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Oct 22 2012

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel BRAAAAAINS

So I will not be watching the foreign policy debate between President Obama and the Republican Windsock of Doom. Instead, I will be watching zombie movies and taking meticulous notes. An odd way for a politics junkie like myself to spend his evening, you might think. However, this movie watching is not simply idle recreation – it is instead an academic exercise as I prepare for the Eschaton 2012 conference, sponsored by CFI Ottawa:

Come to Ottawa for a weekend gathering of scientists, philosophers, authors, academics, skeptics, rationalists, humanists, atheists, and freethinkers, where you can see presentations and join discussions on science, skepticism, gender issues, theocracy vs secularism, godless ethics, parenting beyond belief. Featured speakers include blogger PZ Myers, author Ophelia Benson, philosopher Chris DiCarlo, science education activist Eugenie Scott, and many others. You can even participate in a live recording of Canada’s skeptical podcast “The Reality Check”.

Saturday evening we present our gala “Night at the Museum” (held at the Canadian Museum of Nature), which includes a reception, talk by PZ Myers, and late night special events, with exclusive access to the Fossil Gallery and Earth Gallery.

The price of $275 ($225 for CFI members) includes access to the Friday night plenary session, a choice of two daytime tracks on Saturday and Sunday, lunches and snacks, plus the Saturday evening gala. (A limited number of volunteer discounts are available – email [email protected] for more information.)

There is a truly remarkable lineup scheduled to speak at the two-day skeptical extravaganza (bolded names are fellow FTBorg):

And, of course, yours truly. I will be speaking on the Sunday morning (better than church, I’m sure) in a session focussing on “Godless Ethics & Godless Communities”. Of course I’m excited to talk about incorporating anti-racism as race skepticism into mainstream secular thought, but the challenge was to relate that to the conference’s theme about the end of the world. How to talk about race in an apocalyptic context? Then it hit me:

Zombies

So join me on Sunday, December 2nd as I shufflingly stagger you through an exploration of anti-racism I call “Don’t Go In There! Discussing race and racism in the time of the zombie apocalypse“:

What lessons can zombie horror movies teach us about navigating the perilous world of conversations about race? Are there any strategies that we can use to dodge both the flesh-eating walking dead and racist ideas and attitudes? Can caution, introspection, and frequent use of head-shots save us from an apocalyptic future, or are we doomed to watch as racism devours our delicious brains? All this and more in a half hour (with plenty of blood and gore breaks)!

I’m excited to give this talk, which will be my first invited solo presentation at a skeptical conference. I’m also excited to get a chance to visit Ottawa, a city in which I’ve had my fair share of good times over the years and where I have some friends who I don’t get a lot of chances to see. More than that though, I’m turbo-excited to get a chance to hang out not only with my fellow FTBorg (some of whom I’ll be meeting in person for the first time), but a number of other people whose work I’ve been fans of for a long time like Eugenie Scott, Larry Moran, Eric MacDonald, and of course Christopher DiCarlo (whose presentation immediately precedes mine - gulp).

So if you live in southern or eastern Ontario, or are otherwise able to get to Ottawa, you should definitely check out the conference. It’ll be more fun than getting devoured by a pack of shambling corpses!

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6 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    Yay!

  2. 2
    Rebecca Hensler

    Oh man that sounds interesting! I’m fascinated by the use of zombie fiction (movies and books) to illustrate social criticism. I’d love to see what you make of it. Please post video online!

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Hm yeah – shit like racism is the walking dead. The ideas supporting it should be buried already.

  4. 4
    frankathon

    YAY! I can’t wait to see you speak in Ottawa!

  5. 5
    Johnny Vector

    The undercurrent of racism is one of the best things about the original Night of the Living Dead. A lot of Harry’s problem with Ben is pretty clearly that he can’t stand having a black guy in charge. Not to mention the ending, which I won’t spoilerize. It’s a bit more obvious in the musical version, which you haven’t seen because its world premiere is this Friday in Kensington MD. I’ve kinda been living that show for the last two weeks, so this post was a fun surprise.

  6. 6
    kurt1

    Zombies and a possible Zombieapocalypse are serious fields of research. Here is a paper on a mathematical model, which predicts what will happen to the population (human and zombie) depending on different scenarios.

    WHEN ZOMBIES ATTACK!: MATHEMATICAL MODELLING OF AN OUTBREAK OF ZOMBIE INFECTION
    by Philip Munz, Ioan Hudea, Joe Imad, Robert J. Smith

    http://www.mathstat.uottawa.ca/~rsmith/Zombies.pdf

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