will love this book; it reads just like one. The trick is understanding the cultural differences, such as how the Icelanders write their names, the reverse from us. This story is about the investigation of a current crime that relates to a thirty-year-old case, having to do with the current medical examiner. A good read!

–Cindy King

The Varieties of Scientific Experience
A Personal View of the Search for God

~Book Review~

The Varieties of Scientific Experience; A personal view of the search for God, edited by Ann Druyan is a series of lectures given by Carl Sagan in 1985 when he was invited to present the centennial Gifford Lectures in Scotland. The book also marks the tenth anniversary of Sagan’s death.

The first lecture concerns our place in the universe and tries to understand the differences between religion and superstition. How conceited is the idea, considering the scope of the universe, to believe that an omniscient, omnipresent God would concern itself with our tiny planet? Sagan includes a quote from Thomas Paine that goes on to wonder why that god would choose to die on this planet because a woman ate an apple.

The next few chapters chronicle the loss of status of our home through recorded history. According to Aristotle, we lived on “the” earth; new knowledge is that we live on “an” earth. This earth is much older than our predecessors imagined which has created a “series of assaults on human vainglory” and evolution is perhaps the largest broadside to traditional religious dogma. He again quotes Paine, “Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course or that a man should tell a lie?”

The chapter on Extraterrestrial Folklore gives several examples of modern religions with shaky foundations. One description is particularly relevant to many members of Humanists of Utah.

There is a religion that believes that in the 19th century a set of golden tablets was prepared by an angel and dug up by a divinely inspired human being. And the tablets were written in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and had on them a hitherto unknown set of books like those in the Old Testament. And, unfortunately, the tablets are not available for any scrutiny these days, and in additions there is power evidence of conscious fraud at the time that the religion was founded, which led, last week, to tow people being killed in the state of Utah, having to do with some early letters from the founders of the religion that were inconsistent with the doctrine.

This chapter concludes comparing buying a used car and choosing a religion. For the former most of us are extremely skeptical and try to find a car that will actually work. “But on issues of the transcendent, of ethics and morals, of the origin of the world, of the nature of human beings, on those issues should we not insist upon at least equally skeptical scrutiny?”

The last section of the book deals with one of Sagan’s greatest fears: that humanity will destroy itself before we are able to reach and colonize the stars. Nuclear war remains an ominous threat 20 years after his lectures. More countries are joining the Nuclear Club which does not bode well for our future considering the current political milieu we live in.

I highly recommend this book; I think everyone should read it. I believe that many who do will decide that is a necessary addition to their own libraries. But don’t take my word for it; here is what Kurt Vonnegut thinks: “Find here a major fraction of this stunningly valuable legacy left to all of us by a great human being. I miss him so.”

–Wayne Wilson

James Michener

Historic Humanist Series

1907 ~1997

James Michener was a very prolific author. Among his works are, The Source, Hawaii, Alaska, Centennial, Texas, etc.

I decided (after listening to a “talk radio” commentator who abused, vilified, and scorned every noble cause to which I had devoted my entire life that) I was both a humanist and a liberal, each of the most dangerous and vilified type. I am a humanist because I think humanity can, with constant moral guidance, create a reasonably decent society. I am terrified of restrictive religious doctrine, having learned from history that when men who adhere to any form of it are in control, common men like me are in peril. I do not believe that pure reason can solve the perceptual problems unless it is modified by poetry and art and social vision. So I am a humanist. And if you want to charge me with being the most virulent kind-a secular humanist–I accept the accusation.

–James Michener, Author
Interview, Parade Magazine
November 24, 1991

NASA: Picture of the Day

Member Recommended Websites

This month’s featured site is from NASA. If you have a few minutes, follow the link and look at some of the “picture of the day” links. The universe is truly a beautiful and an amazing thing!

NASA: Picture of the Day