This is the final newsletter for 2014, resuming again in February 2015. We hope to meet up with members attending the ‘Future Directions of Rationalism and Humanism’ Conference in Napier 13-15 February 2015. An observation often heard at both the Australian Atheist conventions in 2010 & 2012 and again at the World Humanist Congress 2014 in Oxford was how good it felt to be among people of a similar persuasion. This is our opportunity, here in NZ! An outline of the Conference was given in the last newsletter and is given again over the page. It is most timely that the NZ Humanist Charitable Trust has helped us to bring Professor Guy Standing from the UK to speak to us. At present there is much mention in the news of ‘zero hour contracts’ where a person is given a contract but left unsure how many hours they will be required to work. This iniquitous system is in place overseas and Professor Standing discussed it in his book ‘The Precariart’ 2011 (page 61). If Humanism is about helping to forge a society of freedom and fairness for all then this opportunity to discuss and consider the consequences of 30 years of a neo-liberal economic system, is invaluable. Professor Standing suggests that the way forward is the consideration of a ‘universal basic income.’ Other discussion will concern climate change, child poverty, secular education, and other ‘bold frontiers’ for humanism and rationalism. Looking forward to a stimulating summer gathering.
Monthly Meeting: Monday 24 November 2014
Sara Passmore speaks about Working with the British Humanist Association
Sara is the former Head of Education and Promotion at the British Humanist Association (BHA) where she was responsible for promoting understanding of Humanism, including through an educational setting, and for promoting the BHA to diverse audiences.
Sara studied Education and English Literature at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, and has since led multi-million pound educational programmes across the UK as a projects manager at Personal Finance Education Group (PFEG).
Sara represented the BHA on the National Council of Faiths and Beliefs in Further Education and The Religious Education Council of England and Wales. She is the former Vice Chair of Southwark Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts. In her spare time she volunteers at the Wellington Women’s Boarding House, managing communications and development.
In this meeting Sara will focus on how the British Humanist Association became one of the leading campaigning organisations in the UK and how it uses volunteers, fundraising, and events to raise its public profile. The BHA has consultation status at the E.U. and U.N, making it a leading voice for nonreligious people across the world. It has over 30,000 members and supporters and re
All interested people are welcome, Society members and members of the public – bring a friend..
We meet from 7.30 pm until 9.30 pm
Note New Venue: Southern Cross Hotel, corner of Cuba St and Abel Smith St
Eileen Bone Victoria University Scholarship 2014
This year’s recipient is Lydia Wolstenholme. Lydia, also received the Naenae College Mason Drama Trophy and the Senior Trophy for Excellence in Maths, organised the publication of the School Leaving Magazine and was a School Prefect. Lydia’s father was a former pupil of Eileen Bone who was a valued and loved member of our Humanist Society who taught English for many years at Naenae College where she is remembered as an inspirational teacher.
The Scientists, Inventors, Engineers, Artists, of Ancient Greece – Why Oblivion? Nikos Potousis gave a very wide ranging and interesting talk on the people and achievements of the ancient Hellenic world. Starting with Daedalus, the mythical inventor of tools, and the first European currency in Phocaea, circa 550 BCE, he described the voyage of discovery of Pytheas of Marssalia to the north Atlantic about 325 BCE, visiting Britain and Iceland, and the jet propelled flying machine of Archytas that flew about 200 metres in the 4th century BCE. He discussed Aristarchus and then Eupalinos who used geometric surveying techniques to built a tunnel over a kilometre long working from both ends to bring fresh water to the city of Samos in the 6th century BCE. This tunnel continued to supply water for over a thousand years. The Colossus built in 282 BCE was mentioned and the city planning skills of Hippodamos of Miletus. Eratosthene calculated the circumference of the earth in 255 BCE; Ctesibius of Alexandria improved the water clock and invented a water powered pipe organ; and the many inventions of Heron of Alexandria included the odometer, a steam engine, and a water pump. The Antikythera Computer, circa 100 BCE was a truly remarkable invention. Hypatia of Alexandria improved the astrolabe, developed the hydrometer, and was responsible for many other achievements before her gruesome murder by Christian zealots. Turning to Artists, Nikos showed examples and named significant artists. He discussed dancing depicted in artwork, and then music showing pictures of ancient string instruments that have evolved into the modern instruments that we know today. The Pandouris of ancient Greece has become the Pandura of modern Ukraine. Turning to poetry, Nikos discussed Sappho of Lesbos. Nikos introduced Aristoxenus (354 – 300 BCE) the Greek philosopher and music theorist whose theoretical writings on music established a foundation on which modern music theory is based and described the epitaph of Seikilos.
How and why was this great ancient culture destroyed? Nikos talked of the Edict of Theodosius (347-395 CE) that required the burning of books and how Arcadius (377-408 CE) called for the destruction of temples and artwork. Nikos concluded by comparing Periclean Athens in the 5th century BCE with the Christian city, Justinian Constantinople, in the 5th Century CE: democracy was replaced by autocracy, free speech with censorship, scientific enquiry by faith, places of higher learning were closed, libraries burned, stadia for athletes replaced by a single racecourse used for gambling, art schools closed, music and dancing festivals banned, public and private artwork defaced or destroyed, and playwrights and scientists that had been plentiful became unknown.
NZ Skeptics Conference 5 December to 7 December, Auckland: see http://conference.skeptics.org.nz/register
News from Nepal Ambience International School (AIS) has just begun its third term for 2014. The students have returned from a month-long nationwide holiday for the Festivals of Dashain and Tihar, the longest school holiday in Nepal. Dashain is a festival with an emphasis on family gatherings and renewal of community ties. People reunite from all parts of the world, as well as different parts of the country, to celebrate together. Both students and teachers at AIS normally return to family in villages throughout Nepal during this time; which may involve upwards of 15 hours of travel by bus and foot from Kathmandu. Tihar is similar to Diwali, the Festival of Lights, commonly celebrated by Indian communities. However, Tihar has an emphasis on seeking blessing of wealth for one’s family and blessings for the animals that are commonly helpful to traditional life in Nepal such as the dog, cow and buffalo. At present AIS is preparing for a Science exhibition, which will take place in about a fortnight. Recently the school held an awareness programme on the earthquake risk in Kathmandu Valley; a Scout Graduation programme; and a school debate considering the controversial topic “Should students be punished?” This topic is very pertinent in Nepal, because extreme corporal punishment is still common in many Nepalese schools, although actively discouraged by the teachers at AIS. There has also been an “I carry my own bag” programme, which has seen the banning of the use of plastic bags within the school and raising awareness of the harm plastic bags do to the environment of Kathmandu. Soon, the students of Classes 6, 7, 8 and 9 will be going on a day trek in the hills surrounding Kathmandu valley. The older students, Classes 8-10, are preparing for their National examinations which will take place in March 2015, the end of the school year. At present, they are studying for mock exams on the 2nd and 3rd of January 2015.
Humanist Society of NZ Council members 2015 At the AGM the following people were elected to the Council: President: Mark Honeychurch, Vice President: Iain Middleton, Secretary: Gaylene Middleton, Treasurer: Cormac Maguire Council members: Rochelle Forrester, Pamela Mace, Sara Passmore, and Lachman Prasad.
We thank and farewell with best wishes for the future, our past president, Mark Fletcher who has worked with us for eight years. Mark has given presentations to us at the monthly meetings and has also spoken on Radio Access. We welcome to our committee, Sara Passmore, recently returned from the UK where she worked with the British Humanist Association. Sara will speak to us at our upcoming November meeting (see above).
Obituary It was with sadness that we heard that HSNZ member Carrick Lewis died on 22 October 2014. Carrick was President of the Humanist Society of NZ, from 1997 until 1999, and then Vice-President from 1999 to 2001. Carrick was also Chairperson of the Wellington branch from 1997 to 2001. Our thoughts are with Norina, Carrick’s wife. Norina always supported Carrick who worked tirelessly for many community organisations, including the United Nations, Grey Power and Action for the Environment. Carrick was a very able speaker and administrator.
2015 NZARH Hawke Bay conference
with the Humanist Society of NZ and the NZ Skeptics Society 13 – 15 February 2015
Future Directions of Rationalism and Humanism
Duart House, 51 Duart Road, Havelock North
The Hawke’s Bay Conference organisers, John Warren and John Timpson see this ‘get together’ as an avenue for positive dialogue between rationalists, humanists, and sceptics, from around New Zealand.
The Humanist Society wishes to thank the NZ Humanist Charitable Trust for contributing the cost of Professor Guy Standing’s return travel from the UK. The Trust has also contributed $1000 towards conference costs. NZARH will also contribute an honorarium for Professor Standing – an appreciation to Professor Standing for making his time and knowledge available to us.
The timing of the conference was planned to enable participants to remain in the Hawkes’s Bay, if they wish, for the Art Deco weekend 19-22 February 2015. The Mission Winery Estate is not held this year.
The conference has an innovative idea for the speaker sessions. Instead of sitting in lecture theatre style rows one behind the other, the conference venue has round tables – remember King Arthur. It is planned that the speakers will speak for 45 minutes, to be followed by 20 minutes of ‘around the table’ discussion and then a 30 minute question & answer session with the speaker. The questions will come from the ‘around the table’ discussion. To further encourage conviviality and friendship the conference will include a breakfast together at Duart House before the first session of the day.
Guest speakers include:
Professor Martin Manning, Victoria University, who represented New Zealand on the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Professor Guy Standing, Professor of Developmental Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network. Professor Standing will speak on Saturday and Sunday so we will have ample opportunity to absorb and consider the breadth of his analysis of our present day economic environment and the possibility for change. Michael Burawoy from the University of California, USA writes ‘Guy Standing has elaborated a brave and imaginative programme that could bring protection to the denizens of the world and save us all from the destructiveness of neoliberal capitalism.’ (Note: denizens are citizens who rights are being whittled away.) Professor Standing will talk to us about the precariat class and the need to move towards an unconditional basic income and deliberative democracy. (Note: the precariat is an emerging class characterised by chronic insecurity, detached from then old norms of labour and the working class.)
Russell Wills, New Zealand Children’s Commissioner who will discuss future issues of young people in New Zealand
Sara Passmore, who has recently left her position as Head of Education and Promotion with the British Humanist Association On her departure BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘In her time with us, Sara Passmore brought a new level of professionalism to all of our education programmes, from the training of volunteers to speak about Humanism in schools to the production of curriculum materials for teachers. She also developed new ways of communicating Humanism to the general public through innovative online campaigns. Her contribution will be viewed with gratitude by all our supporters.’ While attending the 2014 World Humanist Congress in Oxford we saw the sadness that BHA felt with her imminent departure.
The conference will begin with short presentations from the three free-thought organisations: Rationalists, Humanists, and Skeptics. During the final afternoon there will be a panel discussion ‘A Vision for the Future’.
Registration is now open and we recommend that participants REGISTER and reserve accommodation as soon as possible as demand is strong in Hawke’s Bay at the time of Art Deco
Why have an economist, Professor Standing speak to us?
In ‘Society without God’ (2008) Phil Zuckerman showed that when a society ensures that people have employment security, an excellent education system, egalitarian social policies then the need for a belief in God diminishes. The tenants of Humanism are all concerned with creating a ‘good society’ where all persons may live well. Therefore it seems that an approach that concerns improving an individual’s and a family’s well being, will have, as a consequence the decline of religion. Professor Standing is an advocate of the universal basic income. The core of this proposal is that every legal resident of a country or community, children and adults, will receive a modest monthly payment. This would be unconditional in behavioural terms. On top of this people would still work. In 2010 a small experiment was conducted in London, when homeless vagrants were asked what they most wanted. The money to fulfil these dreams was provided without conditions. Several months later nearly all had ceased to be homeless and a burden on local authorities. The savings for the taxpayer were fifty times the cost of giving it! ( The Precariart 2011 Chapter 7) This is why it will be good to listen to Professor Standing.