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Hull and East Riding Humanist Group

A social group for humanists, atheists, secularists, sceptics and agnostics

Date:        Monday 18th February 2019, 7.30pm
Venue:    Willerby & Kirkella Parish Institute, 58 Main St, Willerby, Hull HU10 6BZ

February 2019 was the 210th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and John Hawkins, Chair of the group talked about the religious reactions to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Some might say that the Victorian public that first read or read about the Origin of Species were, for the most part, not biblical literalists believing in the literal truth of Genesis. For decades the most enlightened writers in the fields of science and religion had accepted that much of the Old Testament, and Genesis in particular, had to be read in a metaphorical sense. Nevertheless, since it was published Darwin’s theory has had a profound impact on the religious idea that human beings exist because of the deliberate act of creation of a wise and benevolent designer, what the clergyman William Paley compared to a watch maker. A famous debate took place in 1860 in Oxford between the Humanist Thomas Henry Huxley (great grandfather of the former president of Humanists Uk, Sir Julian Huxley) and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce (son of the Hull MP William Wilberforce). The debate is best remembered today for a heated exchange in which Wilberforce supposedly asked Huxley whether it was through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey. Huxley is said to have replied that he “would not be ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor, but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used his great gifts to obscure the truth”.

John said of his talk:

“Darwin published the 1st edition of ‘The Origin of Species’ on 24 November 1859. The majority of leading scientists at the time were either hostile to his theory of natural selection, or remained silent. What little support he got was from younger scientists, notably Thomas Henry Huxley, and on the continent Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist. In the US, Asa Gray took up his cause. While undoubtedly there was opposition to the theory from some religious figures and theologians, some of the strongest support came from leading churchmen, notably the Rev Charles Kingsley, the Rev Prof Baden Powell, the Rev Frederick Temple and on the continent David Friedrich Strauss, author of a highly controversial life of Christ.”

Open Discussion Forum

Posted by Tim on 24/11/2018
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Date:        Monday 19th November 2018, 7.30pm
Venue:    the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG 

We had a last minute change of topic for our November meeting as Nigel de Lee wass going in to hospital on Monday. In place of Nigel’s talk we had one of our open discussion meetings on recent news and topics of interest to Humanists.

Date:      Monday 15th October 2018, 7.30pm
Venue:   the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

In a re-scheduling of the original date, our October meeting was a talk by Revd. Philip West on the differences and similarities of the Humanist and Christian world views. Philip says of his upcoming talk:

“Having served as a full time Anglican priest for 38 years, mostly in Sheffield, I came to South Holderness for a retirement post in 2016 and started attending HERHG out of interest, where I have appreciated your welcome and your programme of fascinating topics, and where through listening to opinions expressed I have hopefully begun to understand what Humanism is about.
From that perspective I hope we can explore in productive fashion what unites and divides the Christian and the Humanist. It seems to me that the priorities of both are the promotion and encouragement of active compassion and justice as essential life goals both for themselves and for society, and both are truth seekers. The patent difference is that for the Christian the growth of both the individual and society towards compassion requires partnership with God, whereas for the humanist the divine does not exist. The question of truth becomes essentially whether or not Christ is the truth. I am aware that this debate often becomes mired in claims and counter claims of whether the spiritual life causes good or harm, which seems to me to be almost impossible to answer objectively.”

Date:        Monday 17th September 2018, 7.30pm
Venue:    the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG 

Our September meeting wase a discussion lead by Susan Harr who made the case against the consumerist society we live in.

Socrates said “What is the point of walls and warships and glittering statues if the men who build them are not happy?” The twentieth century Humanist Bertrand Russell once said “It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly”. Others point to pollution and environmental problems caused by mass consumption of consumer goods, yet few of us would choose to live without the comforts of household appliances such as washing machines, fridges, televisions and computers. The average person in the UK has a much higher standard of living in material terms than in previous centuries and some would point out that the main beneficiaries of the cheap products sold in western stores are the low income group consumers who purchase those products, yet many people such as John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, object to what they see as “rampant consumerism”. Does consumerism make the world better or worse?

Date:    Monday 2oth August 2018, 7.30pm
Venue: the back room of the Tiger Inn, Lairgate, Beverley, East Yorkshire, HU17 8JG

Our August speaker was Dr Stephen Burwood of the University of Hull Philosophy department who has been a long term supporter of the Humanists UK philosophers group and has spoken to HERHG twice before, on 24th May 2014 on “Is Science Possible without God?” and before that on 19th October 2009 on “The Problem of Evil”. This time Steve will be talking about “Personal Identity and the Brain”.
Steve said of his talk:
“The diachronic problem of personal identity is the problem of determining the identity of something over time: in our case, for example, it is expressed by the question, “What makes us the same person today as yesterday, or last year, or as ten years ago?” A popular answer nowadays is often formulated along the lines; same person = same brain. One can see the philosophical appeal of this. It gives voice to a widespread feeling that the brain plays a unique role in mindedness (paying due deference to the brain sciences) and, perhaps more importantly, neatly captures in one go both psychological and physical continuity (the two traditional approaches to resolving the problem). Fundamentally, this brain-is-self view favours psychological continuity as the principal criterion of self identity but gives this a materialist twist, thereby ensuring a form of physical continuity as well. Pared down to a simple syllogism, the argument appears to be as follows: I am my mind; my mind is—in some important sense—my brain; therefore, I am my brain. However, things are never quite so simple and there are several reasons why this is not a very satisfactory or satisfying answer.”