The Canberra Cabal

Everyone knows already why I was off in Melbourne this past week — it was the Global Atheist Conference — but why did I hare off to Canberra for the weekend? It was another conspiracy.

Many years ago, the locus of all things evolutionist on the interwebs was found on Usenet, in a group called, where a motley mob of ruthless science proponents regularly mocked and crushed creationists and honed their skills at rhetorical combat. I came out of that particular culture (and, by the way, the commenting rules here, with a policy of limited interference with the substance of people’s comments, grew straight out of Talk.Origins still exists as a discussion group, and evolved into a very useful web site, as well, and many of the regulars who haunted Usenet have since branched out into blogs, suchs as The Panda’s Thumb.

Oddly enough, quite a few of the illustrious and honored masters of are Australian. So, as long as I was there in Australia, we had to meet up and share our plans for world domination. It was kind of like a meeting of the Illuminati, only we’re mostly poor academics and civil servants, and our only magic power is our obsession with flooding the internet. Here’s one photo of the group:


They are, from left to right in the back: Cartman (respect our authoritah),
John Wilkins (master of sowing confusion with philosophy),
Chris Ho-Stuart (the milquetoast atheist),
Jim Foley (most definitely a hominid),
PZ Myers (biggest mouth), and
Chris Nedin (biggest Dick (seriously, he showed us the award) (and photos of the real thing) (it’s over a meter long!)). In front is Ian Musgrave (best beard). You should be reading their blogs! Especially if our plans for world domination come to fruition, since you will want a leg up in flattering your masters.

Also, while I was in Canberra, I spoke at a Skeptics in the Pub meeting, which was held in a very classy pub, King O’Malley’s. It was rather interesting in that more people showed up than was convenient (several hundred), and they were sort of draped into all kinds of nooks and crannies. It was also one of those talks where I gave a short introduction (literally, I read the intro to the book I’m working on), and then didn’t get to the rest because we just ended up doing a long Q&A for the rest of our time.


I am not in that picture. I’m somewhere way off screen, hiding from the mob, I think.


  1. Sili says

    Yup, that’s a male, featherless biped alright.

    Wilkins looks oddly young and hairless, though.

  2. Ray Moscow says

    Man, beer AND freethinking.

    It doesn’t get any better than that. Except of course if one adds some hot, freethinking women. Hey, it looks like some of those showed up, too.

  3. Nerd of Redhead, OM says

    If that many people were each trying to give me a beer I would be hiding too…

  4. Glen Davidson says

    Good ol’ Talkorigins.

    The trouble with that group is that about the only creationists who hung around after creationism was roundly defeated were the extremely noxious and stupid ones, like Raytard and that Nash idiot.

    Now we have to respond on open and free forums to creotards/IDiots who don’t dare to come to anywhere that isn’t heavily censored.

    Glen D

  5. tonysidaway says

    Possibly the largest group of University of Ediacara faculty ever assembled in one room.

  6. Givesgoodemail says

    I miss Usenet a lot. There was something pure and piercing about text post after text post, full of pithy content and robust humor.

    It’s sad just to even visit it now and scan the execrable excuses for headers of posts.

    Wasteland, wasteland.

  7. Teddydeedodu says

    Here are some more pictures of PZ that I took during his pub talk. I couldn’t make it to the Convention because of other arrangements but damnit if I was going to miss seeing PZ when he was that close to Sydney, so I dragged my elderly parents with me for a 3 hours trip down to Canberra just so I could watch the Squidmaster himself.

    Quite an interesting meet. Some points that PZ touched on:

    1) Too many churches in Australia!!

    2) Poor Steve Fielding.

    3) Atheists are accused of being arrogant intellectuals. I can understand the ‘intellectual’ part but how on earth are we arrogant?

    4) Atheists need to project a more positive image. We need to think of how to engage society with our own community activities. While religious groups have their ‘hug your neighbours’ while singing ‘Kumbaya My Lord’, atheists can begin by organizing orgies! Ahhh…we think so much alike.

  8. Chris Hegarty says

    Welp, now I have more blogs to read. This all must be a conspiracy to keep me out of disrupting the econ world with my godless ramblings.

    I dearly wish I could have gone to Sydney for the GAC, but I gotta pay the rent and buy cigarettes. Oh well. There’s still TAM and Skepticon.

  9. Thommo says

    King O’Malley’s and Classy.. never heard those two words in the same sentence without “not”.

    PZ, I hope you enjoyed the fireworks we put on for you that evening. Not everyone get that treatment. Unluckily, my short morning at work didn’t finish until dark and after the fireworks(but I did catch the traffic). Next time you come to tropical Canberra, I will be sure to have the day off.. Yup, next time.

  10. says

    It was kind of like a meeting of the Illuminati, only we’re mostly poor academics and civil servants, and our only magic power is our obsession with flooding the internet.

    But I don’t see every one wearing silly hats or robes.

  11. Sven says

    Awww… as a Canberran currently living in Michigan… I miss home. I would’ve been there, drinking along, adding to the crowd :)

  12. Kel, OM says

    The way they talked about Talk.Origins is something I would loved to have these days.

    I really enjoyed the talk on Saturday too. I’m surprised just how many Canberrans turned up, that was encouraging.

  13. dreadpiratemick says

    It was a lot of fun having you in Canberra, PZ. Thanks for making the time to do Skeptics in the Pub.

  14. Kel, OM says

    King O’Malley’s and Classy.. never heard those two words in the same sentence without “not”.

    Yeah, true. This is why there were drinks on Friday night at the Wig & Pen.

  15. Sean Ellis says

    Wow. I just looked back at my time on t.o (thanks to Google Groups) and it turns out we had the odd conversation back then. Small world.

    Do you remember Ed Conrad? (MAN AS OLD AS COAL! The now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t Haversian canals in the rocks.) Good grief, he was annoying.

  16. Tigger_the_Wing says

    I had a wonderful time at both King O’Malley’s and the Wig and Pen.

    To complete a great week: I rang my mother to wish her a happy birthday. The conversation rambled on and on, about stuff that no-one here will find interesting until Mum suddenly said “Oh, by the way, your dad told me that St. Joseph’s church has been pulled down.”

    Now, this is interesting on several levels.

    1. Historically. It was the church of my childhood and the one in which I got married.

    2. My father noticed it (he’s the atheist), but not my mother (the convert to Roman Catholicism who thus made me who I am and the one I thought was still a regular church-goer).

    3. Does that mean…

    Careful, cautious questioning elicited the response that yes, indeed, my mother abandoned the church; in fact, she did so years ago, and has been skirting the subject so as to avoid offending me, just as I had been avoiding it so as I wouldn’t upset her.



    The world is suddenly a brighter place! My parents are atheists!

    *Dances a happy hornpipe*

  17. Cath the Canberra Cook says

    And sign in works for me now Euphemism week is over.

    Kingo’s does _look_ like a nice place, and it’s quite OK during the day. It’s more the nighttime clientele that’s not so classy. Though my $deity, have you seen the Australia pub where Woodstock used to be? Now there’s a dreadful spot. Someone should have taken PZ there for a minute, to exhibit the ocker bogan.

  18. Andy Groves says

    Aha! This is evidence of the CanberraKaffeKlatsch!

    If this continues, I may have to speak the Name That Shall Not Be Spoken.

    You know who I mean……

  19. says

    Ah USENET…
    alt.atheism is where I honed my razor-sharp ockham claws with which to slash to ribbons any theistic illogic.
    When the loons from had experienced enough of a beating over there, they used to troll to alt.atheism, in the delusional expectation that they would get an easier time with their incoherent infantile dribblings. Conrad was amongst them.

  20. says

    It was so great that so many people turned up to O’Malley’s. Really exiting to see so many come out of the woodwork, and even after PZ left, many people hung around for ages chatting with strangers.

    And Friday night at the Wig & Pen was good, too, as there was such a small group that everyone had a chance to chat with everyone else.

    Thank you for coming to Canberra, PZ.

  21. Charlie Foxtrot says

    Man, I miss Friday Beer-o’clock drinks at the Wig&Pen. The pub down the road from where I work now in Melbourne is nice n’all, but really doesn’t have the same ambience…or beer…or pork pies…

  22. Crudely Wrott says

    Looks like the company you keep are some well versed and notorious individuals. I envy you your associations. Maybe someday there will be a big doins near enough for me to attend.

    Oh, as far as Ian Musgrave’s beard, I’ve got him swinging. Mine is much better, being just slightly longer and having much more grey, tastefully arranged and indicative of deep understanding and good humor.

    Not that Ian, and even you, PZ, haven’t put forth commendable effort. It’s just that one of my favorite hobbies is not shaving at all. Pardon me while I comb my face.

  23. lpetrich says

    I remember participating in from long ago. Not very much, I must say, but I remember a certain Kalki Dasa, who was a Hare Krishna creationist. However, he spent much more time denouncing evolution than presenting alternatives.

    I remember how some t.o regulars mocked his signature as
    Silly Kalki Silly Kalki
    Kalki Kalki Silly Silly
    Goofy Kalki Goofy Kalki
    Kalki Kalki Goofy Goofy

  24. punktual says

    I was at this, was a great event and an amazing turn out for Canberras 2nd ever skeptics in the pub.

    Im the big head in the forground in one of Teddydeedodu’s pics.

    Much fun was had and we ended up making new friends and getting into heated debates over a few beers about 911 conspiracies, climate change and social responsibility.

  25. ereador says

    Yes, in the true daoist/confucianist tradition, we shall rule the world by not ruling!

  26. spunmunkey says

    T’was a great day – apologies to those who had a very excitable (and inebriated) munkey to contend with… special thanks to Dr Rachie (I think I was abit nervous sitting next to such awesomeness!) & PZ who accepted the approach of a pissed woman in a monkey suit with total aplomb.

    Here are some photos I managed to take in between pints –

    His noodleness enjoying a pint:

    Cath’s amazing cake:

    A blurry picture of monkey with PZ:

    (The quality of the last shot possibly due to Beer Cowboy being as smashed as I was – so if anyone has a better shot of me with PZ – please let me know!)

    Thanks to those I babbled at after PZ had left – and hope to meet you all again sometime for interesting discussions, possibly dinner – and of course, cider.


  27. Paul Macgowan says

    I will be putting up an audio recording on you tube. Just search for


  28. John Morales says

    Paul @38, alas, just clicked on your link and got:

    The video you have requested is not available.

    No obvious reason that I can see, but I don’t know much about YouTube.