Lunch with Edgar Mitchell

RIP Edgar Mitchell

I am saddened by the death of Edgar Mitchell (Apollo astronaut). One of the highlights of my life so far was having lunch with him in Lake Worth, just the two of us. He blew my mind wide open in a way that I’m still coming to terms with!

He was perceived as a bit of a pseudoscience kook. The reality is that he was an atheist and a scientist and an open minded skeptic who firmly believed that if something happened, there was a natural explanation for it and that science could explain how it was done.

He was also kind and gentle and understood completely why his detractors felt the way they did about him. He didn’t care. He just kept doing what he thought needed to be done. There is a lesson there about not caring what people say and doing your own thing anyway. Very few people have the courage to be wrong like that and humble enough to admit, what they dedicated their lives to was indeed, questionable. Why was he doing it? He truly wanted to know what was real and what wasn’t.

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Cracker as a Racial Slur

Cracker as a racial term

This term came up for me today in an online discussion. A lot of people didn’t understand why I was upset by it and that I see it as a derogatory term and rightly so. Apparently a lot of people seem to think it’s just a term black people use for white people to explain our blandness – like a saltine cracker.

Florida Cracker Brand Oranges

The problem is – I live in the epicenter of Florida Cracker culture. So for me, a cracker isn’t just a racial term. It specifically refers to a farmer/settler of the area and their descendants who exploited and who still exploit slave labor for financial gain. It’s impossible to separate out Cracker culture from slavery and the forced removal of the Indian population from the area so that white folk could “settle” the area.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand that as a white person living in this area, I benefit from the Cracker settlement of the area. I also have zero problems with black people using the term to negatively describe racist white folk who deserve to be labelled that way. After all crackers still exist. What I am trying to do with this essay is to help my white brethren understand that this isn’t simply a funny term to use to describe really white whites. Understanding WHY it’s an insult when a black person calls you a cracker will help you to understand WHY racial justice is still such an important issue. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be a little less clueless about the struggles our black brothers and sisters face.

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Corporal Punishment and Religion

Corporal Punishment and Religion

It is impossible to discuss the morality of corporal punishment on children without addressing the religious beliefs that perpetuate it.

Child abuse in the name of religion is still child abuse

I do not spank my child. Never have. It is unnecessary, abusive and counterproductive to raising a respectful child. How do I know this? I know this because in addition to being a Humanist, I am also an animal trainer. And no reputable animal trainer hits their animals. Why? Because it not only doesn’t work, it strengthens the behavior you don’t want!

If something doesn’t work then there is no good reason to do it. People might persist out of ignorance or superstition, but they aren’t doing it because it works.  In the case of hitting and harming a child, because there is no good reason to do it, it’s considered abusive.  The only reason that can be given to justify it is a religious one.

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Sea World Controversy

My thoughts on Sea World

I get asked about Sea World a lot and as a former marine mammal trainer, I felt like I needed to weigh in. That’s me in the photo below with a dolphin named Hiapo at the Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory.

Jen Hancock training a dolphin in Hawaii 1989

Obviously most people saw Blackfish, and recently a new book has come out from a former trainer saying that the psychological and physical effects of confinement on orcas is  immoral. (see: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/03/150329-orca-blackfish-seaworld-dolphins-killer-whales-ngbooktalk/)

My response to this as a former dolphin trainer was duh! Why did it take him so long to figure that out? How could he not know going in that keeping marine mammals like dolphins and orcas in captivity is cruel? When I was taught to train – that was the first thing that was drilled into me. It’s emotionally and psychologically very hard on these captive animals because of the conditions of captivity.  Our job as trainers is to help keep them sane given the immense stress captivity causes.

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Humanism, Sex & Bondage

Of Bondage and Humanism

Why are we so turned on by abusive sexual images? Should we be?

My Heart and My Body are Connected - Humanist Sex

My friend and fellow Humanist Toni Van Pelt wrote an essay about her thoughts on the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. (See: http://instituteforscienceandhumanvalues.com/index_htm_files/An%20enforcement%20tool%20final.pdf)

As a Humanist, I am all for individuals exploring their sexuality in whatever way they want. What they do and choose to do with other consenting adults is their business, not mine. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions on whether or not any given particular sexual pursuit will lead to happiness or not.

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Horror movies and their impact on women in society

Horror movies and their impact on women in society

Why media portrayals of women matter.

a zombie apacolypse would be a medical emergency - not a military one

My son, who is 9, was told by a friend about Freddy Kruger. For those of you who never saw the movie, Freddy is the evil supernatural bad guy from the movie The Nightmare on Elm Street. My son, being 9, was rightly scared of this Freddy character. For several days he was scared to be alone in his bedroom since we have an Elm St in the neighborhood.

I told him he didn’t have to worry because a) Freddy wasn’t real and b) even if he was it wasn’t our Elm Street he haunted.  And when that didn’t work I told him that he didn’t need to worry because he wasn’t a scantily clad teenage girl having sex – as that is who Freddy liked to haunt and kill so my son clearly had/has nothing to worry about.

My son, immediately wanted to know why Freddy preferred scantily clad teenage girls having sex.  And this led to a lovely discussion about cultural norms around women’s sexual autonomy and horror movie cliches. (sigh)

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We must stop white flight

We have to stop white flight

Love me I’m a liberal

I meet Humanists – who don’t like to go to certain neighborhoods because – they are scared. That’s a black neighborhood!

If we are to end the subjugation of black communities, the killing of black youth by white people without consequence, and black bodies which are being sold into a new slavery that is the privatized prison system, then we whites, need to stop fleeing from our black brothers and sisters.

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Yes All Women!

Yes All Women

What can you do to help make the world a better place for everyone.

Treat Women as Fully Human

Yes all women. And yes all blacks. And yes all choose your minority. And yes all marginalized people.  Yes. We all live with harassment and discrimination not because of something we’ve done, but just because we exist.  Some of us experience it more than others.
 
The Yes all women meme started after the Isla Vista shooting. It’s been a long time coming. And this is because every time women try to talk about this – we are told by well-meaning men – who think what we are experiencing is other well-meaning men being inept at hitting on us, that our experiences aren’t what we thought they were and that we should be nicer to guys who are, well, inept.

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Humanist & Atheist morality


What do you mean atheists have no morals?

My morals are the only thing keeping me from becoming a pastor and exploiting gullibility for profit.

My morals are the only thing keeping me from taking advantage of you

OK – I didn’t come up with this graphic, but I’ve definitely struggled with it.  And judging by how well this meme was received on Facebook – I’m not the only one.

Pretty much every atheist or humanist I know has considered starting a religion because there is a lot of money to be made in the religion business.

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Was Jesus a Humanist?

Jesus was a Humanist

If Jesus existed, he was probably a Humanist.

Was Jesus a Humanist?

I realize that there is an academic debate about whether Jesus truly existed or not. It’s possibly his story was made up as a way to control the masses. I like to think he existed though.

My Christian friends are always surprised when I say this, but I like the Jesus story. It would be nice if it were true. The problem is that I only like his story if he is human. If he is divine, his story doesn’t interest me at all.

I am, after all, a Humanist. Human stories of oppression and redemption enthrall me. All stories, fiction and non-fiction, help inform who I am and more importantly, who I want to be.  It doesn’t matter to me if the Jesus story is true or not. What matters is, is it a good story and can I learn anything of moral value from it?

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