Wednesday, 30 June 2010


On Saturday (26 June) I went to the BHA one-day conference at Conway Hall on "Humanism, Philosophy and the Arts". The performance by the BHA Choir was probably the most entertaining part, particularly their rendition of "Sumer is icumen in", though their attempt to emulate the Swingle Singers with "Sleepytime Bach" was not a success.

The other highlight of the day was Martin Rowson's run through a selection of his cartoons. I'm not really a fan of his drawings, particularly those of the grossly anatomical type, but his latest take on the coalition government, with Clegg as Pinocchio and Cameron as Little Lord Fauntleroy are more gently amusing, though I suspect that after the honeymoon period they will become more trenchant.

Ken Worpole's talk on Humanism and Architecture was a subject completely new to me, so I don't feel qualified to comment. The other talks were on philosophy. As usual I could find little to disagree with in Richard Norman's account of Art in relation to Meaning in Life, though also little to stimulate new thought. Julian Baggini spoke on ethics as illustrated in films, particularly those of the Coen brothers, but can't agree with his idea that "good" people are those who are not a "pain in the arse". My view is that most people who ever got any good reform going were always a nuisance to the powers that be. Nigel Warburton spoke about modern conceptual art, and included as an illustration what appeared to be a photograph of a kitchen, but was in fact a photograph of a paper model of the same kitchen! He maintains that you cannot appreciate art fully without knowing the artist's intentions.

After the conference I bought Nigel Warburton's book "Philosophy: The Basics". What strikes me about this after a first read-through is that many of the subjects and arguments are so old-hat, and take such little account of modern advances in science. It's as if philosophers are living in a time-warp. I'd like to have a go at writing my own account. I've been gathering notes for some years and have a good title, but getting down to organising it into some coherent pattern is another matter.

Report on the Extra Meeting

Our meeting at the Cafe Relax attracted seven, including two that we first met at the last lecture. The venue did not prove ideal, mainly because the noise from the refrigerator which made it difficult to hear soft-spoken people, even though we were gathered close together. If anyone can suggest better places to meet for this type of informal discussion, we would give them consideration.

One of the topics that came up concerned the issues of animal welfare and vegetarianism, which is a subject that divides humanists as much as any other group. Rational cases can be made for either side, though we can usually agree that animals raised for food should be treated as humanely as possible.

I distributed some copies of the BHA News magazine to those who are not direct BHA members. These were provided by the BHA as part of their "Humanist Week" (21-27 June). It's a pity we could not have done more to mark this, but it fell between our usual meeting dates.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Extra Meeting, at the Relax Cafe

We have had a lot of new members coming to our lecture meetings recently, but there hasn't been time for getting to know one another or to chat about things in the news or whatever ideas you might want to raise. So I'm proposing to hold an extra meeting on Wednesday 30th June from 6 pm onwards, at a new venue, The Relax Cafe. This is a few doors along from the Arts Centre. We should be able to use the room on the right-hand side of the Cafe, which is an Ice Cream Parlour during the day. Tea, Coffee and edibles, as well as other beverages, can be bought there, and there is no separate charge for the room or for attending the meeting.

This is in addition to our scheduled talk by Lesley Arnold-Hopkins at the Arts Forum on 8th July, about Humanist Weddings.

I forgot to add to the circular that there is a poster available for the July meeting. See the right-hand column for a link to the page where it can be downloaded.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Report of our June Meeting

The talk by James Williams on Creationism and the Teaching of Evolution attracted a good attendance of twenty in all including at least six newcomers, although I was disappointed at the absence of several regulars who have previously shown a strong interest in science. The speaker arrived fifteen minutes late, due to traffic, but the meeting carried on later than usual, until 9 pm, and Mr Williams coped very well with some pointed questions, from quite opposite directions.

The main thesis of the talk was the insidious way that creationists try to promote their beliefs, by for instance publishing attractively illustrated books on dinosaurs for children, but omitting any geological dating, and including accounts of the myth of Noah's Ark and the Great Flood. He also questioned the morality of scientifically qualified writers who are prepared to see the facts misrepresented, in a way that surely contravenes the commandment about not bearing false witness. He also spoke interestingly about the way young children can get misapprehensions from such teaching that then becomes difficult to rectify.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Humanist Heritage

A new website is being set up to gather biographical and topographical details on Humanist Heritage. There are only a few pages there at present. I have been involved in putting together some of the material, for instance the biography of Fenner Brockway and the photo of his statue in Red Lion Square. There was a previous website of this name, set up by Hamish Macpherson, and he is still involved in the project, but it has now come under the wing of the BHA.

Local groups are asked to provide information for the site about people who made significant contributions to our modern secular culture. For example, I've provided a biography of Alan Turing, based largely on information from Dean Morrison's Quockling website, but this is not yet on the Humanist Heritage site.

This project is part of a Humanist Week 21-27 June designed to increase awareness of Humanism. Unfortunately these dates lie between those of our local Group meetings on 10th June and 8th July. I'm wondering if we should have another meeting during that week, say at the pub, or does anyone have ideas for some other event we could organise?