Past Meetings

Here is some information about some past meetings:




Saturday, May 13th,  12 noon - 2pm
First Unitarian Universalist Church
1000 Blanton Avenue - Richmond, VA 23221



Join us the day before Mother's Day as Arnold Woodruff, Mark Reimers, Candace Gorham, and Andy Thomson discuss some of the science related to mental health disorders.  We'll cover a range of issues including:

  • what we know & what we don't
  • problems with the current standards of care
  • medication versus other modalities
  • emerging techniques for both diagnosis and treatment
  • what do evolution in general and evolutionary psychology in particular have to say about normal and impaired mental health?
  • how do genetics and epigenetics fit into the picture?
  • cross-cultural insights?
  • anything to learn from other species?
  • risk factors - some surprising, some not - and what they imply

Please bring your own questions and take advantage of the expertise we'll have on hand as we take another look into the complex realm of mental health.  

You can find some resources here (thanks to Arnold Woodruff for providing these)




— 2016 —

March 6th – Leaving Belief Behind

Linda LaScola led a fascinating discussion with a panel of clergy and ex-clergy who do not believe in the supernatural. Linda is a coauthor of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind, and was one of the principle forces behind the foundation of The Clergy Project, a private online community where clergy and ex-clergy who no longer believe in the supernatural can discuss their lack of belief and all of the repercussion that follow from that in an open and honest manner.

February 23rd

Brett Wilson gave an entertaining and educational talk on the health impacts from eating highly processed “food substances”, the damage to our soils and farmland due to the industrialization of agriculture, the genesis of our agribusiness economy, and the startling truth about industrial organics.

Brett Wilson is the founder and owner of Horse & Buggy Produce,

January 10th

Rob Penczak moderated a fascinating discussion on how we can have an honest discussion about Islamic extremism.

Featured speakers included:

  • Muhammad Syed, President and co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America
  • Sarah Haider, Director of Outreach in D.C. & co-founder of Ex-Muslims of North America
  • Andy Thomson, M.D., author of Why we Believe in God(s) & expert in religiously motivated suicide terrorism
  • Dr. Peter Boghossian. author of A Manual for Creating Atheists & expert in critical thinking and moral reasoning

— 2015 —

December 21st

Annual Solstice Celebration

The Greater Richmond Humanists joined Richmond Reason and Naturalism Association (RRNA) for a Winter Solstice Celebration at the Richmond UU church.  Attendance was very good and a great time was had by all.

December 6th

Electric Vehicles and Renewable Energy

Charles Gerena, Steve Leibovic and Aaron Sutch gave very interesting and informative talks on Electric Cars and Solar Energy. Our audience was very engaged and had great questions. We look forward to keeping up with DriveElectricRVA and VASUN and wish them success.

Some links:

DriveElectricRVA In addition, Steve Leibovic will be there to talk about his Tesla and to share his knowledge and experience.

Aaron Sutch


November 15th

Part I: Why we Believe in God(s):  Dr. Andy Thomson, author of “Why We Believe in God(s)” and international speaker for the Richard Dawkins Foundation, gave a fascinating talk on the science of faith.

Part II: Important Topics Concerning Suicide: Shirley Ramsey, Tadd Bartley, Rev Alane Miles and Dr. Andy Thomson spoke on the topic of suicide and shared personal stories.

September 13th – Critical Thinking and Constructive Conversations about Faith

Dr. Peter Boghossian, Tombstone da Deadman, David Tamayo and Larry Mendoza joined us for an event on Critical thinking hosted by Rob Penzcak. The event was in the Great Hall and turnout was good. We are hoping to host more big events like this in the Great Hall in the near future.

August 23rd – The Compassionate Brain

It was great to see Dr. Mark Reimers again as he gave an interesting talk on the neuroscience of compassion. We had a nice lunch afterwards at the Virginia Museum. 38 people attended. I will post the books Mark mentioned as soon as I get the titles. Stay tuned…


July 28th – Natural and Organically Certified Food Sources

Janet Aardema and Dan Gagnon, gave a fascinating talk about their CSA farm, where they grow nutrient-dense food which is good for people and the environment. Attendance was great. We are considering getting a group together to go on their tour in the fall:

July 14th – The Sustainable RVA Project

Karin Miller educated us about the Sustainable RVA project, the purpose of which is to draft and subsequently support implementation of a 35-year sustainability agenda for the greater Richmond region.  SRVA will help ensure that the Richmond region’s quality of life will be enhanced by creating a healthy, vibrant and resilient economic, social, and physical environment for all.

June 23rd – Our Environmental Crisis: Is Design the Answer?

Patrick Farley gave an informative talk, making the case that many environmental problems can be solved with more thoughtful design. We had a good, healthy crowd of about 25 people. Here are some related links from the talk:

Book: Cradle to Cradle

Book: The Ecology of Commerce

Book: The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

Building: Brock Environmental Center

Building: VCU Rice Center

June 9th – Humanism and Unitarian Universalism

Rev. David MacPherson gave a very informal and entertaining talk on how humanism ideals developed along with those of Unitarian Universalism

May 26th – Health Consequences of Climate Change

Dr. Bill Nelson gave a very informative talk on climate change and the health consequences we can expect to see from it. We had a healthy turnout of 30 people. I will be posting his website here soon.

May 12th – Street Epistemology / Productive Engagement

Anthony Magnabosco showed us how ”Street Epistemology” can work in real life. Street Epistemology is a technique invented by Peter Boghossian for engaging people in productive, collaborative conversations about their beliefs.

This was our first presentation by a remote presenter using Skype since the UU church was recently renovated. The new connection is very fast and the technology worked flawlessly. We are very excited about the potential to bring in other speakers using this technology.

If you’d like to learn more about Street Episemology, please check out

Here are some other links related to the talk.





April 28th – Death and Family Dynamics

Thanks to Alane Miles for an interesting and engaging talk on the death and family dynamics. Turnout was great. Alane is well-loved by our community.

April 14th – Climate Science Denial

Thanks to Rob Penzcak and Steve Hurd for an interesting and engaging talk on the denial of climate science. Thanks to all who came out and participated. It was great to have everyone get involved in the discussion.

March 15th – Evolution and Neuroscience of Religion

It was great to see Dr. Mark Reimers again! He talked about what can science tell us about how religion came to be, and how it is sustained in modern people. We had our best turnout yet for 2015 – the room was full. Thanks to everyone for coming.

March 10th – Being Mortal

Our own Evaline Jones gave a great talk on the book Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. Here are some useful links about the book:

The book can be found here on Amazon:

Here is a 20-minute summary of the book:

Here is a review in the New York Times:

Also, there is much about Atul Gawande and this topic on YouTube:

February 24th – Stoicism and Epicureanism

Mikal Tyger and our own Jerry Lonnes gave a great presentation on Stoicism and Epicureanism in the great hall. We had a great turnout and I received positive feedback from our members. Thanks for coming out, and thanks to Mikal and Jerry for a fascinating presentation. If you are interested in Stocism, here is Mikal’s website:

February 10th – Darwin Day

In honor of Darwin Day, Larry Mendoza gave us a presentation on Evolution, preceded by an introduction from our own Ernie Wilson. Turnout was good and the presentation was interesting an engaging. Thanks to all for coming out. We hope to have Larry give us another presentation sometime soon.

January 27th – End of Life Caregiving

Thank you to Renee Norman for an informative and engaging presentation. If you are interested in Renee’s book, you can purchase it here:

January 13th – Hospice Care

Jonathan Goldwire and two other practicing hospice workers joined us for a very informative and engaging conversation about what people must deal with at the end of their lives. Turnout was great and everyone was engaged. Thanks to everyone!

--- 2014 ---


Starting in June of 2014, we will begin posting resources related to our meetings:

August 12th – Happiness and Public Policy

Hyperlinks are embedded into the titles below:
The Radcliff book that was central to Bryan’s talk:
Benjamin Radcliff, “The Political Economy of Human Happiness” 2013


Bryan also mentioned Carol Graham’s work:


 A couple of things that are accessible for free online:

Happiness, Freedom, and Autonomy” by Will Wilkinson, on

The World Happiness Report, commissioned by the United Nations 

These may be harder for people to access:

Helliwell, J. & Huang, H.  (2008).  How’s your government?  International evidence linking good government and well-being.  British Journal of Political Science.  Vol 38, Issue 4, pp. 595-619

Inglehart, R., Foa, R., Peterson, C. & Wlzel, C. (2008).  Development, freedom, and rising happiness:  A global perspective (1981-2007).  Perspectives in Psychological Science, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp. 264-285.

Veenhoven, R.  (2004).  Happiness as a public policy aim:  the greatest happiness principle.  Chapter 39 in Positive Psychology in Practice, Ed. by Alex Linley and Stephen Joseph

June 24th – End of Life Issues

This is the Conversation Project that Tim was talking about. This looks really interesting:

Here is a page containing advance directive forms:

Here is some information about palliative care from the American Cancer Institute, including information about recent legislation:

Rachel asked that I share these two links:

Five Wishes

Hard Choices for Loving People

Note that the document (5 Wishes) and book (Hard Choices for Loving People) have to be purchased if interested, but there is a link to look at the sample document and part of the book. Rachel says that many families she works with find these resources helpful.

Finally, here are the three TED videos that I recommend:

This one is very short (6 minutes) and to the point, having basic tips about how to prepare for end of life:

Life that Doesn’t End with Death, 11 minutes: (recommended for a look at how other cultures deal with death)

We Need  a Heroic Narrative for Death, 15 minutes: