Voice of Sanity – February 2017

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voice@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

February 2017

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

                            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.

There is a business meeting at the 11:00 time on the first Sunday of every month.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: Febuary 5th, 12th, 19th. And 26th

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday February 19th Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM February 9th and 23rd. (Thursday) 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 February 2nd and 16th. 

 

February 11th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

February 11th: DARWIN DAY CELEBRATION will be at 4:00PM at the Canebrake Clubhouse, Kings Mountain Drive at Saratoga Drive, Greer, SC

 

February 25th,   Saturday: Adopt-a-Highway cleanup will start at 9:00AM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

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                                      A BRIEF HISTORY OF SYRIA

 

Since our election in November Syria’s civil war has been relegated to the back pages of most news outlets. The Syrian government and representatives of rebel forces have met in Astana, Kazakhstan to strengthen the cease fire but after opening ceremonies both sides left and did not meet face to face again. Meanwhile, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have announced a plan for continuance of the cease fire and urged Syria to participate in UN talks toward a political solution.

 

A short 100 year history of the region appears below. This background can serve to help us understand the present state of events for Syria. The history describes not just a single country’s struggle for a relatively peaceful and productive existence, but the changing conditions for an entire region of the Middle East over the past century.  

 

ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Sha’am.  Sha’am is the 19th century word for Greater Syria an area that stretched along the Eastern Mediterranean from the Sinai Peninsula to the Turkish border. In 1914 it included the states of Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The common language spoken was Arabic. The religion was predominantly Muslim mostly Sunni with a minority of Shi’a. A Shi’a sect of Alawi existed in the mountains on the Turkish border and in the extreme south. Desert areas were occupied by Bedouins. Otherwise, the territory was about 20 percent Christian located mostly in the Maronite community of Mount Lebanon. There were many Jewish communities as well.

 

In 1918 and at the end of World War I the entire area came under the control of British and French troops and three different factions came into being. The British and French factions were reluctant to allow the territories to obtain their own independence. The two entered into what became known as the Sykes-Picot agreement. This was a secret plan to divide the area into French and British colonial territories.

 

The second faction comprised the Zionists. Zionism came into being in the 1880s and grew as a movement with the goal of establishing a state in Biblical Palestine. At the end of the World War the Jewish population in the area stood at about ten percent. The British were supportive of Zionism and the British foreign secretary to Damascus, Lord Arthur Balfour officially pledged support for the Jewish endeavor.

 

The third group in the trilogy was led by Emir Faisal who was son of Sharif Hussein, the independent ruler of the Hejaz and direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammad. The Hejaz was a domain covering the western Arabian Peninsula, containing the cities of Mecca and Medina, and considered the political and religious center of the Arab world. Faisal’s goal was to establish an Arab state stretching from Turkey to the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs set up a National Congress aiming toward a decentralized constitutional monarchy with Faisal as king.

 

But at the end of the war the Allies set up two mandates in the occupied area. The French Mandate included Syria, Lebanon, part of southern Turkey, and an area bordering the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee known as the Golan Heights. The British were awarded control of Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. Faisal, after his failure to establish Syrian independence turned his attention to Iraq and sought the help of the British to successfully acquire the throne there.

 

France further divided the Syrian Mandate into districts that reflected their different ethnicities. All these borders impeded trade and split up extended families and their property holdings. Workers were forced to cross them daily to get to their places of employment. There was much migration from rural to urban areas and much Westernization because of the French influence. This was offensive to traditional Sunni Muslims.

 

Meanwhile the Syrian middle classes and landowners pressed again for independence from the French. This was not for a truly democratic government but to have better control of political and trade issues. By 1936 they finally achieved their goal but with concessions. They had to recognize Lebanon as a separate state. They also had to accept a three year probation during which the French would have authority on all decision making and be allowed to maintain garrisons in the Alawi and Southern districts for five years. By the time the three years were up Europe was embroiled in another world war and the constitution was suspended.

 

Ba’athism was born in the aftermath of World War II. It became established as an altruistic movement bringing medicine and education to Syria’s rural areas. It soon turned into a political movement headed by two idealistic Syrians, Michel Aflaq, a Greek Orthodox Christian and Sarah al-Din a Sunni Muslim. Educated abroad they had hoped to gain enough votes to break the power of rich landowners, but failed. Politics would again remain in the hands of monopolies and favored government employees instituted by the French. Syria finally gained independence in 1947 but retained this old elite political structure. Lebanon also became an independent nation at the same time. But both countries had border and ethnic ties with Palestine which would now become a permanent nucleus of unrest.

 

Although the United Nations tried to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states it only managed to terminate its British Mandate. The Palestinian Jewish community, the Yishuv was overwhelmingly composed of immigrants from Europe, many of them refugees from Hitler’s Germany and the lands of the Holocaust. Genocide had wiped out European Jewish communities that had dated back centuries, killing a total of six million people. Among the survivors, many Jews who previously had no Zionist sympathies fled to Palestine after other countries- including Britain and the US shut their doors.

 

On the 14th of May in 1948, the same day the last British forces left Palestine and after a great deal of fighting between factions the Jewish People’s Council of the Yishuv met to proclaim the existence of the State of Israel. The fighting escalated into the Israeli/Arab war. In the end Palestine was sectioned into territories following an uneasy armistice in1949. Egypt got control of the Gaza strip bordering the Mediterranean just north of the Sinai Peninsula; Jordan got the West Bank on its border with Palestine; and Syria remained in control of the Golan Heights, the strip of land along the Sea of Galilee that it had originally held. The remainder of Palestine was recognized as Israel.

 

The Cold War became a presence in the Middle East beginning with the 1950s. Syria vacillated between sides seeking to find security where it could. Britain signed pacts with Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan in an alignment against the USSR, but Syria was left out. When Abdul Nasser gained control of Egypt and nationalized the Suez Canal to pay the debt for the Aswan Dam, Egypt and Syria united to create the United Arab Republic. Both accepted support from the USSR. Syria experienced its first coup in 1949 and came under military rule. It wasn’t long, however, before the Syrian elite became disillusioned when its communist style five year land reform plan failed, producing more unrest and a second military coup. The UAR was dissolved and the country again realigned itself with the West.

 

Although the Golan Heights was technically part of Syria at this time much of its water flowed into Israel and that country could not tolerate interference or reduction of the supply. Unfortunately, the conduit system became a constant target for guerilla sabotage. At the same time Egypt and Jordan were building their military systems as a show of Arab unity with Syria against Israel. This buildup of force incited rather than suppressed action and in 1967 the Israelis launched the Six Day War immobilizing both Jordan’s and Egypt’s forces and taking control of the Golan Heights. Egypt helped Syria in a second attempt to gain the area in 1973 but this also failed. The US by this time was more interested in hammering out agreements with the oil rich Arab countries but Syria, Iraq, and eventually Iran were left out of the these negotiations.

 

It was in 1970 in the midst of the Israeli/Arab conflicts that the Syrian Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad saw his opportunity to gain power. He directed the military to occupy all Syrian political party offices and organizations. The next day he assumed control of the government and retained it for the next thirty years. Assad’s new government drifted toward dictatorship. Although he brought running water, electricity, and affordable credit to farmers, his regime declared the Ba’th party the only legal party of Syria and the best government contracts went to those whom he favored. The secret police (mukhabarat) inspired fear everywhere because of its protection from judicial oversight.

 

Hafez interfered frequently with Lebanese affairs of state and both openly and secretly supported the Arab side of the Palestinian/Israeli turmoil. After Israel was established many Palestinians became permanent refugees in Lebanon. The situation worsened when the Palestinian Liberation Organization was driven out of Jordan and settled in the Lebanese immigrant areas making Beirut their center of operations. Hezbollah, a Shi’a Islamist militant group supported by Iran became active at this time also. Fighting erupted again in 1987 over Palestinian protests of Israeli occupation in the West Bank, and Gaza.

 

This time Israel drove the armed conflict deeply back into South Lebanon. Hafez helped broker the peace, tentatively established in 1993 but allowed sanctuary and support of the terrorists in his own country. He also maintained a military presence in Lebanon but he never established an agreement with Israel over the Golan Heights. He died in 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashar.

 

When the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003 Syria’s trade with Saddam Hussein ended. This trade included several billion dollars obtained from the sale of illegal arms and a steady supply of Iraqi oil. The stoppage severely impeded the Syrian economy. In the same year the Bush administration passed the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese restoration Act. This required Syria to close its terrorist facilities, to stop supplying troops and arms to Iraq, and to withdraw its entire military force from Lebanon.

 

In 2009 sixty-five percent of Syria’s population was under twenty-five. Most had an education but could find no work, and unemployment was growing. The country remained for the most part a cash-based economy. For the first time in fifty years a private bank finally opened its doors. A stock exchange had been nonexistent until 2009.

 

The civil war began in 2011 when some school children were arrested in a southern Syrian town and taken to Damascus where they were interrogated and possibly tortured. Their crime was writing graffiti on the walls of a school that suggested the fall of the regime. They ranged in age from nine to fifteen. Demonstrations were put down with force and the foreign press was banned. Finally all out fighting began when gunfire was directed at the security forces.

 

As the violence spread people fled to other areas of the country and finally abroad. Since 2011 about eleven million have left their homes. Over six and a half million have been displaced internally. Over four and a half million have gone to Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq. Lebanon has been host to one million in addition to its permanent population of Palestinian refugees. One million have requested asylum in Europe.

 

The free Syrian Army was established by deserting officers of the National Armed Forces. Their aim was to bring down the Assad government but they were poorly disciplined and riddled with infighting. Other armed militant groups joined in on the fight but the lack of coordination and leadership caused it to lose members to either ISIS or ISIL.

 

References:

Syria, John McHugo, 2014, The New Press

Among the Ruins, Christian C. Sahner, 2014, Oxford University Press

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-Day_War

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golan_Heights 

 

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                          A SURVEY OF SURVEYS IN THE US FOR 2016

 

On January 1st The Washington Spectator a small monthly publication done by the Public Concern Foundation printed a survey of polls of American opinion. The survey was completed about the time of the election in 2016. The resulting statistics from questions asked by the Pew Foundation, the Gallup Poll and other surveys are described below.

 

One was an overall view done by WSJ/NBC taken right after the election. It addressed issues that Americans considered important at that time. Those who expressed no opinion do not appear in the table below:

Lower the cost of student loans: 

For: 82 percent            against: 18 percent

Increase spending on infrastructure

            For: 75 percent            against: 25 percent

Raise the hourly minimum wage to $12

            For: 66 percent            against: 34 percent

Address climate change by eliminating carbon emissions

            For: 59 percent            against: 41 percent

Raise the social security age to 69.

            For: 33 percent            against: 66 percent

 

                    

Further surveys have consistently shown that when it comes to government spending Americans regardless of age, political philosophy, party identification, sex or income level were united in their opinion of campaign spending. Eighty percent of those surveyed by Gallup earlier in 2016 wanted strict limits on this kind of spending. This corresponded with 75 percent found in a New York Times/CBS poll run about the same time.

 

There obviously has been a gigantic turn around in the thinking of Americans about Gay marriage. In 1996 sixty-eight percent of the country was in opposition to gay marriage. As late as 2004, Gay marriage was being used as a “wedge” issue to drive up voting by evangelicals. By 2013 not a decade later 54 percent crossed over to favoring marriage and in 2016 those in favor had risen to 61 percent, a complete swing in attitude from negative to positive.

 

Health care was an issue that produced some peculiar statistics. It is true that the bulk of the Affordable Care Act was opposed by 58 percent of Americans during its debut but the reasons behind the opposition were not explained. In 2013 forty three percent of Americans were against the bill because it was too liberal, but fifteen percent opposed it because it wasn’t complete enough. Then, in 2016 Gallup created a new poll asking about support for the single payer system. In this context 58 percent were in favor of the government supported program.

 

Defense spending has been explored by Pew Research for many years. The 2011 poll occurred in the midst of public pressure for the withdrawal of troops from many of its consignments overseas. Although the chart below shows an increase in percentages in favor of increased spending last year, 64 percent still wanted either to keep spending the same or decrease it.

 

 

2011

2016

Keep spending the same

53 percent

40 percent

Cut back spending

30 percent

24 percent*

Increase spending

13 percent

35 percent

No opinion

4 percent

1 percent

Total

100 percent

100 percent

 

There were other polls during the year, too. They are listed below.

 

Taxes:

 On April 15th, 2016, Gallup released results of a survey finding that 51 percent of those polled thought their taxes were too high, down from 65 percent in 2001.

 

Tax supported childcare:

The latest survey in 2016 by Gallup shows that 59 percent support taxes for universal childcare and pre-K programs with 26 percent opposed.

 

Climate change:

In 2014 fifty-nine percent of those polled by WSJ/NBC supported limiting carbon emissions.

In 2016 Gallup found the 64 percent of their respondents were greatly worried about global warming, while 36 percent worried only a little or not at all.

 

Abortion:

There has been little change in the polls here. In 1996 Pew Research found that 57 percent of Americans thought abortion should be legal either “always” or “in most cases”. In 2016 the figure was 56 percent. There is doubt whether this is a pertinent issue. In 2011 the US abortion rate fell to 16.9 per 1000 women the lowest rate since 1973 when Roe vs Wade was passed.

 

Gun control:

Pew research ran a poll in 2015 in which participants were forced to choose whether it was more important to control gun ownership or protect the right to own a gun. Put in this context 50 percent of participants thought controlling ownership more important and 47 percent thought protecting gun rights was more important.

 

Capital punishment:

In September 2016 Pew released a poll in which 49 percent of respondents favored capital punishment with 42 opposed. In 1995 the numbers were 80 percent favoring and 16 percent opposed.

 

Reference:

The Washington Spectator, January 1st, 2017, page 1.

* Corrected percentage found at: http://www.people-press.org/files/2016/05/05-05-2016-Foreign-policy-APW-release.pdf  page 28.

 

 

More paraprosdokians:

 

1. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
research.
2. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
3. In filling out an application, where it says, “In case of emergency,
notify… ” I answered ” a doctor.”
4. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street
with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
5. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to
skydive twice.
6. I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.
7. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you
hit the target.
8. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing
in a garage makes you a car.
9. You are never too old to learn something stupid.
10. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and
harder for me to find one now.
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Voice of Sanity – January 2017

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voiceofreason@piedmonthumanists.org

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

January 2017

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

 

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.

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: January 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th.

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10:00AM Sunday January 15th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM January 12th and 26th. (Thursday) 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 January 5th, 19th.  

 

January 8th: Election of Board Members will be held.

 

January 14th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

———————————————————————————————————————

Membership comes due on January 1st. The price is $24 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Dues can be paid directly to board members at the Sunday meetings or at the Thursday evening Freethought groups. They can also be paid on the website through Paypal. To pay by mail please send checks to: Piedmont Humanists; 3620 Pelham Road; Suite 5, # 135;

Greenville, SC 29615.

 

 

  HIGH RELIGIOSITY, INCOME INEQUALITY AND SUICIDE

By

Richard G. Dumont, Ph.D.

Introduction

The development of my novel measure of high religiosity is described in my 2010 Evolutionary Psychology article, “High Religiosity and Societal Dysfunction in the United States during the First Decade of the Twenty-First Century.” In that article, where I attributed authorship to my French pseudonym, R. Georges Delamontagne, I wrote:

“The composite measure of high religiosity developed for this study is based upon responses to six questions asked in the 2007 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Religious Landscape Survey’s national probability sample of more than 35,000 respondents (2009). Among the several dimensions of religiosity examined in the Pew research were denominational identification and five beliefs and practices. The composite measure of high religiosity includes the percentage of U.S. states’ respondents selecting the first response alternative within each of the following categories:

Denominational affiliation: Evangelical Protestant Tradition (26% of Pew sample);            Mainline Protestant Tradition (18%); Historically Black Protestant Tradition (7%); Catholic Tradition (24%); Unaffiliated (16%); and All Other (9%, with none of the othe4 10 traditions or faiths having more than 2%, Including Muslims and Jews).

Belief regarding the existence of God or universal spirit: Absolutely certain that God exists (71%); Fairly certain (17%); Not too certain/not at all certain/unsure how certain 4%); Does not believe in God (5%); Don’t know/refused to answer/other (3%).

Belief regarding interpretation of Scripture [Bible or Holy Book]: Word of God, literally true, word for word (33%); Word of God, but not literally true word for word/unsure if literally true (30%); Book written by man, not the word of God (28%); Don’t know/refused to answer (9%).

Belief [or value] regarding importance of religion in one’s life: Very important (56%); Somewhat important (26%); Not too important/not at all important (16%); Don’t know/refused to answer (1%).

Frequency of attendance at religious services: At least once a week (39%); Once or twice a  month/few times a year (33%); Seldom or never (27%); and Don’t know/refused to answer (1%).

Frequency of prayer: At least once a day (58%); Once a week/a few times a week (17%); A few times a month (6%); Seldom or never (18%); Don’t know/refused to answer (2%).”

A principal components factor analysis, the results of which are displayed in my Evolutionary Psychology article, revealed that the z scores for the above variables were arranged in a single dimension. The variable HIGHREL was operationally defined as the combination (sum) of the z scores for EVANPROT, ABSCERT, WORDGOD, VERYIMPO, SERVWEEK, and PRAYDAY. The HIGHREL z scores for the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., .are displayed in Table 2 of the EP article. Thee scores range from a high of 13.57 for Mississippi to a low of -9.89 for Vermont.

Definition of Income Inequality

The Gini Coefficient is the measure of income inequality used in this study. The Gini Coefficient utilizes household income as units of analysis. Its values range from 0, which is indicative of a situation where all income is shared equally among all households, to 1, where all of the income is held by one or a very few households. Obviously, these are theoretical extremes that could never exist in reality. In 2010 the Gini Coefficient for the U.S. was .469, and ranged from a high of .532 for Washington, D.C., to a low of .419 for Utah. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_Gini_coefficient.

Finding of Previous Research

In general, previous research has revealed an inverse relationship between religiosity and suicide; namely, the higher the religiosity, the lower the suicide rate. For example, in their article, “Religiosity and Attitudes toward Suicide,” published in OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying (December, 1992), George Domino and Karen Miller write in the article’s abstract that:

            “The relationship between religiosity and attitudes toward suicide was assessed

              in a sample of 186 Christian adults, most affiliated with churches or church-related

             organizations. A significant correlational pattern was obtained, such that persons

             higher on religiosity tended  to perceive suicide as reflective of mental illness,

             as less of a cry for help, as not being an individual’s prerogative, as highly related to\

             a lack of religious influence, as ‘abnormal” behavior, as evidence of the aggressiveness

             of human nature, and as a moral evil not to be condoned.”

Other studies point to the importance of the economy in having effects on suicide rates. Indeed, a number of studies have reported on the effects of income inequality, as measured by the Gini Coefficient, and suicide rates. For example, J.W. Lynch, G.A. Kaplan, et.al., in the abstract of their article, “Income Inequality and mortality in metropolitan areas of the United States,” write that “… income inequality was associated with increased mortality due to cancer, diabetes, [and several other leading causes of death, including suicide].”

Comparable findings have been reported for other countries. For example, in “Income inequality and the suicide rate in Japan: Evidence from co-integration and LA-VAR,” Kazuyuki Inagaki writes “… the fluctuations in Japan’s suicide rate are partially explained by income inequality.”

Findings of this Study

An Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) multiple regression analysis, involving high religiosity (HIGHREL) and income inequality (GINI) as independent variables, with the suicide rate (SIOURCE) as the dependent variable was performed, the results of which are displayed in Table 1.

The correlation coefficients between the two independent variables with the dependent variable are ─..368 and ,045. The explained variation, R2, is .122. Therefore, contrary to several previous studies, we have found that there is no relationship between high religiosity and the suicide rate. The highly religious are as likely to commit suicide as their non-religious counterparts. Also, in contradistinction to previous studies, higher levels of income inequality are related to lower suicide rates. This finding is actually consistent with Durkheim’s theory in that income inequality, like the Catholic Church, is hierarchically organized, has a recognizable set of “rites and rituals” and constitutes a form of social integration.

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Table 1: Ordinary Least Squares (0LS) regression of suicide rates (SUICIDE) on high religiosity (HIGHREL) and income inequality (GINI)

____________________________________________________________________________

      r

    Beta

       B

    s.e.b.

      t

      p

GINI

  ─.368

     ─.408

 ─60.020

  20.198

─2.972

   .005

HIGHREL

     

 .045

       .152

     0.108

       .097

   1.109

   .273

Intercept

       ꓸ000                   

   39.714

     9.100

  4.364

   .000

SIOURCE

       DF

     SS

     MS

       F

 Prob.>F

Regression

2

     92.402

   46.021

    4.474

   .0165

Residual

        48

   493.727

  10.286

Total

       50

   585.768

R2 = .1571,  F = 4.47,    D..F. = 2  48,   Prob.> F = 0ꓸ0165

Adjusted\ R2 = .1220

Standard Error of Estimate = 3.21

 

______________________________________________________________________________

           

The correlation coefficient of ─.368 represents a moderately strong inverse relationship of the Gini Coefficient with the suicide rate, the r of .045 demonstrates no relationship of high religiosity with the suicide rate, and the Adjusted R2 (amount of explained variation) of only .1220  (12.2%) suggests the need for substantially more research on this subject.

 

 

                        A SHORT HISTORY OF MONOPOLY AND MERGERS

 

Historically the intent of antitrust was to disperse economic monopolies so that their power did not harm the needs of the general public. The basic difference in legal attitude toward the monopolies of yesterday and the business consolidations of today seems contradictory at best. Government action was needed to prevent old-style monopolies from harming the general welfare of the public but modern consolidations are pictured as needing more relaxed laws for efficiency in delivering their goods and services to the consumer.

 

The first statute to be passed regarding monopolies was the Sherman Act in 1890 under the presidency of Benjamin Harrison. Congress claimed power to pass such a law because of its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. The act was a preventative to keep companies from raising prices by choking off of the supply of a specific commodity or service. But later it was used to control monopolies that discouraged competition in the market place.

 

Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in using the Department of Justice to seek out these activities. He was successful in breaking up the Rockefeller family’s Standard Oil Company, a monopoly that controlled nearly every aspect of the oil market causing countless smaller businesses in the production, refining, transportation, and sale of oil to either go bankrupt or come under its control. The Clayton Antitrust Act in1914 put more muscle into the Sherman Act by banning mergers, acquisitions and exclusive business agreements. Lastly, the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 banned the use of price discrimination against competitors.

 

During the early 1930s the National Industrial Recovery Act was passed. The intention of this law was to encourage both manufacturing and fair labor practices, but it generated an unwieldy number of regulations. There were at least 4000 prohibitions against certain business practices in the two years of the law’s existence. No one knows exactly why the regulation did not work but historians put the blame equally on business, unions, and the administration. It was finally declared unconstitutional in 1935 due to the obvious overregulation by the administrative branch of the federal government. 

 

President Franklin Roosevelt then appointed Thurman Arnold as head of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice. The DOJ became instrumental in targeting those businesses with the worst predatory conduct and anti-competitive schemes. It is interesting to note that no specific general law was needed to create a more equally competitive market place, only direct attention to those areas where a handful of corporations controlled an excessive amount of power. No one knows whether this plan of action was truly successful because the advent of World War II drastically changed the economic picture for both business and labor.

 

In the 1970s attitudes changed toward antitrust such that the use of the term “monopoly” was mostly used to describe large businesses that existed before WWII. Part of the reason for this may have been the realization that America was becoming dependent on other countries for certain products, especially oil; and that markets were entering a global phase. Attention turned away from protecting the welfare of citizens to emphasizing the welfare of consumers instead. The old concept, where, in the words of William Douglas, “the concentration in private hands of power (would be) so great that only a government of the people should have it” was abandoned.

 

Political policy changes began in the 1980s. These loosened previous laws lowering the bar against antitrust violation and allowing the mergers and acquisitions we see today. Consolidation and integration became the modern terms for the kinds of business activities originally called monopolies. The two terms are identical but the modern version can occur in two different ways. Horizontal consolidation/integration happens when a company merges with another company that is a provider of a closely related product. An example of this was when Volkswagon acquired Porsche in 2012. Vertical consolidation/integration happens when a company buys a business that is involved in a facet of its production. An example of this would be when a car manufacturer buys a tire manufacturer to exclusively supply tires for its manufacturing; or when the same manufacturer buys dealerships to sell its cars.

 

To be sure, there is much to say for the efficient running of a business and consolidation can be an asset in getting quality goods and services at a reasonable price to the consumer. But economists are beginning to see a “bad side” to these business techniques.

 

First, continuous merging can tempt companies to adopt a permanent policy of predatory pricing. The ability of being able to produce larger quantities of goods can allow a merged company to consistently underprice any competitor. This destroys smaller businesses and discourages people from forming new companies of the same genre. Secret arrangements between the merged company and other businesses can subtly squeeze out competitors, as well. An example of this is the fact that large manufacturers of foods can arrange deals with supermarkets for premium shelf space leaving less eye catching space for small competitors. No matter how good a product may be, if people don’t see it they don’t buy it.

 

Everyone is familiar with the layoffs that follow many mergers. Those who are let go may have trouble getting employment yielding a comparative salary to that in their old job. Those who stay usually want to hang on to the job they already have rather than move to another section of the country with better opportunities. In both cases there is a loss in remuneration. Many people who have been fired find new jobs at lower pay and people who haven’t been fired hesitate to ask for more money. These circumstances describe the term “wage stagnation” quite well.

 

Also, patents can be used by large companies to shut out new growth by rivals for many years and conversely, these same companies can refuse investment in new ideas slowing down the progress of a new technology. Monsanto achieved the former by buying up competitor’s patents as well as its competitors. Horizontal consolidation should be revisited here, too, because a large corporation can incorporate smaller companies selling the same products and then compete with “itself” by underpricing or running specials that are detrimental to these same smaller businesses. Amazon umbrellas various booksellers but underprices them with specials. 

 

Whether it is monopoly, consolidation, or integration the activity contributes to a lack of healthy competition between businesses and a lack of employment or lower wages for consumers. Congress is not without power to tighten control over the anti-competitive behavior of some large corporations. A law already exists for this provision for under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. This use of the law was successful in bringing Standard Oil, AT&T, and Alcoa under control in the past. Even if the prosecutions are not entirely successful as in a recent case against Microsoft, they call attention to the abuse of consumers and laborers because of the lack of honestly competitive capitalism. Changing laws to make it easier for plaintiffs to seek reparation from those who abuse the anti-trust laws would also help the situation. The burden of proof of a complaint is laid too heavily on the defendant and the price and time consumed by the lawsuit discourages action before it has even begun.

 

Last year Elizabeth Warren gave a speech at a senate judiciary committee meeting on this very subject. In her speech she stated that excessive consolidation and the resulting focus of power threaten both a balanced competitive economy and an efficient democratic political structure. We should remember this is a country of people, not commodities and that a modern democracy should be implemented responsibly by the legislative and administrative divisions of government to provide opportunity for both sides of the economic equation.                      JB

 

http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/42/new-tools-to-promote-competition/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Industrial_Recovery_Act

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_Antitrust_Act

 

  

A copy of a letter sent in December to those members of Piedmont Humanists who are also members of the national American Humanist Association appears below.

 

  

<![if !vml]>https://secure.americanhumanist.org/image/email-images/Logo-GWOAG.png<![endif]>

Dear member,

I wanted to be the first to share with you the big news: Just an hour ago, President Obama signed the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act into law. It is the first law in history to recognize “non-theists” and protect our community from discrimination.

This is a tremendous recognition of the humanist movement—we’re here, we’re standing strong, and we will fight to protect our values.

This new law strengthens the government’s work to promote international religious freedom and states, “The freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is understood to protect theistic and non-theistic beliefs as well as the right not to profess or practice any religion.”

The law also condemns “specific targeting of non-theists, humanists, and atheists because of their beliefs” and all attempts to forcibly compel “non-believers or non-theists to recant their beliefs or to convert.”

Celebrate with us, and share this historic achievement proudly with your friends and family. Post it on Facebook. Tweet about it. Take a selfie and show that you are proud to be a humanist. And please—donate generously to help make more of these legislative victories possible.

Together, we made history. Thank you

 

 

Paraprosdokians


Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase
is surprising or unexpected and is frequently humorous.
(Winston Churchill loved them).

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you … but it’s still on my
list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright
until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up — we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in
a fruit salad.
8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
research.
9. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
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Voice of Sanity – December 2016

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voiceofreason@piedmonthumanists.org  

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

December 2016

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

 

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

 

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                                      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!

 

References:

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.

 

Reference:

 

                 THREE LESSONS IN A FIVE MINUTE MANAGEMENT COURSE

                                      (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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Voice of Sanity – November 2016

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voiceofreason@piedmonthumanists.org  

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

November 2016

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

 

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.

Reference:

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

———————————————————————————————————————

                                                                                                                                                            

              

                WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN SECULAR AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS

 

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.

 

http://thehumanist.com/features/interviews/arent-women-secular-community

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

4/2/16, page A5.

 

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              INTERESTING HISTORY WILL BE MADE THIS NOVEMBER

 

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.)

 

Voice of Sanity – October 2016

 

 

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

voiceofsanity@piedmonthumanists.org  

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

October 2016

 

The Voice of Sanity

THE NEWSLETTER OF THE PIEDMONT HUMANISTS

                 Visit our web-site for current issues at:

                         www.piedmonthumanists.org

                          

 

 

                                                     CALENDAR

                            http://www.meetup.com/piedmont-SC-Humanists/

                                             www.piedmonthumanists.org

 

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, October 2nd  

10:00AM:    Meet and greet

11:00AM:    General discussion

Sunday, Octover 9th 

10:00AM:    Meet and Greet

11:00AM:    General discussion

Sunday, October 16th   

10:00AM:    Being new to humanism and how to transition

11:00AM:    General discussion

Sunday, October 23rd  

10:00AM: Meet and Greet

11:00AM: General discussion

Sunday, October 30th  

10:00AM: Meet and Greet

11:00AM: General discussion

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: The new location for the Freethought group will be Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607. Meetings for trivia and pool will be at 7:00PM on October 13th and 27th.

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM October 6th and 20th (Thursday) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

October 8th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10:00AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609

 

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RELIGION AND SUICIDE*

By

Richard G. Dumont, Ph.D.

There is but one truly philosophical problem, and that is suicide.                                                   Albert Camus

Introduction

Since suicide is so obviously an individual act, it is not surprising that most explanations for it have been individualistic, be they theological, philosophical, psychiatric or psychological. In contrast, sociologists tend to focus on groups as units of analysis, from small groups of two or three people through communities, such as cities, counties, regions and nation states. Regarding such phenomena as suicide, sociologists are inclined to calculate suicide rates for the ecological units of interest. A suicide rate is generally calculated as the number of suicides per 100,000 population.  In 2013, for example, the suicide rate for the United States was 10.3, with 5.5 for females and 12.6 for males. The U.S. ranked 30 out of 109 nations. At rank 1 was Greenland, with its rate of 83.0 (43.0 for females and 116.9 for males). The five countries with the lowest rates were Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti, and Nepal, each of which had rates of 0.0. (Source: World Health Organization. Available online at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_coutries_by_suiocide_rate ). Among the U.S. States, suicide rates ranged from a highs of 29.6 for Wyoming, 23.0 for Alaska, 22.6 for Montana, 21.3 for New Mexico, and 21.0 for Utah to lows of 9.5 for Rhode Island, 8.7 for Massachusetts, 8.3 for New York, 7.4 for New Jersey and 5.7 for Washington, D.C. (Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available online at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhlml/mm6345a10.htm.

 

French sociologist Ếmile Durkheim published his Le Suicide in 1897. In that work, which is considered a classic in Western sociology, Durkheim identified four types of suicide. Egoistic suicide results from feelings of not belonging, of not being integrated into a group or community, such feelings involving meaninglessness, apathy, despair, or depression. As will be observed below, egoistic suicide is the research subject of the current study. Altruistic suicide is, in many ways, the opposite of egoistic suicide, namely, when individuals are dominated by group goals and beliefs. Japanese Kamikaze pilots of World War II provide a vivid example.

Anomic suicide is related to rapid and dramatic changers and upheavals in the society and/or economy. Images of individuals jumping from skyscrapers during the time of the stock market crash and Great Depression of the early Twentieth Century come to mind. Fatalistic suicide is the opposite of anomic suicide. It occurs when an individual is overregulated, subject to oppressive rules, regulations and discipline. The 1978 mass suicide at Jonestown provides a dramatic example from recent history. On November 18, 1978, Peoples Temple founder Jim Jones led hundreds of his followers in a mass suicide by drinking a punch poisoned with cyanide.

 

A number of reviews of Durkheim’s research on suicide have been written since its publication, some negative, some positive and some, more or less, neutral.

 

Durkheim has been accused of committing the ecological fallacy,, which occurs when one incorrectly infers the value of data at the individual level from the ecological unit of analysis.  For example, just because German provinces having higher percentages of Protestants had higher suicide rates, it does not necessarily follow empirically that Protestant are the ones actually disproportionately committing suicide.  Although highly unlikely, it could be that it is actually the Catholics who are suicidal. (See the following sources, for example: Freeman, David A. 2002 The Ecological Fallacy University of California. http://www.stat.berkeley.edu/-cernsus/ecofall.txt; H. C. Selvin. 1965. “Durkheim’s Suicide: Further Thoughts on a Methodological  Classic”, in R.A. Nisbet (ed.)  Ểmile Durkheim pp. 113-136; and Irzik, Gurol and Eric Meyer, “Causal Modeling: New Directions for Statistical Explanation”, Philosophy of Science, Vol. 54, No. 4 (Dec., 1987), p. 509.

                                                                                                                   

Another criticism of Durkheim’s work has been advanced by Frans Van Poppel and Lincolin H.  Day, who argue that the differences  in suicide rates are due to the differences in how deaths were categorized by the two groups. Specifically, deaths by suicide would be more likely to be recorded as suicides by Protestants  than  by Catholics. Source: Van Poppel, Frans, and Lincolin H. Day, “A Test of Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide—Without Committing the Ecological Fallacy”, American Sociological Review, Vol. 61, No. 3 (Jun., 1996), p 500.

 

Other reviewers, such as Inkels, Johnson, Gibbs and Martin, and Berk, have written in support  of Durkheim’s methodology. For example, Bernard Berk has written that Durkheim “intended his theory to explain variation among social environments in the incidence of suicide, not the suicides of particular individuals.” Source: Berk, Bernard B. “Macro-Micro Relationships in Durkheim’s Analysis of Egoistic Suicide”, Sociological Theory, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar., 2006), p.60. See, also, Inkeles, A. 1959. “Personality and Social Structure,” pp. 249-276 in Sociology Today, edited by R.K. Merton, L. Broom, and L.S. Cottrell, New York: Basic Books; Johnson, B.D.  1965 “Durkheim’s One Cause of Suicide,” American Sociological Review, 30:875-886; and Gibbs, J.P. and W.T. Martin, 1958, “A Theory of Status Integration and Its Relationship to Suicide,” American Sociological Review, 23: 14-147.

 

Purpose

 

Durkheim calculated and compared the suicide rates of Protestants and Catholics for a number of German provinces. In each instance, he found that provinces having higher percentages of Protestants had higher rates of suicide than those having higher percentages of Catholics. By way of explanation, Durkheim invoked the concept of social integration. Due to its hierarchical form of organization, obligatory church attendance and numerous attendant rites and rituals, the Catholic Church bound its members to the church and to one another than was the case for Protestants, who were more egalitarian and had fewer rites and rituals. Accordingly, Protestants were more likely to be victims of egoistic suicide.

The purpose of the current study is to replicate Durkheim’s analysis, utilizing the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as the units of analysis. Additionally, our analyses will distinguish between Evangelical and Mainline Protestants along with the Unaffiliated. Furthermore, we will consider Historically Black Churches. Data for this study derive from the same base utilized for the writing of my two recently published books, Economic Inequality and What YOU Can Do About It (2012) and When Hate Happens, So Does Other Bad Stuff (2013). The data on religious affiliation come from the Pew Forum on Public Life 2009. U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Available online at: http://religiomn.pewforum.org/reports and at http://religions.pewforum.org/maps.

 

The specific source for suicide rates is the Mental Health Association of America,” State Rankings on Suicide Rates” (2008). Available online at:http://www.nmha.org/go/state=ranking.

 

Findings

 

Table 1 displays the principal findings of this study.

 

Table 1: Correlational Relationships between Religious Affiliation and Suicide Rates.

 

 

                                                      Interpretation

 

 

Evangelical Protestants     .252     The higher the percentage of Evangelical Protestants

                                                       the higher the suicide rate.

 

Mainline Protestants         .118     The higher the percentage of Mainline Protestants

                                                        the higher the suicide rate.

 

Catholics                           -.415*    The higher the percentage of Catholics

                                                         the lower the suicide rate.

 

Unaffiliated                         .244     The higher the percentage of Unaffiliated

                                                         the higher the suicide rate.

 

Historically Black              -.342*    The higher the percentage of members of Historically Black             

                                                          Churches the lower the suicide rate.

 

 

 

* Statistically significant at p = .05

 

Although not all of the above findings are statistically significant, they are uniformly consistent

With Durkheim’s original theory and are, thereby, supportive of it.

 

Concliusion

 

We have examined the relationships between several religion variables and the suicide rate, guided by Durkheim’s theory of suicide. The relationships of suicide rates between Evangelical Protestants, Mainline Protestants and the Unaffiliated were in the predicted positive direction, although none were statistically significant. Regarding the relationships between suicide rates and the percent of Catholics and the percent of members in Historically Black Churches, however, Durkheim’s theory was more strongly confirmed and supported. It  may be hypothesized that members of Historically Black Churches, because of a history of discrimination and oppression against African-Americans, are bound more closely to one another and to their churches than would otherwise be the case.

 

*This article appears on pages 40-41 of the October/November, 2016, of Free Inquiry.

It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

 

 

                                           THINKING ABOUT THINKING

 

Philosophers and scientists have been arguing for centuries about: 1) Whether our consciousness is distinct from the brain and can therefore somehow operate as a separate entity or: 2) That if consciousness is connected to the brain it must be the commander of all actions allowing us to be masters of our fates. During the last fifty years neurological experimentation and improved technology have been inching closer and closer to a definitive answer to these questions. In his short but brilliant book Consciousness, Christof Koch shows us how science is slowly untangling the tantalizing evasiveness of how the mind arises from the physical brain. Here are some studies that reveal that we truly have our physical make-up to thank for our intellect.

 

There have been a lot of experiments done with sleep disorders. One in particular was done to examine the activity of the primary visual cortex. This is located in the posterior area of the brain and is the first area to process input from the eyes. Those conducting the experiment assumed that since volunteers claimed seeing different scenes in their dreams there should be activity in this area during the REM phase of sleep. Surprisingly the area was inhibited instead. Further investigation showed that other primary sensory areas such as hearing were also suppressed. But this is not the case in people who have suffered massive brain damage and are in a vegetative state. These primary sensors still do function by themselves. It seems that the critical difference between people that are permanently unconscious and those that regain some consciousness is the ability of the latter to retain connection and feedback between all the sensory, memory, motor areas of the brain and the prefrontal cortex.

 

There is another side to the coin because it is possible, although rare, that a person can be conscious and yet have brain damage that will not allow them to communicate with the outside world. Such a case was a woman who had severe head trauma from an automobile accident and gave no visible response to attempts at communication. She was placed in an MRI scanner and told to imagine playing tennis and walking about in her home. The scanner picked up the kind of brain activity identical to healthy people who closed their eyes and imagined the same kind of activities. Steven Hawking, although suffering severe handicaps from amylotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), lives in a fully conscious world.

 

Another experiment was done with what neuro-scientists call concept cells. These are groups of neurons that form an idea of a particular object. Every time you talk about, experience or think about a particular person or thing there is a pattern of spikes in the area of the brain where the concept neurons fitting that experience are located. It is possible to hook up these concept cells to a visual display that shows a person’s thoughts. This was done when pictures of a volunteer’s two favorite actors were projected on a monitor and electronically hooked up to the particular concept cells for each image in her brain (a feat it took three years to make workable). When the patient thought of one of the actors instead of the other the image of that actor became more dominant on the monitor. When she shifted her attention to the other actor, that image then took precedence.

 

The corpus callosum comprises the brain tissue that connects the left and right hemispheres. This area can be cut in epileptics so that seizures cannot spread from one hemisphere of the brain to another. After surgery these patients lead remarkably normal lives, but there are unexpected aftermaths. One odd result is called alien hand syndrome. People sometimes lose control of one of their arms. It seems that the unconscious motor region on one side of the brain is cut off from the cortical conscious area on the other side and the individual experiences the odd sensation of seeing their arm move without any previous awareness of the action.

 

This brings to mind a series of experiments performed in the 1980s by neurologist Benjamin Libet. He measured the time in milliseconds between the action of muscles flexing and the actual conscious decision to move one’s finger. The flexing began about 300 milliseconds before the decision was made. The series of experiments became fodder in the arguments for and against free will. However, motor movements are only a small part of the daily activities our unconscious mind performs leaving us free to “think” of other things which brings us to the subject of zombie agents.

 

Zombie agents are all the hard won actions we have consciously put together in the past but now completely ignore when we perform them. None of us have to patiently tease out the shapes of the letters and their attendant sounds in order to extract meaning from the words on this page. That technique was mastered in our early elementary school years. Our unconscious automatically does the physical ground work allowing us to efficiently absorb meaning from sentences and paragraphs. The same is true for hitting a tennis ball, playing a musical instrument or driving a car. Ironically, once the processes are mastered and given over to other areas of the brain, any conscious attention given to them can disrupt a skilled performance. 

 

There are social zombie agents, too. These are better known as unconscious biases and can be triggered by simply repeating a series of related words. One of a number of tests was used by John Bargh at Yale University to influence the behavior of test subjects by using such words. The words in this test were old, lonely, retired, forgetful, wrinkled among others and they were used in a task for members of one group to use as they made up sentences. The words were eliminated from the list given to members of the control group. He then timed how long it would take for the experimental and control groups to walk from the classroom to the elevator. All members of the experimental group walked more slowly to the elevator than those of the control group. Similar behaviors were stimulated with other groups of words suggesting biases.

 

Some patients with serious brain injury have undergone trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to determine how much their consciousness may be damaged. TMS pulses are applied to through the skin to the frontal lobes and immediate adjacent areas. These pulses produce a wavelike flow of about 40 cycles per second and will extend from the points of stimulation to more remote areas of the brain if consciousness is present. When used on vegetative patients the EEG responses from the stimulation are confined to local responses and no “wave” of activity is observed. However, some patients are in what is called a minimal conscious state. That is, a condition where the usual cognitive signs are poor such as the ability to follow movement with the eyes or make verbal or hand gestures to questions. These patients, however, still yield an EEG reading with a wave of activity identical to a normal waking state.

 

So, what is the case for the mind being connected to the brain? We know that people with extensive brain damage can be either vegetative or conscious depending on where the damage is. As far as conscious control of our actions is concerned the answer may be yes or no depending on the situation. It was definitely yes for the lady who could mentally switch images on a monitor in the concept neuron experiment. For epileptics who had the corpus callosum severed it was a little of both. They had better control of their lives unless alien hand syndrome occurred. In the Libet experiment it was definitely no because the conscious was the last to know the finger was getting ready to move. Zombie agents featured yes and no. Our conscious minds are necessary for the concentration required while learning a new behavior, but as soon as the behavior is accomplished it is relegated to the unconscious allowing the mind to attend to other tasks. Social zombie agents apparently follow the same pattern.

 

The TMS experiments seem closest to teasing out the working conscious from the unconscious. The EEGs of vegetative and minimal conscious patients clearly shows that activity flashing across different areas of the brain is a prerequisite for cognition. Christof Koch believes that at a certain point the “wholeness” of our awareness becomes more than the sum of its parts. With nearly 100 billion cells and an exponential amount of connections in the brain the answer to the question of the “whole” is probably still a long way off.                   JB

 

Reference:

Consciousness, Christof Koch, 2012, MIT Press https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_hand_syndrome

http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/libet_experiments.html

 

______________________________________________________________________________

 

                  ONE TEENAGER AND SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

 

Cindy Fisk is only a teenager but has had the courage to speak out about constitutional violations of separation of church and state in her high school in Colorado. She says she got confidence from participation in her local debate team. Here are some of the things she has done:

 

Recently Amendment 67 appeared on the Colorado state ballot. The amendment was known as the “personhood” ballot. It was supposedly put forth because of an incident where a drunk driver struck a woman in her last trimester of pregnancy and caused her to lose her baby.  Although well intentioned, the wording of the proposed amendment makes the killing of any fetus a legal homicide and also puts the mother at risk from prosecution. Ms. Fisk wore a garbage bag to a Halloween party as a statement against the legislation. Her comment was that the amendment was “garbage”.

 

She also came out for the right of such organizations as the Freedom from Religion Foundation and similar groups to distribute their pamphlets in the local school district. Her argument was that the Gideons had already been allowed by the school administration to distribute their bibles.

 

She objected to a presentation by a faith-based sex education teacher at the high school, as well. This instructor told students that pre-marital sex took them further from God. Crucifixes were displayed on the presentation slides and there were improper comments about female anatomy. Fisk and some fellow students wore T-shirts printed with mottoes such as “Real control is birth control” when they attended these presentations. This particular sex education program was funded by an outside organization well known for proselytizing.

 

She received lowered grades for the above activities from her government teacher who considered her habit of questioning authority objectionable. She also received threats. One threat suggested that the “atheist” leave school in a body bag. Her father filed a police report but nothing was ever done.

 

Cindy Fisk is now in college and although she knows she was punished for standing up for separated of church and state she has no regrets for what she did. 

 

Reference: http://thehumanist.com/magazine/september-october-2016/features/completely-okay-secular-interview-teen-atheist-activist-cidney-fisk

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Last laugh:

Upon waking, a woman said to her husband, “I just dreamt that you gave me a necklace of pearls. What do you think it means?”

The man smiled and kissed his wife. “You’ll know tonight,” he softly whispered.

That evening, the man came home with a small package which he gave to his wife. She jumped up and embraced him, and then settled on the couch to slowly and delicately unwrap the package.

It contained a book entitled, The Meaning of Dreams.