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Hull and East Riding Humanist Group

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

 

Date:        Monday 20th May 2019, 7.30pm
Venue:    Willerby & Kirkella Parish Institute, 58 Main St, Willerby, Hull HU10 6BZ

Our May meeting began with a brief Annual General Meeting to confirm the executive committee. The AGM was followed by a talk by Tim Stephenson on the rise of what has been jokingly referred to as “The Intellectual Dark Web” which is a network of public intellectuals including well known Humanists who have come to prominence because of the shift from mainstream media to increasingly popular online podcasts and YouTube conversations that has taken place in recent years. These conversations on politics, philosophy, science and religion are now watched by millions of people with a growing number of live events such as the discussion between new atheist Sam Harris, Professor Jordan Peterson and Douglas Murray at the O2 arena in London in July 2018 which was attended by 8000 people. Tim is a keen supporter of the IDW and associated online magazines such as Quillette and will be making the case for a close fit between Humanism, the classical liberal tradition, freethought and the Intellectual Dark Web. See here for a recent article about the IDW: Looking for Enlightenment on the Intellectual Dark Web.Our

For a more in depth discussion about the IDW, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKeMIWVOnbo


Law and Morality

Posted by Tim on 19/04/2019
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Date:        Monday 15th April 2019, 7.30pm
Venue:    Willerby & Kirkella Parish Institute, 58 Main St, Willerby, Hull HU10 6BZ

Our speaker for our April meeting was David Horsley who was for many years a history master at Trinity House School in Hull and is a former Mayor of Beverley. He is a theology graduate of Lampeter University and continues to be actively involved in local politics. David last spoke to us in March 2017 on Religious Education and schools. On this occasion he will be addressing the issue of Law and Morality. It has been said that Law is essentially a set of rules and principles created and enforced by the state whereas morals are a set of beliefs, values and principles and behaviour standards which are enforced and created by society. Legal and moral rules can be isolated with the former being created by the legislative institution of parliament, whereas the latter have evolved with and through society and are the standards which society in general accepts and promotes. Some laws mirror the majority of society’s moral view such as the prohibition against murder, but other laws such as those relating to same sex marriage, abortion or euthanasia are contested.


 

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

UN Peacekeeping helps countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace by sharing the burden and ability to deploy troops and police from around the world, integrating them with civilian peacekeepers to address a range of mandates set by the UN Security Council and General Assembly. Nigel de Lee talked to us at our March 2019 meeting where he gave a brief introduction to the United Nations and Peacekeeping, with a focus on the basic principles and matters arising from them.

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.”


Date:        Monday 21st January 2019, 7.30pm
Venue:    Willerby & Kirkella Parish Institute, 58 Main St, Willerby, Hull HU10 6BZ

The first meeting of 2019 at our new venue was a great success with 25 people attending and was a talk by HERHG committee member John Pittock who talked about Arthur Schopenhauer. John said of his talk:

“Metaphysical systems, by their very nature, should be anathema to most committed Humanists, however, it is generally agreed that the great metaphysical system builder Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 to 1860) had a profound influence on the minds of some of western cultures greatest thinkers: musicians, writers and artists (Einstein, Wittgenstein, Tolstoy, Kafka, Mahler, Wagner, Camus et al).
Widely acknowledged as being the first major western philosopher to publicly declare his atheism at a time when it was dangerous to do so, he also propounded a form of pessimistic philosophy that was bleak in the extreme which laid the groundwork for the realism and authenticity of the later existential philosophers.
Paradoxically, in spite of his renowned pessimism, he crafted a system of salvation utilising, aesthetic, moral and ascetic forms of self-awareness as instruments for sublimating what he saw to be integral to the human condition, namely; anxiousness, fear, selfishness and the imperatives/urges of what he described as the ‘Will’.
Whilst not commanding universal recognition or acceptance, Schopenhauer’s philosophy is usually seen as an important milestone in the history of ideas, furthermore, his theories on aesthetics and music still hold influence.
What was it then that caused the mature Wagner to write that his introduction to Schopenhauer’s philosophy was the most significant event of his life and that ‘the impact was extraordinary and decisive’? Why would Brian Magee write in his own autobiography that on reading Schopenhauer’s ‘World as Will and Representation’ the extraordinary commendation – ‘which I regard as the most mind stretching, capacious, illuminating and penetrating system of philosophical ideas that has yet been forged by a human mind’ . I will give an account of the primary concepts that constructed Schopenhauer’s philosophy and its impact on the minds of the major influencers of the 19th and 20th Century, which were both beneficial and cataclysmic.”