Is Darwin’s Theory Flourishing or Floundering? A Debate

You are invited to attend a debate about Darwin’s “Tree of Life” — the theory of common descent of all of life on Earth from a single organism. In this forum, two philosophers of biology with expertise in the area, Joel Velasco (Texas Tech University) and Paul Nelson (Discovery Institute), debate the current status and future of common descent. Velasco will defend the mainstream evolutionary position; Nelson will challenge it. The event promises to be a lively exchange, with rich details from genetics, comparative biology, and the philosophy of science. Audience participation during the Q & A will be encouraged.

The details
Where: St. Edward’s University (Ragsdale Center—Jones Auditorium)
When: Friday, October 21, 7-9pm
Admission: Free and open to the public

Austin Empty Bowl Project

Sunday, September 25, ESOA will be painting bowls for the Empty Bowl Project.

The Austin Empty Bowl Project is an effort by Austin area potters to fight hunger. Always the Sunday before Thanksgiving, this annual family-friendly event invites you to select your favorite from thousands of locally crafted ceramic bowls, have it filled with gourmet soup and bread and listen to live music while enjoying your lunch. Your $20 donation goes to Kids Cafe, a program of the Central Texas Food Bank, and Meals for Kids, a program of Meals on Wheels Central Texas. Take the bowl home with you to remind you that others have empty bowls. This year’s event will take place on Sunday, November 20, 2016 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Central Texas Food Bank, 6500 Metropolis Drive, Austin, TX 78744 . Hope to see you there!


ESOA Celebrates Life of Former Member Don Nelson

Remembering Donald Nelson

Donald Nelson, former member of the Ethical Society of Austin, passed away Wednesday August 10, 2016. Link to Statesman obituary.

Don was an active member of ESOA for several years. Rich Harrison notes that Don had a passionate love of philosophy and gardening, and fondly recalls time spent with Don and his wife Betty.

A visitation will be held Friday September 9, 6pm-8pm at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home at 3125 N. Lamar, and a Celebration of Life service Saturday Sept 10, 3pm, at St. Geogre’s Episcopal Church, 4301 H. IH-35.

Update on “Contacting Your Representatives”

We’ve added a new paragraph to the information page on how to contact your representatives.  The paragraph focuses on the problem of living near the edge of a district.  Some databases are not accurate down to the individual home, so a search will return multiple representatives for the same address.   Work-arounds and solutions for this problem have been added to this resource page.  Check it out . (cp)

Register for AEU 101st Assembly


The American Ethical Union’s 101st Annual Assembly will be held this year in St. Louis, MO, July 14-17.  The 2016 theme is:  “Bending the Arc of History . . . Toward Justice.”  Program information and registration will be available on AEU’s website starting May 16.  The Assembly will be held at the St. Louis City Center Hotel.  The AEU rate is $109 for a single king room or double queen suite.

Keep It In the Ground


The American Ethical Union has shared an action alert with us regarding Break Free 2016:

May 4-15, 2016:  A global wave of mass actions will target the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects — to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground and accelerate the just transition to 100% renewable energy.

Targeted protest and actions of civil disobedience will take place at selected critical locations around the world.  Actions in the US will take place May 12-15 in Anacortes, WA; Albany, NY; Chicago, IL; Los Angeles, CA; Denver, CO; and Washington, DC.

For additional context, this short  movie, Disobedience, is both enlightening and inspiring.   You can participate in any of the upcoming global actions by becoming a Digital Witness.  As a digital witness, you will witness live coverage of the events you sign up for and amplify the action, sending messages of support and, perhaps, displaying what you witness in your own social media platforms.


What Is Love? – Colloquy

February 7, 2016

Before Adam Gravois led us in a conversation about love, we sang a lively version of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”  Adam urged us to speak in concrete terms of our own experience(s) rather than in abstractions.  We laughed, we cried, we ate Valentine candy.  While romantic love was mentioned by several, others talked about the love in their lives for parents, siblings, children, and friends.  (cp)

Charity! Why? – Platform

John Theiss presented a platform,  Charity!  Why?, to prepare for ESOA’s giving month–February.  During February, ESOA members will give additional funds for specific charitable organizations, giving over and above the amounts donated each to ESOA for programs and operations.  John talked about levels of giving (ESOA, within our local community, internationally).  In 2015, ESOA supported Unganda Humanist School, Doctors without Borders, Kiva, and Heifer.

In the broader context, John talked about why people gave and wanted to give, patterns of giving in the community, and objections to charitable giving as a replacement for government responsibilities or “moral hazard.”  These subjects continued in group discussion, as participants offered their insights through research or personal experience.

Technological serendipity led us to “Circles” as our song for the day.

Democratic Process Is Essential to Our Task – Platform

January 24, 2016

Susan Theiss presented a platform/group discussion of the seventh of eight commitments  for ethical culture:  Democratic process is essential to our task.  Susan presented the ethical perspective of democracy and its process in terms of personal activities, the functioning of the Ethical Society of Austin, and in the broader terms our nation.  She then turned the presentation into a group discussion by asking such thought-provoking questions as:

The crisis we are in does not bode well for our democracy. Nor does it speak well for freedom, for democracy and freedom go hand in hand. We retain the structures of democracy, but substantively we appear to be an oligarchy, ruled by the plutocratic elite who buy and bend our politicians in support of their interests, who control the mass media that frames our political conscious and by politicians themselves whose narrow self-interests trump a statesman-like commitment to the common good. Are we a “Democracy” in name only?

Discussion included calls to action to bring ethics to the forefront of our public democracy.  Appropriately enough and for the second week in a row, the day’s leader chose “Come Together” (Bart Worden) as our song.  (CP)