May 13th, 2003

Semiformalishmaybe

Fertile Ground

I'm going to try to pull an August. I'll explain later.From what I can tell, there really arn't any big atheist/agnostic/etccommunities in Pittsburgh. There used to be several groups, someassociated with the University of Pittsburgh, some with CMU, andtheir remains are scattered through old webpages and stuff, butall I see now is a Humanist Community. I called them up, and they'reactually meeting tonight in a Unitarian church. They meet once a month,have no discussion list, and are fairly small. I'd love to see what canbe done around here with all the atheists/agnostics/etc that googling hasrevealed on Pitt and CMU campuses. Maybe I'll start a group, maybe I'll revive one or try to take up a leadershipposition in one. To explain my earlier comment, August Brunsman, a friendfrom Columbus, started a group called Studentsfor Freethought, which met on the Ohio Statecampus. It was really neat, and it attracted a large number of really interesting people. So... I'm going to tonight's meeting, and to the planning meeting afterwards,and after making sure I'm not stepping on anyone's toes, I'm going tosee if I can do what August did -- bootstrap a community of sciency,atheist/agnostic folk.

Semiformalishmaybe

Resoults .. ermm.. Results

Before I get to that, here's something interesting:Zen Buddhism versus traditional buddhism. I've been chewing on thisone for awhile. It's fascinating. Also, on a slightly more modern note,interesting to people who arn't into philosophy but like politics,there's the Texas Democrats on the run. It's really interesting, andreminds me a bit of some of my ideas on variations on the theme of traditionalvoting systems. I only wish it were on an issue I find more meaningful thanredistricting. Finally, I've been thinking about reading some moreDostoyevski, and found a really decent translation, online, ofThe Brothers Karamazov.

Ahh, yes, results. Tonight's meeting was really interesting. There were27 attendees and a presenter. Sadly, they meet the 2nd tuesday of everyMonth, September through May. So, I just caught the last meeting forawhile. Oh well. Another interesting thing -- the age distribution wascompletely different than CMU. Including myself, there were only4 people there who I'd think were under 40 -- me, another guy wholooked like he might've been a student at Pitt or CMU, and a couplearound age 28 which included at least one teacher. In a way, it wasreassuring -- one thing I was worried about in Columbus was that wenever had anyone above perhaps 30 in the group. It also shows, sadly,that something is pretty messed up about CMU/Pitt's campuses if therearn't groups out there doing this stuff already. Could it really bethat all it takes is a spark and some organization, or is somethingelse missing? Anyhow, back to the meeting -- the presenter talked aboutBiological Determinism, focusing on a book by Steven Pinker. I didn'tcatch the title, but reading from Amazon, I'd bet that it wasThe Blank Slate: The modern denial of the human nature. Sadly,the speaker wasn't Steven Pinker himself, but oh well :)The talk was okay -- there was a lot of room for improvement in hisspeaking style, but the content was interesting enough thatit captured my attention. The book did come to a bunch of rathersurprising conclusions though, and either the book or the speakerseemed to put things in a way that two rather sciency folk there,one a Psychology professor at CMU, disagreed with a lot of thefacts he put forth. Near the end, as he neared the most controversialtopics, it changed in style (not by choice of the presenter) from thatof a book report to that of a rather heated discussion with very littleorder in the room. Eventually, the talk ended, a lot of people left,and things broke into small conversations. The entire meeting wentfrom about 7:40 to 9:30.

I'm glad I went -- it was fun, I got to talk some more with one of the leaderswho I spoke on the phone with earlier today, and learned more aboutwhat's in store for me in my hope to bring about a college-basedatheist/agnostic/etc group. I got the definite feel though that thereisn't one now, so I might as well get started. I'm trying to get advice andhelp from Aug and the gang, and hopefully I'll get things moving withinweeks.

My life is still reeling from the sudden loss of Debb, but it seems thatthis time, having had my heart ground into a pulp once already by Martha,it's not quite as bad. It doesn't stop me from wishing that she'd bewilling and able to work through the problems we had, but I know thatlife will go on either way. It's easier, I think, now that I have somethingnew to throw myself into. One thing that I've always kicked butt in ispublic speaking/debating. With any luck, I'll get the chance to do so againsoon :)

Here's a neat Nasa Pic.