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Past Events at CDHS 2003

This page lists recent lectures and events. It includes a brief description plus a link to a complete summary.



Paradise for Sale: A Parable of Nature

Dr. Carl N. McDaniel, Dec 14, 2003

McDaniel began his slide show with some beautiful images of nature as an example of what we lose by dismantling the fabric of life that enriches the soil and creates the air. The current economic system is a flawed and bankrupt one. While this environmental crisis is happening, our attention instead is drawn to other sensational events. At least the environmental crisis is on the back page of the newspaper, however, because it used to be nowhere at all. It deserves to be on the front page.


Search for the genetic basis of human uniqueness

Dr. Caro-Beth Stewart, Nov 9, 2003

The discussion covered a lot of ground, including the history of the human genome project and the 1.5% genetic difference between humans and chimps. Also discussed, was the attitude of the U.S. medical establishment to evolutionary research (it has a tendency to dismiss its value). Professor Stewart then reviewed evolution research as it relates to the study of AIDS, and also the different approaches involved in researching genomic evolution.


Historical Patterns in Chinese Religion

Dr. Anthony DeBlasi, Oct 12, 2003

Religion can be defined as a way that humans seek spiritual transformation and assistance from the nonhuman. Americans tend to draw a line between what is religion and what is philosophy. This line is not as clearly defined in China where, as Dr. Deblasi pointed out, for a long time there weren't separate words for the two concepts.


The Mysterious Friend: Mark Twain on War, Religion, and the Human Condition

Timothy J. Madigan, Sept 14, 2003

For many, Mark Twain's name conjures up images of an endearing twinkly-eyed humorist. Hollywood films such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court reinforce this notion. However, as Tim Madigan, our September speaker, pointed out, one will find much more than just humor in Twain's writings. [more]

Blacks left out of History

Jacqui C. Williams, August 10, 2003

Jacqui Williams spoke to us at the August meeting about blacks left out of history and her FIGAH project: Filling In the Gaps in American History. Williams is a board member of the UU Congregation of Glens Falls and Member-at-Large of Saratoga NAACP Executive Board. In addition, she is active in the NY State Coalition Against Sexual Assault and previously served on the Tri County United Way and Adirondack Girl Scout Council.

Sharing some of her family history, she traced back the name "Clara", which appears in every generation back to at least 1830. [more]

Iraq and the Middle East

Dr. Abdulrahman Al-khalidy, Ph.D. July 13, 2003

Our July speaker, Abdulrahman Al-khalidy, PhD., is a Lebanese-American who earned his graduate Engineering degrees in America, and is now working on advanced medical X-ray technology development. He shared with us a personal and historic perspective of "Iraq and the Middle East." He discussed many aspects of Iraq including its history, Hussein's rise to power and his manipulation of the Baath party. Sunni and Shi'i Islam and the ethnic backgrounds of the population were also discussed. Dr. Al-khalidy shared some of his own life experiences to provide examples for the points he made. He explained how cultural and Arab language ties are in some ways more dominant than religious ones. For example, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, etc. are not historically Arabic, but as the areas were conquered, the populations began speaking Arabic and now are considered Arabs (including Jewish Arabs). Also discussed were the five pillars of Islam, the sacred places, and the major beliefs.

The speaker discussed the diversity to be found in Islamic society, not only in different sects, but also ethnically. For example, at the Islamic center in Albany one will meet people of about 40 different nationalities.


Alternative Medicine: a skeptical look

Prof Steven Novella, MD, June 8, 2003

Prof. Steven Novella, MD, talked to us about Alternative Medicine: a skeptical look.

Prof. Novella is Assistant Professor of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, President, The New England Skeptical Society, Associate Editor, The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine and the Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, and a member of the Advisory Board of Quackwatch and the American Council on Science and Health.


Preaching Heresy: A Different View of the Church/State Separation Controversy

Tim Gordinier, PhD, May 11, 2003 <

"The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple" – Oscar Wilde.

Tim Gordinier, PhD, Director of Public Policy and Education, Institute for Humanist Studies, spoke with us on "Preaching Heresy: A Different View of the Church/State Separation Controversy." Not surprisingly, he argues that the proper relationship of government and religion is one of separation. What may come as a surprise is the complex history and underlying motivations of separation.


Religion and Health: Evidence, Anecdote, and Advocacy

Prof. Richard P. Sloan PhD, April 13, 2003


The Ethics of Buddhism

Prof. Linda Patrik, March 9, 2003

How would you describe yourself? Are you a self-contained being? Maybe your thoughts and actions follow a linear path from beginning to end. Or do they? Either way, how does your sense of self inform your sense of ethics? Linda E. Patrik, Professor of Philosophy at Union College, guided us as we reexamined the idea of "self" in a talk on "Buddhist Ethics: Karma and Compassion." She described the atheist aspect of Buddhism along with the Theory of Interdependent arising, Karma and compassion.

Buddhism is a form of atheism because it does not believe in a creator of the universe or creator of a universal moral code. Nor does it see any evidence for a soul or even a "self" in the western sense. Patrik describes Tibetan Buddhism (derived from movements in ancient India based in meditation) as "an investigation of psychological states that give rise to action, happiness, and pain." The Buddhist view is that there is no singular cause of our thoughts, feelings, and actions.


Who's Who in Hell, or Why Hell is a Silly but Harmful Theological Invention

Warren Allen Smith, February 9, 2003

"Hell is a silly theological invention, one that has done great harm to anyone who has been brainwashed into believing it."

Warren Allen Smith, author of Who's Who in Hell and Celebrities in Hell, joined us for our February gathering. He discussed how damaging this invention called Hell is, and described the research that led to the publication of his humorously titled resource books for freethinkers. [more]

The Embryonic Stem Cell Research (ESCR) Debate: Some Key Clarifications and a Case to Move Forward

Prof. Wayne Shelton, January 12, 2003

Prof. Wayne Shelton, PhD, Associate Director of the Center for Medical Ethics at Albany Medical College, and Co-Director of the Albany Medical College/Union College Master's Program in Bioethics, spoke at our January meeting on the topic of "Clarifying the embryonic stem-cell research debate: making the case to go forward".

Shelton described the astounding therapeutic value of stem-cell research. [more]

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[Past Events 2002]

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