Rationalistsof East Tennessee

April2008 Newsletter





Roundtable   April 6, 2008 10:30 a.m.

AtPellissippi State



"Discussionand Analysis of the Ideas Presented by Sam Harris at the 

September2007 'Crystal Clear Atheism' Convention" (with accompanying 



PhilKing will be the Discussion Leader.




CHILDREN'SPROGRAM April 6, 2008  10:30 a.m.



It'sbird week in the RET children's program!


MleekaLearn Houston will be reading, "Feathers for Lunch," by Lois 


Amazonweb site:



"IAin't Gonna Paint No More," by by Karen Beaumont

Amazonweb site:



"SixCrows," by Leo Lionni

Amazonweb site:



Afterreading the books, Mleeka will then discuss non-violent conflict 

resolutionwith the children.


Followingthe discussion, Patty McCaffrey will help the children to 

createapple bird feeders for their feathered friends.



BookClub    April 13, 20084:00 p.m.

AtBarnes and Noble Booksellers, Kingston Pike


"TheAge of Unreason" by Susan Jacoby (2008)


(Susanwas the speaker at our annual public meeting, in February.)



PhilosophySunday    April 20, 200810:30 a.m.



"Transhumanism:Science or Religion?"

MichaelLance will describe a relatively new movement called 

'Transhumanism'which proposes that we will soon transcend human 

limitationsthrough technology and become immortal, omniscient and 





Op-edby Carl Ledendecker


TheMiddle of the Road Can Be a Dangerous Place


EugenieScott was in Knoxville for Darwin Day 2008. She presented a 

verygood defense of evolution but during the question and answer 

periodshe made a statement that clearly demonstrated the danger of 

themiddle road. One obvious problem with the middle of the road 

positionis one can very easily get hit by those coming from either or 

bothdirections. That is not necessarily an indication of an incorrect 

positionbut in this particular case Scott took a self destructive 



Now,Eugenie Scott has a very difficult job. She must defend evolution 

andnot drive away the religious (especially the liberal groups). She 

has totake the position that one can be a Christian, etc. and still 

embracethe reality of evolution.


This"tap dance" can be difficult to maintain without stumbling over 

one'sintellectual feet, and that is what happened to Eugenie Scott on 

thenight of her presentation.


Shewas asked a question about the bias of science that requires 

addressingonly natural phenomena. As I pointed out in an earlier 

article,science can and does address supernatural claims at times. 

So,that assumption is incorrect. The bias assumption is also 

incorrect.Science uses naturalism as a basis because it has proven to 

be themost accurate way to gain actual knowledge and understanding. 

Usingsupernatural "processes" just leads to dead ends.


UnfortunatelyEugenie Scott, in her political dance, embraced these 

incorrectassumptions and took them to an even lower level.


Herresponse was: The way science is defined it is just "stuck with" 

usingnature and natural phenomena. Now that statement not only was an 

insultto the history and integrity of science, it was a completely 

counterproductive in terms of defending evolution. It made the 

scientificprocess appear an arbitrary dogmatic system, i.e. just like 

religionbut without the higher power endorsement. It communicated 

thatscience is just another opinion. Exactly the opposite of what 

shouldhave been communicated.


So,what is the moral of this story? The reality of the politics of 

humanactivity often requires intermediate and compromised positions 

in theshort term to make forward progress. The reality of politics 

andhuman activity also desperately requires the presence of those who 

areactively engaged in setting the record straight. Those who are 

willingto keep the issues clear and intellectually honest in the 

midstof the messy maneuvers of daily discourse and to confront those 

ideas  that are commonly  communicated and/or accepted butactually 

nonsensicaland dangerous.


We, asa group, have had discussions about confronting and not 

confronting.The real issue is whether we are willing to maintain the 

honestyand integrity of intellectual discourse. To back away from the 

realissues because of a fear of upsetting society is intellectually 

dishonestand a great danger to us all. Choosing not to upset an 

individualor small group is a personal option. But, when one or many 

choseto allow destructive ideas and practices to go unchallenged in 

societyas a whole because "it is good to be nice" or"confrontation 

isuncomfortable" then both the individuals and society will suffer.


It isnot melodramatic to say that the future of humanity actually 

doesultimately depend on resolving the dualistic and mutually 

exclusivenatural/supernatural divide. This is at the deepest level of 

humanconflicts. Within it lies the source of humanity's success or 

failure.There is no middle ground of enduring merit in this issue.


Tocombine a little Bill Moyer and and old poem: There comes time in 

historywhen some individuals must step forward to ensure the 

directionof history and never have to say, "For all the sad words of 

tongueor pen, The saddest are these: "It might have been!"


We arenow at a critical point in human history. Are we willing to