I Before We Except Overseas – Tracing The Roots Of Our Multi-Century Identity Crisis

Most cultures of European descent cultivate individual identity more than other cultures of the world. We have to go back 60, or 100, or perhaps 300 years to find the roots of our contemporary debates over the role of identity in our society. One intriguing theory is that this focus on individual identity has been intentional and has a distinct purpose. This talk will look at some theories that help explain how we have ended up with increasingly destabilizing disagreements about culture and politics in North America and Europe.

Understanding our Supreme Courts: US and Canadian Perspectives

In these session (origionally presented on Feb 13, 2024) our three presenters discus the ways in which our two Supreme Courts are appointed and some of the major issues with which they deal.  The decisions of these courts have powerful and sometimes unexpected effects on all our lives.


Nils and Joyce (husband & wife who live in Port Townsend, WA) have offered SCOTUS overview courses for their county library for the past three years, as well as a book study of The Great Dissenter:  The Story of John Marshall Harlan, America’s Judicial Hero.  For several years before that, they offered historical and topical overviews of the Supreme Court through the local UU fellowship’s adult education program, their county library and two local Community Colleges.

Nils Pedersen is a retired patent attorney and newly-admitted member of the WA State Bar.  His current legal interest is estate law and end-of-life legal planning.

Joyce Francis is a retired international relations professor and long-time organizer and facilitator of adult-education programs.  She is also a member of NAUA’s Academy Advisory Board.Speakers:

Anthony (Tony) Carfagnini began practicing law in 1979 and carried on a corporate commercial, real estate, wills and estates and aboriginal law practice.ony’s professional interests and experience include business law, corporate governance, indigenous consultation and resource development, and privacy law. For over 40 years he acted as legal counsel to a number of First Nations and indigenous organizations engaged in child welfare, medical services, political advocacy, renewable energy projects, forestry and economic development.

Darwin’s Birthday

Today, Feb. 12, marks the 215 anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.- 1809 – 19 April 1882

I celebrate this day because of the tremendous, work, insight and ethical wisdom of this great British scientist.  His discovery of evolutionary theory first published in the Origin of Species in 1859  solved many problems for his contemporaries. In addition it  blazed a path of discovery for all of us immersed in the interdependent web of life.

Prior to Darwin, it was hardly conceivable to image life on Earth without the omnipotent hand of a divine being to which Creation could be ascribed. Scientists then, as today, find inspiration, wonder and awe at the interdependent complexities of life on Earth. But how could a system of such complexity have arisen without a Creator?

Thus, it wasn’t logical nor technically (much less politically) possible to be atheist. Someone, or something, must have been the original creator of such a complex system. This quandary led to the rise to Deism, a belief that there was/is a Creator, but that Creator is either too busy or unwilling to interfere in human and indeed all earthly activities. Thus, petitionary prayers or adorations are both unnecessary and unfruitful.

However, with the understanding that over very long periods of time, natural selection, fuelled by environmental change, epigenetic forces and the survival of the fittest led to the evolution of life from  single celled organisms to all living things on earth today.

Darwin’s insights did not come from a single eureka moment, but rather evolved through his research, study and correspondence. He did not publish the Origin of Species until 1836 – 23 years after returning from his five year fact gathering excursions in the Southern hemisphere.  There are likely many reasons for his delay in publication. But one of these was his insight that accepting life on earth as a product of evolution and not a theist creation would be profoundly disruptive. Those who would find this challenging included his church-going wife and many in the rural community in which he lived. I think Darwin had no great desire to undermine anyone’s faith – a characteristic of Unitarians to this day. He wrote  “though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; … It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biased by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.”

Darwin was able to change the deepest understandings of the nature of life but not through revelation, prayer or mysticism. Only through science, study and contemplation can we be “brought somewhat near to that great fact—that mystery of mysteries—the first appearance of new beings on this earth.” —Charles Darwin, Journal of Researches, 1845 

Darwin bravely shared in 1859 an enlightening but challenging truth that many object to – even in 2024.

Happy Birthday and thanks, Charles!

Latest Edition of the Liberal Beacon –

Issue #9 of the Liberal Beacon is now available,

We are currently looking for a new Editor of Liberal Beacon who has the time, desire, and some experience with layout, design, and editing. The volunteer position includes working with our current Editorial Board and other contributors to help put together this bimonthly publication in a timely fashion. If you are interested, please let us know a bit about your interest, skills and background by emailing us at nauaedboard@gmail.com. 

In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the many fascinating articles, regular features, and other offerings in Issue #9 of Liberal Beacon.