September 15th 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.

Around 30 people joined the 17th annual cross border Humanist picnic on Sunday on the American side of of the Peace Arch park. The pot luck offerings were plentiful and varied; the barbecue salmon perfectly done. There were Humanists from Washington State, Vancouver, and Victoria BC. Colin's political questionnaire on how much we know about the Canadian and US systems was fun. Jeffery was the big winner with top USA score and top overall score. The water balloon toss assured that some of us got wet. As usual it was friendly and enjoyable event. 

One of our Victoria friends brought his collection of rare humanist cartoons in a plastic case, to show around. Unfortunately a couple went missing. He is very anxious to get them back. Please let us know if you found them or can help in any way.

Humanist Action Campaign

We are excited to announce a new campaign to put compassionate Humanist values into practice through charitable giving. We will feature causes and fundraising events - suggested and led by members - that we can come together to support. Let us know if you have ideas for future fundraisers or charitable works we can do.

Our first initiative is a fundraising challenge in support of Syrian refugees. Based on its exemplary track record in providing the most value per donation, we have chosen to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières' (Doctors Without Borders') work in Syria. Click here to donate to our fundraiser.

We will also be marching in the 2015 Vancouver Light the Night Walk in support of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of CanadaClick here to join the team or to sponsor one of our members. For more details, get in touch with our captain Sonia Milbradt at [email protected]

New South Fraser Humanists Meetup

On Sunday, September 20th, Gord Leslie will be launching a new Humanist meetup in Surrey. Join him for a coffee and chat at Waves City Point (near Gateway Skytrain) at 11am. Click here for more details. And join their new Meetup Group for more upcoming events

Upcoming Events

Unfortunately, Arie Ross from the Dogwood Initiative had to cancel her appearance at our meeting this week due to their work during the election, so instead on Sunday, 20 September, 2015, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, we will have a video in Yale University's Open Courses series featuring Professor Joanne B. Freeman on Thomas Paine's famous pamphlet Common Sense.  Dr. Freeman will explain the role that document played in the evolution of US democracy.  In addition, we will begin the program with a trailer for the November release of the star-studded Hollywood movie Spotlight which dramatizes the adventures of a team of courageous investigative journalists and their editor in breaking the tip of the vast scandal of Catholic officials shielding pedophile priests from justice in the Boston area. 

On Sunday, September 27, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, 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, at the Oakridge Seniors Centre, 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.

The October book club selection is Harperism by Professor Donald Gutstein. The October book club meeting will be on Tuesday, 6 October, 2015 at 7 PM at Goldis and Kirsten's home.

The November book club selection is Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, by Dan Kahneman.  The meeting will be on Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 at 7pm at Goldis and Kirsten's home.  At the beginning of that meeting, we will decide on the selection for the January 5, 2016 meeting.

The December book club selection is Waking Up by Sam Harris.   The meeting will be on Tuesday, 1 December, 2015 at 7pm at Goldis and Kirsten's home.  At the beginning of that meeting, we will decide on the selection for the February 2, 2016 meeting.

OakridgeSeniorsCenterScreenshot_2015-06-15_09.43.27.pngAt our next two Sunday meetings (September 20th and 27th) we will have some pendants, T-shirts, and humanist pins for sale. The pendants and the t-shirts are $20.00, and the pins $5.00. They will be available from about 10:00 am to 10:20.

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 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.

Other updates 

This past week we published our official response to thephysician-assisted dying panels set up by the federal and provincial governments to get public input into a new law which will give Canadians the right to choose how to end their lives. Please read the news item on our website and take the actions recommended there. 

More News


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.

Unbreakable-e1431315025262.jpgPlan to attend the free book launch event on September 29 @ 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm, featuring Tony Ortega, author of The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, The story of the Church of Scientology's relentless campaign of illegal spying and harassment against Paulette Cooper.  Here is a summary of the events described in the book:  In 1971, a New York magazine freelancer named Paulette Cooper published The Scandal of Scientology, one of the first books to give the public a view into this secretive organization. She nearly paid for it with her life. What even Paulette didn’t know at the time was the extent that Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, would go to destroy someone it perceived as an enemy. By 1973, Paulette had been framed in an elaborate plot involving fake bomb-threat letters, and she faced 15 years in federal prison if convicted. Newly unearthed documents show that by that time, Scientology had kept her under tight surveillance for several years and proposed many ways to destroy her reputation and life. She was finally exonerated after the FBI raided Scientology in 1977 and found many of those documents, which referred to her by the code name “Miss Lovely.” Eleven top Scientology officials went to prison after that raid, but more than 30 years later, Scientology is still around — and so is Paulette.

In his new, and first, book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, journalist Tony Ortega tells Paulette’s story in full for the first time, with eyewitness accounts and new documents which describe the full extent of her ordeal — and her continued fight against a group now seriously in decline. Ortega will discuss highlights form the book, as well as the latest developments in the controversies facing Scientology today.

Ortega is the executive editor of TheLipTV. From 2007 to 2012, he was editor in chief of The Village Voice, and he’s been investigating and writing about Scientology since 1995, when he was a reporter for the Phoenix New Times. He also wrote for or edited weekly newspapers in Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Fort Lauderdale. Originally from Los Angeles, he lives in New York and maintains a breaking news website about Scientology news, “The Underground Bunker” ( He is also featured in “Going Clear,” Alex Gibney’s award winning documentary about Scientology, which first aired on HBO in March.


Going Clear, the HBO documentary on the darker side of Scientology won a bunch of Emmys. This is a significant statement from the Hollywood elite and hopefully will lead to Scientology losing the thin veneer of respectability afforded it by its status as a religion.


NASA is still (or again) finding it increasingly difficult to obtain a reliable supply of fuel for the Plutonium 238 powered thermoelectric generators needed for deep space probes like the New Horizons probe which recently returned incredibly detailed images of the Pluto-Charon system.

YourGodIsTooSmall.jpg Here is an interesting article from Atheist Republic showing how the problem of authoritarian religions attempting to gain a stranglehold on political power and social norms is not limited to areas dominated by the big three Abrahamic religions but is a huge problem in majority Hindu India as well.


Scientific American has a thoughtful article on the merits of nuclear power over coal power plants. The arguments in favour of this partial solution to the problem of global warming are becoming increasingly compelling, especially if most of the new nuclear power plants use liquid-fuel, thorium based designs... designs which eliminate the possibility of a "China Syndrome" or Chernobyl type catastrophic failure and which can use the waste products of older designs as fuel.

Becker-DeathIdeologiesAndCulture.jpgSFU in downtown Vancouver (Harbour Center) is hosting a very interesting conference on Death Ideologies and Culture, The Legacy of Earnest Becker.  The Conference runs from 2pm Friday 2 October 2015 to Sunday 4 October 2015 at 5:30pm.  Check the link for details.


Dr. Jerry Coyne, author of (among many other excellent tomes) Faith vs Fact , has published an interesting blog post on the perpetually perplexing question of why some atheists hate the "new atheists". Some commentators have suggested it is a kind of "I'm more open minded than you" one-upmanship. Maybe it is due to cognitive dissonance when two values cherished by most progressive people conflict: rejection of ethocentricism manifesting as respect for other cultures, vs free speech and respect for basing and modifying ones beliefs on evidence. 


Despite the clear evidence of lies and dirty tricks used by the anti-choice, anti-women's rights, christian right's despicable attack on Planned Parenthood, the GOP and Christian Fascist drive to deny reproductive choice to as many US women as possible proceeds apace.  Here is a reality check article highlighting the fact that a thorough investigation by US House Democrats has come up with no evidence of wrong-doing on the part of Planned Parenthood.

DangerousArtFlagRev_1500px.102118.jpg Don't forget the gala BC Civil Liberties Association's  My Dangerous Art event September 24, 2015, Performance Works, 1218 Cartwright Street, Vancouver, BC (Granville Island) (Map & Directions) 

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.


Dr. Lawrence Krauss, everyone's favorite theoretical physicist, has an interesting and compelling article in the New Yorker magazine on why every scientist should be a "militant atheist".

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