Kia ora: Today April 25 ANZAC Day is rather sombre as I begin this newsletter. Not so much the weather but the mood. Malcolm McKinnon, a Wellington historian has written a thoughtful article in today’s Dominion Post. It is right to remember all those fallen in war but he asks us to think of other factors not to be forgotten. It is a day to consider Moral Courage: the courage to be different, to dissent from the majority as do the Pacifists and to consider Moral Responsibility, for the deaths and suffering of others. And to recognise the limits and dangers of Nationalism,

Monthly meeting: Monday 1 May 6.30 pm

Understanding traps for human decision making under uncertainty.

John Maindonald a former lecturer at the Australian National University and a quantitative problem solver will discuss human decision making with us. He is the author of a book on statistical computation, and the senior author of Data Analysis and Graphics Using R: An Example-Based Approach(Cambridge University Press, 3rd edition, 2010). It helps us to understand what is known from psychological studies. There are a variety of online resources and books that can help in identifying some of the simpler common errors of human judgment. Humans have quite remarkable mental abilities. These abilities are not, however, designed for the complexities of 21st century living. The work that is documented in Kahemnan’s “Thinking Fast and Slow, sheds interesting light on common traps for untrained human intuition. Kahneman’s book is a good place to start in thinking about common fallacies.

There are also some Videos that are a good starting point for learning about some of the issues. For example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqXVAo7dVRU&t=28s is a short and entertaining animated overview of Kahneman’s book. Another, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PirFrDVRBo4 illustrates how we can avoid decision-making mistakes by understanding the differences between two human systems of thought, dubbed System 1 (intuitive and immediate) and System 2

I will comment on several recent books that are aimed at a broad readership, including: Gary Smith: “Standard Deviations: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways to Lie with Statistics.” Duckworth 2014 (http://www.garysmithn.com/standard-deviations.html) A reviewer says:“It’s entertaining; it’s gossipy; it’s insightful … Smith’s engaging rendering of countless painful mistakes will help readers avoid the pitfalls …”

A second book is Joshua Ellenberg’s: “How Not to be Wrong. The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life.” Penguin 2015.

(http://www.thelavinagency.com/news/new-videos-jordan-ellenberg-runs-the-numbers)

If we want to find the truth, we must question ourselves!

And to continue thinking around this subject John Maindonald will be giving a six week, 2 hour a week course for Victoria University Continuing Education, titled “Thinking Critically about Data: Faulty data, Fallacies and Deceptions.” starting on Monday May 8, 6-8pm. To register go to http://ce.victoria.ac.nz/courses/547-thinking-critically-about-data-faulty-data-fallacies-and-deceptions

All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend.

Note return to usual Venue: Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St in the Katherine Mansfield Room

  •      Subscriptions for 2017 year are now due: We appreciate your support which helps lend weight to our campaigns. Visit our website humanist.org to renew your subscription or join us for the first time. Your subscription may also be sent to us by cheque to P.O. Box 3372 Wellington. Subscriptions remain the same as 2016. An unwaged subscription is $20.00 with a waged subscription of $35.00.
  •   NZ Election campaign: The Humanist Society is planning a Facebook and Twitter campaign to put secular quotes concerning secular education, separation of Church and State and other issues important to creating a secular society into the Public arena. If you have a favourite quote please send it to us at [email protected] We would value your input and if you are interested in joining us with the Facebooking and Tweeting please be in touch.
  •   Universal Basic Income: For people interested in Basic Income a new book by Guy Standing is to be launched May 4. Guy has written a new introduction to basic income, Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen. The book has been published by Pelican Books, a well-known publisher of nonfiction works intended to be accessible to a broad audience in both content and cost. As the publisher describes the book: “Guy Standing has been at the forefront of thought about Basic Income for the past thirty years, and in this book he covers in authoritative detail its effects on the economy, poverty, work and labour; dissects and disproves the standard arguments against Basic Income; explains what we can learn from pilots across the world and illustrates exactly why a Basic Income has now become such an urgent necessity.” Commenting on Standing’s latest book, journalist Paul Mason states, “Guy Standing has pioneered our understanding of [basic income] — not just of the concept but of the challenges it is designed to meet: rapid automation and the emergence of a precarious workforce for whom wages derived from work will never be enough. As we move into an age where work and leisure become blurred, and work dissociated from incomes, Standing’s analysis is vital.”
  •   Upcoming events involving Basic Income discussion: May 20, 2 till 5pm .120 Kent Tce, Taradale. Karl Matthys is inviting all those in Hawke’s Bay interested in the UBI concept for an informal gathering with a short video presentation, a chat and a cup of tea and some finger food. RSVP [email protected] by May 15
  •   Guy Standing NZ visit: In late August Guy will speak at a debate in Auckland. More details to follow.
  •      THE AFFIRMATIONS OF HUMANISM
  •       A Statement of Principles by Paul Kurtz  1925 – 2012
  •    We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
  •    We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
  •    We believe that scientific discovery and technology can attribute to the betterment of human life.
  •    We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
  •    We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
  •    We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieve mutual understanding.
  •    We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
  •    We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
  •       We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation , or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
  •    We want to protect and enhance the earth to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
  •    We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
  •    We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
  •    We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspiration, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
  •    We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principals are tested by their consequences.
  •    We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
  •    We are engaged by the arts no less than by sciences.
  •    We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
  •    We are sceptical of untested claims to knowledge, and are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
  •    We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
  •    We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
  •      We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.
  •      Paul Kurtz consistently asserted that morality should be rooted in human flourishing and happiness, not on supernatural revelation. He attached high priority to individual liberty in a robustly democratic culture. As early as 1969 he had written that “there are two basic and minimal principles which especially seem to characterize humanism. First, there is a rejection of any supernatural conception of the universe and a denial that man has any privileged place within nature. Second, there is an affirmation that ethical values are human and have no meaning independent of human experience.” accompanied by an assertive cosmopolitanism that viewed traditional religious, ethnic, and national identities as archaisms to be jettisoned whenever possible.

 

Sara Passmore our President spoke to Bess Manson who put together a feature article ‘Something to Believe in’ for the Dominion Post ‘Your weekend’ supplement Saturday 15 April 2017. The full article can be seen at: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/life/90718464/having-faith-4-new-zealanders-share-their-religious-and-philosophical-beliefs. A short video clip is included where Sara speaks about her Humanist stance.

Introduction: Spiritualism and New Age are up and Christian religions are down. That’s the way the New Zealand religious landscape is looking. But in matters of faith, women outnumber men with more women registering an affiliation with a religion or faith than men in the last census. At a time when many celebrate the Christian festival of Easter, four women share the faiths and beliefs that shape their lives.

Sara Passmore is not a club-joiner. She doesn’t like labels. But she nails her colours to the mast when it comes to her identity as a Humanist. She has strayed far from the faiths of her upbringing – her mother is a Jehovah’s Witness. Her father, Church of England. She considered Buddhism and various other paths over the years but it wasn’t till she started a job at the British Humanist Society while living in the UK that she found what she was looking for.”That was the first point where I realised what they stood for definitely describes me. I’d walked through life saying I’m not a joiner, I don’t want to be in any sort of club but when I started working there with people with similar beliefs as me and talking about those beliefs it made sense.

Humanism is about the here and the now. It is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by creative endeavours and motivated by compassion. It’s about maximum possible fulfilment through ethical and creative living for everyone. Humanism shapes the decisions she makes in life, from what she buys to where she works.She has always worked for charity or non-for-profit organisations so she can align her ethics with how she earns a living.

There’s no one way to live a life as a Humanist.”For me, it’s about looking at how I want to be in the world. How I want to relate to others.”I don’t believe in an afterlife, a Heaven or Hell. I believe this is the one life we have. This is the one shot I have to really enjoy things.”It’s not a nihilistic approach, though, she says.It’s not just about enjoying lots of things all the time to get as much satisfaction as possible while we can with no fear of reprisals in an afterlife.

“As Humanists we believe that it’s other people’s only chance at enjoying their life as well so we have this moral duty to ensure that not only do we want a safe and happy, healthy successful life but we must also try and make sure other people can enjoy the world they live in.”

Through her role as president of the Humanist Society of New Zealand she campaigns on issues such as assisted dying and religious education in state schools.

Her belief is that we must enjoy life while we’re here because there’s nothing before life and nothing after it.”You are not going to live on in some spiritual way but you live on in the hearts and minds of other people still living or the changes you might have made in the world to make it a better place.”

Prithu Sanyal Update: In 2015 Prithu contacted Humanist organisations asking for help with his life threatening situation in Bangladesh. Our Society has been able to help in a small way and Prithu and his family are now resettled in Germany. Prithu contacted us recently with news that his Facebook page had been removed and asked us ‘I would like to request you, if possible, to publish a news on this issue based on my story for international concern which would be helpful to focus the situation of free speech in Bangladesh.’ Reading Prithu’s letter it is clear that the situation in Bangladesh remains dire for bloggers advocating free thought and expression.

‘It’s a sorrow for me that Facebook has removed my account due to continuous reporting from the activists of ruling party of Bangladesh. The day before yesterday, I posted a photograph on Facebook criticizing the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. This is why, the followers of the party has reported against my Facebook account continuously and for their reporting, my account has removed. I contacted with Facebook team as their instruction, but not sure about reopen the account. Actually, the photograph of Prime minister were taken in a meeting with Ahmed Safi who is an islamic fundamentalist ( Mollah). Ahmed Safi is the president of Hefajat-e-Islam (Saving Islam) which organization is demanding for thirteen Islamic fundamental conservation along with death sentences for atheists in Bangladesh. Mr. Safi is also infamous for his speech against women. He named women as tamarind which produce saliva in mouth. He claimed that the man who is not lust to woman is not really a man. He asked the women of Bangladesh to remain themselves in house and not to go out as it would turn the men lust. For such speech Safi got his name Tetul Hujur (Tamarind Mullah). After such speech the Prime Minister Shekh Hasina became angry to Mr. Safi at that time. She called the women of Bangladesh to be aware and protect such Mullah’s having lust view to women. Recently, the Hefajot-e-Islam has become more and more influential in the politics of Bangladesh as the government is reluctant to be a side with the secularists. The government is more prospective to the Islamic fundamentalists. In this way, the Prime Minister called Mr. Safi in Ganavaban (House of the Prime Minister) and assured to provide more and more opportunity to them. She forgot her speech against Safi. A photo was taken from that meeting. I, only added some dialogues to this the photo which was exposing Hasina as a tamarind (Which can turn Safi as lust) to Safi. Shekh Hasina: Have I the quality to be a tamarind?Safi: Masallah (Thanks Allah). You are really a beautiful tamarind. I am speechless.

This is the gist of my Facebook account removal. The Government of Bangladesh is being more and more reluctant to free speech. They are also getting contacted with Facebook authority to remove account with pseudonyms. You might know, most of our activists of free speech in Bangladesh are using pseudonyms to keep them safe. But, now a day, it is also becoming very tough for them.’