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Jul 31 2013

Skepticon 6! Plan, Support, Enjoy.

Help support Skepticon this year! And if you can go this November, start planning. It’s free and it’s fun. And it’s in the Buckle of the Bible Belt: Springfield, Missouri. This will be the sixth Skepticon. It will fill November 15th-17th, Friday to Sunday (2013). And judging by last year, attendance will break a thousand.

PZ and I are speaking, of course, as well as all manner of cool folk, from Shelly Segal, Greta Christina, and Rebecca Watson to Seth Andrews, Hemant Mehta and Aron Ra, and many more (see the Skepticon 6 Schedule), even live podcasts, a taste of an atheist film festival, the comedy of Keith Lowell Jensen, and a Godless Perverts Story Hour (I kid you not). And like last year, Friday will be filled with workshops (lots of those were really cool, so I’m expecting as much again) until the conference officially opens that evening.

Photo of the Spacious Interior of the University Plaza HotelAccommodations at the University Plaza Hotel (where most attendees will be hanging out, just a block from the convention center) are reasonable as hotels go (and you’ll want to ask for the convention rate…the hotel can even sell out, given Skepticon’s tremendous growth of late). But for real cut rate stuff there are even more affordable motels all around the area as well. And as months approach (if last year is any guide), the Skepticon website will start facilitating efforts to find roommates and carpools and other cost-saving thingamadoos. I expect they’ll also eventually have a means up to register (which is free, but it still helps them to know how many are coming).

So to keep abreast of all those developments, and other major conference news, you should subscribe to their event newsletter now (Skepticon Newsletter).

But most importantly, the entire conference is donor supported (with only a little help from merch sales at the event). To keep this free for a thousand-plus attendees in the heart of the midwest, they need money. They explain why and how much and how they spend it (and how you can give them some) at Skepticon Needs Your Support. They need forty grand, and so far have less than ten (check out their nice infographic).

Even ten or twenty bucks actually helps (when a lot of people pitch in), so if you’re planning to go and don’t really need it to be free, just pay them what you think attending the conference is worth, in proportion to what you can afford (you can just make a quick donation here).

Or if you’re one of the lucky ones who can spare even more cash for the good of all, and you want to help support conferences like this that provide sanity and joy to the beleaguered godless community in the middle of the U.S. (attendees come from dozens of states, some driving ten or more hours to get there), then try for something even bolder: just send them a big amount, or get in on one of the amusing fundraisers they have going (a Shelly Segal Pick-a-Song, a Twink-a-Dinks Chocolate Sale, and Dogma Debate Crew Stunts…wild stuff in there).

Picture of the cover of the book "The Walking Dead and Philosophy" which is a collection of essays by philosophers working from themes from the TV Show about a zombie apocalypse.Last but not least:

My own talk for this year is developing under the working title “Is Philosophy Stupid?” A lot of philosophical zombie blood has been spilled over the uselessness or aimlessness or pointlessness of philosophy. What’s it for? Is it all just bunk? Arbitrary opinions in fancy dress? A quibbling over silly minutiae? Does it make progress? Can’t we just replace it all with science? Is it too esoteric to be useful or even meaningful in light of real world issues? Can ordinary people do anything with it? Where did it come from? What the hell is it? Even Stephen Hawking says philosophy is dead. Is it? Or did he really just say that in a book mostly filled with his own conclusions in…philosophy? Find out! I’ll answer all these questions and more.

6 comments

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  1. 1
    karimghantous

    I am so relieved to see you take the philosophy skeptics head-on. Not that these eggheads, who deny that philosophy has a function, are many in number, but they would cry triumphantly ‘yes’ to the question, “Can’t we just replace it all with science?” (teh sc13nc3 !!oneone11!!eleven1!111eleven). I’ve seen a few comments like this – but only a few – on PZ’s old blog. I am glad that they don’t seem to have infected too many others.

    I mean, I could have replied and asked them to expand on their philosophy of the death of philosophy, but these people are not really looking for a conversation, as far as I can tell. Hmm, maybe you should call them philosophy deniers. See how these know-it-alls like the ‘denier’ label being pointed at them.

    While you’re at it, perhaps you might want to remind everyone that just as philosophy cannot be escaped, neither can theology be escaped by anyone who has a view on the God question. Richard Dawkins is a philosopher and theologian, just like pretty much everyone who has a view on God’s existence. I predict that only a few will kick and scream, but it’s best to forestall the spread of the no-philosophy meme.

    In fact, your presentation is the reason why I’m going to make a donation. I have very little time for skepticism such as it is (I won’t bore you with the details) but I respect some people in it. Rest assured that I am not donating begrudgingly, but happily and positively.

    1. 1.1
      Richard Carrier

      I’ve faced directly attacks on philosophy from both people in the sciences and the humanities, and I’ll be bringing both approaches to my talk. I won’t bring up theology (you are spot on, though), but I will be making your point about philosophy.

      Do note that I am a severe critic of [academic] philosophy myself (I think it has a lot of sins to atone for and is pretty much doing it wrong), but I see that as a call for reform and selective reliance. How you tell good philosophy from bad without being trained in it is a problem not easily addressed. I think most philosophy is garbage, so it’s not at all easy to locate the stuff worth trusting and using, and this contributes to the attack on philosophy as a whole: people see the garbage and assume that’s all philosophy is–an over-generalization that philosophers themselves have not been working very hard to disabuse.

      The failure [and need] of the field to demarcate philosophy from pseudo-philosophy, the way scientists have demarcated science from pseudo-science, is an issue I’ll bring up in my talk; it relates directly to their failure to define criteria for ascertaining when progress has been made, and for prioritizing the problems that need solving in terms that reflect the needs of the human race rather than the privileged whims of what are mostly just college professors. I’m not the first philosopher to issue these criticisms of their own field (Mario Bunge most famously in Philosophy in Crisis, still my standard reference on this subject). But I’ll be making the point that there is a difference between criticizing philosophy and rejecting it, and between noting the foolishness of specific philosophers and concluding all philosophers are fools.

  2. 2
    steele

    Richard,

    I would like to donate $25 to send 15 atheists out to breakfast at the local Waffle House, lol. Seriously you guys have been doing this for 6 years and you haven’t even hit 1000 people…..um ok yea your movement is picking up steam! Although I can’t imagine why a bunch of angry malcontents grousing about a God they don’t even believe in…what’s not to love? The apostles got 3000 in one day Acts 2:41, maybe you guys need to recalibrate your message…just a suggestion.

    I won’t mind seeing Aron Ra, he seems like an interesting dude from what I have seem on youtube of him, but other than that I can’t imagine what’s going to pack them in for you…..maybe a message of hope and love, oh wait you guys reject the gospel so scratch that one!

    I would be curious what the demographic of these 1000 attendees are my guess is:

    1) Male (White)
    2) Angry
    3) 18-26 (mostly single, I mean how many girls want to date someone that wears a flying spaghetti monster on their shirt)
    4) Living in parents basement
    5) Attended Occupy Wall Street and defecated on the corner of some Wall Street brokers house
    6) Anti-Capitalist/Communist/Socialist/Che Guevara fanboy
    7) Favorite book: The Bible, I may be wrong on this but let me know what the research shows

    Why you want to tie yourself to such an event is beyond me? I don’t normally like to resort to ridicule but its hard to even take this serious! I don’t even understand why atheists whose only connection is their lack of belief in a deity or deities can form a real sustainable bond or have much staying power but what do I know I am just a bigoted ignorant fool, I said it for you so you won’t have to. Sorry even when I was an atheist I would rather spend my weekend fishing or cleaning out my lint trap but hey have fun!

    I would suggest you make your lunches like pot luck, that will help keep the costs down, tell PZ I will bring the Hot Dish!

    1. 2.1
      Richard Carrier

      …you haven’t even hit 1000 people…

      They did. They broke a thousand in their third year, again the following year, and topped 1500 last year.

      For a free conference, that’s unprecedented. Nothing even comes close.

      But most atheist conferences (dozens a year) are in the low hundreds in attendance. And that’s fine. I don’t see why a conference “needs” to be over a thousand count. Your expectations are bizarre and seem to reflect poor knowledge of the community. I guess you won’t attend a church or party unless it draws a thousand people in.

      The apostles got 3000 in one day…

      And since you believe that, I have some land in Florida I’d like to sell you…

      I don’t even understand why atheists whose only connection is their lack of belief in a deity or deities…

      Then you don’t know much about atheists or our movement. We also typically share belief in secularism, humanism, skepticism, and philosophical naturalism. We also like like-minded company and have common interests (rights, goals, resource and information sharing).

      As far as demographics, events like Skepticon approach parity by gender (so your assumption number 1 is false), the attendees are fun and happy (so much for number 2), lots are married or poly and even have kids (child care is provided at the conference by Camp Quest) and are of all ages (the age diversity at skepticon is actually impressive…usually, especially in the past, contrary to your assumption, atheist events trend old, the average age being 40-60; Skepticon is actually one of the few conferences that gets a lot of younger generations in, but even then plenty of older gens are there, too, so there goes your assumption number 3…and BTW, girls are often the ones wearing a flying spaghetti monster on their shirt), most attendees are college students (who don’t live anywhere near their parents) or families or professionals (and thus hardly living in basements; so there goes your assumption number 4), I find it unlikely that 1500 people “defecated on the corner of some Wall Street brokers house,” much less that exactly those same 1500 people attended Skepticon (so your assumption number 5 is out), the average party affiliation at Skepticon is Democrat (which is not the Communist Party or even the Socialist Party, which the platform of the DNC does not resemble in the least) and the average political stance is progressive, but a lot of greens, libertarians, and other affiliations go as well, maybe even a handful of Marxists, but by no means even a sizable minority (so your assumption 6 is out), and I think most Skepticon attendees would put Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy well above the Bible on any list of favorite books (so your assumption 7 is out; but then, you admitted it might be).

      So, you just showed up your ignorance. In an attempt to be snarky. The worst humor is that which is wholly uninformed.

  3. 3
    steele

    Richard,

    Well thanks for the down low on the demographics. I just find events such as the Reason Rally, Occupy Wall Street, and the like to be kinda pathetic like third parties Losertarians (I know its Libertarians but that is what I call them), Green, and the Constitution Party. I don’t mean this in a snarky way either. I didn’t find the Tea Party movement to be all that better although they were protesting something I actually agree with.

    I am not saying Skepticon is like these either I just must not get it like you said. I just don’t get how atheism or extreme skepticism doesn’t lead to nihilism if taken seriously….and what is to celebrate about that or have a conference to promote this ideology? I know I know you guys think you are providing a community for non-believers and a resource to help combat us deluded religious folk and promote some type of A+ atheism which most of your own atheist buddies don’t like. Really though what do you take away from these events?

    Im sorry to say Richard but yea I would expect your conference to be bigger than it is, if Joel Osteen that liar can pack in 16,0000 every weekend, I would expect with all the speakers you guys have your draw should be a little higher but I guess if you considered atheists are like only 1-2% of the population at best; maybe 1500 isn’t so bad.

    That all aside because I don’t want to get accused of trolling, I didn’t even know what the hell that was until a few days ago lol. I do have a couple questions and a comment for you specifically Richard.

    I have been reading Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist” book and I am about half way through it, I know you hate it, but I was actually curious about another book “Lord or Legend” by Boyd and Eddy and what you thought about that? I was going to read that one next and then I was going to read your “Proving History” and I am going to look for the your “Historicity of Jesus”.

    I feel like you have gone down the Mythicist rabbit hole, but I want to be fair and explore kinda from one end to the other.

    Also and I can’t believe I am asking you this, lol, but I am curious and have to know. What version of the Bible do you read? I know you can probably read it in the Greek but what English version do you prefer? I read from the English Standard Version (ESV) primarily. Asking an atheist what Bible version he reads, lol, I love it!

    Lastly I read on your Bios page you served in the United States Coast Guard, anyway that is pretty cool, so Thank You for you Service!

    Erik

    1. 3.1
      Richard Carrier

      I just don’t get how atheism or extreme skepticism doesn’t lead to nihilism if taken seriously

      You don’t get it because you don’t read any of our writing on the subject.

      Try my Sense and Goodness without God for a start.

      and what is to celebrate about that or have a conference to promote this ideology?

      Conferences are places to meet like-minded people and share information and entertainment.

      Since atheism does not lead to nihilism, conferences don’t celebrate or promote nihilism, so your concern on that count is moot. Our conferences promote scientific and historical knowledge, moral and natural philosophy, skills of reasoning and inquiry, news and goals in the advancement of secularism, and so on.

      I have been reading Ehrman’s “Did Jesus Exist” book and I am about half way through it, I know you hate it, but I was actually curious about another book “Lord or Legend” by Boyd and Eddy and what you thought about that? I was going to read that one next and then I was going to read your “Proving History” and I am going to look for the your “Historicity of Jesus”.

      You’ve answered your own question. PH and OHJ together, along with the literature they cite, will fully answer Boyd and Eddy.

      What version of the Bible do you read? I know you can probably read it in the Greek but what English version do you prefer?

      I find none satisfactory. I usually start with the ASV, and check it against one or two others, and then the original Greek (if anything I am concerned about hangs on the translation). But this does not mean I think the ASV is “better.”

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