Skepticon 4 Summary Part II
On November 23, 2011 At 9:55 am
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If you missed Part I, you can read it here.
Sunday morning started out well with no street corner preaching or attacks from loons. They must have all been in church.
Speaking of which, Christians supposedly held a service in a room in the Gillioz that morning, so the display tables in the foyer were moved. The church music blared out of the room they occupied, but we occupied the majority of the building.
I must point out that the whole weekend the Gillioz never advertised Skepticon on their marquee or anywhere else. Thus, we freethinkers did all advertising for the event via word of mouth and on the internet. (Oops! Sorry, David, I meant to say atheists.) The event was still a success even without help from Springfield community.
Around 9:30 a.m. Joe Nickell started his talk about going undercover in Paranormal investigations. He shared some very interesting stories concerning the scientific answers behind supposed paranormal events and psychic phenomenon.
Jen McCreight, the Blag Hag, discussed Skeptical Genetics. In her talk, she explained why skin creams cannot “fix” your DNA. Bio Skin Revitalizer is not the example she used, but it is an example of one thing she discussed. Her point was that we should be skeptical of such claims.
After her talk, we did lunch and as I left for lunch, I ran into David Fitzgerald, who greeted me by shouting, “Mriana!” and gave me a hug that picked me off the floor. Then he put me back down, gave me another hug, and a kiss on the cheek. I must say, that was an awesome greeting and it was nice someone appreciated seeing me that much.
After that, we parted ways and I went to eat lunch at the Coffee Ethic. Despite knowing so many people at Skipticon, I unfortunately ate alone. Just to show you that not all the restaurants in the area were discriminating, I will share a humourous story with you.
For $5, I ordered a bagel with cream cheese and cappuccino and since I was alone, I chose to eat at the counter. Now mind you, this counter was so high, I had to reach above my head to place my “milk coffee” and bagel on the counter, figuring the high chair would make up the difference in height once I got up to the counter.
Because it was so big, I climbed up onto the chair like a little kid. Once I was seated, I was eye-level with the counter, looking like Kilroy. I could hardly see over the counter to enjoy my lunch. As I spoke, I swear my voice sounded like a little child’s, “I feel like Lily Tomlin in Laugh-In.”
“What?” asked the young man behind the counter, who probably was no more than twenty-something.
“You know, Lilly Tomlin as Edith Ann?
“Oh yeah! I love sitting at the counter. Makes me feel like I’m six years old again!”
Flashes of my mother telling me, “When you were five, everyone thought you were two” ran through my mind as I replied in a tiny voice, “I always feel little.” Then I sighed, pointed to a table for two in the corner, and said in my still small voice, “Um… I’m going over there.”
He replied with a chuckle, “Sit anywhere you want.”
I climbed down off the high chair, turned around to face the counter, retrieved my bagel and coffee, and then wandered over to the table, which was normal height. As I sat down, I started to see the humour in that incident and almost laughed aloud.
I enjoyed my cappuccino, remembering when I was little and my grandfather served me “milk coffee”, which were still over my head. When I was in my thirties, I had my first cappuccino and because they tasted like my grandfather’s “milk coffee”. I drank them ever since.
Life was good, despite my shortness and the other business owner acting like a discriminating bigot. This young man was not only friendly and nice, but he was a fine employee with a sense of humour. It was a good lunch, even though I ate alone.
After lunch, I ran into another friend returning from lunch and heading back to the Gillioz. Now this friend is probably a foot taller than I am, but I told my story to him and he laughed, saying, “Now that’s funny.”
When we returned, Richard Carrier gave a speech about Bayes’ Theorem. If I understood Carrier correctly, he believes this math formula can show a person whether they are thinking correctly or not. I sat there poking holes into that belief and even brought it home to my older son to ask him about it and he poked holes in it too.
Thus, I either did not understand Carrier correctly or there is something wrong with his statement. Whatever the case, I cannot explain the formula to anyone who does not understand it, even if I tried.
From the Skepticon program booklet:
Bayes’ Theorem is a scary equation that models all valid empirical reasoning. She who understands it can vanquish foes in debate, correct her own thinking, and solve problems in every domain from romance to epistemological ontology—better than by any other method. Richard Carrier will show you why.
Adding to that, he said the formula disproved God and Jesus, using one resurrection. Now my son and I looked it up and found at least ten resurrections in the Bible, one is Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead. Of course, there are other resurrection stories outside the Bible too, but we stuck with Christianity, because Carrier used that religion.
However, even if you use ten resurrections, the chances of a dying and rising god-man is still a gazillion to one, because the stories are myths and the same motif as other god-man stories. I do not need a math formula to show it is a myth, but maybe some people do.
Our Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta was up next and he spoke on the need for critical thinking in math. His focus was on teaching math creatively to get students to think critically.
As I listened, it appeared to me that Hemant is a very good teacher inIllinois. Too bad he did not teach in my area when my sons were in high school.
I mentally woke up again to hear David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed, speak on the Mormons.
As a side note, you all should see the picture he took for Skepticon. He is naked, but his backside looks good. Dan Barker’s is “praying” in his picture. His hands are in prayer, but his middle fingers are up, as though he is flipping God off while praying. I love those pictures, but unfortunately, I spent my money on food and beverages while at Skepticon.
Anyway, back to David’s talk, which was about the Mormons’ bizarre beliefs. Now that was a hilarious lecture, in which he addressed everything from their “magic underwear” to the Ozarks being the new Holy Land, to the silly science in The Book of Mormon. I doubt I could have said it better myself and the talk relates to his new book, The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion, coming out in 2012.
Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus, spoke on his survey, Sex and Secularism. He started his talk with “The Sex Prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster”. After that, he gave his lecture concerning sex after leaving religion. Supposedly, sex gets better after one leaves religion. His talk discussed the results of the survey he did earlier this year.
Lastly, J.T. Eberhard spoke on how the Skeptic Community must concern itself with mental illness. J.T. spoke from personal experience. As a person with only a bachelor in psychology, I agree with J.T. Given that many leave religion with Religious Trauma Syndrome and/or experience sexual abuse at the hands of the religious, I think it is imperative that we concern ourselves with mental illness, if nothing more than to help those who left religion.
Somewhere during all of this, I spoke at length with Debbie Goddard of Center for Inquiry. Part of our discussion concerned Black Atheists and getting more diversity at atheist conventions and groups. I mentioned God Discussion and told her about the site, as well as the BlogTalk radio show, and asked her if she would like to be on the show. Of course, she said she would and she suggested Jamila Bey to talk about issues concerning Black atheists also.
Within this incredibly religious culture, black Americans are the most devout and routinely rate at the top of every index that measures religiosity. It's difficult–if not impossible–to divorce religion from black culture. We can hardly get on the bus without invoking or thanking Jesus that we'll make it to work on time.
One conference participant from the Bible Belt summed it up this way: "Christianity's grasp on black people makes it almost impossible to admit that you're a black atheist. We have to hide our non-belief, otherwise we are excluded. And if we give voice to any objection or doubt, we're ostracized and isolated–or just banished!
Anyway, that was part of Debbie Goddard’s and my discussion outside of Skepticon. She agreed with me when I made the comment that the convention was too white and that we needed more minorities at atheists conferences. Diversity was her topic last year when she spoke at Skepticon, but this year she mainly sat at the CFI table, which of course we talked about some CFI business because we are both members of CFI.
Besides the one businessman and the street corner preacher, there was one man who yelled at some of us in the foyer, stating he had a gun and would shoot all of us atheists. He did not show a gun while he said that, but still it was disturbing. He walked out the door while yelling all of that, but such behaviours from the religious are extremely stressful, at least for me. I had a headache part of the time I was at Skepticon, but I survived it. Maybe we should have buttons saying, “I survived Skepticon in the Ozarks- the heart of the Bible Belt.”
However, today I plan to pay our Gelato “friend” a visit to see if he really does mean his apology. Hopefully, he treats me like any other customer, as well as gives me the 10% discount he promised in his apology. Of course, I will report on that too, thus I will be doing more on the spot reporting concerning Skepticon.
Meanwhile, here is an ad for the upcoming Skepticon videos: