Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Pictures’ Category

Bill Nye receives Humanist of the Year Award; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

Editor’s Note:  This year, Reed Secular Alliance founder and former President, Leslie A. Zukor, had the opportunity to attend the American Humanist Association conference in San Jose, California.  It was a great opportunity and her reflections are presented below.

Roy Speckhardt introduces awardees; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

Although I have been to American Humanist Association conferences in the past, each time I attend I have a better experience than the time before.  That pattern held true as I attended this year’s AHA conference in San Jose.  After going to the Portland convention in 2007, I have been to three out of the past four AHA conferences.  From meeting PZ Myers in Phoenix to bracing for Bill Nye’s lecture in San Jose, the AHA’s annual convention has allowed me to connect with the biggest names in secular humanism.

Author Tom Krattenmaker and Activist Margaret Downey; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

And this year, Bill Nye did not disappoint.  Although I had heard him speak before, I loved the experience of getting Nye to interact with an explicitly humanist audience.  Both of the times that I’ve seen Nye present, he made it clear that “science [is] the best idea humans have ever had.”  In his view, it is the discoveries of science that can give us great insights into man’s place in the cosmos.  And it is through employing the scientific method that we can enhance our understanding of even the most mundane of phenomena.

Bill Nye's award acceptance speech; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

According to Bill Nye, his third grade teacher explained that there were more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the beach.  This was remarkable to a young Nye, as he could hardly conceive of that many stars.  However, as he got older, he realized that even though we are as insignificant as grains of sand, we are still humans who can understand our role in the cosmos.  And that’s what’s so great about science and the scientific method – they are tools people can use to better understand their place in the universe.

Hemant Mehta speaks to Humanist crowd; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

In addition to enjoying Nye’s presentation, I was also impressed by the speech of Hemant Mehta.  Mehta, known in the blogosphere as The Friendly Atheist, works as a high school Mathematics teacher by day.  And in his presentation, he emphasized making math relevant to real-world problems and situations.  After all, according to Hemant, it’s not enough to merely plug numbers into equations to arrive at answers.  To the contrary, a good teacher needs to make his or her students think beyond formulas.

Hemant Mehta and Leyan Lo solve Rubik's Cube; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

As someone who is not particularly mathematically inclined, I had always been the student who wanted a quick answer.  For me, the goal of math class was to get an “A” – if I were lucky.  However, Hemant’s presentation opened my eye to how I was cheating myself as a student who prided herself in critical thinking.  Having a greater understanding of mathematics cannot merely be achieved by memorizing formulas and plugging in numbers, but by understanding how math applies to the real world.

Sean Faircloth speaks about secularism; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

In all, I had a great time at the American Humanist Association convention.  In addition to meeting Mehta and Nye, I also enjoyed presentations by Tom Krattenmaker on Christianity in sports, Sean Faircloth about secular lobbying, and by Jason Frye on LGBT issues in humanism.  I also had the privilege of asking a question on Sunday’s live recording of NPR’s Philosophy Talk, where I inquired about humanistic values and moral relativism.  I am eagerly anticipating attending next year’s AHA conference in Boston.

Jason Frye discussing LGBT issues; Photo By: Leslie A. Zukor

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Amanda offers a Reedie a "Support Science" Sticker

Amanda offers a Reedie a "Support Science" Sticker

On Friday, the Reed Secular Alliance recruited 19 members at the annual Student Activities Fair.  The club gave out “I Support Science” Darwin fish stickers, along with Separation of Church and State literature.  The event was a success, and garnered the highest number of recruits since 2005.

This should be a great year!

Read Full Post »

Donald Johanson gestures at a slide

Donald Johanson gestures at a slide

Editor’s Note:  The following marks the fourth installment of Leslie Zukor’s reflections on the American Humanist Association’s conference in Phoenix.  Zukor, the President of the Reed Secular Alliance, attended a number of events over the four day period and met many influential freethinkers.  We hope that this has been an interesting series.

Donald Johnson signs copies of his books

Donald Johnson signs copies of his books

Although Sunday didn’t feature a star-studded lineup of freethinkers, it nevertheless provided those in attendance with an invigorating science lesson.  More specifically, the audience was treated to a provocative lecture on human origins by Donald Johanson, the archaeologist who discovered Lucy in the 1970s, a discovery many believe unearths our oldest common human ancestor.

Johanson signs a book for Dan Barker

Johanson signs a book for Dan Barker

While the talk’s connection to humanism was not explicit, Johanson’s lecture was any important refutation of the Biblical literalist pseudo-science that claims that the earth is thousands, not millions of years old as science attests.  According to estimates using reliable dating techniques, Lucy is said to have lived some 3.2 million years ago.  All evidence points to humans having evolved from primates, not created by intelligent design.

RSA President Leslie Zukor poses with Donald Johanson

RSA President Leslie Zukor poses with Donald Johanson

Since I had seen the Lucy exhibit in Seattle, it was a privilege to meet the man that discovered one of mankind’s most important fossils.  For my 24th birthday last January, I saw the Lucy skeleton at the Pacific Science Center.  While I thought it would be scary looking at mankind’s oldest fossil, it was actually invigorating to be able to learn so much about our place on earth, via the scientific discovery of Lucy.

Donald Johanson smiles and converses with the crowd

Donald Johanson smiles and converses with the crowd

In addition to Johanson’s presentation, the conference also featured Fred Edwords’s public relations workshop.  Edwords, who is the Communications Director for the United Coalition of Reason, wants freethinkers to be as successful with the media as has the Religious Right.  To this end, he spent Sunday afternoon explaining how atheists can get the media’s attention.  While some of the pointers were helpful in general, I am not sure that a group as small as the Reed Secular Alliance could benefit from his advice.

AHA Conference Organizer Maggie Ardiente photographs Johanson

AHA Conference Organizer Maggie Ardiente photographs Johanson

In all, I enjoyed the conference and hope to attend further American Humanist Association events.  In addition to meeting Donald Johanson, I was also able to interact with Sean Faircloth of the Secular Coalition for America, Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  The AHA conference would not be complete without meeting the ever provocative PZ Myers, who always leaves the audience with food for thought.

Read Full Post »

Barry Lynn and Leslie Zukor

Barry Lynn and Leslie Zukor

Editor’s Note:  The following is part three of a four part series on the American Humanist Association’s conference.  Reed Secular Alliance President, Leslie Zukor, attended the Phoenix convention, due to a generous travel grant from the AHA.  We hope you will enjoy the feature.

Barry Lynn accepts the AHA Religious Liberty Award

On Saturday, June 6th, over three hundred attendees packed the Tempe Mission Palms Hotel in Phoenix.  The lineup of star-studded speakers included Humanist awardees Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and PZ Myers, known for his science blog, Pharyngula.

Barry Lynn gives his acceptance speech

Barry Lynn gives his acceptance speech

Since Barry Lynn is a veteran church-state separation advocate, he emphasized how to tell if one is hated by the Religious Right.  In Lynn’s words, Bill O’Reilly’s enmity is another sign of the former’s success impacting the country on the separation of church and state.  In short, he stressed that being detested by the Religious Right is not a bad thing.

PZ Myers clasps the Holy Bible

PZ Myers clasps the Holy Bible

In addition to discussing Bill O’Reilly, Lynn enumerated numerous other ways to tell if one is the enemy of Christian conservatives.  About his struggles, Lynn, who is the 2009 AHA Religious Liberty Award winner, spoke with poise and resolution.  Lynn should be proud of a job well done, and is a very deserving honoree.

PZ Myers poses with RSA President Leslie Zukor

PZ Myers poses with RSA President Leslie Zukor

In addition to recognizing Barry Lynn, the AHA presented its annual Humanist of the Year award to PZ Myers.  Myers, whose blog Pharyngula, gets 2.5 million hits per month, is a fearless believer in questioning all things, even received wisdom in the scientific community.  In Myers’s opinion, nothing should be sacred.

PZ Myers and his Award

PZ Myers and his Award

To prove this, in his award acceptance speech, Myers took the hotel’s copy of the Bible and tore out a page from Genesis.   And Myers didn’t tear out just any page.  To the contrary, he chose the Biblical story of Creation, which posits that God made the earth in six days, and which flies in the face of modern scientific knowledge.  According to science, the earth evolved to sustain life over billions – not thousands – of years.

An attendee wearing an "Out Campaign" t-shirt

An attendee, Amanda Knief, wearing an "Out Campaign" t-shirt

As well as attracting famous speakers, the conference also included a session on recruiting recent college graduates to freethought groups.  During that event, leaders of Arizona State’s Secular Freethought Society discussed the best ways to get students involved in the wider secular community.  In this session, adult group leaders from across the country took notes, as August Brunsman and Lyz Liddell from the Secular Student Alliance fielded questions.

Greg Epstein demonstrates meditation before the audience

Greg Epstein demonstrates meditation before the audience

Although his book won’t debut until October, Greg Epstein presented a sneak preview of his impending book, Good Without God at the conference.  This work emphasizes what the world’s billion non-theists do indeed believe, instead of focusing on what non-theists are against, as occurs all too often in the US.  Personally speaking, I am excited for the release of the book, and I am attempting for to get Epstein to speak at Reed College this fall.

Greg Epstein speaks about his forthcoming book

Greg Epstein speaks about his forthcoming book

In sum, I enjoyed my Saturday at the conference.  Although the conference stretched for twelve hours, I met Barry Lynn, Rob Boston, and PZ Myers, all of whom are paragons of secular values.  It is so wonderful to connect with so many people in the Freethought Movement, including Dan Barker, who provided some evening entertainment.  Barker and his organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, have been instrumental in the Reed Secular Alliance’s Freethought Books Project, and proved equally as nice in person.

Dan Barker and Leslie Zukor

Dan Barker and Leslie Zukor

Thanks to everybody at the American Humanist Association for making this conference so awesome, and I hope that Sunday is equally enjoyable.

Read Full Post »

Books for Sale at the AHA Conference

Books for Sale at the AHA Conference

Editor’s Note:  This is the second of a four part series on the American Humanist Association’s 68th annual conference, which RSA President, Leslie Zukor, is attending.  The event, which is taking place in Phoenix, brings together humanists from across the United States, to discuss issues as diverse as non-theist ethics and the Obama administration’s attitudes toward non-believers.  We hope that you will enjoy Zukor’s reflections.

Secular Student Alliance Poster

Secular Student Alliance Poster

Although I missed the early morning lectures, I still had a great time at the second day of the AHA Conference.  In point of fact, most of Friday was spent socializing with the Secular Student Alliance.  My interactions with staff humanized my longest standing relationship with a national non-theist group.  This is my fourth year as a member of the Secular Student Alliance, and I am excited to continue my relationship with the nation’s only freethought organization explicitly advocating for the interests of atheist students.

Stephen Uhl talks with SSA intern Jonathan Sussman

SSA intern Jonathan Sussman talks with Stephen Uhl

While I had always believed in the Secular Student Alliance’s mission, no longer were August Brunsman and Lyz Liddell mere names on an email.  Instead I talked with SSA staff about topics as diverse as the Freethought Books Project and my blogging and photography skills.  Lyz Liddell, intern Jonathan Sussman, and I tabled for the SSA, while August was in meetings, and during that time, we discussed the merits of various freethought clubs.

Secular Student Alliance Campus Organizer Lyz Liddell

Secular Student Alliance Campus Organizer Lyz Liddell

In addition to socializing with the SSA, I attempted to inquire about the Secular Student Alliance Board of Directors results.  Unfortunately, my dreams of SSA Board glory were met with a “We’ll see on Tuesday” response from staff.  Although that wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, I anxiously await the results.  Since I strongly believe in the mission of the Secular Student Alliance, I want to do whatever I can to advance the cause of humanism on campuses across the country.

August Brunsman explains the merits of the SSA

August Brunsman explains the merits of the SSA

Although I spent a long while tabling for the SSA, there was still time to attend the William Lobdell lecture about Losing My Religion.  Lobdell, who spoke last week in Portland, gave a similar version of his speech at Powell’s books in Portland.  This time, however, Lobdell was careful not to critique the atheist movement.  Instead of telling freethought groups that they have no social skills, he appealed to those without religion by emphasizing his non-belief.  It was his conviction that the true debate was not between atheism and theism, but whether or not someone believed in a personal god.

Amanda Metskas is interviewed about Camp Quest

Amanda Metskas is interviewed about Camp Quest

Since I was invigorated by meeting so many atheist activists today, I am quite excited for tomorrow’s session.  The keynote will be given by renowned atheist blogger, PZ Myers.  It should be a great time.

Read Full Post »

Leslie Zukor and the SCA Director, Sean Faircloth

Leslie Zukor and the SCA Director, Sean Faircloth

Editor’s Note: From June 4th through 7th, Reed Secular Alliance President, Leslie Zukor, is attending the American Humanist Association’s annual conference. The following are her reflections from the Phoenix, Arizona event, the 68th annual gathering of the AHA.

Amanda Metskas of Camp Quest Speaks Out

Amanda Metskas of Camp Quest Speaks Out

As the result of a $200 scholarship from the American Humanist Association, I am able to attend the 68th annual AHA conference.  Thank you very much to the gracious staff, especially Maggie Ardiente, for making my attendance possible.  The best part of today’s schedule was the opportunity to network with freethinkers from across the country.  On Thursday alone, I met August Brunsman and Lyz Liddell, the two full-time staffers at the Secular Student Alliance, as well as Amanda Metskas, August Brunsman’s wife and a pivotal part of Camp Quest.  It was so great to meet each one of these people, all of whom I had talked with via email and facebook, but none of whom I had ever met in person.

Sean Faircloth smiles at his introduction

Sean Faircloth smiles at his introduction

In addition to meeting people in the Secular Student movement, the convention showcased the talents of Sean Faircloth, the new Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America.  Back in March, the Founding Director Emeritus of the SCA, Lori Lipman Brown, spoke at Reed to an audience of forty-five.  Although I was a fan of Lori Lipman Brown’s warmth, Faircloth combines unsurpassed poise with a knack for articulating the secular message.  I look forward to the SCA doing great things under Faircloth’s leadership; the organization couldn’t have chosen a better successor for the position of Director.  When I participate in the Center For Inquiry’s Lobbying Days on Capitol Hill this July, I will visit the Secular Coalition for America’s new K-Street Office.

Sean Faircloth delivers an inspiring speech

Sean Faircloth delivers an inspiring speech

On the whole, I enjoyed Day One of the American Humanist Association’s annual conference.

Read Full Post »

Freethought Books from CFI - DC

Freethought Books from CFI - DC

The Reed Secular Alliance would like to thank the Center For Inquiry (CFI) – Washington, DC chaper, for collecting books for the Freethought Books Project.  A particular shout-out goes to Executive Director, Melody Hensley, for her tireless efforts on behalf of freethought.

Freethought Magazines from CFI - DC

Freethought Magazines from CFI - DC

CFI – DC collected an amazing 70 materials, among which include Imagine No Superstition, Freethought on the American Frontier, and The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists.  The books and magazines included skeptical and freethought titles, as well as science, psychology, and self help books.

Freethought Books from Another Angle

Freethought Books from Another Angle

Thanks again to the great folks at CFI-DC!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »