FtBCON is over at last

We did have one final session, but it was mainly us getting punchy and giggling, so you can skip it.

Although, if you did attend FtBCON, you can do one more thing for us: fill out our survey. It’ll help us plan FtBCON 2: Electric Boogaloo, or whatever the heck we’re going to call it.

P.S. If you express an interest in volunteering for a panel in the survey, be sure to include contact information!


  1. Sili says

    Oh dear. Product placement? Wasn’t that what got you *EXPELLED* from ScienceBlogs in the first place?


  2. hjhornbeck says

    I agree, this has been an amazing convention that I would be willing to pay cold hard cash for.

    In the meantime, I think I have a way to contribute: I’ve been stripping out the audio from all the uploaded videos, and with some tweaking and prodding turning them into podcast-friendly sound files. This was originally intended for me, but if the FtB Overlords permit I could throw Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and MP4/AAC collections into a torrent for everyone to share. Sound cool?

  3. Nick Gotts says

    A very successful event – and at a low, low cost not just in cash but in greenhouse gas emissions. Well done!

  4. says

    I only got to see a little of it live, but I’ll be catching up by putting a lot of the panels into my podcast rotation. I loved the event and will definitely block time next year to participate more!

  5. poxyhowzes says

    I’d like to learn from several panels at the next FtBCon:

    Here are a dozen suggestions in absolutely no particular order.

    One, a panel on the “old” Atheism. From Laplace’s “I have no need of that hypothesis,” to Robert Ingersoll, to Bertrand Russell and his teapot, how (and how much) did atheism develop in the ages BD (before Dawkins) (actually, I’d limit it to “really old” atheism, say before 1950, or before Edwards vs. Aguillera.)

    Two: “Where Do Your Ideas Come From; Where Do They Go ?” — A wide-ranging discussion of free-thought, the enlightenment, agnosticism, “accommodationism,” “Gnu and New.” The key to this panel is the “where do they (your ideas) lead you?”

    Three: “Where Should I Go?” (a lighthearted but potty-mouth panel, I guess, in the FtB tradition.) But this panel could have serious “under”tones.) Inspired, but not confined, by ‘trans-in-the-bathroom” scare-mongering, and referencing such classic works as “The Loos of London, and the “Better John Guide” in New York, The panel will talk about holes in the ground in Russia and China, and elsewhere in the world. They will talk about both street-corner urinals and “wash-the-floor” accommodations in Paris. In short, they will talk about WC’s, Toilettes, Rest Rooms, and Loos. the things that make a “public accommodation” be accommodating or not, both in the USA and elsewhere. The idea: Get FtB’ers acquainted with public bathroom practices the world over.

    Four: “Debate or Discuss? – I” This would be one or two hosts presenting clips of famous or infamous debates and discussions, with a rhetorical and/or forensic analysis of “where the debate went wrong” and “Where the debate went right.”

    Five: “Debate or Discuss? – II” This would be a presentation, not a discussion, on the “Gish Gallop.” A documentary, if you will, on the GG as a debating technique. One or two panelists. Lots of video clips, lots of discussion about those clips, not so much refutation per se.

    Six: “One Liners” (How, in one line, to disengage victoriously from folks you encounter at Cocktail Parties or at your Front Door.

    Mormons could be told:
    God was unfair in showing the golden plates only to Joseph Smith. If she wants me to believe what you believe, I’ll have to see those same golden plates.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses could be told:
    “I can’t believe that giving blood to save another’s life is wrong.”

    There are potentially many other one liners, but the Atheist community seems to concentrate on extended debate and endless discussion, rather than one-liners.

    Ed Brayton could easily create this panel — it would consist of anti “Answers in Genesis” one-liner quips from himself, his stand-up comic friends, folks like Louis CK (?), Christopher Hitchens, etc. etc, etc, and especially from the other panelists and the audience.

    Seven: “Why Do “Mainstream” Christians and “Mainstream” Muslims always STFU?” A discussion of the trope or meme: “not all (Christians) (Muslims) believe this, and not all act this way.” This discussion might be a blockbuster if it attracted someone like Gene Robinson.

    Eight: “The Atheist Agenda and the FtB Agenda – I” A discussion about why the Right-Wing always assumes their opponents have “an agenda.” What’s the psychology of “straw-man-ism?”

    Nine: “The Atheist Agenda and the FtB Agenda – II” Perhaps a singular presentation (lecture), in which a “pure” (libertarian?) Atheist discerns differences from what his or her “pure” atheism might inspire in the realms of social and political action and what FTB’ers and/or A+ ers might inspire. Ten-minute rebuttal by an FtB’er.

    Ten: “FtBConscience: Hearing All Voices.” (This one might not work at all!) A panel of former FtB-ers (not only the ones that have simply moved to Patheos), but folks like Al Stefanelli and others who would say why they initially thought FtB to be a good “home” for them, and why they do not now do so. I would NOT want this to become a “Voices from the Pit” panel, so, again, it is questionable whether it could be organized successfully. But maybe folks like D. J. Grothe might also be attracted to a discussion like this.

    Eleven: More “singular” presentations, especially as moderated by Stephanie Zvan. I enjoyed Richard Carrier’s revelations about his Coast-Guard years. I liked Jason Thiebolt’s presentation. The online Con format seems to be more generous than the meatspace Con format to folks “just talking,” one on many, with their audience. In meatspace, it seems, such presentations would have to be fairly major “keynote” or “after dinner” addresses. But online, the “moderated, one-on-many, lecture/ discussion” format seems to work well. The moderater should be brief and judicious, and it is absolutely necessary to have Q&A from the audience in an online Con.

    Twelve: “Girls, Don’t Do That.” Given that *anything* and *everything* a woman might do in this modern world can be wrong, even to reporting her own rape to the authorities in the country she is visiting, the panelists will take a hypothetical late-20’s, ivy league, junior female lawyer from the US on various foreign junkets, where they will tell her “Girl, don’t do this.” Not a positive or happy panel, but, perhaps a necessary one, and where FtB has unique resources.

  6. lpetrich says

    Here’s what I’d talk about if I could:

    * Science by press conference. The likes of cold fusion, the arsenic bug, and Eric Weinstein’s theory of everything. I’m especially annoyed at the latter, because he has not presented critical details, like his theory’s Lagrangian, if it has one. A Lagrangian summarizes equations of motion, and all of the more fundamental theories have Lagrangians, like the Standard Model. He also has not described in detail how the Standard Model emerges from his theory, like how it emerges from GUT’s and string theory.

    * Popularization absurdities and difficulties. Like the recent headlines about colliding neutron stars making gold. It’s more like colliding neutron stars -> spewed material (what was observed) -> heated by radioactive nuclides -> neutron-rich nuclides -> r-process nucleosynthesis -> gold. But gold is much easier to relate to than s-process vs. r-process nucleosynthesis. Or trying to describe quantum mechanics.

    * How pseudoscientists work. I remember arguing a lot with a physics crackpot called Farsight who has an odd way of working. He disdains mathematics, preferring textual interpretation. After some arguing with him, it struck me that he was arguing like a theologian, interpreting what he considered sacred books. He’s been around the Internet, presenting his claims in several forums, most recently JREF. PZ has run into some weird crackpottery himself, like Stuart Pivar’s balloon animals.

    * History of science: the emergence of paradigms. Some recent ones, like the Big Bang, continental drift, etc. Emerging ones, like the “Big Whack” origin of the Moon, the RNA world, etc.

  7. lpetrich says

    Another thing: why are some pseudosciences politicized and some not?

    Advocates of some altmed treatments have vitalist “theoretical justifications” for them, mysterious forces like chi, prana, orgone, etc. While altmed supporters often push their therapies, they don’t advocate teaching vitalism as an alternative to molecular biology, in analogy to creationists.

    So creationism is politicized while vitalism isn’t.

    Pseudoscience politicization can cause a *lot* of trouble.

    The most successful has been Lysenkoism. Trofim Lysenko got the favor of Soviet Communist Party officials, including Joseph Stalin himself, with his claims that he could do a much better job of crop-plant breeding than those Mendelist Weismannist Morganist idealists. He claimed that genes do not exist, and he claimed that he could alter crop plants’ heredity in desired directions with his experimental treatments.

    Less successful were the advocates of the Welteislehre, the Cosmic Ice Theory, invented by a certain Hanns Hoerbiger. That’s a delightfully complicated catastrophist cosmogony that features lots of ice in the Solar System and the Earth having several previous moons that all spiraled in. After WWI, they started pressuring people to accept their theories, and when the Nazis took over, they associated themselves with it and described Hanns Hoerbiger as being like Adolf Hitler, an Austrian “amateur” who defeated Jewish troublemakers. It became popular enough for the Nazi authorities to state that one could be a good Nazi without believing in that theory.

    Closer to home, creationism is well-known for being politicized, and there’s also politicization out of commercial interest, like global-warming denialism. Fossil-fuel companies don’t want to be put out of business by concern about global warming, so they’ve financed a campaign to deny that it happens.