A conversation about TAM

A subset of Freethoughtbloggers and the Queen Skepchick got together on Google+ to discuss the recent contretemps. The people who participated were me, Al Stefanelli, Daniel Fincke, Greg Laden, Ian Cromwell, Jason Thibeault, Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Watson, and Stephanie Zvan.

Here’s how I introduced it:

The latest controversy to embroil freethoughtblogs is over the James Randi Educational Foundation’s big yearly meeting, The Amazing Meeting, or TAM for short. After DJ Grothe, the president of the JREF, announced his concern that, despite the fact that he’d done a fine job of making the roster of speakers well balanced, at roughly half and half men and women, the registration of women in the meeting was significantly down from last year. What to do?

Well, he could have asked big boosters of TAM, like Skepchick and Freethoughtblogs, to rally together and help get more women involved, as Skepchick has done every year. Instead, in a bizarre twist, he basically accused Rebecca Watson and a certain blog network, ours, of scaring women away with our horrible stories of sexual harassment. He also denied that sexual harassment had ever occurred, a story that has been steadily unraveling over the last few weeks.

Then, to make matters worse, a number of poorly informed people have been ranting that we, that is people like Rebecca Watson and Stephanie Zvan, want to “harm TAM” — another weird claim that ignores the history of our involvement with skeptical and atheist meetings.

So the point of our session today is to clear the air, get our position expressed, and maybe vent a little frustration.

Creationism is a marketing game

And they know it. Ken Ham has started a new billboard campaign for the creation “museum”, with a variety of different designs, all featuring prehistoric* creatures as draws to get kids and family to attend. Here are some examples:

Notice what’s smart about them? They’re focused, featuring an element that they clearly know is a key draw, dinosaurs; they’re eye-catching; they’re professionally designed and have thematic unity; and the Creation “Museum” knows that good marketing is a way to get people to come in to their propaganda mill. You know they invested a good chunk of money in this effort.

So now Ken Ham is openly gloating about his wonderful billboards.

…just like everything else we do at the Creation Museum, they are done professionally—first class!

To make matters even worse, he goes on sneer at the feeble efforts of real museums, and to mock several atheist billboard campaigns, posting examples of some of the worst. And the sad thing is — and you won’t hear me saying this very often — Ken Ham is right. Real museums are strapped for cash, and most of their money is going into curating scientific collections and paying scientists to do work for them, while atheist organizations are actually small time compared to the multi-million dollar operating budget of a commercial enterprise like the Creation “Museum”.

Ham doesn’t have a clue about any of the things real museums do. When an NCSE spokesperson says he wishes more science museums could engage in this kind of promotion, Ham whimpers defensively.

You mean our government-funded (using our tax money) Smithsonian would not have a marketing budget as big as the marketing budget of the Creation Museum? And what about all the other secular museums (no doubt most are funded by our tax dollars) such as the Chicago Field Museum and New York Natural History Museum—and the many, many others!

The Smithsonian, the AMNH, and the Field Museum are not about marketing! They’re institutions doing science. Ham is confused in thinking that his freak show exhibit and monument to bunkum is anything like those places. He does not have a museum, he owns a sideshow attraction!

The article reveals Ken Ham’s ignorance in so many ways. He really doesn’t understand the difference, and he doesn’t comprehend why scientists might be worried about his campaign.

As of writing this blog post, an Associated Press article about our new dinosaur billboards has appeared on many news sites, including ABC News and the Washington Post. The AP article and many blogs indicate that secularists are concerned about them. Isn’t it amazing that they are so worried about one Creation Museum. Think of all the hundreds of secular museums and thousands of secular schools, colleges, and universities where evolution and millions of years are taught as fact—and the secularists are really worried AiG’s Creation Museum! That shows how insecure they really are. Secularists just can’t stand it when information they have censored from the public is being disseminated by us. And they don’t want people thinking for themselves; they want them to swallow their anti-God religion!

Those billboards and his “museum” are not disseminating censored information. Information about creationism is freely available all over, and gets routinely spread in a common American institution, church. We are worried because Ken Ham is spending buckets of money disseminating slickly-produced lies, while scientists are trying to do science. Lies are cheap and easy; the truth is harder to come by. That he follows the cheap and easy route means he has more money to sink into public relations.

We’re not worried that Ken Ham has some uncomfortable truth that he’s getting across to people. We’re worried that he’s an effective charlatan.

And really, it’s easy to see what a lying fraud he is. Did you notice one of the billboards in that montage above?

Yeah. Ken Ham claims that fire-breathing dragons were real.

*Well, actually, if Ken Ham were right, these are historic creatures that lived within the last 6,000 years.

Why I am an atheist – W.P.

How did I become an atheist? I grew up in a traditional Protestant family; went to Sunday school weekly. I could just never buy the silly stories I was fed every week. A talking, burning bush? A world-wide flood? (they hadn’t even discovered the western hemisphere yet!) A virgin birth? Wine to water or walking on water? By the time I was a teen, I was very skeptical. Then I was introduced to R.W. Emerson. His essays and his ties to transcendentalism showed me that I wasn’t the only one uncomfortable with traditional Christianity (too bad I’d never heard of Robert Green-Ingersoll until just a few years ago). Well, then I went off to college to study biology, archaeology, paleontology and the like. I added some courses on the Bible and the Humanities for good measure. That darn critical thinking just pounded those last nails into the coffin of my Christian upbringing.

I met and married a very secular guy (outdoors, with a J.P.) and now we have 3 little secular humanist tots. I discuss religion with them but steer them toward the path of science and constant questioning. Will they run off and join a cult someday, or worse–becomes Mormons?? Maybe…”god”, I hope not.

United States

Jesus Freakin’ Christ, Obama

Am I really going to have to vote for that asshole, Obama in the fall?

The US government seems to have taken this despicable tactic as a model and expanded it to create its own version of the double tap. Following a drone strike that results in deaths, they follow up with a second attack targeting the first responders or another one even later aimed at mourners attending the funerals of those killed in the first. This is presumably justified on the basis that anyone who assists the injured or mourns the deaths of someone deemed to be an enemy of the US is also an enemy and thus deserving of summary execution.

Yeah, it’ll also damage the health care infrastructure of the country (that’s what we want to do, right? Make life more miserable for the civilians?) and also neatly murder the grief-stricken people who would subsequently blame America for the death of people they loved.

How did we get into a situation where the two people running for president are both psycho hacks lacking in all empathy for the human beings beneath them?

Anti-Caturday Post

Continuing my attack on the felocracy by way of the cuteness tactic, our weapon of choice this week is the adorable baby turtle.

Cute and environmentally responsible!

Also, Seattle. I took my wife on a few dates to that zoo.

A Pharyngula podcast?

A few people expressed an interest in seeing a podcast done, featuring me (well, maybe not so much me) and a few of the regulars chatting about this and that. I was thinking that would be very easily done by recording a Google+ hangout — would that be of interest to anyone else? We’d be looking for an audience (maybe everyone would be bored with that?) and participants — I think there are a few notable names in our commentariat that people would like to attach a face and voice to.

If you’re interested, leave a comment, maybe suggest a few people you’d like to see taking part. I may pester some of you later to get a Google+ account so I can nag you to join in.

Another issue is time: I’m thinking that late evening Central time, like 9 or 10pm, would encompass reasonable hours for most of the New World, but we’d have to negotiate that with the Europeans and Australians.

Say, we haven’t done a poll in a while

I confess, so many of the polls people send to me are already trending in the right direction — and this one is no exception — so I haven’t been pushing them as hard. Have all those internet atheists realized that they have a voice all on their own, and don’t need me to tell them to speak up anymore?

Anyway, you can still tell New Zealand to do better. 43% want to deny equal rights to gay people? For shame.

Should same-sex marriage be legalised?

Yes – Gay couples should have the same legal rights as everybody else 55%

No – Marriage should be between a man and a woman 43%

Not sure 2%