The Cowtown Humanist

Official publication of the Humanists of Fort Worth ● ● E-mail:

A Chapter of the American Humanist Association and allied with the Council for Secular Humanism

July 2003, Volume 5, Number 4                      E-mailed July 2, 2003                         Editors:  Jim Cheatham & Michael Rivera








Twenty-five adult and four junior humanists celebrated the summer solstice together at Trinity Park on June 22.  Clear skies and mid-90 temperatures were no obstacle to the festivities.  In fact, under spreading live oak trees and with a moderate breeze we scarcely noticed the Texas summer heat.  We missed those fellow Humanists who could not be with us.  Next time, we wish you better luck!


Russell and Gayle Elleven were there early to stake out a table and to provide guide marks to our location.  Thanks to them we, and especially the juniors, were treated to a cold, ripe watermelon.  Also thanks are due to Don and Dolores Ruhs for tables and chairs as well as to other members who contributed to the fun.



HoFW members congregate at Trinity Park in Fort Worth .




The topic of Dick's talk will be "Christianity:  The Power of Recycling and Repression":  If the faithful realized that Christian dogma is a recycling of ancient superstitions and how punishments had been meted out to silence dissent, there might be fewer Christians and more Humanists.  We'll take a look at the early congruence of Christianity with pagan religions such as Mithraism and Zoroastrianism, and with the Gnostic movement, and learn why much about Christianity's origins has been kept under the lid.




JHC: Could you tell us something about your religious background, Dick.  Having grown up with a rather "bleached Methodism", I have always found it rather difficult to understand why many people attach so much importance to religion.  I gather that your formative religious experiences were very different from mine.


DT:  Too much drama in a youngster's life has lasting effects and this explains my Text Box: Dick Trice at the HoFW Picniccontinuing interest in religion and, I hope, some of my other eccentricities.  I was a committed Baptist, in fact, baptized in J. Frank Norris's church when I was about ten, prayed daily, and attended church regularly until about 16.  I vividly remember a period of great fear, of being struck by God's lightning because of my doubts.  Learning more about other religions and the astonishing (to me) fact that Christians--even truer of Baptists--were a minority of the world/s population, overcame the hurdles to freethinking.  Not being alone, either physically or mentally, is comforting.


JHC:  Starting about 600 BCE an intellectual elite, the lovers of wisdom, devised naturalistic interpretations of worldly phenomena.  Epicureanism, stoicism and skepticism were products of their efforts, if not to banish the gods, at least to relegate them to a secondary role.  Yet by the 6th Century CE these philosophical movements were dead and Christianity was triumphant in the western world.  Was it an inability to compete that was their undoing?


DT:  My guess is that they failed for the same reason most philosophies fail:  they don't relate sufficiently to the quotidian lives of people.  All three, however, resonate to some extent in many people today. 


JHC:  When I think about proselytizing, I am always brought up short by recollection of a scene from "Inherit the Wind" in which, as I recall, a lawyer from the prosecution and a lawyer from the defense during a trial recess are discussing the morality of disabusing people of cherished beliefs.  The former asks the latter something like the following:  "Henry, why do you want to destroy the faith of these little people?  They are poor and uneducated.  Religion is the only beautiful thing they have in their lives."  The British philosopher, A.J. Ayer, (an atheist, by the way) had already written something in the same vein, to wit, that Humanists, who are generally well-educated and cultivated, have a responsibility to offer something as satisfying as religious faith before they begin to proselytize the masses to their point of view, which is in all truthfulness rather stringent emotionally.


DT:  There is no doubt that many people, especially the older, would suffer more from the loss of comforting illusions and hopes.  A.J. Ayer seems to think that there are no alternatives for the ignorant and helpless than to ameliorate their suffering with false hope.  That may be true of some but it completely overlooks the surrender of more realistic advantages for the benefit of the whole of humankind.  No, I am not reticent about attempting to persuade people away from their religious (or political) illusions because I think the advantages to society as a whole tremendously outweigh the benefits of religious superstition. 


This weaning way 1) relieves fear of eternal punishment; 2) by eliminating irrational thinking, frees them for creativity, concentration on learning, discovery, the achievement of social justice and equality; 3) opens the way to defying subjugation and to demanding fair treatment; 4) reduces vulnerability to demagoguery and subservience to dictatorship, 5) liberates tremendous energy and capital for more worthy, more humane causes; 6) disperses an army of parasitic priests for useful labors; 7) eliminates the millions of murders  and countless torture committed in the name of religion; 8) encourages the development of personal reliance and courage to overcome the crutch that constitutes the hallmark of most religions. One of my favorite Bertrand Russell quotes is:  "There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man (or woman) who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths."  A strong encouragement for hope is the growing preponderance of non-belief in Europe.


My preference of humanism to religion, however, does NOT rule out what many people call spirituality.  I don't like to call it by that term, but I feel that a humanist can experience emotions of awe, wonder, mystery, exhilaration, love, appreciation and other deep feelings as well as any believer.  I just don't think the supernatural is at all necessary for those experiences.




It has been heralded as one of the biggest crises in Denmark's Evangelical Lutheran Church since King Harald Bluetooth was baptized in 960AD.  "There's no heavenly God, there's no eternal life, and there's no resurrection," said Thorkild Grosboel, pastor of the small town of Taargaek....Pastor Grosboel thinks he should keep his job.  Others disagree.  Denmark's minister for ecclesiastical affairs, Tove Fergo, herself a Lutheran priest, says that "a priest should at the very least believe the gospel he has been employed to preach." Liberals demur.  (Only about 1% to 3% of Denmark's population regularly attend religious services.) (The Economist, June 28, 2003)



Christians mainly belonging to America's evangelical Protestant churches are among the most vocal opponents of a new U.S.-backed peace plan that would uproot many Jewish settlers and establish a Palestinian state.


Church leaders such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson have been criticizing President Bush's vision of Palestinian statehood.


Although not of one mind when it comes to Israel or the Middle East, evangelicals account for about a quarter of American voters, according to a University of Akron survey made after the 2000 election.  If galvanized by a vocal leadership opposed to Bush's Mid-East policy, large blocs of voters could threaten Bush's 2004 re-election bid.  (AP)


Video presentations of Lecture 5 and 6 will be shown at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church again on the second Wednesday of the month.  If you didn't see the earlier videos, much has been lost but that is no reason to miss out on a high quality presentation.  The lecturer, Edward J. Larsen, has a law degree from Harvard, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He currently holds a joint appointment in the history department and law school at the University of Georgia, where he teaches the history of science to undergraduates, and health, science, and technology law to law students.  He knows his brief. 

     Following are brief descriptions of the lectures:


Lecture Five:  Debates over Mechanism


Scope:  Buoyed by Darwin's arguments, the idea of evolution gained ascendancy in Western biology.  It offered a plausible explanation for the origin of species and raised a host of new issues for scientific study.  By 1875, virtually all biologists in Europe and America adopted an evolutionary view of origins.


Even as biologists accepted the basic theory of evolution, they came to doubt the sufficiency of Darwin's idea that the evolutionary process proceeded through random, inborn variations selected by a competitive struggle for survival. Alternative theories flourished, particularly a revived Lamarckism invoking the inheritance of acquired characteristics, vitalist notions that indwelling life forces pushed the development of species, and the belief that God guided evolution. In addition to addressing scientific problems with Darwinism, these alternative theories diminished the social and religious implications of evolutionary thought.


Lecture Six:  Missing Links


Scope:  Although by 1900 most Western biologists and intellectuals accepted some theory of evolution, popular and religious opposition remained. Technical arguments that appealed to scientists failed to persuade the public, particularly when it came to the notion that humans evolved from apes. The same fossil record that inspired Lamarck and Darwin increasingly became a barrier to popular acceptance of their ideas. Opponents decried the lack of fossils linking either major biological types (such as reptiles and mammals} or humans to their supposed simian ancestors.


Beginning late in the nineteenth century, those intent on proving the theory of evolution hunted for missing links in the fossil record.  Scientific and popular interest focused on finding evidence of prehistoric humans and hominids. Any such "missing links" became front-page news and boosted the popular acceptance of evolution.






In a 6-3 ruling on June 23, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that requires public libraries to install pornography filters on all computers providing Internet access, as a condition of continuing to receive federal subsidies and grants.


Chief Justice Rehnquist said limitations on access to the Internet were, for library users, of no greater significance than limitations on access to books that librarians chose for whatever reason not to acquire.  Two other members of the majority, Kennedy and Breyer, wrote separately to express constitutional concerns about the statute, the Children's Internet Protection Act, and to suggest that it could be subject to a new First Amendment challenge if it proved unduly burdensome after it went into effect.  (Other news sources predict the issue will soon be back in the court for this very reason.)


The justices debated the extend to which "overblocking" infringes the First Amendment rights of adult library users.  Sexually explicit material that comes under the general heading of pornography has First Amendment protection. although obscenity and child pornography do not.


"An abridgment of speech by means of a threatened denial of benefits can be just as pernicious as an abridgment by means of a threatened penalty," Justice Stevens said. (NYT, June 24, 2003)


By a 6-3 margin, the Supreme Court nullified the Texas statute banning sodomy between consenting males.  Writing for the majority, Justice O'Connor cited rights of privacy; Justice Scalia in a minority opinion claimed that the decision would logically lead to gay marriage being constitutionally mandated.  The decision has been widely hailed by civil rights advocates, including the AHA, and was not unexpected even though the court in 1987 had upheld a similar Georgia sodomy law.  How times have changed.  (Various sources.)


The court turned away a challenge to California's "Three strikes" law by a man who was given a sentence of 50 years to life for stealing $150 worth of videotapes from two different K-mart stores.  The case addressed only the effects of the California law. But the high court's reasoning will likely shield other three-strikes laws from similar constitutional challenges. (Compiled from CNN and Findlaw.)


The Supreme Court, on a 5-4, vote upheld Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts, a vital source of funds for legal services for the poor nationwide that was challenged by conservative legal groups. (NYT)




"The government's harsh measures against immigrants since Sept. 11 have failed to make us safer, have violated our fundamental civil liberties and have undermined national unity, the Migration Policy Institute has concluded in a just released 165-page report.  The past two immigration commissioners, from the Clinton and Bush administrations, contributed advice to the report, along with a former top official with the CIA and National Security Council.

"Many of those policies ended up alienating and antagonizing communities whose help we need," said Vincent Cannistraro, who headed counterterrorism operations and analysis for the CIA. (Knight-Ridder)


President Bush has nominated the Alabama Attorney General, William Pryor, to serve on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Pryor has been quoted as declaring Roe v. Wade had "ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children.  On one occasion he dismissed the Supreme Court as "nine octogenarian lawyers."  On another occasion, he ended a speech with a prayer for "no more Souters".  "If a far-right legal group needs a lawyer to argue extreme positions against abortion, women's rights, gay rights and civil rights, Mr. Pryor may be a suitable candidate.  But he does not belong on the federal bench," editorializes the NYT.


For anyone interested in debating, in print or in formal oral debates, against religious spokespeople, theologians, Christian-nation mythologists, or others of similar mindset, come to the first ever Debater's Toolbox, to be held in Amherst NY on 31 July through 3 August 2003.  (Also for those who want to learn more about debating these opponents, even if you never expect to debate yourself.)  Thanks to a generous supporting grant from California attorney Edward Tabash, the cost of this workshop, including coffee breaks, lunches, and a dinner is only $69.  (Center for Inquiry, 1310 Sweet Home Rd., Amherst NH, 14228, Tel: l-800-458-1366.)


The 26th annual convention of the Freedom from Religion Foundation will be held in downtown Washington, D.C., at the Washington Court Hotel, Capitol Hill, 525 New Jersey Ave., NW, Washington DC 200l, on the weekend of Oct. l0-l2, 2003.  Receiving "The Emperor Has No Clothes Award," honoring public figures for "plain speaking on religion," will be Natalie Angier, the Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter for The New York Times.  Ms. Angier wrote a recent piece for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist."  She says: "Of all the things I have written over the years, nothing generated as much response as did the atheism piece.  I received hundreds of letters, e-mails, phone calls, faxes--and 98% of them were supportive..."


A federal appeals court unanimously ruled that a Ten Commandments monument the size of a washing machine must be removed from the Alabama Supreme Court building.

"If we adopted his position, the chief justice would be free to adorn the walls of the Alabama Supreme Court's courtroom with sectarian religious murals and have decidedly religious quotations painted above the bench," the three-judge panel said. (CNN/AP)


The Cook County Board agreed to create a registry for same-sex couples, a system advocates said would help companies that extend benefits to domestic partners.

The board voted 13-3 on Tuesday to grant the domestic partnership certificates for a $30 filing fee at the county clerk's office. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)



Katherine Hepburn 1907-2003


"I'm what is known as gradually disintegrating.  I don't fear the next world, or anything.  I don't fear hell, and I don't look forward to heaven."

                               --Katherine Hepburn (1990)




Our Posthuman Future:  Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, by Francis Fukuyama (2002)  


                      O brave new world,

                       That has such people in 't.

                               --The Tempest


The blurb on the cover of this book describes Fukuyama as "our greatest social philosopher."  However that may be, no doubt this is an important book that articulates forcefully the ethical issues raised by tinkering with man's nature and one that delivers a stern warning about possible political and social consequences of an unfettered biotechnology industry.  He rejects the proposition that science and its derivative technologies cannot be managed by society and recommends that a new regulatory body be established, unbeholden to any special interests, to ensure that biotechnology is used in a way that preserves human dignity.


Fukuyama's background as member of the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department during the Reagan administration and current membership in the President's Council on Bioethics suggest a conservative social and political philosophy.  But this is no William Bennett jeremiad.  Liberals as well as conservatives will find much to agree with, and probably disagree with as well. 


          You can toss human nature out with a pitchfork

           But it will always come running back.



Fukuyama first gained wide public notice in 1989 with his book The End of History and the Last Man.  Taking a Hegelian approach, he proposed that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of totalitarian socialism worldwide, liberal capitalism had triumphed once and for all over all rival political philosophies.  George Orwell's bleak picture of the future as depicted in 1984 was consigned to the dustbin of history; human nature had shown that it could not be indefinitely stifled even by the most repressive regimes.

Not so fast!  Fukuyama came to realize that his "end of history" thesis assumed a stable human nature.  But that assumption may not hold, he came to realize, if the then budding biotech revolution held possibilities for changing what up to now has been a basically fixed human nature.


We have a foretaste of what may come in the drugs Prozac (ego enhancement) and Ritalin (social control).  People who have at least partial control over their behavior may increasing opt for an easy way out, that is become increasingly reliant on products of the biotech revolution to achieve personal and societal objectives.  This first generation of psychotropic drugs will surely give way to ever more powerful successors that wreak havoc with human nature itself.  And if this weren't enough, we have now been brought to the frontier of genetic interventions on humans.


 Powerful political forces, he claims, favor continuation of this danger-fraught trend:


The first is the desire on the part of ordinary people to medicalize as much of their behavior as possible and thereby reduce their responsibility for their own action.  The second is the pressure of powerful economic interests to assist in this process.  These interests include social service providers such as teachers and     doctors, who will always prefer biological shortcuts to complex behavioral interventions, as well as the pharmaceutical companies that produce the drugs.  The third the tendency to expand the therapeutic realm to cover an ever larger number of conditions


Fukuyama raises the specter of "designer babies" tailored to the preferences of parents, or at least those able to foot the bill.  We may split into a society, on the one hand, of the rich, the beautiful and the highly intelligent, and of low-income grunts on the other.  Stem cell research may pave the way to grow new body parts before cures for Alzheimer's and mental aging have been found, deepening the generational split of interests.  Germ-line engineering for humans (i.e., changing the genetic make-up of a person) may not be far down the pike.  Some of these developments will be mostly to the good; many may not be.


He advises caution, which implies political controls over science and technology.


Since publication of this book, neurosurgery has developed techniques that raise the possibility of changing the human identity itself.  A recent article in The Economist magazine reports the development of prosthetic devices to correct degenerative brain disorders that might in fact completely change the personality of the patient.  "If you alter the brain, how much of this can you do before you make an entirely new person?" asks Arthur Caplan, Chairman of the Department of Medical ethics at the Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Have we escaped 1984 only to lapse into Aldus Huxley's Brave New World?


HoFW Events

For an up-to-date listing of meetings and events, see the calendar on the HoFW e-list group page.

July Evolution Studies

The next installment of the Evolution series will be Wednesday, July 9, from 7-9:15 pm  at Westside UU Church.


July Meeting

The next regular HoFW meeting will be July 15 at West Side Unitarian Church.  Our own Dick Trice is the featured speaker.  Mark the occasion down in big red letters on your calendar.

Board Meeting

The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Directors is set for July 14, 2003 at the home of Secretary Reed Bilz.

August Evolution Studies

The August installment of the Evolution series will be Wednesday, August 13, from 7-9:15 pm at Westside UU Church.

August HoFW Meeting

The regular HoFW meeting will be Tuesday, August 19 at West Side Unitarian Church.  Speaker TBA.



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Humanists of Fort Worth

Joyful Living; Rational Thought;

Responsible Behavior


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Phone (817) 370-2171; E-mail:


Humanist Manifesto III, a successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933


Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.


The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.


This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:


Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.


Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.


Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

 Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.


Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.


Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.


Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.


Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.