Newsletter – Nov 2016
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, 2016Place: 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.
Question – Does 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:
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 MembersLSF 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.