Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter   -  October, 2009


Fun at the 2nd Annual Regional Atheist Picnic last month Donna Maxwell gives this report: It was very rainy and chilly, yet about 40 people showed up. We had representatives from RET, Greenville Non-theists, and the West North Carolina Atheists. A couple people showed who were not part of any group and didn't know anyone which I thought was neat. There was much lively discussion on timely topics like the healthcare debate, the consequences of free speech for children, and if and how our groups should reach out more to minority communities. Lots of amazing food and adventures on the way back to Knoxville. We picked up an Italian guy whose BMW ran out of gas.


In the News:

I was watching the Chattanooga local news after the Emmy’s because I saw they were going to run a story about teen birth rates in religious states. As I already knew (because I’ve used similar data to teach correlation in my statistics courses), states with higher conservative religious beliefs have higher rates of teen births. This study was more comprehensive than a simple correlation. It measured a couple other factors beyond teen births and religiosity so we can be much more confident of the robustness of this correlation.


To the very religious folks I ask (tongue in cheek of course) “Why oh why could this be?” They can’t blame it on all the sex in the media.

Maxim magazine and Cinamax are available in the less religious states too! Could it be income? Nope. Researchers took that into account and the correlation still exists.


The researchers offered up the possibility that communities with conservative religious beliefs are somehow ‘more successful at discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself’. I’m hoping that helps put a nail in the coffin of abstinence only sex ed.


What upset me, though, was the way our local newscaster ended the report. She started out impartial but then she ended by saying, “one possible factor is that more religious states might have lower abortion rates.” A quick web search led me to an MSNBC article on the study, which clearly stated that the correlation existed even when they accounted for abortion rates. So, with one little quip, the press erased any need for conservative religious parents to feel the need to change course in how they educate their kids. Instead, they may now believe they simply need to beef up their anti-abortion activism and their teen birth problem will be solved. Responsibility lifted and shifted. Sigh.



Children's Program

The Children's program started again- Bring your kids to the roundtable events at Pellissippi. A few volunteers will tend to them just outside the meeting area in the cafeteria. They've got stories with various concepts to discuss, plus crafts. See below.



Newest RET members.


A big welcome to our newest RET Members as of September: Anne M.

Fontaine and Mary Ann Barnhart.





Sunday, October 4th - Roundtable

Topic: The End of the Universe

Time/location: 10:30 - 12:30, Pellissippi State, Goins Bldg., Cafeteria Annex

Discussant: Soren P. Sorensen, Department of Physics at UT


"Today we have a fairly detailed picture of the childhood of the universe in the form of the Big Bang theory. But what will happen with the universe once it reaches a more mature age and what will be the ultimate end of it? In this talk, I will discuss some of the possible scenarios for the end of the universe based on our current scientific knowledge.”


Children’s program: Belinda the Ballerina, by Amy Young (Concept: Resilience) Amazon Reviewer: Belinda has a gift, and she works hard at it too. But she doesn't fit a few gatekeeping critics' ideas of what a ballerina should look like. Rejection makes her very sad...

lie-in-the-bathtub-for-a-long-time sad. But she picks herself up, and goes to work in a restaurant, where dance finds her again ~ and she herself is discovered. Belinda of the huge feet pirouettes, prances, leaps, and soars across the page. Her friends and supporters are charming and diverse, her judges are appropriately and entertainingly unpleasant.


Sunday, October 11 - Skeptic Book Club

Book: “The Drunkard’s Walk” by Leonard Mlodinow, 2008 Discussion Leader: Joan Omarzo Time and location: 4:00 to 6:00pm, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 8029 Kingston Pike.


“In The Drunkard’s Walk Leonard Mlodinow provides readers with a wonderfully readable guide to how the mathematical laws of randomness affect our lives. With insight he shows how the hallmarks of chance are apparent in the course of events all around us. The understanding of randomness has brought about profound changes in the way we view our surroundings, and our universe. I am pleased that Leonard has skillfully explained this important branch of mathematics.” --Stephen Hawking


By showing us the true nature of chance and revealing the psychological illusions that cause us to misjudge the world around us, Mlodinow gives us the tools we need to make more informed decisions.

From the classroom to the courtroom and from financial markets to supermarkets, Mlodinow's intriguing and illuminating look at how randomness, chance, and probability affect our daily lives will intrigue, awe, and inspire.


REMEMBER: If you’re interested in buying the book, go to rationalists.org and click on the book link. From there you can order it from Amazon. RET gets part of the profit of any purchases that are made by going through our site. Consider doing this for any of your Amazon purchases, even if you don’t buy the book!


October 18th - Philosophy Sunday

Topic: Education in the Obama age:  Where do we go from here?

Time/location: 10:30 - 12:30, Pellissippi State, Goins Bldg., Cafeteria Annex

Discussant: Lorrie Lance


What advice would you give to the Obama administration regarding education? The No Child Left Behind Legislation has been widely criticized, but what would be a better alternative? Lorrie Lance will lead a roundtable discussion about best practices in education and how they inform the legislative process.


Children’s program: The Aminal, by Lorna and Lecia Balian. (Concept:

being an empiricist)

Patrick finds an "aminal" and decides to take it home. He describes it to Molly, who tells Calvin, who tells Freddie, and the "aminal"

becomes more frightening with each new description. Soon, Patrick's friends think they must save him from the giant green "aminal"