Voice of Reason– January 2018

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year
Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:
Email:
joycebates@piedmonthumanists.org

Regular mail:
Piedmont Humanists
3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135
Greenville, SC. 29615

January 2018

 The Voice of Reason

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/piedmonthumanists/

Sunday meeting: 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 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th.

ATTENTION: our meeting room at Earth Fare will be closed for remodeling after the January 28th meeting until the beginning of June.

BUT: We will have a temporary weekly meeting place beginning Sunday February 4th at 11AM
At the Greenville Ballet School, 105 Woodruff Industrial Lane

Woodruff Industrial Lane runs between the Target and Academy Sports on Woodruff Road. There is a traffic light at the Woodruff intersection. The Ballet School is a little way down the lane on the left


                                                                           LIFE ON EARTH AND ELSEWHERE

Most of us have come to the conclusion that life hasn’t appeared magically out of nothing, but that certain conditions through some process must have led to its initiation. Also, we cannot be completely sure that what we experience here on earth is the only kind of life in the universe. Perhaps there are living things on planets revolving around the sun and other stars that are based on a completely different set of circumstances. We could be alone in the universe, but most of those working in space exploration include a serious search for life on other worlds.

First let’s consider what has been proven necessary for the existence of life on this planet. Most scientists agree there is a “Goldilocks Zone” that is just right for subsistence. The technical term for this area is the Circumstellar Habitable Zone and it applies not only to Earth but to any planet revolving around any star in the universe. It is the “just right” distance from a star where the temperature will maintain water in a liquid state- neither too hot nor too cold. Water, in a place too close to the sun would boil away, too far and it would freeze. The major portion of life on earth or anywhere in the universe as far as we know, needs water in liquid form for its existence.

This is not the only requirement. Other substances are necessary and carbon is one of them. Carbon is an important element because it combines easily with common hydrogen to form hydrocarbons. These are fundamental components of life and are not only plentiful on earth but in the universe, as well. We find them in sugar, bread, plants, animals, moons, meteors, and comets. The Murchison meteor that fell in Victoria Province, Australia in1969 contained amino acids and nucleobases. Both are the hydrocarbons found in DNA and RNA

An insulating atmosphere helps life by keeping water liquid. Additionally it generates an ozone layer which keeps out lethal ultraviolet light, and maintains a balanced greenhouse effect. Our four and a half billion year old world has displayed long-term stability through a process called the carbon cycle. Because of movements by plate tectonics, carbon dioxide is pumped up into the atmosphere by volcanoes and hydrothermal vents. On Earth this carbon over eons of time has been removed by chemical weathering where it has combined with rocks and eventually been returned to the hot interior of the planet by subduction occurring in ocean trenches and other areas where the plates have been forced downward. This is repeated over and over again. If the Earth gets too hot, the weathering increases and excess CO2 is chemically captured into rocks at a faster rate and over a very long period of time cooling will commence. The cycle is a natural balance between the processes of weathering, volcanism, and plate movement. Geologic history and the ice ages tell us it’s not without dramatic changes.

The atmospheric functions described above would be a waste of time if there were no magnetic field surrounding the planet. Without it the atmosphere would be blown away by the force of solar winds and life would die from exposure to radiation. This is why Mars and other planets in our solar system are not conducive to life as we know it.

There are two remaining ingredients required for the onset of familiar life. One is the existence of a rocky environment, mostly of silica instead of metal or gas. The other is a source of energy either solar or from chemical reactions within the planet itself. The earth is capable of both using solar energy and generating planetary energy through volcanism.

The mention of chemical reactions brings us to the subject of the toughness of life and the kinds of organisms located where most plants and animals cannot exist. They are called analogs because they can at least tolerate and could possibly thrive in some extreme environments existing on other worlds.

There is a river in southwest Spain called the Rio Tinto that is one of these extreme environments. It has a pH of 2.3 the same as lemon juice and this acidity has been created by the organisms that live in it. They are call chemoautotrophic bacteria because they exclusively use chemical reactions to create their own food so they don’t have to rely on other forms of life to maintain their existence.

Lake Vostok in Antarctica hosts another kind of analog. The lake is understandably inhospitable to life. Its temperature is a constant 28.4 degrees F but the water remains liquid because the ice above maintains pressure at 400 atmospheres. Volcanic vents at the bottom of the lake cause the water to circulate slowly. This allows it to pick up oxygen, nitrogen from the ice above, and minerals from the rocks below. The same microorganisms located near these vents have also been detected in hot springs in Japan. They use arsenic and sulfur as a source of energy rather than oxygen.

Although temperatures at the bottom of the lake are necessary for the above mentioned forms of life, they are in the minority. Most of the lake’s organisms are psychrophiles, that is, they are able to live in extreme cold. They possess enzymes that prevent freezing and can live in ice at temperatures as low as five degrees F. Other organisms are tolerant of salt as well as ice. They inhabit the saltier areas of the lake. The cells of these forms of life must balance the amount of water between their interiors and the outside environment. If there is too much salt in the outside environment they will absorb it uncontrollably, burst, and die.  The Lake Vostok organisms have developed various strategies to increase saltier solutions within their cells to maintain this balance.

The organisms at the opposite end of the spectrum are hyperthermophiles. These are creatures that can reach their best stage of growth at temperatures exceeding 176 degrees F.  One that is particularly efficient can survive at 248 degrees F. Because oxygen can no longer be absorbed into living cells at these temperatures most of the organisms live without it and metabolize by using iron, sulfur, or  nitrogen. All anaerobic (meaning without oxygen) microorganisms are not hyperthermophiles. E.coli a bacterium that lives in our gut and helps digest our food is also anaerobic. Bacteria that metabolize without oxygen are used in wastewater treatment facilities, too. Here they reduce the amount of nitrogen in water until it becomes safe enough to release into the environment.

Lastly, there are organisms that can live inside decommissioned nuclear power stations and in other radioactive facilities. The first member of this group was discovered in 1956 at an Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station during tests to see whether gamma radiation could sterilize food. The experiment failed when a can of meat spoiled after the tests and the bacterium responsible was isolated. This bacterium and its radiation tolerant relatives have the uncanny ability to repair their DNA within 12 to 24 hours of exposure. They do this by keeping multiple copies within their cells and this gives them the ability run on one DNA strand while they are repairing another. A specific species of this group has been genetically engineered to digest solvents and heavy metals at highly radioactive sites.

The above kinds of life exist in places we do not dare to go without sophisticated forms of protection or are in places we cannot go at all. They are the forms of life we should expect to see on other worlds. Below is a list of candidates that might support life within our solar system.

Mars: Mars is cold and doesn’t have much of an atmosphere or magnetic field but it is possible that the extremophiles described above could exist below its surface at its north pole. This is where the rover Curiosity has detected ice. Curiosity has also detected methane on Mars a possible hint that there is life but not a certainty.

Europa: This is a moon of Jupiter has an ice rind 62 miles deep below which is a super salty ocean. If life is there it could resemble life in Lake Vostok.

Titan: It is a moon of Saturn. It has a nitrogen atmosphere, clouds, and precipitation. Sunlight and electrons from Saturn’s magnetic field react with Titan’s atmosphere to produce the chemistry which forms organic compounds. Titan’s temperature, however, is -290 degrees Fahrenheit and its methane and ethane are liquids instead of gases.

Enceladus: This is another moon of Saturn, much smaller that Titan and equally cold. Recent flyby observations by Cassini have revealed cryo-volcanoes at the South Pole shooting geysers of water vapor and other materials into space. These plumes are similar in composition to that of comets. There is a subsurface ocean of liquid water below the pole about six miles in depth. Enceladus could be warm enough here to form life.

Comets: They contain molecules that form the sugars and amino acids with which we are familiar. They also have water vapor and carbon dioxide with smaller amounts of the hydrocarbons described at the beginning of this article. These compounds are all necessary for the familiar forms of life on Earth.

Reference:

Goldilocks and the Water Bears, Louisa Preston, 2016, Bloomsbury

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/rio-tinto

https://www.livescience.com/38652-what-is-lake-vostok.html

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/CarbonCycle/carbon_cycle2001.pdf


                                     SOURCES OF THE GOLDEN RULE

The commentary below was ignited because of an article by a well-known columnist that appeared in the Greenville News a few weeks ago. It featured the problem of sexual misconduct and criticized a resolution introduced in Congress requiring House members, employees, etc, complete an anti-harassment course. The writer of this column also suggested that we should, with “caution” indulge in the supposition that “morality can be managed without religion”. Statements such as this are always a source of consternation for any non-believer including myself. Thus enraged I decided to see how the ubiquitous Golden Rule fared in historical writings, since it was general enough to include sexual harassment. Here is what I found:

Circa 2000 BCE “Do for one who may do for you, That you may cause him thus to do.”

This is found in the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant appearing in hieroglyphics during the Middle Kingdom of Ancient Egypt (2040-1782 BCE). The story itself is based on a peasant’s speeches about fairness for the whole of society and his demand for restitution because he has been beaten and robbed. In the end justice prevails and he is awarded the property of the perpetrator. Circa 700 BCE “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.”

This is one of many quotes from the Hebrew Bible.

Circa 500BC-1000AD, two quotes: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself”.  (Dadistan-i-Dinik) .
“Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” – (Shayast-na-Shayast)

These are both from the Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism.

Circa 500 BCE “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” – (Udana-Varga 5:18, Buddhism)

-and below a translation of a Buddhist text from about the same time that emphasizes the psychological trait of contemplating the thoughts of another person:

“The Ariyan disciple thus reflects, here am I, fond of my life, not wanting to die, fond of pleasure and averse from pain. Suppose someone should rob me of my life…it would not be a thing pleasing and delightful to me. If I, in my turn, should rob of his life one fond of his life, not wanting to die, one fond of pleasure and averse to pain, it would not be a thing pleasing or delightful to him. For a state that is not pleasant or delightful to me must be to him also; and a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?”

Circa 500 BCE: These are two quotes from the Analects of Confucius:

1) “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”

2) Zi gong, a disciple of Confucius asked “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?” The Master replied “How about ‘shu’ (reciprocity): never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.

In both examples we see not pure altruism but a gentle warning to think ahead about the ramification of abusing someone else. “What goes ‘round, comes ‘round” is a modern colloquialism in the same vein.

Circa 400 BCE: “Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others” This quote is usually attributed to Socrates. In another classical writing, though, Plato looks at the rule from a point of law about theft. Plato admits he would not like someone stealing or disturbing his property and, because he is a man of reason he would not treat another’s property in a like manner.

Circa 90 CE: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them likewise.” – Gospel of Luke 6:31, Christianity. This is the famous sermon where one is advised against retaliation for harm done by others, especially those in power. In another light it can be read as a stricture against revenge. Very similar words appear in Matthew 7:12.

Circa 600: Muhammad receives the Qur’an which instructs us to do good to all (4:36). There is another interesting directive appearing later in the Qur’an “Woe to those who cheat: they demand a fair measure from others but they do not give it themselves” (83:1-3). This quote addresses reciprocity again by criticizing cheaters and warning followers to censure them socially.

The texts of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are indeed religious. The Egyptian story appears to be more secular, although fairness to others was part of living a “harmonious” life and was represented as a goddess. The Buddhist texts are thought to be religious by many but there is no consideration of a god in Buddhism. Confucianism, like Buddhism is a philosophy and does not deal with a god. The writings of Plato are in the same category as the previous two. So, moral behavior is not dependent on religious belief.

Those who study human and other hominin communities that go back further in time than the written word, are now speculating that the concept of fair treatment to others could have occurred when the genus homo recognized the need for cooperation in order to survive in groups.

https://www.ancient.eu/article/1127/the-eloquent-peasant–egyptian-justice/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule#Confucianism

https://arstechnica.com/staff/2005/11/1940/

http://www.harryhiker.com/chronology.htm


Why teachers drink:

Name the four seasons:  salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar

How is dew formed?  The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Explain the process by which water is made safe to drink:

Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

What are steroids?  Things that keep carpet still on the stairs

How are the 20 parts of the body categorized (e.g. the abdomen)?

The body consists of 3 parts: the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the bowels AEIOU.

What happens when a boy reaches puberty?  He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultry.

What does varicose mean?  Nearby.

Voice of Sanity – October 2017

 

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

joycebates@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

October 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/

 

Sunday meeting: There is usually a talk, video, or general discussion from 11:00AM to 1:00PM

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville.

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

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

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10AM Sunday October 22nd.

Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM October 5th and 19th (Thursdays) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

The Free-thought 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 October 12th and 26th (also Thursdays).

 

October 14th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.  

 

                                   A BRIEF HISTORY OF NORTH KOREA

 

From 1910 to the end of World War II the Korean peninsula was under Japanese rule. During the 1930s the Japanese government industrialized the northern half of the peninsula leaving the rich land of the southern half to farming. They also occupied and industrialized Manchuria (now Northern China) also leaving the southern Chinese lands to agriculture. Many Koreans migrated over the border to work in Manchurian factories and remained in the area after the war. Today this part of Northern China contains a large Korean speaking population. 

 

During World War II the US Air Force continuously bombed North Korea and its Manchurian neighbor virtually destroying all of the industry. Eighty-five percent of the structures were gone and over a million people died by the time the armistice was signed with the Japanese. As a native Manchurian Kim Il-sung became a guerilla fighter against the Japanese during this time. Although, there was a Japanese bounty on his head he was nearly caught and executed by the Chinese in a purge to rid Manchuria of ethnic Koreans. Ethnic cleansing may not have been the only reason they wanted him captured because he had the habit of extorting supplies, conscripts, and money for his troops from the locals by blackmailing and kidnapping. The Soviet Union began supporting Kim Il-sung in 1941. They fed, housed, and educated him in exchange for service in their infantry. 

 

In August of 1945, and just before the Japanese surrender, President Truman and leader Joseph Stalin agreed on the 38th parallel as the dividing line between the Soviet and US occupation of the Korean peninsula. The line gave two-thirds and most of the arable land to South Korea. The Soviets conducted a major political propaganda campaign to install Kim Il-sung as a Korean leader in the north. They emphasized his popularity as a guerilla fighter against the Japanese and underplayed his youth and lack of experience. During this time Kim had begun placing his close followers in important security jobs in Pyongyang and soon had control of police and military organizations.

 

In November of the same year Soviet troops succeeded in putting down a general demonstration over abuses and theft by the Soviets in the North Korean town of Sinuiju. One hundred were killed and 700 others wounded. More residents were sent to Siberia for re-education and military training. After the killings Kim was sent in to mollify the population there. As he worked he gradually shifted the association of the term “Communist” from Korea to Russia and reorganized the North Korean Communist Party changing its name to the Worker’s Party.

 

By 1949 Kim was anxious to advance onto South Korean soil. But Stalin would only support him if the South was the first to invade because of the agreement he had made with the US over the 38th parallel. Kim then appealed to the Chinese and convinced them to advance his cause along with the help of Soviets who would secretly supply arms and military advice in the background. Stalin made it clear that if the North Korean effort failed there would no longer be help from the Russians.

 

In June of 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea claiming the action was in defense of aggression by the latter. At first the war went well for Kim in spite of weakness in air support. Even Douglas MacArthur’s massive invasion of ground troops did not stem the advance of the North and the Americans, after being driven back to Seoul and finally gaining ground back to the 38th parallel, continued a hopelessly long and bloody fight in which neither side gained advantage. The affair became bloodier when continuous runs by American planes firebombed the North with napalm and also secretly conducted raids on airfields across the border in Manchuria destroying Chinese and Russian planes. Soon after Stalin’s death early in 1953 both the USSR and China agreed to a prisoner exchange with the Americans and signed an armistice that summer.  

 

Kim Il-sung gradually consolidated his power from 1953 to 1956 by eliminating his competitors with accusations of espionage or imprisoned them for trivial reasons. He replaced them with much younger followers. By 1956 about seventy percent of the original Communist Central Committee was no longer politically active.

 

Unfortunately, the agricultural system faltered then failed during these years. Bad weather, the loss of so many North Korean farmers in the Korean conflict, and collectivization of the farms afterwards were the cause. The problem of not having enough food to feed the population became a permanent problem. Since then, Kim and his heirs have continuously depended on the USSR and China for food aid and many other necessities.

 

Today there are two main organizations that have developed since Kim Il-sung’s ascension to power. They direct all the functions of government for the entire country and are both controlled by the present head of state Kim Jong-un, grandson of Kim Il-sung.

 

One is the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD). Basically, it takes care of all the functions that support the leader’s control of the country. It is the brain child of Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s father. This man began easing control away from the original Kim in the 1980s by gradually assuming responsibility for police and intelligence functions and putting them under the supervision of a single system. By 1992 his objective was complete and Kim Il-sung was functioning only as a figurehead to the outside world.

 

Today the OGD controls all other internal departments of government and can intervene with all their activities down to the lowest level. It controls the secret police and state security and consequently has authority over every citizen except for an elite group call the “admitted”. Any policy submitted to it must be signed personally only by Kim Jong-un in order to go into effect. Lastly, it takes care of all Kim Jong-un’s personal needs providing him with body guards, physical comfort, and women.

 

The other organization is the United Front Department (UFD). It is responsible for “overseas inter-Korean espionage, policy making, and diplomacy”. One of its main duties is to make sure that no real information from outside of the country reaches the public in general. All television, radio stations and newspapers contain only articles praising the head of state. One of the duties of the people in UFD is to make up stories praising Kim Jong-un. These supposedly come from citizens of other countries. Western literature in the country is limited to the 100 Copy Collection. Translations of these books are limited to 100 copies each and each book has a number so it can be kept track of at all times. The books are obtained by attaches stationed in embassies of other countries and can only be read by the elite few.

 

There are three poems that every school child must learn by heart. One poem implies that motherly love is inferior to that of the Worker’s Party for its members. Another describes the Great Leader as the homeland. School children are taught that South Korea is “Southern Chosun” the lower half of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK). They are also led to believe it is a colony of the US that has been ruined by the capitalistic system and that South Korea attacked the North to launch the Korean War

.

The North Korean government also has run a “localization” policy. This is a kidnapping operation that was launched in the late 1970s and conducted by North Korean agents concentrating mostly on Japan. Korean nationals living in Japan were easily targeted and had the financial resources to pay blackmail for the return of hostages. Kim Jong-il anticipated that as much as 11 billion dollars in aid could be gained by such an undertaking. The reasons for the practice were threefold. One was to gain information about foreign countries that would be helpful to spies. Second, victims could be used as leverage to obtain more foreign aid to the country. Third, it was hoped that some of those kidnapped, if young enough could be trained as operatives themselves. However, the victims never became loyal because of the lives they had known previously as free individuals.

 

The scandal was revealed by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the 2002 North Korean-Japanese summit. Kim Jong-il was forced to acknowledge and apologize for the kidnappings when he realized that he might not only lose the extortion money but the outpost organization in Japan that kept many North Korean assets protected.  Finally he claimed he had only just learned of the activity. When he sent five of those kidnapped to visit their families they refused to return and he declared there would be no further summits with Japan during his lifetime.

 

Kim Jong-il cheated in dealing with the Southern Peninsula as well. In 1998 South Korea’s administration embarked on a new policy to improve relations between the two countries. This was called the “Sunshine Policy”. The UFD was ordered to exploit the undertaking and came up with the idea of initially extending a hand to the South Koreans by allowing inter-Korean family reunions and inviting investment and industry from private South Korean corporations. At the same time, the strength of the North Korean navy was fortified in preparation for military action along the Northern Limit Line, a line in the Yellow Sea separating the jurisdictions of the North and South.

 

In 1999 a small naval maneuver was done to test the reaction of the South and when nothing happened the North continued developing the Kaesong Industrial Complex using Southern financial investment. The business park was located about six miles north of the demilitarized zone and was accessible by rail and highway to Seoul. One of the main investors in the enterprise was the Hyundai Group, but it also included textile, chemical, machinery and firms specializing in electronics. 

 

After its inception the Kaesong Industrial Complex became an excellent source of foreign currency. It was run by a South Korean committee that signed a 50 year lease with the government as late as 2004. But while they collaborated on land the North Koreans used leverage on the South with threats of military engagement at sea. Later they used satellite launches and a claimed hydrogen bomb test in 2016 to threaten financial loss to private South Korean companies who declined to comply with their demands. This was in spite of the fact that Southern investment had operated most of the time in the red not realizing a profit until 2011.

 

Finally in 2016 the South Koreans stopped all business park operations in response to the launch of a ballistic missile. The next day the North expelled all South Korean workers and froze the South’s assets and park equipment. The South shut off its supply of electricity and water and the location now sits empty.

 

China and North Korea do not have as warm relations as one living in the West might expect. China’s pursuit of trade relations with South Korea probably is offensive to Kim Jong-un. This may be especially true since most South Korean operations are in the Northern Provinces of China. They provide economic improvement not only for Chinese citizens but the ethnic North Korean residents who have lived and work beside them for generations. The recent increase of refugees over the northern border has cooled the attitudes of these people toward North Korea. Kim Jong-il at one time had hoped to establish an outpost in China similar to the one in Japan where he could hide North Korean assets but he failed to find those Chinese who would cooperate on the venture. The lure of lucrative employment by South Korean corporations discouraged any such collusion with North Korea.

 

Kim Jong-il, always on the look-out for an opportunity to extort, at one point went to the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang and claimed he had a document the Chinese might not want to be made public. It referred to the original pact made between China and North Korea at the end of the Korean War. It allegedly contained suggestions made by major Chinese officials to delete the clause that would automatically oblige China to aid North Korea in any future war on the Korean Peninsula. Some statements in this same document suggested that China would ask reparations for its losses incurred during the Korean War.

 

The response from the Chinese was swift. They dismissed their ambassador in Pyongyang immediately and then delayed appointing a new one for about four months. The eventual new ambassador was far less sympathetic to the North Korean cause. A short time later the Chinese security police rounded up and arrested 60 North Korean political organizers in the northern Chinese city of Shenyang for corruption of the local government.

 

Reference:

Dear Leader, Jang Jin-sung, 2014, Atria Books (Simon and Schuster)

The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot, Blaine Hardin, 2015, Viking/Penguin Group

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

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

 

 

Reasons why the English language is so lard to learn:

Thank you, Andrew

The bandage was wound around the wound.

The farm was used to produce produce.

The dump was so full that it had to refuse ore refuse.

We must polish the Polish furniture.

He could lead if he would get the lead out.

The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

 I did not object to the object.

 The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

 

(Microsoft Word had trouble with these, too.)

 

 

Voice of Sanity – September 2017

 

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

joycebates@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

September 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.

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

Dates for the Sunday meetings are: September 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10AM Sunday September 24th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

The Free-Thought group will meet at 7:00PM September 7th, and 21st (Thursdays) for a meal at California Dreaming restaurant; 40 Beacon Drive; near the Pelham Road exit off I85. 

 

The Free-thought trivia and pool group will meet at Friar’s Tavern,

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on August 31st, and September 14th and 28th (also Thursdays).

 

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

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

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

September 9th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.  

 

 

                          

                         SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS-   A book review

 

Michael Graziano’s Consciousness and the Social Brain not only puts to the test some preconceived notions about what constitutes consciousness but also questions things humans have traditionally taken for granted. His idea or rather hypothesis is that consciousness rides atop two activities of the brain that constantly loop back and forth on each other. One activity is our attention to and gathering of information about the outside world in order to take action. The other activity is called “awareness” and it functions to edit and organize our attention into a model of the world we can carry around in our heads. To repeat, our sensing of the world is not of the world itself but a representation we carry and constantly update within ourselves.

 

Graziano emphasizes that attention and awareness are two separate aspects of our mental model because experiments have shown that we can “attend” an image, process and respond to it without being aware of it. We have these experiences with many daily functions such as reading this page. We are not aware of the complex process associated with it but if we had to we could become aware of the spellings of the words or the shapes of the letters we see. Those things are attended to more or less automatically while we concentrate on the meaning of the sentences. This is where the hypothesis differs greatly from the traditional notions of the conscious and unconscious. Both become intertwined in our minds’ model of the world.

 

The constant editing of our mental model when we are very young allows us to distinguish that which is part of the body and that which is not. Again, it is important to remember here that the model is in our heads and not in the outside world. As we develop in infancy we gradually come to know that “we” are identities separate from what goes on around us. As the model grows we establish spatial locations not only for ourselves but for things around us. Our models are only good enough to allow us to function in the outside world and consequently they are also inaccurate allowing us to believe and even depend on information that may not be true.

 

Faulty perception is an example of how our mental model can be mistaken. If a model of an object is created in one’s brain it can be detailed during the observation and knowledge of it can also be stored as a memory, making it available for future reference when the item is no longer around. Unhappily, many of the models of what we see are not accurate. There are plenty of optical illusions to illustrate this. Try these if you have time: http://www.michaelbach.de/ot/

 

Also, we assign spatial locations and create models of ourselves inside our minds. These models become “identities”, ongoing constant thought processes that don’t break down unless we sleep or are otherwise incapacitated. Assigning spatial locations to things around us also allows us to assign awareness to other human beings and to other objects, as well. Again these models can be inaccurate because we can give personality to inanimate things, apply human characteristics to pets, and even kick our cars if they refuse to start. 

 

Of course, the idea of such a model begs for an explanation as to how the brain does this. Research has provided some hints but much more is needed. Below are a few interesting studies.

 

Some epileptic patients who have constant seizures undergo surgery in which the corpus callosum, the part connecting left and right hemispheres of the brain, is severed. This disconnects certain neural circuits between the two hemispheres and successfully relieves the epilepsy. Michael Gazziniga, head of the SAGE center at the University of California, has done research of these post-operative patients and found their right hemispheres could respond to and perform actions, but their left hemispheres processed the actions into awareness. When a card on which the written command “walk” was presented to such a patient and that same card was displayed only so that the patient’s right hemisphere could perceive it, that patient would get up and walk immediately. But when he was asked for a reason why, he would consistently provide a reason unrelated to the card. This was done on many patients using a variety of commands with the same result. Gazziniga thinks that without the information from the right hemisphere the left hemisphere somehow makes up stories to explain the action. Our author thinks the mental model in these cases demands an explanation even when information is missing.

 

Benjamin Libet, another pioneer in the field of human consciousness, did research focusing on intentionality. For these experiments volunteers had a set of electrodes placed on the scalp to monitor electrical activity of the motor cortex in the region where the brain initiates movements to the fingers. The participants were asked to note the precise time that their intention to move their fingers occurred to them. They carefully noted the time but the activity of the motor cortex showed initiation of movement a moment earlier in nearly all instances. This raised the question of whether that decision was genuine or really a narrative to explain the action..

 

There are many examples in the world of art to illustrate the confusion that occurs in our mental models. One that comes to mind is a painting by René Magritte of a very realistic rendering of a pipe underneath which are painted the words: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” (This is not a pipe.) Well, of course it’s not a pipe but…..

 

Research has pointed consistently to one area of the brain (the parietal) for processing sensory information and also tracking the location of one’s body at all times. When this area is damaged patients lose their ability to reach, take hold of, or manipulate objects even though they see where the objects are and can describe them in detail. One the other hand, one patient with diffuse brain damage that left this area untouched had the opposite problem. She was completely unaware of the shapes, placement, or sizes of objects in front of her. In spite of her insistence that she didn’t know where they were she could still reach out and pick them up when requested to do so.

 

One of the most tantalizing mental deficiencies in brain damage is hemispatial neglect. This disability occurs in certain stroke patients who suffer from damage to particular areas on the right side of the brain. These persons lose the ability to be aware of the left side of their visual field. This is not a situation where the individual is blind on that side, but one where he is not aware of the existence of that side. In one classic experiment a patient was asked to close his eyes and imagine he was standing in a familiar city square and then was asked to describe the entire square. He mentioned everything on the right side of the square but nothing on the left. Then he was told to pretend that he had turned 180 degrees, facing in the opposite direction, and describe the square fully again. He then described everything on the right side of his visual perception but since he had imagined being turned completely around, the features he described were those on the left side of the square.

 

Damage to this particular area of the brain only destroys awareness on one’s left, but there is almost no history of anyone losing awareness on the right side of their visual field from any brain injury. So far no one has been able to come up with a useful explanation for this.   

 

The idea of a mental model with attention and awareness serving as an ongoing process in updating, remembering, and reacting to the environment is a radical idea but has some support in experiments thus far. The concept prods us to question our notion of free will especially in the Libet experiments where we witness awareness as an epiphenomenon (a consciousness that makes sense of the action after the fact). Secondly, it shakes our understanding of what is actually true since we can routinely be fooled by the evidence of our senses and we can become gullible enough to believe what is consensus without real proof.

 

Lastly, our awareness of others as contained in such a model and carried in our imaginations enables us to attribute awareness to things that may not have it at all. Indeed, some of us make-up and attribute awareness to things for which there is no evidence at all, such as unicorns, aliens from another world, Bigfoot, and gods.

 

For those who would like to read more the book is:

Consciousness and the Social Brain, Michael S. A. Graziano, 2013, Oxford University Press  

 

 

                             GENTRIFICATION AND WEST GREENVILLE

 

Greenville recently has been listed as one of four of the fastest growing cities in the United States and has been enjoying some notice on the national scene. Back 2013 The Boston Globe highlighted Greenville in its travel section as an interesting place to include in one’s itinerary. The coverage featured a three day weekend stay in town complete with suggestions for dining and historic tours. A visit to the pre-gentrified arts district west of the downtown area and a bicycle trip on the Swamp Rabbit Trail were also recommended. 

 

On the other hand there is a website run by the city government called the Greenville West Side Comprehensive Plan. This pdf identifies downtown neighborhoods such as Southernside, West Greenville, Sterling, Green Avenue and others as communities that are gradually being displaced by gentrification. True, downtown Greenville is a nice place to go during the weekend for a walk down Main Street to Falls Park and lunch at one of the bistros, but how do improvements such as this repeatedly become detrimental to original inhabitants?

 

Part of the problem is the locations themselves. According to the website the single highest concentration of jobs in the greater Greenville area is in the downtown. All the west Greenville areas are close enough to the downtown for it to be reached conveniently. For cyclists there is the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Also, there is now a proposed bus rapid transit that would also increase access. It is ideal for anyone wishing not to commute a long distance to work. High traffic and air pollution would also be kept at a minimum. Ironically this is not a good thing for people already living in these neighborhoods.

 

When new individuals with higher incomes move in, they usually invest in what are very inexpensive homes that have history and architectural interest. They repair and remodel them. This brings up real estate prices and property taxes. Original home owners are burdened with the higher taxes. It’s a great temptation for these owners to sell and make a profit during the real estate boom. The same is true for landlords. For areas west of downtown over half the population lives in rent and would be faced with eviction if the buildings they live in are put up for sale. Even if they are not sold, increased taxes would cause rents to increase as well.

 

Presently, the West Side is in need of better transportation services and grocery stores. There are poor connections to services most of us take for granted such as doctors’ offices and retail stores. Bridges over railroad tracks are in poor repair or non-existent. The dearth of stores that could exist in these neighborhoods is an indication of market failure. Most large retailers don’t want to invest in stores here because they know that profits will be lower. They prefer to build in communities where they can sell large quantities of goods with cheaper prices drawing in large crowds and creating big turnover.  These are the stores to which people can afford to drive.

 

There should be plenty of employment opportunities in the downtown area for people living in the western Greenville communities. Wherever there is a large concentration of businesses there also has to be an equally large supporting network for their maintenance: jobs from electrical and plumbing repair down to painting and office cleaning. The question here is: Why can’t people who do these less glamorous but necessary jobs also have a modest but affordable living space near their place of employment?

 

Reference: http://connections.greenvillesc.gov/forms/CompPlan/Chapt_4_OrganizingtoEmpowertheCommunity.pdf

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2013/03/16/days-greenville/A8z64755qPO8FTDZQ6PQSO/story.html

 

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

 

More Wonderful English from Around the World:

Contributed by Andrew Kuharsky

 

In a Tokyo bar: Special Cocktails for the Ladies with Nuts

 

Hotel, Yugoslavia: The Flattening of Underwear with Pleasure Is the Job of the Chambermaid.

 

Hotel, Japan: You Are Invited to Take Advantage of the Chambermaid.

 

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:

You Are Welcome to Visit the Cemetery Where Famous Russian and Soviet Composers, Artists and Writers Are Buried Daily Except Thursday.

 

A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest:

It Is Strictly Forbidden on Our Black Forest Camping Site that People of Different Sex, for Instance, Men and Women, Live Together in One Tent unless They Are Married to Each Other for This Purpose.

 

Hotel, Zurich:

Because of the Impropriety of Entertaining Guests of the Opposite Sex in the Bedroom, It Is Suggested that the Lobby Be Used for This Purpose.

 

Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:

Would You Like to Ride on Your Own Ass?

 

Airline ticket office, Copenhagen:

We Take Your Bags and Send Them in All Directions

 

A laundry in Rome:

Ladies, Leave Your Clothes and Spend the Afternoon.

 

Voice of Sanity – August 2017

 

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year

Seniors/students $15/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email:

joycebates@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:

Piedmont Humanists

3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135

Greenville, SC. 29615

August 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.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

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

 

PIEDMON HUMANISTS ANNUAL PICNIC

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Vests, bags, pickup claws will be provided.

 

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

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

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

 

 

                                     A CRASH COURSE IN STREET EPISTEMOLOGY

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Him: Hmm, that’s interesting.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

A few quick tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Jordan Myers

 

 

 

 

 

                                 A HISTORY OF WEATHER WATCHING

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

JB

 

References:

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

Storm Surge, Adam Sobel, 2014, Harper Collins

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-32483678

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

 

 

Wonderful English from Around the World:

Contributed by Andrew Kuharsky

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Voice of Sanity – June 2017

 

 

 

Piedmont Humanists

Membership: adults $24/year
Seniors/students $15/year
Family: $40/year

Editor: Joyce Bates

All correspondence to:

Email: voice@piedmonthumanists.org 

Regular mail:
Piedmont Humanists
3620 Pelham Rd., Suite 5, #135
Greenville, SC. 29615

June 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.

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

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

 

For those new to Humanism a discussion group will meet 10AM Sunday June 25th. Location: the Earth Fare 3620 Pelham Road, Greenville

 

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

 

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

1178 Woodruff Road, Greenville, SC 29607.

Meetings will be held 7:00 to 10:00PM on June 8th and 22nd  (also Thursdays).

 

June 10th: Second Saturday Brunch will be at10AM at the Golden Corral, 3240 North Pleasantburg Dr. Greenville, SC 29609.

 

 

IMMIGRATION IN THE US

 

It is estimated that even before the thirteen colonies unified into the United States this region of North America was more popular for settlement than both Canada and the area of the Caribbean. Between 1760 and 1775 three percent of Scotland and 3.2 percent of Ireland had migrated to the Eastern Seaboard. But no real statistics were kept on immigration until 1820.

 

It is true that the Alien and Sedition Acts passed in 1798 allowed the President to imprison or deport non-citizens who were considered dangerous or came from an enemy nation. At any rate three of the four acts were allowed to sunset by 1801 except for the Alien Enemies Act which was kept active and used during World War II to detain German, Italian and Japanese non-citizens.

 

Most of the 19th century saw immigration from Ireland and Germany with each country contributing well over two-thirds of the immigrant flow by 1890. Half the population of Ireland came because the main source of food was destroyed by the potato blight a plant disease ironically caused by a pathogen native to Mexico. Even today there are more people of Irish descent living in the US than there are Irish in Ireland.  The Germans came because of poverty and political unrest that eventually led to the Revolution of 1848.

 

Chinese immigration was triggered by news of the discovery of gold in California. When the vast majority of poor young men who came here failed to make their fortunes they found work building the railroads, working in coal mines, or they started small businesses like restaurants or laundries. These last were in high demand, easy to set up, and required only a limited English vocabulary. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. This act was the culmination of discrimination against race nearly equal to that displayed towards emancipated black slaves at that time. Provisions prevented Chinese from becoming citizens, provided for their deportation, and suspended all Chinese immigration for a period of ten years.

 

The greatest influx of immigrants came at the beginning of the 20th century and continued through WWI. Finally a temporary bill was introduced in 1921 to control the flow of Southern and Eastern Europeans. In 1924 the bill permanently limited immigration to two percent a year from all countries. Unfortunately, the laws also significantly reduced the flood of those escaping from Nazi Germany during the 1930s and 40s.

 

The next major restrictions came during the 1950s to keep out those suspected of supporting Communism and anarchy. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 continued the ban on those coming from Asia and kept quotas of immigrants confined to relatives of US citizens and permanent residents, and those who had extensive education or exceptional abilities.

 

One exception to these rules was the Mexican Brecero program. This program came into being early in World War II to admit agricultural workers across the border when many Americans left farms to work in factories. After it expired in 1964 illegal immigration from Mexico increased every year until the 1980s when sanctions were again introduced, this time against the employers who hired them. Over the years there has been no evidence that this law was effective. Half of the illegal immigrants in the US in 2014 were Mexicans (about 5.2 million). This figure was lower than peak numbers in 2009, but illegals from other Latin American countries have increased.

 

Before the present travel ban citizens of 38 countries were eligible to be in the US for a period of 90 days under the visa-waiver program as long as they did not have citizenship with Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan. There are many types of visas for those wishing to stay longer. Here are a few examples:

EB-1: are for those who have extraordinary ability, advanced degrees or are highly skilled professionals or investors.

H-1B: are for those with a specific occupation. Spouses of these are also eligible for H-1B but are not free to pursue an occupation.

L: are for employees of US companies abroad who wish to transfer workers in their business to work this country.

TN: these are for professionals from Mexico and Canada under the NAFTA trade agreement.

H-2A: these are for hired workers in agriculture, nurseries and landscaping. Apparently, there are no limits to these except for the very effective one of going through the application process. Additionally countries eligible for this visa are susceptible to change on a yearly basis by the Department of Homeland Security.

 

A US citizen can sponsor a spouse, child, parent, or sibling for a “green card” or permanent residency. One who already has a green card can also be a sponsor. The caveat here is the enormous backlogs for those waiting for permanent residency. For example citizens with siblings seeking permanent residency after the fall of the Berlin wall were still waiting for relatives to join them as of 2010. Here is a short table of wait times for sponsored immigrants of US citizens and permanent residents:

 

Category

China

India

Mexico

Philippines

Others

Unmarried adult children of

US Citizens

6yrs

6yrs

17yrs

16yrs

6yrs

Spouses and minor children of

Permanent residents

4yrs

 

4yrs

 

6yrs

 

4yrs

 

4yrs

 

Unmarried adult children

Permanent residents

8yrs

 

8yrs

 

16yrs

 

10yrs

 

8yrs

 

Married adult children of

US citizens

8yrs

 

8yrs

 

16yrs

 

17yrs

 

8yrs

 

Siblings of US citizens

10yrs

10yrs

14yrs

20yrs

10yrs

 

 

In 1996 rules tightened on the ability of undocumented immigrants to get legal status. In 2001 rules tightened on those from certain foreign countries and foreign nationals in response to 9/11. The Department of Homeland Security took over the management of the US Customs and Border Protection, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the US Citizens and Immigration Services.

 

As of 2014 there were slightly over eleven million unauthorized immigrants in the US. There is a certain amount of fraud committed in the hiring of these illegals but much depends on the size of companies who practice it. Of those companies that do and have less than $10 million in revenue, over half are small companies with less the 25 employees. Only seven percent of companies worth more than $10 million practice illegal hiring.

 

The employer based H-1B temporary visas were limited to 65,000 per year in 1997. The US raised the limits temporarily starting in 1999 but they were discontinued in 2003 because of the slowing economy and drop in demand for workers. The number of permits now has been raised again to 85,000 and is still being depleted well before the federal fiscal year ends.

 

Last month this newsletter highlighted another problem with H-1B workers. Since 2006 universities have been exempted from the quota and are unlimited in their freedom to hire foreign workers. As of 2016 this ballooned the hiring to 100,000 additional jobs because for-profit companies realized they could use the educational exemption by affiliating their foreign workers with universities.

 

Lastly, any thought that immigrants are taking advantage of federal government benefits is unwarranted. Eligibility for the following went into effect as of August 22nd, 1996:

 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence.

Food Stamps: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence; lawful permanent residents who have worked for 40 quarters.

Supplementary Security Income: Generally not eligible, but lawful permanent residents with 40 quarters of work history after five years

Medicaid: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence.

Children’s Health Insurance: Not eligible until 5 years or more of lawful permanent residence. There are state options for children under 21 and pregnant women.

JB

 

References:

Immigration, Stuart Anderson, 2010, Greenwood Guides to Business and Economics

Immigrants; Your Country Needs Them, Philippe Legrain, 2006, Princeton Univ. Press

History of Asian Americans, Jonathan H.X. Lee, 2015, ABC-CLIO, LLC

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/03/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/

 


FREE SPEECH OR FREE RIDE?

 

The Johnson Amendment was a provision attached to the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. It had been proposed by then Senator Lyndon B. Johnson and was considered non-controversial being included in the body of the bill without discussion or debate. The text of the amendment affects 501(3) (c) organizations for exemption from federal income tax under certain conditions. Those conditions are that no part any such an organization’s earnings will go to shareholders or individuals; no substantial part of its mission will be to carry on propaganda or otherwise influence legislation (except for certain exceptions); and that it “…does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing of distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”  The amendment applies to both religious and secular 501(c) (3) organizations. An additional benefit is that they are not only tax exempt but their donors can also take tax exemptions.

 

On May 4th the “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” was signed. This order directs the Department of Treasury that “churches should not be found guilty of implied endorsements where secular organizations would not be.” It is difficult to ascertain what the wording actually means but it implies that secular organizations are allowed more freedom in this respect.

 

Traditional political organizations (501(c)(4)s) must disclose their donors for tax purposes thus making identities available to the Department of Treasury. The 501(c)(3)s are not obligated to disclose on condition that they abide by the Johnson Amendment. All these 501 (c)(3) organizations both religious and secular are prohibited from campaigning for or against political candidates. They are, however, allowed to participate in non-partisan activities such as voter education, registration, and “get-out-the-vote” drives.  As for members, they are not forbidden in any way from free speech and press on their own time.

 

There are two kinds of poor behaviors that could occur if the amendment is repealed. The most worrisome would be an incentive for political donors to shift their contributions away from the traditional partisan 501(c) (4) groups to religious and charity organizations in order to achieve a tax exemption. A second problem would occur because churches and welfare groups do not have to disclose the source of donations. Such donations would not only avoid tax but would be unavailable for public identification forever.

 

Also, most 501 (c) organizations have to file Form 990 on their tax returns to provide information about their groups and activities. Churches are exempted from this requirement. Some religious and secular welfare groups enjoying this exemption are very large. The Salvation Army, for example, posted collections of $3.5 billion for the year 2015. Many major political contributors control large foundations which could be exploited for tax free undisclosed political spending.

 

Although the President can issue an order to the Department of Treasury, only Congress can repeal the Johnson Amendment. Presently, such legislation has been reintroduced by House representatives Walter Jones, Steve Sealize and Jody Hice. This legislation has been backed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, whose reputation has not been known for encouraging the freedom of same sex couples to marry, enter into civil unions, or adopt children. Nor has it been known to rally for the separation of church and state.

 

There are two organizations that feel repealing the Johnson Amendment will take away the protection that makes sure all 501(c) (3) organizations serve the social and public benefits for which they were intended and nothing else. The National Council of Nonprofits recognizes that donors presently want their money to be used to further the missions of their organizations and not the careers of politicians or pockets of political consultants. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has also recommended the amendment not be repealed. While it would be in favor of changing some IRS rules, it also feels that many churches would be too easily co-opted for political activity and possible private gain.

 

Reference:

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

http://www.salon.com/2017/02/03/trumps-plan-to-totally-destroy-the-johnson-amendment-creates-a-huge-campaign-finance-loophole-for-churches-to-exploit/

http://www.churchlawandtax.com/blog/2016/october/what-would-repealing-johnson-amendment-actually-mean-for-ch.html

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/article/national-council-of-nonprofits-opposes-latest-efforts-politicize-charitable-nonprofits-and

 

 

REVIEW AND UPDATE OF THE “MONKEY” TRIAL OF 1925

 

The Scopes “Monkey” trial began when the American Civil Liberties Union offered to finance a case that contested the constitutionality of Tennessee’s Butler Law. Their court case would focus on the fact that the Butler law prohibited the teaching of anything other than the Biblical version of human origins in spite of the fact that the state required teachers to use a textbook containing a chapter on evolution. Businessmen thought this an opportunity to bring attention to their town of Dayton. So they, along with the engineer of a local coal company met with a coach and teacher named John Scopes and convinced him to take part in the project.

 

The trial did indeed attract national attention since the lawyers involved were also nationally known. Clarence Darrow was a member of the ACLU and a prominent labor and criminal lawyer. William Jennings Bryan had been a representative from Nebraska, a candidate for the US presidency, but a firm believer in literal translation of the Bible.

 

Regrettably Scopes was found guilty and was obliged to pay a $100 fine. However, the Butler Act remained in effect until 1967 when it was repealed by the Tennessee legislature. Later Scopes admitted to a reporter that he had really skipped that chapter on evolution and he and his lawyers coached the students on what to say at the trial. The reporter did not file the story until Scopes’ appeal was settled in 1927.

 

When Bryan College in Dayton decided to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2005, it made good on plans to have a bronze statue of the statesman after which it was named placed on the lawn of the historic courthouse. The statue depicted Bryan the age he would have been, 65, while debating for the biblical version of human origins.

 

American Humanist Association member William Dusenberry realized during his visit to Dayton in 2009 that only half of the event was represented on the courthouse lawn. He tried but failed to get funding until in 2014 when he was able to contact Zeno Frudakis, a sculptor famous for his representations of prominent thinkers. Darrow will be depicted jacketless and with suspenders at the age of 68, the way he originally appeared at the trial.

 

Dedication for the bronze statue will be July 14, 2017 in Dayton, Tennessee. The statues will appear facing each other.

 

https://thehumanist.com/arts_entertainment/culture/clarence-darrow-reunite-william-jennings-bryan-dayton-courthouse

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_T._Scopes


Stumbles truths for mature humans:

 

I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear my computer history if I die.

 

I take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.

 

Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

 

Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told me how the person died.

 

It is always a bit unnerving when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save changes to a lengthy time consuming report in which I don’t remember making any changes.

 

“Do not machine wash or tumble dry” means I will never wash this item.

 

Bad decisions make good stories.