Category: Diary

SH Group May meeting

Why religion? An exploration of the religious instinct, led by Michael Imison, with reference to ‘Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast – the evolutionary origins of belief’ by Lewis Wolpert, and ‘Breaking the Spell – Religion as a Natural Phenomenon’ by Daniel Dennett.

Venue is Hexagonal Room, Friends’ Meeting House, Colchester.

Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right

A free lecture at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG.

Led by Professor Steve Jones, University College London, a debate on the case for evolution and creationism, and why creationism does more harm than good.

Update 14/04/2006 – The lecture is now available on the Royal Society website (Realplayer needed).

Related article on SH

Sustainable Development – Hope or Hoax?

Jules PrettySuffolk Humanists at the Friends’ Meeting House, Colchester, on 16th February 2006. Report of a talk by Jules Pretty, FRSA, FIBiol, Professor of Environment & Society at the University of Essex, by Peter Davidson

Professor Pretty’s talk was on sustainable development. He began by focusing on the general theme of human development, then assessing what the world looks like now, and trying to get a balance about how things might change, not only over a long period of time, but over the next forty years or so. In his view, there are some crises, such as oil shortages and rising sea levels, that are current or imminent, and that must be addressed as a matter of urgency, regardless of arguments over whether the cause is human behaviour.

Churchill and manic depression

Churchill statueThe charity Rethink is the largest voluntary provider of mental health support in the UK and conducts many high profile campaigns in a continuing effort to achieve a greater understanding of mental illness.

In March 2006 such a campaign was targeted at the city of Norwich, as explained on the Rethink website:

During March, Rethink is taking the fight against prejudice, ignorance and fear to the streets of Norwich. The campaign will involve ads on buses, bus stops, billboards and on the radio together with a major statue unveiling in the Forum on March 10th. Make sure you put this date in your diary as we need your support on the big day!

Little did they realise just what sort of impact the campaign would have.
The statue mentioned on the website was, as pictured here, one of Winston Churchill in a straitjacket, and on the basis that no publicity is bad publicity, the profile of Rethink was certainly raised several notches.

What do the faiths teach about the environment?

The East of England Faiths Agency arranged and hosted a half-day conference on ‘What do the Faiths teach about the Environment?’ on Sunday March 5th at the University of Essex. The theme was chosen after a consultation on the Faiths and the Environment with staff from the Environmental Agency, who attended the conference. There were contributions from some of the faiths and philosophies in the region, including Baha’is, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and Sikhs. Margaret Nelson, supported by Michael Imison and Nathan Nelson, offered a Humanist Perspective.

Happy New Year

In a few days, it will be New Year’s Eve, when Scots like my mother’s family celebrate Hogmanay. The Scots seem to attach more importance to Hogmanay than they do to Christmas, but at one time both were celebrated at the same time – on the shortest day, the 21st December. This was when ancient societies in the northern hemisphere performed rituals to ensure the rebirth of the sun because they depended on it for their survival.

Growing old with attitude

With all the fuss they’ve been making about pensions, you’d think it was news that we’ve got an ageing population. It isn’t. There’s been plenty of evidence for a long time that people like me, born during or soon after the war, are living longer, and that younger people are either not having children, or not having many. It doesn’t take much imagination or arithmetic to work out that there are fewer people to pay tax and National Insurance contributions to keep us in reasonable comfort in our declining years.

Parental rights and wrongs

ChildIf everyone who produced a child became a responsible parent overnight we’d solve a lot of problems, but they don’t, so when I hear that “parents’ rights” are in the news, I anticipate nonsense. There are currently two news stories about “parents’ rights”. The first is about Mrs Axon from Wythenshawe, who’s going to the High Court to try to change Department of Health guidelines stating that girls aged under sixteen can have abortions without their parents’ consent and that doctors should respect their privacy. Mrs A thinks she ought to be told. The second story is about the Children and Adoption Bill being heard in the House of Lords, which will give divorced parents an automatic right of access to their children; a move backed by militant father’s groups.

Oh yes, you might be thinking, and a good thing too, but is it?

Sir Hermann Bondi

Sir Hermann BondiThe funeral of Sir Hermann Bondi takes place at midday today in Cambridge. Sir Hermann was 85. He was a staunch supporter and former President of the British Humanist Association, and was Vice-President when he died.

Sir Hermann came from Vienna to study at Cambridge in the 1930s, just before Hitler took over. There isn’t time to detail his distinguished career now, but his obituaries are worth reading. He’s described as a mathematician, astronomer, civil servant, and teller of homespun jokes. As an astronomer, he worked with Fred Hoyle on the origins of the universe. As a scientist and civil servant, he was responsible for getting the Thames Barrier built. He was Director General of the European Space Agency and Master of Churchill College, among many other roles.



Those who know me probably won’t be surprised to hear that I used to get into trouble at school, not because I was a juvenile delinquent, but for asking so many questions – too many, as far as some of my teachers were concerned. They expected us to absorb all the facts, dates, grammar and maths they taught us, and not to spend too much time questioning where all of these things came from, and what they were for, and whether they were likely to be any use to us. Questions like that tended to hold things up, so that my class might be in danger of failing to cover the whole of a carefully planned syllabus, and risk failing an exam. I’m sure that some of my teachers regarded me as a confounded nuisance.