1. weez says

    Sorry, PZ. The ABC is usually better than this.

    The ABC sending their religion unit to cover an atheist convention is like sending the KKK to cover an NAACP convention. I’d like to know what nong at the ABC decided this was a good idea. The religion unit’s bias is evident in the summary.

    Nice to meet you in Canberra. Our offer for logistical and caffeination support stands should any upcoming book launch tour bring you to the Blue Mountains.

  2. monado says

    Perhaps they do that for all the conferences.

    Global Atheist Conference:

    While we’ve heard a great deal from so-called celebrity atheists like Richard Dawkins, their scientific, evidence-based approach to understanding the world undervalues not only theology, but philosophy itself.

    World Religions Conference:

    While we’ve heard a great deal from so-called celebrity theists like Pope Benedict XVI, their religious, doctrine-based approach to understanding the world undervalues not only philosophy, but reality itself.

    It works for me.

  3. theGobi says

    The MP3 doddles along OK (with an embarrassing comparison – by the presenter – of Darwin’s works to the Bible at about 20:10). Some reasonable voxpop stuff, interviews and sound grabs of presentations.

    A fair bit of time is given to Tamas Pataki (Honorary Senior Fellow in the Philosophy Department, the University of Melbourne) and his criticisms of how the ‘new atheists’ are not giving enough attention to – not surprisingly – philosophy.


    Things get interesting at around 37:30 with the introduction of Dawkins. The MP3 then devotes quite a lot of air-time to one Scott Stephens.

    Who? You may ask.

    This ABC page states that:

    Scott Stephens teaches ethics at Trinity Theological College in Brisbane.

    The presenter of the MP3 states that he is a theologian and a member of the Uniting Church.

    They don’t say that he is a Minister at the Chermside Kedron Uniting Church in Brisbane. Thought you might like to know that.

    You will have to listen to his little rant yourself as my Straw-man Meter overloaded and my Irony and Hypocrisy deflectors blocked most of what he said.

    If you can’t get enough of him you also might like to read this little gem also posted on the ABC.

    I particularly liked this comment:

    With Easter upon us and the residual stench from the Convention still lingering in the air, I thought I’d offer a few belated reflections.

    Every ass wants to stand with the King’s horses.

  4. John Morales says

    Ok, just finished listening to the mp3 (with the odd interruption).

    Weez, I dunno what you’re apologising for; I thought it was rather a good example of well-done journalism and (relatively) neutral.

    The only egregious part of the presentation, for mine, was this:
    [@20:05] “It’s no surprise that Darwin’s books are like a Bible to the new atheist movement”

    I will note that I was also bothered by this particular introduction:
    [@37:20] This intro: “Dawkins was very much the star of the weekend; the climax to what seemed to be, sometimes, to be a carefuly wrought piece of show business, complete with stars and support acts, stirring music and comedic intervals.
    Indeed, the convention was as much about the rise of celebrity atheists as it was about the “rise of atheism” itself.
    If that’s the case, what does it say about the “new atheism”?
    Scott Stevens is a theologian, and a member of the Uniting Church; despite being a Christian, he has a great deal of sympathy for those that criticise religion*. He followed the atheist convention with interest, but finds fault with the cult of celebrity, and with Richard Dawkins in particular.
    [Scott has his say, taking issue with — yup, tone — and bringing up the Courtier’s defense, as well as dissing atheists as not “getting” morality.
    * Yah, such sympathy!]

    Finally, I give the ABC kudos for giving final words to A.C. Grayling and Dan Barker.

    Far better (and more reasonable) than I expected.
    I thought it a rather good piece, all in all.

  5. John Morales says

    PS I noted PZ is (briefly) interviewed at 06:35, and a portion of his talk is included at 26:25.

  6. says

    So, basically, instead of considering the root cause of things like the atheist convention and the increase in atheism in general, they constructed a poor argument against the “celebrity” atheists and completely ignored the arguments against theism.

    Pure class. Hang your head in shame ABC, I expect better for my $2 a day.

  7. Janet Holmes says

    We do not have a ‘cult of celebrity’. The point about celebrities is that they are famous for trivial reasons, usually mostly to do with good looks. Famous atheists are famous for concrete achievements and Dawkins is one of the most famous because he has the some of the most impressive achievements. “The Selfish Gene” was a landmark of modern evolutionary theory and that was just one of his many insightful books. Every single speaker at the convention had something interesting and thoughtful to say, from Sue-Anne Post “There should be more mocking” to Pataki who questioned the whole idea of the desirability of a religion free world.

    The only celebrities at the conventioned had earned it the hard way, not through having sex on Youtube!

  8. Redhill says

    As an Australian, I wouldn’t be too apologetic about the ABC on this story on Encounter, a program usually given over to encounters of various kinds with matters related to religion.

    An Encounter with atheism on this program is no bad thing.

    I do share some of the disquiet expressed about the time given to Scott Stevens a “Christian theologian” who attended the Convention. Perhaps that was done in the interests of the ABC’s fabled notion of balance. Perhaps it was done to keep faith, so to speak, with the program’s usual audience. At least he did not have the last word.

    Whenever I hear the words “Christian theologian” I am reminded of Thomas Mann’s great book, “Doktor Faustus”, in which theology is likened to demonology.

    Perhaps the stench Scott Stevens detected at the Convention, referred to in #6 above, was an allusion to the scent of demons detected by his theologically attuned nostrils.

  9. Rorschach says

    “Celebrity atheist roadshow”


    Nice look back tho, and I had just sort of gotten over the fact that it’s over…:-)


  10. Rorschach says

    That program was pretty good actually, yeah they had the one nutter in there, but it was pretty fair otherwise, and ended with Grayling and Dan Barker.

    Nah, fair dinkum program really.

  11. Walton says

    While we’ve heard a great deal from so-called celebrity atheists like Richard Dawkins, their scientific, evidence-based approach to understanding the world undervalues not only theology, but philosophy itself.


    So we’re better off with a non-evidence-based approach to understanding the world?

    Religious apologists, in my experience, don’t tend to be this explicit about the lack of evidence for their beliefs. Rather, they tend to avoid using the word “evidence” too much at all.

  12. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    The program was reasonably unbiased. That’s about as much as we can expect from a group which employs a theologian to cover an atheists’ convention.

  13. Rorschach says

    Hi echidna, whats up?? ;)

    We need to have a post-convention meeting !!

    *Calling Charlie Foxtrot, speedweasel, debinoz, cowcakes et al !!! *

  14. Rorschach says

    We just need a time and place.

    I say let’s go back to Chloe’s !!
    Every once a week sometime or so…

    Maybe Friday night? Well, people can let me know here or at terminate111 at hot, and we can figure something out I’m sure !
    A weekly Melbourne Pharnyguloid meeting shouldn’t be too hard to organise ….

  15. Rorschach says

    Ah see ! That’s a start…:-) Just need to get a few others involved now and off we go ! Might put post on FB

  16. Rorschach says

    If you mail me echidna we can get something going….How can we not have a Melb Pharyngula meeting every week lol???

  17. MadScientist says

    From the website: “… their scientific, evidence-based approach to understanding the world undervalues not only theology, but philosophy itself.”

    Is it just me, or are the relidiots now dragging philosophers into this? Look, you guys are so mean – you’re making Jesus *and* philosophers cry!

    I fail to see why saying that religion is superstition has any significant negative implications for philosophy.

  18. MadScientist says

    @Redhill: But they all plagiarize Christopher Marlowe. From the Choral introduction to Dr. Faustus (quarto published 1604):

    “So soon he profits in divinity,
    The fruitful plot of scholarism grac’d,
    That shortly he was grac’d with doctor’s name,
    Excelling all whose sweet delight disputes
    In heavenly matters of theology;
    Till swoln with cunning,5 of a self-conceit,
    His waxen wings did mount above his reach,
    And, melting, heavens conspir’d his overthrow;
    For, falling to a devilish exercise,
    And glutted now6 with learning’s golden gifts,
    He surfeits upon cursed necromancy;
    Nothing so sweet as magic is to him,
    Which he prefers before his chiefest bliss:
    And this the man that in his study sits.”

    And so Faustus uses his knowledge of divinity to summon Mephistopheles. Marlowe died 1593 and who knows how much the text had been revised, but the story doesn’t change much. Goethe is perhaps the most famous of the people who made a buck off of retelling Marlowe’s story.

  19. Nebula99 says

    From the summary:

    While we’ve heard a great deal from so-called celebrity atheists like Richard Dawkins, their scientific, evidence-based approach to understanding the world undervalues not only theology, but philosophy itself.

    Undervaluing theology? I doubt it. Dawkins is good, but theology is damn hard to undervalue.

  20. Redhill says


    Thanks for your comment at #27 on Marlowe’s Faust.

    It seems theologians have been seen as swollen with cunning and self-conceit for many a long year.

    I suppose hubris is hard to avoid when you believe you are studying and lecturing on the greatest panjandrum of them all.

    How easy it is to waste energy and intelligence on empty conceits.