Voice of Sanity – September 2016
Membership: adults $24/year
Editor: Joyce Bates
All correspondence to:
3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135
Greenville, SC. 29615
The Voice of Sanity
THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS
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.
Sunday, September 4th
10:00AM: Meet and greet
11:00AM: General discussion
Sunday, September 11th
10:00AM: Meet and Greet
11:00AM: General discussion
Sunday, September 18th
10:00AM: Being new to humanism and how to transition
11:00AM: General Discussion
Sunday, September 25th
10:00AM: Meet and Greet
11:00AM: General discussion
ANNOUNCEMENT: The Free-Thought group will no longer be meeting Thursday evenings for pool at the Fox and Hound (old name was Baileys). That establishment has closed. The board is looking for a new place to meet and will let us know where it is at a Sunday meeting and/or in the calendar on the website. Sorry for the inconvenience. JB
The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM September 8th and 22nd (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85.
September 10th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609
A LETTER TO THE GOVERNOR
Seven private faith based colleges have submitted a letter to Governor Nikki Haley expressing their fears of government interference with religious freedom. Schools in the Upstate that have signed the letter are: Bob Jones University, North Greenville University, Anderson University, Erskine College in Due West, and South Wesleyan University in Central. One of the examples they used as infringement on religious freedom was the Federal Government’s action allowing transgender and other LGBT groups to freely choose which gender bathroom to use.
There is also a California bill in process that attempts to stop the practice in that state of granting tax exemptions to privately run faith based colleges who discriminate against LGBT students in admission, housing, and campus activities. The action was precipitated because Biola University, a privately run religious institution in Los Angeles, sought to apply for religious exemption that would not make their government funding vulnerable.
California Senate bill #1146 seeks to lessen the number of private religious colleges that seek exemptions but still bar entry to LGBT minorities. It holds that such colleges receiving federal exemptions make their discriminatory statements clear to prospective students. California Assemblymen Evan Low stated that schools seeking these exemptions are “the worst of the worst in terms of institutions that discriminate.”
LGBT support and advocacy groups within the colleges say students who are deeply religious cannot feel free to be themselves on their own campus. That means that the institutions are actively discriminating against some of their own students. A similar situation happened at Bob Jones University when it refused to admit African Americans until 1970 six years after the Civil Rights Act went into effect. The US Supreme Court ruled they were not tax exempt due to a policy of racial discrimination until 1983.
The question here is: How long can such institutions disenfranchise some of their own believers and still expect federal support?
Greenville News, 8/26/16, page 1, Letter Warns of Threats to Freedom of Religion,
VOTING RIGHTS REVISITED
Back in July of this year a federal appeals court struck down a North Carolina 2013 voter law. In the same month a similar ruling was applied to Texas voting. In both states the laws in question were voter ID laws. In addition, North Carolina’s law eliminated same day registration, out-of-precinct voting and limited early voting. In both states judges ruled that the laws disproportionately targeted African Americans although the reasons given for their enactment were supposedly to stop voter fraud. Voter fraud was not found a problem in either state.
The suit in North Carolina was brought by the NAACP and various civil rights groups. Both decisions can be appealed but, fortunately, the courts will not be able to consider them again until after the presidential election in November. It is interesting to note that seventeen states have enacted new voting procedures since the Supreme Court overturned Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. Section 2 of the act is federal and prohibits state and local governments from passing any voting law that implements a qualification or prerequisite that will prevent or hamper the right to vote because of race, color, or language minority status. In reality, all that Section 2 does is repeat Section 1 of the Constitution’s Fifteenth Amendment (1870) which states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
The North Carolina and Texas voting laws mentioned above were launched after the Supreme Court overturned Section 4b of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Part 4b contains a “coverage formula” or list of jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. The list includes the states of Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Alaska, and certain counties in California, North Carolina, Florida, South Dakota, and New York. Townships in New Hampshire and Michigan are also in the list. It should be noted that discrimination can be of any minority. That is why areas with possible discrimination against Spanish speaking peoples and Native Americans are part of the list.
If any jurisdiction in the above list intends to pass any voting law it must first get “preclearance” from the office of the US Attorney General who has 60 days to decide if it is permissible. If the Attorney General does not find it compliant the jurisdiction can ask for panel of judges to decide.
Section 5 states what must be avoided for any new voting law in the above selected jurisdictions to comply. The list of objectionable legalities includes literacy tests, education or knowledge requirements, and proof of good moral character, but legal subtleties that can result in long periods of arbitration are also considered.
The Supreme Court overturned section 4b on grounds that it was unconstitutional. It was a five to four decision with John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito in the majority. The legal claim was that the formula and list had not been brought up to date in forty years. Congress had had the responsibility to update it in 2009 but instead chose to extend it with statistics that were out of date. The Court also ruled that Congress could outline another formula and create a list based on current conditions. Ironically Section 5, the one that clearly states what constitutes infractions, was left alone. However, without section 4b’s list of jurisdictions it is useless.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg issued a dissent to the ruling on behalf of herself and Justices Steven Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elaine Kagan. She believes that second-generation barriers to minority voting rights are emerging in the jurisdictions in question and have replaced the old barriers to voting.
At any rate, the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act has been seriously reduced and some original jurisdictions have taken advantage of this for political manipulation.
North Carolina voter id restrictions struck down, Richard Wolf, Greenville News 7/30/16, p B1
Humorous adaptations of timeless adages
Submitted by Dick Dumont
‘Time marches on’; sometimes with a limp.
‘Time flies’; and one never knows when the droppings will happen
CHRISTIANITY IS VIOLENT, TOO
M. Lee Deitz
Letter to the Greenville News 8/8/16 page A10
Re: The letter titled, “It is difficult to deny the violence of Islam.”
It is difficult to deny the violence of Christianity. First, God destroyed all living things in the flood, including the innocent children. He killed all the first born in Egypt: Numbers 31:17, “Now therefore kill every male among the little one, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him.” In Leviticus 20:2, God had families killed for not reporting that others worshiped another god.
In more modern times (1983), Northern Ireland was a hotbed of violence between protestants and Catholics.
During the crusades, bishops blessed bloody killings. During the Fourth Lateran Council, Jews were forced to wear labels, a badge of shame similar to the yellow star imposed by the Nazis.
The Holocaust was the bitter fruit of years of Christian teaching about the Jewish people, wrote Dr. Franklin Littell.
Then there was the Inquisition. Thousands were killed at the hands of the Christian church because they did not believe the Christian way.
This is not an indictment of either religion, but let’s keep our factos and history straight. Both religions have violent histories.
The following article may be a hard read or just plain boring, but it is what it is. Many had confused or outdated notions about biological classification in one of the Sunday meetings and this is the result. Hope you don’t doze off before you reach the end. JB
THINGS YOU MISSED OUT ON IN BIOLOGY CLASS
There are many phrases that have survived the 19th century and serve to reinforce modern popular thinking. Some of them do a good job. Others have a tendency to prevent ordinary people from adapting more modern ideas. “Survival of the fittest” is one of these phrases. While Darwin’s idea of natural selection is essential to understanding evolution it is important to realize that fitness means more than “nature, tooth and claw” as featured on so many popular nature documentaries seen on the media.
The last fifty years has seen a major change in understanding the way life works, so much so that the classification of living forms has been completely overhauled. The kingdoms of plants and animals have had to move over to accommodate four additional kingdoms and the resulting six have become subdivisions of three new overall “domains”. This is because of the continual discovery of so many new microscopic forms of life. Two of the three domains are now dedicated exclusively to these new forms.
Technological advances have allowed us to observe life right down to its molecular composition. These observations have revealed more detail about the structure within our cells. This detail has relegated plants, animals, and fungi to a single domain of life because they have cells that contain DNA confined to a nucleus (such cells are called eukaryotes). There are other parts of our cells, though, that contain DNA as well. Mitochondria are examples and are responsible for the conversion of sugar to energy, a function we cannot live without. Plant, fungi and animal cells all contain mitochondria, but plants have additional chloroplasts that also have unique DNA. One might say that though they lack the power of locomotion they replace it with the ability to manufacture food for themselves and others by using light, carbon dioxide, and water.
The other two domains of life are archaea and bacteria. Archaea are believed to be the most ancient. Some use oxygen to live but others cannot tolerate it and use hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, or methane instead to keep themselves alive. These are the kinds of one celled organisms living in hydrothermal vents and in hot mineral springs.
Archaea and bacteria (called prokaryotes), do not have special little compartments to separate their DNA from the rest of their cells like we do. They indulge in something called “sexless horizontal gene transfer”. They directly swap snippets of DNA rather than perform a sexually complicated rearrangement of chromosomes like plants and animals. Some researchers estimate that only 40 percent of the genetic material in certain bacterial species is typical. The remaining 60 percent of the DNA in these species is either different or absent.
Microbiologist Lynn Margulis suspected that mitochondria and chloroplasts had their own metabolism and were in some ways part and not part of the cells they live in. Some of her ideas still are not accepted by all of the scientific community but the restructuring of the classification of life is.
Her hypothesis is that sometime about two billion years ago the archaean forms of microscopic life had habitually ingested swimming forms of bacteria and that these bacteria eventually developed the ability to survive inside their hosts. The new cells functioned well because the bacteria acquired a safe environment and the archaea now had the power of locomotion. It is believed that these new cells emitted oxygen as a waste product and are responsible for its buildup in the ancient atmosphere. Then bacteria that metabolized oxygen from the new atmosphere were ingested in the new cells and survived quite well also. So another complex organism was born that became the ancestor of animals- a life form that had the ability to both move and metabolize oxygen. But plants went in a slightly different direction since they only corralled mitochondria in their cells. They made a different merger thought to have occurred about 900 million years ago. That was the incorporation of cyanobacteria into the mix. Cyanobacteria had long been preforming photosynthesis. The new organisms were the forerunners of modern plants.
The new classification of life into the three domains of archaea, bacteria, and eukaryotes (eukaryotes combine the kingdoms of plants, animals, fungi) is more than just classification. It has caused many to think carefully of symbiotic relationships and the way they operate in natural selection. Now it is not only nature tooth and claw but a matter of cooperation to sweeten the odds in favor of survival. We see this arrangement in a number of examples.
The genus Rhizobium contains the bacteria commonly found on the roots and even the living tissues of some plants. The most common ones they inhabit are legumes such as beans and clover, but they also are also found in association with alder, willows, coffee, corn, and sugarcane. The bacteria convert nitrogen into a usable form for plants to take up and in return they survive on some of the sugars that the plants produce. Plants also secrete certain compounds through their roots to attract other desirable bacteria and fungi. Large colonies of these around a root complex tend to muscle out pathogens harmful to their host. Microorganisms also free up phosphorus and potassium and other elements from either organic matter or rocks so the plants can use them.
The interesting part of this relationship is that it has gone on for millions of years and produces the richness of life we see in any undisturbed habitat. Part of this efficiency was patiently teased out in the 17th century by the Flemish chemist Jean Baptiste Helmont. He planted a five-pound willow in a pot with 2000 pounds of dried out soil. Adding only water he let the tree grow and at the end of five years cut it down. Reweighing all solids he found the tree had gained 164 pounds and the soil had lost two ounces. Later, a Swiss chemist by the name of Nicolas-Theodore de Saussure was able to demonstrate that plants grew using only liquid water with carbon dioxide and sunlight.
Humans have historically ignored the value of the microscopic world as a benefit. Bacterial diseases like bubonic plague and tuberculosis have eclipsed any usefulness benign organisms might have. The same is true of viral diseases such as polio and small pox. It is only within recent years that bacteria have been recognized as commonplace in the human gut and that about three-quarters of them reside in the colon alone. These bacteria have never been cultured and probably won’t survive outside our bodies. We have been born with them.
How did they get there? At first most biologists speculated that the helpful bacteria were introduced when the infant passed through the birth canal, but closer examination of a baby’s microbiota showed that many did not resemble those found in the mother’s birth canal. Recent studies suggest that somehow the helpful microorganisms are transported in pregnant women from the mouth, through the lymphatic system, and eventually wind up in the fetus.
Most of these beneficial bacteria live in the digestive system. The stomach is not a good environment for them because it has acidity comparable to lemon juice. Although, the small intestine is much lower in acidity it is a fast-flowing-slurry of ingredients. Some but not many bacteria make a home here. The colon, however, is the place that our benign bacteria not only make a home but aid our digestion and boost our immune systems.
There are two kinds of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber simply slows down the digestive process to make the absorption of nutrients more efficient. Soluble fiber is not really fiber at all but a collection of complex sugars (polysaccharides) the body cannot digest without help. After these sugars are dissolved in the system they are fermented by bacteria residing in the colon. The fermentation chemically changes complex sugars into easily absorbed simple sugars. This is why we are encouraged to eat things like beans, dark-green vegetables, orange vegetables, fruits and whole grains. They contain the polysaccharides the colon bacteria need to survive.
Some bacteria play a role in the immune system of the colon. Bacteroides fragelis is of special interest because it excretes a unique polysaccharide that reacts with immune cells to control runaway inflammation in the colon caused by pathogenic bacteria. Although the pathogens themselves are not destroyed the muting of inflammation gives the body time to rid itself of the threat without serious damage. Some bacteria, after breaking down soluble fiber, excrete products know as short term fatty acids. These seem to be necessary for the regulation of insulin and the maintenance of normal weight through their association with immune cells in the colon lining. Studies of both Bacteroides fragelis and short term fatty acids are still in the laboratory experimental stage but there is little doubt they will aid the medical community in treating chronic illnesses associated with the lower digestive track.
The Hidden Half of Nature, David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle, 2016, W.W. Norton
Symbiotic Planet, Lynn Margulis, 1998, Basic Books/Perseus Books Group
Definition of success:
At age 4 success means not piddling in your pants
At age 12 success means having friends
At age 17 success means having a driver’s license
At age 35 success means having money
At age 50 success means having money
At age 70 success means having a driver’s license
At age 75 success means having friends
At age 80 success means not piddling in your pants