Rationalistsof East Tennessee
"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
"IAin't Gonna Paint No More," by by Karen Beaumont
"SixCrows," by Leo Lionni
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
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