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← Counting Coup - PZ Myers at the Secular Student Alliance Conference 2009

Counting Coup - PZ Myers at the Secular Student Alliance Conference 2009 - Comments

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 1 by NewEnglandBob

So the hacker was after PZ....hmmmmm...LOL

This talk was inspiring but I think PZ's definition of scientist is too broad.

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 21:53:00 UTC | #389066

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 2 by SaintStephen

That was great. I totally agree with PZ's approach. We might as well have fun in the "war" with religion -- it could be a long (lifelong?) haul.

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 22:43:00 UTC | #389087

John Yates's Avatar Comment 3 by John Yates

Was anyone else driven to distraction by the audience's whooping and cheering, or am I just an insufferable curmudgeon?

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 22:48:00 UTC | #389088

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 4 by Steve Zara

This is a great talk - PZ really is a good speaker - with a solid emphasis on campaigning technique.

But, I have a question - how can we measure whether or not the majority agree that someone has been ridiculed, and that we haven't simply make a joke that only we atheists are laughing it? One person's ridicule can appear to another to be cruelty.

PZ says that he and others did well in exposing 'Expelled'. But did they? I am not saying he did or not. But how do we know?

What I would like to see is studies about the effectiveness of blogs, of ridicule, of parodies and so on, to see if these things are finding their target; or are these all just a self-congratulatory exercise for atheists? (not that there is anything wrong with that)

What I like about the atheist bus campaigns is that we can have some confidence that the message is being seen by the intended audience.

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 23:09:00 UTC | #389098

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 5 by SaintStephen

4. Comment #406649 by Steve Zara on August 18, 2009 at 12:09 am

What I would like to see is studies about the effectiveness of blogs, of ridicule, of parodies and so on, to see if these things are finding their target; or are these all just a self-congratulatory exercise for atheists?

I posted something about my experience teaching the golf swing a few hours ago which is sort of relevant here, but it seems to have disappeared in the crash.

The modern golf pro and the New Atheists have a lot in common, methinks. At least in the case for adult students, both the golf teacher and the atheist "teacher" are basically trying to get students to unlearn whatever they know already (myths), and adopt brand new mindsets; mindsets based on physics and the science of solidly striking a golf ball.

I don't know whether an organization like the PGA of America tracks student performance, for instance by charting handicap change versus time subsequent to a series of lessons perhaps. It would be interesting to find out. How atheists would track the effectiveness of their methods is another matter entirely.

To turn my golf analogy toward Steve Zara's point, I do think PGA pros make use of ridicule, to a certain extent, and I believe it is highly effective, particularly if the student can be embarrassed in front of more accomplished players. The fact that golf is a game makes the joking seem innocuous, but for serious students with ambitions in the sport it may not be very funny at all -- but still very effective as a motivator for improvement.

And yes, I do furthermore believe that these nasty PGA instructors get together after the lessons and drink and self-congratulate each other and joke about the ineptness of their students.

You love parody, Steve. You're one of the worst offenders in this place. ;)

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 23:37:00 UTC | #389114

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 6 by Steve Zara

You love parody, Steve. You're one of the worst offenders in this place. ;)


Thank you :)

I do love parody, but I don't assume my efforts have anything but a very limited effect and small (self-selecting) audience.

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 23:40:00 UTC | #389115

mdowe's Avatar Comment 7 by mdowe

I was just about to send off an email this morning when I received the forumadmin@ spam, and then thought about it for second, and refrained. The nasty thing about feature-packed websites is that they are extremely difficult to secure (actually, probably impossible to secure with the tools that out there right now).

Love PZ's talk. I notice he is always very careful not to incite the godless hordes to behave in a 'less than moral' way. Good show PZ.

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 23:42:00 UTC | #389117

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 8 by Steve Zara

Love PZ's talk. I notice he is always very careful not to incite the godless hordes to behave in a 'less than moral' way. Good show PZ.


I really liked his message that campaigning atheist should have good honest fun doing it. No anger, no viciousness. But fun.

Very well said, PZ!

Mon, 17 Aug 2009 23:49:00 UTC | #389121

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 9 by rod-the-farmer

Re Comment #406638 by The Smart Patrol


Was anyone else driven to distraction by the audience's whooping and cheering, or am I just an insufferable curmudgeon?

Membership application for Demonstrably Insufferable Curmudgeon Klub (Dick) is in the mail. I joined some time ago, and I too found the laughter enough to cause me to clench my teeth. I had the definite impression of a word/phrase I don't want to see used a lot when referring to atheists - eager acolytes.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 00:18:00 UTC | #389136

Sciros's Avatar Comment 10 by Sciros

Hey I'm a computational linguist ^_^ (no-one in the audience was when he asked...)

This was a pretty good talk, and though it was right here in town I didn't go because it was going to cost me way too much money as a non-student :-/ Glad it's here.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 00:31:00 UTC | #389140

StudioLegionXIIII's Avatar Comment 11 by StudioLegionXIIII

Awesome thanks PZ. Good ideas indeed.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 00:34:00 UTC | #389142

prolibertas's Avatar Comment 12 by prolibertas

Yes the parody/satire aspect is important. It's the only way we can address creationists and answer their 'arguments' without looking like we're taking their position anymore seriously than a belief in a flat earth.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 00:40:00 UTC | #389148

RamziD's Avatar Comment 13 by RamziD

I thought PZ was just being true to his message. He was having fun giving a presentation to a group of young college students. I think the presentation was meant to garner quite a few laughs. After all, these are exuberant, young minds who are eager to organize and stand up to an ever-increasing religious world. They're not a bunch of self-proclaimed old curmudgeons like yourselves ;)

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 02:32:00 UTC | #389166

BanJoIvie's Avatar Comment 14 by BanJoIvie

The tag for this article from the front page mentions that this is a repost due to site trouble, but I don't see any explanation from Josh as promised. I did receive some spam messages from the admin account, and they seemed to coincide roughle with the downtime. What happened?

By the way, while I'm on the site-minding topic. I sure do miss the avatars!

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 04:17:00 UTC | #389180

DoctorMelkor's Avatar Comment 15 by DoctorMelkor

Very good talk, but I do take slight umbrage at the Spock-bashing. ^_^

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 06:34:00 UTC | #389191

Michael Gray's Avatar Comment 16 by Michael Gray

Comment #406638: The Smart Patrol

Why don't you just grow down!

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 06:35:00 UTC | #389193

Barry Pearson's Avatar Comment 17 by Barry Pearson

#406649 by Steve Zara

But, I have a question - how can we measure whether or not the majority agree that someone has been ridiculed, and that we haven't simply make a joke that only we atheists are laughing it? One person's ridicule can appear to another to be cruelty.
Even if we try to ridicule an idea rather than a person, it is often hard or impossible not to have the effect of appearing to ridicule people holding that idea. But if we want to replace an idea, rather than add our better idea as merely an alternative, we surely have to attack the original idea as well as offering something better.

#406668 by SaintStephen

To turn my golf analogy toward Steve Zara's point, I do think PGA pros make use of ridicule, to a certain extent, and I believe it is highly effective, particularly if the student can be embarrassed in front of more accomplished players.
Hm! Perhaps it would be more effective to ridicule the person (real or supposed) who caused the student to have ridiculous ideas. Give the student an escape route - "Yes, I was given bad advice, but now I'm learning afresh".

Explicitly ridiculing the prominent proponents of creationism is very different from ridiculing their (less sophisticated) audience. It even makes it possible to sympathise with the audience - "You were misled".

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 08:06:00 UTC | #389208

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 18 by Mark Jones

Very good little talk.

It is notable that even the *mildest* suggestion of atheism draws an offended response from theists. That is their right, but it would be nice to know at what point one goes from 'atheist' to 'militant atheist'. Recent discussions suggest that faitheists and theists alike consider atheists 'militant' as soon as they express an atheist sentiment.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 10:09:00 UTC | #389260

apaeter's Avatar Comment 19 by apaeter

@ 3. Comment #406638 by The Smart Patrol on August 17, 2009 at 11:48 pm
Was anyone else driven to distraction by the audience's whooping and cheering, or am I just an insufferable curmudgeon?


I have that same problem. This might be mean, but I always suspect people of laughing out loudly just to demonstrate that they understood a joke or pun. And that just pisses me off. :)

I have the parallel problem when people applaud constantly at a stand-up gig.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 11:05:00 UTC | #389285

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 20 by SaganTheCat

would be nice to know at what point one goes from 'atheist' to 'militant atheist'


I think it's the point when you stop being ashamed and let another human being know

I once asked this question of what is an atheist fundamentalist on the Guardian CiF after someone used the term on the science thread and was told it's someone who think's 'it's ok to go round saying there's no god' which to me is on a par with the most liberal minded theist who might think it's ok to go round saying there is a god.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 11:16:00 UTC | #389288

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 21 by Dr. Strangegod

Explicitly ridiculing the prominent proponents of creationism is very different from ridiculing their (less sophisticated) audience. It even makes it possible to sympathise with the audience - "You were misled".
Point goes to Barry. The religious rubes are victims of a con, and that may very well be a good angle to take. But I think I said here before, nobody wants to be a rube. That's why they defend their faith so rabidly. Nobody wants to admit they've been so completely fooled, especially if they've dedicated all their time, money, and effort. So I don't know there's much we can do to reach those people. What we can do is ridicule the conmen, expose them to the public, and make it absolutely absurd to younger generations so that they don't fall for it. That said, there will always be rubes, no matter how explicit the con.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 12:50:00 UTC | #389340

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 22 by Follow Peter Egan

I found this speech really inspiring. I've just listened to it whilst having dinner. I can get away with that sort of thing when I have the house to myself. I work with a creationist and will patiently talk to him and try to explain why he's wrong, but whilst I'd love to ridicule, I suspect it would cost me my job...

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 17:01:00 UTC | #389486

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 23 by Follow Peter Egan

"I'm a militant atheist. That means I write stuff."

Good one, PZ!

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 17:25:00 UTC | #389493

madame_zora's Avatar Comment 24 by madame_zora

That was an inspiring talk, glad it's here. I was lucky enough to accompany PZ and crew to the Museum to Human Gullibility (aka Creation Museum), but I didn't follow them back to Columbus for the rest of the event. For the curmudgeons (of which I am frequently one), this lecture was likely right after having spent several hours with students and friends going through this atrocious monument to falsehood. PZ was the epitome of candor, generous with his time, and he rode that dinosaur too! The mood is understandably more relaxed than a scientific lecture- this was a field trip.

His point about ridicule cannot be overstated, in my opinion. It bears repeating that people who don't want to be made fun of for their beliefs shouldn't believe such funny things.

It's also true that merely acknowledging that we exist is threatening to some people. I wear my ,"It's OK to be an atheist" t-shirt around sometimes, most people don't seem to care. Some ask me what an atheist is, which gives me a chance to say, "Just a person who doesn't believe in god, but thinks we're all responsible for our own morals." It lets them know I'm not IMmoral or without concern for moral issues- I just don't go to god for them. The usual response is "Oh". No big deal. There was one lady though (and I use the term loosely) who covered her daughter's eyes and called me an asshole- right in front of her kid! I just said, "Lovely language in front of your child" and walked on. Yes, we have to make that look ridiculous.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 21:50:00 UTC | #389586

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 25 by Alternative Carpark

He is indeed the fifth horseman.

Tue, 18 Aug 2009 23:45:00 UTC | #389628

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 26 by Sally Luxmoore

Here's an interesting response by a couple of Christians who apparently tagged on to your group:

http://skepacabra.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/a-christian-wears-a-scarlet-a-for-a-day/

A bit of an eye-opener for them by the look of it.

Thu, 20 Aug 2009 00:58:00 UTC | #390038