of East Tennessee Newsletter June 2009
RET’s celebration of the National Day of Reason was a great success. Over two dozen people, including some new faces, came out for grilled hot dogs and veggie burgers and great weather at Carl Cowan Park. We’ll do it again next year but let’s find some more reasons to have picnics together before then.
Speaking of picnics, reserve the date of September 20th! The West North Carolina Atheists have reserved the beautiful shelter at Lake Julian in Asheville again for our second annual regional atheists picnic. Last year, several dozen RETers trekked to Asheville to meet with the WNC Atheists and other regional atheist groups for a potluck picnic. Over 50 people turned out for a fantastic day. This year, we expect to grow, seeing as there is a new Atheist and Freethought club at ETSU. There’s always room for co-ed atheists!
News of interest:
The May 11th edition of the Knoxville News-Sentinel contained a letter that took a swipe at RET. The writer argued that RET was hypocritical because ‘removing religious references’ from government buildings supports atheism and is therefore not constitutional. As I type this, two letters from RETers made the paper (May 18th, and 19th) from Ralph Isler and Al Westerfield and beautifully rebutted the original.
This public discussion was a direct result of Ed Buckner’s visit. The Sentinel ran a story on Ed’s talk on May 4th and shined some well-deserved light on rationalism in general. Everyone should jump at opportunities to engage other citizens in the free marketplace of ideas.
One obstacle, however, is the pitfall of name-calling or coming across as being too flippant, arrogant, or glib. The letter-writer panning RET focused on the use of the word “nut-job” which our speaker supposedly used at some point. While you could certainly debate semantics or the definition of “nut-job” and whether it is or is not valid, it’d be besides the point. The clear fact is that some language and tone distract, causing your attempts to persuade to fail. Knowing this, we should realize it’s irrational to resort to name-calling or baiting in an argument. Let’s keep our arguments on message, and make them public.
I saw an ad in the paper for The Knox County Church of Christ that was in a question & answer format. The question was something like, “Is it OK to use musical instruments during worship service”? The answer was “No” and what struck me was the argument, which went something like this: The bible doesn’t specifically authorize the use of instruments or dancing during worship service, therefore, this behavior is condemned.
So, the logic is this: Premise 1: Not mentioning you can do a specific behavior is equal to condemning that behavior. Premise 2: Bible doesn’t say you can do X. Therefore, X is condemned. Hmmm, given this logic, I’d say there are an awful lot of things that are condemned by the bible. They had an e-mail address and next time I see the ad, I think I’m going to reply and see if I understand their argument correctly.
Roundtable Discussion - "Frankenpig, Mr. Potato Head, and the Ethics of Eating"
Discussant, Daryl Learn Houston.
Sunday, June 7, 10:30-12:30, Pellissippi State, Goins Administration Bldg., Cafeteria Annex.
Michael Pollan, in a book entitled "The Omnivore's Dilemma," outlines the conundrum the omnivore faces. In a nutshell: if your body is equipped to digest most anything, how do you decide which things to eat? This problem operates at a very basic level in that we must figure out what won't kill us. But as our culture over thousands of years has left us a pretty good record of what is safe to eat, the problem, for those who choose to consider it, becomes a matter of ethics. For example, how do we justify eating meat at all, since we can extract protein and fat from other food sources? What about the ethics of culinary decadence in the face of starvation, even in the first world? These points and a number of others concerning cultural aspects of eating habits will form the topic of the discussion.
Skeptic Book Club
Discussion Leader: Joan Omarzu
Sunday, June 14, 4:00 to 6:00pm, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 8029 Kingston Pike.
“Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body" by Neil Shubin. If you decide to buy the book, please consider clicking on the book on the RET homepage and buying it from Amazon. RET gets money from any products purchased after going through our website first.
Sunday, June 21, 10:30 - 12:30, Pellissippi State, Goins Administration Bldg., Cafeteria Annex
Discussant: John Muldowny, Ph.D
Dr. Muldowny plans to talk a little about the disaster and its aftermath, but for the most part will discuss the Titanic as a cultural event and phenomena. Why has this event so captured the imagination of the world so that countless books, films, and traveling exhibits of artifacts have centered around this event, that the Library of Congress for example has next to the Civil War more requests for information about the Titanic than any other event in history? Dr. Muldown will suggest some of his theories about all of these topics.