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#FtBCON 2: 31 January – 2 February 2014

We’ve got a date. Start planning. If you’ve got suggestions for great new panels, leave them in the comments or mail them to the appropriate FtB bloggers.

Comments

  1. MG Myers says

    Woo hoo! Thanks for organizing this FtB bloggers! The first FtBCON was great.

  2. says

    I am preparing a talk on Secular Parenting. Will you be posting the info on where we should submit our talks for consideration?

  3. Stephen Minhinnick says

    According to New Zealand census data the “Nones” are increasing at about 1% of the population per year. In NZ this has been going on steadily since the 1970’s, and is about to cross the 50% mark – the most recent census figures will be out at the end of the year.

    The U.S. has seen a rise in the “Nones” more recently, and again that group is increasing at about 1% of the general population p.a. This is being echoed in many other countries around the world, including the Middle East and Africa, although coming off a low base in those regions. Think also of what is happening in Ireland, Italy and other Catholic countries in the wake of the child abuse scandals, as Catholics abandon their church by the million.

    I would like to hear a discussion about the causes and constraints of that huge social change – primarily what forces are driving it (demographics? the internet? other mass media?), whether it is possible to deliberately increase that rate, could there be a tipping point where is will suddenly increase or plateau?

    So my vote is for a discussion about the biggest-picture “helicopter view” of the whole movement from a global perspective, and how this might inform our broadest strategies.

  4. says

    A panel debunking metal illness denial/anti-psychiatry because

    (1) less attention has been given to debunking anti-psychiatry than other forms of pseudoscience (e. g. creationism, climate change denial)

    (2) it is a social justice issue as anti-psychiatry (by claiming that mental illness does not exist or that it is a choice) contributes to stigma around mental illness.

  5. sisu says

    I’d be more interested in a secular parenting panel than in one person’s talk. Parenting is so particular, and one person’s experience may not be helpful/relevant for another’s. (As an aside, I think this is why Parenting Beyond Belief is such a valuable book. It collects people’s experiences, but doesn’t pretend to be a how-to handbook that’s relevant for every secular parent everywhere.)

    I think it’d be great to hear from a number of people with various perspectives (like, maybe PZ, since his kids are grown; maybe someone who’s trying to raise secular kids in a deeply religious community; maybe Jamila Bey or someone else raising secular kids in the African American community; etc.). I’d love to participate, too.

  6. lpetrich says

    My ideas:

    * Pseudoscience and intuitive plausibility. Aversion to mathematics is an obvious bit.

    * Pseudoscience politicization — what makes some pseudosciences politicized and some not? Creationism and global-warming denial are obviously politicized, but vitalism isn’t.

    * Science by press conference. Cold fusion, the arsenic bug, Eric Weinstein’s theory of everything. I have a special grudge against EW — he’s claimed that he can get the Standard Model out of his TOE, but he has yet to deliver on that.

    * Paradigm shifts and how they happen in science. Why pseudoscientists like to talk about them.

    * Religious and mystical experiences. Worth trying to induce?

  7. says

    I’d love to do an environmental panel from a more social perspective. Environmental justice, urban planning, sustainable development, etc. and such issues as the studies showing windturbine sickness to be basically a politically induced psychosomatic illness*. I’d just need a few other people (e.g. Sally Strange) to volunteer to do such a panel with me.

    Another one I’d love to see happening would be a panel on unexamined cultural artifacts left behind by the fact that Abrahamic religion had such a great influence in shaping western cultures: e.g. ideas of male superiority, ideas about what makes a family, ideas about the relationship between people and the environment, etc.

    – – – – – –
    *http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2013-07740-001/
    http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/8977

  8. says

    I’d volunteer to help with a panel on maintaining curiosity and intellectual life in environments that discourage it (in my case, for women being discouraged as a function of intellectual oppression, but I’d imagine that it’s a broad enough topic.) I’m thinking it could be a good venue for discussing dealing with stereotypes and personal motivation in highly discouraging environments–there are broad cultural stereotypes that discourage intellectual development for a variety of groups. I can only speak for being female, and I’m happy to just watch if the panel is judged to be better done by others.

  9. Nick Gotts says

    I’d like to organize a panel on “Is an environmentally sustainable capitalism possible?” There have been a number of attempts to show that it is, and on specific issues (acid rain, protection of the ozone layer) effective action has been taken; but a core feature of capitalism is that capital flows to where the potential for profit is greatest, and if that happens to be drilling for oil in the Arctic or clear-cutting tropical forest, so be it.

  10. Walton says

    Well, I very much enjoyed our panel discussion on immigrants’ rights at FtBCon. For obvious reasons, it had to be a very broad overview of a very large topic. I think there’s more we could explore at the next one, through a panel with a narrower focus. Perhaps a panel specifically focused on LGBT people in the immigration system, for instance, and the relationship between immigration laws and state-sponsored homophobia. Or a panel on migrant workers’ rights, and how immigration laws are linked to capitalism and economic inequality.

    I also like Nick and Jadehawk’s ideas. Environmentalism isn’t something I’m an expert on (although I have become interested in climate science as an educated layperson recently) and I’d like to learn more. I’d definitely watch a panel on capitalism and environmental sustainability.

  11. says

    A panel on humanistic Judaism would be interesting.

    I’d also like an atheism and fiction writing panel, of course, I’m biased. :)

  12. Sili says

    cultural artifacts left behind by the fact that Abrahamic religion had such a great influence in shaping western cultures: e.g. ideas of male superiority, ideas about what makes a family, ideas about the relationship between people and the environment, etc.

    Male superiority is hardly an Abrahamic trait. Is there any major culture that hasn’t benefited from the suppression of women (and the poor and the weak and the Other?)?

  13. hjhornbeck says

    I was about to wander in and call for one on the demarcation of science, according to actual scientists, but I see lpetrich @10 beat me to it.

    To expand on Stephen Minhinnick’s idea, how about a global summary of blasphemy laws and anti-atheist discrimination? Benson, Avicenna, someone from Nirmukta, Ilesanmi, and Nasreen could easily pull that off, and that’s only bloggers from this network!

  14. David Marjanović says

    So many good ideas… PZ, maybe you should put a link to this in the sidebar?

    I might participate in the suggested panel on paradigm shifts.

    I’d like to organize a panel on “Is an environmentally sustainable capitalism possible?” There have been a number of attempts to show that it is, and on specific issues (acid rain, protection of the ozone layer) effective action has been taken;

    but in both of those cases, the action was taken by governments negotiating with each other and agreeing to ban stuff, to the wailing of libertarians and the gnashing of their teeth.

    It’s possible to constrain capitalism to do the right thing. But then, capitalism already has to be constrained just so it can continue existing, as opposed to turning into a monopoly or three…

  15. hjhornbeck says

    Was just talking to a skeptical friend, when it hit me: how about a panel on the anti-GMO crowd? There’s a ridiculous amount of pseudo-science and outright lies against GMOs in general, and yet (based on my interactions) it’s still somewhat of an obscure topic in skeptical circles. I can recommend her as a panelist, she’s been stumping against the nonsense for a few months now and has a good feel for what’s out there.

  16. hjhornbeck says

    Aww, this thread died down quickly. :(

    Another suggestion: an acquaintance of mine, David Ince, just helped start up the Carribean Freethinkers’ Society, a fledgling group that’s dedicated to stumping for atheists and non-believers in the very Christian Caribbean community. A panel featuring him and other Caribbean non-believers would provide some insight into what’s going on down there, and bring them a bit of publicity to the plight of non-believers in the islands.

  17. lpetrich says

    hjhornbeck # 21, the demarcation problem is science vs. pseudoscience. Various philosophers of science have agonized over that, without very conclusive results. However, most of what gets called pseudoscience I think may reasonably be interpreted as flawed science. I think that that may get around that conundrum.

    On pseudoscience subjects, I’ve thought of proposing talking about physics crackpottery. I concede that that’s rather far removed from the interests of many people here. But I find it interesting as pseudoscience that does not have much by way of the common sorts of ulterior motives. Motives like commercial (global-warming denial), religious (creationism), and the like.

    In the late 19th cy. to about 1920, many physics crackpots were anti-Newton and often opposed to wave theories. But after 1920, Albert Einstein became a big celebrity, and many physics crackpots turned anti-relativity. Curiously, they often claimed that they were bringing back Newtonian physics.

    There has been some outside-motivated physics crackpottery, like Nazi “German physics”, opposing “Jewish physics” like relativity. Its advocates proposed reviving the physics of such great Nordics as Kepler and Newton.

    Pathological Physics: Tales from “The Box” – YouTube is a nice discussion of some recent physics crackpottery. Some are incoherent, some are naive, and some are stubborn. The latter ones are the most interesting, and the like to do:
    – Theories of everything
    – Self-aggrandizement: they often think that they are great geniuses
    – Lack of disproof = proof
    – Specious precision, like 30+ digits
    – “Deriving” fundamental constants: the fine-structure constant is a favorite
    – Convenient redefinitions
    For some reason, many of them are engineers, especially retired engineers. There are not many from the natural sciences. The Salem Hypothesis? What gives some engineers this sort of false confidence?

  18. lpetrich says

    The Natural Philosophy Alliance is a whole organization of physics crackpots. But the big names in it are supposedly the ether theorists, who believe in that late 19th-cy. reconciliation of Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetism.

    Many of the more recent physics crackpots believe that physics was OK until about 1900, and that after that, it went to pot with the likes of relativity and quantum mechanics.

    But a weird twist in physics crackpottery has come from a certain John Duffield, who often posts under the name Farsight. He claims to be restoring the physics of Einstein, but he denies space-time unification, a cornerstone of relativity, and he even claims that time is not primary, but derived from motion. He claims that electrons and protons are circling photons, with the electron being a double loop and the proton being a trefoil with the quarks the handles. Yes, he thinks that elementary-particle spin is a classical-like effect.

    His idea of crackpottery: such mainstream speculations as supersymmetry, string theory, multiverses, and the like.

    Although apparently an atheist, he argues much like a theologian, implying that if you reject his interpretations of quotes from Einstein and the like, then you reject those physicists and their theories.

  19. lpetrich says

    On politicized pseudosciences, the most infamous one may be Lysenkoism. Trofim Lysenko was a plant breeder who claimed that he could outdo mainstream biologists. He claimed that his experimental treatments could alter crop plants’ heredity, and that genes do not exist. Instead, all parts of an organism contribute to its heredity, an old theory called “pangenesis”. He got the favor of Communist Party officials, including Joseph Stalin himself. Mainstream biologists got in trouble as Mendelist Weismannist Morganist idealists, though Lysenko’s final triumph was in 1948.

    Soviet Biology – Trofim Lysenko speech, 1948 shows what he was thinking. He repeatedly slammed the notion of a “hereditary substance”, even though Western biologists were closing in on its nature. This substance ought not to need much introduction for many of us.

    Another one is Hanns Hoerbiger’s Welteislehre, his Cosmic Ice Theory. He got the idea from looking at the Moon through a small telescope and noticing how bright it looked. He thought that it was covered with snow and ice. He then proceeded to develop an elaborate cosmology around Solar-System ice. Ice blocks continually spiral in from a ring in the outer Solar System, visible as the Milky Way. As they pass the Earth, they are visible as shooting stars, and when they collide with the Earth, they produce a lot of bad weather. When an ice block hits the Sun, it makes a sunspot.

    The Earth has had several previous moons, and all of them have spiraled into the Earth. The most recent one to do so is the Cenozoic or Tertiary Moon, and it spiraled in recently enough to be remembered in lots of myths and legends in rather garbled fashion. Like the Book of Revelation and Goetterdaemmerung. After that was a period of re-creation, mentioned in more myths and legends, and then the Earth captured its present Moon, sinking Atlantis.

    He published a humongous tome on it, Glazial-Kosmogonie, in 1912, but then WWI happened. After that war, he and his followers started applying a lot of pressure to get people to accept it. HH died in 1931, and after that, his followers identified the WEL with Nazism. Like saying that HH and Adolf Hitler were two Austrian “amateurs” who know what to do about the Jews. Nazi officialdom even released a statement saying that one could be a good Nazi without believing in the WEL.

    After WWII, the WEL organization dropped out of sight, though it reappeared in the 1950’s and 1960’s. But more recently, it has no Internet presence that I’ve been able to discover.

    By comparison, vitalists don’t have much taste for politics. They aren’t even very organized about their vitalism and often not very conscious of it, as far as I can tell. I’m talking about advocates of the likes of chi and prana and morphic resonance.

  20. hjhornbeck says

    Ipetrich @26:

    the demarcation problem is science vs. pseudoscience. Various philosophers of science have agonized over that, without very conclusive results. However, most of what gets called pseudoscience I think may reasonably be interpreted as flawed science. I think that that may get around that conundrum.

    I’m with you, much of the heat around the demarcation problem boils down to mystery mongering. When you pull apart the various common definitions of science, like “an epistemology,” “a body of knowledge,” and “a profession,” the problem seems trivial to me.

    Also: I’m totally endorsing your idea for a talk. It sounds awesome!