Kia ora: I write this on another windless sunny day in Wellington. Rain is on the horizon, but may not be the drenching that we hope for. I do hope that it rains before you receive this newsletter. Never have I seen New Zealand so parched, and never have I had to consider living with a scarcity of water. It was a shock to see a Dominion Post headline the other morning that Wellington had just 20 days of water left! It brought to mind the fate of the ancient city of Fatehpur Sikri in India, founded in 1569 by the Mughal emperor Akbar, the grandfather of Shah Jahan the builder of the incomparable Taj Mahal. Fatehpur Sikri served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585 but after 14 years a lack of water caused the city to be abandoned. Fatehpur Sikri become a well preserved ghost city that may still be visited today.
Darwin Day: A group of Humanists gathered to celebrate Darwin’s birthday, 12 February, and to begin the New Year at the Kingsgate Hotel on the evening of Saturday 16 February. Those present enjoyed light refreshments and shared a meal together.
Monthly Meeting: Monday 25 March Open to the public – All interested people are welcome – bring a friend
Remembering John Maynard SmithWho was John Maynard Smith?
Why does Richard Dawkins speak so highly of him?
At this meeting you will find out a little more about John Maynard Smith and why Richard Dawkins has so much respect for him.
*** Please note the day and venue ***
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend..
New Venue for meeting:
Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff Street, Wellington.
Moncrieff Street is off Elizabeth Street, which is off Kent Terrace, Wellington – a short distance from Courtney Place
We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm
*** Please note the day, Monday 25 March, and venue, Tararua Tramping Club***
Richard Dawkins has an “In Memoriam” in his book The Ancestor’s Tale (2004) to John Maynard Smith. Dawkins writes:
“Never mind the lectures or the “workshops”; be blowed to the motor coach excursions to the local beauty spots; forget your fancy visual aids and radio microphones; the only thing that really matters at a conference is that John Maynard Smith must be in residence and there must be a spacious, convivial bar. If he can’t manage the dates you have in mind, you must just reschedule the conference….. He will charm and amuse the young research worker, listen to their stories, inspire them, rekindle enthusiasms that might be flagging, and send them back to their laboratories or their muddy fields, enlivened and invigorated, eager to try out the new ideas he has generously shared with them.”
Who is this person about whom Richard Dawkins writes so eloquently? John Maynard Smith, ( 1920 – 2004) was a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist. He enlisted to fight in the Second World War, but was turned down because of his eyesight, later joking that “under the circumstances, my poor eyesight was a selective advantage—it stopped me getting shot.” He was an aeronautical engineer during the Second Work War and then took a second degree in genetics, studying the fruit fly, under the well-known biologist J B S Haldane. Maynard Smith was instrumental in the application of game theory to evolution and theorized on other problems such as the evolution of sex and signalling theory. In 1973 Maynard Smith formalised a central concept in evolutionary game theory called the Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS), based on a verbal argument by George Price. This area of research culminated in his 1982 book Evolution and the Theory of Games The Hawk-Dove game is his single most influential game theoretical model. Maynard Smith published a book entitled The Evolution of Sex which explored in mathematical terms, the notion of the “two-fold cost of sex”. With the biochemist, Eors Szathmary, he wrote an influential 1995 book The Major Transitions in Evolution, a seminal work which continues to contribute to ongoing issues in evolutionary biology. A popular science version of the book, entitled The Origins of Life: From the birth of life to the origin of language was published in 1999. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1977, and in 1986 he was awarded the Darwin Medal.
The meeting will include video clips featuring the late John Maynard Smith.
Meetings for 2013 will be held on the 4th Monday of the month at the Tararua Tramping Club rooms, 4 Moncrieff Street.
Moncrieff Street is on Trolley bus routes 1 & 3.
As well as street parking, Elizabeth Street Tyre Service at 8 Elizabeth St. is happy for people to park on their premises while attending an evening Humanist meeting.
Please note that the venue and day of the month for Humanist meetings changed during 2012 because of the sudden closure of Turnbull House from Friday 24 August by the Department of Conversation due to a need for earthquake strengthening.
Radio Access: Humanist Outlook, 10.30 am, 783 kHz Wellington, on Saturday 30th March, 27th April, 25 May, and 22 June.
Humanist Outlook is broadcast at 10:30 am on Access Radio, Wellington, 783 kHz, every fourth Saturday.
If you are outside the Wellington area, go to www.accessradio.org.nz to listen or to download as a pod cast after the event.
Previous Meeting: At last month’s meeting, Iain explained how the concept of an “Intelligent Designer” was proposed by Plato around 380 BCE. Plato called the designer, the Demiurge, and argued that the Demiurge created all the species as required to fit slots in nature, and that because they were specially created to fill these slots they must be fixed in nature and immutable. But Plato’s argument for such an intelligent designer were systematically refuted by David Hume, Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and scepticism. Hume was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment and is regarded with John Locke, George Berkeley, and a handful of others as a British Empiricist. Hume criticised the design argument in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 1748 and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion 1777 and he probably thought of all the reasons why an intelligent designer does not exist before anyone else thought of them. But, while Hume rejected Plato’s assertion that species must be immutable and accepted that evolution had occurred he had no understanding of Natural Selection or the processes that drove evolution as Natural Selection was yet to be proposed by Darwin.
Hume’s arguments should have put the arguments for creation by design to rest but the concept was resurrected in 1984 by Charles B. Thaxton who supposedly picked up the concept of “Intelligent Design” from a NASA engineer. Following a 1987 Supreme Court decision in the USA, Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), that creationism is unconstitutional in public school science curricula, Thaxton replaced the word “creation” with “intelligent design” in the creationist book Of Pandas and People that he edited. Over the next fifteen years, so called “Intelligent Design” meaning creationism was promoted by creationists as legitimate science. In 2005 the term “Intelligent Design” was challenged in the courts and held to be nothing more than creationism under another name.
Iain also outlined the concept of memes and some of the opposition to the concept. In the video that followed, Richard Dawkins appealed to the audience to take back the concept of “Intelligent Design” as a legitimate term to describe good design by intelligent humans. He went on to ask that we take back other terms and phrases that had been hijacked by religious people and used to support gods. Dawkins then demonstrated how memes spread amongst people and answered some of the criticism directed at memes.
Subscriptions 2012-2013: Thank you to those conscientious members who have paid their subscriptions for the August 2012- August 2013 year. If you have not paid, subscriptions for the 2012-2013 year are now due. A hard copy of the newsletter with a subscription renewal form was posted to all members last year. A renewal form is also attached to this newsletter.
Subscription rates for 2012-2013 are the same as for 2011-2012 year. Please check your records and if you have not paid for this year please pay now. If you have not paid for previous year, please pay arrears. Please return the form with your name and address on it with your payment. An email giving details of how to renew your subscription using internet banking will be sent to all members with an email address shortly.
2013 Dates This year our monthly meetings will be on the fourth Monday of the month. Please mark your diaries now. There will be a special meeting on Friday 12 April – see details below. We will hold a winter-solstice gathering at a time and date to be announced near the time of the winter solstice. Later in the year we will hold our annual seminar.
April 2013 Special meeting:
Auckland, Saturday 16th; Hawke Bay, Sunday 7th; Christchurch, Tuesday 9th; and Wellington, Friday 12th April.
Further Details Below
Sean Faircloth is an inspirational speaker and the author of Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All – and What We Can Do About It published in 2012. An attorney, Sean served five terms in the Maine Legislature. In 2009 he became executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, advocating for separation of church and state, and for greater acceptance of nontheistic viewpoints in American life and in 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Sean warns that the religious right is “very orchestrated” and has internationalised its movement with some success in Australia and New Zealand. Sean is seeking to meet like minded people in this part of the world to promote rational thought and science based knowledge.
Read more about Sean Faircloth on the following pages. In Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, Sean will be supported by prominent local speakers.
Other functions and chances to meet and speak with Sean are being arranged.
Places are limited so be certain that you book early. See report on page A7 of the Dominion Post, Monday 18 March.
2013 Skeptics Conference: This year the conference will be held in Wellington. While the list of speakers is not finalised, Peter Clemerson and Jonny Aqel who spoke to us at our monthly meetings last year are among the speaker line up.
Marriage Celebrants: Our society has two marriage celebrants very happy to help celebrate and solemnise a marriage, perform a Naming Ceremony for a new baby, or lead a funeral for a person who would like a non religious ceremony. In Auckland our celebrant is Pamela Sikkema, who can be contacted by phone (09) 570 4390, and in Wellington Peter Clemerson, who can be contacted by phone (04) 938 5923 and by email [email protected] .
Sean Faircloth Tour
Saturday 6 April 1.00pm until 6.00pm. Owen G Glenn Building, Auckland University
Speakers: Sean Faircloth, Peter Harrison, Dr Michael Gousmett
Cost: $25.00, students free (Hosted by NZARH)
For more information contact the NZARH office 09 373 5131
Sunday 7 April 7.00pm. Havelock North Function Centre
Speaker: Sean Faircloth
Cost: gold coin (Hosted by Hawke’s Bay NZARH Branch)
For more information contact John Simpson 06 877 6678 or Mary Ellen Warren 06 845 4623
Tuesday 9 April 7.00pm
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
Speakers: Sean Faircloth, Dr Michael Gousmett
Cost: $15.00, students free (Hosted by Christchurch NZARH members and Christchurch members of NZ Skeptics)
For more information contact the NZARH office 09 373 5131
Friday 12th April, 5.30pm refreshments, talk 6.00pm. Victoria University: Government Building Lecture Theatre 1, (entrance off Stout St)
Speakers: Sean Faircloth, Peter Harrison, Dave Armstrong
Cost: $18.00, students free (Hosted Humanist Society of New Zealand & NZARH)
For more information contact HSNZ 04 232 4497
Dinner with Sean Faircloth:
Saturday 13 April. James Cook Hotel, Wellington
After dinner speaker Clive Solomon
For more information and to register for the dinner contact Gaylene Middleton 04 232 4497
For further information, as it is posted visit www.reason.org.nz and www.humanist.org.nz
Tickets may be purchased at www.reason.org.nz
Copies of Sean Faircloth’s book Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All – and What We Can Do About It 2012 will be for sale.
Places, times and other details subject to variation if required by demand or other circumstances.
Sean Faircloth – New Zealand Tour
Brief Introduction to Speakers and their talks
Sean Faircloth: will be discussing religious bias in New Zealand, including the Education Bill and Charter Schools, comparing those issues with the United States and putting that in the context of an international secular movement. He is the author of Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All – and What We Can Do About It (Pitchstone Press, February 2012). Faircloth, an attorney, served five terms in the Maine Legislature. In 2009 Faircloth became executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, advocating for separation of church and state, and for greater acceptance of nontheistic viewpoints in American life. In 2011 he became the Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. His book, Attack of the Theocrats explores the many ways federal and state legal codes privilege religion in law. Sean says of his book: ‘American society faces creeping theocracy. It is just not a question of what might happen in the future. It is the stark reality of what has already happened. We have a patriotic duty to act. The enlightenment worldview is an ethical imperative. We betray that imperative if we sit on the sidelines. This book is about directly involving ourselves as secularists in changing our world for the better”.
Peter Harrison: (Speaker:Auckland and Wellington)
Peter is a council member of NZARH: Peter joined the Association in 2009 seeking other rationalists. Peter founded the New Zealand Open Source Society in 2002, and was President of the Society until 2007. Peter wants to be active in promoting a secular New Zealand, and to promote open, rational and objective policy in Government. Peter is a promoter of the Secular Education Network. Peter will be talking about the campaign to promote secular education in New Zealand through the Secular Education Network. He will also be speaking about the new Charter Schools legislation and how it will be used to funnel public funds into religious organisations which will be used to indoctrinate children.
Dr Michael Gousmett: (Speaker:Auckland and Christchurch)
Michael will talk about how religion is given special treatment in many areas of society, benefiting from the public purse. Dr Gousmett is an author and presenter nationally and internationally on charity sector issues. His Doctoral thesis is a study of the history of the charitable purposes exemption from income tax. He is a regular contributor to the New Zealand Law Journal and other professional publications; the author on charities in NZ Taxation; and the co-author of a text on charity law and practice in New Zealand (forthcoming 2013). Dr Gousmett is an adviser to charity and non-profit organisations on governance, fiduciary responsibilities, constitution reviews, policy development, strategic planning, budgets and business plans, taxation, financial viability, and financial and management accounting system reviews.
Dave Armstrong: (Speaker Wellington)
Dave is a Wellington playwright, columnist and satirist. His provocative Dominion Post columns on topics including religious education, the Destiny Church, Charter Schools, ‘Wogistan’, and the importance of science has drawn the ire of the religious and conservative right. He has been described by furious trolls as ‘a few cards short of a deck’, ‘nothing but a hack’ and ‘a godless liberal with bleak intolerance.’ Dave’s comedy Kings of the Gym, which had at its heart the Evolution-Creation debate, had successful seasons at Wellington’s Circa Theatre and with the Auckland Theatre Company. Dave also writes the weekly satirical radio sketch show Down the List, which plays on Sunday mornings on National Radio. Dave will take a light-hearted look at religion and the state, and asks if New Zealand is becoming more or less secular. Declining church attendances, Sunday trading, the relaxation of liquor licensing laws and the recent passing of Civil Union and Gay Marriage legislation would suggest that New Zealand is becoming a more secular and tolerant society. But is it really? Are the Christian Right fighting a rearguard action? Why are new age therapies still so popular? And how are recent law changes, especially in education, going to affect our supposedly secular and tolerant society?
Dr. Bryce Edwards (Speaker: Christchurch): ‘The influence of religion on New Zealand politics’.
Bryce is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago, and he has a PhD in Political Sociology. Currently in the early stages of his academic career, Bryce teaches and researches in the areas of New Zealand parliamentary politics, elections, political parties, and public policy. He is currently writing a book entitled ‘Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power’. He also writes a regular online column for the New Zealand Herald about politics.
Dr.Clive Solomon: (After Dinner Speaker Wellington)
Clive is a Whanganui City Councillor who spearheaded a successful protest against prayers at Council meetings. In March 2012 prayers before Council meetings were stopped. As a Whanganui Hospital Board member, Clive has spoken out against Whanganui Hospital’s Natural Therapy programme, which offered therapies including Maori healing, Christian prayer, massage, reiki and meditation to hospital staff. Clive felt very strongly that the Hospital Board should be paying attention to getting proper standards of care and empathy in conventional Western medicine as “Best practice, evidence-based medicine is the foundation of the scientific practice of medicine. Other modalities might have their place [but] in other areas [and] under different governance.”
Max Wallace: (MC Auckland and Wellington)
Max is Director of the Australia New Zealand Secular Association (ANZSA) will chair these gatherings. He joined the NZARH in 2003 and in 2007 published The Purple Economy: Supernatural Charities, Tax and the State, in 2007.In 2008 he received the Charles Southwell Award from NZARH. In 2008 he promoted the conference “The Secular Heritage of Australia and New Zealand” held in Sydney and Wellington. The papers from that conference were published as Realising Secularism in 2010. He helped bring a 2011 case to the Australian High Court to question the $400m federal funding of religious chaplains in Australian state schools.