Thursday, 22 September 2016

Food for Thought

On the 13th Oct 2016 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the White Rock Hotel
 and introduced by Elizabeth Coleman

Food is a vital part of our lives and influences almost everything we do. So this debate will consider
*       how we can feed a prospective population of 9 billion people in a globally warming world with less temperate weather.
*         One part of the answer may be to eat less meat. And where is the Morality in slaughtering 1.2 billion animals per week if we do not need to for nutritional reasons.
*         And then there is the whole process of digestions. The bacteria cells in our body outnumber human cells 10 to 1, so how do the gut bacteria actually work and what are the health impacts of the symbiotic relationship we have with them.
*         And finally, will science come to the rescue? Where are we on synthetic biology for creating foods – from GMs to artificial meat etc

            In the pre industrial past (just 300 years ago) sugar was rare and considered a precious spice, and meat was an extraordinary luxury.  Our stomachs have not caught up with the affluence so many of us now take for granted.
            Research has shown that in times of plenty mammals in general increase their degree of co-operation, and in times of scarcity, they become more competitive (not a surprise!).  So getting this wrong may well make the world a much less pleasant place to live!

            It is occasionally interesting to stand back and consider the big questions of life….
I look forward to hearing your opinions

Stephen Milton

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A Headstrong Evening

Our next meeting will be another 'Headstrong Evening’
On the 8th Sept 2016 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the White Rock Hotel

For our first meeting after the summer break we will have another of the very popular ‘Headstrong Debates’.
A series of 15 minute debates on any subject offered from the floor.

Please bring along your headstrong opinions and be prepared to have them challenged ….

Here are a few questions to choose from, to get us going:

*         The director of Google research believes that by 2050 there will be a direct brain interface to the Internet.  How might it change human nature in the following 50 years?
*         Is Donald Trump’s popularity in America something that should scare us?
*         With enough investment we could stop global warming, but we seem unable to make those choices. Why is that?
*         What does ISIS want?
*         What would be an ideal gift that you would like to receive?
         Andrew Copson advocates we support internationalist ideals and global civilisation, 
        But what are they exactlY? (topic suggested by GPJ)

I look forward to seeing you all again shortly

Stephen Milton

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Does Altruism Exist?

Our next meeting will consider ‘Does Altruism Exist?’

On the 14th July from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the White Rock Hotel

There are many different ideas about the nature of altruism as we try to explain our natural instinct to help each other.

If you perform an act of kindness for another, is it genuine Altruism, or are you gaining a benefit by feeling good about yourself?

If the kindness costs you something, should it be considered an act of masochism from which you obtain some vicarious delight?

Or is every good deed just the expression of your 'selfish gene' in a collective act of enlightened self-interest?

Or do societies evolve in a form of Darwinian competition in which those that learn to collaborate, survive and prosper better than those in which the members are egotistically self-obsessed?

We will try to examine this from all angles including the biblical roots of original sin.

If you would like to prepare a 10 minute slot to give your point of view, please let me know and I’ll include it in the programme.

In August we will take our summer break so there is no meeting.

Stephen Milton

Monday, 23 May 2016

Is Genuine Artificial Intelligence Possible?

Our next meeting will consider ‘If genuine artificial intelligence is possible?’
On the 9th June from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the White Rock Hotel

Computer processing power is continuing to advance according to Moore’s Law doubling every 18 months and halving in price.  But will brute processing power ever be enough for us to see real artificial intelligence emerge?

On the other side of the question, vast strides are being made to help us understand the wondrous complexities of our own brains. Are we just a complex set of automated reflexes or  have we taken sufficient control over our responses to claim ‘intelligence’ in choosing our own actions?

Intelligence is an essence of what it means to be Human, so this will be a conversation about who we are and what we are as a race; but we may have to consider
·         What the world would be like if we were freed from the drudgery of keeping ourselves alive?
·         what rights we would have to give a machine that showed free will and intelligence?
·         How would we protect ourselves from a sentient machine that was growing in intelligence at an exponential rate?

Bring along your questions and thoughts.

 Stephen Milton

Monday, 25 April 2016

Social Institutions at Breaking Point?

Our next meeting will be a Debate on how society should cope with the pressure on collective services.
On the 12th May from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the White Rock Hotel

Many of the services that we take for granted and which make UK such a great place to live, have been under extraordinary pressure – and some claim they are at breaking point….
The list is long:
·         Health – NHS, mental health, nursing homes, end of life care
·         Schooling - Teaching staff leaving, shortage of places/ large classes, curriculum changes and now academisation
·         Legal - loss of legal aid is making recourse to the law only available to the rich.
·         Policing – cut backs put safety at risk and a lack of competence in the new crime areas on line,
·         Army – even if we spend 2% of GDP as NATO demands, it is not enough to deliver an effective world force.
·         infrastructure – housing shortages, transport, technology
·         local government – increasing responsibility but reduced budgets
·         etc etc
But why are these the things we seem unable or unwilling to afford?

Is the answer to use market pressures to improve their efficiency or – whisper it quietly…to increase taxes, or is there some third ways of sharing social responsibility? See article on this bit…

In the longer terms, as we apply evolving technologies to improve the affluence of our society, how to we ensure that the benefits are distributed equitably and that our collective resources are directed to the benefit of the common good?
This is the heart of the Social Contract between citizens and state. There might be no right answers, but how do we as Humanists, feel about these choices?

Bring along your views and ideas and experiences to share in the debate.

Stephen Milton (Chair)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

EU Debate: Remain or Leave?

Our next meeting will be a Debate 
on whether the ‘UK should Remain a member of the EU or Leave’.

On the 14th April from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the White Rock Hotel

On the 23rd of June we will make a decision on whether to remain a member of the EU or leave. This is a big deal!

There are so many different issues wrapped into this decision that it will come down to an assessment of the balance of risks and there is no certainty on either side of the argument. Our intention is to hold a debate on this contentious issue in which we will avoid tribal politics and personal attacks, and examine the issues.  Hopefully shedding a little light and dissipating some of the heat by squarely facing up to the facts, and that the decision will have wide ramifications for many years to come!

The form of the debate will be an opening vote,  2 opening statement For and Against the motion, then an open floor discussion where everybody is welcome to make their own point, then a final summing up and final vote.

To keep the debate orderly I will suggest that we deal with different aspects of the subject in turn
·         The question of sovereignty?
·         The question of economic benefit / harm?
·         Bureaucracy, inventiveness and innovation in the EU?
·         Questions of immigration?
·         Issues of democratic legitimacy and rule making?
·         How will this decision look in 50 years’ time?

Everybody is welcome to participate as long as they uphold our Humanist tradition of treating opposing opinions with respect.

Price £3.00 at the door.

Stephen Milton

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Dignity in Death Discussion

Our next meeting will be a discussion of Dignity in Death should be part of our right to a ‘good life’. The 10th March at 7.30pm at the White Rock Hotel

The BBC programme ‘How to Die : Simon’s Choice’ was a great illustration of how hard it is for everybody to organise a ‘good death’ as the well-rounded end to a ‘good life’.

·         Why do politicians find it so hard to support the moves towards a more humane end of life choice?
·         Is it really impossible to create safeguards that protect the vulnerable?
·         What would be our ideal way to organise a planned end of life, if we had the choice?

Sometimes ‘death’ feels like the last great taboo subject, but it is an unavoidable part of life and probably defines critical parts of our humanity.
Talking widely about our shared fate and facing it squarely, might even make it less scary!

Other Business
As the interest in the EU referendum begins to warm up, our debate on whether we stay or leave should get some interest. We need to get somebody to take the leave side of the debate and plan for the layout.

Steve Milton (Chair)

Monday, 15 February 2016

New Secretary

At the meeting on 11 February, which was the 7th anniversary of the founding of the Hastings Humanists Group on Darwin Day 2009, the Secretary George Jelliss retired following his 76th birthday earlier in the week.

Julienne Attwood, was elected as the new Secretary.

George Jelliss also reported on his attendance at the East Sussex SACRE meeting in Lewes earlier that day. He noted that a Pagan representative Robin Taylor is now attending, and presumably qualifies to be on the 'faith' subcommittee, from which Humanists are excluded.

George also reported a visit, together with Alistair Robertson, to the meeting of the Hastings Inter-Faith Forum at St Martha's church in Little Common, Bexhill on 2 February. This was a talk by Rabbi Danny Rich on "Intra-Faith" relations. The Rabbi, who is on the Liberal wing of Judaism, made the point than relations within faiths, between different branches, were often more acrimonious and in need of conciliatory work than relations between different faiths.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The Biological Basis of Morality

Our next meeting will be a discussion of ‘The Biological basis of Morality’. 
The 11th Feb at 7.30pm at the White Rock Hotel

There is increasing evidence from anthropology, neural science and psychology that we do not need ‘God in order to be good’ and that far from evolution being ‘red in tooth and claw’, we have actually survived and prospered because of our human ability to collaborate and share resources to achieve common goals. In fact, the more our social institutions support our trust in each other, the more successful our society becomes!
A Darwinian process in which collaborative social organisations prosper better than non-collaborative social organisations.

A mad dash through ‘The prisoner’s dilemma’, the role of oxytocin, and the thoughts of some leading Humanist thinkers, will form the back drop for the discussion that follows.

This 1 hour video of AC Grayling on Humanism(click to view) is a great introduction for those that might like to  do some advance watching on the ideas of Humanism.

Other Business
George has once again expressed his wish to stand down as Secretary of our group.  He tried to resign last year but was persuaded to continue, but this year seems quite determined, so reluctantly I think we will need to ask for volunteers to take over from him.

Please let me know if you have an interest in standing.

Thank you

Stephen Milton

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Review of the Year Past and the Year To Come.

Our next meeting will be about Highlights and Forecasts  

on the 14th Jan 2016 at 7:30 pm at the White Rock Hotel

We hope everybody has had a nice break and is ready for 2016.

To kick off the New Year we will combine a review of last year with predictions for this year. 
·         What were the most interesting, exciting, important or just the most fun developments of 2015?
·         and what are your predictions for 2016?
As we enter the 16th year of the century will these be the years that the future considers a tipping point or just another year in the calendar?
Bring along your suggestions….

We would also like to organise volunteers to assist in putting together some of the future topics for our discussions.

I look forward to our next meeting in 10 days’ time.

Stephen Milton.

Here is a photo from this meeting. One of three taken by George Jelliss. Sorry it's a bit fuzzy. 
Hastings Humanists at White Rock Hotel 14/Jan/2016