December 2011

Name That Memoir:

This month we’re thinking up the titles we would use if we were to write our own memoirs.

We’ve got some pretty provocative offerings.

  •     Me and My Hot Air Balloon. And How Life Begins When You Slice the Rope
  •     The Taste of Freedom
  •     Is There a Meaning to It All? My Thoughts on Reality and How I Came to Them
  •     How to Tell the Truth When Lies Work So Much Better
  •     I Didn’t Ask to Be Born, But I’m Glad That I Was.
  •     Big Mouth Trap, Caught Talking
  •     Tales of a Traveling Teacher
  •     Life as a Between-You-and-Me Person
  •     Don’t Weigh Me Down with Your Anchors
  •     A Cat Lands on Its Feet Nine Out of Ten Times
  •     And from Bill Cosby whose latest book is titled: “I Didn’t Ask To Be Born, But I’m Glad That I Was”

-Lisa Miller

SHIFT Hosts Victor Stenger

On September 10, 2011, the University of Utah student organization, SHIFT (Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought), was fortunate to host Dr. Victor “Vic” Stenger, internationally renowned physicist, science and atheism proponent, and author, having written such books as God: The Failed Hypothesis, The New Atheism, and The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning.

Dr. Stenger is currently an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii. He has also held visiting positions on the faculties of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Oxford University in England, and the University of Florence in Italy. His research career spanned the period of great progress in elementary particle physics that ultimately led to the current standard model. In his last project before retiring, Dr. Stenger collaborated on the underground experiment in Japan that showed for the first time that the neutrino has mass. The Japanese leader of the project shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for this very important discovery. Dr. Stenger has had a parallel career as an author of ten critically acclaimed popular-level books that interface between physics and cosmology and philosophy, religion, and pseudoscience.

After welcoming him on his visit to Salt Lake City, SHIFT put on an event in the Orson Spencer Hall Auditorium on the campus of the University of Utah that evening for Dr. Stenger to give a talk he titled “Science and God.” Before the talk began, Dr. Stenger was introduced by Dr. Greg Clark, faculty advisor to SHIFT, who has been a long-time fan of Dr. Stenger’s New York Times best-selling book God: The Failed Hypothesis. The talk centered on how science and religion are fundamentally incompatible, due to the reliance of religion on faith in what cannot be observed by the senses, which is in diametric opposition to the empirically based methodology of science. Dr. Stenger also talked about how religion, by its very nature, serves to stifle scientific advancement, which is detrimental both to humanity’s prosperity and to its survival. Finally, he talked about how the existence of a deity is not outside the realm of scientific scrutiny, so long as there are empirically testable claims made about such a deity and its interactions with the physical universe, which is the case with the deities of many of the world’s major religions, such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. A complete video recording of the event can be found on SHIFT’s YouTube Channel. Following his talk, Dr. Stenger remained to talk with audience members and to sign copies of his books, several of which SHIFT had available for sale at discounted rates.

This enlightening event, which was free and open to the public, was made possible in part due to a donation from the Humanists of Utah, to whom SHIFT is extremely grateful for its generosity. Past SHIFT events since February 2010 that featured former United Nations representative Dr. Austin Dacey, Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president Dan Barker, and popular atheist/feminist blogger Greta Christina, were also partly funded by the Humanists of Utah. The Stenger event was later featured in an article in the Daily Utah Chronicle, which is the University of Utah student newspaper. SHIFT will be hosting Dr. Paul “PZ” Myers in April 2012.

–Jason Cooperrider

Homeless Youth Resource Center

We will be gathering items for the Homeless Youth Resource Center again at our December Social. Please consider bringing something if you can that evening.

The Center is running a “Holiday Fill the Pack” Campaign and wish list items include: New Back Packs (school size), Gift Cards (grocery, fast food, movies…), Bus Tokens, Hand Warmers, Hygiene Items (body wash, razors, shampoo, deodorant … full size), Headphones, Beanies, Gloves (dark colors), and Financial contributions.

They are also looking in general for the following items (aka cold Utah winters): Coats, Gloves, Sleeping Bags, Blankets, Tents (in good condition), Camping tarps, Batteries (AAA, AA, C), Lighters, Gift cards for food/groceries/public transit, Canned goods and non-perishable food, Tampons, New sweatshirts and sweatpants (XL sizes), and Art supplies (Art supplies go to Operation Shine’s art class for youth).

Many of the homeless youth in our area have been kicked out of their homes and otherwise rejected by their families. The Utah PRIDE center, Volunteers of America and Operation Shine organizations are working very hard to be a helping hand and positive impact in their lives.

–Lisa Miller

President’s Message

Wow, another year has slipped by! December 8th, Humanists of Utah will host our Annual Business Membership Meeting and annual banquet. We will have ham, turkey, vegetarian lasagna, and a number of side dishes provided by board members. I will be making funeral potatoes with one batch made vegetarian style. Members and friends are welcome so please make a note to come and join us for some good food and good company. Also, we will have an open microphone for anyone who would who has something to say. I hope some of you will give it a try; we’d love to hear from you. We will be starting 6:30 PM.

We will also be taking donations for the Homeless Youth Resource Center at the meeting. The Resource Centers most recent call for items includes: money, gift cards, backpacks, bus tokens, hand warmers, hygiene items, headphones, lighters, beanies and gloves. I think that sleeping bags in good condition would be useful as well. We can also give food items to their pantry and kitchen where they serve meals. I’m going to give them some of my homemade jam as part of my donation. It is my hope that we can make this a sustained effort, with a pick-up three times a year: at our BBQ, the December Social, and in May before our summer break.

This month I thought I would try to write my message without criticizing someone or griping about something that has been getting under my skin. That can be tough when there is so much to gripe about. But there was one item that made me happy, and that was to hear that the latest mission to Mars was launched. This voyage has a rover that is on steroids. Curiosity is its name and it is big enough to really get around the Martian surface and do some serious science. As the lover of science that I am, this adventure helps me feel good about science pushing the frontiers. We humans miss such a great opportunity to explore space by squandering so much of our resources on military budgets. Well there I go griping again.

I look forward to seeing you at our social so don’t disappoint and come and join us for the evening.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU