Skeptics At 2010 Global Atheist Convention, The Rise of Atheism

Wearing my Young Australian Skeptics Shirt At Dragon*ConIt’s now been mentioned by the ever-​​popular blog Pharyngula — so let’s see if there’s fans and followers of the Young Australian Skeptics who are going to go!

Join the likes of Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Catherine Deveny, Phillip Adams, Robyn Williams and even me, Kylie Sturgess, at the 2010 Global Atheist Convention, The Rise of Atheism conference from 12-​​14th March. Hopefully we can coordinate a get-​​together in the spirit of the earlier Skeptic Zone /​ YAS Friday pub gathering that we all enjoyed so much.

It also raises some questions for me, since I was asked to present at this conference — should skepticism be one of the things I should talk about? Is there really an overlap that would interest the audience? What about my support of deist skeptics and what I see as the necessity of communication across religious groups, which should also include the voices of atheists?

I noticed, for example, there’s been a lot of debate and discussion about the award given to Bill Maher, which was naturally tackled by PZ Myers at the Atheist Alliance International conference which he also presented at:

The good news for all the critics of this choice is that Dawkins pulled no punches. In his introduction, he praised Religulous and thanked Maher for his contributions to freethought, but he also very clearly and unambiguously stated that some of his beliefs about medicine were simply crazy. He did a good job of walking a difficult tightrope; he made it clear that the award was granted for some specific worthy matters, his humorous approach to religion, while carefully dissociating the AAI from any endorsement of crackpot medicine. It won’t be enough, I know, but the effort was made, and talking to Dawkins afterwards there was no question but that Maher’s quackery was highly objectionable. I also got the impression that he felt the critics of the award were making good and reasonable points, and that he felt the awkwardness of the decision.

Will this example by PZ be the attitude many atheists follow from now on? Such as, being more aware that even a 9 – 11 conspiracy theorist can also be an atheist? Will it influence how skeptical groups, as diverse and numerous as they are, view their involvement with other possible stakeholders? Let alone the recent blog-​​commentators and comments about ‘what is the best way to criticise in skepticism anyway?’ — such as Brian Dunning and Steve Novella’s blog posts on Skeptic Blogs. What really is progress? Are atheists and skeptics really ‘in the same boat’?

I’m interested in discussing this with people who attend — certainly I hope to interview some of the people for the Skeptic Zone podcast and very much looking forward to seeing the Young Australian Skeptics again (no, that is not a member of the YAS with me in the picture! He’s just a fan!) and other skeptically-​​minded people — no matter what beliefs you may or may not hold!

The forum board on this site and Twitter seem to be a great way of coordinating where we all are at the event, so looking forward to feedback and networking there as well.

It’s from 12 – 14 March in Melbourne and head to the site for tickets at
http://​www​.atheistconvention​.org​.au/