Voice of Sanity – December 2016



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

December 2016


The Voice of Sanity


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The Sunday meeting has 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.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: December 4th, 11th, 18th, and 25th.


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Saturday December 18th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM December 1st, 15th and 29th (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 


The new location for the Freethought trivia and pool group will be Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on December 8th and 22nd.


December 3rd: Adopt a Highway cleanup begins a 9:00AM at the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.


December 10th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609




                                      CELEBRATING ALL OUR BIRTHDAYS


Humanists are not generally interested in the story of the birth of Jesus and the celebration of his alleged appearance on December 25th. The story of what happens in the nine months leading up to anyone’s birth is pretty interesting, though. So here is the sequence of events leading up to your appearance and everyone else’s in the world.  


On day 1 the fertilized human egg that will eventually be you divides creating two identical cells. Each of these cells contains 46 chromosomes. There are 22 from your father and 22 from your mother. The remaining two cells were selected from the XX chromosome of your mother or the XY of your father. If your combination is XX, you will be a girl, if XY you will be a boy.


By day 4 there are sixteen cells, then 32 creating a solid ball. By day 5 the solid ball grows larger but has now become hollow and the cells growing in it organize themselves into an outer layer and an inner layer surrounding a fluid core. You will ultimately develop from the inner layer. This new structure is called a blastocyst from the Greek terms “blasto” meaning embryo and “cyst” meaning pouch. 


In the next couple of days the blastocyst attaches itself to the lining of the womb. At contact, retroviruses in the little hollow ball kick into action and help fuse it with the placenta. Retroviruses seemed to have come along for this ride regardless of the reputation of their kin as instigators of horrendous human diseases. They’ve done well in the cells of the blastocyst up to now by using their incomplete RNA to manufacture their personal DNA from the contents of host cells in the little ball. Another notable and concurrent activity is the secretion of the human hormone HCG that allows the pregnancy test to register positive and induce possible morning sickness in your mother.


Up to now the cells are all identical (clones) and there is nothing other than the uniqueness of your DNA within to indicate you will become a human being. The journey so far is that of a member of the kingdom Animalia. Physically you might just as well develop into a clam, bumblebee, kangaroo, or rat. But then things change.


At seven to ten days a dent appears in the little blastocyst and pushes its way into its center. At the same time a middle layer forms and grows between the inner and outer layers. As the dent enlarges into the center of the ball each layer begins to differentiate itself into a distinct group. The cells that grow on the surface of the internal cavity (ectoderm) change character to form what will be the lining of your gut and eventually will grow all of your internal organs from “outpouchings” of even more unique cells. The cells on the outside surface (endoderm) will grow your skin and nervous system, including your brain. The layer between the inner lining and outside surface (mesoderm) will grow your muscles, bones, and heart.


The dent continues enlarging into the fluid center until it breaks through the surface on the opposite side and forms your mouth. The original opening becomes your anus. This new formation is called a deuterostome and signals the point at which the clam and bumblebee mentioned above break off to other branches of the evolutionary tree. These animals are arranged 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Sometimes the dent never breaks through to the other side and the original opening modifies itself to both admit food and eliminate waste in much simpler animals.


Between day 15 and 21 an odd thing happens. Your developmental genes duplicate themselves twice over and then take control of future growth. These genes are responsible for the program by which the process of growth will take place for your complete life cycle. Up to now your body was pretty much a hollow three-layered globe with a hole at each end but the duplication gives rise to cells that will grow only according to their individual characteristics. What happens next depends entirely on the cells themselves, their location to adjacent cells in the globe, and the chemical messaging that goes on within their distinctive groups to stimulate the growth of unique body parts.


Location will be paramount from now on. The interaction among the members of each group of cells determines what goes on inside each new cell that forms. Neighboring cells chemically influence which of the new cell’s genes are activated and establish its future behavior. Experiments have shown that if these new cells are moved from one group to another, especially during early stages of embryonic development, their fates change. Cells destined for spine-hood can become mouth parts if transferred to a mouth location.


It is also about this time that thyroid hormone from your mother crosses the placenta and enters the process. Thyroid hormone has a unique history of its own. It influences the development of living things across the entire animal kingdom. It is the necessary growth hormone for the metamorphosis of not only a child into an adult, but a caterpillar into a butterfly, or the transition of a tadpole into a frog. All animals need it to develop into full sexual maturity. 


This substance will be especially concentrated in the area where your brain develops. As young neurons are affected by the hormone in the budding cerebral hemispheres they undergo rapid division eventually creating the full six layers of the human cortex.


But back to days 15 to 21 for these are also the days the globe becomes bilateral and begins to form the shape of the head at the front end and develop a tail at the back. Additionally two parallel channels form from front to back that will eventually fold into a cylinder becoming the spinal cord and the head. Around day 21 what appears to be vestigial “gills” appear but these are transitional and eventually mature into parts of the ear and circulatory system. From weeks four to eight major organs of the body start developing and most of them will be complete by the third month except for the lungs and brain.


The brain will increase its thyroid levels between 13 and 20 weeks until they are higher than future adult brain levels. The amazing part of this is that when you are finally born your brain is still only a quarter of its adult size. During your first few days in the world you will add 250,000 cells a minute to its mass and will continue a high rate of cell growth for two years. As for the establishment of connections between these cells, the rate will be 30,000 synapses per second per square centimeter of cortex during this time.


Being born does not stop the developmental part of the equation. Each individual has to continue growth. The difference is that now environmental factors will play a more major part in the process than they did before birth. There will be a second phase in the activity of your developmental genes, as well, when you reach puberty but this time it will be triggered by your brain. Tissues of the thyroid and pituitary will be stimulated to manufacture and secrete the proper hormones. Recent studies have shown similar genetic and hormonal activity at this stage across the entire animal kingdom. Sexual maturation of the common sea urchin and metamorphosis of insects all seem to exhibit the same genetic timing in sexual development except with wildly different visual characteristics from that in humans. 


There are two features that stand out when one looks at the development of an animal from the fertilized egg to adult maturity, whether in humans or across the animal world. First, the cells themselves display a tendency to “know” a specific growth pattern depending on their location in the growing organism. Not much is known about why location suddenly becomes so important. Second, the activity of developmental genes, those that determine the initiation of new physical characteristics is now known to continue from the moment of conception right on up to adulthood and into old age.


Happy Birthday!



Metamorphosis, Frank Ryan, 2011, Green Press Initiative

Epigenetics, Richard C. Francis, 2011, W.W. Norton & Company




                                     A SHORT HISTORY OF HUMANISM


The term “humanitas” is the original Latin root of the word “humanism”. Aulius Gelius, a Latin grammarian living from 125-180AD described the term as characterizing dual virtues: 1) loving one’s fellow man and 2) acquiring knowledge. Even at that time, Gelius complained that most people left the “acquiring knowledge” part out of the definition.


It wasn’t until the Renaissance era that the term “humanitas” reappeared. This was because many of the original Greek classics became available in the Western world. Printing had been invented in 1440 with the publishing of the Gutenberg bible and other works. At about the same time Venice signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman the Turkish sultan Mahmed II who had conquered Constantinople. This political relationship allowed many previously unattainable Greek classic works to enter Italy and later the rest of Europe. Translations into Latin and the advent of mass printing in 1471 made less expensive published works available to the upcoming merchant class as well as the aristocracy. 


Renaissance humanist philosophy was quite different from the modern concept. It came into existence as a reaction against the tradition of educating men to become doctors, lawyers, or professional theologians, a learning that was confined mostly to Aristotelian philosophy and logic. The new curriculum was expanded to include grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy. 


The Enlightenment had its humanists, too. But philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau were systematically and effectively attacked by religious and political conservatives who insisted that the idea of human morality could not be created exclusively by human effort without the help of God. Humanism had to wait until the 19th century to take root and then it took two forms.


The first was initiated by Auguste Comte a French philosopher better known as the originator of the science of sociology. His humanism consisted of a “religion of humanity”. This was a social structure designed to hold together those groups formerly united by traditional religious worship. The system included ritual and priesthood all tightly organized around worshipping humanity rather than god. Although altruism was part of the idea, its tenets were so austere that most people abandoned it. Still, the notion had its influence on the formation of future secular humanist groups.


The other 19th century movement was initiated by Friedrich Niethammer in Germany. It was termed “humanismus” and, in a direct reaction to religious worship restricted its philosophy to the classical curriculum of the Renaissance. Both Marx and Hegel found this philosophy attractive because they distrusted the cozy arrangements between the church and the repressive German government existing at that time.


The dichotomy of a completely secular belief and a belief that incorporates a deity is reflected today in various groups ranging from the Unitarian Church to Ethical Culture. However, the first organization with the word “humanist” came about in London in 1853, as the British Humanistic Religious Association. This was democratically organized with both male and female members. Although the word “religious” appeared in its name, the group concentrated on the original renaissance concept featuring exploration and promotion of art and philosophy and adding science to the mix.


The first humanist society in America was organized in 1929 by Unitarian Minister Francis Potter. Potter was extremely liberal and supported women’s rights, and the end of the death penalty. His organization eventually attracted prestigious members such as Julian Huxley, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann and probably led to the founding of our modern organization The American Humanist Association in 1941. Famous members here include Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, and Gore Vidal.


The most recent development in American humanism is AHA’s support for the Secular Coalition for America. This is the first lobby in Washington to promote greater acceptance for those of us who are completely secular in our thinking. The organization also fights with others for separation of church and state.





                                      (from an email from Dick Dumont)


Lesson 1
A man is getting into the shower just as his wife is finishing up her shower, when the doorbell rings.
The wife quickly wraps herself in a towel and runs downstairs.
When she opens the door, there stands Bob, the next-door neighbor.
Before she says a word, Bob says, ‘I’ll give you $800 to drop that towel.’
After thinking for a moment, the woman drops her towel and stands naked in front of Bob, after a few seconds, Bob hands her $800 and leaves.
The woman wraps back up in the towel and goes back upstairs.
When she gets to the bathroom, her husband asks, ‘Who was that?’
‘It was Bob the next door neighbor,’ she replies.
‘Great,’ the husband says, ‘did he say anything about the $800 he owes me?’

Moral of the story:
If you share critical information pertaining to credit and risk with your shareholders in time, you may be in a position to prevent avoidable exposure.

Lesson 2
A priest offered a nun a lift.
She got in and crossed her legs, forcing her gown to reveal a leg.
The priest nearly had an accident.
After controlling the car, he stealthily slid his hand up her leg.
The nun said, ‘Father, remember Psalm 129?’
The priest removed his hand, but changing gears, he let his hand slide up her leg again.
The nun once again said, ‘Father, remember Psalm 129?’
The priest apologized ‘Sorry sister but the flesh is weak.’
Arriving at the convent, the nun sighed heavily and went on her way.
On his arrival at the church, the priest rushed to look up Psalm 129.
It said, ‘Go forth and seek, further up, you will find glory.’

Moral of the story:
If you are not well informed in your job, you might miss a great opportunity.

Lesson 3
A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.
They rub it and a Genie comes out.
The Genie says, ‘I’ll give each of you just one wish.’ ‘Me first! Me first!’
says the admin clerk. ‘I want to be in the Bahamas , driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.’
Puff! She’s gone.
‘Me next! Me next!’ says the sales rep. ‘I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal
masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.’
Puff! He’s gone.
‘OK, you’re up,’ the Genie says to the manager.
The manager says, ‘I want those two back in the office after lunch.’

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.
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