Why am I not speaking at 2012 Global Atheism?

Next year, in Melbourne, where I live and 2 hours from where I have been living over the past several years, the Global Atheism Convention will be held. I am an Australian practical atheist (and philosophical Agnostic, which will become significant in a minute), who has published in The Australian Book of Atheism and published many discussions and defences of atheism and secularism in Australia on this blog. I am a professional philosopher. I speak well and do not smell too badly or expose myself in public to the unwilling.

So, why am I not a speaker at this conference? Why wasn’t I one at the last one? Is it because (*gasp*) I do not fit the profile of orthodoxy that the present atheism movement seems to have adopted? Is it because I have defended accommodationism? One can only wonder. Maybe there are just that many public atheists in Australia I couldn’t be fitted in.

Bertrand Russell, Darwin and Huxley all held the position I hold: that we cannot rule out the existence of every kind of God, only the ones that are contrary to fact. Maybe they too would be considered as Unsound, as Sir Humphrey Appleby would have said…

Given my lack of funding, I will not be paying the $200 or more that it will cost to go otherwise.

As always, if this is the case, I fear the exclusionism of modern atheism as much as I despise the dehumanisation of the unbeliever that often gets pushed by theists.

32 thoughts on “Why am I not speaking at 2012 Global Atheism?

  1. Is it because I have defended accommodationism?

    No, not as far as I can see anyway. The 12-year olds who are organising this conference are quite giddy with the big names they have invited, and if anything, the accomodationists will be in the majority, at least on an organisatorial level. I have long suggested Ophelia Benson or Greta Christina to them, without ever hearing back, I’m sure Russell Blackford will be there, and I think they either just don’t know you, or you’re not their kind of guy. It’s regrettable.
    Which reminds me, since I’m in Melbourne too, we should have some drinkies sometime if you like !

  2. This is not surprising to me. I’m new to the atheist blogosphere, and learning just how rigid the “orthodoxy that the present atheism movement seems to have adopted” is.

  3. I’m a bit further away than you, so I won’t be going either. If I happened to be in Melbourne, I probably still would not be going. And the reason is simple – my expectation is that I would find it quite boring.

    So, why am I not a speaker at this conference?

    Did you even want to be a speaker?

    Is it because (*gasp*) I do not fit the profile of orthodoxy that the present atheism movement seems to have adopted?

    I’m not so sure that there is an orthodoxy.

    When I read posts on religion by PZ or by Jerry Coyne, they do seem to portray an orthodoxy. But when they mention religion in other posts that are not specifically about religion, then that impression of an orthodoxy dissolves. So perhaps that sometime appearance of orthodoxy is mostly a result of their using the kind of confrontational rhetoric that draws an audience.

    As always, if this is the case, I fear the exclusionism of modern atheism as much as I despise the dehumanisation of the unbeliever that often gets pushed by theists.

    I do not share that fear. I’m inclined to think that most of the atheist rhetoric is there as a response to anti-science and pro-theocracy rhetoric coming from some of the theists. If the theists were to reduce their level of confrontation, I suspect that most of the atheists would respond in kind.

    1. Fiona Patten or the Great White Ape?
      A very difficult choice, not

      PZ or the Geat White Ape?
      Should have been a no brainer if they wanted intelligent debate

      1. I’m presently being investigated for a security clearance. Can you get PZ to write that I hate atheists and don’t advance the atheist agenda? I already have strong anti-al-Qa’ida credentials, but in America PZ counting me with the theists would be even better.

        1. I’m presently being investigated for a security clearance.

          My condolences. When I went through that process it was a real shock to realize I had reached 40 years of age with not a single felony, drinking or gambling problem, membership in a suspect organization or difficult-to-explain political views. I felt like a failure….

  4. I’m presently being investigated for a security clearance.

    I got sent back from the airport after testing positive for explosives last month. Top that !
    On a more serious note, where did PZ suggest that you “hate atheists” ? He just wrote a post about you asking for donations.

    1. There are reasons – very good reasons – why I don’t apply for a security clearance. Let’s just say the 70s were all that.

      Here’s what PZ said. I tweeted: Why am I not speaking at 2012 Global Atheism? [a link to this post]

      PZ replied: Because you don’t like atheists?

      I replied: I don’t? That’s news to me.

      PZ: You put more effort into criticizing us than in advancing an atheist agenda.

      Me: Rubbish, Paul. I spend about as much time criticising religion as I do atheism, but I care far more about atheism.

      It went on from there. Now I like Paul, thereby contradicting his claim, but he is wrong even on a sensible reading assuming this is about ideas. I do like atheists and atheist ideas. In practical terms I am one. I work for an atheist (and defended atheism just this week in a class on God and Natural Science at Melbourne Uni). I often defend atheism, as anyone who reads this blog knows. I attack theism when it is bigoted and stupid. And I am immensely in PZ’s debt, both for the recent call for donations, and in other ways. I will never forget he drove 1000 miles to see me in Toronto once.

      But I think he has made my case for me here. It is not that I don’t advance an atheist agenda, so much as I don’t advance the one he and others in the atheist movement want. And when I argue my case I get called a philosophical quibbler. It seems philosophy is only OK when it delivers the right conclusions; otherwise it is a nuisance. And this is exactly the kind of orthodoxy I object to.

      Philosophy is supposed to piss comfortable certainties off and corrupt minds. I should take it that this sort of response is at least an indication I am doing some things right, I suppose.

  5. It seems philosophy is only OK when it delivers the right conclusions; otherwise it is a nuisance. And this is exactly the kind of orthodoxy I object to.

    Wow, small world 🙂

  6. For that matter, why isn’t Graham Oppy not on the speakers list? In terms of people arguing about gods, there’s probably no-one more qualified. And he’s just down the road…

  7. “Everybody is somebody’s crackpot . . .”

    A tedious reminder:
    According to the science [the evidence so far indicates]:
    There are no authentic purists. We all hold false and contradictory beliefs in some realms and we often have no idea what unconscious assumptions could be influencing our “rational” convictions. As stated before many times, and everyone here probably knows: people are naive realists, and have bounded rationality. We have to struggle to perceive our own biases and blind spots. We compartmentalize, jump to conclusions and are natural dualists, essentialists and vitalists.

    Its amazing that we do as well as we do: because we can also be thoughtful, reflective, insightful, original and brave —at times.

    Atheists can have the same patterns of dogmatic blind spots and knee-jerk reactions as religious believers. Rigid, concrete, literal thinking crosses all belief systems and schema.
    Penn and Teller and Anthropogenic Climate Change denialism. Christopher Hitchens and the Iraq War. Sam Harris and Islam and torture (and everything). Michael Shermer and free markets. and so on. Martin Gardner on his deathbed. David Mamet’s right wing conversion. and on and on

    1. Apology: I wrote the above half asleep. It sounds like I am lecturing on the obvious.
      One reason I have read this site over the years is because the discussion of agnostic/atheist/secular is not as polarized and knee-jerk as some others.

      Ever look at the wikipedia editing history of “atheist” and “agnostic”? Very informative as to how many versions and shades of meaning there are even among the orthodox “unbelievers” who argue the nuances of every word like Talmudic students in a Yeshiva.

      One thing I strongly “believe” [and can support with empirical data]:
      Atheism [by itself] does not equal “rational” and it does not mean “having no belief.” That is not how the brain works.

      [We unconsciously create complex “stories of meaning” in order to make coherent sense of all the sensory impressions, concepts, memories, embodied perceptions, etc, constantly processed by our minds . . .and that includes “atheism”]

      People with all sorts of “spiritual” feelings and beliefs can still develop scientific, abstract and inductive reasoning skills. And the “atheists” should be more concerned with helping their followers develop reflective thinking skills then having them tow the party line of “unbelief” and congratulate themselves on their enlightened freedom from superstition, woo and religion. [They should humbly keep in mind Ayn Rand.]

      We desperately need more citizens and policy-makers who can look squarely at scientific evidence and understand bias. The world cannot afford Climate Change denialism. And dogmatists of every stripe are much more dangerous than the “moderates” who try to bridge respect for personal differences.

      As for PZ: he can be so caring and progressive when he speaks of injustice, abuse of power, and scientific ignorance, and he has brilliant insight into complex developmental and biological systems; and then, some “accommodationist” pops up on his radar and suddenly his tone changes and he gets this condescending adamance and his subtle understanding goes out the window. He understands how children project “life” and personality onto inanimate objects, but forgets that adults also have temporal lobes and can intellectually “know” something that contradicts their deep “sense” of presence or connection or ineffability.

      I have great patience for PZ because he certainly has had to deal with personal attacks from real nuts and who knows what else—he is a good man and a great science journalist.

      [None of this is meant to diminish the importance of the political movement to support the rights of secularists and continued separation of Church/State.]

      1. If this site had a “Like” button, I’d press it. Hmm… I had better go check if there’s a plugin.

        [OK, now there is]

        1. Jocelyn: “[…]Martin Gardner admitted to some form of deism… .”

          He had described himself decades ago in Skeptical Enquirer as a “Philosophical Theist” (or the editors described him as such). In a review of a hagiography of Joseph Campbell Gardner sniffed that Campbell couldn’t have been a real theist – real theists believe in some sort of transcendence.

          I assume this unfortunateness resulted from Gardner taking mathematics platonism too seriously.

    2. What did Gardner do on his deathbed? Recant mathematics?
      I hadn’t known about Shermer’s infantile jottings on free markets.

  8. Jocelyn Stoller: [We unconsciously create complex “stories of meaning” in order to make coherent sense …]

    Disagree with the unconscious emphasis. We do so without critical reasoning. We do so by taking things for granted. … (‘Coherence’ has already been assumed and approximately verified)

    I agree that religion can be uncritically convenient for consciously managing (structuring) unconscious awareness.

    As you (JS) say but in different words …
    Even rational people make use of background unconscious awareness irrational tools. Unfair to call them to account in the foreground awareness for being irrational. Unintended usage.

    Jocelyn Stoller: … adults also have temporal lobes and can intellectually “know” something that contradicts their deep “sense” of presence or connection or ineffability.

    Strongly agree with the unconscious working over lengthy time interval validating coherence for being commensurate.

  9. I was not being careful with my description of dynamic unconscious/conscious processes underlying schema-formation, as my main focus was discussing the other issues about dogmatism.

    [In other words, I was not trying to be a good philosopher, but merely throwing out an aside from my own “ad hoc” unconscious knowledge base].

    At some point, if people are interested, I can elaborate on what I meant more concisely, and include backup studies, but I certainly quibble with my imprecise musings as well, though for slightly different reasons.

Leave a Reply