August 31st 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: [email protected]

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.

On Sunday, August 30th, BCHA's Executive Director, Ian Bushfield, recently returned from a couple of years living and working in the UK, spoke to 30 of us about the progress of the Humanist and Skeptical movements there and in Europe. A lively discussion followed.

Upcoming Sunday Meetings


Join us 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 super 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.

The Oakridge Seniors Centre will be closed for cleaning on 6 Sept 2015 and 13 Sept 2015 so there will be no Sunday Meetings on those dates.

On Sunday September 13th, we will have our annual picnic at the Peace Arch Park with Humanists from Blaine and Bellingham, Washington, USA. See our page for details on how to get to and what to bring to this event.

On Sunday, 20 September, 2015, Arie Ross of the Dogwood Initiative's No Coal Port Project will be speaking on her organization's efforts to prevent government approval for a project to build a Coal Port for US Coal to be shipped to Asian markets.  This project has only downsides for the people of BC and for the global warming crisis and no upsides.

On Sunday, September 27, Baz Edmeades will elaborate on his controversial talk of 21 June 2015 on Is Human Intelligence Still Evolving? Bob Close will join Baz "on stage" to discuss the implications for humanist principles of studies on this topic. A longer than normal discussion period will be devoted to this topic.

On Sunday, October 4, 2015, Conrad Hadland will be speaking on Democracy in Canada using as a guide the BC Civil Liberties Association's publication The Citizenship Handbook: A Guide to Democratic Rights and Responsibilities.

Check the BCHA Vancouver Meetup page for more details on the meetings mentioned above and for what we have lined up into October 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.

Vancouver BC Humanist Association Book Club

The next (September) book club selection is The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson. The September book club meeting will be on Tuesday, 1 September 2015 at 7pm. At this meeting, we will decide on the book for the November meeting.

The October book club selection is Harperism by Professor Donald Gutstein. The October book club meeting will be on Tuesday, 6 October, 2015.

At each meeting we decide on the book to be discussed two months hence in order to allow plenty of time for everyone to acquire a copy of and read the book.

Book clubs are held at Kirsten and Goldis' home in the Dunbar area on the first Tuesday of every month at 7 PM.

Other groups

Check out the Vancouver Skeptic's calendar of events that might be of interest to Skeptics, Humanists, and Atheists.

If you're curious about what some of the other Humanist organizations around the country are up to, Atheist Republic has an excellent article on the dangers of using religious offence as a justification for suppressing the right to freely criticize religious dogma.

Check out this excellent newsletter from the Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM). Better yet, sign up for it.

The Victoria Secular Humanist Association also publishes an excellent newsletter.

Farther up the Fraser Valley, in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, our affiliates in the Fraser Valley Atheists and Secular Humanists are building a non-religious community in the province's "Bible Belt".

Humanist Canada is the voice of Humanism at the national level and helps to amplify the efforts of the various Humanist groups around the country. 

Comments, Questions, or Suggestions relating to the newsletter

As always, you can contact me at [email protected]. Please pass this newsletter on to any friends or acquaintances who might be interested and ask them to click here to subscribe.

If you have an idea for a Sunday meeting topic or wish to give a presentation, let me know.

Philosophy Dinners


Glen Brauer is the coordinator of Philosophy Dinners. These events take place in restaurant around the world and the intention of these events is to have meaningful conversations with strangers in order to build community.

Admission to these events is $5 per person which must be paid online via their Philosophy Dinners Meetup website. PLEASE NOTE that cash is not accepted at the door since ALL attendees are required to join the Meetup group and to sign up for events online (no exceptions). Click here for details about the program and specifics about coming meet-ups:




TWU can discriminate, but the BC Law Society can't. In the BC Supreme Court this week, lawyers defending the decision of the BC Law Society to deny accreditation to the proposed Trinity Western University Law School came up with a brilliant argument: While TWU is free to discriminate as to who it admits as students, the BC Law Society is bound by Canadian Law including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By allowing a "University" which discriminates in its admissions policy on the basis of its narrow interpretation of Christian dogma, it gives an unfair advantage to law school candidates of that faith by providing more openings for such students than are available to other candidates since other law schools do not discriminate. Not only would such a situation be unfair, it would be in violation of the Charter's prohibition of such discrimination.

Make sure to read our letter in today's Vancouver Sun saying that "establishing a school that rejects students with the wrong beliefs or sexual orientation is fundamentally opposed to the principle of equality."


Support for dying with dignity is growing among Canadian voters. A recent poll shows that support for "physician assisted suicide for the terminally ill" is now at 77%, up from 74% earlier. In a similar vein, Canadian doctors rejected demands from anti-choice religious activists that physicians not have to refer patients seeking assistance in hastening their death at the Canadian Medical Association's annual conference.

Dying With Dignity Canada has been asking the major federal parties for their stance on assisted dying and so far the Liberals and NDP have provided their positions. We will be sending our own questions to the federal parties (on this and other Humanist issues) soon.

And make sure you take the time to respond to the federal government's fear-driven questionnaire on physician assisted dying and the Ontario government's far more progressive consultation. Both consultations are open to the entire public. We'll be releasing our own responses very soon.

CindyBlackmore-11325132.jpgDaphne Braham has a story that is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching in the Vancouver Sun this week. Cindy Blackmore, who grew up in the fundamentalist polygamist Mormon sect in Bountiful, BC, is on a tour to publicize the rampant child rape in the sect. Cindy is documenting her walk on her blog Walking for Them and says in one post that "polygamy itself is not the problem" and:

As much as I wish I could to keep my friends and family happy, I literally cannot paint the religion in a good light while bringing these stories of abuse to light. I should not have to focus on making a religion look good when I am exerting my energy on giving these victims a voice and planning a walk across three states. It is not about taking sides. It is about stopping the cycle of abuse.


Our US friends are facing a similar fight against religions demanding their "right" to disregard anti-discrimination laws.  The American Humanist Association is joining over 100 progressive groups calling on President Obama to end taxpayer funded discrimination.


Details of a horrific human smuggling related atrocity unfolded in Austria today as criminals who abandoned an un-ventilated truck with more than 70 migrants locked inside were brought before a Hungarian court today. The photo shows some Austrian citizens' reactions to the discovery of the bodies. 


Everybody's favourite veteran of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, John Oliver follows up with a hilarious report on the public response to his new Church of Perpetual Exemption. Money sent to the church will ultimately go to Doctors without Borders. Meanwhile, John Oliver is very effectively lampooning megachurch TV preachers.


The US religious right seems to love them some Trump despite his embodiment of pretty much everything they claim to abhor with the exception of being gay. What's up with that?

In case you're wondering why there are so few ways in which the world could end, here's another one (fortunately, with extremely low probability of happening within the next few billion years) for you to worry about. The possibility that a random quantum fluctuation in deep space could create an expanding bubble of the Higgs Field changing to a different state where only hydrogen atoms can exist. The bubble would expand at the speed of light, so we would never see it coming.


Oliver Sacks, famous Neurologist, author of The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and more than a dozen other books, has died after a long, accomplishment-filled, well-lived life.

gayatriGopinath_border2.png Dr. Gayatri Gopinath will be speaking at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, Multipurpose Room, 6476 NW Marine Drive, UBC on September 23rd, 12noon-1pm on Unruly Visions: The Aesthetic Practices of Queer Diapora of Gay South Asians in other countries.    This is part of a larger series of interesting talks presented in the Social Justice Institute Noted Scholars Lecture Series. 


A couple of interesting events from CFI on Campus: Campaign for Free Expression and Banned Books Week (Sept 27-Oct 3). An amazing list of books have been banned at some time and place or other. In almost all cases, such banning has backfired and served to increase interest in the banned book... and that is A Good Thing.


Vice has a new article on the struggle to unmuzzle Canada's Scientists and to give scientific evidence a role in formulating public policy.  Here is a link where you can contribute to this ongoing battle.


Speaking of muzzling, the horribly unjust case against Andy Hall for exposing abusive labour conditions in National Fruit's pineapple canning operation is proceeding apace. Please help keep the pressure on the Thai government to end this travesty of justice.


Speaking of scientific evidence, the speed of sea level rise due to fossil fuel consumption related global warming may be much faster than even the worst-case previous predictions from climate scientists.


Science World is showing a lecture in the Unveiling the Universe series on Wednesday Sept 16 at 6:45pm to 8:30pm. UBC Professor Paul Hickson will discuss modern astronomy and how the new 30m Telescope will aid in the search for the first light after the Big Bang when the universe first became transparent to light.


Come to an upcoming symposium on Buddhism and Contemporary Philosophy hosted by UBC's Evan Thompson and Jessica Main. Bronwyn Finnigan, Tom Tillimans, and Koji Tanaka will be speaking at UBC on Saturday September 12, 2015 from 1:00 PM to 4:30 PM at UBC | CK Choi Building 1855 West Mall, Room 120 Vancouver, BC


Geoengineering can address (at great expense) the global warming caused by fossil fuel consumption, but dealing with ocean acidification due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will also be essential and will be even more of a technological challenge as so far no remotely feasible remediation methods have been found. 

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