August 2011

Humanists of Utah
Summer Picnic

Good food and better company! John Young has again generously offered his backyard as the venue for our picnic. The event is set for Thursday, August 11, beginning at 6:00 PM at 2127 South 1900 East. Food and drink are being provided by the chapter.

Please bring a donation for the Homeless Youth Resource Center. Needed items include:

  • Canned meals (spaghetti-os, Chef Boyardee, Thick and Chunky Soups)
  • Men’s Boxers (Medium, Large, Xlarge, and 2XL)
  • Canned tuna
  • Tarps
  • Peanut butter
  • Batteries (AAA, AA, C, D)
  • Size Three Diapers
  • Men’s Undershirts (New, all sizes)
  • Tampons
  • Postage stamps
  • Lighters (preferably Bic)
  • Plus size clothes and underwear for women
  • Full size body wash
  • Money

Here’s To Life

Check out these super cool thoughts from our members about what an ideal human lifespan would be.

  • I suppose a good round 100 years would be doable. Enough people live to 100 years now that we can safely say that it is a natural span of time to live. Extending life significantly further would be changing the rules to the extent that life would not be the same experience. Humans seem to have a psychology that evolves through the stages of life: infant, child, adolescent, adult, middle and old age. These stages would last longer, I suppose, and the essential experience would still be the same. My only interest in living longer would be to know the future. We do so many things during our span that are contingent on an unknown future that knowing that future would be of great interest. So, for me, 100 years would be fine, and then near the end a nicely edited view of the future accurately depicting events that will occur in the next few hundred years, music, credits, curtain.
  • 1000 years seems w-a-y too long. I’d say 100 would be about right.
  • I am 86 years old. I have enjoyed a good life filled with a variety of experiences, raised a family, traveled, been involved socially and politically and I am still interested in learning and changing. I want to live as long as my health permits me to continue to be involved in life whether that’s 87 or 100. I would like to die when I am no longer an active, useful, viable person. I think the most important aspect of life is quality not quantity. I don’t believe there is any conscious awareness after death therefore I have no fear of death, no fear of not being.
  • I would love to live to be 1000 but who would want me around? We are currently studying quantum theory and our book informs us that matter or energy is not destroyed, concurring with some Eastern philosophies. That said I guess we all will being living forever in some form.
  • One thousand years seems like a very long time -think of living from the eleventh century until now -and everything is moving much faster now; I can hardly keep up. Even at less than 100 years old, I’ve lived history that my grandkids are studying. And think of all the extended family names I would have to remember if I lived to 1000! Still, 100 years seems too short. I sometimes think I’ve already lived in the best of times, but if the arc of history continues to bend, however fitfully, toward more civilization, and assuming good health, and if we somehow solve climate change and overpopulation and develop sustainable energy, and if humanism continues to expand, then 150 years would be welcome. Otherwise, what we have is okay.
  • We should live as long as we can learn and change. For some that might be 30 years, for others 300.
  • 1500 to 2000 years should be sufficient to experience many multiples careers, love(s) and develop a reasonable attitude toward fellow earth inhabitants so there would be a sane policy toward our incorporation into the natural world and a stewardship based on the knowledge that it takes all living organisms to sustain “OUR” (all inclusive) home, planet.
  • I’m not unhappy with the way it is now. If I live to be 100 and my health is good, I’m okay with that. To live 1000 years would mean we would have to institute a suspension on births. The world would be overrun with senior citizens. How boring. People would likely put off marriage and, when they could have children that would be greatly delayed. I think of my grandchildren and how much I enjoy their company, I would hate to wait 600 or 700 years before they might exist. I say leave things as they are. Do as much of the things you want to do while you can. If you don’t get it all done you won’t even know it or care.
  • When I think about the question my response is that I would love to live a thousand years or more, for several reasons. One of the reasons comes to my mind immediately: I have always been fascinated with the idea of space travel and a long life would allow me to live hopefully until space travel became routine to allow a person to go on expeditions that might take too long for the average human lifespan. I could go on, but that is reason enough.
  • The question about how I want to live got me to thinking about one of my favorite fun authors, Tom Robbins. I especially like his earlier work; the CCC topic this month inspired me to download Jitterbug Perfume to my Kindle. It is the story of a man who doesn’t want to die. It begins a few thousand years ago when he is king/chief of a tribe; a duty that can only be held by the most masculine, virile man of the tribe. Any sign of age means a human sacrifice so he gets very worried when he finds a grey hair on his head. He arranges with his favorite wife the means to escape and runs from death through the rest of the book. He uses foods, an ancient religion from the Himalayas, and other tricks. As I recall, by the end of the book he starts to have second thoughts. So I guess I don’t know how long I want to live. I do think I would like to pass the century mark though.
  • When most people think of living a long time, they think of making it to being 100. And they imagine themselves being mostly blind, full of pain, most of their body not working, perhaps being immobile or at best in a wheel chair. And any time they think of living longer than this, they think of things only going downhill from there. Most people that say they don’t want to live a long time, is because this is the only way they can think of it. Another problem they might come up with is that they always imagine that if they, and everyone else, lived forever, there would quickly be no more room for anyone on the earth. So, again, they say they would never want to overcrowd the earth. And if people don’t get trapped by these two problems, they usually find some other equally silly reason for why it wouldn’t be good to live forever. For example, often times say they wouldn’t want to live after any of their loved ones have ‘passed on’ or many other fantasized reasons. Anyway, obviously I’d like to live forever, forever growing way beyond anything I’ve been able to be, or achieve, to date. And yes, I even hope to someday be able to find a way to resurrect those that don’t make it, as Raymond Kurzweil describes in The Singularity is Near.
  • Reading through your thoughts on the subject, I feel a strange mixture of being really content with life and the time we have (especially sharing this time now with fellow travelers like you) and being sparked with the desire to live through epochs of change and civilization. Of course, with the possibly catastrophic direction that massive population and climate change is hurtling us towards, I may be okay with opting out of that era. One thing is for sure; if we did live longer we would have to have opportunities to revisit college and switch-up careers!

—Lisa Miller

Asher Jace Martinez

I am a fortunate 86-year old man sitting on the couch holding my three-week old great-great-grandson admiring this beautiful child and wondering what magic chemical actions of nature created this gazing human who ten months ago did not exist.

I notice the perfect shape of his head displaying thin strands of hair, the perfectly proportioned facial characteristics, forehead, eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth and chin in perfect relationship. His tiny tongue curling up between his parted lips tasting the air of my home. His eyes not yet focusing but already distinguishing the shadows between lightness and darkness of my living room. His beautifully shaped ears already alert and responding to the differences of frightening loudness and soothing quietness.

His tiny perfect arms testing the air around him. His chest encasing lungs that gently expand and contract to balance the oxygen and blood that nourish and sustain his beautiful body. The muscles of his firm legs strengthened by thrashing within his mother bosom for several months now released and pressing lightly against my hand.

The tiny film of nails that protect the tips his delicate fingers and toes. This perfect human being barely released from a womb that nurtured and protected the miniscule sperm and cell that united just a few months ago and agreed to form this beautiful person.

I believe he senses the love I feel for him and the safety we will provide him as he experiences growing up in a testing world.

I hope he will enjoy the fullness of life that will enable him 86-years from now to hold his great-great-grandchild and marvel at the magic mindfulness of nature.

—Florien J. Wineriter
June 24, 2011
Father of Susan
Grandfather of Angel
Great-grandfather of Cassie
Great-great grandfather of Asher

We Are the Lucky Ones

(Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins)

We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they’re never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

This is another respect in which we are lucky. The universe is older than a hundred million centuries. Within a comparable time, the sun will swell to a red giant and engulf the earth. Every century of hundreds of millions has been in its time, or will be when its time comes, “the present century.”

How it feels to me, and I guess to you as well, is that the present moves from the past to the future like a tiny spotlight, inching its way along a gigantic ruler of time. Everything behind the spotlight is in darkness, the darkness of the dead past. Everything ahead of the spotlight is in the darkness of the unknown future. The odds of your century being the one in the spotlight are the same as the odds that a penny, tossed down at random, will land on a particular ant crawling somewhere on the road from New York to San Francisco.

In other words, it is overwhelmingly probable that you are dead.

—PIQUE, June 2011

Freethought Happenings

Activities of Interest to HoU Membership:

Sunday, September 4, from 1:00 to 3:00, SHIFT will be meet at the Marriott Library cafe (first floor) on the UU campus to discuss Victor Stenger’s book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. This discussion is in preparation for Dr. Stenger’s visit the following week (see below.) This meeting is free and open to the public, with snacks provided by SHIFT. Free parking will be available in the visitor parking lot adjacent to the Library. Even those who have not yet read the book are welcome.

What: Dr. Victor Stenger, physicist and author of God: The Failed Hypothesis, The New Atheism, and several other books, will be giving a talk, partly based on his latest book, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning. His talk will be followed by interaction with the audience and a book signing, at which SHIFT will be selling a few copies of these three books.

When and Where: Saturday, September 10, at 4:00 PM in the Orson Spencer Hall Auditorium (260 Central Campus Drive) on the University of Utah campus.

How: The event will be free and open to the public, with free parking available in the visitor parking lot just east of the Union building, which is adjacent to (just north of) Orson Spencer Hall. Seating will be first-come-first-served. The doors to the auditorium will be opened 30 minutes before the event.

—Jason Cooperrider

President’s Message

While I’ve been thinking about what to say this month, plenty of subjects have presented themselves in the news. I could keep whining about how disgusting politicians are, or about the debt ceiling. I could comment on how clueless and stupid Mitt Romney looks standing there saying “I’m unemployed too.” As if someone like him, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, ever had to compete for or hold down an ordinary job. I could go on about our junior senator Mike Lee stating that we should get rid of Social Security and Medicare, then churches and families would take up the slack. Begging the question, “how would churches and family take up more slack if they aren’t doing it now?” But I won’t go on and on because I want to say something about a Salt Lake Tribune Editorial from a couple of weeks ago.

The editorial by George Pyle “The idiotic things we do to ourselves” was a good article for the most part. He admonishes us to be civil and not to let the fear-mongers have the last word, and also not to abandon our ideals and principles when we become fearful. The arguments about civility have been an ongoing discussion for some time in the world at large and to our humanist groups.

But part of his last paragraph didn’t make sense to me and started to get under my skin a little.

It states. “It’s not that there are not a lot of evil people out there. But whether it was the Nazis that Eisenhower defeated or the Islamists that threaten us today, the real bad guys through history are the ones most hung up on tribal concepts of race, religion, language or some other tiny variation that really makes no difference. The ability to rise above those differences, difficult as it has sometimes been, is the main path on the road to human fulfillment.” (italics: my emphasis)

The more I thought about it, (where he says …”or some other tiny variation that really makes no difference,”) it just kept bugging me.

I thought to myself, “tiny variation?” that “really makes no difference?”

Well I beg to differ. I don’t know about you folks, but I can cite some variations that are not tiny and make all the difference in the world.

The difference and the distance between me and an individual who straps on explosives and destroys himself and as many victims as he can, is a gulf as wide, in my thinking, as the width of the entire universe.

And, the difference between me and that so called pastor Fred Phelps the homophobe who protests at the funerals of fallen U.S. Soldiers, is absolutely enormous.

Additionally, for me as a person of science, the difference and distance between me and those who insist that the earth is only 6000 yrs. old, and that evolution is a fraud is very wide indeed.

We should always strive to be friendly or at least civil whenever possible, but we shouldn’t forget or trivialize the vast differences that exist in humans and the human experience.

Moving on to more pleasant thoughts, I’m excited that our fall BBQ is coming up on the eleventh. As usual we will have plenty of good food, drink and conversation. I also anticipate more young folks from UCoR and SHIFT to attend. Please come and join us and be our guests.

Don’t forget we will also be taking donations for the pick-off of our effort to help the Homeless Youth Resource Center provide needed items for the homeless youth.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU