Fall Schedule / SSA Reminder

speakingBelow you will find my schedule for the fall.  If you are a reader or group organizer and want to meet me or host an event, maybe this information is useful to you.

A reminder to my friends who are in SSA groups, I am available to speak to you about many interesting topics.  I am currently mostly located in and around the DC area, but I’m happy to travel with sufficient notice.  And if you happen to be a group who wants me to speak while I’m in the area for other reasons, let me know.  I’m happy to speak about anything (spending the night at the Supreme Court!), but there is a list at the bottom of this e-mail with topics I’m fond of.

 

September 27-29th — New Orleans at the AJHA Conference, presenting a paper about the Rural Purge.  Aside from Saturday at 3:20, I am free.

October ~1st-2nd — Boston for work.  I’m pretty busy and it’s a quick turn around, but might be in the night before.

October ~24th-27th — Miami for work.  Not sure exactly when I’m arriving and leaving, but I could have much free time if I want.

November 7th — Charlottesville, VA (more information soon).

November 15-17th — Springfield, MO for Skepticon, where I will be hosting a critically reading media workshop 4pm on Friday.

The end of November and much of December I will probably be in Columbia, SC a great deal and briefly probably in Kentucky, but almost certainly too late in the semester to be of interest to anyone.

And at some point in there I’m going to write a dissertation.  No big deal.

 

Ashley would love to speak on the following topics:

  • Atheism and diversity
  • Introduction to feminism
  • Media literacy and how to work with the media
  • Religion versus women, minorities, and LGBT
  • Using Social Media effectively
  • Film, Television, Young Adult Literature
  • Blogging, Podcasting, Vlogging
  • History of Christianity
  • Coping with burn out

Do Something Good

Rob Lehr is an awesome guy. He’s the one and only person behind Hambone Productions–which does all the videography for Skepticon.

But here’s the thing about videos–they don’t work for the hearing impaired. Transcripts do. They’re also useful for people who want to quote excerpts, people who don’t have lots of spare time, people who use screen-readers, and on and on and on. Accessibility is important and the skepto-atheist community can do something.  Making these available to those who can’t do audio-only is the minimum standard of access.

So, here’s what’s happening. Transcripts–crowdsourced transcripts (with permission from Rob). Comment below with the one you want to take. And check the comments to make sure there aren’t duplicates! I’m doing Rebecca Watson’s, Miriam has JT’s, and I’ll keep updating this list with links as they go up, since not every video has been uploaded yet.

Rules of thumb I use:

  • Brackets for non-verbal activites [mumble] [audience laughs]
  • em-dashes to show interrupting (“and then she said–)
  • removing filler words (um, uhhh) unless they involve really big pauses or seem conversationally significant.
  • Bolding each speaker’s name.

The List:
Bolded talks have been taken, but check the comments too because I’m going to be away from my computer today.

Greta Christina
JT Eberhard
George Hrab

Phil Ferguson
Julia Galef
Panel Discussion – How should Rationalists approach Relationships and Marriage
Sean Carroll – The Higgs Boson and the Fundamental Nature of Reality
Jessica Ahlquist
Jennifer Oulette
Hemant Mehta – The Rise of Young Atheists
PZ Myers – Evolution, I Do The Kinky Stuff
Rebecca Watson
Keith Lowell Jensen

James Croft – God is Dead. So What?
Matt Dillahunty
Deborah Hyde – The Natural History of the European Werewolf
Richard Carrier
Darrel Ray – The Shame of it All, or Why Do We Act Like Christians
Amanda Knief – Caution: Atheists at Work. How to Avoid Employment Discrimination
Teresa MacBain – Shift Happens
Tony Pinn - Racial Diversity and/in Our Fight Against Theism

Skepticism VS Atheism: The Stupid Fight

I’m not sure why this is, but there seems to be a faction of Skeptics, not all of whom are religious, who have a problem with Skeptics who like to talk about Atheism. They are concerned that people conflate Atheism and Skepticism. I’m not sure who these theoretical people are, but let’s assume that this is a real concern and not one just made up.

Skepticism is just a way of thinking, sort of a “Well, then prove it” attitude towards life and knowledge. There have been people who claimed to be skeptics who believed in God, and who believed that global warming wasn’t real for that matter, so there’s no litmus test for being a Skeptic, it’s a goal to strive for. Most people don’t actually achieve Skepticism towards everything in their lives.

Why, just the other day I refused to click on a link because it was going to disprove some something or other, some story that I preferred to believe was true because it was a really nice story. Now, I don’t remember what it even was, so undoubtedly I’ll continue believing it was true. That would be a SkepticFail on my part.

Some people will claim that God is not a testable hypothesis, and these people are sort of right. The deistic god that doesn’t do anything so might as well not be there, that god is an untestable claim — the Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Whatever Religion’s God is a testable claim because those religions claim that their God can *do* things. A skeptical approach to religion leads you directly to the conclusion that no religion has a god that exists as they describe it. This is agnosticism if not atheism.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be a skeptic and also believe in God, you absolutely can.  You can be a skeptic and believe in homeopathy, or UFOs, or be a Birther, or a 9/11 Truther, or any number of things.  It just means that you aren’t applying good thinking to one or another of your worldviews.  I believe people are fundamentally good, that’s probably also a testable claim that I’d just as soon not see the results on.

Here’s what I don’t understand: how is saying “skeptics should be skeptical of religion” is the same as saying “skepticism and atheism are the same thing”? Who are these mysterious people who assume that skepticism and atheism are the same thing?  It’s not the people who want to talk about atheism at skeptic conferences, they think that skepticism should lead to agnosticism.  In case that isn’t clear, that’s not the same as saying “Skeptic = Atheist”.

I don’t know that anyone is arguing that deism or agnosticism is a bad thing, but there are many bad things that religions do. Perhaps the thing that ought not be conflated is belief in a god and belief in a religion.  Atheists who speak at Skeptic conventions want to encourage Skeptical thought towards religion and towards religious beliefs that hurt people.  How many lives have been ruined by believers in UFOs?  How many lives have been ruined by believers in religion?  Or, to be even less confrontational, how many people believe in UFOs and how many believe in religion?  Is it really unreasonable to spend some time throwing Skeptical thinking at such a large and pervasive target?

If you had a skeptic conference that focused on disproving homeopathy rather than disproving religion, would calling it a “Skeptic Conference” be wrong? Are we only arguing about this because some people are afraid that offending the religious is going to scare people off? Are we so concerned with religious people’s sensitivities that we’d compromise our own willingness to tell the truth and ask questions?

I will say that I’m highly skeptical of this claim that Atheism is not an important part of the Skeptic movement.