RETNewsletter             May 2008


"ASkeptical Look at the FairTax"      

May 4,2008 10:30 am - 12:30 p


DaveBuck will be the discussion leader.


"Askeptical look at the FairTax"

(Is itall its cracked up to be? Is it better or worse than the 

currenttax structure?)


TheFairTax plan is a comprehensive proposal that replaces all federal 

incomeand payroll-based taxes with an integrated approach including:


* Aprogressive national retail sales tax,

* Aprebate to ensure no American pays federal taxes on spending up to 



*Dollar-for-dollar federal revenue neutrality, and

*Repeal of the 16th Amendment through companion legislation.





May 4,2008




LessonLeader: Mleeka Learn Houston


Stories:The Very Quiet Cricket and The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Activity:Insect craft





May11, 2008 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.

BarnesAnd Noble



Science,Evolution, and Creationism (Paperback)      


Author:National Academy of Sciences Steering Committee on Science & 



LeeErickson will lead the discussion.




"ResourceDepletion on Planet Earth" 

May18, 2008 10:30 am - 12:30 pm




ChuckOmarzu will lead the program.




FutureBook Club Books Selected (not in order)


Squanderingof America


DeerHunting with Jesus

TheEnd of America

Anti-Intellectualismin America





SouthernBaptists Loosing Ground


Baptismsare down to lowest level since 1987. Membership has dropped  

by40,000. Now there are only 16,266,920 of them to deal with.


Thereduced numbers are a God send says (a fictional) Baptist 

minister."The congestion that the Rapture will bring will be reduced. 

Thereshould be a significantly reduced chance of accidents in the 

massassention. The number of members is down while the number of 

churchesis up. This should also help, with the membership more spread 

outthere should fewer collisions on the way to heaven. In addition, 

sincealmost everyone is white the likelihood of immigration 

challengesof any consequence should be limited."






Transhumanism- A different view



At thelast Round Table Meeting I had a vision as RET members sat 

aroundlaughing at the "crazy" ideas of some transhumanists.


Ipictured a group of Medieval monks sitting around listening to 

someonetalk about the following:


1.Sometime people will walk on the moon.

2.There are many planets beyond the seven we know. And by the way 

thereare many billions of stars in big groups so far away that all we 

see iswhat they looked like billions of years ago.

3. Theplague is caused by tiny little creatures that live on fleas.

4.Peoplewill be able to use others hearts, kidneys, livers and parts 

ofeyes. They will be able to do this without the intervention of 

Satanicpowers. Some people will even give their kidneys away.

5. Youwill be able to talk to people in North America instantly any 

timeof the day or night and even people on the moon, after just a few 

seconds.(North America? You are really making things up now.)

6.Youwill be able to fly all the way around the world in just a few 

hours,unless you are in space and then it will be much faster. (What 

do youmean 'around' the world and what is space?)

7.People will be able to point a little box at you and capture 

everythingyou and those around you do, then show it back to you in 


8. Ahundred thousand other things .....


Ha,ha, ha what a nut you are. That is just fantasy they all laugh as 

theygo back to their cold, unlighted rooms.



Therewere many points not covered in the entertaining presentation 

lastmonth. One major one is that there are many possibilities 

unfoldingas we advance scientifically and technologically. What are 

theygoing to be and what are the consequences of this progress? (Of 

courseMichael's assumption is that there is no real progress or 

directionof progress at least.)


In thepast we humans have just gone with the flow of change and taken 

whatever it dumped in our laps. Many Transhumanist are concerned 

aboutthis lack of responsibility and consideration of consequences. 

Thefollowing is just a glimpse of that thought.


TheWorld transhumanist Association has become the principal 

organizationfor transhumanism. Nick Bostrom is a key spokesman and 

thinkerin this field. I will provide a few quotes to help clarify 

whattranshumanism is considering. They are



"Transhumanismis a loosely defined movement that has developed 

graduallyover the past two decades.[1] It promotes an 

interdisciplinaryapproach to understanding and evaluating the 

opportunitiesfor enhancing the human condition and the human organism 

openedup by the advancement of technology. Attention is given to both 

presenttechnologies, like genetic engineering and information 

technology,and anticipated future ones, such as molecular 

nanotechnologyand artificial intelligence."


"Transhumanismdoes not entail technological optimism. While future 

technologicalcapabilities carry immense potential for beneficial 

deployments,they also could be misused to cause enormous harm, 

rangingall the way to the extreme possibility of intelligent life 

becomingextinct. Other potential negative outcomes include widening 

socialinequalities or a gradual erosion of the hard-to-quantify 

assetsthat we care deeply about but tend to neglect in our daily 

strugglefor material gain, such as meaningful human relationships and 

ecologicaldiversity. Such risks must be taken very seriously, as 

thoughtfultranshumanists fully acknowledge."


"Further,our human brains may cap our ability to discover 

philosophicaland scientific truths. It is possible that failure of 

philosophicalresearch to arrive at solid, generally accepted answers 

tomany of the traditional big philosophical questions could be due to 

thefact that we are not smart enough to be successful in this kind of 

enquiry.Our cognitive limitations may be confining us in a Platonic 

cave,where the best we can do is theorize about “shadows”, that is, 

representationsthat are sufficiently oversimplified and dumbed-down 

to fitinside a human brain."


"Whatis needed for the realization of the transhumanist dream is that 

technologicalmeans necessary for venturing into the posthuman space 

aremade available to those who wish to use them, and that society be 

organizedin such a manner that such explorations can be undertaken 

withoutcausing unacceptable damage to the social fabric and without 

imposingunacceptable existential risks."


"Giventhe limitations of our current wisdom, a certain epistemic 

tentativenessis appropriate, along with a readiness to continually 

reassessour assumptions as more information becomes available. We 

cannottake for granted that our old habits and beliefs will prove 

adequatein navigating our new circumstances."


All Ican say is that at least there are some who are actually trying 

to geta grip on what the future may hold and how we can do to more 

activelycontrol what future changes may bring. Futurist projections 

are,of course, risky. They tend to be overly optimistic with respect 

totime required to make changes. A new discovery may make many 

projectionsimpossible or highly improbable. And, often what actually 

occursis even more fantastic than the futurists' predictions. Future 

discoveries/inventionsare always much messier and complicated than 

predictionssuggest. Nonetheless, science fiction writers have 

predictedmany thingss that have happened. Many ideas are developed 

becausesomeone had the idea and it presented a challenge to others to 

see ifthey could do it.


If youdon't like the transhumanist vision you should try to come up 

withone of your own that also analyzes the impact of rapidly 

advancingtechnology. At least they have a vision that doesn't assume 

astatic world. A world that just drifts along without a thoughtful/

rationalcollective attempt to have a future in which we have some 

controland hope for improvement.


TheWikipedia article on Transhumanism states: "A 2002 report, 

ConvergingTechnologies for Improving Human Performance, commissioned 

by theNationalScience Foundation and US Department of Commerce, 

containsdescriptions and commentaries on the state of NBIS science 

andtechnology by major  contributorsto these fields. The report 

discussedpotential uses of these technologies in implementing 

transhumanistgoals of enhanced performance and health, and ongoing 

workon planned applications of human enhancement technologies in the 

militaryand in the rationalization of the human-machine interface in 



Itscoming in some form whether you want to accept it or not.


Afinal note: In response to claims that transhumanism was a religion, 

"Religiouscritics alone faulted the philosophy of transhumanism as 

offeringno eternal truths nor a relationship with the divine. They 

commentedthat a philosophy bereft of these beliefs leaves humanity 

adriftin a foggy sea of postmodern cynicism and anomie. 

Transhumanistsresponded that such criticisms reflect a failure to 

lookat the actual content of the transhumanist philosophy, which far 

frombeing cynical, is rooted in optimistic, idealistic attitudes that 

traceback to the Enlightenment.[56] Following this dialogue, William 

SimsBainbridge conducted a pilot study, published in the Journal of 

Evolutionand Technology, suggesting that religious attitudes were 

negativelycorrelated with acceptance of transhumanist ideas, and 

indicatingthat individuals with highly religious worldviews tended to 

perceivetranshumanism as being a direct, competitive (though 

ultimatelyfutile) affront to their spiritual beliefs." (wikipedia/



Thereis much more that can be said about this complicated and diverse 

movement.Time and energy don't allow that depth here, but just notice 

thatthe problems being considered by the transhumanists are not a 






Articlesby Carl Ledendecker




RETNewsletter submissions

Feelfree to submit news or opinions of interest. Submissions are 

welcomedbut may be limited by space and topic relevance. The format 

mayvary depending on the amount of information submitted. Short 

submissionsare preferred but longer ones may be accepted if they can 

bepublished as a series over two or more issues. Text or Word format 

arebest for submission. Text may also be included in an E-mail.

CarlLedendecker at:   (        2123 

StonybrookRd., Louisville, TN 37777  982-8687 evenings


TheNewsletter can also be found online at our Web site:

.Scheduling: Philosophy (Michael Lance);  Round 

tables(Carl Westman);  Book Club (John 

McCaffrey)  Newsletter: (Carl Ledendecker)



Materialpublished in The RET Newsletter represents the views of the 

individualauthors.  Publication does notconstitute an endorsement by 

theRationalists of East Tennessee or its members.