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Last updated on 21 Jun 2018

I spent the weekend going to the Global Atheist Conspiracy Convention, courtesy of PZ Myers, the organisers, and Neil Thomason who drove me. I will write some extended reflections on it over the next few days, but I have a lot of things to resolve first, like how to shower, park places, and get around using crutches.

I must apologise to the GAC organisers for my ill-tempered rant a while back on why I wasn’t invited: the format is so obviously based on large scale presentations they would have had few opportunities for lesser lights to present. I was expecting something like an academic conference with multiple sessions running simultaneously. So apologies. I will get more active in the local Melbourne Atheist, Freethinker, and Skeptical community over the next little while.

For the moment, enjoy this (click through for the rest of the comic):

Dilbert explains why CEO pay is a scam


  1. Wait a minute! I thought you weren’t an atheist?
    Maybe that explains why you weren’t invited.
    I, on the other hand, am an atheist and I wasn’t invited either.
    Hmmmm ….

  2. Bob O'H Bob O'H

    I wasn’t invited either, but my driver was ill this weekend anyway, so I wouldn’t have been able to make it.

  3. PZ Myers PZ Myers

    Hallelujah! We converted Brother John!

    I should have asked Richard Dawkins to do a healing by laying on of hands, so Wilkins could have dramatically cast aside his wheelchair & danced on the stage.

    • But Dawkins is only 99% atheist.

  4. Susan Silberstein Susan Silberstein

    I’m a Real Atheist and I wasn’t invited. It can’t be because nobody knows who I am and also I live in the Upside part of the world. And I have nothing to say. It must be because I am friends with John. Who used to be uninvited. And I bet a bunch of quatloos he is not converted.

  5. Louis Louis

    We’re all atheists, just some of us are looking at the stars…

    …wait, did I get that right?

    Either way I wasn’t invited either, and so I am boycotting all past events on principle. I may condescend to attend one future event, but I won’t be nice to anyone until I’ve had at least three beers.


  6. John the Plumber John the Plumber

    Gently aimed in the direction of PZ.
    The modern and scientific atheist, discarding divinity, appears of necessity to to take on board evolution as the answer to life’s origin and unfolding – that a God idea is abslutely wrong – and evolution absolutely right, done and dusted so to speak. This appears to be Richard Dawkins’ belief. Does P Z Myers hold the same belief or do you sir consider there may still be matters in evolution yet to be resolved? – A yes of course begs the question, where in evolution theory would you seek better understanding. My interest lies in the realms of Gould’s reflections on saltational mechanics.
    Just as with Divinity, it seems today that with regard to evolution there is a theistic, an atheistic, and an agnostic view. To me, a theistic view of evolution might preclude further developement.
    I consider myself an agnostic evolutionist with a heavy lean to atheism where Divinity is concerned. (just tinged with a picture of Gould happy somewhere harp in hand discussing the finer points with an attentive audience)

  7. ‘We’re all atheists’

    I dislike having to state that my papers are in order with regard to an identity and belief I have held from early childhood ( I come from a secular , non-religious family) and I hate having to define myself of late from the philosophical perspective I started to arrive at independently around the age of 12 i.e. agnostic. But seems important to stress a difference from the more militant and ahistorical members of the tribe.

    I must confess I looked at the web site for the conference for two minutes before shutting it down. First linking article on the day a hit the site described atheist movement as a broad church but from the graphics and images the only major differences I could see was that one has a beard and another is unfortunately no longer with us.

    The banner flagging reason when I am fully aware we are as capable as a group of coming up with major woo woo and a deeply blinkered reading of history and culture worthy of any fundamentalist of what ever flavour, was the nail in the coffin.

    Don’t feel the urge to take part in the freethinking or atheist community as I feel it is often very far from a reasoned debate and some seem to hold a naive belief that a lack of faith in deity therefore makes every biased utterance some font of enlightened reason. Deeply lazy.

    We are a broad church I think it is important that it is, debate needs strong perspectives, it provokes thought and discussion and when it works as it should comes to a balanced middle ground. I like argument don’t want to see a world that simply reflects my own beliefs and perspectives. We all need to be provoked and challenged from our comfort zone.

    First impression of the web site did not give me that impression and such things are important to get right.

    My ranty take.

  8. Bob O'H Bob O'H

    James Goetz:
    But Dawkins is only 99% atheist.

    So what? Jesus was only 50% God, and he came out with some pretty good miracles.

    • Hi Bob, hmm, at least according to the Council of Chalcedon, Jesus was a hypostatic union that 100% God.

      • Jeb Jeb

        “100% God.” part wolf or dog

        Jesus was cu glass, a grey/ blue dog/ wolf or as the law tracts in my part of the world use to define such a figure “a man who has followed a women’s buttocks across a boundary.” A cultural outsider who’s legal status was dependant on the female he married or in Jesus’s case his mother, her lineage was somewhat important to a deeply hierarchical early med. society.

        He was sold in any number of ways and a variety of cultural flavours. If not would have met with limited success as the church tried to establish itself .

        Adapt to local environment or die.

      • Word salad that showed that terms like “hypostasis”, “ousia” and “prosopon” had lost all meaning by then. Or maybe they were the ones that made them meaningless, I don’t know. All I know is you can’t do metaphysics by committee, especially not a political committee.

        • John, What is your metaphysical problem with this? Is it that you don’t think that somebody could be 100% of more than one thing? For example, at the beginning of my existence, I was 100% of a son. Then twenty-five years later, I remained 100% of a son and also became 100% of a husband. Then a couple years later, I remained 100% of a son and 100% of a husband and also became 100% of a father. And if my write-in campaign is successful, then next year I’ll also become 100% embody the Office of the President of the US.

        • Jeb Jeb

          I don’t think the 100% bit works. Its certainly possible to hold a range of emotionally authentic identities and to symbolically represent them in terms of shared descent. The fact you may be father, son, or self identifying as a philosopher does not exclude you from making the claim you are an American and entitled to run for office. What cultural construct choose to stress depends on context and which one works best to achieve you’re social goal.

          For president I would assume the two identities most commonly stressed are American and Christian. Only one is legally required but the unwritten cultural rule seems to be that the other one is essential to successes, hence agents will strategically deploy this form of identity to serve their goal.

        • Jeb Jeb

          i.e Bentleys “multidimensional habitus building on Bourdieu’s concept of an individuals sense of self.

        • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

          It’s a simple syllogism:

          Jesus is God
          No man is God
          Jesus is not a man


          There is one God
          Jesus and the Father are different persons
          A person is countably distinct from other people
          Jesus and the Father cannot both be God.

          Now one can play word games to try to get around this, but the simple fact is that making Jesus divine was a bad idea that caused a basic contradiction in trinitarian theology. It undercuts the soteriology, eschatology and hierarchy of Christian teaching in my view, unless you take it either analogically or metaphorically. It was yoking metaphysics in the service of politics. I would rather have had something like Arius’ view, philosophically. Trinitarian theology is incoherent.

        • Hmm, are you saying that simple syllogism is a dogmatic rule for determining if ideas are coherent?

          Is it coherent for a particle to exist in more than one place at the same time?

          Are US general partnerships coherent? For example, every general partner in a general partnership is the entire authority of the partnership. And the authority of the partnership is indivisible during the existence of partnership.

          Things breaking the rules of simple syllogism can have their own consistency.

        • Chris' Wills Chris' Wills

          A particle is not in two places at ones, I’m guessing your using quantum physics for your idea that it is.

          QM says that a particle has a probability of being in various places. Say 36% for being at A and 64% for being at B.
          When we measure at A we’ll find the particle there 36% of the time and if we measure at B we’ll find it there 64% of the time.
          When we detect it it is 100% at either A or B, it is not 36% at A and 64% at B.

        • Thank you Chris. I won’t confuse that again.

  9. Jeb Jeb

    I don’t know I don’t do metaphysics or theology. It demonstrates something about early Irish law and Kindred and how that affected interpretation of other things. How the law worked; individual was meaningless. Kin-less men and women were outside the legal system. Objects of horror and suspicion. Get the sense from Saint Culomba’s missionary work in the mainland U.K. Was not evangelical it was martyrdom, as in leaving his homeland, he left his kin. Or Jesus fight with the Devil, which was viewed as a family kindred dispute.

    Debate as to how much the texts represent a pagan past or Christian present have been somewhat heated, lead to one expert being attacked by an irate student at the hight of debate before compromise was found and both sides were presenting exaggerated and over inflected positions.

    I think they show some knowledge and classical influence but to find Latin concepts missing would hardly be surprising, legal system was in origin pre-Christian and oral. The language was also intentionally difficult for professional reasons. Interpretation in court was in the hands of a highly trained legal expert who had spent years of training in the deeply obscure terms and poetry used in the legal system.

  10. John the Plumber John the Plumber

    “But wait! A hair, an imperceptible thread, has slipped into this reasoning and vitiated it; the defect is this: the father and the mother belong to the current generation that is going to disappear, the child to the generation that succeeds it. Thus, the generation which disappears unites as a type in the following generation.” – Pierre Tremaux 1865 – [Tremaux on Species: … . John S Wilkins and Gareth J Nelson 2008]

    This delightfully puts a clear division, a boundary, between parents and offspring. – However, I would invert Tremaux’s conclusion to:

    ‘The parental generations are united as the species – an offspring is no more than one of many potential variants – subject to environmental constraints – allowed or disallowed to cross the species boundary to become part, or in some circumstances all, of the species.’

  11. John the Plumber John the Plumber

    p.s – Hope your knee has begun to start to at least think of the process of mending itself?

  12. Bob O’H: So what? Jesus was only 50% God, and he came out with some pretty good miracles.

    Maybe those 50% of God were so spiritual that they never materialised in genes, which would make Jesus a haploid male. And he did those miracles with only 50% of Mary’s genes. Explains why the catholics are so fascinated by Mary.

  13. John the Plumber John the Plumber

    My dog thinks that if something cannot be explained in terms a dog understands, it’s probably a figment of the imagination. I tried to explain unemployment to him and he said, what’s work? However, I showed him Chris’ Wills explanation of the probability of the position of a particle and he was impressed. Then he said, but is James Goetz getting the idea of a particle being in two places at once mixed with the idea of a particle’s spin in one place having instant effect on a particle in another place. I said ah – you mean the bit about the juxtaposition of connected spin. He said, now you’re going into politics again and you know that makes no sense whatsoever to a dog.
    If Chris’ Wills reads this, perhaps he might explain spin for us as eloquently as he has explained position.

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