The Humanist Association of Toronto provides a focus of activities and discussion for Humanists in the Toronto area. Please note: HAT events are open to the public, and views expressed do not necessarily represent the official views of the Humanist Association of Toronto. For all public statements, educational events, media enquiries, please contact the webeditor, who will forward your enquiry to our Spokesperson.
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm
The Monthly Meeting the 2nd or 3rd Saturday at 1:30pm (TBD)
The Steering Committee meets 1st Wednesday, 7pm
The Book Group meets monthly.

Hat Forum, Sat. April 26, 11am OISE "Trigger warnings"

HAT Forum
Saturday 26 April 2014
Topic: Trigger warnings
Proposed by: Moses Klein

A trigger warning is a notice preceding any kind of media that the content might contain a trauma trigger for some people. Are they a good idea? In what contexts? Are there contexts in which they are inappropriate? One use that has recently been much debated in our media is in a university syllabus: How do we feel about that?

HAT forum Sat 19 April, OISE 11am

HAT Forum, Saturday 19 April
Time: 11:00-1pm
Location: OISE, Rooms 11-200, 11-204
Facilitator:  "M.A".

"Although there is, more often than not, agreement that we as humans have, by nature, such attributes as ‘aggressive’, we, at the same time, also agree that we ‘should NOT’ be aggressive, or at least that our aggression should NOT result in violence. Culture, in the form of laws and customs, is (perhaps) designed to provide for such channels, i.e. for what we ‘should BE’.

Our ‘consciousness’ (apparently distinguishing us from other animals) of what we are, on the one hand, and what we perceive ourselves to actually be, on the other hand, enable us to ponder that which we are not but which we CAN be. The question remains, however, whether we really can (successfully) engage in an enterprise of becoming or whether any 'becoming what we are not' is but an illusion and we are doomed to accept what we are as animals.

1. Can we intelligently (or otherwise) design ourselves as individuals and/or our society as our collective ‘self’, to change from what we are towards what we think we ought to be?’ (‘transhumanism’ ? :) or do we have to accept ourselves as what we are?
2. Does our consciousness of what we ARE necessarily encourage us to BECOME what we are not?
3. Does accepting ourselves as what we are mean embracing Social Darwinism?
4. If we agree that we should become something that we are not, how can we as Humanists know what that thing OUGHT TO BE without a belief in any divine revelation (a God-/god-sent plan)?

HAT BOOK GROUP, May 10 "The map that changed the world"

The Next HAT book group meeting:

Date: Saturday, May 10
Location:  OISE, 252 Bloor Street West
TIME: 2:30-4pm
BOOK:  The map that changed the world: William Smith and the birth of modern geology
by Winchester, Simon.

3 holds / 19 copies (plus e-book and audio book in Library)

In 1793, William Smith, an engineer and canal digger, concluded that rocks were arranged in layers and that each layer contained different fossils unique to it. This was a monumental discovery, as it contradicted existing church beliefs, and it would become the foundation for the science of geology. Smith spent the next 20 years creating the world's first geological map.

Still a thing of beauty, this sizeable representation (8' 6') of the underside of England from Wales to the Thames remains a testament to Smith's persistence. Tragically, he did not realize any significant income from his map, and four years after its publication he was sent to debtor's prison. Upon his release, he remained virtually homeless and unemployed for ten years. Not until 1831 was he finally recognized for his great contribution when he was awarded the first Wollaston Medal and given a small lifetime pension by the King.

HAT Forum, Sat. April 12, 11 am, OISE

HAT Forum , Saturday April 12, 11 AM
Location:  OISE, 252 Bloor Street West
Topic: Is man an aggressive animal?
Facilitator:  Bryant Brown

1. What qualities constitute the basic nature of man?
2. Is aggression a natural or acquired characteristic?
3. What precipitates aggression?  What precipitates passivity??
4.What is more aggressive, individuals, families, nations?
5. Is aggression the cause or effect of our economic system (i.e. capitalism)?

HAT Forum, Sat April 5 OISE

What is a Nation?
HAT Forum
Saturday 5 April 2014
Location:  OISE, 252 Bloor Street West
Time: 11am -1pmProposed by: Moses Klein

What is a nation? Is nationalism a sentiment with any value to you? How do we understand developing events in Ukraine and in Quebec in this light?

HAT FORUM: Sat March 29, 11 am HAT principles, Part 2

Date:  Sat March 29, 11am - 1pm
Location:  OISE, 252 Bloor Street W.
Topic:  HAT Humanist Principles discussion, Part 2
Last week we lovingly kicked about the HAT principles with some good but general discussion.  What emerged from the discussion were some specific questions about the current principles and some ideas of how they could be improved.  Improvements were related to:
  • how they could be made more clear
  • how they could be made more appealing to new humanists or potential humanists
Some questions raised for the sake of improvement were:
  • Principle vii) melds several concepts of human dignity, respect, responsibility, community, ethics and freedom into one statement. Could/should this be broken out into more than one principle and moved to the top of this list to give it more weight and importance?
  • How could the principles be altered to give them more 'heart'?  Is there enough humanity in our humanist principles? What about empathy?
  • Where is the link between how and what we think (knowledge, reason, creativity) to human ethics?  Should there be a linking principle (e.g. reduction of suffering/harm or duty of care)?
Please come to the Forum with some specific new or revised principles that you think would make HAT's principles better in some way.  Be prepared to say how this change would benefit HAT as an organization or benefit its members.
N.B. The statement of our current 7 principles is posted below, and can also be found on the HAT website under the tab ABOUT HAT


HAT Constitution: Section 3 - Declaration of Principles

(i)    Freedom of Inquiry: Every individual should be free to inquire into any and all areas of thought, to explore, to challenge, question or doubt. Without freedom of inquiry, we lose the ability to improve the human condition.
(ii)    The Use of Reason: Reason provides a common standard against which we can test our perceptions. Without reason there is no valid tool for making judgments.
(iii)    Knowledge: The only thing that can be called knowledge is that which is firmly grounded in human understanding and empirical verification. Without human comprehension and verification we lose our connection with the natural world around us.
(iv)    Creativity: Human creativity is essential to the ability to solve problems, expand knowledge, and fulfill our cultural needs.
(v)    Fallibility: Human knowledge and human ethics have changed over time and will continue to change. Without acknowledging fallibility we risk descent into dogma.
(vi)    The Natural World: The physical world is the world in which our ethics must operate, rather than in any imagined Utopian societies or afterlife. Because the physical world is the only one of which we have empirical knowledge, it is irrational to sacrifice benefits in this world for supposed gains in imaginary ones.
(vii)    Human Ethics: Ethical decisions should be made in the context of real people, real situations, real human needs and aspirations and the consideration of real consequences. Humanism combines personal liberty with social responsibility. It affirms the dignity of every person, the right of the individual to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others, and the need for community. Without this context we risk the worst excesses of ideology.

HAT Forum, Sat March 22, OISE "HAT's Principles Revisited"

Please post the following on the website for this week:

Room 2-198 at OISE
DATE:  Sat March 22, 11-1pm
LOCATION:  OISE, 252 Bloor Street West, Room 2-198
Topic: HAT's Principles Revisited
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

In 2004, HAT revised the Principles that appear in our constitution.  Ten years on we have some members expressing dissatisfaction with those principles and new members clamoring to know what are principles are. It is vital to have a balanced set of principles that reflect the who, why, what and how of HAT's humanism to energize membership, galvanize group cohesiveness, mold community and stimulate action.
This Forum will discuss the existing principles and explore those of some other humanist groups to better understand what humanism means to ourselves and to others.  We may even explore the value of having principles at all in a group that eschews dogma.
Below are several links that may stimulate your thinking on this subject.

From the IHEU

HAT Monthly Meeting: Early notice for June 21, "The Science of Shakespeare", Dan Falk

Humanist Association of Toronto Monthly Speaker Meeting
Saturday, June 21, 2014
1:30 – 3:00 pm
OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room tbd
Speaker: Dan Falk
Topic: “What Did Shakespeare Know About Scientific Developments of His Time?” 

The Science of Shakespeare by Dan Falk

William Shakespeare lived at a remarkable time – a period we now recognize as the first phase of the Scientific Revolution. New ideas about the human body, the earth, and the universe were transforming Western thought – and yet “Shakespeare” and “science” are rarely uttered in the same breath. But as award-winning journalist Dan Falk has found, a reassessment is at hand. In this illustrated talk, Falk will explore Shakespeare’s interest in the scientific discoveries of his time – asking what he knew, when he knew it, and how that knowledge is reflected in his work.  Copies of his new book, "The Science of Shakespeare," will be available for purchase and signing.

Gail McCabe to appear on Zoomer TV, March 17 - INVITATION TO ATTEND taping MARCH 12!

Gail McCabe to appear on Zoomer TV March 17

Gail McCabe, spokesperson for the Ontario Humanist Society and the Humanist Association of Toronto, will appear on The Zoomer, as part of a panel debating the concept of the “Afterlife.” The show includes interviews and panel discussions focusing on topics of interest to Zoomers (the 50+ set). The program is hosted by Conrad Black and Denise Donlon.

The show airs on a weekly basis on Mondays at 9:00 pm. Gail will appear on the March 17th edition

The taping of the Zoomer show on March 12th will take place at 64 Jefferson Avenue in Liberty Village (3 blocks east of Dufferin south of King Street). You are all invited to attend and to join the audience for a cocktail and canape get-together at 3:30 or 3:45 pm that day.
From Zoomer TV:
Despite a rise in secularism, 70% of Canadians (63% of Zoomers 55+) believe in life after death. The question of what happens to us after corporeal death is a hot topic with a glut of media detailing near death experiences as well as contact with guardian angels

in times of duress. But what is behind this new compulsion to believe?

And how does this belief differ from traditional belief systems? However comforting it might be, some traditionalists criticize “new agers” for adopting a convenient spirituality that isn’t subject to an omniscient authority figure

But, even the Vatican is taking heed, appointing Fr. Renzo Lavator as its “angelologist”. He says angels are “back in fashion” thanks to New Age religions but forget old images of cherubic, harp-playing winged beings. Today’s angel is merely a shard of light, not so much seen as felt.

Still, exactly what happens after we expire is hotly debated among true believers, new age spiritualists, agnostics and atheists. And, if the afterlife does exist, it’s not clear what those on the other side are trying to tell us, if anything at all.

Wherever we stand on the belief-o-meter, one thing’s for certain: death and what happens after can have a profound impact on how we live our lives today.

Free Local event March 24: What are the pros and cons of expanding the Island airport?

What are the pros and cons of expanding the Island... Tickets, Toronto - Eventbrite

This may interest HAT members: a FREE local event, at Duke of York, from Why Should I Care.

On March 24, Paul Bedford, an urban planner and former chair of
Metrolinx will take us through some of the pros and cons of an expanded
airport. Join us on Monday, March 24 at the Duke of York (39 Prince
Arthur Ave), ask your questions and share your thoughts about an
Expanded Island Airport. If you just want to sit, listen, and have a
drink, that’s fine too.

As always, the event is free. Please RSVP using our Eventbrite page. Doors open 7:00, discussion starts at 7:30.  Please note, this event  will be filmed.

"Toronto is engaged in a passionate debate over its support of an expanded Toronto Island Airport. Citizens of our fair city are posting lawn signs in support, or against the proposed changes.

Porter has plans to increase the airport runway length and operate Canadian jets that are comparable in noise to their current turbo props. This would continue the economic growth in the downtown core and would make Toronto a more attractive hub for travelers by reducing the time it takes to fly in and out of the city's core. Opponents would like to maintain the current state of the airport citing environmental reasons and unwanted impacts to Toronto’s waterfront should the expansion occur."  - more info on this group.

March 8 is International Women's Day. Science For Peace presents a Free event March 9.

event page:
Celebrate International Women's Day (one day later) with a Science for Peace panel discussion entitled “International Women’s Day (2014) – Revisiting Violence Against Women: Focus Turkey” to be held on Sunday, March 9, 2014, at Bahen Centre, 40
St. George Street
 , Room 1170 between 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. The panelists
are Professors: Aysan Sev’er, Sedef Arat Koc, Idil Atak, and (4th TBA).  Prof. Mustafa Koc will kindly moderate the event. 
"When it comes to gender equality, the World Economic Forum ranks Turkey 127th amongst 136 countries. In the last 3 years, more than 500 women have been murdered due to male jealousy and intolerance for women’s self-determination. This co ntinues to rise and leaves no hope for the girls of the next generation.
In 2006 the Turkish Government pledged to protect women and in 2010 created their National Action Plan for Combating Domestic Violence Against Women. Women are still unable to get the help that they deserve, while the legal institutions continue to favor their murderers.
The panel will give their views on the implications of practices in gender equality
and violence against women."

HAT forum Sat. March 8, What is HAT's social role?

HAT Forum, Sat. March 8
Time:  11am - 1pm
Location:  OISE, 252 Bloor Street West
Facilitator:  Moses Klein

1.1.    What are the possible avenues to be explored to make the social weight of Humanists felt by a larger fraction of the population and what role can HAT play in this?
1.2.    Should HAT have made itself visible in the media in response to the controversy over the York student who did not want to work with women? In what other situations should HAT have had a more prominent presence in the media?"
1.3.    How can HAT attract a larger number of members and participants, especially younger ones, to HAT's weekly forums and monthly meetings?

HAT Monthly Meeting, Sat March 22, 1:30 pm Dorothy Rosenberg, Toxic Trespass

Humanist Association of Toronto Monthly Speaker Meeting
Saturday, March 22, 2014
1:30 – 3:00 pm
OISE, 252 Bloor St. West, Room 4-414
Speaker: Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg
Topic: Toxic Trespass – a film about health and the environment
Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg is an executive producer of the award-winning NFB film Toxic Trespass, an investigation into the effects of the chemical soup around us. Filmmaker Barri Cohen starts with her 10-year-old daughter, whose blood carries carcinogens like benzene and DDT. Then Cohen heads out to Windsor and Sarnia, Canadian toxic hotspots with clusters of deadly diseases such as respiratory illnesses, leukemia and brain tumours. She journeys into toxic nightmares all too common in industrialized countries and meets passionate activists working for change and doctors and scientists who see evidence of links between environmental pollution and health problems. And she learns how quickly barriers can go up when anyone asks questions about these links. A moving and empowering documentary, Toxic Trespass is essential viewing for anyone concerned about the effects of pollutants on our health – and our very DNA. Join us as Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg leads us through a screening of the film followed by discussion and Q&A.    

HAT Forum Saturday March 1, 11am OISE "Open-Mindedness"

Date:  Sat. March 1, 11am- 1pm
Topic:  "Open Mindedness"
Facilitator:  Deborah Jenkins
Location:  OISE, 252 Bloor Street West

Discuss open-mindedness in relation to some of the following topics:
Media, History, Personality, Conversation, Problem-solving, Our Society/Culture, Education, Politics, Religion, Technology, Ourselves

All are welcome.

HAT meetings are free and open to members and the public. Most events are at OISE, 252 Bloor Street West, unless indicated otherwise. ___________________________________________________
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm
The Monthly Meeting, is usually the Third Saturday at 1:30pm
The Steering Committee meets First Wednesday of each month, at 7pm
The Book Group meets monthly on Saturdays.
The Film program (formerly met) on the Third Sunday of the Month at 3pm at CFI, 216 Beverly Street. (Currently in hiatus - looking for better technology!)