Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Gary Deatsman: "How I Became a Humanist"

    When I was 8 or 9 years old I was occasionally sent to Methodist Sunday School where I soon learned to associate the kindly, loving Jesus with milk and cookies. Eventually I had questions.  How could Noah possibly have gathered up animals from all over the earth and crammed them into the ark?  Also, if, as my teacher said, everything came from God, where did God come from?  The teacher could not answer.  

    I decided to take my questions to my grandmother, whose grandchildren all called Nana.  I knew that she and my grandfather attended church regularly.  I was sure that wisdom came with age and that she could explain all.  I unburdened myself to her, and I still remember her response:

    “Don’t worry about that, child.  Intelligent people aren’t religious. I’m an atheist.  I don’t believe in God.”

    “But Nana,” I said, “you go to church.”

    “That’s just for social advantages.  We don’t really believe any of it.”

    I didn’t become an atheist myself at that time, but I was aware that some people I loved were nonbelievers.  I was really troubled when we school kids suddenly had to start saying “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.  This seemed to imply that Nana wasn’t a good American.  Nonsense!  She was a Republican!
    Later, as a Boy Scout, I was uncomfortable pledging to do my duty to God and my country.  I thought this wasn’t fair to scouts who might be atheists.  I eventually settled into agnosticism, but remained disturbed by discrimination against nonbelievers.

    Before retiring I taught mathematics at a Catholic high school.  They had no problem with my lack of faith, and made no attempt to convert me.  As I got to know my Catholic colleagues, including priests and nuns, I was impressed with their very liberal theology.

    My duties included escorting students to mass.  I responded emotionally to the beauty of this carefully crafted ceremony.  (Perhaps I was inwardly salivating for milk and cookies.)  I took instruction and studied the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  All of my questions were answered and I resolved to end my agnostic fence sitting and make one last try at religion. I joined the Church and for two years I was the best Catholic I could be.

    One of my biggest obstacles to faith had always been the presence of misery in a world controlled by an all powerful and loving God.  The Catholic answer which satisfied me was that for some mysterious reason God cannot or will not usually intervene to prevent catastrophes.  However, He inspires humans to mitigate their effects.  We are obligated to help the misfortunate, work for peace and justice, and use science to fight disease and predict and protect from natural disasters, etc. , and in general to be the agents of God’s love on earth.  I was deeply moved by this parable:  A man died and met God.  He asked, “The world is filled with suffering.  Why don’t you do anything about it?”  God answered,  “I did.  I sent you to help.  What have you done?”

    In time, however, I began to observe a lack of divine love in some of God’s representatives, the priests.  The priest principal of our school eventually showed himself to be a bully, unethical, a thief, and a liar.  Another priest I knew was caught with child pornography on his computer.  I saw more and more examples of poor behavior by Catholics, some directed at me with traumatic effect.  Despite the many good Catholics I had known, the existence of bad ones I knew personally, the many reported in the media, and the vast multitudes recorded throughout history convinced me that not only is there no god inspiring us to do good, there is no god even able to inspire many of his closest followers to behave decently.

    I soon rejected all religion.  (I am grateful to the Catholic Church for enabling me to be comfortable as an atheist.)  I started reading Free Inquiry and decided that I am a Secular Humanist.  When my wife and I retired to the Valley we found HSGP on the internet and joined up.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    What a Difference a Year Makes!

    We are closing in on a year since we moved into our new Community Center in Mesa. Here’s what our meeting room looked like one year ago today. Note the decorative ductwork hanging down from the ceiling and the lovely concrete floors!

    This is what our meeting room looks like today. Gorgeous and welcoming!

    We’re winding up the year with some very special events that you won’t want to miss.

    First, on Sunday, November 6th, we will be dedicating our Robert G. Ingersoll library. This will be a special commemoration of the Great Agnostic with a sharing of his eloquent writings and a ribbon cutting. Hal and Doreen Saferstein, whose stunningly generous donations to HSGP made our Humanist Community Center possible, chose to name our library after their hero rather than themselves. Please take this opportunity to share with Hal and Doreen your deep appreciation for their gift.

    Next, on Sunday, December 4th, HSGP and FFRF-VSUN are jointly sponsoring an award-winning journalist, Ted Cox. He will talk about his undercover infiltration of a Christian gay-to-straight conversion program. Ted’s talk is provocatively titled, “What I Learned at Straight Camp.” This will be a standing-room only event so arrive early and join us for a light nosh before Ted’s talk. Doors open at 8:30 am and Ted’s talk begins at 9:30 am.

    Finally, on Sunday, December 18th from noon to 4 pm, we are holding our annual Solstice Celebration! Are you one of those rare Humanists who love to eat and have fun? (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.) Need gifts for holiday giving? This is the place to be! In addition to our usual potluck buffet, you can join a poker game, shop at our marketplace and tag sale, take a chance on winning one of our special gift baskets, or learn all about the history of holidays. Our 2012 Board of Directors will be sworn in and you’ll learn who the Helen Goldsmith award winners are for 2011. BYOB and a dish to share. Partay!

    For more information about all of our events go to

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Freethinkers Share Food and Fun

     The second Freethinkers potluck lunch, held September 18th, was a rip-roaring success, attracting attendance that doubled that of the inaugural event.  The quality and variety of the potluck offerings attested to the imagination and creativity that we would expect from Freethinkers. 

    Judging by the noise level, great discussions were being held at all of the tables, on topics ranging from vegan activism through the current state of politics to, of course, what distinguishes Humanism from garden-variety atheism.

    LuAnn had come with her 14-year-old daughter to the initial potluck as their first HSGP event. LuAnn has “always been more of a scientist” and was “looking for a community to replace church”. She left the Lutheran Church years ago and was envious of friends who still had their church community.  We’re happy to note that LuAnn decided to join our HSGP community and attended Sunday’s event as a new member.  

    The potluck was followed by a screening of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Attendance for the joint event totaled 52 freethinkers. In addition to HSGP members, the event was advertised to the Phoenix Atheists Meetup Group and Phoenix Skepticsin the Pub.

    Contributed by Linda Wendler, John Sadowsky, Shelley Newman.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Jake DaSilva: How I became a Humanist...

    ...since I wasn't always.

    When I was a little kid I noticed that my dad did not ever go to church or talk about being religious. Simultaneously my mother would force my sister and me to go to church and special classes on the weekend to learn about Catholicism. I hated to go to church. It was boring and I felt like my life was literally being stolen from me. I also thought it was unsanitary to drink wine after all those other people. I also did not like wine.

    Once, when I asked my mom about germs on the communal wineglass she said, “don’t worry. God will clean it.”


    My dad was a voracious science fiction reader and science-buff. So I would often read over the short articles in his Science News magazine. And while they were over my head, I started to realize how ridiculous the nonsense I was being taught about the bible was.

    This made me a skeptic, but it did not turn me into a full-tilt atheist – let alone a Secular Humanist.

    I started asking questions in my Catholic classes. And the nuns were none-too-pleased about it. They would tell me how God did not want women to have abortions. I asked why and they told me God loves life and that one of those aborted “babies” could have grown up to cure cancer.

    I returned the volley with this: “If God likes life so much then why doesn’t he just give me the cure. I’d be happy to give it to everyone.”

    Eventually, nuns and creepy priests-in-training who taught those classes took to inviting me to leave when I would question too often. Flattered by their invitations I would often walk out unceremoniously and stand in the snowy cold of Ohio winter rather than listen to their craziness.

    Around this time, in my early adolescence, my skepticism about religion led me to disavow God. Looking back on it, it was rather thrilling. And it came down to this: My dad shared a refrain with me that still sticks with me today: “Religion is a crutch for the weak-minded.” I don’t know where he got that, I only know it re-sculpted my mind and I knew then that my dad did not believe.

    When it came time to be “confirmed” I told my mom that I was just going to go through the motions and lie to the priest about believing in God. I told her I did not believe in God anymore. My dad watched this whole thing closely, and merely suggested that I play along with the ludicrous ritual to keep from making waves.

    For me, as a working-class kid in semi-rural Ohio, the wonders of science came mostly in the form of Nova documentaries on PBS or my father’s aforementioned Science News magazines. So, these did little to really push me over the edge into atheism. What did it for me was misery, sadness, poverty, wars, famine, disease, the cruelty in everyday life, death, pain, etc.

    I just could not understand why an all-powerful god would allow this when he could just make the whole place a paradise. So, for a brief moment, I was like: “This God guy is a total asshole. I hope he sends me to hell. I’ll help Lucifer raise hell!”

    But then I just started to think that the chaos I saw throughout my community and on TV throughout the world was just that – chaos. No God governed us. We governed ourselves, for good or bad, in a bicameral congress with Nature.

    And all the science I learned from then on only reinforced my atheism.

    And one day, when I was 16 and a hardcore atheist, I was in an argument with my superstitious Catholic mother about going to Catholic classes on weekends. The argument was heated. When my dad finally got in the middle of it he said, “Leave the boy be! He doesn’t need to go to those classes anymore. He is old enough to make his own choices. And it looks like he made his choice about religion.”

    It was an amazingly liberating moment. No more church. No more Catholic classes. No more creepy priests and nuns. I was freed from religion.

    Through college and grad school I dabbled in Atheist related activism, nothing too big. And what I noticed was that atheism lacks a set of values. So, I felt a void.

    Ironically, my highly religious mother got me into reading Kurt Vonnegut. I tore through all his works. When I began reading about Vonnegut I found out that he was a secular humanist. And then I read about humanism and I joined the national organization for humanists – the AmericanHumanist Association – when I was in grad school.

    The void of values I found in atheism was filled by the philosophy of secular humanism. Now I am both an atheist and a secular humanist. And I am proud to be a dues-paying member of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Peter Hand: "How I Became a Humanist"

    I grew up with parents who were not very religious.  My Father was a survivor of one of the great US Concentration Camps of the Depression: St. John's Orphanage in Brooklyn, New York.  My mother was a "light" Methodist, who rarely went to church.  When I was about 10, my mother won an apparent battle with my father and sent my brother and I to Sunday School at the local Methodist Church where we lived, in Simsbury, Connecticut.  It was a pleasant experience full of story telling, punch and cookies. 

    By the time I was 12, we were offered the opportunity to memorize the 23rd Psalm and for this, we would get a Bible with our name embossed on the cover.  It seemed like a good deal to me.  Not that I would ever read the thing, because even at that age, I thought the language in the "modern" King James bible was so completely archaic, that it wasn't easy at all to understand, and required that you read a passage eight or nine times just to figure out what they were talking about.  Ramping up to the recital of the bible, a new requirement popped up: We were encouraged to accept Jesus as our savior.  I discussed this at length with my Sunday school teacher, much to her dismay, without ever coming to an understanding of just what that meant.  I knew I wasn't a sinner.  I was a good kid.  If God couldn't see that, he wasn't very interested or astute. And it made no sense that saying I accepted Jesus as my savior would make the difference between God accepting me or not. 

    After completely exhausting my Sunday school teacher, I got up the nerve to ask our Minister, Mr. Amrein.  Now, I was a very small kid. Even today, I am only about 5'5", although, I am very broad and muscular, so I don't look small, but back then, I was tiny.  Mr. Amrein was well over 6' and very intimidating to me, despite the fact that he was a really nice guy.  I caught him in the hall outside my Sunday school room and asked him for a moment of his time.  I told him that I very much wanted to accept Jesus as my savior, but was completely at a lost as to how to do it and why it is at all necessary.  The same arguments that had stumped my teacher, confounded Minister Amrein.  He didn't last nearly as long, of course, and after 5 minutes, he sent me back to my Sunday school teacher for any further assistance.  I began to think to myself "This is a hoax! No one really knows!  They all just fake it and say they're part of this club!"  I began to dismiss the whole thing right then and there.

    I went on to recite the psalm and get the bible.  But Minister Amrein and my Sunday school teacher told me that there were no answers here, and that the whole thing was a sham.  Part of this was because the myths and stories they told me, that were supposedly "true", were outrageous, even to an 11 year old with a very active imagination.  Shortly after receiving my bible, my parents sat my brother and me down and asked if we wanted to continue going to church.  Our alternative activity was to have extra time to complete our chores or watch TV.  DONE! My brother and I didn't even hesitate!  For a year, we were church free.

    The following year, I went to the local Unitarian Church with a friend and really thought I had found my home.  The lay teachers in the religious education program there taught us about the Hopi, the Navajo, the Christians, Jews, Baha'i, Muslims, you name it! It was fascinating.  And the best part was the thing they told us with every story: Take the part of this story that is true to you and make it part of your story.  You don't need to believe in anything in particular to be a good person, this is just information that shows you how history has presented certain behaviors to guide you.  If you disagree, do something different!

    About 35 years later, after being president of a Unitarian church and very involved at times over the years, I decided to leave.   The UUA's message of "All religion has something to offer" was something I wasn't sure I believed and I had heard all of the sermons based on the bible that I ever wanted to hear.  In my time as President of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bartlesville (OK), I even counselled a visiting minister to go easy on the mix of bible-related stories because the group there was mostly atheists and not interested in that type of thing.  After one sermon, where she related stories from the bible, the pews were full at first, but by the end of the first half, 90% of the group had left or gotten a jump on coffee hour.

    When I moved from Oklahoma, I ran into church after church of Unitarian communities that were Bible-rich.  I stopped going altogether.  I had identified myself as a secular humanist for many years at that point and was just going to have to content myself with using my Sundays to catch up on my chores and watch cartoons.  I have written a web site with a presentation called "A Discussion about God" to help people understand my beliefs further.  It's

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Anita Romanowski: "How I Became a Humanist"

    Was “God” arrogantly created in the image of the human male?  Yes, I think so.

    I don’t like to use the word belief, for believing is not necessarily knowing.  Therefore, I do not believe or disbelieve in what has not been unequivocally proven or disproven.  However, I absolutely do not believe in any god or gods created by man.  Nobody knows how everything came to be.  That saddens me, because I’m quite certain my intense curiosity will not be satisfied before I die.

    How did I become a humanist?  Well, it was a long evolution.  My passionate interest in science has played a huge role. 

    After making my first communion, I went to confession every Saturday so I could receive Jesus into my body on Sunday morning.  Many of us young Catholics actually believed that we could commit any “sin” during the week because we’d be forgiven by the priest on Saturday.  Slowly, I began to think, why do I need to confess my minor transgressions to some mortal human when I really should be taking responsibility for my own actions. 

    I think the death of my maternal grandmother was the beginning of my journey toward rejecting religion.  Why did this wonderful, nurturing woman have to suffer a life of an unhappy, arranged marriage and heart and kidney failure?  After her death my mother forced me to go to church every Sunday and light a candle for her mother.  It got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore and stopped going to church altogether.  I was 18 years old.

    Beginning in my preteens, I watched every TV program having to do with science fiction and documentaries on anything related to science, technology and medicine.

    The “birth” of the Hubble Telescope opened up a whole new universe for me, literally.  If it is possible for a person to be head-over-heels in love with an inanimate object, this my feeling towards the Hubble.  I might even be inclined to say that I “worship” the thing.

    I used to think that astronomy was just looking at the stars and identifying the constellations.  Wow, was I ever wrong!  Stars, galaxies, nebulas, black holes, pillars of creation, neutron stars, dark matter, dark energy, antimatter, quasars, supernovas, the list goes on and on.  The more I learn, the more I want to learn and the more questions I have.  It’s absolutely exhilarating!

    In another twist of my evolving non-beliefs, I was listening to sermons in church and watching people pray to plaster statues while I was looking at the live plants arranged at the altar and praying to nature.  Slowly, I began to theorize that God is in nature, indeed is nature.  The mysticism I was hearing just didn’t jive with the reality I was witnessing in the world.  How could a loving benevolent God be allowing so much strife and suffering to occur to all the living things he loves in the world he created?  More and more I began to think, where does all the supernaturalism and mysticism of religion fit into all of this?  Nowhere I can think of.

    I apparently was born with the ability to reason, to analyze situations, to find solutions to solvable problems, to be a free-thinker, to see events as they really are and not as I think they should be.  Eureka – I’m a critical thinker!

    Religious beliefs are so deep-rooted in the psyche of the general human population, that I don’t foresee any earth-shattering changes in the blind faith shared by all believers.

    My childhood was not a very pleasant one, so I built emotional walls against being hurt by people.  With the help of some psychological counseling, I came to realize that my feelings and emotions are valid and I’m entitled to them.  I also realized that the same holds true to everyone and began to become more sensitive to, and accepting of, people.  Ah, the dawn of Humanism on my narrow little mind.

    Upon entering my 30s was becoming more sensitive to the homelessness and abusive situations of animals.  As a long-time volunteer with animal welfare agencies, I’ve become aware of a growing need for pet parenting education.  In my opinion, pet and child parenting are one and the same.  My concern for animals has helped me become more sensitive to some of the problems faced by people.

    After having subscribed to Free Inquiry magazine for many years, I decided to search for a Humanist organization in the Phoenix area.  I found HSGP on line and went to a meeting.  I was so impressed by the camaraderie and the speaker that I immediately joined the membership.  That was three years ago.  I have become extremely involved with the organization, becoming the Membership Chairperson and now am a board member at large.

    Humanism has given me a true, caring family.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Humanists Clean Up Tempe Beach Park

    On August 13, volunteers from the Arizona Coalition of Reason completed a second day of labor towards a long-term commitment to the Tempe Parks and Recreation department to keep Tempe Beach Park clean. Sixteen volunteers showed up to pick up litter and pull weeds in the adopt a park program.

    Most volunteers hailed from the Phoenix Atheists Meetup group, such as Brad Stephenson who drove up from Casa Grande. This was Stephenson's first involvement with the group and he came to “feel involved with a group outside of [work].” Stephenson works for the CCA private prison in Florence and enjoyed being part of something greater with like-minded individuals.

    Kerri and Jake, members of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix drove from downtown Phoenix to be part of the community. They and the other 16 volunteers worked hard to collect about three bags of litter and weeds.

    The weather was supportive, with cloud cover and cooler morning temperatures. And work only slowed when members struck on a topic of conversation in which a mutual passion for a shared truth proved too great to table for later.  The next Tempe Beach Park clean up hasn't been announced yet, but may be in two months.

    Contributed by Richard Conaway.

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Profiles in Humanism: Jerry & Judy Walp

    HSGP members Jerry and Judy Walp have patterned their retirement after that of a Roman emperor. If this conjures up images of a toga-wearing couple lounging around sipping wine you’re thinking of the wrong emperor. The Walp’s model was Diocletian, the 51st Emperor of the Roman Empire who famously retired to tend his vegetable garden.

    Jerry and Judy’s Diocletian Garden is not only a source of pride and enjoyment but is an example of Humanists doing good in the community through their contributions to food banks in Maricopa and Casa Grande.

    Jerry spent his working career as an industrial engineer and Judy was an elementary teacher working in special education. But Jerry had fond memories of the Ohio farm where he grew up so when the couple retired, they moved from Colorado to a parcel of land near the town of Maricopa and began to cultivate it. Master Gardener classes helped them learn how much different the growing seasons are in Arizona from those in Colorado and Ohio. As Judy says, “Here we plant while everything in Ohio is covered in snow.”

    Experimentation taught them what grows best on their plot of land and when to plant it. Then Jerry and Judy started selling their vegetables at a local farmers’ market, preparing their produce for sale, transporting it to the market, competing with others who sold what they had not grown themselves. After a few years the Walps decided it was more satisfying to skip the hassles of retailing and give their bounty to those who might not otherwise have access to fresh, healthy food like the beets, carrots, broccoli, chard, cabbage, tomatoes, melons, squash, peppers, onions and garlic that they grow at various times of the year. This year they expect to donate about 13,000 pounds of fresh produce to the food banks.

    Judy says “We do it because we like to garden. It is very satisfying to watch the little seedlings sprout and the plants produce. It is a healthy lifestyle. We get sunshine, exercise and good things to eat.”

    And they get the satisfaction of sharing some of that healthy lifestyle with others in their community.

    Contributed by Linda Wendler.

    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    "I Believe"

    Is blind faith a virtue?  Many nonbelievers struggle with attempts to understand why wholehearted acceptance of irrational thought is considered by many of the "faithful" to be praiseworthy.  Certainly, blind faith is the path of least resistance.  Inquiry and thought require energy, while unquestioning acceptance demands little effort (beyond dealing with a smattering of cognitive dissonance every now and then).  Blind faith also provides a certainty that is difficult to attain from other sources.  This certainty can be empowering, for better or for worse.

    Some of these sentiments are echoed in this song from the Broadway hit musical "The Book of Mormon."  Enjoy "I Believe."

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Meeting Follow-Up: Dr. James Elser on Phosphorus

    What can we do about phosphorus and food's future?

    The 15th element in the periodic table is not something that comes to mind for most people when they reflect on causes of global food crises of the past. Overpopulation, climate change, crop disease, and soil erosion are more likely to deemed as the instigators of disaster scenarios.

    However, phosphorus is essential for every living thing on this planet and, according to estimates, the world's phosphorous -- needed for fertilizing plants -- will peak within half a century.
     Thus opened  David Despain's review of this week's HSGP speaker, Dr. James Elser, on "Phosphorus, Food, & Our Future."  Please direct your browser to Despain's blog, Evolving Health, to continue reading!

    If you were unable to attend the presentation, here is video of a similar talk given by Elser at the Arizona Science Center, last year:

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    HSGP Meeting: "Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future"

    This Sunday, July 10, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix will host a presentation by Dr. James Elser, an Arizona State University Regents' Professor in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science.  Dr. Elser will be speaking on the necessity of phosphorus for agriculture worldwide. In a 2010 article on the Foreign Policy magazine website entitled "Peak Phosphorus," Elser described the bleak future of food production if phosphorus consumption continues at its current pace.  Phosphorus is an important component of fertilizer, being used by plant life for DNA construction and the creation of cell membranes, yet it is not a renewable resource.  Much of the phosphorus currently being used in fertilizers is mined from ancient mineral deposits that are dangerously close to running out.  Some estimates place the depletion of the world's major phosphorus sources 30-40 years into the future.  That is a bit too close for comfort.  Although we are all familiar with the scarcity of oil, we have far more reason to be concerned about the scarcity of phosphorus, as it has no substitutes. 

    If steps are not taken to curb the depletion of phosphorus, we can expect to see food prices sky-rocket as countries like Morocco hike up the price-tag on phosphorus exports.  Thankfully, there are ways to make supplies last.  Many of these consist of modifying the highly wasteful practices of the agricultural industry.  For example, controlling the erosion of crop fields would maintain phosphorus levels in soil, reducing the need to re-apply. 

    Please join us on Sunday at the Humanist Community Center in Mesa to learn more about "Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future."  More information on the HSGP can be found at our website,

    Elser, J. J. & White, S. (2010). Peak phosphorus. Foreign Policy Magazine online, 4/22. [link]

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Happy World Humanist Day!

    Today, June 21st, is World Humanist Day, a day devoted to spreading the "good word" of humanism and free-thought.  This video, created by humanist, James Croft, is a celebration of humanism around the world.  Enjoy!

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Meeting Follow-Up: Dr. Quentin Wheeler

    At this week's meeting of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, we had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Quentin Wheeler speak on the importance of taxonomic research to biodiversity conservation and the greater well-being of humanity. The talk was chock-full of information, but this video (created by Dr. Wheeler and colleagues) does a good job of summing it up:

    It came as a surprise to many in attendance that our current taxonomies make the tree of life appear to be rather barren. Our knowledge of the world's species is extremely limited. By conservative estimates, 80% of life on earth remains to be classified. In order to raise awareness of the importance of taxonomic research, Dr. Wheeler and the International Institute for Species Exploration host a "Top 10 New Species" contest that highlights unique, newly-identified species from the previous year. The finalists from 2010 can be seen at  For more information on Dr. Wheeler and his presentation to the HSGP, please see our previous post, located here.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    HSGP Meeting: "Fact-based Biodiversity Sustainability"


    On June 19th, the HSGP will host a presentation by entomologist, Quentin Wheeler. Dr. Wheeler follows in the footsteps of Carl Linnaeus with his goal of establishing a taxonomy of beetle populations around the world.  Beyond simply creating a laundry list of species, Dr. Wheeler focuses on the broader implications of generating such taxonomies.  Specifically, a comprehensive map of global species distributions could aid in assessing the impact of climate change or the introduction of a non-native species on biodiversity, thus facilitating and guiding efforts at conservation.

    In a 2004 paper published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Wheeler argued vehemently for a return to taxonomic research, suggesting that no understanding of a species' origins is complete without a thorough grounding in its taxonomic context.  Wheeler closed his call to action by stating:

    Had Linnaeus had the kinds of digital tools available today to visually describe and share morphological and species knowledge, it is doubtful that taxonomy would have lost ground in funding or prestige. The time is at hand for taxonomy to take its rightful place among big sciences and to lead society in a meaningful response to the biodiversity crisis (p. 580).

    Please join us at the Humanist Community Center on Sunday to take part in what is bound to be a lively discussion following Dr. Wheeler's presentation.  More information on the HSGP can be found at our website,

    Wheeler, Q. D. (2004). Taxonomic triage and the poverty of phylogeny. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B, 359, 571-583.[link]

    What exactly is Humanism?

    Well, please forgive the Wiki definition (the first part anyway) but it's a start.

    "Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. The term can mean several things, for example:

    1.A cultural movement of the Italian Renaissance based on the study of classical works.
    2.An approach to education that uses literary means or a focus on the humanities to inform students.
    3.A variety of perspectives in philosophy and social science which affirm some notion of 'human nature' (by contrast with anti-humanism).
    4.A secular ideology which espouses reason, ethics, and justice, whilst specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making.
    The last interpretation may be attributed to Secular Humanism as a specific humanistic life stance.[1] Modern meanings of the word have therefore come to be associated with a rejection of appeals to the supernatural or to some higher authority.[2][3] This interpretation may be directly contrasted with other prominent uses of the term in traditional religious circles.[4] Humanism of this strand arose from a trajectory extending from the deism and anti-clericalism of the Enlightenment, the various secular movements of the 19th century (such as positivism), and the overarching expansion of the scientific project."

    The fourth definition most closely fits what I refer to as Humanism, but I believe there is much more to it than that. Feel free to add or change as you see fit, you crazy Humanists!!