So, a day late, but I did finally make it to the Atheist Conference in Copenhagen. Unfortunately my flight in was also late, so after landing I had the choice between going straight from the airport to the conference, in clothes I’ve been wearing for two days, missing the beginning of the conference and showering. I went to have the shower, since I could literally smell myself. And btw, showering at Kristjan’s place is quite the experience… there apparently wasn’t enough room for a shower, so there’s a showerhead just randomly installed over the sink. Fun times.
So anyway, I missed the intro and part of the speech by the first speaker, Roy Brown. Pretty much the only part of that that I remember was a list of things to teach in schools to promote rational and critical thinking, such as Comparative Religion. After that, I missed Gregory Paul and Dan Barker, because I went to watch the Germany-Serbia game with Rorschach instead. And let me tell you, that was NOT a pleasant experience (edit: the game, not the company!) :-p
So as a result, the only two speakers I caught in full were PZ Myers and AC Grayling. PZ talked about science education (d’uh): basically, it was about how the science classroom needs to be, ultimately, “atheistic”, in the sense that there simply isn’t any room for any gods in science class. That even people who were good scientists, like Ken Miller, got fuzzy-brained and said stupid, unscientific, unevidenced, silly and just plain wrong things just to make a god fit somewhere. And for that reason, a good scientist shouldn’t try to fit a god, or magic, or whatever other private belief they had into the science; science is godless, magic-less, woo-less. And so should science-education.
Oh, and there was a cephalopod joke, kook-quotes in Comic Sans, and PZ calling Michael Ruse a clueless gobshite. And a Vedic Creationist calling atheism a religion during Q&A. It felt almost like
AC Grayling’s speech fit very well with what PZ was saying specifically about science education, but in a way extended it. He talked about atheism as not just a-theism AKA “not collecting stamps”, not just as a rejection of the theist way of thinking and the theist ethics of faith and personal belief and fuzzy feelings, but as a positive attribute, as part of (or at least relevant to) a humanist ethic: he described this as an “Ethic of Inquiry/Rationality”, i.e. living a life in which no beliefs and opinions are taken on unless they can be tested and confirmed by the evidence (as opposed to “making a leap of faith”); and that as such, atheism is a philosophy in which you take your own life in your own hands and make choices about it, instead of having religious (or other, for that matter) authorities give you the decisions wholesale. It was a pretty neat talk and included many more interesting details, and it might well be enough to convince me to actually start reading philosophy again.
In between and after the talks, I got to meet a bunch of other Pharyngulites, pretty much none of which looked the way I imagined (well, except for David and Rorschach, whose pictures I’d seen previously). Good thing some of them included their nicknames on their tags :-p
After the talks finished, a group that included Kristjan Wager, Rorschach(who was freezing his butt off, because he’s spoiled by Australian weather, and apparently Copenhagen summer is worse than Australia winter, temperature-wise), David M, Knockgoats (in a severely distracting, colorful shirt), and windy went to have some food, because we were absolutely not
sufficientlyat all, whatsoever fed and watered during the conference earlier. I vaguely remember the conversation being rather fascinating, but all I really remember was “nachos” that were basically doritos covered in cheese, some conversation about farming and water supplies, and another couple conversations about languages. My brain is clearly too fried to think straight and remember these essential details. Maybe i should have written it all down :-p
Anyway, we ended up being a couple minutes late to the “godless entertainment”, because food appeared too slowly, so dinner lasted longer than planned. And too bad, because Robin Ince turned out to be fucking hilarious. Severely confused, but hilarious. We walked in just as he quoted Ann Coulter’s wonderful statement that “for liberals, abortion is mandatory”; it very much only got better and more hilarious from there. The music group after, called Carbon Traders was a bit weird, if very entertaining. Some songs I thought were really good, but emo/political punk lyrics to happy fun music was…. well, weird like I said. These lyrics required proper electric guitars (instead of fakey acoustic/electronic guitars) and angryness. Though, the solo songs by the lead singer/songwriter about atheism were fun, and pretty good as-is.
And now I’m gonna go crash. I’m fucking tired, still jetlagged a bit, and it’s been a long day. Tomorrow maybe I’ll do a bit more details. I’ll try to remember to take some pictures, too. But those won’t get posted in any case until the end of the weekend, because there’s no way I’ll get any editing done until then.
(update: corrected a few minor mistakes and added links to the event and speakers; just on the off chance a non-Pharyngulite might read this blog :-p )