Random thoughts about Skepticon

I’m home at last. It’s a relief; my first random thought about this year’s Skepticon was that the travel was terrible: random delays, screwed up flights, lost luggage, blech. Need to work out teleportation technology for the future. But otherwise…

  • I’ve been paying too much attention to Dawkins — my talk this year was straight science, debunking some goofy creationism, and I felt great deal of self-doubt. Aren’t there much more important subjects that I should discuss? Isn’t science kind of trivial when women are having their genitals mutilated and ‘witches’ are being burned? I thought about completely rewriting my talk to something more significant, but then I decided I just have to stick with what I know. Also, something else about Skepticon…

  • It gets better and better every year, and this year the range of talks was wonderful. I was challenged! I learned new stuff! I met new people! With the kind of diversity at this meeting, it’s fine to stick to my niche, because there are better people for talking about the full breadth of topics relevant to atheism. Cool.

  • There was a workshop about Atheism+, and the inevitable question about what makes it different from humanism came up. For me, it’s an issue of epistemology. Humanism is about promoting cooperation and mutual aid among communities of human beings, without concern for why — you can be Christian or secular and a humanist. My humanism, though, is derived as a consequence of my atheism. The absence of a deity imposes on me an obligation to find values elsewhere, and has led to a convergence with humanist principles.

  • David Gorski gave a fine talk on the reasoning behind ‘alternative’ medicine, and identified a common thread in many forms: “The Secret”, or that wishful delusion that the universe will bend itself to your will. And then, today, the latest Oglaf (entirely safe for work!) was a perfect complement.

  • The prom was very nice. I hope it’s a regular feature.


  1. Matrim says

    Did you at least tap your foot appreciatively?

    I haven’t been to Skepticon since 3…I need to rectify that next year.

  2. F.O. says

    @PZ: Science and skepticism are still important!
    If anything, misogyny underlines that we still have heaps to learn about our cognitive pitfalls.
    If someone as committed to rationality as Dawkins can make such astonishingly irrational arguments such as Dear Muslima, it doesn’t mean that rationality is bad, but rather that we still have a lot to learn about how to use it.
    Humanity desperately needs to learn about how to think, and how do admit mistakes.
    It is a prerequisite to long-term social jusice.

    By the way, it is skepticism and science that brought me to atheism.
    I was first a humanist, and then an atheist.
    But I grew up unchurched, so YMMV.

  3. Al Dente says

    that wishful delusion that the universe will bend itself to your will.

    We all suffer from that in one way or another. Most of us realize that it is a wish and the universe will ignore us and our desires no matter how hard we want otherwise.

  4. JohnnieCanuck says

    And then a random success occurs and we celebrate our superior skills or luck or something, in spite of knowing better.

  5. says

    My Humanism comes from my atheism too. Many Humanists I know also know that it isn’t just humanitarianism or “building a bigger tent” as the UUs like to say. That’s why I say I’m a secular humanist.

    I don’t blame you for being uninformed of what humanism is about, I blame the national groups for not getting out the message.