PLEASE JOIN US!   We meet on the first Sunday of every month in downtown
Duluth at the Radisson Hotel (Location Map)
            Socializing begins at 9:00 am.
            Optional breakfast buffet at 9:30 am.
            Presentation from 10:00 until about 11:30.

            Co-Host: David Broman - (218) 349-7455
            Co-Host: Jim Lyttle - (218) 464-1652
             Videographer - Jan Resberg


Lake Superior


Newsletter – December 2016

Upcoming Events:

Ø LSF Happy Hour
o   Location: Mexico Lindo
o   Date: Thu Dec 1st (monthly on 1st Thu)
o   Time: 4 to 6
Ø LSF Monthly Meeting
o   Location: Radisson Duluth Conference room
o   Date: Sun Dec 4th (monthly on 1st Sun)
o   Time: 9:30 to Noon
Ø LSF Dinner Social
o   Location: JJ Astor (to enjoy Bentleyville Tour of Lights, without having to get cold in the process) – top floor of the Radisson (location changes monthly)
o   Date: Wed Dec 21st (monthly on 3rd Wed)
o   Time: 4:30 to 7:00
Ø TED @ Teatro Zuccone
o   Location: Teatro Zuccone
o   Date: Wed Dec 21st(monthly on 3rd Wed)
o   Time: 7:30 PM
o   Topic: How Great Leaders Inspire Action & Know Your "Why" and How to Tell It

Newsletter Editor: Mark Woodcock
To submit an item for possible inclusion in the Newsletter please contact:


Dec Monthly Meeting – Dec 4, 2016
 Place: Radisson Conference Room

Speaker: Ken Bowers
Ken is educated as a physicist. He is versed in the hard and soft sciences and has taught these and other subjects at the college level. In addition, Ken founded two businesses, in photography/graphics which specialized in journalistic work for activist nonprofits, and in construction focusing on rehab and subdivision of existing structures. Ken has advocated for wider access to health care on the state and national level, and for improved and user friendly public transit at the local level in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Topic: Mainstreaming Micro Housing Options

America, plus many others following America's example, are awash in magical thinking, perpetuated by advertising and the peer pressure it creates, about more for me being the ultimate goal in life, that things count more than people and the rest of nature, and that the human enterprise can forever "grow" with no adverse consequences.
Mainstreaming micro housing options will help us move from consumerism to stewardship as a way of life as a survival necessity, not to mention a likely improved, less stressful and more fulfilling lifestyle. Ken has lived in micro housing for over 30 years and wouldn't have it any other way.

Historical example - Henry Thoreau's home on Walden Pond
 measured 10' x 15', and in 1846 dollars, cost just $28.12 to build
photo courtesy of Mark Woodcock - taken October 23, 2016


I Have a Friend Who Doesn't Believe in Global Warming
by Mark Woodcock, editor of the LSF Newsletter

I have a friend who doesn’t believe in global warming. We met in Mrs. Brynildson’s English class in 10th grade. A year later we became friends while working together at McDonald's. Throughout most of her adulthood she has self-identified as a Republican. To be fully accurate, I’d say she never gave much thought to global warming, but on the rare occasion that I would raise the topic, she would act skeptical, before rapidly shifting the conversation to a topic that interested her. Global warming did not interest her.

A year ago, I was surprised to learn from her that she had changed her position on global warming. Upon inquiring about the “why” of her opinion change, she told me that one of her brothers shared some YouTube videos with her, and that these videos quickly changed her mind. Now she not only believes in global warming, but she says she is very concerned about global warming. She occasionally comments if the weather is unseasonably warm, and says “this is evidence of global warming.” She and other family members have begun storing dried beans and rice in the basement of a farmhouse on their parent’s property. Her family believes this to be sensible preparation for a looming global food crisis that they believe will be triggered by climate change.

Last March my spouse and I went on a 17-day cruise, from Spain to Italy and back again. It was an amazing trip. This friend of mine was kind enough to watch our 3 dogs for all 17 days. Our return flight touched down mid-day, on a week day. My friend knew she would be at work when we arrived at her house to pick up our dogs, so she shared her garage door keypad PIN. Just as expected, we arrived to an empty house. As I was entering the PIN into her garage door keypad, I noticed that her front lights were on. Once again, this was mid-day. As I entered her house I noticed that the house temperature, with no one home, was at least 72 degrees. The light was on above her stove. A string of holiday lights was plugged in and glowing above her basement fireplace mantle, as I walked by to retrieve our pups from her laundry room. I was immediately struck with the irony of the human condition. I do not mean to seem smug. I too am human. We ignore sound reasoning and hold beliefs that could easily be disproved by just a few minutes of honest reflection (AKA free thought). When we change our minds we often do so for the wrong reasons, such as an emotionally charged YouTube video. Sound premises lead to sound conclusions. Unfortunately, emotionally charged premises usually lead to emotionally charged conclusions, such as hoarding rice and beans, rather than making lifestyle changes that might serve to address the perceived problem.

Today is November 28, 2016. I don’t have many friends today who verbally deny global warming.


  • I have a friend who drives a vehicle that gets less than 40 miles per gallon, when vehicles that get over 40 miles per gallon have been readily available for over 25 years
  • I have a friend who sets their thermostat to 72 degrees in the winter, rather than set it for 10 degrees cooler and dress for the season
  • I have a friend who lives in a home that is over 2000 square feet (see square footage comparisons by country)
  • I have a friend who eats meat. In fact, they are so dedicated to eating meat, when dining with them at a pizza place they will say “…you pick the pizza. If it has meat on it, I’ll be happy.” This statement seems to imply that even one meal without meat is an unthinkable sacrifice. See link below to the Stanford Environmental Law Journal (SELJ) article indicating that animal agriculture is one of the primary causes of environmental degradation in general, and climate change specifically. The SELJ is just one source of many that have reached the same conclusion.
  • I have a friend who doesn’t think anything of purchasing an airline ticket for their winter vacation, even though 1 round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect of 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person.
  • I have a friend who has yet to install a programmable thermostat in their home, even though using a programmable thermostat can result in energy savings of 10% or more
Today is November 28, 2016. I don’t have many friends today who verbally deny global warming. Yet most of the bullets above apply to all of my friends today. I don’t mean to be smug. These bullets also apply to me.

Many people who are convinced of the reality of global warming spend a great deal of time fretting about the fact that there are still those who deny its reality. "These people are scientifically illiterate," is often the charge. But isn't the real point not what we say we believe, but how our beliefs impact our daily choices? If the daily choices that are made by the individuals who comprise the two camps (believers and non-believers in global warming) are all-to-often identical, which group is the ignorant group - the believer, the non-believer... ahem, both?

A personal thought: Leo Buscaglia once said, “Concern with how I behave is procrastination." If Leo is correct, the first steps that should be taken on our journey appear clear. If we instead choose to focus on the academic question of what our neighbors believe, might we be engaged in an evasive tactic designed to help us cope with our own cognitive dissonance?

December 25th is fast approaching, but LSF’s Billboard on 220 W. 3 Street will get here first - NEXT WEEK

There is an LSF donation basket on each table at the monthly meetings, and the contributions that are made throughout the year are put to good use in various ways, such as advocating freedom from religion at an abortion clinic (see picture of picketers John Wolforth and Jim Lyttle below), advertising LSF on Minnesota Public Radio, and advertising before movies at the Zeitgeist Theater. Effective December 5th, LSF will also be letting Duluth residents know that if they are questioning religion they are not alone, on a billboard that will appear on Central Entrance. The specific location is 220 West 3rd Street (facing east).  Here is your opportunity to snap a photo suitable for your annual holiday photo cards.

The LSF monthly meeting on December 4th will also be the LSF annual fundraiser. Please help LSF close out the year in the black. Wouldn't it be nice to change that worn out old holiday phrase, yes you know the one, to "Let's advocate reason this season."


Featured LSF Member for December
Rod Sheffer has been a member of LSF since it started in the early 1990's. For many years he would drive the 104 mile route, from his Cedar Lake home in Aitkin, Minnesota, to Duluth, to attend monthly meetings, and converse with like minded intellects, whom he recently described as "some of the smartest people in the state."

A few years back Rod and his wife relocated to Woodbury, MN. The 160 mile drive to Duluth has resulted in his becoming a satellite member of LSF, but he remains fully engaged, in part by sending out daily emails, containing intellectual tapas harvested from the web, and "mini missives," a term he coined for his many personal observations and thoughts.

Here is an example of one of his recent mini missives. Expect to see more of Rod's thoughts in future editions of the LSF newsletter.

"We can assert with confidence that all human ethical and moral codes are the product of human history and experience, and they are judged by their consequences. No deity is required by educated people to explain the origin of ethical and moral codes. We have done this without any help from any external source."  courtesy of Rodney Sheffer

Interesting Rod facts:
 Age: 87
 Profession: Rod retired from teaching high school biology and chemistry in 1991. He is quick to point out that he chose his profession at the age of 16, after developing a special relationship with biology teacher Frank Masterjohn. Immediately following the Masterjohn teacher/mentor relationship, he was fortunate enough to be taught by Margorie Edington, a similarly engaging teacher, from whom he learned chemistry and physics, during his junior year of high school in Rice Lake, WI. Of the two of them, Rod stated, "Those were the people who defined my whole career, and I never regretted my choice."
What prompted him to retire at 62: A good friend of Rod's, also in the science department, retired a year earlier, and shortly thereafter provided some sage advice, "Don't work a day longer than you have to. There are just too many worthwhile things you can do with your life, besides more of the same." So at 62, and after teaching what was perhaps his best year, he took his friend's advice to heart.
Bicycling to his 50th High School Class reunion: At the age of 68, Rod decided he would impress the attendees of his 50th class reunion by bicycling from Grantsburg, WI to Rice Lake, WI, which equates to 70 miles of pedaling over hill and dale. Upon arrival, he was much chagrined to learn that one of his fellow classmates, David Connors, had opted to run the 52 miles from Hayward, WI to the reunion. "He was tough as a railroad spike," said Sheffer, in admiration of David's accomplishment.
He has published two books, including: "God Talk and Other Incoherent Religious Delusions." (April 9, 2010) The book can be found on Amazon at this link: "God Talk and Other Incoherent Religious Delusions" by R. Sheffer

Alumni of Bloomington's Lincoln and Jefferson High Schools thank Mr. Sheffer for his many years of committed teaching, and LSF is honored to count him among its long-term membership.


Summary of the First Meeting of the Lake Superior Freethinkers People of Conscience Committee (POCC)
by Jo Haberman

Fifteen people met on November 12th to begin discussion of forming a new "spoke" or committee of LSF, focused on the subject of Morality Without Superstition.

The idea for LSF-POCC is two fold:

  • To discuss and learn more about secular morality
  • To consider ways that the group might engage in the community, in service of the greater good

After talking about some of the contemporary moral and social issues important to those present, and some of the organizations doing effective work to address these and other issues, there was general agreement that the first step for the group should be to focus on foundational questions, such as:

What criteria should secular people use to differentiate what is moral?
What are the roots of morality and ethics for secular people?
What common values do secular people share as the basis of morality?

Charles Gessert and Mark Woodcock have kindly agreed to facilitate a set of discussions on these and related questions regarding secular moral thought.

It is never too late to join the discussion. The next meetings will be scheduled soon for December and January 2017. If you have an interest in being part of the discussion, or simply attending as a listener, please RSVP to Jo Haberman at:
JoJane@juno.com or (612) 600-7483


Secular Spirituality, Humanistic Mindfulness, Mind-Body Awareness in Fellowship - Frankly the Title Eludes Me
by Gail Matthews

Have you ever found yourself in a setting that suddenly elicited a sense of awe? The funny thing is the settings that can produce this feeling are so varied, it is hard to pin down the root cause. Some people call it having a spiritual experience, but not believing in spirits, I have a hard time calling it that. And the term "secular spirituality" is uncomfortable to me, because the two words seem to be wrestling each other for control. Whatever you call it, the feeling often appears for me at odd moments. While:

  • Walking on a wooded trail
  • Gardening
  • In the presence of great architecture
  • Admiring a piece of art
  • watching natural phenomenon such as a sunrise, sunset, or thunderstorm
  • Listening to a song with lyrics that resonate with my personal experience
  • In a moment of silence
  • Or on rare occasion, simply by coming together with a large group of people for a common purpose

 I am sure we have all been fortunate enough to experience these feelings from time to time. I would like to explore these feelings and related ideas with a group of similarly motivated people. In a chaotic and often worrisome world I would like to find ways of attaining and maintaining inner peace, and just as importantly for me, finding ways of connecting to and fostering inner peace in those around me.

I will be saying a few words on this topic before January's speaker at the LSF monthly meeting. I will also be bringing sign-up sheets to that meeting. If you'd like to sign up now, please email Gail Matthews:


Lake Superior


Newsletter – Nov 2016

Upcoming Events:

Ø LSF Happy Hour
o   Location: Mexico Lindo
o   Date: Thu Nov 3rd (monthly on 1st Thu)
o   Time: 4 to 6
Ø LSF Monthly Meeting
o   Location: Radisson Duluth Conference room
o   Date: Sun Nov 6th (monthly on 1st Sun)
o   Time: 9:30 to Noon
Ø LSF People of Conscience (poc)
o   Location: Party Room
o   Date: Sat Nov 12th
o   Time: 1 to 3 PM
o   Topic: Introductory Meeting (see feature article below)
Ø LSF Dinner Social
o   Location: Famous Dave’s – Canal Park (location changes monthly)
o   Date: Wed Nov 16th (monthly on 3rd Wed)
o   Time: 4:30 to 7:00
Ø TED @ Teatro Zuccone
o   Location: Teatro Zuccone
o   Date: Wed Nov 16 (monthly on 3rd Wed)
o   Time: 7:30 PM
o   Topic: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Newsletter Editor: Mark Woodcock
To submit an item for possible inclusion in the Newsletter please contact:


Nov Monthly Meeting – Nov 6, 2016
 Place: Radisson Conference Room

Speaker: Dr. David Swenson
is a forensic psychologist and Director of the MBA in Rural Health at the College of St. Scholastica, and has been in the field for 50 years. He consults with courts, law enforcement, corrections, mental health, and schools in the upper Minnesota and Wisconsin region on crisis and stress management, criminal behavior, and behavior problems of youth. He is the co-author of Stress Management for Law Enforcement Officers, and presents regularly at conferences on sex offenders, abusers, and psychopathy.

Topic: Child Psychopathy

The popular image of the "psychopath" is usually one of prominent criminals such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, but most people don't ask the question of how such people develop-- how does a child become a cold and calculating manipulator? In this presentation we will examine callous-unemotional traits in children, and identify the influence of heredity, brain development, trauma, and parenting on emerging psychopathy. Implications for treatment will also be discussed, as well as similar traits in prominent leaders.


Special thanks to Gail Matthews
It is time to thank LSF member Gail Matthews for her generous contribution of time and talent. Gail has been the editor of the LSF Newsletter since mid-2015. Gail recently decided to pass on the baton, but has generously offered to fill in whenever needed. LSF thanks you Gail!


December 25th is fast approaching, and so is LSF’s Billboard on Central Entrance
There is an LSF donation basket on each table at the monthly meetings, and the contributions that are made throughout the year are put to good use in various ways, such as advertising LSF on Minnesota Public Radio and advertising before movies at the Zeitgeist Theater. Effective December 5th, LSF will also be letting Duluth residents know that “if they are questioning religion they are not alone,” on a billboard that will appear on Central Entrance. The specific location is 220 West 3rd Street (facing east).  Here is your opportunity to snap a photo suitable for your annual holiday photo cards.

The LSF monthly meeting on December 4th will also be the LSF annual fundraiser. Please help LSF close out the year in the black. Cheers!


Separating Math from Myth
the simple arithmetic of election day by Mark Woodcock

Anyone who has grown to the age of adulthood in America knows that there are several tenants of American democracy that one is expected to accept as true. These include:

Every vote matters

If you don’t vote you have no right to complain

If you vote for a minor party candidate you are wasting your vote

Rarely are reasons given for believing these phrases, but with frequent cultural repetition, each generation reaches voting age with a surprisingly large percentage of their generation having accepted these phrases as gospel truth.

QuestionDoes math support the belief that “every vote matters?”
Let me begin by defining what I take it to mean for a vote to matter. I contend that we should mean one of the following when we say a vote matters:

1)     If the voter had chosen not to vote, the outcome of the election would have been different, or at least a weaker version of this - the voter had a reasonable expectation that the outcome of the election would have been different had they not voted.
2)     If the voter had chosen to vote for a different candidate, the outcome of the election would have been different, or at minimum a weaker version of this - that the voter had a reasonable expectation that the outcome of the election would have been different had they voted for a different candidate.

I realize that many other definitions of what it means for a vote to matter are possible, and that some definitions might disassociate cause (voting) from effect (election outcome).  I would respond that it is at best counterintuitive to believe a vote matters, while simultaneously knowing that had that vote not been counted the outcome of the election would have been identical. If one is willing to water down the concept of a vote mattering, to a voter having a warm fuzzy feeling after casting a ballot, the math that follows need not trouble you.

So on to some recreational arithmetic - Historians generally cite the 1960 Kennedy victory over Richard Nixon as the closest election in Presidential history, Kennedy having won by merely 1/10th a percentage of the popular vote. While 1/10th percent is close in Presidential election terms, it is still a very large number of votes, roughly 31% larger than the entire population of Duluth (112,827 votes).

If an individual who voted in the 1960 election were to reflect, years later, and ask themselves whether their vote mattered, and were to use the outcome of the election as the criteria for answering the question, simple math would provide a definitive answer of “no.” Opting not to cast a vote, or more perhaps more troubling to you the reader, opting to cast one’s vote for another candidate, would not have changed the winner of the election, even in 1960, the closest election in Presidential history.

Over the last thirty years I have shared with many people that I do not believe in god because there is no credible evidence for god’s existence. Churchgoers usually have a negative visceral reaction to this statement, the inculcation of religion by the dominant culture being so deeply ingrained, they are unable to take stock in an evidence based approach to god belief. We are accustomed to the word faith being used in the context of religion, and not accustomed to hearing it used in relation to American elections, but I would assert, so too with the “every vote matters” mantra of the average American.

Do you find that a peculiar comparison? Let me connect the dots. For roughly 30 years I have shared with friends and acquaintances my simple counterargument to the statement every vote matters. It is peculiar to think that 1st grade math, addition, a simple black and white process suitable for only the most basic of number related questions, is all that is required to clear the common misperception on whether every vote matters. It is also intriguing that the most common response when the math is elucidated is not “wow, I am surprised that I believed something that is so easily disproved”, but instead, a defensive reaction of – what if everyone thought that? Almost 100% of the time these five words are the initial response to an explanation of the math.

I have asked many people what they mean by - what if everyone thought that - and it appears to come down to this – What if everyone decided that their one vote would not impact the outcome of the election, and consequently everyone opted not to vote? Amusingly, that would be one of the few instances where casting your vote would definitely impact the outcome of the election, for only one vote cast in an election would mean that your preferred Presidential candidate would win with 100% of the vote.

Alternatively, I have heard the frustration phrased this way - “what if everyone thought that” defined as - what if enough people are convinced by your math that enough stay home, so the outcome of the election is influenced. I find this a peculiar line of thought. Firstly, because it is not “my math,” it is “the math,” and that small word choice appears to me to highlight how emotionally charged the average American immediately becomes on the topic. Secondly, the math is the math, and we should be persuaded (or not) based upon the soundness of the math, not based upon doomsday conjecture over whether a clear understanding of the math might change outcomes. Compare this line of reasoning to people who believe that if someday a critical mass of people does not believe in god, society will crumble and morality will fall by the wayside. Even if this dire prediction were true, it does not bolster existence of god(s) in any way. Both are poor reasons to subscribe to myth, so in both cases I would say you should cancel your subscription.

So what if the math is sound, what implications flow from it? This is the place in the discussion where math is of less use, and personal conclusions must be drawn. One thing that appears to flow from it is that people who say “if you don’t vote you have no right to complain” need to provide some justification for this belief. In every election in Presidential history the person who won (and will win the next one) would have won whether you stayed home, whether you voted for them, or whether you voted for their opponent, so no matter which course of action you selected, it is unclear why your right to complain would be compromised.

Personally, the implication that I find most encouraging from understanding the math, the conclusion that is perhaps on the soundest logical footing - it is no longer possible to pretend that voting for a minor party candidate is a wasted vote, for once again, the outcome of the election would have been the same had you opted to stay home, vote Democrat, vote Republican, or vote minor party candidate. Isn’t that liberating! The math actually supports a desire to vote one’s conscience, and if you are part of the camp that believes a warm fuzzy feeling is at least part of what it means for a vote to matter, your vote will matter that much more. Just as importantly, the math undermines your ability to chide others for voting their conscience and “taking a vote away from” candidate A or B. These partisans are sometimes called strategic voters, an overly charitable moniker for a group that can now be seen to have failed their first-grade math test. Yes, strategic voter, it means one less vote for A or B, but the outcome of the election remains identical, and the voter’s conscience remains pure. Win, win, so who is the strategist now?


Featured LSF Member for November
Sue Anderson has been a member of LSF for 14 years, and during that time has been a regular attendee of all things LSF - monthly meetings, planning meetings, happy hours, and dinner socials. In fact, Sue has been the host of the monthly dinner social since early 2016, arranging dinner venues and offering a smiling face to all those who attend.

Interesting Sue facts:
 Age: 88
 Favorite Saturday tradition: Listening to jazz with friends at the Club Saratoga
 International Travel: Sue loves travel and has been known to travel solo when a travel companion has failed to appear. Ask her about her travels in Morocco and you’ll hear fascinating stories about charming narrow streets, winding stairways, and leather tanning.

·    Duluth travel: for a more local travel story, ask Sue about the day she received a police escort to join her friends at Club Saratoga.

A great LSF role model: Sue also volunteers her time hand delivering meals to the less mobile residents of her apartment building.


Wanted: Book Club Members
LSF members Corine Buechner, Kari Becken, Linda Crumpton, Bill Guse, and Mark Woodcock are starting a book club and would like to find at least a few more LSF members who are interested in participating. Ideas that have been put forward thus far include reading books related to the mind sciences, critical thought, religious criticism, and history, or even intellectually challenging fiction. For more information or to join, please email MarkDWoodcock@yahoo.com


People of Conscience (POC)
You are invited to attend the first meeting of an exploratory committee for a potential spoke to the Lake Superior Freethinkers. Initial conversations about this new group have referred to it as People of Conscience, which is to be focused on ACTION for greater good - a group for people who want to work with the subject of morality, without superstition. 
Ideas, proposals, and initial thoughts for consideration and discussion include:
§  secular morality book club
§  annual Secular Morality Summit – public education conference
§  what should we be thinking about if we are going to consider increasing our voice & visibility as People of Conscience? 
§  evaluation - keep learning from whatever we decide to do as People of Conscience

Why is this important?
§  The vital issues of our day require moral leadership.
§  In response, it is vital that we as secular people continue to develop our moral leadership, enhance and increase our voice and visibility, take effective action, and participate as equals in partnerships and coalitions working for change and providing service in the community.
§  POC would serve a role of continuing to build and strengthen LSF by organizing opportunities for LSF members to connect and work together on issues they care about. This would increase our visibility and presence as fully equal partners in the wider community.
§  POC would work to increase the number and diversity of people, perhaps especially younger people, connected to LSF.   Hopefully this would contribute to the goal of being viewed as an equally attractive option among belief systems.

Hope to see you there!
Please RSVP to:  Jo Haberman at jojane@juno.com   612-600-7483

She will provide location details/directions


Equal Time for Angelina Jolie  An LSF Exclusive:
Careful readers will recall that last month’s LSF newsletter included a small piece presenting Brad Pitt’s side of the argument. LSF believes in being fair and balanced, so we are ending November’s newsletter with equal time for Angelina. Who is right? That is for you to decide.