Something else you can do this weekend

OK, so you can’t make it to Convergence in Bloomington, Minnesota this weekend, because you live in some strange foreign backwater like the United Kingdom. I guess you could go to the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition instead, if you live somewhere out that way. It’s going on right now, 3-8 July.

Oh, wait: they’ve got a whole suite of online science videos and interactive games? And the whole world can participate? Even if you’re in Bloomington? Uh-oh, we’ve got bigtime competition.

Maybe some homeschoolers can check in and learn cool stuff, too.

The conference scene

I’ve noticed that the same group of whining jerks can be found congregating at any post anywhere on the net that barks madly at freethoughtblogs, no matter how stupid the argument being made might be. No, I take that back: the more stupid it is, the more they aggregate. It’s as if stupid were cyclic AMP, and they were slime molds…

Anyway, the latest fracas is at Debunking Christianity, where John Loftus seems to be a high density secretor of that substance. He writes,

Some high profile secular women have undressed for a Nude Photo Revolutionary Calendar, which is promoted by some of the women at Freethought Blogs and includes Greta Christina and Maryam Namazie in solidarity with blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who posted a nude photo of herself as a scream “against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.” Others participated in Boobquake. Skepchick regularly posts something called “Skepchick Quickies” (*ahem*). The message is clear to me, that women can use their bodies as they see fit. I understand that completely. Men do not own the bodies of women. (No, I’m not interested at all thank you very much).

But this sends a mixed message to some ignorant young men now doesn’t it? It’s not surprising to me that some of them may think some secular women are “available.” It can create an environment at Freethought conventions where some men may look to hook up. Thunderf00t is asking what’s wrong with that in the bars afterward? Hooking up is what some people want to do (men and women). Knowing which ones want to do so is another question. How are some of these men supposed to know?

A “mixed message”? How? Does Loftus really think that a woman posing nude means she is sending the message that she is available for sex anytime with anyone? Madness. This is one of the things we’re fighting against: this binary attitude and possessiveness about women’s bodies. Fortunately, we’ve got Greta Christina on our side, and she has just blown Loftus and his cluster of toadies away. Go read that. Maybe it will help some people realize that the inconsistencies they’re projecting on everyone else are entirely the product of their own scrambled heads. Also, it’s a great smackdown.

This seems to be a tricky concept for some people. So I’ll spell it out again: If you are interested in having sex with someone, the person you need to consult about it is the person you’re interested in.

You do not, however, consult the question of whether some atheist bloggers posed nude for a calendar. Or whether they participated in a mock scientific experiment designed to make fun of the hypothesis that female immodesty causes earthquakes. Or whether they title their quick-summary-of-interesting-links blog posts with the mildly double-entendre title of “quickies.”

I do want to mention one little tangent in the comments at Loftus’ blog, since it addresses an event I’ll be participating in this weekend, and because it makes the commenter look awesomely stupid.

And ThunderfOOt was right again… they are in danger of being a fringe group. So far Skepchickcon has 28 attendees— 24 of which are speakers

Uh, no…talk about not understanding the culture at all.

Skepchickcon is the science/skepticism track at a medium-sized SF/Fantasy convention, Convergence. It is also one of the more popular tracks there — the talks this year have been moved into the largest available room in the conference center. Last I heard, there will be 5500 attendees, with the possibility of it breaking the 6000 mark with drop-in registration. Not all will be going to the science/skepticism track — there will be many parallel sessions going on — but most will probably drop by a few of the sessions. The 28 attendees listed above are people who will be actually staffing panel sessions.

We atheists should think about that. We were thrilled to have the largest meeting ever this year, the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, which had about 4000 people there. That was impressive to us — but it’s the equivalent of an average sized regional science fiction convention, which go on all the time, year after year. You want to do outreach? Our atheist conventions are good places for like-minded people to get together and organize and plan, but they aren’t outreach.

Some of us actually know what outreach looks like.

Furthermore, the format of these meetings is completely different from what you may be used to at atheist conventions. There’s relatively little of the routine speaker-standing-behind-lectern-lecturing stuff; this is a participatory experience. Those 28 attendees will be sitting on multiple group panels and tossing out ideas and encouraging the audience to throw ideas back. It’s much more like a good interactive classroom than a lecture. So what we’ll be doing is getting people to talk about science and skepticism, which is powerful stuff.

There are other events going on, too. There are events called sandbox sessions where kids will get to have fun. My wife Mary is volunteering for a couple of those, and she’ll be guiding kids through owl pellet dissections and discussions of evolution. This is outreach, too.

And then there are the parties. Freethoughtblogs and Skepchick are both hosting party rooms, where people can talk and socialize informally. We’ve been warned that, as a rough guideline, you can expect about 10% of the convention attendance to show up at your party room each night — we’ll be basically managing a 500+-person party, where yes, we’ll be talking about science and skepticism, and drinking, and laughing, and having a good time. Outreach, outreach, outreach.

Anyone who thinks that having 28 of us at a conference means we’re a “fringe group” really is babbling out of their ass.