Voice of Sanity – August 2017




Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:



Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

August 2017


The Voice of Sanity


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                            https://www.facebook.com /groups/piedmonthumanists/


The Sunday meeting: There is a meet and greet 10:00AM to 10:45AM

At 11:00AM there is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

A review of business done in the board meeting is presented at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: August 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th.


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10AM Sunday August 27th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM August 10th and 24th (Thursdays) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 


The Freethought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on August 3rd, 17th, and 31st (also Thursdays).



This will be held Saturday, AUGUST 5TH starting at 11AM.

Location is shelter #29 in Cleveland Park across from the Greenville Zoo.

We will furnish hotdogs, hamburgers, buns, and water. There will be meatless burgers for those who are vegetarian. The rest will be potluck brought by participants.

Brandy Hartsell will coordinate the potluck. Her email is potluck@piedmonthumanists.org


August 12th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.


Saturday August 26th: is the Adopt-a-Highway cleanup. Officially starts at 9AM. Many show up at 8AM because of the hot weather.

Location: Earth Fare parking lot at 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

Vests, bags, pickup claws will be provided.


Saturday September 2nd: is the Greer Soup Kitchen. Time: 9:45AM

Location 521 E. Poinsett Street (Route 290) in Greer, SC

There is no definite time the event ends. Serving stops at 12:30PM but time must be taken to clean up afterward. Please remember to wear close-toed shoes.



                                     A CRASH COURSE IN STREET EPISTEMOLOGY


Jordan Myers, Host of the YouTube Channel ‘Open Inquiry’


            Have you ever disagreed with someone about God? I suspect the answer is yes; most Americans, after all, are deeply religious. During the course of your disagreement, I assume you presented logical arguments, facts, evidence, and refutations of your interlocutor’s claims. I also portend that the conversation left you dumbfounded, unsure as to why and how your conversational partner did not abandon his/her belief in God on the spot – you did after all counter every point they made. While rational people have an expectation that most of us will change our minds when presented with overwhelming contradictory logic, this phenomenon rarely occurs. This is partially due to the brain’s automatic engagement of the amygdala – which is responsible for emotional reactions – during discussion involving religious or political beliefs. Such neural activity explains the cognitive dissonance seen particularly among believers when challenged on their religious claims.

            Fortunately, there may be a method of circumnavigating such cognitive roadblocks. Reasoning with people in real time may be difficult when certain conversational expectations are not met – a willingness to revise one’s beliefs, valuing logical coherence, etc. – but fortuitously, Professor Peter Boghossian has devised a system of Socratic dialogue to change people’s minds, particularly about God. This way of speaking he terms ‘Street Epistemology.’ I discovered his book in mid-2016, and have since began initiating friendly conversations with believers and uploading the footage to my YouTube channel. I recently spoke to the Piedmont Humanists group who attended my talk on Sunday, July 9th and 16th. I immensely enjoyed speaking with everyone there, and had wonderful engagement from all listeners. Here, I would like to recap my talk and provide specific strategies and resources for those wishing to begin making a difference in our world.

            Street Epistemology is a method of allowing people to reason themselves out of untenable beliefs, instead of telling them what to think and why. I know this urge can be tempting – their beliefs are ridiculous after all. But Street Epistemologists must preserve patience and reserve incredulity during every part of the conversation. Begin in a friendly way; I usually ask people if they have a few minutes to chat, and then ask them if they mind me recording our conversation. But by no means must you record your conversations – in fact, I suggest not doing this unless you plan to start your own YouTube channel. A lack of videography tends to create a better environment for the talk. 

            Target epistemologies, not their resulting beliefs. An epistemology is the method or thinking by which someone comes to a belief. Faith is the epistemology that most believers use to reach their conclusion that God exists. Targeting faith (epistemology) is much easier than disabusing someone of their belief in God (the resulting belief). Without faith, no one could believe in God, since we have no evidence that any one exists. Thus, your goal is to undermine faith’s reliability as an epistemology, rather than God as a conclusion.

            Devaluing faith is then achieved by asking a series of questions. Do not tell your interlocutor what to think – instead, steer them in the right direction and let them discover that faith is an unreliable way to come to knowledge. There are many routes to take, and I cannot detail them all here. Below is a sample conversation I had in the past with a high ranking church official:


Him: Even if you could get an equation that amounted to God, that’d still just be evidence that proved faith to be true. Faith would come to fruition through that proof. The equation is evidence, and you wouldn’t need faith after that. But God is infinite and we aren’t, so you’ll always need faith unless somehow that equation gives you everything, which I don’t think it could. You need faith to understand God.


Me: Oh okay, so it’s almost like you can see the outline of something but not the color of it? Like evidence could get you to see the outline of god, but you can’t see the color of him without faith?


Him: Yeah, that’s a great analogy to make.


Me: Okay cool. Question then: Do you ever expect that to happen? So let’s say you somehow know that god does exist – you can see his outline – but you can’t see his attributes, his colors. Would you expect to ever know his colors, even in heaven?


Him: Yes. I think that we’ll know the attributes of God at that point. We find God’s attributes based in the bible’s texts, and we have faith that he is who he says he is and will do what he says he’ll do. We’ll know that for sure in the end.


Me: Okay, so I want to make sure I understand you correctly. So you begin your belief with what the bible says about God, and then in the restoration or consummation (heaven), you won’t need the bible at that point, because you’ll be with God?


Him: Yeah, I mean I don’t think the bible will be obsolete at that point, but we’ll be able to talk to God and ask him anything. We will know his characteristics and attributes. And we’ll know things that are hard to answer in this world, like fairness and justice and stuff.


Me: Do you think that change will result from an increase in faith or evidence?


Him: Hmmm… ahhh… I think that would be more evidence.


Me: So, would it be accurate to say your goal is to get to a place where you need not use faith? Whether or not you use faith to get there?


Him: Hmm, that’s interesting.


Me: I could agree that you may need faith to get to heaven, but then is your goal to get to a place where you don’t need faith anymore?


Him: Maybe, I don’t know. That’s a very interesting question. I wouldn’t say ‘no’… I’ve never thought about it like that before.


I constantly experiment with different lines of questioning in my videos, and there is not a set path for any one conversation to follow. Consequently, I suggest you watch the videos posted on my YouTube channel, Anthony Magnabosco’s channel, and Cordial Curiosity’s channel, as well as read Boghossian’s book, A Manual for Creating Atheists. Learn about different tactics and strategies to pursue and blunders to avoid committing.


A few quick tips:

Do not tell someone what to think. Instead ask them what they think or why they believe something. Since there are no good answers to why Faith is a valuable epistemology, any honest answers given will be degrading to Faith and/or God. Allow people to reason with themselves, not you.

Do not show frustration. Any signs of anger, amusement, or disgust will paint you in the lens of the “Angry Atheist,” which will terminate any chance of engendering belief change.

Choose attainable goals. Do not expect every person to immediately abandon their belief in God. Treat every conversation differently. The first stage of success is receiving the statement “I don’t know” from a believer. Treat this is a victory for reason.

When confused or first beginning Street Epistemology, it may help to conceptualize your next step as the question form of whatever argument you’d tend to make. For example, if a believer says they know God is real because they feel it in their heart, don’t respond with: “That feeling wasn’t God, and you have no way of knowing that. You couldn’t determine if that was Zeus, or Yahweh, or Baal, because it’s just your neurons firing and creating a warm feeling.” Instead, ask: “How could someone know that one particular god was speaking to them? How would they distinguish one god from another?”

For more on Street Epistemology, see the aforementioned YouTube channels and books. I will also be publishing an Audiobook and Amazon eBook detailing the architecture of religious belief and how to effectively reason with people using epistemic approaches. The working title is Curing Christianity. I expect to publish both text and audiobook forms of my work in early summer of 2018. Links to both formats will be available on my YouTube channel, and I hope to return and speak about the book nearer its publication date.

Thank you. If you have remaining questions, ideas, suggestions, invitations, or to be personally notified when the book is released, please contact me at openinquiry00@gmail.com.

-Jordan Myers






                                 A HISTORY OF WEATHER WATCHING


Clouds are interesting to watch. Sometimes they look like ripples undulating along or crossing each other’s path as they float in different directions. We can watch them appear or disappear if we wait long enough. We can observe them floating one way and compare their drift to the wind direction where we are standing. All these phenomena mean something to a meteorologist or anyone curious about what the formations may bring.


What we actually see when we observe clouds is the product of a layer of light warm air laden with water vapor rising and hitting a layer of cold air. The activity can condense into a layer of clouds that covers the sky for an entire day or more; or the warm layer can punch holes in the cold upper layer forming puffy cumulous clouds; or it can punch a huge hole in the upper layer and rise all the way to the stratosphere to form the anvil of a full-fledged cumulonimbus cloud and a thunderstorm. It is the activity of these differing layers of air and their contrasting temperatures and speed that creates weather.


Historically, not being able to predict this activity has caused much disaster and misery. The earliest weather forecasting came about in England under the direction of Captain Robert Fitzroy the same individual who served on the Beagle with Charles Darwin. Fitzroy organized a chart depot in London in 1854 for use of the shipping and fishing industry. He used the telegraph to compile the charts from reports of barometric pressure, temperature, wind direction, and sea disturbance from locations in the British Isles and Europe. When he suggested that the reports be used as a 24 hour forecast to warn of dangerous weather he was laughed at by government officials. Finally, in 1859 the disastrous sinking of a Royal Charter gold ship turned the tide of opinion and he was given authority to issue storm warnings. They were only for 24 hour periods and were not always accurate but still improved the safety of sea travel.


In 1895 the Norwegian Vilhelm Bjerknes suspected that equations describing flow could be used to predict weather but could not find a practical way to employ them. During World War I, Lewis Fry Richardson tried to use the equations to predict what the air pressure change would be over a period of six hours for a single point in central Europe. His attempt illustrates the enormity of the task because it took him six weeks to perform the calculations using a slide rule and in the end, although, he had done everything correctly the result was six weeks too late and incorrect.


Richardson recognized that forecasting could be practical only if three things happened. One, data for calculations would have to be collected by the millions from hundreds or even thousands of points over a large geographic area. Second, the equations demanded too much information and would have to be simplified in order to be workable. Third, some faster method would need to come into being for crunching such huge numbers. Richardson thought 64,000 people could do the job but underestimated this by a more than a large margin. It probably would have taken millions to do these calculations using slide rules. It was the 1920s after all, and computers had not been invented yet.


In the 1950s Englishman Eric Eady and American Jule Charney worked together to simplify the equations. First, they treated the Earth as a flat surface not a globe in order to limit the amount of data required. Then, for the same reason, they made a decision to choose only one altitude and follow only data for that altitude to develop a forecast. That knocked down the number of calculations needed to make an estimate of future conditions timely enough to be useful. Their methods were adapted by the US Weather Service and were the precursors of the sophisticated global forecasting we have today. 


Up until this time there was an expectation that timely and accurate weather prediction would be possible and that weather conditions could be revealed days, perhaps weeks before they actually happened. Edward Lorenz would put an end to this optimism. Because his experiments with flow equations at MIT were relatively simple and because the 1950s were an era when computers were entering the picture he decided to combine the two and save time doing calculations. He was dumbfounded when he ran two sets of identical calculations containing exactly the same data for each input and received solutions that bore no resemblance to each other. After further investigation he confirmed that no error had been made even though the initial data had been rounded out to the fourth decimal place (a difference of no more than a few parts in 10,000). He realized that it was the chaotic nature of the weather system itself that made it unpredictable and that the initial data could never be accurate enough. This became known scientifically as deterministic chaos. We know it as the Butterfly Effect.


The Butterfly Effect is why we see “spaghetti-like” versions of hurricane paths on weather maps today and why the cone of prediction on a hurricane path gets broader as it fans out to places farther from the hurricane’s center. What we see is the collective results of many weather models from many locations in order that forecasters can get a statistical average of what will happen along several points in time before the storm makes land fall.


When forecasters model weather systems they are following the passage of long frequency waves described by the fluid flow equations. Waves come in many forms. Sound waves are obvious ones and they have (for humans, at least) a high frequency rate, high enough that their repetition cannot be determined by the brain. Sounds are smooth and continuous to us. The frequency of ocean waves coming into shore or ripples on a lake surface can easily be seen. In the atmosphere it is possible on some days to see washboard type wave patterns in clouds.


Waves for forecasters are really slow (low frequency) because each one can take days, weeks, or even months to play itself out. These are called “Rossby waves” and describe for the most part alternating storm systems with systems of clear weather. They can be caused by the natural temperature change with the seasons or by big obstructions to the atmosphere. High mountains like the Rockies can be an example of the latter type. When warm spring air with the help strong westerlies pushes up over these peaks and rushes down onto the Great Plains they create the warm winds of the Chinook. Rossby waves are cyclical and return repeatedly according to certain natural time frames such as the earth’s rotation, its tilt, and its orbit around the sun. Their temperature, winds, and barometric pressure can be studied and powerful computer systems can now be used to tease out how they will behave.


One more fact about those clouds at the beginning of this article: water vapor is a greenhouse gas. It should contribute to global warming, but it doesn’t. It loses its heat when it condenses and turns into rain. Some of that heat is still contained in our troposphere or lower atmosphere, but most of it is lost to space. Storms such as hurricanes and typhoons are huge movers of heat out of the atmosphere. Trees help the cycle by not only transpiring 90 percent of the water they soak up from the ground out into the atmosphere but by adding tiny natural aerosols called terpenes to the mix. These eventually form some of the nuclei around which droplets can form to cause rain. .


While we should be thankful for rain, most of us wish it would not arrive under the increased turbulent circumstances we have seen lately. It is difficult to understand how global warming could explain this. Part of the explanation might come from the fact that the troposphere or lowest level of the atmosphere where all of our weather originates is getting warmer. The layer above, the stratosphere, is not, however. That layer’s temperature stays anywhere from -720F to freezing. Some think it is the increasing difference in temperature between the two layers that causes more violent weather. However, much more research has to be done to support or disprove the idea.


Finally, aerosols cannot be neglected when speaking about the weather. These are all the particles that are not gases. There are 900 million tons of organic aerosols. These are compounds that have combinations of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in their molecular structures. They may be natural or manmade. The terpenes mentioned above are examples of natural organic aerosols. Five percent of total aerosols are comprised of carbon from burning coal plus forest and manmade fires.


In addition the atmosphere carries about 4.5 billion tons of mineral dust, 45.3 million tons of fungal spores, 90 million tons of reflective sulfates (from burning coal), 72.5 million tons of nitrous oxides (from animals, soils, and fertilizers, and three billion tons of sea salt. Bacteria are counted in billions of billions and have probably been residents in the air for billions of years. Pierre Miguel, a 19th century collector of atmospheric bacteria was surprised to discover that rain consistently failed to wash them out and concluded that they were able to live permanently aloft.




Air, William Bryant Logan, 2012, W. W. Norton

Storm Surge, Adam Sobel, 2014, Harper Collins


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particulates (This has a good animation of the global movement of particulates in the atmosphere from August 17th, 2006 to April 10th, 2007.)



Wonderful English from Around the World:

Contributed by Andrew Kuharsky


In a Bangkok temple: “It is forbidden to enter a woman, even a foreigner, if dressed as a man.”


Cocktail lounge, Norway: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.”


Doctor’s office in Rome: “Specialist in women and other diseases.”


Dry cleaners Bangkok: “Drop your trousers here for the best results.”


In a Nairobi restaurant: “Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.”


On the main road from Nairobi to Mombassa: “Take notice: When this sign is under water, this road is impassable.”


In a City restaurant: “Open seven days a week and weekends.”


In a cemetery: “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”


Tokyo hotel’s rules and regulations: “Guests are requested not to smoke or do other disgusting behaviours in bed.”


On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: “Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.”

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