Just wanted to remind everyone of tomorrow’s monthly meetup:

Ghost in the Machine: The Haunted World of Duality


Dana Peters will speak about substance dualism, which argues that the mind is inherently non-physical, and about naturalism, which counters that the mind is entirely physical. The divide between these two philosophies of mind are what often separate theist from atheists.

The talk will be followed by refreshments and time for informal discussion.

The cost of the event is $1.00 for members of the Humanist Association of Ottawa or CFI, and $3.00 for non-members. Individual HAO membership is $20.00; family and student/low-income rates are also available.

Starting in 2010, HAO will be holding joint meetings with the Centre for Inquiry (CFI Ontario), at the YMCA at 180 Argyle Ave (Trillium Room)

Humanist writer and free-thinker Pat Duffy Hutcheon died in a hospice in Vancouver, on February 4, 2010.  Her fiction, non-fiction, poetry and her life has been and will continue to be an inspiration to humanists.

Freethinker’s Journey became an asset for the Humanist Community
[by Sheila Ayala]

When Pat Duffy Hutcheon wrote her autobiography, she selected the title Lonely Trail, the name of a school she attended as a child. And it might have been a lonely struggle for Pat, but through her writings, she led the freethinking community along a path scattered with a wealth of insights.

Growing up in the Depression years in Alberta, higher schooling was frowned upon, but with her grandmother’s encouragement, she pursued her education. This ended when she was forced to drop her goals after marrying in what was to become a disastrous union. After the birth of her son, she escaped and continued with her career. Eventually, Pat overcame academic barriers to the advancement of women and at the age of 63, she received her PhD at Brisbane, Australia. By this time, she had married again and spent many wonderful years with her beloved husband, Sandy.

Pat was not only a writer but also wrote poetry. Among the best known pieces to Humanists are the inspiring words of Amazing Life, set to tune and sung by HAO member Dan Mayo.

Without a doubt, Pat’s battles shaped her life and influenced her writings. And as we freethinkers endeavour to make ourselves heard in the face of adversity, we can take encouragement from the works of Pat Duffy Hutcheon. Thank you Pat, for struggling with us along the road of rationality.


Some more information about Pat and some of her articles are available at


On Tuesday (5 Jan) CBC’s Ideas had a show called “Walking at the edge of Reason and Awe”.

The opening statement:

Reason has been a blessing for humanity, but often at the cost of dulling our ability to appreciate the ineffable – that dimension of human experience that evokes wonder and awe.

Some people need to be taken by the shoulders and led here:

not to mention  yesterday’s post from Symphony of Science

The ideas program is available here – despite the weak premise and false dichotomies, there is some good historical background on rationalism, and segments from Chris DiCarlo and Susan Jacoby.   It’s worth listening to if you have the time.

Many of you may remember the post I put up a few months ago regarding a song called “Glorious Dawn” featuring Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking.

Well the whole effort has expanded a little into what is now being called the “Symphony of Science”. Below I’ve embedded the newest one. It features Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and Jane Goodall. It is delightful, Enjoy:

I’m not one for Sunday sermons, but I may make an exception today, because this is something everyone should see.

I’ve come across David Deutsch a few times in the past in books that discuss quantum theory. He is well known for being an advocate of the “many worlds” (multiverse) interpretation which is considered a fringe outlook in the field.

I saw this presentation by him a week or so ago, and decided I would get a little more familiar with his work. I picked up his book written 13 years ago called: “The Fabric of Reality“. I was expecting it to be a book about the field of physics much like Brian Greene’s “The Fabric of the Cosmos” book. Turns out, it isn’t really like that at all. It starts with the world of physics but quickly proceeds forward into epistemology, computation and the theory of evolution. It is an astoundingly good read and I would recommend it to everyone.

I love the dedication at the beginning of his book. When I first opened it and read this, I knew it was going to be awesome:

Dedicated to the memory of Karl Popper, Hugh Everett and Alan Turing and to Richard Dawkins. This book takes their ideas seriously.

The worlds biggest science experiment is back in action after a year of repairs. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle accelerator and it is expected to shed much light on many of the most challenging unanswered questions in physics. Many theories and models are being put to the test at the LHC, including: The Standard Model, Supersymetry, The existence of the Higgs Boson, and even simulations of the initial conditions of the Big Bang.

The LHC has faced a lot of undue criticism by the general public. Most of it has been as a result of misinformation, or lack of understanding. The LHC will not create black holes that swallow our planet, nor is it being used to generate anti-matter to destroy the Vatican.

Many people have commented on the cost of the project which sits in the range of 4.5-6 billion US dollars as being a waste of so much money. Considering the enormity of the project you’d expect it to be expensive, but is it really worth it? Can’t the money be spent on more important things?

Here is a link describing Canada’s contribution to the project. We have apparently contributed 40 million dollars to the project, but I am unsure as to whether this is public money, or money from private Canadian investors. (thanks Justin)

In contrast to the biggest science experiment of all time, The US National Defence budget for this year alone weighs in at a modest $651.2 Billion dollars US! That means that 144 times the cost of the entire development of the LHC has been spent in defense by just the US this year. Sobering…

I am excited about the LHC as a humanist, because there is no doubt that this project will lead us all to a much better understanding of the fabric of the universe we live in. “The most uncomprehensible thing about the universe is that is comprehensible” (Einstein), even if it means smashing protons into each other around a 27 kilometer track.

Here’s a video featuring particle phyicist Brian Cox discussing the LHC, what it is all about, what it is going to do, and what went wrong with it last year:

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