RET News June 2018 CE

Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter

June 2018


First Sunday Meeting

June 3          Sunday            10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Pellissippi State Community College, Hardin Valley Campus, Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex

Street Epistomology by Dr. Tyron Wells

Street epistomology is an effective conversational tool to talk to someone about a deeply held belief without turning the conversation into a debate/argument or making either party defensive. In a short time, often as little as five minutes, you can bring the person to reflect on a belief hold with absolute certainty and actually have them reconsider their position, to the point where their confidence is lowered or they completely change their mind on the subject.  

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Board of Directors Meeting

June 10         Sunday           11:30 a.m.                     

Earth Fare, Turkey Creek, Knoxville

[RET members are welcome to attend Board Meetings.] 


Skeptic Book Club

June 10         Sunday           2:004:00 p.m.                         

Books-A-Million, 8513 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919

Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center, by Henry Mintzberg.

Enough of the imbalance that is causing the degradation of our environment, the demise of our democracies, and the denigration of ourselves. Enough of the pendulum politics of left and right and paralysis in the political center. We require an unprecedented form of radical renewal. In this book Henry Mintzberg offers a new understanding of the root of our current crisis and a strategy for restoring the balance so vital to the survival of our progeny and our planet. With the collapse of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe, Western pundits declared that capitalism had triumphed. They were wrong—balance triumphed. A healthy society balances a public sector of respected governments, a private sector of responsible businesses, and a plural sector of robust communities. Communism collapsed under the weight of its overbearing public sector. Now the “liberal democracies” are threatened—socially, politically, even economically—by the unchecked excesses of the private sector. Radical renewal will have to begin in the plural sector, which alone has the inclination and the independence to challenge unacceptable practices and develop better ones. Too many governments have been co-opted by the private sector. And corporate social responsibility can’t compensate for the corporate social irresponsibility we see around us. “They” won’t do it. We shall have to do it, each of us and all of us, not as passive “human resources,” but as resourceful human beings. (160 pages)


Special Event!

Solstice Party

June 16         Saturday           5:0010:00 p.m.                         

Carl and Aleta Ledendeckers home

The Solstice Party is a covered dish event with BYOB. There is a pool, badminton, and bocce, along with interesting and enlightening conversation with other freethinkers. It is kid friendly, but children using the pool must be supervised. The Ledendeckers live off Alcoa Highway near the Pellissippi Parkway exchange. Phone 865-724-5273 or email to RSVP or get directions.


Third Sunday Meeting

June 17           Sunday           10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Pellissippi State Community College, Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex

“The Grand Design,” a DVD presentation by Dr. Leonard Mlodinow, from the Skeptics Society Distinguished Lecture Series 

When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the nature of reality? Why are the laws of nature so finely tuned as to allow for the existence of beings like ourselves? And, finally, is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation? In this lecture by Mlodinow, based on his co-authored book with Stephen Hawking, these ultimate questions are answers based on the most recent scientific evidence. For example, Mlodinow and Hawking show that according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. When applied to the universe as a whole, this idea calls into question the very notion of cause and effect. The authors further explain that we ourselves are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe, and show how quantum theory predicts the “multiverse”—the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. They conclude with a riveting assessment of M-theory, an explanation of the laws governing us and our universe that is currently the only viable candidate for a complete “theory of everything.” If confirmed, they write, it will be the unified theory that Einstein was looking for, and the ultimate triumph of human reason.



June 24          Sunday           1:00–3:30 p.m.

Discussion and Pot Luck                      Hosted by Bob Morris, 140 Greystone Drive, Oak Ridge 37830

“What Is Security in the 21st Century?”

In the past, one found security and support in extended families, labor unions, pensions and society security insurance, livable wages, and general social cohesiveness. As the 21st century unfolds, we see fragmented nuclear families, the twilight of labor unions, 401K plans that are not guaranteed to last your old age, and spread-out networks instead of locality supportive neighborhoods. Past generations had job training through labor unions and greater support for educational costs; now you are expected to pay a major share and may be paying for the rest of your life. Low and even moderate income housing is in short supply, and a series of setbacks can put many of us on the street. How do we build a new security, especially when we are living in the most productive time ever in human history? What is the new paradigm, how we get there, and how can the system be made more fair and responsive?

For the discussion, please bring the usual pot luck, and Bob will provide some drinks and paper dinnerware. The driveway has a bit of an incline, so if you have strong legs, please park at the bottom so others have less of a climb.




Long-time RET member Randy Curlee died on May 5, 2018. For 30 years, Dr. Curlee served in research and research management positions at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He retired in 2010 as an ORNL distinguished scientist and former deputy director of the Energy Division. More at:


Freethought Forum TV, Wednesdays, 6:307:30 p.m.

FFTV, a community access television program in conjunction with the Atheist Society of Knoxville, can be seen in the Knoxville area on Comcast channel 12, WOW channel 6, Charter channel 193, and AT&T U-verse channel 99 and wherever the internet reaches at Our program may be seen by viewers of all ages and engages those who might otherwise never know about alternatives to religious world views. FFTV invites you to host or co-host a program or suggest a topic you wish to be presented. Contact “Faithless” Forrest with your ideas.


Knoxville Pride Festival, Saturday, June 23, 2018, Knoxville Civic Coliseum Lawn

Knox Pride Festival is an LGBTQ+ celebration with music, entertainment, and speakers focused on promoting equality and inclusion of all people. 


Opinion Column. Would you like to share an opinion? Send it to us (, and it will be considered for publication.


RET Skeptic Book ClubBooks List

[If you use these links to buy from Amazon, RET receives a rebate.] 

Rationalists of East Tennessee Website

Information about the workings of RET is available online to members. Minutes of Board of Directors meetings are at There is also a forum for member postings:

RET Meetup 
Rationalists of East Tennessee is now on Meetup.coman online social networking site that allows people to find others who share common interests. Join in: 

News of Members
Please contact us ( if you have relevant news about RET members that they agree to share.


Other Area Secular Activities                              

Atheist Society of Knoxville, Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Black Horse Pub and Brewery, Western Plaza Shopping Center, 4429 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919. Conversation, food, and drink. ASK is sponsoring a major fundraiser called Ending Hunger, which aims to raise $5000 and put 20,000 meals into Knoxville area food pantries. To donate to the ASK initiative, go to

East Tennessee Chapter, Freedom from Religion Foundation, June 20, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Third Wednesday of each month, Earth Fare, Turkey Creek, Knoxville.

Sunday Assembly Knoxville (Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More). 
The International, 940 Blackstock Avenue, Knoxville 37921. For activities, go to the Sunday Assembly website and click on “Events Calendar.” Other Sunday Assembly sites: Facebook, Meetup, Email.


What Are You Reading/Viewing?

We invite you to share articles, books, films, etc., you’ve experienced recently. Just send a brief summary to This month’s recommendations are from Carl Westman.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt (Vintage Books, New York, 2012). In today’s political climate, who would not be drawn to a book that purports to help liberals and conservatives understand each other better, and thus reduce bitter partisanship and acrimony? Jonathan Haidt promises no less in this book and cites scores of studies to support his ideas. Haidt identifies six primary universal dimensions of morality and finds that people vary in the relative importance they assign to each dimension. The way in which liberals and conservatives vary in their moral matrices makes it difficult for them to understand each other. I was unpersuaded by his overall diagnosis; my skepticism centered around issues of reliability and validity of some of his cited studies, and his interpretation of results. One must acknowledge, as well, that in the six years since publication, we have seen an ever-more partisan political climate ... and even a shrinking set of agreed-upon facts. That said, there is much food for thought here, and he concludes with some wise ideas for engaging in constructive dialogue. It behooves the well-read rationalist to be familiar with the arguments he makes, if for no other reason than to sharpen one’s critical thinking skills.

Gödel: A Life of Logic, by John L. Casti and Werner DePauli (Perseus Books, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2000). During the years 1910–1913, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead published a monumental three-volume set totaling nearly 2000 pages, which sought to demonstrate that all mathematical truths could be derived from formal logic. However, in 1931, Kurt Gödel published his “Incompleteness Theorems.” In merely 80 pages, he overturned the seeming finality of Russell and Whitehead’s work. This short book (<200 pages) by Casti and DePauli gives a brief overview of Gödel’s life and work, and along the way the reader will get to see how intellectual greats such as Hilbert, Russell, Wittgenstein, Einstein, and Turing figure into the story. It is interesting to see the links between mathematics, logic, artificial intelligence, and computer programming. Although many of the ideas are challenging to conceptualize, enough of them are within grasp to foster an appreciation for the puzzles and enigmas shaping these fields in the 20th century.


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Edited by Donna Watson and Sharron King:
Opinions expressed are those of authors and/or editors and are not necessarily the opinions of RET.