I’ve been a guest or interviewer on Minnesota Atheist Talk radio a number of times. I never talk about atheism because I’m nothing close to an expert on that or related issues (though I do have a chapter in a book about it, here!). And, of course, I’m very involved, professionally, in certain church-state separation issues (like this and this). But on Atheist Talk Radio I mainly engage in either science (lately climate change science but also evolution) or the afore mentioned church-state separation issues vis-a-vis the evolution-creationism “debate.”
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to finally organize the list of Atheist Talk Radio spots I’ve done, and here it is, with links to the podcasts. Sorry if something is missing, but I’m pretty sure I got them all:
Lois Shadewald on Pseudoscience and Greg Laden on Academic Freedom – Atheists Talk #017 May 4, 2008
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 01:51:32 –0700
div class=”itemcontent” name=”decodeable”>Cynthia Egli talks with Lois Shadewald about pseudo science, including perpetual motion machines, and the Flat Earth Society which are mentioned in “Worlds of Their Own.” Greg Laden steps in to talk with Mike Haubrich about legislation which is hoping around the country, proposing “Academic Freedom,” that would require the teaching of Creationism in public schools yeast infection treatment.
Greg Laden on Food and Evolution and John Coy on Box Out – Atheists Talk #032 Aug 17, 2008
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 03:02:26 –0700
Few things connect atheists better then reading and food. This week, Lynn Fellman interviews anthropologist blogger Greg Laden who talks to us about how human food has impacted human evolution. Later, Grant Steves speaks with John Coy on “Box Out.” Coy has written a novel targets to adolescent boys, an audience which has been a long ignored group. It focuses on how schools and sports can marginalize teens who may not fit a stereotype or expectation.
“Celebrating Darwin and Evolution at the Bell Museum” Atheists Talk #056 February 8, 2008
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 04:13:48 –0700
2009 is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 150th year of this book “On the Origin of Species”. We’re celebrating by talking with Dr. Greg Laden, biological anthropologist, U of M. If you haven’t met Dr. Laden, you can get to know him through his nationally known blog. There you’ll find “Congo Memoirs”, his hilarious, hair raising, in-the-wild adventures while doing REAL science.
Similar to 19th century explorers Darwin and Wallace, Dr. Laden writes about tangling with the wild beasts (pythons), disease (malaria), pirates (real pirates) while deciphering how the world works — we know it as Evolution. One hundred fifty years later some of the issues are the same. Our 21st century scientist, Dr. Laden, will give us new insights into how radical the theory was, what’s new in our understanding of it and what to watch for in the future.
Also, on the first segment of the show is Don Luce, curator of exhibits at the Bell Museum of Natural History. Don will talk about the Darwin Day party on Feb. 12th at the Museum, the multimedia presentations by U of M scientists and the exhibit of Frans Lanting’s photography.
The Difference Between Science And Bunk: Massimo Pigliucci on Atheists Talk #059, March 1, 2009
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 04:19:19 –0700
Greg Laden, who has been a frequent and popular guest on “Atheists Talk,” is an evolutionary anthropologist and professor at the University of Minnesota. On Sunday Greg turns the tables and does the interviewing, talking to Massimo about Ken Miller and the role of God in tweaking the genome at strategic moments; whether or not man is some sort of elevated creature as according to biologists who should know better and the role of pseudoscience in weakening the public understanding of evolution.
NCSE: Genie Scott and Greg Laden on Atheists Talk #68, Sunday May 3, 2009
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 04:32:06 –0700
Greg and Genie will also be discussing the various approaches to religion in promoting and protecting science education. The NCSE is careful to assure religious leaders that science, properly done, is not necessarily dangerous to their faith (unless strict creationism is a cornerstone of their faith.) Many atheist scientists think that this is a dangerous approach because it dilutes science’s naturalistic methodology. They will discuss what the best approach may be, whether it is “New Atheism” or “Friendly Atheism.”
Greg Laden: “Missionaries in Africa” on Atheists Talk #76, Sunday, June 28, 2009
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 05:37:53 –0700
Biological anthropologist Greg Laden joins Stephanie Zvan to talk about his experiences with missionaries in the remotest parts of Africa and answer questions about what missions really offer the indigenous populations. He’ll tell us about the good and the bad and let us know where we need to step up to provide secular help uncomplicated by the religion of the missionaries.
This will be the final live Atheists Talk on the radio and the last podcast for a while, until we get the details of the ongoing podcast worked out. If you’re not attending the Pride Parade with the Minnesota Atheists delegation, please consider joining us at Q.Cumbers after the show to celebrate our long and successful radio run.
“Old Bones and Modern Genetics.” Greg Laden, Lynn Fellman. Atheists Talk #79 August 15, 2010
Posted: Wed, 07 Dec 2011 06:16:49 –0700
Who are these people and can we call them family? Listen to Greg Laden and Lynn Fellman discuss how recent fossil and tool discoveries are changing the shape of our family tree.
A report earlier this week showed evidence for stone tool use at 3.39 million years ago — much earlier than previously thought.
In addition to ancient bones and tools, genetics is filling some of the pre-historic knowledge gaps. For instance, genetic material from 40,000 year old bones show that some of us are one to four percent Neanderthal.
As a biological anthropologist, Greg Laden has insight into how the recent finds are challenging intrenched ideas. He’ll talk about what new trends are changing our understanding of human evolution. Taking us through past and recent discoveries, Greg’s engaging way of thinking critically about the mixing of bones and genes reveal a remarkable and controversial family story.
“Science in the Public Forum” Ira Flatow on Atheists Talk #89, October 24, 2010
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 06:37:56 –0700
Most know Ira Flatow as a science journalist, producer, and as the host of “Science Friday,” broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR) every Friday afternoon. But did you know about his Minnesota connection? He was the original host and writer for the Emmy award winning “Newton’s Apple,” which broadcast from the television studios at KTCA in St. Paul, Minnesota. Science communicators Greg Laden and Lynn Fellman will ask Ira about the major changes in delivering science news and the effectiveness of new media for science education. Science is changing our culture and Ira has insights on the value of communicating science through the humanities.
Ira Flatow is a national science journalist working in multiple media: TV, web, blogger, national speaker and book author, and most widely known as the host of the very popular radio show “Science Friday” which is a major stopping point for science geeks on their weekly rounds.
Greg Laden is a scientist, a science educator, author and Scienceblogs.com blogger focused on biological anthropology, the creation-evolution “debate” and human evolution.
Lynn Fellman is a visual artist who also speaks and writes about the intersection of art and science; most recently at the “Personal Genomes” meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Lab.
“Science and Reason 2011: Future Watch” on Atheists Talk, #98, January 2, 2011
Posted: Wed, 07 Dec 2011 08:37:04 -0700
div class=”itemcontent” name=”decodeable”>As 2010 rolls out, we all hope the future is bright for 2011. Along with hope, there’s always hype. Bringing us a reality check from their areas of expertise are these savvy thinkers:
Greg Laden, bio anthropologist and bogger for Scienceblogs.com, will give his top ten list of science stories for 2010, with commentary on the new field of paleogenomics Maggie Koerth-Baker, science journalist and writer for BoingBoing.net, will talk about the Future of Energy in the US.
Steve Borsch, media trend expert at Connecting the Dots, has insights for a year of accelerating change.
Will Steeger, WillSteeger.com, arctic explorer and eyewitness to the on-going catastrophic consequences of global climate change will tell us the latest observations.
Interviewer Lynn Fellman, FellmanStudio.com, is an artist communicating science through art, and a frequent science interviewer on “Atheist Talk”.
Host Brent Michael Davids, FilmComposer.us, is an award winning composer and creator of the music for the “Atheist Talk”.
“Zebrafish and Dictionary Atheism,” PZ Myers and Greg Laden on Atheists Talk #104, February 20, 2011
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 10:36:18 –0700
PZ Myers is not shy of controversy, as he seems to invoke and generate it at will through his blog, Pharyngula. He writes about atheism, science, politics from a liberal perspective, zebrafish, critical thinking, pirates, sexism and poorly reasoned e-mails. Greg Laden joins PZ for a question and answer session in our studios. Greg generates his own share of controversy at his own blog.
“Science Communication” with Neil deGrasse Tyson on Atheists Talk #110, April 3, 2011
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 02:03:12 –0700
Greg Laden is a frequent guest and interviewer for Atheists Talk. Dr. Laden is a biological anthropologist and lecturer at the University of Minnesota, and will talk to Tyson about science communication, science education and the role of magnetism in astrophysics (which is Tyson’s specialty.)
“I’ll Take Sweden, Ja Ja,” Martin Rundkvist and Yusie Chou on Atheists Talk #111, April 10, 2011
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 05:23:36 –0700
Rundkvist and Chou live and work in Sweden; a culture and a country in which atheism is the norm and the mention of god or Jesus by a politician is frowned upon.
On the show, Dr. Greg Laden and our guests will discuss atheism from this perspective, and contrast what it is like to live in a primarily atheist vs. a primarily theist society.
We will also discuss how atheism and atheists interface with the society in which they are embedded can be very different depending on context. In addition, we can find out if a nation transforming over to atheism actually does experience the doomsday scenario painted by many outspoken American religious leaders. We may also talk a bit about our guests’ reaction to Nordic culture in Minnesota and Swedish archaeology.
Greg Laden is a frequent guest and interviewer on our show. He is a biological anthropologist with field work experience in Africa.
“Skeptically Speaking;” Desiree Schell and Greg Laden on Atheists Talk #118, June 5, 2011
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 06:03:44 –0700
This episode will touch on a broad range of topics, including a preview of what Desiree will be talking about at this year’s Skepchick track at CONvergence.
From I’m a Skeptic mini-bio of Desiree Schell:
"Desiree explores the connections between science and skepticism, and strategies for promoting critical thinking beyond the ranks of current skeptics. She is also known for delving into the slippery social issues surrounding skepticism. Her show has been near the forefront of conversations about gender issues in skepticism, and about “Skepticism 2.0’s” rebirth as a demographically broad social movement. “We really want to spread critical thinking to the broadest possible audience,” Desiree says. “In order to do that, we as skeptics need to discuss ways that we can make our message more inclusive.”
Greg Laden is a frequent guest on Atheists Talk, as well as a frequent interviewer. Greg is an evolutionary anthropologist and blogs at ScienceBlogs.
Skeptically Speaking – http://skepticallyspeaking.ca/
Skeptical Review Interview with Desiree Schell
“Look at All the Crazy Preachers.” Ed Brayton on Atheists Talk #119, June 12, 2011
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 06:18:20 –0700
Freelance writer Ed Brayton, who writes at ScienceBlogs’ Dispatches from the Culture Wars has been following and writing about religion and politics and highlighting the more stupid and insane conservative and fundamentalist preachers, priests, rabbis and imams. He and Greg Laden and I will highlight the funny, and yet scary people who use fear, bigotry religious certainty to attract followers, money and even influence public policy because of their fractured religious beliefs.
Greg Laden is a frequent guest on Atheists Talk, as well as a frequent interviewer. Greg is an evolutionary anthropologist and blogs at ScienceBlogs.
“The Science of Global Warming.” Science v Denialism on Atheists Talk #126, July 31, 2011
Thu, 08 Dec 2011 07:26:27 –0700
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has released new temperature norms based on 30 year historical data. These are the “normals” that meteorologists compare the days’ weather to the mean for any particular day. The temperature norms are higher than they were ten years ago, and ten years ago the norms were higher than those of the prior decade. Denialism has to be very strong in a person in order to pretend that the global climate is not getting warmer. The data accumulate in the air and in the sea, and on land and indicate with very little uncertainty that human activity is the leading cause of global warming. This is the scientific consensus. The seas are showing the effects of warmer water, as the level of carbonic acids absorbed into the water are having a dangerous effect on the biosphere under the waves. Reefs are bleaching.
At a time when solutions need to be discussed in the public, scientists are facing an increasingly shrill level of “debate” and denial from those who claim that they are alarmists who are crying fire in a crowded theater when there is no need to worry. Denialists claim the atmosphere is too big and chaotic for us mere humans to have an effect.
Those of us who are familiar with creationism’s means and methods recognize the tactical similarities between creationism and global warming denialism. Our guests for this show are Dr. John Abraham and Kevin Zelnio.
John Abraham is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering (Heat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics) at St. Thomas University in St. Paul, He responded to a presentation made by Chrisopher Monckton at Bethel University. Monckton is a leading denialist who has many convinced that scientists are lying about global warming, but Abraham showed how this charge is false. http://www.stthomas.edu/engineering/jpabraham/
Kevin Zelnio is a science journalist and blogger at Scientific American Blogs and at Deep Sea News. He has written on the effects of the change in climate on the ocean (and our fisheries,) in addition to far-ranging subjects involving sea invertebrates . Greg Laden and Mike Haubrich will co-host today’s show.
To Catch a Fallen Sea Angel by Kevin Zelnio
Climate-Science Smackdown, Pt 2 , by Casey Selix
Abraham Reply to Monckton by John Abraham
Donald Prothero on Atheists Talk #136, Sunday, October 9, 2011
Wed, 14 Dec 2011 07:17:44 –0700
Don is in town for the Geological Society of America meetings, and has agreed to come by the studio and chat with Greg Laden about dinosaurs, climate change, science denialism and, of course, the psychology of cryptozoology, which is the subject of one of his current writing projects.
Professor Prothero is Professor of Geology at Occidental College and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Paleontological Society.
Links of interest:
Donald Prothero – The Psychology of Cryptozoologists on Point of Inquiry – http://www.pointofinquiry.org/donald_prothero_the_psychology_of_cryptozoologists/
Skeptics Guide to the Universe Interview with Don Prothero – http://www.theskepticsguide.org/archive/podcastinfo.aspx?mid=1&pid=268
American Museum of Natural History Podcast – http://www.learnoutloud.com/Results/Author/Donald-R.-Prothero/14195
Don Prothero on the East Coast Earthquake – http://www.wypr.org/category/podcast-keywords/donald-prothero
A short list of some of Donald Prothero’s books:
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
Catastrophes!: Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and Other Earth-Shattering Disasters
Greenhouse of the Dinosaurs: Evolution, Extinction, and the Future of Our Planet
After the Dinosaurs: The Age of Mammals (Life of the Past)
The Evolution of Artiodactyls
h4>Shawn Lawrence Otto on Atheists Talk #142, November 20, 2011
Wed, 14 Dec 2011 07:48:54 –0700
Shawn Lawrence Otto has just launched his book, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, a richly documented and well-reasoned analysis of modern science denialism, especially addressing climate change. Shawn notes that scientists are inherently apolitical in their work, but that science itself is always political, and ties this important observation into recent patterns of partisan maneuvering, questionable journalistic ethics even among the upper echelon of the fourth estate, and religious distortion of scientific findings and science-based policy making.
Join us on air for what is guaranteed to be a lively and enlightening conversation, and then join us at Q. Cumbers for brunch. If you bring a copy of Shawn Otto’s book and a pen, you can get it signed!
Shawn Lawrence Otto’s website – http://shawnotto.com/
Activist Blogging, Jennifer McCreight on Atheists Talk #159, Sunday, March 18, 2012
Sun, 18 Mar 2012 17:33:35 –0600
"Atheist blogs are:
always stirring up controversy." mean." strident." an echo chamber." slacktivism."
A lot of things get said about atheist blogging, but most of them aren’t said by atheist bloggers themselves. With Jennifer McCreight in town to speak at the Minnesota Atheists monthly meeting, we take the opportunity to gather together a number of atheist bloggers to talk about what they do, why they do it, what they have accomplished, and what they hope to accomplish in the future. In addition to Jen, we will have Greg Laden, Brianne Bilyeu, and Stephanie Zvan in the studio this Sunday.
Human Evolution: John Hawks on Atheists Talk #164, Sunday, April 22nd, 2012
Sun, 22 Apr 2012 15:49:08 –0600
Most of you know John from his famous Internet site called “John Hawks Weblog: Paleoanthropology, Genetics and Evolution.” John is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which is one of the better known and respected for this sort of research.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that there are many interesting and exciting things going on in human origins research these days, and on Sunday morning, on Atheist Talk radio, John and Greg Laden will cover as many of them as they can. Were the Clovis people Solutreans? How many hominids were there in recent prehistory? And what do both ancient and modern DNA studies tell us about the Neanderthal side of the human family?
“Regenesis” George Church on Atheists Talk #194, November 18, 2012
Wed, 28 Nov 2012 18:06:02 –0700
What are they? They are artificially created biological organisms. Authors George Church and Ed Regis, in their new book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Recreate Nature and Ourselves, tell us they are coming, and they tell us not to be afraid. Wary, perhaps, but not afraid.
Church is a molecular geneticist, who created many of the tools we use for genetic sequencing. He is also the founder of the Personal Genome Project, which looks to sequence the genomes of 100,000 volunteers and place the data in the public domain to facilitate research into the interplay of genetics and environment in determining how we become who we are. This Sunday, he will talk to us about what we may expect from this future in which we have this kind of information and this kind of power.
h4>“Denialism on a Large Scale” Greg Laden on Atheists Talk #214, April 14, 2013
Sun, 14 Apr 2013 17:15:47 –0600
Greg Laden stumbled onto climate denialism through a combination of concern for the environment and studying what climate history can tell us about human evolution. He has documented lies, threats and simple misinformation while working to get good information on climate change out to audiences on his blog and elsewhere. In the process, he’s received legal threats, death threats, and more factually incorrect comments than he can count.
This Sunday, Greg will join us in the studio to help us learn to spot denialism in the wild and to tell us what to expect from climate change denialists in the next few months.
Posted: Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:46:12 -0600
Years ago I knew Richard Dawkins as a fellow evolutionary biologist (met him only once, at a memorial event for WD Hamilton, but we have numerous mutual friends and colleagues). To be frank, and I’m only being frank now because I’d prefer not to use my real name, Dawkins was considered a bit of an enigma. He had great fame (and fortune and privilege) but that was without doing much important research. I always defended him back in those days. His fame came from The Selfish Gene and his subsequent books, and his popularization of science was well done and important. Those who complained,and there were many (but always behind his back) were just jealous.
Then, later, Dawkins got famous in another area, as a spokesperson for atheism. In fact, as a leader of the Atheist movement worldwide. A major milestone in that digression from biology was, of course, his book, The God Delusion. In The God Delusion, he told most people in the world that they were afflicted with a psychiatric disorder that caused them to believe in god. Atheists totally ate this up and for good reason. Also, Dawkins did the whole thing in his quaint British Accent and that took some of the edge off of it, and really, he did it well.
Then Elevatorgate happened, which had absolutely nothing to do with Richard Dawkins, but he chimed in. When he chimed in he said “Ladies, there is no way to get raped in an elevator. All you have to do is push the Stop and Door Open button and leave.” (or words to that effect).
Then just a few weeks later the person of all the people in the world who is closest to me was raped in an elevator.
The rape was interrupted not by her pressing the stop or open button, because they did not work. The rape was interrupted because she decided to kick the rapist’s ass. Then, he was the one pushing the buttons and when the door finally opened he ran. But it certainly did not have to turn out that way. He happened to be unarmed, for example.
Anyway, Richard Dawkins is a dick and that is not just because of his name. He’s a dick because he is utterly unaware of his white, male, British, academic, authory, etc. etc. privilege. Which would be OK, because who really cares, but privilege interferes with activism and being the guy who wrote The God Delusion makes you an activist. Privilege interferes with being a member of a diverse community (diverse as in other people don’t have the same privilege). You can only be an effective leader of a movement if you recognize your membership in the community, even if as a leader.
But you can stay in charge for longer than most, for longer than you deserve, if you corner the market you’ve developed for yourself. My friend and colleague Sarah Moglia overheard Dawkins say something one day that seemed to be an example of his cornering the market. He told someone in charge of major public event that if a particular person was allowed to speak at that event, Dawkins would not go. In other words, he used his huge and unchecked privilege to get another speaker tossed off the podium.
Why? Who did he get tossed? When did this happen? Why are we only hearing about it now?
It all comes down to Elevators, real and metaphorical. And shoes. Dawkins is actually pretty short.
PS. I happen to know what Sarah is doing right now, as I’m writing this post. The image above is a clue so you can guess what that might be!
American currency uses the phrase “In God We Trust” which is a clear violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. This is to the First Amendment roughly like saying “No Guns Allowed” everywhere would be to the Second Amendment, but if we did that to the Second Amendment people would be up in arms (as it were). But since it is merely the First Amendment nobody cares.
Anyway, that is what our money says now, but in the past, it did not say that. The “In God We Trust” was added during the Red Scare, when American started putting screenplay writers in jail and neighbors turned in neighbors over their political views. The nation, it would seem, had a strong need to get in bed with god during the 1950s and early 1960s. Maybe this is because we were the first and only nation to drop Atom Bombs on other people and we were frightened four our souls. Who knows?
Anyway, there is still some of that old, pre “In God We Trust” money left, and Minnesota Atheists are auctioning some of it off to raise money to fund Atheists Talk Radio. As you know, Atheist Talk Radio often does interviews with interesting scientists, and sometime I do those interviews myself. (Sometimes I’m the one being interviewed.) So you know if they’re doing science, it’s a good show. I’ve interviewed John Hawks, Don Prothero, Kevin Zelnio and John Abraham, Martin Rundkvist and Yusie Chou, Neil deGrasse Tyson, PZ Myers, Ira Flatow, and Massimo Pigliucci. And more.
This is your opportunity to help raise a little bit of money for Minnesota Atheists. The money is being auctioned off here, on Ebay. PLEASE GO RIGHT NOW AND PLACE A BID so you can have a nice, framable god-free twenty dollar bill.
The auction ends in just a few hours so ACT QUICKLY!!!!
If you place the winning bid tonight, you’d be funding most of one Sunday’s worth of show time, approximately.
I’ve been lucky. Becoming a secularist and atheist and, to some extent, activist in those areas (though I quickly add my activisms is mostly in other areas) was not to hard. Hey, this very morning Minnesota Atheists had a show on what you do for Christmas and other holidays as a non-believer, and asked for contributions. Even though I was asked directly a few times by the producers, I ended up providing nothing because I’ve got nothing; What do we do for Christmas? Try to eat the cookies very slowly, unwrap the presents very quickly. It is just not that interesting.
Sure, I get harassed now and then, and back in the Roe v. Wade street wars I got knocked on the ground, hit in the head, or had my clothing ripped a few times by 80 year old Italian Catholic ladies who were in a rage (we were trained to stand still and take it). And, most of the harassment I get these days other than the occasional creationist’s is actually from fellow Atheists, who hate me because I respect and refuse to rape women, and I recognize that much of the violence done to women is by testosterone poisoned men. Those guys (the Testosterone Poisoned Men of the Blogosphere, or TPMoB) compose hateful tweets, emails, and other missives about or to me and other secular feminists on an ongoing, continuous basis.
But really, I’ve never had something happen to me like what happened to Sarah. Sarah’s story is fascinating, instructive, important, and above all, inspiring. All those things are as true of her as a person as they are of this one story, I dare say. This is the story of a young woman, recently deconverted (is that the word?) from a some kinda Christian sect to atheism, and her attempts to form a Secular Student group. She just posted it, I just read it, and holy crap… so to speak … just go read it. CLICKHERENAO!!!!!!!!!
Sarah: I am very fortunate to have you as a friend and ally. Thanks for doing what you do.
When Atheists talk, people listen.
Then, they tell them to shut up.
David Phillip Norris of the Twin Cities recently wrote an article for MNPost called With talk of tolerance and equality, one group is still forgotten: atheists. This was written as a reflection on the just finished and rather dramatic fight against an anti same sex marriage constitutional amendment on the ballot in Minnesota. By today’s electoral standards, the amendment was soundly defeated.
So while I’m thrilled that we can start talking about the possibility of voting “yes” instead of “no” for same-sex marriage in Minnesota, I’m still left feeling frustrated. In addition to being gay, I’m also a secular humanist. And an atheist. With candidates and party conventions making declarations about faith and belief in God, the amount of religious language used this year was alarming, but the marriage-amendment conversation was particularly loaded.
I don’t know how effective the faith-symp strategy was during that campaign, but it was a big part of it. The idea, clearly, was to show that in Minnesota, being religious does not mean being anti-gay or anti same sex marriage. This is true. In fact, not long after I moved to Minnesota, a friend of mine got married in a church. She was gay, her newly wedded spouse was gay, the ceremony was carried out in a Lutheran church by a female minister. I remember thinking, “Wow, Minnesota is progressive.”
Apparently, I had attended a completely illegal activity. The marriage was a sham, because gay marriage was not legal. But, the good people of South Minneapolis apparently chose to ignore that. Still, once “married” my friends would still not have had the rights afforded to others who happened to be in opposite sex marriages.
But I digress. Norris makes this point:
I wondered where my voice was in the conversation, where my link was on websites, and why more atheists weren’t speaking up on my behalf. In September, I attended a public forum on the amendment featuring panelists who shared their reasons for opposing it. All but one – August Berkshire, president of Minnesota Atheists — was religious. His arguments against the amendment were so sound and appealing that I was amazed they weren’t being used in MN United’s talking points. But Berkshire was the only prominent atheist I recall hearing from in the last 18 months about LGBT rights.
I should point out that Minnesota Atheists is the only non theistic group that has provided a legal brief in a law suit being carried out here regarding same sex marriage. Apparently, as Norrris says, the whole same sex marriage debate is a discussion being had among religious people. Go read his post, it’s very good and important. Here, my intention is not to expand on his arguments, but rather, to use this opportunity to point out a different (but very much related) problem: How do non-Atheists react when an Atheists says something out loud, about Atheism or anything relate to it?
You may recall that last summer, Minnesota Atheists (and American Atheists) teamed up with the local minor league team, the Saint Paul Saints, to sponsor a ball game. The Saints have a lot of sponsored games, and they are mutual fund raising activities. They changed their name to the Mr. Paul Aints for the game, and various other adjustments were made. The Saints, or rather, Aints have a lot of fun with their games, and this game was no exception.
But, after it became known that the Saints/Aints wer teaming up with Atheists, a certain amount of fecal matter hit the air moving device. I heard but did not confirm that there was a move in the home town of the team that was to play the Saints that night to forfeit the game rather than to play in an Atheist sponsored event. A couple of local professional journalists wrote columns that were very intolerant, asking why the heck anyone would want to do something with a bunch of atheists.
To our credit, we who often speak out locally on behalf of Atheism responded cooly and calmly and pointed out to those journalists that they were doing it wrong. One approach I took was to re-write one of the journalists columns replacing mentions of “Atheists” or “Atheism” with “Jews” and “Judaism.” That shift in frame made the column look like something from Germany in the 1930s, sort of. This can be a very effective way to point out the true nature of intolerance.
So, now, let’s do something along those lines with the comments on Norris’s post. I’ve screen captured a few of them for you. Note that I did not black out names because these are all public comments on the above cited post. They are shown in order of appearance. You may need more context than I provide here, and that is why you should click through and read Norris’s original essay.
This first one is a bit grammatically flawed (looks like AutoCorrect has had its way with it) but you can get the point:
Let me rephrase:
I have often found Jews to be as dogmatic as the orthodox religious, perhaps a more palatable view (to me) is better expressed by Lutherans.
Well, to each his or her own when it comes to religion, but the author of this comment is saying that often Atheists are unpalatable, presumably not in a cannibalistic sense, but rather, in regard to the things they say. This implies that it would be better (for him) if Atheists remained silent. This, posted on an essay by an Atheists expressing a sense of not belonging and not being listened to could be translated further as:
I do wish that you had not written this post. Please shut up.
OK, let’s look at the next one:
The commenter starts out by putting words in Norris’s mouth. Norris does not say, or imply, that people of faith are not for human rights. Rather, he clearly documents that many Minnesotans of faith were very active in the pro same sex marriage movement. This first statement is also a bit of a smokescreen because he mentions that “…In fact these values are fundamental to Christianity.” So, now we have a “fact” on the table that Christians are all for human rights and equality. But, the anti same sex marriage bill was introduced by members of a very common sect of Christians and supported by many churches. The smoke is rather thin in this case. In fact, he acknowledges this in his next paragraph, but the chance to school the Atheist on how good people of faith are was not deterred by the fact that they often are not so good and that the situation is more complex.
In the third paragraph, he (as did many of the atheists in the comments) restates the mistaken assumption that Atheists are not organized. We are. But here, we see our organizations, which were mentioned explicitly in the post and illustrated with a photograph of the president of the statewide organization and everything, are being ignored. Or, more precisely, set aside. moved out of the way.
Then we are told that we are annoying. Squeaky wheels. And we are going to do it wrong by being condescending. Go read Norris’s post. It is nothing like condescending. But it was an Athiest talking, and when a Atheist whispers, many theists hear … well, at least a squeaky sound, of not something more harsh.
More precisely, we are being told that until we do it right, we will not be acknowledged.
After all this disrespect, we are told this:
The key is that atheists must respect all people and their beliefs.
And it goes beyond that. After mischaracterizing the Atheist Voice, and not even knowing that there is in fact a statewide group of organized Atheists (and many other groups) even though he was just told this, the commenter tells us he will disregard Atheists until they, Atheists, learn all about him and how he thinks and does things. And he does this in a harsh and insulting way:
…. guess what? I’m not going to give a rip about what an atheist thinks if he or she isn’t willing to even attempt to understand what my values are, where they come from and why I hold them so dear. I’m not looking to proselytize. I’m looking for real relationship with the people I’m devoting months if not years of my free time to work with on a campaign or cause. That’s how effective organizing happens.
So, “effective organizing” means ignoring the perspective and presence of an entire group of potential allies, telling them to shut up when they politely ask questions about their position at the organizing table, and insisting that they jump through hoops that you have designed for them. Huh. Didn’t know that.
The next comment is by the same person responding to an Athiest:
The response is very annoying. First, the Atheist is told he is speaking in the wrong tone. To add to the commenter’s (Greene’s) authority, he explicitly approves of a part of the comment. That was nice of him. But in telling the Atheists to shut up, essentially, and after complaining at length about how Atheists are doing it wrong, he scolds that one should not negatively label people if you want them to like you. In other words, STFU and maybe I won’t dislike you, disregard you, and set you aside. And, again, he verifies that he knows nothing about Atheists in Minnesota, even though he insists that Atheists, to be listened to, must first learn about his beliefs.
And finally, we are reminded that Atheists are not recognized because of their own failure, their own negativity. After a campaign in which theists (some, not all of them, of course) were busy being very negative to a portion of our population, and attempting to extend that negativity into the State’s Constitution:
To many, when an Atheist talks, that is a negative thing. To some, Atheists should only talk when they are not being negative.
The question I have, then, is this: If you throw a person in the mill pond and they sink to the bottom, does that mean that they were not an Atheist?
Atheist Voices of Minnesota (which comes in a print version and a Kindle version) is a collection of individual journeys to atheism. All the authors are Minnesotan (natural born, former, or immigrant to the North Star State). While some of the authors are professional writers or high profile bloggers, most are regular people with interesting stories to tell. The essays are selected from a much larger group of submissions, the works are carefully edited, and organized into general categories. The Minnesota connection itself is great for Minnesotans, but really not all that important for general readers; this is simply a collection of stories that help show how Atheism is not a scary cult including baby eaters and hedonistic Satan worshipers. Mostly. And for this reason, it is a great gift for you to give to your family, which probably includes a mixture of believers and non-believers and not-sure-what-to-believers. You can give it to your mom or to Uncle Joe as a gift from you, you can put it in someone’s stocking anonymously, or you can even make it the prize in some Christmas Celebration activity your family celebrates such as the Three-Legged Elf Race or the Inter-Family Scrabble Tournament.
The book has done reasonably well and the initial printing and publishing costs are now paid for, so all the profits from this point forward go to help support Minnesota Atheists, which brings you, among other things, Minnesota Atheists Talk Radio, which is one of the few regular (weekly) shows based in a live radio setting and produced as a podcast that deals directly with issues of interest to Atheists. Many of the shows are about religion, atheism, and related topics, but a good number are about science, science education, and science outreach.
So please consider giving Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories to your friends, families, and loved ones for Christmas, Winter Solstice, Hanukah, or Kwanza this year!
The Authors include Norman Barrett Wiik, Elizabeth Becker, Kenneth Bellew, Ryan Benson, August Berkshire, Donald L. Boese, Ryan Bolin, Jill Carlson, Justin M. Chase, Greta Christina, Linda Davis, Andrew Downs, Shannon Drury, Anthony Faust, Paul Gramstad, Mike Haubrich, Kori Hennessy, Peter N. Holste, Michelle M. Huber, Eric Jayne, George Kane, Greg Laden, Bill Lehto, M. A. Melby, PZ Myers, Robin Raianiemi, Rohit Ravindran, Jason Schoenack, Kim Socha, Chris Stedman, Elizabeth Stiras, Todd N. Torkelson, Timothy Wick, Rob Young, James Zimmerman, Jennifer Zimmerman, and Stephanie Zvan.
Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories was released earlier this year. It is chock full of personal stories about the journey from some place to atheism, written by Minnesota authors such as Norman Barrett Wiik, Elizabeth Becker, Kenneth Bellew, Ryan Benson, August Berkshire, Donald L. Boese, Ryan Bolin, Jill Carlson, Justin M. Chase, Greta Christina, Linda Davis, Andrew Downs, Shannon Drury, Anthony Faust, Paul Gramstad, Mike Haubrich, Kori Hennessy, Peter N. Holste, Michelle M. Huber, Eric Jayne, George Kane, Greg Laden, Bill Lehto, M. A. Melby, PZ Myers, Robin Raianiemi, Rohit Ravindran, Jason Schoenack, Kim Socha, Chris Stedman, Elizabeth Stiras, Todd N. Torkelson, Timothy Wick, Rob Young, James Zimmerman, Jennifer Zimmerman, and Stephanie Zvan.
This is the perfect give to leave under the tree or to use as a stocking stuffer, so that while the rest of your family is busy celebrating the birth of Jesus and shopping you can let them know that just because you are an Atheist, you are not necessarily a monster.
“A chorus not of arguments and positions but of shared human lives . . . At turns smart, funny, and deeply touching.” – Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief
ST. PAUL, Minn. (8/14/2012) —Atheists have turned a corner in public visibility in recent years, but they nevertheless remain one of America’s most misunderstood and mistrusted groups of people. A new anthology, Atheist Voices of Minnesota, attempts to address these preconceptions by letting thirty-six atheists from Minnesota openly share their personal and unique stories. The results are touching, fascinating, and diverse.
Since this is a cross section of how everyday atheists think and feel, this collection is an excellent introduction to atheism, and will inspire other atheists to come out to their family and friends. It includes contributions from well known atheists, such as PZ Myers, the world’s most popular atheist blogger, and Chris Stedman, a Huffington Post and Washington Post blogger. But it also contains previously unheard voices, part of its power and uniqueness.
The book has already received endorsements from major figures in the freethought community, and has a foreword by Greta Christina, a prominent atheist blogger, speaker, and author. Kendyl Gibbons, senior minister of the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, writes that the authors’ “thoughtful perspectives will be illuminating to people of any faith, or none.”
Atheist Voices of Minnesota is published by Freethought House. All net proceeds will go to Minnesota Atheists, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, with authors, editors, designers, and other volunteers receiving no financial benefit. Minnesota Atheists is Minnesota’s oldest, largest, and most active atheist organization. Its mission is to promote the positive contributions of atheism to society and to maintain separation of state and church. For more information, visit http://mnatheists.org.
This morning, my inbox had a handful of interesting data that are totally unconnected to each other, each interesting in its own right, and together, a veritable potpourri of bloggyness. So, here goes:
First, Don Prothero at Skeptiblog has written one of those posts you want to keep handy next time you need to refer to Noah’s Ark. The title of his post is “Ship of Foolishness” but I’m going to catalog it under Noah’s Ark compared to the Titanic. Here’s the embedded data comparison:
Ok, I said these different data comparisons were not related to each other, but I guess maybe some of them are a little. The next item comes from Pew and it is the latest study showing the frequency of “none” people in the US population. Nones are those who are atheists, not-religious, etc. You know, the people who are not represented by having a copy of the ten commandments on the courtroom wall or a benediction at the start of an official public ceremony or a candidate say “god bless ‘merica” at the end of every speech, that sort of thing. Here’s the graph from pew forum:
So, if “none” is at about 20%, then there are more “nones” than Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Orthodox Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and eve, yes, Mainline Protestant (which means Protestants who are not black, apparently). Yes. There may be (just barely) more Protestants than there are Nones. And, I suspect that this is largely because of the spawn of Protestants growing up and saying “no” to their religion, more than any other source, but that is just a suspicion.
The next item is the scary one. It turns out, Mitt Romney really really did win the debate with President Obama. All the polls that collect data from after the debate show Romney increasing, with the latest poll showing him on the edge of statistically AHEAD of Obama. There are no current polls that show Obama winning. That part of the election, where Obama was winning, is over. Here’s the graph of averages from Real Clear Politics;
The thing about that graph is that it shows an average across time and while that is nice for many interpretations, it tends to not indicate the dynamic of short term events. Here is a different graph showing the number of points Obama is ahead (positive numbers) or behind (negative numbers) across time expressed as days before and after the debate. That latter number is fudged because the polls take several days to do…I used the midpoint of the days indicated for the polling period as an estimate. This does not look good:
And now let’s move on to what might be a happier note. Voyager 1 has left the building. And by building, I mean solar system.
Strangely it is reported that NASA is mum on the issue. But there is this graph going around that shows that the number of loose protons ands tuff that Vger-one runs into on a regular basis has gone from a whopping 25 or so a second to almost none, and that this happened in late August. Here’s the graph:
Actually, when I look at that graph, I see an instrument sputtering out a couple of times then failing, not the edge of the solar system. But that’s just me. Maybe.
Skepticism is a cultural phenomenon. I know that many self-declared skeptics prefer to … ah … believe otherwise, or as they would perhaps say, they have deduced from pure principles using sound logic that Skepticism is rational behavior and there is nothing cultural about it. But they are wrong, and that is trivially easy to prove.
Sarah Moglia is the event specialist for the Secular Student Alliance1 and has written an interesting piece on “Why [she doesn’t call her]self a Skeptic” in which she asserts that there are people who call themselves “Skeptic” who are not, at least sometimes, and there are those who are rather “skeptical” (as we like to define it) most of the time but don’t bother with the label. She does not name names; I’ve made the same observation and I’m not going to name names either either. But we both have had plenty of opportunity to observe, and even a practicing Skeptic would not toss aside our unattributed observations.
Unless, of course, said practicing Skeptic simply does not want to accept our shared conclusion and wishes to use the lack of naming names in favor of their argument. It’s a matter of choice, really: Believe Sarah and Greg, and maybe make a few of your own observations, or insist on clearly enumerated cases as evidence within the same blog post that makes the assertion. You can call it either way. Demand the highest level of proof or assume that well meaning observers who prefer not to name names but may have made valid observations. It’s your choice, as a skeptic, to pick one way or another.
And the fact that it is a choice is evidence that skepticism has a cultural aspect.
Continue reading Skepticism is a cultural phenomenon
And they are! Just yesterday I was hanging around with a bunch off atheists and they were all pretty angry. They were even getting angry with each other. I could hear “get off my lawn” as a more or less constant droning sound in the background.
People who are not atheists, or who may be indifferent to religion but never thought about it much, might want to know what this is all about. One way to do this is to read a book that just came out, literally about five minutes ago, for the Kindle. This book is by my friend Greta Christina, and it is called Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Thing That Piss Off the Godless.
I’ve seen Greta’s talk on the topic, and it is spectacular. I’ve read some of this book in draft form but it’s too new for me to have read the whole thing yet, but I will shortly. Meantime, I thought you’d want to know about it right away. You will enjoy it no matter what your perspective on religion is; the book is well written, engaging, funny, detailed, compelling and will make you mad.
Get off my lawn!
I have always thought, naively and probably incorrectly, that what defined Accommodationist is what they think, not how they argue. At the same time, I have always thought that what defined a “New Atheist” is how we argued, and not what we think.
Continue reading A multiplicity of strategies is better than infighting when addressing creationism and related problems
Is PZ Myers over the top? Is Phil Plait too nice? Is Chris Mooney right about framing? If I meet a Creationist, should I throw a fossil over his head?
Continue reading Be a smart dick
So, yesterday Afternoon, there was a meeting of the Minnesota Atheists that included a one hour panel discussion of evolution, creationism, science education, and so on. The panel was moderated by Lynn Fellman, and included (in order from right to left as the audience gazed on) Randy Moore, Sehoya Cotner, Jane Phillips, Greg Laden, and PZ Myers.
To begin with, this was a pretty full room (a hundred or so?) and almost everyone in this room was an atheist, agnostic, rationalist, or some such thing, so the kinds of questions one gets are different than in other contexts. This did not obviate some of the common sorts of misunderstandings about human evolution, somewhat conservative/libertarian welfare stigmata, or even the occasional notation that “well we don’t call it a soul but there is a soul.”
One of the most interesting things that came out, I thought, was when PZ Myers, preparing to follow up on a comment I made, admitted publicly (and this was recorded on audio tape and at least two video camera, and there were plenty of witnesses) that I am meaner than he is.
An important theme that came up was how we teach evolution in classrooms that include dyed in the wool creationist student. Randy talked about being very straight up with the students about the fact that this is a science class. Sehoya talked about an experiment she is doing with her students, in which she does not mention Darwin the whole time but still teaches evolution.
Jane and I are not currently teaching at this level in UG college, so we did not have as much to say, but I noted my technique of yore: I make an explicit statement on day one that creationism would not be mentioned ever in this classroom. Then, for the rest of the semester, I mention creationism, always as an aside, always snarkily, always with disdain, always with humor, so an increasingly large number of students join in with uproarious laughter at the expense of the increasingly smaller and smaller number of “out” creationist. In other words, I invoke the ugly Weapon of Mass Destruction known as peer pressure.
PZ probably has the best method, which is to teach a course in the history of scientific thought with creationism/evolution as a theme, and then eventually get to the details of the biology. Even if that does not leave as much time as one might like to do the details of the biology itself, this would be a very valuable experience for the students.
I’m teaching a more advanced evo course next year. Maybe I’ll try something like that.
I just want to mention one point that I made that I feel is very important: There is a big difference between what can and should happen in a college classroom and a high school classroom, owing to the difference in relationship between instructor and administration, instructor and student, and instructor and parents. And school boards (colleges, we don’t have ’em!). These differences need to be kept in mind when discussing strategies. For example, PZ’s strategy and my strategy would not work in a high school. For long.