FSI/IHEU Conference programme

Details of the inaugural conference of the Free Society Institute, co-hosted with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, are as follows:

Date: August 29, 2009, 10h00 to 17h00
Venue: Cape Milner Hotel, 2 Milner Road, Tamboerskloof (see below for directions)
Cost: R 0

  • 09h30: Arrival, Tea/Coffee/Pastries
  • 09h45: Welcome (Jacques Rousseau & Leo Igwe)
  • 10h00: Religious education in SA (Hans Pietersen)
  • 10h45: What do free-thinkers have in common? From Siddharta Gautama to the present day (Roux Malan)
  • 11h30: The Theory of Evolution – a critical approach (Hans van Loggerenberg)
  • 12h15: Is God necessary for morality (Andre L. Immelman)
  • 13h00: Buffet lunch (Terrace/Restaurant)
  • 13h45: Preaching to the converted (Jacques Rousseau)
  • 14h30: Why Dawkins is not the Devil: A Christian appreciation of the God Delusion (Jordan Pickering)
  • 15h15: Afternoon Tea/Coffee/Biscuits
  • 15h30: The growth of liberty (Tauriq Moosa)
  • 16h15: Promoting secularism in South Africa (Kent Solomon)
  • 17h00: Closing

Messages of support have been received from allied groups and individuals – see these on the discussion forum.

Driving Directions from Cape Town International Airport

Travelling from the Airport you need to take the N2 Highway to Cape Town. Just before entering Cape Town the road becomes Table Bay Boulevard. Continue in the direction of the waterfront. You will get to a set of Robots, continue straight. You will then be on Buitengracht Road. Continue along Buitengracht, heading towards Table Mountain. The road will split & become New Church Road. The first road on your right after the split is Milner Road. Turn right into Milner Road. We are situated on the Right Hand Side after the Stop Street.

From the City / Main Train Station

Train station situated in Adderley Street. Travel in a southern direction towards Table Mountain. Turn Right into Wale Street. Turn left into Buitengracht Street. Continue Straight & Buitengracht becomes New Church. Then turn right into Milner Road. We are situated on the Right Hand Side after the Stop Street.

Summaries of presentations (to be updated)

Religious education in SA (Hans Pietersen)

A concerned parent shares the experiences of his children at a primary school that has delayed the implemented the Policy on Religion Education, promulgated in 2003. A simple evaluation of the objectives of child education is proposed. The article highlights pertinent sections of the national policy and argues for its support within a context of democratic values and inclusive education

What do free-thinkers have in common? From Siddharta Gautama to the present day (Roux Malan)

A common thread seems to run through the strivings and actions of free-thinkers and revolutionaries.  Starting with Siddharta Gautama’s endorsement of free-inquiry in the Kalama Discourse, we try to identify the different fibres that constitute this common thread between free-thinkers.

The Theory of Evolution – a critical approach (Hans van Loggerenberg)

In the tradition of analytical assessment and free speech, it is of the utmost importance for us to evaluate beliefs from time to time in order to distinguish between fact and fiction. Beliefs lead to decisions, and in order to optimise life as an individual and collectively, we need to establish those decisions on fact only. Today we will ask certain critical questions about the Evolution Theory and attempt to peel off the layers of mysticism to establish certain facts. The rationalist approach will be used to distinguish between ideas developed on scientific fact, and those developed purely on the basis of tradition without any factual basis. In the tradition of freedom of speech, there is nothing we should not evaluate as such. The audience will be expected to make their own independent conclusions, regardless of their current beliefs.

Is God necessary for morality (Andre L. Immelman)

For moral values to be intelligible, an objective point of reference is required that transcends human experience. In this presentation, it is argued that there can be no moral cause apart from God that can possibly give rise to moral abstractions emerging anywhere from within an unintelligent, lifeless, amoral universe.

Why Dawkins is not the Devil: A Christian Appreciation of The God Delusion (Jordan Pickering)

Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion is something of a symbol in the world of the religious and the irreligious alike. For some it represents a foothold for reason in the face of a mountain of superstition. For others it represents an erosive and corrupting evil, worming its way into faiths that have fallen out of fashion. This Christian reckons that his religion hasn’t fallen on hard times for nothing, and that Professor Dawkins is making some criticisms that those who purport to be faithful ought to be hearing. This is a look at Christian morality, and the disturbing lack of it. As a humanist cut from a different cloth, I hope to show where Christian morality comes from and how it ought to look, and to express solidarity with those who aim to chastise cruelty and evil wherever they find it.

The growth of liberty: Why the Ideas of Freedom in Mill, Russell and Grayling Matter to All (Tauriq Moosa)

By analysing the evolution of the idea of liberty – from the Greeks to its modern British exponents – its application in modern society is made apparent. The need to remind ourselves is also the need to defend it. Liberty is constantly undermined by the interference of religious thought, especially in areas of free-speech, science and education. Highlighting why liberty matters to all, through the works of these writers, we can see why it conflicts with religious thought. But more importantly we can understand why the defence of liberty and Enlightenment values is important to everyone, religious or not.

Promoting secularism in South Africa (Kent Solomon)

In the context of South Africa, what are atheists to advocate, and what actions should follow from a belief in the ideas of freedom presented at this conference? To what extent do atheists conform on political issues? A basic introduction to the topic, after which participants will be encouraged to further discuss and debate the topic in our online forum.