FTF1 – Valerie Tarico – Recovering from Religion

This entry is a  recap of Valerie Tarico’s Freethought Festival 2012 presentation as observed by me as an audience member. Shitty writing or misinterpretation of the presenter’s material is completely my fault. If you think I got something wrong, please let me know in the comments or feel free to email me at bio_dork(at)hotmail(dot)com.  

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist, author and ex-evangelical. Her talk, Recovering from Religion, addressed some of the challenges that people face when they are attempting to reconcile their loss of faith or lack of belief, especially in an environment where it is more advantageous for them to retain their faith.

She showed us how religion sets up booby traps for those who question church teachings. Common ideas that are ingrained into religious lessons: Doubt is from the devil, questioning is sinful. She mentioned that some groups think of books that discuss doubt, leaving religion and religious criticism as “spiritual pornography”. Valerie commented that she had thought she would be making more money as a writer of pornography.

A slide from Valerie’s presentation

She did a nice job of explaining the process that one might go through while deconverting and attempting to extricate oneself from religion. She briefly mentioned the grieving process, and throughout the presentation gave resources that might be useful for people in this situation – exchristian.net, recoveringfromreligion.org, losingmyreligion.com She focused on how she was working to help bridge the gap between belief and non-belief, and presented this one possible way that people who are leaving religion might go about doing that.

FTF1 – Kevin Padian – Lessons from the Dover Trial

This entry is a  recap and review of Kevin Padian’s Freethought Festival 2012 presentation as observed by me as an audience member. Shitty writing or misinterpretation of the presenter’s material is completely my fault. If you think I got something wrong, please let me know in the comments or feel free to email me at bio_dork(at)hotmail(dot)com.  

The keynote speaker on Friday night was Dr. Kevin Padian. He was one of the most laid-back and charismatic speakers of the entire weekend, and that’s saying quite a bit considering the speaker lineup that FTF1 put together! His talk was Evolution, Education, and “Intelligent Design” – Lessons from the Dover Trial.

Dr. Padian is an evolutionary biologist and he served as an expert witness in  Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. He is currently the President of the National Coalition for Science Education (NCSE).

[Read more…]

Cross-Country Connections: Celebrate

Cross-Country Connections is a Biodork weekly blog entry dedicated to telling stories in pictures of three family members – me, my sister and Mom – living in very different locations across the country. Every week we choose a different theme and then take or contribute a personal photo that fits the theme. This week’s theme is Celebrate.

From Erin in Bellingham, Washington:

Its that time of year when people are graduating and moving on to the next stage. This year is special though because my husband and our very good friend both successfully defended their dissertations for a Ph.D. in Anthropology.  Its been a long, strange journey for both of them and I’m so proud and happy to see them so successful. Congratulations, Ralph and Lisa!

From Mom in Carbondale, Illinois:

There were so many moments that we celebrated.  I chose this one because Don is in it too!

From me in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

 At the 2012 Good Friday Planned Parenthood counter-protest we celebrated raising $16,686 for the St. Paul clinic. I took this photo early in the morning (collections had begun prior to the counter-protest). By the time I left at about 10:30 am, the number had climbed to over $20,000 thanks to the Pledge-A-Protester campaign.

FTF1 – Impressions and Evidentialism

I had a great time at Freethought Festival 2012 (FTF1) in Madison, Wisconsin. Y’all. Seriously. If you’re active in the atheist online community and want to get more involved in person “on the ground”, if you’re looking to connect with other freethinkers, if you want to compare notes with other organizations and people from other parts of the country, you gotta, gotta, gotta get to a conference.

[Read more…]

Thanks, CASH!

Last night I spoke at Coffman Memorial for the Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH) meeting. If you’re in the Twin Cities area and want to learn about atheist and skeptic events, you need to join CASH’s Facebook group. They’ve hosted some truly awesome speakers like Michael Shermer, Banachek, JT Eberhard, Jen McCreight, Greta Christina, and some guy named Richard Dawkins(?). And now moi!

This was my first talk that I’ve given about atheism and blogging, and my first “full length” presentation to an atheist/skeptics group (I spoke for an hour and 15 minutes, not exactly a fillibuster, but long enough for me prattling on). You know how in Rainman Dustin Hoffman’s character was able to look at a bunch of objects and instantly know how many there were in the pile? I’m the opposite of that. I think there were maybe 20-30 people in the audience, but I could be really, really off.

[Read more…]

Go ‘way I’m busy.

No blog posts today. I’m too busy freaking out about speaking at the University of Minnesota tonight. CASH – Campus Atheists Skeptics and Humanists – was kind enough to invite me to speak about blogging, atheism and activism. I started really working on the slides/notes a couple of days ago, but it’s crunch time now and eveything that I’ve put together seems awful and trivial and it’s all going to be horrendously boring and like “Hurr durr, I write sturf on the internetz”.

[Read more…]

Unhappy Scientist

I was speaking to one of the women in our lab yesterday about what we would do if we weren’t in the jobs that we hold. She’s about 10 years from retirement and can’t wait to get out of the “science business”. She says she regrets being a scientist because she doesn’t like who it’s turned her into. She says that her work at our company has made her over-analytical, over-logical, over-ordered, over-skeptical. It’s colored the way she experiences her life outside of work: interactions with friends and family, her finances, her purchasing decisions, her child-rearing, the way she’s handled crises, and she says it makes life too difficult. It’s not her job that makes her unhappy, it’s being a scientist, being unable to be satisfied until she’s sifted through all of the details, asked every question, delved into every aspect of every situation.

In short, she sees the world through the lens of science and doesn’t like the view.

I don’t think that science went wrong. I think she went wrong with science. I know a lot of people who aren’t scientists. Science doesn’t make them happy, so they go into a different line of work. She’s not anti-science, and she’s very good at her job, but it doesn’t make her happy. I feel sad for her that she’s gone so many years in a profession that doesn’t fulfill her.

I talk so much about science appreciation, about the joy and excitement that being a scientist brings me. I share this here because it’s a different story about someone else’s experience with science, one that I hadn’t heard before. Nothing more.

Damn you, Kony.

Alright. So Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are responsible for kidnapping children and turning them into sex-slaves and child soldiers, for the spreading of his odd mix of Christianity/Mysticism, for attempting to turn Uganda into his particular brand of theocracy, for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. But now we in Minnesota have a real reason to wake up…now it’s turned personal.

Someone spray painted “Kony” on the Spoonbridge. You know, the iconic spoon and cherry sculpture that I have in my blog banner? And because one good tag deserves another, the vandals hit two more of the outdoor sculptures. You can see the vandalism of the spoon here. According to the City Pages the vandalism may be linked to Invisible Children’s Cover the Night campaign, which took place on Saturday at the same time that the graffiti occurred.

Now I’m really upset. Grrr! Now I want to go out and find Kony and bring him to justice. And it’s all thanks to those vandals!

Said no one ever.

Kony is evil. Finding him and bringing him to justice is important. But vandalism – whether the target be our cherished Spoonbridge or the side of building – isn’t the kind of tactic that generates widespread support for your cause. There were other legal, more visible ways to participate in Cover the Night. Organizing people, printing literature, knowing the details of the cause you support, prepping your elevator speech, getting out and spreading the word about Kony is hard work, hard work that these people could have committed to doing if they really wanted to be effective. Spray paint is lazy. Activism fail.