Voice of Sanity – November 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

November 2016


The Voice of Sanity


                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:









The Sunday meeting has a meet and greet or special activity from 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: November 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th.


For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Saturday November 20th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville


The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM November 3th, 17th and December 1st (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 November 10th and 24th.

Note: We’re aware November 24th is Thanksgiving Day, but we are still expecting some people will want to come out and have fun. So we’ll be there and you can join us.


Novermber 12th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609




                                      BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790)


The life of this American has been revisited many times. However, much of his scientific work has faded into the background in favor of his place as one of the country’s founders. But The First Scientific American by Joyce E. Chaplin shows that his eminence in science was equal to his role in American History.


Benjamin Franklin was the fifteenth of seventeen children of his twice married father and his beginnings were humble indeed. His father a candle manufacturer was quick to recognize his son’s precociousness and tried to give him a decent education but did not have the finances for it. So, when Ben was eleven he was apprenticed to a print shop run by his elder brother James. However, he became restless and decided to look for other opportunities when he was seventeen. This led to his first Atlantic crossing on a venture to start his own printing shop. The venture fell through, though, and he was left stranded in London for two years. During this time he discovered the vast culture in that capital and the value in books and printing.


His printing career started in 1726 in Pennsylvania. The print shop years saw the founding and success of the Pennsylvania Gazette, the publication of Poor Richard’s Almanac, and the establishment of The Library Company. This last was an organization to which members paid a subscription fee and yearly dues. Nonsubscribers could borrow books if they left a deposit equal to the book’s worth. This was refunded when the book was returned. The Library Company was still running in 1790 when a donation of books was made in accordance with Franklin’s will.


Franklin’s duties as postmaster of Philadelphia began in 1737. The mail at these times was a chaotic affair. Sometimes privateers captured mail packet ships and destroyed what they thought not valuable. People boarded the ships that did arrive and created chaos searching for letters and packages. Franklin was responsible for the establishment of a post office where mail could be sorted and picked up in an orderly fashion. Oddly enough postage was paid by the recipient rather than the sender in those days because it could so easily be lost in transit. 


He remained active in printing until 1748 when he signed an agreement with his journeyman David Hall making them partners. Hall became the active partner in the shop leaving Franklin as the silent partner free for other pursuits.


All through this early period his interest in science grew as well as his business activities. He invented bifocals sometime in the 1730s and wore them all his life. In 1785 he contacted a friend in London and explained how they worked and provided a diagram for their construction. He never desired remuneration for these and other inventions. This may be why Article I, section 8, clause 8 appears in the Constitution. It limits the time that authors and inventors can claim exclusive rights to their work.


The Franklin stove we have today is an abbreviated version of his improved fireplace. It featured air enclosed in a metal box directly behind the fire. The heated air from the box was vented on either side of the fireplace and out into the room. Cold air gathered from the floor of the room circulated under the fire to feed it. Meanwhile the smoke was routed up over the hot metal box and into the chimney. The whole idea of the invention was to continually circulate air so that it would heat the entire room rather than just the air immediately in front of the fireplace- and it worked. His understanding of air currents eventually led him to believe that hot air rose in the tropics and cool air sink when it got to the poles.


Franklin experimented with cooling as well as heating. On a hot day in 1758 he and John Hadley a fellow scientist continually wetted the ball of a mercury thermometer lowering its temperature until the reading reached seven degrees Fahrenheit, well below freezing.


However, the legend about the kite and key in the thunderstorm cannot be verified. Franklin was well aware this experiment was life threatening since someone who had tried it in Europe was electrocuted. His papers contain directions on collecting the electrical charge from a storm cloud, not those associated with a bolt of lightning. His other investigations revealed that static electricity could be produced by rubbing various materials against a spinning glass rod. Even so care was taken to make sure everything was well grounded.  The lightning rod was another matter though, and very practical. Lightning rods were used both on buildings and ships to prevent destruction of property as well as saving lives. They were made from thin metal rods used to manufacture construction nails. 


Franklin didn’t become seriously political until after 1748. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751 and served in other offices until 1757 when he was sent to London to plea a suit the Assembly had against the Penn family for nonpayment of taxes. The Penns, a Quaker family refused to pay the taxes claiming it was not consistent with their religion. The reader is reminded here that this benefit is automatically awarded to religious groups in the US today. It took three years but Franklin managed to win the case for the Assembly and the Penns were obliged to pay what they owed.


Franklin made a total of four round trips across the Atlantic during his lifetime, the last of which was made when he was 79 years old. He was fascinated with the sea all his life and the crossings afforded him the opportunity to investigate its currents, temperatures, and weather phenomena. He and his grandson took careful measurements of the waters of the Atlantic during the later Atlantic crossings, not only measuring surface waters but deep waters, as well. It was known by the 1750s that the Gulf Stream was a warm current resting on much colder waters. He also collaborated with his Nantucket relative Captain Timothy Folger to produce the first chart of the Gulf Stream in 1768. The map was very accurate for the time as far as navigating treacherous currents along the East coast, but the Gulf Stream is shown to dip south far short of the Azores. The map was lost and did not turn up until the 1970s when an oceanographer discovered it while searching archives in Paris.


The idea of circulation and currents did not end with air and water. In 1782 he wrote an essay titled Conjectures Concerning the Formation of the Earth. In this he guessed the earth had a fluid core that was more dense and had a “greater specific gravity” that any solid known at that time. Although he admitted he was only making a guess he wrote that the surface of the earth might be a “shell, capable of being broken and disordered”.


Franklin’s attitude toward slavery was contradictory at best. He had two slaves who stayed with him for nearly his entire life. At one point during his time in England an escaped American slave named Somerset appealed to the English court and won the right to remain in England as a free man. The Court’s decision in 1772 ruled it was illegal to forcibly remove slaves from English jurisdiction. Franklin’s public comment to this was that colonists defending their rights to liberty but holding others in bondage were hypocrites.


Nevertheless his connection with some of the major names of the Enlightenment has been a well-kept secret over the past century. His first contact as a young man in England was Henry Pemburton editor the third edition of Newton’s Principia. He corresponded frequently with Matthew Boulton, who partnered with James Watt to produce the first working steam engine. John Fothergill became his close friend in England and acquainted him with many English men of influence through his membership in the Lunar Society. This was an informal organization of prominent intellectuals, industrialists, and scientific investigators (called natural philosophers at that time). The group included Josiah Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin grandfather of Charles, and Samuel Galton, grandfather of Sir Francis Galton the father of modern statistics.  He also knew and corresponded frequently with Joseph Priestley and Anton Lavoisier who did extensive experiments revealing the existence and function of oxygen and carbon dioxide.


Franklin died at the age of 84 of what was then called pleurisy. Most likely it was an infection in the lungs that spread to the pleural cavity. Although he had written his own epitaph at the age of 20 his gravestone simply reads “Benjamin and Deborah Franklin”.


One last interesting comment about Franklin is that his first voyage from London back to the US lasted 83 days, occurred later in the year than it should have, and was plagued with bad weather. Food was rationed and many feared the supplies would not last the trip. Twenty year old Franklin arrived home seriously ill and nearly died of the same disease that finally claimed him when he was 84. The experience led him to think seriously about his character so he made a list of 13 “virtues” that appear below. Of course, no one including Franklin could ever live up to them but he did practice one or another of them from time to time as self-discipline. They are as follows:


  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not bat what may benefit others or yourself, avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are you duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes, forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, ar at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Franklin#Inventions_and_scientific_inquiries First Scientific American by Joyce E. Chaplin (2006, Basic Books, Perseus Books)






According to a Pew research worldwide survey 83 percent of women identify with religious groups as compared to 80 percent of men. Among Christian populations the ratio is exceptionally high compared to other industrialized countries. The gap here is 17 percent higher for women than men as compared to a nine percent difference in the United Kingdom and two percent in Canada. In other denominations such as Orthodox Judaism and Islam male participation is much higher.


In secular communities such as humanism and atheism the situation is reversed. Fewer women identify as secular than men. Additionally, white men make up the majority in secular community activities more often.


The Christian communities in the US are trying different techniques to make church more interesting for men. The Baptist General Convention in Texas has been experimenting with specialty churches such as cowboy churches, country churches, biker churches, and multi-housing churches in trailer parks to attract “unchurched” men. Basically these churches are unstructured as far as traditional ritual is concerned. There is usually no dress requirement, the music may be country gospel, and one can usually grab a cup of coffee. This is the same atmosphere as the one in Piedmont Humanists, except for the inclusion of Jesus.


Jessica Xiao of the American Humanist Society interviewed Kristen Kennedy, senior graduate of Denver University on her investigation into the reversal of gender participation between religious and nonreligious communities, specifically why fewer women than men participate on the secular side. She wondered how an upbringing in traditional religious gender identities could influence how they thought of themselves as adults in secular activities. In religious communities men are encouraged to be strong, athletic, and function as family providers, while women are raised to be much less outgoing in more domestic roles. 


Second she wondered if secular activities were designed to include women. Were women returning to meetings? Were they participating equally in conversations? Did they feel they were included in events? Lastly, Kennedy wanted to find out about how people regarded famous secular thinkers and if they knew any famous female secular thinkers.


Xiao found that the typical masculine identity prevalent in religious communities was not prevalent on the secular side. She expected this because men in secular organizations did not feel threatened by pressure to conform to the strong athletic prototype. Women, however, did not seem to feel any difference in pressure to be feminine in either secular or religious situations.


She found that the basic problem with secular societies in the US was the difficulty in making their groups friendly to family activities as compared to churches. Women especially found this to be true. Many women in the study felt this was a major source of exclusion. There was one group, however, that solved this question by providing a woman’s group. Here women had the opportunity to discuss things they wouldn’t normally mention in a mixed atmosphere. These would be issues such as abortion or workplace discrimination.


Lastly, no member of either sex could identify a major female secular thinker, but many could not name any prominent secular personalities at all.



Who’s more religious in the US: men or women? Charles Scudder, Greenville News

4/2/16, page A5.






Regardless of who wins the presidential election this November, we will witness history being made.
If Hillary Clinton wins
, it will be the first time in history that two U.S. presidents have slept with each other. 

If Donald Trump wins, it will be the first time in history that a billionaire moves into public housing vacated by a black family.

Is this a great country or what?


(email from Richard Dumont and timely too.)


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