"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

On Humanism Meetups

"Good breeding consists of concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person." - Mark Twain

***

A somewhat misleading article on the Humanism meetup(s):


(Straits Times, Tue, Mar 3, pg B8, home):

Society of 'Humanists' gather to discuss Darwin

By Yen Feng

PACKED into a small cafe exchanging ideas on religion, philosophy and identity, they looked just like a bunch of eager liberal arts students out on a school night.

'I once dated someone who was rabidly atheist,' said public servant Kay Chew Lin, 27. 'So no, I wouldn't call myself an atheist. How about 'waffly agnostic'?'

'I'm just confused,' belted Mr Nicholas Tay, 28, a magazine editor.

Labels, especially religious ones, don't sit well with this group of 35 or so well-educated students and professionals who met last Thursday at the Global Sounds Cafe in South Bridge Road - many of whom were strangers and had met through the social networking sites Facebook and Meetup.com.

They are part of a new society of non-religious Singaporeans who call themselves 'Humanists' - natural sceptics who believe that knowledge is derived by 'observation, experimentation, and rational analysis'. The meeting was the group's second since it was set up in January this year.

The man of the hour? Charles Darwin, the natural scientist whose 200th birthday last month prompted them to organise an evening of evolutionary theorising.

For nearly four hours, the group debated if Darwin's theory of natural selection should be taught in schools, its relevance to modern society and other topics.

Writer and philosopher Stefan Pernar, 33, was more keen to expand Darwin's ideas in terms of a 'cultural evolution'.

He said: 'Humans are still adapting to their environment. Putting on a watch, wearing glasses, or clothes - that is evolutionary behaviour too.'

One member even asked: 'Why should the Government teach evolution in schools? What's its use?'

[REDACTED] , 21, a Nanyang Technological University student, replied: 'Of course it matters...This is biological history that explains our place in nature.'

Prior to the discussion, organiser Ryan Jer, played an hour-long clip of the documentary, The Genius Of Darwin, before presenting a lecture on evolutionary theory. The 29-year-old civil servant, who graduated from a liberal arts college in the United States, said: 'I was exposed to a lot of different ideas then. That's what I want to achieve with these meetings, for people to evolve new ideas.'

Darwin would be proud.


1) There's a confusion of terms here. This gives the impression that humanists are confused, placid and/or wishy-washy; you can have rabid agnostics or placid atheists, just as you can have friendly theists and nasty non-theists

2) It gives the impression that "humanist" is a new label
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