February 9, 2016 Newsletter Roundup

Unfortunately our scheduled speaker was unwell this week so on Sunday, February 7, 2016, a group of 36 of us watched a video of Jared Diamond speaking about the ideas in his new book, The World Until Yesterday. Diamond (who was just named the 2016 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association) argues that there is a lot we can learn about risk, raising children and more by studying traditional societies.

We hope to reschedule Dr Samir Gandesha's talk on terrorism and nihilism at a later date when he's recovered.

Upcoming Vancouver Sunday Meetings

On Sunday, February 14, 2016, Dr Ahmed Hussein, a professor of nuclear physics and a visiting scientist at TRIUMF and Los Alamos National Laboratory, will be speaking on the next generation of nuclear power plants based on thorium fluid fuel.

On Sunday, February 21, 2016, David Hutchinson will be speaking on Cannabis Science.

On Sunday, February 28, 2016, Craig Farlinger will be to us about the aims and platform of the BC Progressive Party.

On Sunday, March 6, 2016, Gail Miller will be speaking to us about Secular Childhood Education in Guatemala and the world.

Our Vancouver Sunday meetings take place at the Oakridge Seniors' Centre. The centre is at the west side of Oakridge Mall at 41st and Cambie. The mall has a large parking lot and is accessible by the Canada Line. Doors open 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.

BCHA Book Club

The March book club selection is With or Without God by Gretta Vosper. The March meeting will be on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at Goldis and Kirsten's home. At the beginning of the meeting, we will decide on the May 3, 2016 book club selection.

The April book club selection is The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond. The April meeting will be on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at Goldis and Kirsten's home. At the beginning of the meeting, we will decide on the June 7, 2016 book club selection.

See all upcoming events.

Check the BCHA Vancouver Meetup page for more details on the meetings mentioned above and for what we have lined up. Also, please RSVP so others 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, there are no guarantees and last minute changes may be necessary due to circumstances beyond our control.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to be the first to know about our upcoming events as well as our current campaigns.

To keep our email newsletter digestible, we save extra news tidbits for this roundup. The opinions which appear in this roundup are not necessarily shared by all or even most of the members or board of the BC Humanist Association. 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.

Other events of interest 


La Fontana Caffee in Burnaby is hosting atheist comedy night with David Granirer (who performed for us in December). The event is free and takes place on February 24 at 7:30 PM. You can find more details on Facebook and check out the Atheist Republic Vancouver Consulate for more events like this. 


The excellent podcast "Left at the Valley" hosted by Kevin Francis, of the Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists will soon be airing on CIVL 101.7 FM radio in the Abbotsford area.  Congratulations, Kevin!

The 6th annual Imagine No Religion conference is happening in Richmond, BC from May 20-22, 2016. The video covers some of the highlights. Click the link for details and to order tickets.

News of note

The Good


CFI Canada has a resource page of ideas for celebrating Darwin Day. Darwin Day is an international celebration of human achievement and scientific inquiry. Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809. In 2013 we got mayor Gregor Robertson to proclaim International Darwin Day in Vancouver.


In this inspiring article from the Calgary Herald Richard Einarson explains why you can't opt out of human rights for vulnerable students in publicly funded schools in Alberta even if you are a Catholic Bishop with a firmly held religious belief that it's your god-given right to bully LGBTQ children into denying who they are.


From The Grist, an encouraging article about a massive solar energy project in Morroco. The project is using concentrated sunlight to store sufficient heat to continue to provide power after the sun goes down. If projects like this were to receive the government welfare that is currently going to oil companies in the US and Canada, we would actually see significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions beyond the minimal promises of the Paris Climate Talks.

Noor 1, the first phase of Morocco’s $3.9 billion solar energy project, went live on Thursday. By the time it’s completed in 2018, the concentrated solar complex will be the largest in the world, roughly the size of the country’s capital, Rabat, and will provide electricity for a whopping 1.1 million people.


From The Atlantic, an interesting article about a promising new approach to slowing down the aging process.  It works spectacularly in mice.  There is still some concern about the possibility of this treatment increasing the risk of cancer, so it will likely be a while before a treatment for aging in humans emerges. 


Here is a blog which illustrates the power of the internet at its best. The blog is written by a Muslim woman who is refusing to subject her daughters to female genital mutilation and more importantly, empowering other mothers to take a stand against this barbaric practice. Her internet research revealed that FGM is not required by Islamic scripture, nor does it have any health or other benefits to offset the pain and health risks involved. While FGM is horrible enough considered in isolation, it is merely a symptom of a much larger problem: the status of women in most Muslim dominated countries and in some other authoritarian religions' fundamentalists dominated areas -- as property of the men in their lives. This not only causes horrific harm to women all over the world, it deprives all of humanity of the creativity and intellectual contributions of roughly half of our species. 


From the BBC (from 2011), a report on a mathematical study which suggest that religion may become extinct in 9 countries. This development can't come soon enough for the billions of victims of religious conservatism around the world.


The French government is implementing an overhaul of its public schools curriculum to teach the importance of secularism and the separation of church and state.  From this article in the UK's Guardian newspaper:

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told the Guardian that after last year’s devastating jihadi attacks in Paris, France was overhauling the teaching of secularism and civic values as part of the country’s drive against terrorism and radicalisation.


Another area where France is leading the way forward is food waste. Almost one third of all food produced for humans in the world does not ultimately go to feed hungry humans. France has passed a law prohibiting supermarkets from throwing out edible food. Instead, companies are required to make arrangements with food banks and similar charities to make such food available to those who need it.

The Bad 


From RT, a report on a massive protest in New Zealand during the ceremony where the representatives of 12 Pacific Rim countries signed the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement. The TPP is a massive agreement, negotiated in secret, and supported by the world's largest multinational corporations, which further erodes the power of democratically elected governments at all levels in the signatory countries to enact laws to protect working conditions, internet access, the environment, and access to medicines and medical services. Over 1000 people were involved in the protests.


Now that all nations involved in the secret, multinational-corporation dictated, Trans Pacific Partnership, all that remains to implement this corporate power grab masquerading as a free-trade agreement is ratification by the legislative bodies of the member countries. Please consider signing this petition to request that the Canadian government not ratify this deal.


Please consider signing this petition to the Kenyan government to protect children from sexual exploitationWalkfree.org is a pressure group working to stop modern day slavery in all its manifestations.

From Doctors Without Borders, the above video lists the 5 epidemics to watch for in 2016. The link is to an article with more details.


Please consider signing this petition to ban Atrazine use in Canada. This dangerous pesticide has been banned in Europe since 2004 because of association with breast and prostate cancer, genital deformities and other birth defects.


From the Guardian, a nuanced take on the reaction to the spate of sexual assaults by co-ordinated gangs of "Muslim looking" men on women near the Cologne, Germany train station on New Year's Eve.


From The Daily KOS, this story: A federal grand jury has indicted 16 of the occupiers of the Malheur Nature Reserve in Oregon on a number of charges. Oregon politicians are demanding the the Federal government pay for the cost of law enforcement operations related to the occupation and then recover those costs from the occupiers. 

The Ugly


From The New Yorker, satirist Andy Borowitz has a hilarious take on the two least loved things in the US these days: Pharma-Bro Martin Shkreli and Congress. Shkreli's arrogant smirk is driving up the public's approval rating of Congress to highs not seen in years.


From The Daily KOS, comes this cautionary tale about what all too often happens when people stop paying attention to elections and let extreme conservatives win by default. The Flint, Michigan poisoned tap water disaster was the direct result of "small government" fetishism on the part of the Governor of Michigan. The problem here wasn't too much government, it was incompetent government.


The founder of the pro-rape "Return of Kings" movement has moved his series of "world-wide events" (which were intended to provide a safe space for raging misogynists to discuss their grievances over their inexplicable inability to attract women) to "secret locations" as a result of virtually universal condemnation of these ideas.


This article from the Guardian reveals that the worldwide number of girls subjected to female genital mutilation is 70 million higher than previously thought. Over 200 million women worldwide have suffered FGM.


The above cartoon summarizes the small-minded concept of their mythical saviour held by the US religious right.


Dan Barker, ex-evangelical boy-wonder preacher, now co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has a new book from which he has extracted the top 10 absolute worst Old Testament verses. These verses more than justify Richard Dawkins' indictment of the God of Abraham as "the most unpleasant character in all of fiction".

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