Meetings for 2017
If you are not already on the mailing list and wish to be added, please contact WEBMASTER
Date Topic Presenter Location
January 8 Veganism Jim Ansell Bleeding Carrot
February 12 Social dinner QQ - near Gallaxy Th
March 5 Atheism Erroll Treslan Curry House
April 9 Social diner QQ - near Gallaxy Th
May 14 Citizen Engagement Franceca Dobbyn Wairton
July 9 Speaker Patrick Lavalley Cape Crocker
Aug 13 Social dinner 5:30 pm. at Sabitri’s. (2nd Ave. E.)
Oct 4-7pm Humanist Discussion Attendees Owen Sound Library
Oct 15 -11am Luncheon & movie on population Ruth Henrich’s Red Bay home
Nov 12 -10am Patriarchy in our culture Joachim Oestertag Erroll Treslan's home
Dec 10 Social dinner location tba
Meetings of 2016
If you are not already on the mailing list and wish to be added, please contact WEBMASTER
Date Topic Presenter Location
Jan. 10 The Right to Self-Determination Bob Hope Marg Gaviller’s
Mar 13 What is Humanism anyway? Bob Garnett Leslie and Bob’s
May 15 One School System Paula Conning Tom & Edna Burri
July 17 The Origins of Superstition Tony Miller Hopes’ cottage
Sept 11 Boreal Gardens Steve Vassallo
Nov 13 Gender Identity Joan Beecroft
Jan 8, 2017 Vegetarian and Veganism Jim Ansell The Bleeding Carrot
Upcoming Meetings for
Jan. 24 Movie and discussion “Stranger than Fiction” Stella’s here
February 8 Social dinner and discussion (taxing churches?)
March 22 Proportional Representation Andrew/Sandra Goss Garnett’s
April 12 Social dinner (book discussion) The Book Thief Hopes
May 10 Vegetarianism and gourmet dinner Ruth Henrich Ruth Henrich
June 20 Journalism and Ethics (Poster
July 12 The science of mind/body connection Harriet Nixon Harriet Nixon’s
August 9 Andre den Tandt- the case for opposing windmills
Sept. 12 The Origins of Superstition (?) Michael Schulman (unconfirmed as yet)
October 11 Social dinner (Pet peeves and solutions)
November 8 What to say to people who ask what humanism is.
Dec.13 Social dinner
Past News and Meeting Notes
Here is a list of topics we’ve covered in our meetings, dating back to 2006.
July 9, 2017 on Cape Croker
Our guest was Patrick Lavalley, of the Ojiway First Nation, who is bringing back the Winter Count, the history of Indigenous peoples in North America. His experience is in collecting the history of the Ontario migration of Indigenous people, irrespective of the current tribal groups. He is collecting artifacts for the cultural collection of Nawash.
I cannot possibly do justice to Patrick’s talk. He presented a wealth of information about what was happening up here from several thousand years BCE and the present. Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous peoples were living here, members of hundreds of tribes, speaking as many languages, migrating from one area to another. They migrated for many reasons, the presence of illness, war, adherence to sacred teachings, climate, etc.
Ancient pictographs were found, dating back over 1,000 years. These pictorial written records, complete with short poems and explanations, told of visitors, boat journeys, migrations, etc. We learned that the Vikings were in various parts of North America long before we thought they were. As demonstrated by cultural practices and language, researchers have learned that migrations and language similarities commonly occurred from north to south and vice versa.
Patrick agrees that some groups came across the Bering Straight when it was a land bridge, but explained that there were many other ways that the Indigenous peoples arrived here; by boat, by migrating north from South America, etc.
Again, most of us knew that Indigenous people lived here long before Europeans arrived. But we had never learned about the multitude of rich and diverse cultures that lived here for so long. What a fascinating revelation.
Sunday, April 13 - 4:00 Spoken Word Festival, talk by Hazel Lyder, and dinner. (We will organize carpools as we get closer to the date.)
Words Aloud Spoken Word & Poetry Festival hosts a Fundraising Event, Durham Art Gallery (251 George St East)
The 2014 Words Aloud Artistic Director, Hazel Lyder (sometimes writer and poet, and ofttimes reader), will deliver a talk Why the Literary Arts Matter & How to Live a Life. With reference to the works of various Canadian and Irish writers, she will tell both a very personal story and a universal one about the value of books and reading and how they inform our lifelong journey of becoming. Admission: A minimum $5.00 donation is recommended. Anyone who makes a donation of $10 or greater will have their name entered into a book draw. There will also be a silent auction. The Durham Art Gallery is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays so please come early and view the beautiful exhibits.
Saturday, May 31, 2:00 pm, Owen Sound Library Public Presentation led by Susan Morley, a representative of Dying with Dignity. This is a public event so please bring your friends and family. If you have any issues and/or questions you’d like our speaker to address, please send them to Terri (firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>).
Sunday, July 13, 11:00 at Chris and Karine’s, 540 19th Ave. in Hanover. Bring your bathing suit if you’d like to stay for a swim. Note: this one will be a potluck. We will organize carpools. Directions to follow. This meeting will likely be an opportunity to follow up the Dying with Dignity presentation to be held in May.
14 - Another morning wonderfully spent! About 18 of us gathered at Terri and Bob’s to hear Roland Gosselin present the many facets of dealing with “Authority”, ethical responses, historical examples, ranges of reactions, etc. In government, where does the right to lead come from? Humanists would argue that the legitimacy of the Canadian Crown comes from consent. Of course in other jurisdictions power derives from any number of realities, coup d’etat, the tyranny of dictatorship, etc. 2013
Responses to authority range from complete obedience, active protest, letter writing, teach-ins, blocking roads- to overthrow of the government. Similarly, penalties for disobedience vary from country to country, era to era.
We agreed that we need to be conscious of our rights, our degree of social conformity, level of patriotism. Everyone will react differently. Members of our group had varying experiences with ‘civil disobedience’, from draft evasion, chaining oneself to a tree or fence, protesting/marching openly, facing arrest, writing letters for Amnesty International and the Editor of newspapers, signing on-line and other petitions, etc.
We have to be careful not to harshly judge those who cannot, or do not choose to protest. There may be personal reasons of which we are not aware. We all have to ask ourselves: “What warrants Civil Disobedience, and what are our personal ‘boundaries’?
One member suggested that ‘every protest is another way to avoid addressing civil disobedience, that when it comes to confronting injustice, we cannot really remain at our level of ‘comfort’. The real question should be “How much do we need to change our lifestyle to address civil disobedience”?
Ultimately its a decision as to what really matters to each of us, and what we can afford to lose. Some have suggested that it’s seniors who should risk jail, as they would not lose jobs and income. This was a difficult, important and fascinating discussion, raising many questions, and stimulating much thought. Thank you Roland for your excellent presentation.
First, thank you to Marg Gaviller, for hosting us on Sunday morning, Jan. 12. Nothing like starting your day with several types of tea biscuits, jams, coffee, juice and more. And congratulations Marg on being elected once again to the Chair of the Bluewater District School Board!
And a huge thank you to Bob Garnett for leading us in a fascinating, personal and open discussion of two questions:
1- How did you come to humanism?
2- What makes us able to be non-religious in a world where the vast majority of people on the planet believe in a deity?
People presented a wide range of stories related to their arriving at a humanist perspective following years of religious observance. They spoke of of guilt, loss, and ultimately freedom. The stories were as different as our varying members, but all were told with warmth and honesty.
It’s far easier to live as part of a religious community, so why do we ‘leave the fold’?
In exploring why we are able to be different from the majority, people spoke of the ability to conquer their fears of ‘retribution’, inability to live with serious doubts about what they were being taught, needing to live a rational life, the experience of living through a war, witnessing cruelty perpetrated as religious piety, recognizing what ‘spirituality’ actually meant, and more.
Somehow we arrive at a point where it’s easier to deal with those powerful negative forces, than to continue to live with what we believe to be false. Ultimately however, we realized that there was no definitive answer to the question of ‘why we’re able to be different’. That question remains, and may very well be the subject of a future meeting.
Many agreed that it was easier to share our experiences with one another, than it had been to do so with religious friends and family. All in all, it proved to be another great meeting.
other remarkable Grey Bruce Humanist meeting occurred last Sunday at Tibby Johnston’s home at Cape Croker, which is residence to the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. After a delicious potluck lunch, a good number of us gathered around Tibby and her father, Basil Johnston, for moving, tragic, frank, and humorous tales of Basil and Tibby’s experiences with our country’s residential schools (“Indian School” as Basil called it then).
Dr. Basil Johnston, a noted author, poet and educator, began by talking about the day the “Indian Agent” came to pick up two Johnston children. Since the 12 year old was sick that day, he simply scooped up the four year old and brought her. The tragedy of her later life was not a surprise. Basil had both horrific and adventurous experiences at school, and thanks to one priest who encouraged him, he stayed long enough to finish high school. Basil was not easily beaten down, but admits that the loss of the Ojibway language and traditional culture is huge.
Tibby talked about having been lucky to be raised with loving parents, but recognized that early on, her father was unable to be physically affectionate with his children. She didn’t know the extent of Basil’s experiences as most of the school stories he told to the children involved adventure and mischief. Tibby commented that when someone experiences trauma, and has never been loved, they are unable to be healthy mothers or fathers. This accounts for much of the dysfunction of the generations that followed residential schools- a long term tragedy of epic proportions.
Believe it or not, the last residential school closed in 1996. One of our members suggested that since there are very few First Nations foster homes available, authorities are often forced to place children in White homes, thereby further alienating the children from their culture. This is an agonizing dilemma for the professionals who must choose between the needs of the children and the needs of the culture as a whole.
Bob Hope for presenting on Natural Burial, a fascinating new way to look at our options after death. Bob opened with showing a scene from the 1965 film The Loved One, with Liberace. Really funny....
Human beings have wished to ‘preserve’ their loved ones for thousands of years. We’ve seen mummies, pyramids, use of dangerous formaldehyde, and the sale of expensive, ‘waterproof’, satin-lined caskets.
At this presentation, we learned more about this more humanistic and sensible option- burial in a non-polluting, beautiful setting, signed to help the body decompose as quickly and naturally as possible; a place where friends and family can visit if they like, amid the trees and wildflowers. What a way to continue giving- nurturing the surroundings in a natural burial cemetery.
Bob has collected over 100 names on a petition and has met with officials from the City, to suggest that a piece of the Greenwood Cemetery be designated as a Natural Burial site. Since the City has told Bob that there aren’t many people interested in this option, the group decided they’d like to schedule a deputation to council sometime in the fall. Terri will keep you posted.
One interesting question emerged which we didn’t have time to discuss: Which is more valuable - donating organs, or donating ones’ body for medical study? The range of terrific questions and experiences rounded out a most successful presentation. Thanks Bob....
Baines very briefly outlined observations about empathy and the capacity to perform evil acts. Andrew Baines explored two questions:
1. What is evil?
In 1850 the prevalence of the word “God” (with a capital G) in English books was 1.1/1,000 words. It fell to 0.2/1000 in 1976 but over the last decade its use has doubled. Between 1850 and 2008, the word “evil” declined from 0.15/1000 words in English books to 0.04% but its use too has almost doubled over the last decade. Use of “God” and “evil” fell and increased in parallel. (Source: Google Ngram that samples 10% of all books published in English)
What is evil? Is it the manifestation of power, like that of God but emanating from a fallen angel who acts with or without God’s permission? Many people have and still believe in some form of Satan and the forces of evil to describe harmful events that are immoral, inexplicable, and create a sense of dread.
Aquinas described three types of evil: malum naturale, artificale, and morale. Naturale is the
working out of natural processes like tectonic shifts producing earthquakes. Artificale relates to the law of unintended consequences like the rabbit plague in Australia or oil spills in the Caribbean. Morale refers to the conscious acts of free-willed individuals.
2. What are models and can evil be modelled?
Models and metaphors are conceptual tools we use to understand, explain, predict and control complex phenomena. Models simplify and attempt to identify the most relevant and crucial aspects of a target phenomenon. Physicists, biologists, social scientists use a variety of models. Some
are mathematical, like the predator-prey equations that can describe ecological balance between rabbits and foxes, or the computer simulation of markets. Others are physical models, such as Watson’s and Crick’s model of the double helix, or wind tunnels for testing aerodynamics. Animal models of high blood pressure or diabetes or cancer are a mainstay of biological research. Fictional models or counter-factual models like the frictionless pendulum can be very useful even though they do not exist. Data models are an essential part of business management. Crime statistics or body counts in a war are data models of evil. Satan and his back story is a model of evil. Andrew will explore the use of animal data and neurologic models to explain, control and predict some examples of “malum morale”.
l thinking about Tony Miller’s fascinating presentation on The Evolution of Childhood. Tony traced the ‘human story’ over the millennia. Most fascinating was the importance of ‘play’ in child development. In play, children are “organizing their brains” and a shortened childhood can have serious implications for brain development. “Brain shapes play and play shapes the brain.” The group talked a fair bit about computer use for kids, and the implications of trying to push children into adolescence too early.
be discussing a number of issues that relate to our organization:
- Where would you like our future donations to go/How much should we save before we donate?/Should we branch out to organizations like KIVA?
- Are there any topics you’d like to suggest?
- How about inviting speakers to our group, or to open (public) meetings?
- Do you like the Sunday timeslot? Should we meet less often, more often?
- Should we publically advertise our group to people who may be interested in joining us but have no idea we exist?
A big t
hank you to Hazel Lyder for leading us in a discussion of abortion, a topic which led us in a variety of ethical and controversial directions. Thank you everyone for your open, honest contributions to this excellent meeting.
Some of you were not able to open the link to the article on abortion. Looks like it was taken down on the previous site.
Bob found another link to this article. Eye-opening... here.
to Marg Gaviller for researching and leading us in a discussion of "War". Once again, we had a stimulating and provocative discussion, full of divergent and well-considered opinions and facts.
Some of the points raised:
"War in never an accident. It always involves a conscious decision."
We discussed whether there is ever a justifiable reason for military intervention.
Some were adamant that we cannot let genocidal leaders take control with no retaliation. Others felt we need to look at the origins of the conflict, and how we can avoid escalation in the first place.
We discussed the question of whether the propensity to fight is inherent in our makeup. Again, some said yes, there is much evidence in humans and lower animals for fighting and 'warring'. Others said no- that we do not have a natural desire to kill; we have to be taught. Even animals prefer to expose their vital organs to the 'enemy' rather than fight to the death.
Some recommended reading and listening:
The Better Nature of our Angels, by Steven Pinker
War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges
On Killing, the Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill, by Dave Grossman
On iTunes and RT TV : Logical Insanity, with Dan Carlin
I were so disappointed to have missed the meeting at Tibby's home on Cape Croker. I received such terrific feedback about Tibby's presentation.
Here are two:
"Tibby Johnston lead a fabulous discussion on 'Stories and Legends'. "
"It was an outstanding session. We are real fans of Tibby. She tells stories magnificently. The food choice was the best ever, so that was another pleasure."
Thanks Tibby. Sounds like everyone learned a lot and had a great time.
Thanks so much for researching and presenting the fascinating new 'frontier' of neuroscience, and its relation to morality.
Every sentence left us with new information, provocative questions, and a different way of approaching this topic. Andrew covered the drug oxytocin, and its effect on 'caring', which led to us wonder if a nasal spray of oxytocin could be helpful to people with challenges in that area. We also discussed the limitations of science when it comes to describing 'consciousness', what happens in the brain as it views Gustav Klimt's "Judith and the Head of Halofernes", and David Hume's four dimensions of morality (self-care and care of others, the ability to problem solve, the ability to put oneself in the position of others, and the ability to learn from others).
There were a number of excellent questions from the group, all leading to a very stimulating and worthwhile time together. Thanks again Andrew for opening up so many new ideas and challenges.
so much to Erroll and Elaine Treslan for hosting our group on Sunday, March 11. Because Hazel wasn't well (Hope you feel better soon Hazel!), the group went on to share a delicious potluck lunch and discuss subjects like 'free will' (does it exist?), the varying expressions of humanism (atheism, agnosticism, non-religious spirituality, 'fundamentalist atheism'), and topics we'd like to cover in future meetings.
Welcome to three people who attended for the first time today, Tibby, Rico and Esther!
We are also considering doing a free public movie showing at the Owen Sound Library of the movie Examined Life. Showing rights will be granted to us by Cinema Politica Grey Bruce.
terrific meeting we had last Sunday. Thanks so much to Andre den Tandt for presenting our topic and guiding us through an exploration of our early religious, or non-religious childhoods, and our motivations for becoming a humanist. This topic expanded to the education of children, critical thinking, varying political realities for humanists, the meaning of spirituality and mystery, and more.
Andre mentioned that Christianity offers beautiful buildings, inspiring artistic and musical masterpieces, social connection and more. What do we have to offer? Shirley den Tandt suggested the following answer: "The freedom to think freely and critically." That's a huge one!
Almost everyone present contributed in some way. Also we send a big thank you to Stella Coultis for hosting this large group.
December News: A nice development
Looks like the Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Humanist Society will be held in Owen Sound next April. We're excited to be able to host the group and will keep you posted.
A big th
ank you to Harriet Nixon for hosting our November meeting, and many thanks to Bob Hope for presenting the topic of Population!
Bob discussed the facts and population patterns over the millennia. A lively (and ok, sometimes discouraging) discussion followed. What is happening? What are the effects on our lives? What are our options when faced with the realities of overpopulation? Can we predict the future, and how might we prepare?
Grey, Bruce, Owen Sound - Ontario, Canada