Hey yo! Michigan!

This week, I’ll be heading off to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a few days, and more than a few of you have been asking me for the details. Here’s my itinerary:

Wednesday – March 25, 2009

4:00-4:30 pm – Interview with Jeremy Beahan – Reasonable Doubts Radio Show/ Podcast

5:00 pm – Check into Hotel: Days Hotel Downtown GR.

6:30 pm – Meeting Setup @ WCC (Jeff Seaver will pick you up at Hotel at 6:15)

7:00 pm – CFI Featured Event @ WCC Format: 45-60 minute presentation with Q&A following (RSVP here).

9:00 pm – After event Social at Vitale’s Restaurant.

Thursday – March 26, 2009

9:30-11:30 am – Breakfast with Science Professors. Discussion topic: Evolution Education Mezze Restaurant – Downtown Grand Rapids (Attendee’s TBA).

11:45-12:15 – Interview with Ed Brayton of Declaring Independence – WPRR 1680

12:30-2:00 pm – GRCC Campus Event: Discussion. Some will have “brown-bag lunch” – we can provide food for you based on your preference or get lunch after this event.

4:00-5:30 pm – GVSU Campus Event: Discussion

7:00 pm – 3 Beer Discussion (RSVP here): Social Event & Dinner with CFI Members (you are invited to join us for as long as you are interested)

Maybe I’ll see a few of you there!


  1. franz dibbler says

    Grand Rapids is the bible belt of Michigan. They won’t know what hit them.

  2. Michael X says

    An interview with Ed huh? I guess that means you guys are back on speaking terms? :P

  3. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    As an ex-Michigander, I can state that Bland Rapids is not an exciting city for its size. Too many Dutch Reformed in the area, and no large college in the area to counteract their presence. Still the airport isn’t that far out so you have a quick get-away.

  4. charley says

    I have reservations for the Wednesday event. I hope your stay includes a discussion between you and these two Calvin profs. They teach solid science, but also produced “teach the controversy” curriculum for for the Christian schools and promote tolerance of all Christian views on origins. My feeling is that they are jeopardizing the decent reputation of Calvin’s science program.

  5. rickflick says

    I’m originally from the Grand Rapids area – which is crawling with Christians of every stripe. Calvinists and Dutch Reformed are big ones. By your itinerary it doesn’t look like you will encounter any of them. I studied at Grand Valley State University 30 miles west. That campus is located in a dry township so students had to drive 10 miles to the nearest watering hole. Good luck Dr. Myers. 8-)

  6. NewEnglandBob says

    From the itinerary, it look s like you don’t get to eat Wednesday night until late and you will be eating for hours and hours on Thursday.

    Schedule some time at the Hotel Gym!

  7. Chris says

    Will be there Wednesday night and am looking forward to it. And Grand Rapids isn’t as bad as the previous poster makes it out to be, there are a fair amount of GVSU, Kendall, and GRCC students in the area to liven things up. Glad to see you’re hitting up GVSU too, that’s where I graduated from. I might try and sneak into that as well.

  8. Chris says

    @rickflick – I never knew GVSU was a dry county, although i’m not surprised, it hasn’t been at least since I started going there.

  9. Kirk says

    Was planning on attending but just found out I have to go to , uughh, KENTUCKY for work this week. Have fun without me!

  10. Joel says

    I’m in Grand Rapids, and don’t really agree with the negative comments. Great food, possibly the best beer in the world (Founders), and lots of good people.

    But what Vitale’s restaurant are you going to be at? There are two that are pretty close to the downtown area.

  11. Rich says

    Hi PZ!

    1) Its Teh Witch’s birthday. I’m getting a cake with lots of candles to throw her on.

    2) Are Ed Brayton and yourself on good terms? I thought there had been a ‘disagreement’


  12. rastabob says

    Please come the the Detroit/Ann Arbor area! the farther west you go in michigan, the lower your IQ points – by the time you hit Lake Michigan, you’re drooling

  13. xeric says

    Grand Rapids is a great beer town. Brewpubs: Founders, The Hideout (if you can find it), Schmohz, Grand Rapids Brewing, are all great, as is the Hopcats beer bar. A great town to get sloshed in.

  14. JRQ says

    Ah, crap. Of, course one of my classes (I teach at GVSU) meets 4pm that day.

    I actually just moved to GR. Yes it’s churchy, but honestly I haven’t found it to be nearly as bad as I was led to believe. I wonder if the city and surrounds have been changing recently?

    Oh, and as a former Minnesotan, and I’m quite familiar with Morris (my wife is from Fergus Falls). Western MI isn’t all that different than western MN…except the towns are larger and we have a big lake to the west instead of the Dakotas.

  15. Cokehead says

    Hey rastabob! I’m pretty far west (Barry County) and I’m not drooling at all. The nerve of some people :P

    But when I was volunteering for the Obama campaign, twice people just said ‘I just can’t really trust a black man as president. Maybe if he wasn’t muslim…”

    That said, there are still science-supporting people about. You just have look a little

  16. Sven DiMillo says

    Loathe as I am to come on K*k-like, I once attended a certain gigantic land-grant State University in central Michigan, and one memorable evening in August 1980, a contingent of us set out for Grand Rapids for what turned out to be the most intimate Dead show of all I saw ever. Stumbling out after, we were greeted by proselytizing young christians, one guy struggling to shoulder a huge wooden cross. Some of you will have guessed by now that multiple neuromodulators were at work and for some reason the absurd scene is etched deeply into my memory banks.

  17. says

    Don’t be disillusioned! Ed and I are planning to strip naked, grease ourselves up with bear fat, tie our left wrists together, and go at each other with Bowie knives. It will make for great radio!

  18. Jeff says

    I just got my confirmation for your Wednesday lecture. I can’t believe the PZ rock show is coming to GR!!

  19. says

    When are you coming to Flagstaff AZ?
    I moved from Australia to be closer to you, but you are still a no show. *sigh* ;)
    Are you making it to TAM this year? Should be fun.

  20. EMUAlgaeGirl says

    I agree with Rastabob that you should come to A2!!! But I’ll still make the trek to Grand Rapids. This is gonna be AWESOME!

  21. says

    Here’s something to discuss at the beer tasting or perhaps earlier if it fits in: “How to bring an end to the war over sex education” Time U.S. The effective frame is that teen pregnancy costs billions in “health care, foster care, public assistance, and lost tax revenue.” Comprehensive sex education demonstrably lowers the teen birth rate. That makes it worthwhile to fund even now while the government still funds only the ineffective abstinence-only sex ed. The article talks about one school district’s success.

  22. Eric says

    Holy shit, you’re going to be in my state. Just an hour’s drive at that (a shame you couldn’t come to my campus, but there isn’t exactly much here aside from the university). Too bad I can’t make anything on Thursday (lab all day). But Wednesday is a possibility. Damn microbiology lecture.

  23. Matt says

    Christ almighty. Do not ever tell them where you are. You may think it’s funny but… These are religious people. They bring violence to a whole new level. You have to protect yourself from the jesus lovers.
    Good luck.

  24. clinteas says


    srsly,do not post details of your stay on the web man,too many lunatics out there,we all know that.
    Youre in XYZ on day ABC,great,but Hotel details,Id be really careful with this sort of stuff.

  25. says

    I grew up in Grand Rapids. It’s a VERY religious, conservative area.

    But you can have fun. Ask them what the longest suspension bridge in the world is. They’ll probably get it wrong.

  26. chancelikely says

    Well, I can officially stop complaining about PZ never showing up anywhere near me; the Women’s City Club where he’ll be speaking is something on the order of 500 feet away from my workplace. (Bonus irony points: this atheist works at a church.)

    I’m a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids (not counting moves for college) but I have to say, I’m not embarrassed so much by the traditional churches and parochial attitude. The real evil Grand Rapids is responsible for is Amway.

  27. charley says

    The real evil Grand Rapids is responsible for is Amway.

    Absolutely! The owners of that company are worse than Bernie Madoff. Amazingly, the Christian schools and colleges soak up millions in donations from them and name buildings after them. It’s sickening.

  28. says

    Hey PZ, it’ll be great to see you here. Sorry to see they didn’t include Calvin College on your itinerary, but I’m offering right now. I’ll see you at GRBCo either way, and maybe at one of the events downtown. Don’t let your anti-Christian commenters get you down on our interesting town…the beer is great and the progressive side of our psyche is very strong. See you soon!

  29. Faithful Reader says

    DARN it! Too many commitments here for me to trek west to GR. Other MI Pharyngulites, give PZ a big cheer (and maybe a beer) for me.

  30. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    Sultmhoor, third coast of Michigan? I haven’t heard that term before. What are the numbers for the other lakes?

  31. charley says

    Steve Matheson, I hope you can make it Wednesday (I heard your talk at COS a while back). If anything gels at Calvin, I’d really like to come.

  32. says

    Hey PZ, it’ll be great to see you here. Sorry to see they didn’t include Calvin College on your itinerary, but I’m offering right now. I’ll see you at GRBCo either way, and maybe at one of the events downtown. Don’t let your anti-Christian commenters get you down on our interesting town…the beer is great and the progressive side of our psyche is very strong. See you soon!

  33. says

    Uh, heh, sorry about the duplicate comment. I’ll be at GRBCo for sure but PZ’s booked solid so we can only hope his hosts drive him past the Calvin campus on the way to GRBCo. And I’ll try to get to the GRCC event.

  34. gramomster says

    Yay! I’ll be there Thursday, at GVSU and at the brewing company. Mephyt! What’s up! See you Thursday man!

    And GR is actually perfectly fine. Moved here from Seattle, but hubby grew up here. Apparently it’s gotten more progressive, there are great bars and restaurants, growing arts scene, and lots of live music.
    And Grand Valley is not 30 miles from GR. It’s under 20. I live in GR, teach on the Allendale campus (which is certainly no longer in a dry county!!!), and can make the drive in 20 minutes.
    I’ve found lots of progressive thinkers here, and actually love it a lot.

    I would love to discuss the sex-ed issue. I’m a sociologist, this is an issue that is near and dear. And, did you know? GRPS last year decided to pay attention to studies, and drop abstinence only? Yay GRPS!!! That’s perhaps the only nice thing I can say about this school system, but it is a little ray of hope?

  35. mephyt says

    #42 I’ve not had the same level of luck discovering progressive individuals outside of an educational environment. Out of the jobs I’ve had at major corporations, I’d say that they pretty well all were uber-conservative. That all said though, it’s not nearly as bad now as when I first entered the job market in this state.

    Catch you Thurs., I’ll drag along my copy of Dawkins God Delusion to hand off to you.

  36. says

    Having read Steve’s post again, I see that I was too hasty and that I misinterpreted what he wrote. My apologies.

    (I will admit that I am biased against Steve due to an unpleasant exchange I had with him a while ago.)

    Also, let me throw my hat in the ring with the “PZ, please come to Ann Arbor or Detroit” chorus… :-)

  37. says

    @46 Kevin, your failed attempt to poison the well was quite lame, but if you want to further discuss the Fallacy of the Excluded Middle, I’ll buy you a beer at GRBCo. And I’ll be nothing but pleasant. Offer stands even if you can’t make it this week to see PZ.

  38. Diane G. says

    @ Kevin, # 46

    Interesting exchange. You ftw, no question. So, have Matheson & PZ ever had a similar discussion?

  39. Neslock says

    Crap, I thought WCC might have stood for Washtenaw Community College, and I could have actually made that on Wednesday night. Grand Rapids is a little too far to travel after work.

  40. Dave says

    First off, Founders has great beer. Schmoz is okay. GRBC and Hideout are swill. Stay away.

    Secondly, while the surrounding areas are quite koooky (Ada, Jenison, etc) GR itself is fairly progressive. Some of the kooks think it is necessary to go to church downtown (laGrave), but most of the urban churches are on the liberal quasi-heretical wing of their respective denominations.

    And finally, I went to Calvin and graduated with a double major in Biology and Geology. I had one class in each dept that dealt with the “controversy”- for my second bio class, we had a day of discussion about how to jibe any religious notions with the reality of evolution, which was continued in a listserv (many of the students came from quite conservative backgrounds) and a paper for paleo that required us to lay out and defend our personal beliefs (graded on how well we could write it, not on which position we took). Everything I learned was the same as what I would’ve learned at MSU, except I was taught in classes of 25 by experienced professors, right from day one.

  41. charley says

    …a paper for paleo that required us to lay out and defend our personal beliefs (graded on how well we could write it, not on which position we took).

    I graduated from Calvin in ’80. Back then they taught straight Biology and took 10 minutes to mention that creation science was crap. This new approach pandering to conservative students sounds cowardly.

    I don’t care how well-written an undergrad paper is explaining God’s influence on fossils, it can’t possibly contain any evidence and has no place in a science department. They should stick to teaching science and tell the students to accept it or find another major.

    Biology and Geology students should not graduate thinking that acceptance of established science is optional.

  42. Carl Wiesinger says

    First post, but have been reading P.Z.’s blog for months with interest. Looking forward to meeting in Grand Rapids, as it’s only a 1 1/2 hour drive each way for me. Planning to stop in for “3 Beers Discussion” Thurs. night. Really craving intelligent, adult conversation, after existing in this church-infested, superstition-spouting, void for waaaay too long (Indiana/Michiana/Michigan).

  43. says

    Gramomster [42],I prefer results-based decisions. I am tired of governments doing a study, not getting the results they wanted or expected, and doing the same thing anyway. I think that legislated actions should lay out the mechanism for a decision and state that alternate courses of action will be taken depending on the results of information-gathering, just as scientists have to declare in advance how they are going to analyze data and not just poke around for fortuitous correlations.

    The decisions are usually in the direction of centralizing power or dumping obligations on someone else, e.g. not funding comprehensive sex education but leaving it to the school boards.

    It’s not new; in Ontario, in the 1960s the Davis government did a survey to show that rural schools provided poorer educations, did not find it, falsified their study a little (so rumour had it) or at least ignored the results, and closed the rural schools. In the 1990s, the Harris government dumped the costs of a lot of highways onto local municipalities. They did traffic surveys, found out that a large fraction of drivers were using secondary highways to make long trips, and turned the highways into local roads anyway. (You still see signs like, “Former Highway 6, that-a-way.”) Then of course, they boasted about how they balance their budget (which turned out to be a lie). Bitch, bitch, bitch. When I’m king…

    PZ, it’s a good idea to keep your location at least slightly obfuscated. It only takes one maniac to ruin your whole day.

  44. says

    I’ll be there tomorrow night for the lecture. Will it be the same talk that you (PZ) gave in Toronto, Oct 31, 08?

    There’ll be a few of us traveling from the big city of Sarnia, Ontario. For those complaining about not PZ not going to Detroit – it’s a shorter drive for you!

  45. says

    No, completely different talk. I didn’t know if Michigan could handle the same level of godless vitriol that was no problem in Canada.

  46. says

    I had my producer check into it. It seems that if PZ and I really did strip naked, cover ourselves in bear grease and go at each other with bowie knives, that would bring a big fine from the FCC even on the radio. So we’re gonna have to do the next best thing: make fun of creationists.

  47. Dave says

    @Charley #51-

    I forgot to mention the few days we spent on how creation science was completely bogus. The paper I refer to was really just a side exercise, not really pertinent to the class.

    Dave, co ’98