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
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.
LessonLeader: Mleeka Learn Houston
Stories:The Very Quiet Cricket and The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
May11, 2008 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
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)
DeerHunting with Jesus
TheEnd of 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 fromwww.nickbostrom.com/ethics/values.html
"Transhumanismis a loosely defined movement that has developed
graduallyover the past two decades. 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. 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
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: (
StonybrookRd., Louisville, TN 37777 982-8687 evenings
TheNewsletter can also be found online at our Web site: www.rationalists.org
.Scheduling: Philosophy (Michael Lance) email@example.com; Round
tables(Carl Westman) firstname.lastname@example.org
Materialpublished in The RET Newsletter represents the views of the
individualauthors. Publication does notconstitute an endorsement by
theRationalists of East Tennessee or its members.