My Great-grandfather carried with him a beautiful name with many parts. He was a lawyer, an insurance salesman, a builder in the early days of Colorado, and a mayor of Glenwood Springs in the early 20th century. In the picture here from the Glenwood Springs museum archives he is with his wife and his granddaughter, my Mom. Jean Baptiste Surville DeLanois (aka J. B. Surville) was also a poet. And more here.

Begs the question

Re: ‘Anonymous posts are not the real issue’ (Daily News, Aug. 27) Today’s editorial provides an interesting discussion of the problem of anonymous commentators who are prone to be rhetorically outrageous and then fail to sign their names.

All was going along smoothly until the penultimate paragraph where once again your committee of authors misuses the “begs the question” phrase.

Should be “raises the question,” dear editor — “begs the question” is the name of an informal fallacy in logic, as you must know.

It is my job as a dedicated reader of print media to point out this howler every time it occurs. I have been very busy of late.

Bob Lane Nanaimo Credit: Bob Lane; The Daily News

Letter to the editor – old!

ABSTRACT (ABSTRACT) Careful readers will have noticed that the entire right-wing rant starts with not just a hypothetical but with a conditioned hypothetical: “It was almost as though some were resigned to their plight” writes the unknown ranter.What? Did the writer see that fatalism in the television images? Is that like USA Senator Frist when he diagnosed ahealthy Terri Shiavo from a video image? I know that people see what they want to see, but this is a bit like Alicewhen she claims to have seen “No one” on the road.


Dear sir: Your borrowed editorial in the Saturday edition is such a fine example of nonsense that I cannot refrain from commenting. I tried for several minutes to find a cogent argument in the piece from the National Post, but, alas, I could not. All that is there is an attitude, an agenda, an assertion that the death and destruction in New Orleans is partly the result of “a reliance on social assistance.”

The National Post piece suggests that it is always the fault of a welfare system that the poor are poor; my goodness, it finger-wags, “if you had any self-reliance at all you would have picked up your children and your sick and ill parents and carried them out of the rising water on your back.” But, no, because of government aid in the past you waited for government aid again as the water rose and the stench filled the air. Careful readers will have noticed that the entire right-wing rant starts with not just a hypothetical but with a conditioned hypothetical: “It was almost as though some were resigned to their plight” writes the unknown ranter. What? Did the writer see that fatalism in the television images? Is that like USA Senator Frist when he diagnosed ahealthy Terri Shiavo from a video image? I know that people see what they want to see, but this is a bit like Alicewhen she claims to have seen “No one” on the road. (“What good eyes you must have,” said the Queen.)

To be brief I won’t mention the unsubstantiated factoids and empty psychological analysis from a distance. I do not think that we know enough about the event, the assistance, the aftermath to preach from afar. And certainly not from so far right!

And in spite of the editorial stance I urge that those that can should go to the Canadian Red Cross and make a donation.

Bob Lane

Nanaimo, B.C.


Dear List Subscribers,

It is our pleasure to present the highlights from last month’s activity at

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Sunday Sermon

Dr. Lex Crane was a good friend. He is gone now, but I want to share a sermon or two of his with you. Lex died in 2015 at the age of 93.

Lex was a Unitarian minister with whom I argued on several pleasant occasions while I was the janitor at the church where he preached. He was a veteran of WW2 and an all-in-all good person. He wrote the intro to my book on the bible and visited us several times in Canada – where he had preached.

Go here for today’s sermon!

SS: The “Book of Bob”

Dr. Nik Richers in an email: “I am still trying to decipher your stance on religion, humanism, and these sermons …  Some day I hope to figure out the Book of Bob (BOB).  :).” Nik and I haven’t met in the real world yet, only via electronic messaging. Some day we will tip a couple of pints and sort all of this out. In the meantime . . .

Here are links to two of the many talks I have given at the Nanaimo Unitarian Fellowship. (a very friendly place by the way)

  • Grow a Soul

    • “One of the attractions of the UU approach to religion and life is caught in the assertion that divinity and spirit are to be found not through blind faith but through finding and sending down roots to the deepest part of one’s unique self. As is true in botany, those roots spread out into the wider community and can nourish us and give us a healthy life. How do we know when we are living in the best place for those roots to grow? In so much as we do indeed “grow a soul” we should consider carefully the garden in which that soul  grows.”

    Tell me a story  Bob_preach

“What matters”


What Matters? (from a lecture for Dr. Richard Arnold’s class a few years ago)
By Bob Lane

I want to thank Richard for inviting me and thank you for letting me participate in your class discussion. I want to share with you some general ideas today – ideas about life and about art, especially literary art.

Intention, text, interpretation

Myth = something that never happened but is always true.

• All bachelors are unmarried adult males. (analytic)
• 2 + 2 = 4
• There are 22 people in this room now.(synthetic)
• If there are 22 people in this room then there are more than 10.
• Tay John chopped of a part of his arm. (fictional “fact”)

John Dominic Crossan

“”Just because the Bible says “Jesus is the Lamb of God,” it doesn’t follow that Mary had a little lamb.”

“…The classical mind says, that’s only a story, but the modern mind says, there’s only story.”
“The ultimate limit is that human beings cannot get outside of story; we can get outside of particular stories, or particular forms of stories, but not outside of story as such. The world in which we live is a narrative world, created by and in our stories.”

My general notion of literature includes these claims: literature is about the world, interpretation is a creative act, intention is a necessary condition for writing of any kind, there are four focal points for any work of literature: poet, text, world, and reader. The biblical text is complex and sophisticated narrative exhibiting many layers of intention in its final form. In the second book of Samuel, for example, we read the exciting love story of David and Bathsheba, and learn how David, driven by desire for the beautiful Bathsheba, brings her to his bed and makes her pregnant while her husband Uriah is in David’s army fighting the enemies of Israel. David eliminates Uriah by sending a letter (carried by Uriah) to the commander telling him to place Uriah in the fiercest fighting and then to fall back leaving him alone to be killed. After Uriah is killed Bathsheba mourns for him for the appropriate time and then David brings her into his house and takes her as his wife. (2 Sam. 11,12) Shortly after this we are told “what David had done was wrong in the eyes of the Lord.” And then, as we read in the King James Version:

And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto
him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one
rich and the other poor.
2. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
3. But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb,
which he had bought and nourished up; and it grew up together
with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and
drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a
4. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he
spared to take of his own flock and his own herd, to dress for the
wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s
lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
5. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man;
and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done
this thing shall surely die:
6. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did
this thing, and because he had no pity.
7. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.
Continue reading

SS: Philosophy, psychology, anthropology: morality

Review – Eethicalthical Life
Its Natural and Social Histories
by Webb Keane
Princeton University Press, 2016
Review by Bob Lane
Mar 22nd 2016 (Volume 20, Issue 12)

Often moral philosophy classes begin with an attempt to say precisely just what the subject matter of the course will be. Definitions, like this, “Morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason — that is, to do what there are the best reasons for doing — while giving equal weight to the interests of each individual who will be affected by one’s conduct.” (James Rachels) or, this “The ground of obligation here must be sought not in the nature of the human being or in the circumstances of the world in which he is placed, but a priori simply in concepts of pure reason.” Or following Hume, we might argue that reason can never provide the basis for morality and that at best it can serve the desires and impulses, moral or otherwise, that arise in us for non-rational reasons. On this view, as Hume put it, “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”


And then an attempt to say what counts as a moral act — usually a distinction is offered at this point between acts that are conventional and acts that are moral. Driving on the right side of the road in North America is obviously (adverbs begin to appear) conventional while intentionally driving your vehicle into an innocent pedestrian to see how far the body will fly is more than conventional — it is wrong. A moral vocabulary emerges: wrong, right, permissible, prohibited, good, evil. Questions arise: Where does obligation come from? What is the role of religion in morality? Is an act good because God says so or does God say so because it is good? What about the influence of my tribe? Does one’s culture dictate what is good and what is bad?

Read the review here.