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 Oct 15th 2016
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Animal Rights and Animal Welfare
Proposer: Moses Klein


  1. What ethical considerations should govern our treatment of animals?
  2. What creatures can be considered to have rights?
  3. Is the use of animals for food and clothing justified if the animals are treated well? What does “treated well” mean?
  4. How do you feel about zoos and aquaria? What standards ought to be applied to animals in them?
  5. What standards should be applied to animals used for research and testing? Does it matter what the purpose of the research is? (Medical, scientific or cosmetic?)
  6. How do humanist principles bear on these questions? Is there a humanist perspective distinct from a religious perspective?

HAT Forum
Sat Oct 1st 2016
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Sustainability and Humanistic Visions for the Future
Proposer: Jon Aldridge


-What kinds of sustainability are there and how are they linked?
--Economic, biological, environmental?

-Is sustainability important?
--What kind of world do we want to leave for others?

-Do we live in an unsustainable society?
--If the problem is societal, what can individuals do?

-Which resources are sustainable and which are not?
--Should we place a higher value on commodities that we are using up?

-Can renewable energy be part of the solution?
--Can it replace the massive amounts of energy generated by other means?
--Just because we can produce energy in a sustainable manner, should we use it indiscriminately?

-Do our sustainability issues relate to (over)population?
--Does quality of life depend on how many people are living?
--Is life with so many humans sustainable at all?

HAT Forum
Sat Sep 24th 2016
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Moral Relativism
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

Morals are the personal or societal standards concerning the acceptability of thoughts held and actions taken. Moral Relativism is the idea that these standards are formed in a crucible of experience, history and culture. As such, they vary greatly across individuals, across nations, across time and between societies.
1.      Accepting this diversity, do we then go a step further and say that there is no way to judge morals across cultures? Does this then require us to tolerate all morals and their ensuing behaviours on the basis of this diversity?
2.      How does a multi-cultural society like Canada determine a course for its laws and a set of values for its governance and institutions with a multiplicity of moral frameworks that are, at once, equally valid and often contradictory?
3.      Theistic societies have used the “word of god” as revealed through holy texts, as being the objective basis for many differing sets of morals. Is there any other available objective standard to judge between moral systems?
4.      Are there moral universals?
5.      Does/should Moral Relativistic tolerance extend back through history?
6.      In your own life, how do you wrestle with the question of Moral Relativism?

Bill C-14: What Went Wrong?”
by Gary Bauslaugh
Saturday, September 17, 2016
1:30 - 3:00 pm
OISE, 252 Bloor St. west
Room 4-414

The Supreme Court of Canada’s historic ruling in February, 2015 declared the law prohibiting assisted death unconstitutional and provided guidelines for new legislation that would be in tune with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Then it went to the politicians to pass actual legislation.

The results, however, were tragically inadequate.

A highly flawed law was passed in June - a betrayal of the efforts of many Canadians to protect the right of grievously ill and suffering Canadians to have a dignified and peaceful death.

Gary Bauslaugh discusses how and why this happened and looks at where we go from here.

Gary Bauslaugh is the author of three books related to assisted death in Canada; his most recent (The Right to Die, April 2016) tells the stories of the courageous Canadians whose often heroic actions helped create a climate of acceptance for legalizing assisted death in Canada. He is also the author of:
"Robert Latimer, a Story of Justice and Mercy and The Secret Power of Juries."

HAT Forum
Sat Sep 17th 2016
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Humanist Approaches to Grieving
Proposer: Moses Klein

Think about situations in which you have had to cope with the death (or
impending death) of someone important to you. How did you deal with it?
What worked for you, or did not work? If religious mourning rituals were
involved, how did you feel about them? Are humanist responses to death
different from religious responses in any way?

Note: this week's Forum will be shortened so we can all go to Gary
Bauslaugh's guest talk

HAT Forum
Sat Sep 10th 2016
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Loneliness
Proposer: Jon Aldridge

-Is loneliness always a negative?
--Contrast being lonely with being alone.

-What kinds of loneliness are there?

-How have you experienced loneliness?
--What does it feel like to be lonely?
--What have you done to avoid loneliness?

-How does age (1) or physical impairment affect loneliness?

-The National Health Service in the UK has begun treating loneliness as a public health issue. To what extent do you agree or disagree with that position?
--Actual and perceived social isolation can increase the risk of mortality by ~30% (2)(3).

-What are some possible opposite states of mind to loneliness?
--Some may be positive, some negative.

-Is there an unspoken stigma of loneliness?
--People tend to be reluctant to say they are lonely(1)(3).

-What kind of support services should/could be/are available for lonely people?

-Are humanists more prone to feeling lonely than individuals with supernatural or religious beliefs(4)?

(1) age-related UK helpline, with emphasis on loneliness

(2) abstract of research paper on social isolation

(3) Globe and Mail article

(4) brief Sydney Morning Herald (AUS) article

HAT Forum
Sat Sep 3rd 2016
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Ritual
Proposer: Moses Klein

What value do rituals serve?

What rituals do you find useful in your life?

Rituals are often associated with religion. Do religious rituals have a
different character from rituals that may make sense in a secular context?

Does HAT need rituals? What sort of rituals would fit our group?

A few of the words listed in a thesaurus as synonyms for ritual: ceremony
custom, habit, routine, convention, sacrament, tradition. How do you
understand ritual differently than those words?

HAT Forum
Sat Aug 27th 2016
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Humanism and the HAT
Proposer: Jon Aldridge

Topic: Humanism and the HAT

--How do you understand Humanism?

--In what ways do you regard yourself as a Humanist?

--What beliefs or actions might preclude someone from being a Humanist?

--Is there a specific definition of Humanism as understood by the Humanist Association of Toronto?

--What can long-term members share with others about the HAT past and present?

--Does the HAT have ties to other Humanist organizations?

--What do you think of organizations which are not explicitly Humanist, such as corporations or religious groups? On what terms would you cooperate with them?

--What facets of public life might benefit from a more Humanistic approach?

HAT Forum
Sat Aug 20th 2016
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic: Will Mankind's intelligence and technology be beneficial or disastrous in the long term?

Is humanity a danger to itself? Will we survive into the distant future?

What if anything is the greatest existential Threat to humanity? A.I? synthetic biology? Nuclear war? Disease/pandemic? climate change? Something Else? anything?

The Fermi Paradox is the idea that maybe we do not see evidence of other civilizations due to the fact they end up going extinct after a time.
Do you think our Intelligence, technology and Civilization are a hindrance or a help to our long term survival?

Some People have made the claim That it is not resources we lack but knowledge. In the "Character of physical Law" series of lectures Richard Feynman Laments our lack of Knowledge. He mentions the amount of energy in the ocean and points out it is unavailable to us, as we have no idea how to use it.

How many Cities equivalent to New York could we power if we knew how to harness all the energy of the ocean?

Ocean 80000 Twh per year

New York's years energy consumption for 2009: 60,000 Gwh

Is our ignorance a hindrance to our survival?

Mankind has been predicting doom for Millennial. The earliest written record is from Zoroastrianism in 500 BC claiming the world will end after 10 hundred winters.
We have survived much: The Last Glacial Period (Ice Age), Pandemics (The Black Death).
Are the current warnings of danger (A.I., Climate Change) just an ongoing part of human nature and culture?

HAT Forum
Sat Aug 13th 2016
10 a.m. to noon
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic:Epistemology; Proposer: Justin Otto

to 10 a.m. - Noon
(Maintenance work at The 519)

Introductory Question
Describe a belief that you used to have, but changed your mind about.

What do you think is a good way to think about open-mindedness?

Can we ever know anything with 100% certainty?
Tree in the Forest

A much-repeated question: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
Occam's Razor

All else held equal, an explanation which makes fewer assumptions is more likely to be true than ones that rely on many assumptions. But suppose someone was to say "The woman down the road is a witch; she did it". This explanation feels simple, but what is wrong with it?
Guess the Rule

I will give a sequence of 3 numbers, which obeys a rule that I have in mind. The goal is to guess what the rule is by giving me sequences of 3 numbers of your own chosing, and I will say whether or not they follow my rule. The sequence is: 2, 4, 8.
Let others take some guesses if you are familiar with the puzzle.
Terrorist-Camera Puzzle

-Suppose that we have a city of 1,000,000 people. Assume that 10 of these people are terrorists, and the other 999,990 people are innocent citizens.-The mayor sets up some special cameras which are able to detect terrorists. Unfortunately, the accuracy rate isn't perfect.-When a terrorist walks in front of the camera, there is a 90% chance that the camera will correctly flag that person as a terrorist, and a 10% chance of marking them as innocent.-When an innocent citizen walks in front of a camera, it has a 99% chance of correctly marking them as innocent, and a 1% chance of mistakenly flagging them as a terrorist.
Suppose that someone walks in front of a camera, and it flags them as a terrorist. What is the probability that they are actually a terrorist? The answer may surprise you.

HAT Forum
Sat Aug 6th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Proposer: Richard Dowsett

“Tipping” - giving someone money following the performance of a service, is a significant part of Canadian modern life. In a Cornell University study, Canada was found to have 27 tip-worthy service professions. This level varies widely worldwide from a high of 31 in the United States to lows of 4 in Japan and 0 in Iceland.

1.      What were the designed purposes of tipping? Are they being accomplished in the current system?
2.      How does the North American system of tipping benefit servers? Employers? Customers?
3.      What problems do you have with tipping? As a server? Customer? Employer?
4.      What experience do you have with tipping and service culture outside Canada?
5.      One researcher found a positive correlation between tipping prevalence and corruption in a multi-national study. How are tipping and bribery similar? How are they different?
6.      Using humanist values, can we formulate guidelines to tipping or is the whole tipping system fundamentally un-humanist?

HAT Forum
Sat July 23rd 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic:Humanist perspectives on modern Turkey
Proposer: Jon Aldridge

--How does the failed coup d'├ętat in Turkey on 15-16 July 2016 affect the prospects for secular institutions and citizens in the country?

--To what extent does Turkey's human-rights record, for instance imprisonment of journalists and judges, functionally undermine the country's official status as a democracy?

--What motives could have pushed the coup plotters in to action?

--How might instability in Turkey impact upon military actions in Syria and Iraq and the on-going refugee crisis?

--In what ways could other countries, including Canada, conduct foreign relations with Turkey in order to support constitutional democracy?

HAT Forum
Sat July 16th 2016
11 a.m. To 1 pm
519 Church Street Room tba or 304
Topic:"Black Lives Matter"
Proposer: Gary Higgins

* At this year's Gay Pride parade in Toronto, Black Lives Matter was invited, but held a sit-in protesting the participation of police contingents. After 30 minutes, the Pride organizers signed an agreement accepting BLM's demands, and the parade continued. This has been controversial. The organizer who signed the agreement subsequently resigned and disclaims the authority to speak for the organization.
* In Dallas last week, at a Black Lives Matter protest, a black ex-reservist shot and killed 5 police officers and injured many others, both white and black.

1. If you were black, would you be involved in confrontational behaviour? Would you pull back from these situations?
2. What role do cameras (cellphones, dashcams, bodycams) have in these events?
3. The (black) police chief in Dallas has appealed to African-Americans to apply to join the police force. Would hiring more African-Americans help the situation?
4. In Toronto "carding" has been controversial. Overall, has it been beneficial?
5. In your own life have you experienced racism or reverse racism? What strategies do you have for dealing with it?
6. Does the promotion of our ‘ chosen-ness ‘,, our individualism, our ‘ group identity ‘; e.g., nationalism, skin color, religion, sex, wealth & class; sometimes go beyond pride, and bordering on the exclusion of others?
7. What do you think about driving around with a gun?
8. Discuss these statements/slogans: "Black Lives Matter!" "Blue Lives Matter!"

Some quotes to consider:
“ Tolerance is never sufficient,
Humanity must learn to love our differences “
-       Justin Trudeau, signing the guest book,  Auschwitz-birkenau state museum

“ So if you want to deal with this on the black side, you’ve got to teach your children to be respectful to the police, & you’ve got to teach your children that the real danger to them, 99 out of 100 times is other black kids who are going to kill them; that’s the way they’re gonna die”
-       Former new York city mayor Rudy Giulliani on the increasing violence between white cops and black citizens

"Never forget our common humanity “
-       Bertrand Russell
HAT meetings are free and open to members and the public. Call (416) 966-1361 for location information. ___________________________________________________
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm.
The Monthly Meeting, is usually the second Saturday at 1:30pm; specifics should be found on this blog.
The Steering Committee meets the first Wednesday of each month, at 7pm.
The Book Group usually meets on the first Saturday afternoon of the month.