Kia ora: It is almost time for the AGM and Seminar. We are hoping to see you all there.

2006 AGM and Seminar
AGM: Date: Sunday, 15 October 2006
Time: 10 am to 12.00 pm.
Place: Turnbull House, Bowen St, Wellington
Presentation: A Ray Carr Award will be presented at the AGM this year. This award, in memory of founding president Ray Carr, is awarded to members who have given long and outstanding service to the Humanism and the Humanist Society. Previous recipients of this award are: Ray Carr, Jim Woolnough, Jim Dakin, Eric Grimes, Peggy Slater, Jack Shallcrass, Eileen Bone, Robert Miller, and Maureen Hoy.
Nominations for Council positions, signed by the nominator, seconder, and nominee indicating acceptance of the nomination, may be posted to P. O. Box 3372 Wellington.

Seminar:

STEM CELLS NOW
Date: Sunday, 15 October 2006 Time: 1.20 pm for a prompt 1.30 pm start. Finish 4.30 pm
Place: Mezzanine Room ( by Clark’s Cafe ), Wellington Central Library
This years seminar will be chaired by Wellington Humanist, Mark Fletcher. Our seminar speakers are:
* Dr. Michael Berridge from the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research who will speak on stem cell research.
* Dr. Berridge graduated with a PhD from Auckland in 1971. He pursued post-doctoral research in developmental biology overseas, returning to NZ in 1976. In Wellington he established a research programme on red blood cell development at Wellington Hospital and Victoria University. He currently holds a James Cook Research Fellowship with the Royal Society of NZ and is Deputy Director of the Malaghan Institute. Current interests include the role of the plasma membrane in cancer cell metabolism and the use of novel screening strategies to identify bioactive molecules from NZ biota.
Kent Stevens, our NZ Humanist Society president and a nominated ethical commentator by the Bio Ethics Council. Kent will discuss the case for stem cell research. Is this research ethical?
* Many of a religious persuasion oppose this direction of research. Many others support this research – Christopher Reeve, Michael J. Fox, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peter Jackson & Fran Wilde, Paul Kurtz, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Dustin Hoffman, the American Humanist Association, and the Humanist Society of Victoria (Australia).

Join us for INFORMATION DISCUSSION REFRESHMENTS and CONVERSATION

October monthly meeting: Monday 30 October 7.30 pm until 9 pm, Turnbull House, Wellington. All welcome. Jason Curry a Humanist Society member will be talking about a chapter of a book that he is currently writing called “Your In-credible God.” The chapter called “The Ventriloquial God – Shining a light on religious experiences” deals with religious experiences – latest neurological studies, the implications of epilepsy/bi-polar visions, “God told me to kill my children”, inconsistent revelation, the use of fasting, hypnotic rituals and hallucinogenic drugs in religious ceremonies to bring on spiritual experiences. Jason will circulate this chapter in written form at the end of the meeting. At the meeting we do enjoy reading the e-mails with your thoughts, it is good to be in touch, where distance or other commitments make it difficult to attend. e-mail Kent at KentStevens77(at)yahoo.com.

  • November monthly meeting: Our final meeting for 2006 will be an end of year lunch at the Fishermans Table, Oriental Parade, Wellington 12.30 pm- 2.30 pm Sunday 26 November. This will be our final function for the year. The usual Monday night meeting is cancelled in favour of the lunch on Sunday 26.
  • Newsletter: There will be a November newsletter, the last for the year.
  • Radio Access: 11 am 783 kHz October 22. No details. Listen in for a surprise.
  • For those living outside the Wellington reception area it is possible to listen to the broadcast on the internet from anywhere in the world. Go to: www.accessradio.org.nz. Click on Wellington Access Radio. At the home page click on the talk/link icon. On the Menu on the left hand side of the screen click on Radio, and with your sound on your computer turned up the radio broadcast is very audible. You do not require broadband to listen.
  • Email discussion group: Humanist Society discussion group is operating on Yahoo at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nzhumanism
Gaylene Middleton

The following are extracts from Victorian Humanist Vol. 45 No. 9 October 2006, the monthly newsletter of the Humanist Society of Victoria Inc.

ROSSLYN IVES Church-State: different Perspectives:

Humanists usually discuss topics from their own perspective. Religionists do likewise. So it is no surprise that Tom Frame, Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Forces, in his book, Church and State: Australia’s Imaginary Wall (2006), argues for the established church-state relations, which have long favoured Christianity. In doing so Frame fails to properly consider the divisive social effects of government funding to religion-based schools and the unfair advantage accrued to tax exempt religious charities; two key issues in the case for greater separation, as argued by humanists and others.

Frame’s perspective has also led him to be critical and condemnatory about humanism, demonstrating the difficulty Christians have in conceiving that a humanist perspective might have similar credibility, social satisfaction and ethical integrity to a religion. His method of misrepresenting humanism is shoddy. Instead of citing a range of authoritative sources, as he does for other issues in his book, he relies on material from the Humanist Society of NSW website, which he quotes and misinterprets in a denigratory manner. After some selective citing he declares: ‘The Humanist Society is part of an ideological movement with received orthodoxy and controlling creeds. The things for which it strives and the activities it promotes are underpinned by a multitude of moral values and ethical principles containing undisclosed preferences and undefended prejudices.’ (p.8 1-2) Then in a final flourish, aimed at the full demolition of humanism, he writes, ‘It is, of course, a form of human idolatry to believe in the utter self-sufficiency of human beings and the perfectibility of human reason.’ (p.84)

Frame’s misleading version of humanism is one I don’t recognise. For me humanism has never included ‘received orthodoxy’, ‘controlling creeds’, ‘undisclosed preferences’ nor ‘undefended prejudices’. Neither have I known any humanists who argue for the ‘perfectibility of reason’, though I’ll concede some over emphasise what can be achieved by reason. However, I have no quarrel with one point that Frame cites as central to a humanist perspective, i.e. the ‘utter self-sufficiency of human beings’.

Life is a puzzle, but to try to explain this by imagining a supernatural creator with a personal interest in our species rests on no evidence other than that people believe it to be so. Whereas the humanist answer to the puzzle that we are naturally evolved beings unaccompanied by supernatural props, is supported by an increasing amount of evidence.

The humanist perspective on church-state relations is well served by commentators such as Dennis Altman in his excellent article, ‘Liberation Theology’ (The Age, 30 September), where he takes Peter Costello to task for mouthing support for separation of church and state while the government, in which he is a minister, continues to fund religious schools and leave tax exempt charities unaccountable. With such differing attitudes on church-state relations and on the value and integrity of a humanist versus a religious perspective, there is an urgent need for greater public dialogue on these important issues.

Rosslyn Ives, Humanist Society of Victoria President

HUMANIST SOCIETY OF VICTORIA STEM CELL SUBMISSION REPORT

In response to an invitation to comment on the Lockhart Review of stem cell research, we made the following main points to the Senate Community Affairs Committee:
We support all recommendations of the Lockhart Committee and are impressed by the quality of their deliberations.
Humanists believe that the ethical problems arising from modem biotechnology should be resolved on the basis of secular morality where the benefits of sentient beings are paramount.
There is a moral and societal obligation to use research that has the potential to ease suffering.
We strongly support the present ban on reproductive cloning of humans.
We strongly support therapeutic cloning for its ability to provide multipotent stem cells genetically compatible with the recipient. This avoids the serious problem of organ/tissue rejection.
We are encouraged in our attitude by the significant and widespread support for this research: AMA,
Australian Academy of Science, (+ a list of 12 countries where it is legally carried out.)
A strict regulatory system to license and monitor this research is crucial in this area.
Our restrictive laws in this research area have already caused a steady loss of Australian experts in stem cells to centres overseas.
On the moral status of an embryo: in our view, only an implanted, visible, embryo has moral status. We point out a marked difference between an embryo created by the fusion of a sperm and an ovum and one that arises from a somatic cell nuclear transfer (as in therapeutic cloning). The latter is a single adult cell without the prospect of implantation and should have the status of that cell. An adult cell is not a moral agent.
We find it difficult to reconcile the notion held by some of our legislators that “embryo ” arising from a single adult cell has a moral status and the right to the rule of sanctity of life, and the fact that our laws require the destruction of unused embryos in fertility programs.
We are concerned about the gross misinformation about this research spread by its opponents, and we suggest a widespread public education campaign on this subject.
The informed and carefully substantiated recommendations of the Lockhart Committee should be implemented in national legislation to ensure uniform research practices throughout all States.
Compiled by Halina Strnad & Dr Alan McPhate

Try this out on friends and family. Comments on the following quiz would be greatly appreciated.
Send to Humanist Society of Victoria, GPO Box 1555, Melbourne Victoria 3001 Australia, or email rosslyn(at)netspace.net.au .

Are you a Humanist – perhaps without even knowing it?
If your response to most of these points is ‘yes’ then you won’t be far off the mark if you say, ‘I’m a Humanist.’

  • Natural events have natural causes
  • The universe is neither for us nor against us
  • Morality is a challenge to be worked out by human beings from experience
  • Compassion and reason are valuable guides for deciding right from wrong
  • We are responsible for ourselves and to each other in trying to do what’s right
  • People are social beings and need each other to get through life
  • Reason is a useful and powerful tool for solving problems
  • The methods of science seem to work better than non-scientific methods
  • It’s better to work on human problems, yours and others, instead of expecting gods or governments to solve them for you
  • Your happiness is more likely to be created by you than just happening to you
  • What happens to you is more to do with choice and chance, rather than being determined by stars, or by gods
  • You’re not born sinful, just human, with possibilities and opportunities, not burdens of guilt
  • It’s right to be open to learning from and hearing the views of others
  • Individual freedom of choice is part of being human and worth defending
  • We humans are part of nature and depend upon and have kinship with other life forms
  • Human life is a ‘do-it-yourself project with nobody waiting around to rescue you.

IHEU September Update

a.. IHEU and HIVOS announce 2006-2008 grant programme
b.. NO to “Notre Dame John Paul II Square”!
c.. Australian parliament censors MP’s euthanasia speech
d.. UHASSO wins Uganda-wide ban on corporal punishment
e.. All African Humanist conference – HEUK 2007
f.. Missiles? What missiles? Israel and the UN Human Rights Council

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Some notes on Dr Michael Berridge

Dr Michael V Berridge, of Health Sciences & Technologies, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, is a council member of the Royal Society of New Zealand. He is a prominent cancer researcher who will talk about current developments in stem cell research with some emphasis on the emerging area of cancer stem cells.

Dr Berridge graduated with a PhD from Auckland University in 1971 where his research concerned the role of hormones in the regulation of plant growth. He then pursued post doctoral research in developmental biology at Purdue University. Following this he was appointed as a staff member of the National Institute for Medical Research in London.

In 1976, Dr Berridge returned to New Zealand as the second Wellington Medical Research Foundation Malaghan Research Fellow where he established a research programme on red blood cell development at Wellington Hospital and at Victoria University. His research project was one of the founding projects of the Wellington Cancer and Medical Research Institute when it was established in 1978 (later renamed the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research). He currently holds a James Cook Research Fellowship with the Royal Society of New Zealand and is a Senior Research Fellow with the Cancer Society of New Zealand. He is Deputy Director of the Malaghan Institute, a Past President of the NZ Association of Scientists and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. Current research interests include the role of the plasma membrane in cancer cell metabolism and the use of novel screening strategies to identify bioactive molecules from New Zealand biota.

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IHEU Update – September 2006

News from International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). You can find the full versions of these news stories on the IHEU website: on the IHEU web site.
IHEU and HIVOS announce 2006-2008 grant programme IHEU and its member organization HIVOS announce the IHEU-HIVOS Humanist Networking & Development Programme 2006-2008. Total funds for 2006: Euros 75,000 of which Euros 64,000 are available for distribution. DEADLINE: Application and Signed Faxed Declaration to reach IHEU by November 1, 2006.

NO to “Notre Dame John Paul II Square”!
IHEU’s French member organization Libre Pensée has condemned the decision of the Paris local government to name a square after John Paul II, and is organizing a protest meeting at the Paris Mairie. The Libre Pensée press release and an English translation are provided here.

Australian parliament censors MP’s euthanasia speech South Australian Democrat MP Sandra Kanck has published a speech made to the South Australian parliament about euthanasia on a New Zealand site after the parliament voted to censor its own proceedings on its own web site. Ms Kanck says her comments highlight the need for legal euthanasia, and that the public should have access to them. “All I’m offering is a little bit of very moderate advice, it’s nothing like the other stuff that you can get on the world wide web,” she said.

UHASSO wins Uganda-wide ban on corporal punishment After a 10-year campaign by members of IHEU member organization UHASSO, the Ugandan government has banned corporal punishment in all schools in the country. Deo Ssekitooleko of UHASSO writes: “We are happy to report that Uganda’s ministry of education has officially banned the use of violence to punish Ugandan school-going children. Ten years ago, UHASSO pioneer members started a project to campaign against such forms of punishment in schools, through seminars in Teachers’ colleges. Common sense finally seems to have prevailed and the government has made an important step forward in the protection of human dignity.”

All African Humanist conference – HEUK 2007 IHEU member organization Humanist and Ethical Union of Kenya organized its third annual conference this year, from May 23rd to 25th at Serena Hotel, Nairobi. It was a resounding success! From an initial ‘toe in the water’ plan for 25 undergraduates to meet up and discuss papers, the conference grew to a grand total of 50 undergraduates from three countries and 20 universities, four postgraduate respondents, and one internationally-renowned speaker, Hon. Raila Odinga, Chairman for the Liberal Democratic Party of Kenya.

Missiles? What missiles? Israel and the UN Human Rights Council The UN Human Rights Council met in emergency session on 11th August to consider a resolution sponsored by members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League condemning Israel for the illegal bombing of innocent civilians in Lebanon. There had been virtually no opportunity to negotiate the content of the resolution before its adoption. The resolution, which dealt only with Israeli aggression against Lebanon failed to mention Hezbollah or the rocket attacks on Israel. Peter Splinter, Amnesty International representative at the Human Rights Council, quoted in a press release, said: “It is deeply regrettable that the resolution failed to meet the principles of impartiality and objectivity expected of the Human Rights Council”

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The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the world umbrella organisation for humanist, ethical culture, rationalist, secularist and freethought groups. Based in London, it is an international NGO with Special Consultative Status with the UN (New York, Geneva, Vienna), General Consultative Status at UNICEF (New York) and the Council of Europe (Strasbourg), and it maintains operational relations with UNESCO (Paris). Its mission is to build and represent the global Humanist movement, to defend human rights and to promote humanist values world-wide. IHEU sponsors and runs the triennial Humanist World Congress.