MISkeptics April Get Together: The Idea of a Basic Income

What is Basic Income? Proponents tie it to Humanism and Human Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Logo

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948 as a direct result of World War 2.

According to Article 25, Section 1 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Basic Income is a concept where the state would provide a regular income payment to every adult citizen, with no conditions attached. Such a payment would be enough to meet basic needs for a frugal lifestyle, and would largely replace welfare, food stamps, and public pensions. It would also augment the income of poorly paid employed people, and provide a safety net for those with irregular incomes.

Is this a system that could work in the United States? How would it be implemented? How is it different and is it better or worse than our current welfare system?

Basic Income posters on a wall.

The concept of Basic Income goes back to the 16th Century.

Our special guest this month is MISkeptics member and contributor Marc Stemmer. Marc has extensively studied the philosophy and practice of a Basic Income and will present his research. We will learn the positives, the negatives and clear away the hype associated with it.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting Skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

We’re meeting on April 12th at 1:00 PM. The details are in the RSVP links below.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary.

You can RSVP at our Meetup Group, our Facebook Event Page, or our Google Plus Event.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

The End of the World is Coming! (again) Let’s Have a Party

The end of the world was signalled in York last night as a horn was blown to herald the beginning of the apocalypse

On November 14th, the Norse God Heimdallr blew the Gjallerhorn to warn of the Viking apocalypse. Actually, Heimdallr was unavailable. This is just some guy in eyeliner.

On November 14th, 2013 the Mythic Gjallerhorn was blown. Which is a sign that the world will end 100 days later. Traditionally it was supposed to be blown by the Norse God Heimdallr, but he was otherwise occupied. Nevertheless, the horn was blown and it means one thing. THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING!

Ragnarök

The blowing of the horn is a calling of the gods (the Norse ones) to a great battle. According to the Edda, a Norse Epic Poem, the great battle will cause the deaths of the great gods. Odin, Thor, Týr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki will all be slain. Ragnarök, which literally means “Twilight of the Gods” will cause natural disasters, the Sun will turn black, wolves will increase in numbers, and the world will be plunged into the sea. But don’t worry! The gods will fix it all when they come back to life and the world will be born again.

How do we know Ragnarök is at hand? Let’s look at this handy checklist of signs:

How to know the world is ending: Continue reading The End of the World is Coming! (again) Let’s Have a Party →

Nelson Mandela for our January Get Together

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 2008.

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 2008.

On December 5th 2013, at the age of 95, Nelson Mandela died. He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He also served over 27 years in prison for his activism prior to that. The end of Apartheid in South Africa is credited largely to him. He was called a lot of things when he died, a hero, a savior, a great leader, a terrorist, a communist, and a murderer. But what was he really?

On Saturday, January 18 at 1:00 PM, we’re teaming up with Minority Atheists of Michigan to talk about Nelson Mandela. We will cut through the hype and hyperbole and learn the facts of his life and work. We will learn about the good and the bad and decide for ourselves who he was.

Our guest speaker will be Jamon Jordan. He is the Co-Founder and Facilitator of the Black Scroll Study Group. A local organization that researches any and all phenomena related to Black people.

Jamon Jordan Image

Jamon Jordan is the Co-Founder and Facilitator of the Black Scroll Study Group

They present their findings through educational materials for institutions to use in order to present data on Black/African history and culture that is frequently overlooked.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting Skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

You can RSVP for the event at our Meetup Page, our Facebook Page, or our Google Plus Page.

How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Women And Domestic Violence?

As with most things, Jehovah’s Witnesses will take their cues on women and domestic violence from the Watchtower Society. Before we dive in, a short review about a woman’s role at the Kingdom Hall is in order.

As I mentioned in a previous article, women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are told to be in subjection to their fathers and then their husbands after marriage. Women may not teach in the presence of men or perform other duties reserved for men without wearing some sort of head covering as a sign of deference. They are not allowed to give public talks or handle microphones during meetings at a Kingdom Hall. Their only role in meetings is a public demonstration, given at just one of their five weekly meetings (fun!), where the sisters role play for a few minutes. (It’s not a fun kind of role play, so don’t even go there.) These performances were almost identical to a much dreaded part of my morning sales meetings when I worked at a local department store some years ago, except that men and women were treated equally at the store. And we got paid.

Elders are not supposed to talk to congregation sisters in private without a chaperone. This is usually another elder or, in some situations, a woman’s husband or father. I was told by at least three elders at my former Kingdom Hall that this was standard procedure and was intended to prevent sisters from crying rape or trying to “come on” to an elder. Because … you know … chicks, I guess. The elders were not required to do this when talking to a brother, however.

From Watchtower 11/15/91 page 21-22 paragraph 14

It is inadvisable for an elder to make a shepherding call on a sister alone. The elder should be accompanied by another elder or a ministerial servant.

From Watchtower 2/15/93 page 15 paragraph 12

In developed countries some have fallen into Satan’s trap by often being with a member of the opposite sex and without a third person present—such as regularly being in the confined intimacy of a car for driving lessons. Elders doing shepherding calls also need to exercise caution so as not to be alone with a sister when counseling her. Conversations can become emotionally charged and result in an embarrassing situation for both parties.—Compare Mark 6:7; Acts 15:40.

I’m sure some elders at some Kingdom Halls might be willing to bend these rules under certain circumstances, but this policy tells you a few things about the way Jehovah’s Witnesses view (and value) women. Not as much as the Watchtower article I’m about to discuss below, however.

Continue reading How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Women And Domestic Violence? →

Michigan Atheist Convention (12/07) in Ann Arbor

MichiganAtheists-150x150On Saturday, December 7th, the annual Michigan Atheists convention will be held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, in Ann Arbor.  There will be a series of speakers/presentations starting at 10am.  Registration is $30, plus $16.50 for a private lunch.  However, the registration is  free for any organizers and student members of high school, college and university on-site campus secular organizations.

You can register by printing out this form (27TH ANNUAL STATE CONVENTION) and mail it in with your fee.  There is also a free reception on Friday evening from 7pm to 11pm for those who register.

The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center is located at 2900 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.

The Michigan Atheists are a group that fights for the separation of church and state.  When policy-makers overstep, the Michigan Atheists try to inform the secular community so that an appropriate reaction can take place.ClarionHotel-150x150

The MISkeptics November Get Together: Shakespeare in Detroit

Portrait of Samantha White

Samantha White is a Detroit native and the Founder/Artistic Director for Shakespeare in Detroit – a new theater company dedicated to using The Bard to improve the quality of life in the city.

This month we’re talking education and the arts.

There is a long list of studies showing the value of the arts in education. And we’re going to talk with someone who is actively trying to bring the arts back to Detroit and Michigan.

Our special guest is Samantha White. She is the Founder/Artistic Director for Shakespeare in Detroit Theater Company.  The theater company pioneered the first free outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s work, featuring an all local cast, during their production of “Othello” at Grand Circus Park this past summer.

Shakespeare in Detroit

Shakespeare in Detroit

When she is not in the director’s chair, White is a theater instructor with the YMCA Boll’s Y-Arts program where she visits local schools and engages youth between the ages of 5 and 17 with Shakespeare and theater. In addition, she oversees a volunteer theater project, Shakespeare Against Cancer, where she facilitates local actors to perform vignettes as a respite for children during their chemotherapy sessions.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary. You can RSVP at our Meetup Event, our Facebook Page, or our Google Plus Page.

I hope to see you all there!

Tomorrow: The Michigan Skeptics Get Together!

Conzilla; the Mascot of ConClave

Conzilla; the Mascot of ConClave

This month we had to delay our regular monthly meeting by one week due to MISkeptics was requested to host two panels for the ConClave SciFi/Fantasy convention. Which was a huge success. Special thanks to Bria Crutchfield, Chris Clayton and Howard Scrimgour for their help speaking on the panels. We had lots of fun, and many new members joined. As an added bonus, we have been tapped to provide skeptic content to the up and coming North American Science Fiction Convention next year. The entire weekend was amazing. Thanks to everyone that came out for the convention and also those who came out for the SitP afterwards.

Kumare Poster

Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, Kumare is an insightful look at faith and belief.

For tomorrow, Saturday October 19th at 1:00 PM we are going to watch Kumaré.

A provocative social experiment-turned-documentary, Kumaré follows American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi as he transforms himself into a wise Indian guru, hoping to prove the absurdity of blind faith. Instead, he finds himself forging profound connections with people from all walks of life — and wondering if and when to reveal his true self. Will his followers accept his final teaching? Can this illusion reveal a greater spiritual truth? Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, Kumare is an insightful look at faith and belief.

Kumaré received fair reviews upon release. Many movie reviewers criticized Gandhi’s deception as immoral, but partially forgave Gandhi for realizing that the experiment had grown out of his control. Many compared the character of Kumaré and the deception by Gandhi to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character and film. Those who liked the movie, like Stephen Holden of the New York Times and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, praised the film’s message of “finding the guru within.”

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Admission is free. Donations are helpful. You are responsible for your drinks and food.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. You can RSVP via our Meetup Page or our Facebook Page.

I Look forward to seeing you all there!

Skeptics in the Pub: Conclave!

This artwork by Jael has been the official logo of ConClave since 1996.

This artwork by Jael has been the official logo of ConClave since 1996.

We are moving our normal second Saturday Get Together back in a week to host a special event. This Saturday come join us for a special Skeptics in the Pub at ConClave!

Last month, we were contacted by the ConClave Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention to host discussion panels about skepticism. After a lot of work and back and forth with the Organizer, it has finally come time to host our panels! This Saturday, October 12th at 3:00 and 4:00 PM Michigan Skeptics will host two panels.

The first is “DON’T PANIC!”

There is a great deal of alarming and some down-right scary stories in the media these day. Many of them directly conflicting with each other. How can we sort through the pseudo-science, the snake oil and the media myths? This panel will give you some suggestions so you can figure out for yourself what is really worth its weight.

During this panel we will be teaching the audience about sensationalism, scams, snake-oil, media hype and scare tactics and most of all, arming them with the tools they need to figure out for themselves what is real and what is not.

The second panel is “The Skeptics Movement.”

The Skeptics are a group that entreats us to use critical thinking and evidence when dealing with every day life. They use these tools when dealing with Conspiracy Theories like the supposed faking of the moon landing or with the likelihood of psychics and mind-readers. What are their positions, and how does one join?

Here is where we get to shine and talk about us. Our goal is to well, talk about the skeptics movement. Who we are, what we do, and what makes us so great. And why we think more people need to be skeptics.

I know, it’s an uphill battle, right? It’s tough for people to change their way of life. It’s even harder to convince someone to do it. I think the important thing is to talk to people and tell them there is something they can do about the world around them. This is the way to do it.

If you have never been to a SciFi/Fantasy Convention before then you are definitely missing out. You will find a bit of everything there. From cosplay to  Con-Suites. There are all kinds of people there and all kinds of Woo. Which makes it a great place to talk skepticism.

Lyle of our sister group Yooper Skeptics. (he even looks like a yooper, doesn't he?)

Lyle of our sister group Yooper Skeptics. (he even looks like a yooper, doesn’t he?)

We would love for you to come and join us during the panels and help support skepticism in the community. A Saturday only day pass will run you $35, while a full three-day pass will cost $50. If you can make it we would love to see you there. If you can’t, we are hosting an event that evening where you don’t have to pay an admission fee.

We are hosting one last event for the Convention. We’re having a Skeptics in the Pub in the hotel bar at 7:00 PM! This event is open to the public so come on out and support skepticism! We will even have a special guest. Nathan Lyle of our sister group Yooper Skeptics, (and his son, mini-guest Ray) from all the way up in Marquette, Michigan will be in town and joining us for drinks and fun conversations.

Tickets for ConClave, both the Saturday only ticket and the full three-day pass are available at the door. Remember you don’t need to purchase a ticket for Skeptics in the Pub. You only need to pay for your food and drinks.

You can register for Skeptics in the Pub: Conclave at our Meetup site or on our Facebook page.

I look forward to seeing you all there!

Shelley Segal To Perform Free Concert Thursday Night

Segal’s latest release, ‘An Atheist Album,’ embodies her thoughts on religion and has quickly made her “a new pin-up girl for the international atheist movement.” (Barny Zwartz -The Age)

Segal’s latest release, ‘An Atheist Album,’ embodies her thoughts on religion and has quickly made her “a new pin-up girl for the international atheist movement.” (Barny Zwartz -The Age)

This Thursday night at 7:00 PM, CFI Michigan is hosting Australian Singer/Songwriter Shelley Segal for a free concert at Cafe Habana in Ann Arbor, MI.

The Melbourne based singer-songwriter became involved in secular activism over two years ago, despite her father being the president of a local synagogue. Her songs are a passionate response to dogmatic belief, inequality, religious oppression and the idea that only the devout can be grateful and good. She enjoys bringing this usually controversial topic to the public discourse and finds music to be a effective medium for expression and raising awareness. ‘I can say what I think for three minutes without anybody interrupting me.” (Melbourne Times City Weekly)

An Atheist Album gives a voice to the often underrepresented views of non-religious people, the fastest growing minority in many countries. As one youtube fan wrote, “I can always come home and listen to Shelley remind us all that we have a voice and a movement of our own, and that there is hope for the future.” After performing this year at the ‘Reason Rally’ to a crowd of 25,000 in Washington DC, Segal’s music video for her single Saved has gone global.

You can find more about Shelley on her website. Don’t forget to RSVP for the event on CFI’s Facebook Event Page.

Energy Is Not a Solved Problem: The MISkeptics Get Together

This month we are looking at energy storage and production.

Ludington Pumped Storage

The Pumped Storage Facility in Ludington Michigan Stores water in an elevated pond and releases it through turbines when there is heightened need for electricity.

Several months ago, Peter Sinclair joined us to talk about climate change, future energy production and energy storage. One of the energy storage solutions he referenced was the Ludington Pumped Storage facility on the West side of the state.

This inspired our very own John Dreystadt to research energy storage and he is presenting his findings to us.

The presentation will have three parts, why is storage important for the grid, why is it hard, and what the future may hold.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary. You can RSVP via Meetup, Facebook or by Google Plus.

I hope to see you all there!