November 9th, 2015 Newsletter Roundup

Through our weekly newsletter, we like to let you know about our upcoming events as well as a number of issues and campaigns that we think might be of interest to you. Let me know if you have any suggestions to include in future roundups. Email:

And for the latest news items, be sure to like the BC Humanists on Facebook and follow @BCHumanist on Twitter.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions which appear in the newsletter and in this roundup of all the news which didn't fit within the newsletter are not necessarily shared by all or even most of the members and board of the BC Humanist Association.

This past Sunday, November 8, 2015, 34 of us enjoyed an excellent presentation by Marylen Reid of The Cuddlery on the scientific evidence for the benefits of consensual, affectionate, non-sexual human touch. She also spoke of the challenges facing her business which provides a safe space for people who don't get enough human physical contact in their lives to experience the physical and mental health benefits of it. The presentation was followed by a lively, wide-ranging discussion of, among other related topics, the barriers people have in various cultures around the world which make physical contact between strangers awkward.

Upcoming Events

On Sunday, November 15, 2015, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, we will have another presentation by Joyce Arthur on Polyglots and Linguistics: Why only about 3% of people manage to become fluent in more than 4 languages, while most of us have a big challenge with mastery of a second language. 

On Sunday, November 22, 2015, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, Nick Taylor of Basic Income Vancouver will speak on the movement to implement a basic minimum income for all Canadians and why that is a good idea.

On Sunday, November 29, 2015, we will hear from Obi Canuel, an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Obi will be speaking about his Church and his struggle to get a BC driver's license while wearing the religious headgear (a spaghetti colander) mandated by his faith. 

On Sunday, December 6, 2015, we will have a presentation from John Ince, author and activist, on The Political Significance of Sexuality.

See all upcoming events.

BCHA Book Club

The December book club selection is Waking Up by Sam Harris. The meeting will be on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 7pm at Goldis and Kirsten's home. At the beginning of that meeting, we may decide to change the selection for the February 2, 2016 meeting or we may stick with the choice of Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law as decided at the November book club meeting.

The January book club selection is A Fair Country by John Ralston.  The meeting will be on Tuesday, January 5, 2015 at Goldis and Kirsten's home.  At the beginning of the meeting we will decide on the March 1, 2016 book club selection.

The February book club selection is Believing Bullshit by Stephen Law unless we decide otherwise at the December 1, 2015 meeting.  The February meeting will be on Tuesday, 2 February 2016 at Goldis and Kirsten's home.  At the beginning of the meeting, we will decide on the April 5, 2016 book club selection.


Doors open for our Vancouver meetings at the Oakridge Seniors Centre at 10:00 am for BYO coffee, tea, and socializing. Please help us welcome all attendees by introducing yourself and asking about themselves (if you are comfortable doing that). We want all attendees (and especially first-timers) to feel welcome and part of our Humanist community. At 10:30 am we start our presentation. The meetings take place at the Oakridge Seniors' Centre at the West side of the Oakridge Mall at 41st and Cambie. There is a Canada Line station which exits right into the mall.

Check the BCHA Vancouver Meetup page for more details on the meetings mentioned above and for what we have lined up into November and beyond. Also, please RSVP there, so that Meetup members have an idea of how many people usually attend these meetings. Please be aware that while we do our best to ensure that the scheduled programs go ahead as scheduled here, there are no guarantees and last minute changes may be necessary due to circumstances beyond our control.

Humanist Action: Coat Drive

As we approach the longest night many of our most vulnerable citizens are experiencing an increased need for warmth. Please check your closets and your Humanist hearts for coats, blankets, thermal underwear, socks and gloves to donate to: Downtown Eastside Women's Centre and First United Church Shelter.

Drop off coats at upcoming Vancouver Sunday Meetings at Oakridge Seniors' Centre or contact Sue Hughson at 604-671-4805 / You are welcome to drop off at my house or if needed I will pick them up from you. More details.

Fall BCHA Socials

We're excited to announce two special events this fall (in addition to our annual Winter Solstice dinner).

Local actor and Humanist Goldie Hoffman stars as Daphna in the Vancouver production of Bad Jews. Join the BC Humanists for a special group theatre trip on Friday, November 20. Tickets are $35 but we only have 5 tickets left at this rate, so buy them through our website ASAP or try to attend another showing in November.

Then on Wednesday, December 9 David Granirer and Al Hassam (from Stand Up For Mental Health) will be hosting Comic Disbelief, a night of comedy and skepticism at La Fontana Caffe at Hastings and Boundary. This event is free. Details here.

BC government blocks assisted dying recommendations

Last week we learned that evangelicals in the BC Liberal caucus effectively killed good recommendations from the health committee that would have seen physician assisted dying be integrated into the "continuum of care" of our healthcare system. We wrote to the Health Minister condemning this interference and called on him to bring forward the recommendations. I repeated this call before over 60 supporters at Dying With Dignity's rally on Wednesday at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

More News


The Good

Justin Trudeau's new federal cabinet was announced last week, and not only did it feature more women, people of colour, and people with disabilities than any previous cabinet, it likely included more atheists than any past cabinet. Over half of the cabinet - including all three ministers from BC - opted for a secular affirmation, rather than a religious oath (of course some may simply not believe in the Christian God).


Kudos to the new Liberal Government lead by Justin Trudeau for moving quickly to re-instate the long form Census for the 2016 and for ending the muzzling of scientists. Now we need to hold him to his promises to put evidence at the heart of Canada's democracy.


Kudos also to Justin Trudeau's new federal government for appointing two new ministers who will handle Canada’s science portfolio: Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Navdeep Bains, Minister for Innovation, Science and Economic Development. 

With a PhD in medical geographyDuncan has taught and conducted research in the fields of climate change, global flu epidemics, and medical geography. This experience will come in handy when helping the new government deliver on its strong science-based election promises.

On top of that Duncan has already taken Evidence for Democracy’s Science Pledge - a promise to support actions that put evidence before politics to uphold the security, health, and prosperity of all Canadians.  


Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada comments on why the Trudeau government's gender balanced cabinet is A Good Thing.


Scientists have developed a new steroid-based eyedrop-delivered drug which shrinks and may eventually eliminate cataracts, one of the leading causes of blindness in older people.


From the ever inspiring webpage, a new, experimental gene editing therapy has saved the life of a baby girl who was suffering from leukemia.  


Myanmar has held its first free election in 25 years. The winner of previous elections, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent a large part of her life imprisoned by the military junta there, is shown here casting her vote.

Religious-a8e.pngThe US Public is becoming less religious according to a new Pew Research Center poll.  Unfortunately, as their influence declines, theocratic religious fanatics are becoming more vocal, activist, and extreme. 



Evidence hinting at the possible existence of other universes has been found. Dr Ranga-Ram Chary, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, studied data from the cosmic microwave background assembled by the European Space Agency's Planck Space Telescope. Inside this glow left over from the seconds after the Big Bang, he revealed a number of spots where the microwave light is far brighter than it really should be.


The Bad


Canadian woman fears for the life of her husband after he was seriously injured last week in the latest attack by religious extremists on secular bloggers and writers in Bangladesh. The attack is part of a seemingly endless series of often fatal attacks by Muslim extremists on Bangladeshi writers, bloggers, and now a publisher who promote secularism. Monika Mistry said her husband, Tareq Rahim, was hacked multiple times in the head, hands and torso and was shot in the stomach. His condition has improved but he remains in critical condition, with a bullet still inside his body. Mistry’s afraid he could be attacked again. She is asking for help from the Canadian government to get her husband to safety in Canada.

We wrote to Prime Minister Just Trudeau last week calling on him to make Canada a safe haven for people like Tareq who are facing persecution for criticizing religion. Centre for Inquiry Canada deserves credit for leading on this urgent and important issue.


Justin Trudeau has indicated he will ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This article by Chris Hedges characterizes it as the most brazen corporate power grab in American History. It is far more than merely a free trade agreement. As the article points out, it hands over vast swaths of power which should reside in the elected representatives of the people to unelected multinational corporate boards and CEOs. 


Now that president Obama has cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline, it is time for Justin Trudeau, Canada's newly elected prime minister, to do the same to the potential short- and long-term environmental disaster that is the Enbridge pipeline project.  Please consider signing the petition to demand that Enbridge be stopped. 


December 10, 2015 is Amnesty International's Write for Rights dayPlease click the link and write a letter to a government official demanding the release of an unjustly incarcerated person somewhere in the world. There are, sadly, far too many such people to choose from.


This is what US-style medical care looks like for those thousands of US citizens who have fallen through the cracks of the Affordable Care Act due to the refusal by GOP governors in some US states to extend medicare to thousands of their residents. This is what medical care may look like for everyone who is not independently wealthy in a future where the Trans-Pacific-Partnership allows multinational pharmaceutical companies to hold governments, doctors, and citizens  for ransom with inflated prices for life-saving medications.  The person in the image died shortly after this photo was taken.



Evidence is growing that we are seeing the start of yet another environmental catastrophe as methane releases from the ocean floor off the northwest coast of North America suggest that the vast stores of methane trapped in frozen methane hydrates around the world are beginning to destabilize as the world's oceans warm up.



Even as longevity increases across the rich world, uneducated white Americans are living sicker and dying earlier. Two economists speculate on the reasons why.

 The Ugly


Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker wrote a satirical article only slightly more crazy than the actual statements US GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson has been coming out with in the last week or so.


Peter Boghossian in a recent episode of The American Humanist Association's podcast, The Humanist Hour, comments on the regressive left, a term coined by Maajid Nawaz (ex-Islamist extremist, founder of the Quilliam Foundation) to describe those on the left who defend Islam against criticism. Peter also has some trenchant comments on the opposition from the regressive left to the concept of a marketplace of ideas where all ideas can be freely aired and criticized on University campuses.


As Scientology is being more and more widely exposed, recovering Scientologist Mike Rinder, once part of the inner circle of Scientology's leadership, ponders the cult leadership's likely next moves. Former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder has a great new post at his blog this morning, and in it he predicts what Scientology leader David Miscavige may do in response to “Hurricane Leah,” the media storm that is still raging after Leah Remini’s book Troublemaker was published on Tuesday. Rinder reasons that Miscavige really has only one move at this point — to have Tom Cruise pretend to do a “no holds barred” interview to address Remini’s allegations which will, in actuality, be highly controlled.


Practically the first act Rupert Murdoch did after taking over National Geographic was to fire all the fact-checkers as part of a move to reduce the workforce by about 10% in the largest layoff in the company's history.  This in addition to drastically reducing the employee benefits and pensions.  The above image is a satirical look at a possible future front cover of the iconic magazine.


Many of us were vaguely attracted to the ideas of Ayn Rand in our youth (who would oppose liberty?) but this article from AlterNet by a clinical psychologist argues her books have impeded human progress toward a more humane, caring society.




 The Promotions


Anyone interested in taking part in Philosophy Dinners must sign up and pay the small fee ($5) in advance via Meetup since there a limited number of physical seats (and their format involves no more than 6 people to a table in order to keep the groups small). Glen is also co-ordinator of psychology dinners, and calopia, your one-stop shopping site for worthwhile causes.

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