Thursday, March 06, 2008

Severely Ill

I caught a severe case of the flu this week. It's getting progressively worse and has come near to hospitalizing me. This is the second worst illness I've ever had in my life (the first being botulism, so you might have some idea of what I mean). Unfortunately, as a result, there is no way I can make the Indianapolis event. My speech will be shown there as a video (no, it can't go online, due to issues of copyright law). My voice is recovering, so I'll be narrating.

Since this video-talk will contain material I probably won't speak on anywhere else (nor probably ever write about), fans might not want to miss it, even though I won't be in attendance to take questions or join the panel (or to sign books, though they should still be sold there, and cheaper than you'd get online). I know this is an inconvenience to many, and I apologize. But there will be the video, and two other excellent speakers, and a show of support would still be nice!

In fact, I am hoping fans will show their support for CFI's choice to have me as their keynote speaker by showing up. I'd rather see my reputation reflected by the number of fans who supported me and CFI by showing, than by the number who bowed out just because I was too sick to be there.


Nick said...

Best wishes for a speedy recovery Richard.

Castaa said...

Oh man! Get better buddy. :(

Steelman said...

Get well soon, Richard!

Eric Davison said...

Might this video get posted online in some form?

Edwardtbabinski said...

Hi Richard,

Please take care. I've had the flu followed by bronchitis and breathing difficulties for the past two winters in a row. Never had great lungs to begin with, and sitting at a computer makes one's breathing very shallow, almost apnea-like. There's an article at boing-boing about that phenomena. Not good in the long run. Get up more regularly, raise your arms over your head, bend your knees up and down like you're raising the roof to get some non-impact aerobic blood flow going, and take deep breaths. Breathing in eucalyptus oil helps to remind my body to take deeper breaths. Blowing up balloons is also supposed to help regain lung capacity. Walking outside. And also, many people are vitamin D deficient due to not going out in the sun enough. Then there's E & C to help build white blood cells. And NAC, an essential amino acid, that has clinically proven itself to help lung function. And eating lots of fresh whole apples which are loaded with essential nutrients including quericine, is known to help breathing statistically speaking. Sleep is also important but not too much lying down.

I took an antibiotic in the quinilone family last year, the newest family of antibiotics, and it wiped out my bronchitis in record time after suffering three months with it. Though be aware of side effects after taking the first dose of any antibiotic, because all quinilones are not the same and different people react differently. See if your throat swells or if you feel a tingling in your ear canals and if you do, then you're having an allergic reaction, so call your physician and have him change your antibiotic. There are a number of quinilones. I might need to take one of them again this year as well.

Just sharing what I've learned with my years of breathing difficulties. Take care, man, we love you.

Ben said...

BTW, you are severely ill even when you aren't sick.

Unknown said...

Hello Richard. I attended Darwin Day in Indianapolis today. Sorry you have the flu. I hope you get well soon. We thought your video was great. I think we all appreciated that you would make the effort to create the video - especially given that you have the flu. In fact, several of us are wondering if you'd allow us to make copies of your presentation for our personal keeping. I encourage you to allow that...if it's possible...I suppose the copyright problems for online posting also exist for making a copy of the presentation...but, maybe not...and if there's a chance of getting it, I'd really like to have a particular because I found your presentation and material very relevant to recent discussions/debates I've been having with creationists and ID'rs here in Indiana. Thanks again and get well soon. I hope to see you the next time you're in Indianapolis. Bryan

Unknown said...

Oh, and there was really strong applause at the end of your video...I'm sorry you weren't able to be there to see it. Bryan

Loren said...

But would it be OK to describe what Richard Carrier said in it? I wasn't anywhere near Indianapolis yesterday.

Mike said...

I'll make two posts, one regarding my thoughts on the event in general then a second one to summarize what I got from the presentation, so people like petrich and others can hopefully get an idea of what it was all about.

First, I was extremely disappointed that Richard couldn't be there. I had brought my Sense & Goodness book with me to get it signed (even though it's a little worn) and to see Richard speak for the first time in person, but was unable. Get well soon Richard, and I really do hope you get to stop by this Fall, as the CFI folks indicated.

I thought the CFI really didn't do a very good job advertising for this event. Perhaps if you are downtown on IUPUI's campus you may have felt differently, but since I live and work in the suburbs I can say the only reason I knew this event was occurring was because of Richard's post in this very blog.

There was no form of online registration whatsoever. You had to email the CFI, they responded with various .PDFs which you then had to print out and snail mail in with a check. In 2000 this may have been forgivable, but in 2008 that's kind of embarrassing.

The lead lady (Ruth?) also said they now have "200 members." While I don't wish to disparage her or the group, Indy is upwards of a million people and the group has been formed since 1999. That growth rate seems completely anemic.. and while I understand that Indiana isn't exactly the cornerstone of freethought in the nation, I am aware of many people who would be interested in a group such as this, I can't be so presumptuous that I know any more than a fraction of freethinkers in the area. None of them are involved in the CFI.

I was witness to some pseudo-intellectual banter about the fervent Christians in our area, which, while not necessarily untrue, just sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Some tact is warranted in a state like Indiana... enough tact to get any person in the door you can, to help them see that atheists and freethinkers aren't some kind of nutjob or fringe lunatics.

Overall, I did enjoy the speakers, I was just underwhelmed by a few of the other aspects.

Mike said...

This is my second post regarding the topic of Richard's presentation. Remember, this is based on my observations and notes, this may or may not be accurate and may or may not reflect what Richard intended to convey with the presentation. I have no formal education or training in Ancient History and am nothing more than a regular fan of Mr. Carrier's work and of ancient history in general.

The title of the presentation was:
Ancient Roman Creationism: Scientific Pagans vs Armchair Christians.

The presentation started with a story of Galen, a 2nd century physician who was setting out to accomplish a scientific goal. His goal was to disprove that "natural selection" was the cause of the diverse life on the planet. He was going to do this by showing people how kidneys worked in a pig. Apparently he set up a public experiment.

Richard then went back to put some things into context before continuing the story. Long before Darwin or any modern evolution theories, there were other theories put forth by Anaxagaras, Democritus, Plato, Aristotle and Epicurus. Anaxagaras was the first person to have a documented theory regarding natural selection (I believe he was the first.) His theory didn't make much scientific sense, as it essentially claimed that "random parts" sort of randomly came together and randomly formed various beings. So while he was on the right track, he apparently didn't have much in the way of empirical evidence (obviously.) But the important part was he put forth one of the first "naturalistic" theories of existence and for the diversity of life on earth.

Apparently these philosophers that had put forth naturalistic explanations of the universe were causing quite a problem to the Christians of their time. However, Galen wanted to try to disprove these naturalistic explanation through experiments and scientific inquiry.

At this time, it was believed that kidneys worked as a kind of sieve. People apparently thought that urine just sort of "leaked through" the walls of the kidney and then flowed down into the bladder to be expelled later. Galen showed that when he tied the ureters that urine built up and caused the ureters and kidneys to swell. This "proved" that urine was not simply leaking through the kidney walls, but that it was a "one way" process. That somehow the kidneys had some unknowable force that would never let urine back into the body. So it wasn't like a sieve at all, as a sieve would allow materials back through it, given enough force.

While Galen was on the right track, he drew the wrong conclusions. However, what Richard emphasized was that Galen was a creation scientist doing what "creation scientists" today refuse to do... namely, experiment.

A few things that Galen did (or tried to do):
* refuted Moses' idea of God's omnipotence
* put forth that God was restrained by natural laws (he didn't MAKE them, he had to work within them)
* asserted that science and knowledge was pious, as it helped us understand God's miracles.

The xtians of his time disagreed. They thought that by digging into God's work, we were tampering with evil.. and that many things were simply unknowable, ergo should not be pursued. (not unlike today)

Richard also spent a significant amount of time illustrating Michael Behe's work. He showed some of the "theories" that Behe has put forth and why they don't work.. and what Behe could actually *do* in order to prove himself right or wrong. He made it clear that Behe (nor any creation scientist) was actually doing what Galen did 2000 years ago... and that is, experiment. They cherry pick data and try to make it fit their preconceived image of how the world works.

So what I pulled from the presentation was that Christians have been attempting to "disprove" naturalistic views of the world since the first naturalistic viewpoint was expressed. So what we see today is really nothing new at all, but we must be cognizant of it.

I also took away that Galen, while wrong about a number of things, did what many people today are afraid to do. He ran experiments in public for all to see. This invites peer review and criticism, and helped advance his cause by being honest.

-- I hope I was able to do Richard's presentation some justice with this summary. While I'm certain I missed a number of crucial points, perhaps this is enough to get the general idea across to those that weren't there.

Unknown said...


I think I need to ask the obvious question...why aren't you helping to organize and promote CFI and it's events? Why do you feel it's ok to criticize the membership and leadership of CFI Indy, when I see no effort on your part to help?
In truth, the Indianapolis chapter of CFI has only been in existance for a short while...the physical office only opened in April of 2007, 11 months ago. The CFI local chapter was organized the year before...1999 was the first time that Reba Boyd Wooten and a very small number of like-minded persons formed their own grassroots secular humanism group - all on their own. I think it's pretty unfair for you to criticize Reba and the members of CFI when you really have no understanding at all of what they do. Instead, I praise them for their efforts. It takes TIME and MONEY and DESIRE to do what Reba and her group have done. Before Reba, there was NOTHING secular in Indianapolis. I know because in September of 2004, I went looking and Reba's secular humanism group was the only thing I found.
So, yes, some things could be better...but your solely critical statements don't do justice to the efforts that have been made to establish a local CFI office. If the typical secularist was quicker to help than to criticize, the local CFI chapter would have a better chance of meeting your 'standards.'

Mike said...


Perhaps my post wasn't clear enough, but I didn't even know about CFI or this event through any local channels. I discovered the event through Richard's blog, at this very site. I'm unsure if you are asking if I should help an organization that I didn't even really know anything about until a week ago, or what (specifically) is your point?

Now, if CFI *does* need help organizing things, then they should ask. I heard requests for memberships and extra money donations, I didn't hear a request for time or manual labor.

Also, the issues I discussed in my first post are very basic ones, such as posting a .pdf or faq on the web so more information is available to people who may be passing by the websites.

Furthermore, as I also mentioned in my previous post, I overheard various members chatting about various topics during lunch and breaks, and while I wouldn't judge the entire organization on a few individuals, I can definitely say that it "felt" elitist.

Now, I must ask you the obvious question. Does an organization that gives this type of first impression really warrant my volunteer efforts? Wouldn't I continue looking for something that fits with my perception of how an organization should conduct itself?

I think your rebuttal is silly, but to each their own.

Kind regards,

Unknown said...


All you provide is excuses for your complete inaction. That you didn't know about CFI, or Reba's group, only shows that you didn't care enough to look. That you feign ignorance that CFI and the secular movement in general needs help in Indianapolis shows your shallowness. It's plain and obvious. It doesn't take much effort to find a group like CFI for anyone that knows how to use a google search and has the desire to something positive. What it seems you're best at is smugly labeling others as elitist and silly and criticizing others who actually make an effort to improve the situation for the secular minority. My argument stands, if you want things to be better, you should get off your butt and work to make the situation better. What Reba and the members of CFI are trying to do in Indianapolis is hard and all you have to offer them is criticism. Your snide comments do nothing but work against the people who care enough to make an effort. I don't need snide words to describe what you make plain about yourself in your posts.

Mike said...

Since you have chosen to derail Richard's blog comments completely by disparaging someone you don't even know, I'll be brief.

You don't know me. I am a man of action, not words. I appreciate what CFI put together for Darwin Day but to say that there were not huge holes in the events that transpired for me to get there would be, to put it bluntly, lying.

Everyone is free to make their own choices and decisions about the organization and I strongly encourage them to do so. I just hope they avoid you while doing it. I will be attending CFI events in the future and I look forward to seeing improvement.

Kind regards,

Unknown said...

Writing in blogs isn't a bad thing by itself, but it lacks meaning if that's all you've got to offer.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for the useful summary and impressions Michael.

Michael is perfectly justified in criticizing any organization whether he chooses to get involved or not. bsmile's defensiveness about his comments is lame.

Unknown said...

Michael says I don't know him personally. Correct.

What I know of Michael is what Michael has written in this blog thread. Michael begins his participation in this thread by stereotyping the CFI membership as ‘elitist’ and casts CFI Indianapolis in a negative light based solely on his attendance at the CFI organized ‘Darwin Day’ held last Saturday.

Michael, by his own admission, possesses no knowledge of the organized secular community in Indianapolis. He doesn't know anything about CFI or its membership. But Michael feels qualified, after attending ONLY the most recent Darwin Day, to judge the CFI membership as "elitist" and to criticize CFI/Indianapolis for having no more than 200 members after 8 years - as if that infers something negative about CFI. And Mike is wrong. CFI has not existed in Indianapolis for 8 years. The physical CFI office has existed for 11 MONTHS. And a CFI affiliated group has existed for just about 2 years. Over the last 8 years, Reba (not ‘Ruth’), a retired high school social studies teacher, has been working to build a support structure for the local secular community and to actively promote secularism. 11 months ago, after Reba was able to garner the local financial support she needed, she opened a physical CFI office downtown - an office remodeled and furnished through the labors of CFI members. At the present time, that so-called 'elitist' membership helps Reba to host some 15-20 open events each month and the CFI membership follows through on their commitments to fund CFI through monthly contributions. This allows the local CFI office to receive a certain amount of funding from the multi-national CFI organization to help cover the costs of maintaining the local downtown office.

Reba and CFI is a huge positive influence in the secular community.

All the while 'Mike' has shown no interest whatsoever in the local secular community. Mike has never made the smallest effort to find, start or support a secular group in Indianapolis...and Mike criticizes CFI for not advertising Darwin Day directly to him. Of course, Mike knows nothing about the advertising CFI has done this year, or in the past 2 years, to promote Darwin Day or to promote any other CFI events. Mike has no knowledge of the advertising budget constraints or the advertising costs. I know of an instance when Reba and a certain few CFI members used their own money, totaling $700, just to get a few spots on local radio to advertise Darwin Day. Are all of these people rich or 'elitist' as Mike wants to describe them? I see a mix of people who are members of CFI and I don’t see the appropriateness in labeling CFI Indianapolis as an ‘elitist’ organization. I certainly don’t see the label “elitist” applying to those who do the bulk of the work.

Mike's only practical criticism is that CFI could provide an electronic registration form. Fair enough. But contained in Mike's criticism is a snide, degrading manner - it pervades all of his comments towards CFI in this thread. A simple recommendation is all that is needed. And it would only be a beneficial criticism if he actually made the suggestion to the CFI administration so that they could correct the situation.

From my personal experience, I describe CFI's membership as predominantly atheists and agnostics, 1 Buddhist, ZERO Christians. In October of 2006, just under 18 months ago, CFI Indianapolis hosted a lecture by Eddie Tabash titled, "why There Really is No God." The CFI position on the existence of God is no secret. There was an article in the Indianapolis Star Newspaper titled, "In No God they Trust" about Reba and our organization. CFI opposes the Indiana license plates that proclaim “In God We Trust.” CFI members filed and won a lawsuit to have a state government job eliminated that was for a Christian minister to promote religion to state office workers and to organize local religious leaders. And on Darwin Day, Richard Carrier’s presentation was critical of Christian attitudes toward science. Yes, Richard was tactful, but still the message was anti-Christian.

One look at the Darwin Day agenda was enough to show me an anti-religious, anti-Christian, flavor to the event. I even mentioned this to Dr. Langdon before the event started.

There was an uncomfortable moment during the panel discussion when Dr. Langdon, a Christian who teaches biology and evolution at the Methodist based University of Indianapolis, squared off against fellow panelist Craig Gosling over belief in God being compatible with being a scientist. Earlier in the morning, Craig gave a speech while playing Darwin (dressed up in late 1800's garb and a white beard) where he made Darwin's position on God clear – Darwin did not believe in God.

I find it hard to fault Craig for making statements consistent with CFI’s public position on the existence of “God.” I felt bad for Dr. Langdon, and I appreciate his participation in all 3 Darwin Days. But he’s got one foot on either side of the fence and he’s trying to avoid having to justify how he reconciles science with a personal belief in the supernatural. Dr. Langdon should not be surprised to face this issue during Darwin Day – and this is his 3rd Darwin Day. As an atheist, I don’t go into a Sunday morning church service at the local Baptist church expecting them to adjust their statements about God and Jesus Christ because of me. 3 weeks ago, when I attended “Strong Evidence for God” put on by the 7th Day Adventist Church on the campus of Indiana University, I wasn’t surprised by anything I heard although I disagreed with all of it. I knew what I was getting into at IU and Dr. Langdon does too when he participates in the CFI organized Darwin Day.

Mike makes his statements in a public forum, Richard Carrier's And Mike has every right to write what he wants. However, he should not be surprised that when he does this, he makes himself available for critical response and public challenge.

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." JFK

The principle of this message is relevant to every good cause. I see this principle in the efforts of Reba and the members of CFI who are building positive secular support structures in Indianapolis.

Everyone chooses what positions they will take and their own level of participation in CFI or separate from CFI. For those people who aren’t willing to take the ‘hard line’ of CFI against organized religion, religious beliefs and the supernatural, I invite them to start their own secular group. That is exactly what I did. When I went looking and found the Humanist Friendship Group in Indianapolis, in September of 2004, I was tentative about my positions and I was afraid that I might get swept up in someone else’s agenda. So I found people who felt pretty much the way I did and we started our own group - IndyAtheists – as opposed to simply pissing on someone else’s good efforts. As time went on and the people in my group got to know Reba and her group, and as we saw the positives in what they were doing to build the CFI office, most people in my group, as individuals, chose to join and support CFI. We still maintain the separate group from CFI, IndyAtheists. However, what I see happens is that IndyAtheists tends to serve as a stepping stone to CFI for new members who are initially tentative in their approach to secularism. When the new attendees become more mature in their positions and want to take a stronger stance and become more active – they move into CFI.

So, the question is what happens now? Mike is still an anonymous blogger. No one knows who 'Mike' really is, and if he chooses, he can get to know CFI better. There's nothing stopping him from participating. And there's nothing stopping him from forming his own group if CFI doesn't suit him. My hope is that he'd do something more positive and beneficial for the secular community than what he’s done here.

Liz said...

wow, as an indianapolis atheist, i have to admit, i'm pretty turned off to the thought of attending CFI events after seeing bsmile's totally unfounded tirade here.

it seemed to me that michael actually WAS trying to help out by posting some weak points and suggestions...i didn't see it as bashing CFI at all, but more as constructive criticism.

but regardless, i don't think i'll be joining CFI for any of their events (as i was thinking of doing) for fear that i'll run into someone like bsmile, who may very well take my head off if i'm not a good enough atheist for him. =/

Unknown said...

sounds like Mike's friends are all chiming in.

From the 1st post Mike made:
"While I don't wish to disparage her or the group,"
Disparage is all Mike bothered to do.

I never realized that stereotyping others as 'elitist' and denigrating others was considered constructive criticism and 'trying to help.' Mike does this with little or no information and you're jumping in to support that type of behavior? Thanks, but no thanks, for the 'help' you guys.

When you guys have something constructive to say, let me know.

You don't have the right to denigrate the people who are actually making a positive effort.

Unknown said...

Liz, Mike, etc.

I'm going to make you a 'peace' offering.

If you'll go down to the CFI office and make the effort to get to know Reba and the other members, I'll promise not to take your head off.

I'm not an integral figure in CFI. I'm just one of the members. I'm hardly ever there. Reba, on the other hand is there pretty much every day. And I know she won't take your head off.

You can go to to get all the information. There's no reason you can't just drop in to look around.

And while you're there, you can let Reba know about your suggestions to make the next event a better event.

My purpose in this was to defend the people in CFI 'cause I know they're good people and they don't fit the description that they were given. I know the efforts they've made on behalf of
the secular community and I want everyone to know about that. I know that CFI is a good thing. And if you don't think so, fine. I hope you find your own way to promote the growth of the secular community.

For myself, I find it irritating that people that don't know these people like I do would so quickly judge them in a negative fashion - especially since I see the time, money, and effort they put into what they do. As far as I'm concerned, I put the heat where the heat belonged...and if that makes me a jerk to you, I'm ok with that. After all, you don’t really care what I think anyway. Feel free to do what you think is best.

diogenes'mutt said...

I'm a CFI member who attended Darwin Day, and I suppose I could be called a core member supports it with my time and effort.
First, I would like to thank Richard for your contribution. I was most interested (and inspired)to hear your presentation. I'm almost finished with your book now, too, which is most excellent. I look forward to the time when you are able to visit us later in the year. The book is wonderfully organized with a detailed bibliography, which is very important for someone like me who is embarking on a study of philosophy. Thanks for your efforts, and good luck on your defense!

A couple directed comments, if I may:

Liz: Please, don't be discouraged!

bsmile1103: In brief, we both know what goes in to making CFI happen. However, anything you say in defense of CFI reflects on the very organization you are trying to promote, and as such, even I felt alienated by some of the above comments, which I feel does not reflect in any way the timbre of dialogue at CFI. I only speak for myself, as well, but I want to meet as many fellow travelers as I can. And I fear a lack of tact may not be beneficial to this end.

Mike: Yes, advertising is on a limited budget, alas.... We were however listed in the NUVO in a highlighted section (Top 5 weekend pics), which is an events magazine that is very popular in Indy. How can we reach the 'burbs? Drop a line. I don't know all the ways we ended up advertising, but that is definitely something to address for next year. Again, due to limited technical resources, we did not have an online registration; (I totally agree with you). If you have particular talents CFI could use, this would be a great way to get involved. I hope you would stop by another event, just so you can get to know some of the members in person and not simply by overhearing them. There are a lot of members who I am sure would like to meet you.

I am only speaking for myself, and I don't know if this is the right forum, but there is a question I have, which is: is CFI specifically an atheist group or a more broadly-speaking secular group? Because there are plenty of undogmatic religious people with secular lifestyles and attitudes, or other freethinkers for that matter, and I wouldn't want to give the impression that we're all raving Hitchens-type anti-theists. Here, I'm concerned with the charge of elitism. However, the attitudes of many of the great thinkers from the pre-Socratics to John Stuart Mill to many philosophy professors, are, in fact, atheist ones. Do you mean: is atheism inherently elitist, or only the atheist who believes himself to be superior to others' belief systems? This question may be why some people do not advance their beliefs in public, or attend CFI meetings. The issue requires tact and nuance. I think I can safely say that most of us are undogmatic non-theists.

As for volunteer efforts at the center, sometimes specific talents are needed for events (Darwin Day, Spirit and Place), but mostly it is just one's participation in everyday events that matters. As a primarily social organization, you only get out of it what you put into it. Activism is not a focus, I have found.

As someone with many varied interests, I find CFI a refreshing place to speak my mind and get involved because it makes me feel part of a larger group. Also, I never would have found Richard's book, if not for CFI. Maybe we could talk later... Thanks for your comments.

Mike said...

diogenes'mutt: Thank you kindly for the constructive feedback! bsmile's comments were, to be blunt, simply confirming my suspicion that CFI may not be an organization with which I would want to spend my free time. I believe the comments from the third parties in this thread support my suspicions completely.

Now, as I mentioned above, I very well may have missed the Nuvo ad. I do generally skim through Nuvo on a weekly basis. Since it has many ads, I could have simply missed this one. I do applaud the effort to get it listed there, though I wonder how wide the "suburban" readership of Nuvo really is?

To address your last substantial paragraph, I think it is prudent to emphasize my original comment regarding elitism. I am a strong atheist. In my everyday conversation it is unequivocally clear that I am atheist and in fact despise many facets of organized religions, up to and especially including xtianity. However, as a rather low-profile person, I came into the conference center and simply kept my mouth quiet and listened to what was going on around me. Several of the conversations simply seemed a bit on the aggressive side, considering only that we are in Indiana, in a location where I'm certain that the vast majority of individuals consider "our kind" as fringe lunatics. My comment was meant only to bring light to the fact that it may be wise for us "freethinking" types to forge a good name for ourselves in the community.

By fostering academic integrity, critical thinking and/or any number of other ideas that are in short supply in our region, we may open more doors for ourselves in the future. I certainly wouldn't suggest that CFI "supports" any particular elitist comments that I may have overheard or that CFI is itself elitist, but rather, a concern, mostly my own, regarding the perception of atheism in Indiana.

As I stated previously also, I do fully intend to be present at future CFI events, and, should the organization's and my own needs coincide, perhaps even volunteer. I, of course, hope that I can connect with more people that hold your temperament and intellect, and less of what my first "general impression" held. As much as bsmile and I may agree on the destructive nature of religion, I suspect that our feelings regarding potential solutions would be quite incompatible.

Kind regards,

Richard Carrier said...

Agnostics_R_Us: I took a look at that urban dictionary entry. Picture Bill Murray's response to Dudley's attempt to reconstruct his pattern of blocks in The Royal Tenenbaums..."Bizarre!"

BSmile1103: Copyright issues prohibit posting the video online. Making copies is a grey area. It's within fair use to use the material I did in an academic presentation, but once you start duplicating and disseminating copies of that, you start encroaching, and I'd rather avoid testing that water. It was also composed just for that event. The CFI-IN is keeping their copy and could in principle show it on other occasions or loan it out, but that's their call. I have no objection to free copies being made for personal use only, as long as they aren't shown or posted online, but you'd have to talk to CFI-IN about that.

On other matters, I think you've been overly unkind to Michael. Many of Michael's remarks have been at least somewhat valid, and calmly stated even when wrong. So please pay him some courtesy.

Michael: Thanks for giving everyone a summary (I had no time to do that myself). You'll be amused to know that one of Galen's pet peves were people who attended his lectures who couldn't repeat an argument he had just made. But Galen would be happy with you! I have just two trivial quibbles I'll mention later below.

I will be speaking for CFI-IN sometime in Fall (we're already negotiating a date) so you'll get a chance to see me after all--and get your book signed!

But I know something of what CFI-IN did by way of advertising, and it was pretty massive (more than most events like this ever get). I'm not sure what else they could have afforded to do that would reach someone like you. And BSmile is right that they are brand new. In fact, I didn't even know they existed until they contacted me about this event, and I thought I was pretty plugged in to the CFI expansion plan (I was sure CFI-SF was the next one on track, and it's still years away from having a facility, though they exist and are organizing regular events now).

But I also agree CFI needs more "modern" web admin. They're about ten years behind everyone else (as you noticed yourself, and I think that observation holds for the entire international CFI web matrix, not just in this case). I suspect this is because they are directing their large funding assignments to physical installation rather than web design (the costs are comparable...i.e. vast), which is a tactic of the national office that I think can rightly be criticized, though it's nothing the local office at Indianapolis has any real control over.

On the other hand, I know something of the CFI-LA, which serves an even larger population, and they aren't doing any better--hundreds attending events is impressive, but when you consider it in relative terms, it's really not. But seen in terms relative to local atheist and freethought organizations across the country, it kind of is. But I don't think that's CFI's fault necessarily. I just don't think atheists are really all that interested in wasting hours of their day listening to lectures.

Membership at local UU churches is analogous. Once you feel no obligation to go to church, and don't think your salvation depends on it, or that your invisible friend is waiting there for you to perk you up or forgive your sins, or need the comforts of a social reinforcement of what are (in fact) very weakly supported beliefs (especially relative to the strength with which they are held), there isn't really any good reason to go. So I doubt CFI's will ever be as successful as churches.

BTW, though, it is always worth asking a local CFI what physical help they could use. But often they don't yet have the resources to manage too many volunteers, so they often can't use even the help that's available, until they get more dedicated staff. And they tend to rely (understandably) on volunteers they know (and thus can trust) rather than letting in just any strangers who show up to help (arguably behavior that killed the O'Hairs). But if you attend meetings, keep in regular contact, and so on, until they have a pretty good idea of your character, commitment, reasonableness, and skills, that's the track in.

Another thing I would suggest is that each local CFI get in touch with every other to see what is working and what is not. For example, CFI-SF has a monthly "Drinking Skeptically" event where a bunch of people just show up at a designated bar and drink and chat. I'd go regularly if I lived in the City. As it is I go once a season or so. If CFI-IN hasn't started something like this, it should. It might get people in who aren't down with the whole lecture thing.

And though not yet a CFI thing anywhere (as far as I know), there are several atheist groups (e.g. the Freethought Association of West Michigan) who are running SIGs, Special Interest Groups (or something like that), which get local supporters who have common interests together, at events not everyone is expected to attend but just those keen for that activity (they have kids groups, bowling groups, knitting groups, a kind of Socratic philosophy-debate club, and so on).

This is a model I think CFI should follow, and it's worth contacting the Freethought Association of West Michigan for ideas and tips on how this has worked out and the best ways to go about it (FAWM has one of the largest memberships of any atheist group I've known, and I've been all over the country--though Santa Barbara comes close, so there may be a few others of comparable size, though we're still only talking in the hundreds).

Richard Carrier said...

Michael: Regarding your summary, only a few things I'd go out of my way to correct...

(1) One is that Galen may have allowed that God made the laws of nature, but that he was constrained by possible systems of laws (not all being compatible enough to produce a working universe...Plato's Timaeus gives some rather fanciful examples of this kind of thinking, and Galen wrote a commentary on it, which unfortunately doesn't survive), and that God chose the best option available to him. However, this does entail that some constraints were upon God as to how he could design a universe. If Galen agreed with this, I think he would be impressed with modern cosmological arguments to design, though he would completely disagree with Christian theology top to bottom (as he did then). The modern cosmological fine-tuning argument implies that God couldn't make a life-sustaining universe if he changed even a single constant the tiniest amount, which entails that there were some sort of meta-laws of physics that God was bound to and could not overcome. Galen I think would like that, and stick it in the face of Christians every chance he got.

(2) Another is that Galen would never agree with our use of the word "miracle." Though he often spoke in quasi-religious terms like that, he was often careful to qualify (e.g. "almost miraculous"), since he would adamantly deny (as empirically refuted by extensive experience) that God can or would perform "miracles" in the modern sense. For him everything is somehow scientifically caused through a system of interacting parts, in a logical and non-spontaneous way. And Galen would agree with the argument that miracles, in the sense of suspensions of the laws of nature, would entail God was a lousy engineer (since a good one, much less a fantastic one as Galen thought he had empirically "proved" he must be, would have gotten it right the first time, and any rational being would, by definition, behave consistently).

Though I'm speculating from what I know of Galen, I think these speculations clarify some things we do know about Galen's theology.

Reba said...

Hi, I am Reba, the Executive Director of CFI Indiana. I am sorry that Mike got the impression of our event and of our organization that he did and I thank Brian for stepping up in our defense.
Mike, I hope you will give us another try. Go to our website and/or sign up for our newsletter to see all the different opportunities we have to offer.
I know that some of our members come on more strongly than others and I have don't have control over that. I also would appreciate your suggestions for getting the word out more efficiently. I think we did everything we could within our budget but would welcome suggestions. As to the website, we are within the constraint of the CFI Transnational's system. I will see if there is more we can do that we don't know about. I also was concerned that Craig came on too strong on the panel and offended Dr. Langdon. Dr. Langdon is a very good scientist and is the author of a college textbook on human evolution. He has participated in all three of our Darwin Day events and always is willing and does a good job for us. He is a Christian. I like having him for that reason also because is shows as I Think that one does not have to be an atheist to also be a good scientist.
So, Mike , hope you will give us another chance.

Reba said...

As to publicity. I have a media list which includes all of the suburban papers that I know about. I send our monthly schedule to all of these. I have no control over whether or not they publish them. NUVO and the Indianapoolis Star calendar puts all of them on their web calendar ans most of them in the print edition. For Darwin Day we paid for an ad in NUVO for two weeks. We have in the past paid for underwriting on local public radio and TV. For Darwin Day this year we were in the top five picks for the cultural event of the week. Let me know of your other suggestions.

Jefferson Seaver said...

Hi Richard, thanks for plugging our group here in Michigan. You may be interested to know that the Freethought Association became Center for Inquiry | Michigan this past September and we continue to expand and flourish.

I hope we'll meet up again soon over a good bottle of wine and enlightened conversation!


Jeff Seaver

Reba said...

Center for Inquiry Indiana, 350 Canal Walk, Suite A. "Science and Ethics: Can Science Help Us Make Wise Moral Judgments?", 7:30 p.m. Friday. Speaker: John Shook, author of Chapter 12, "Euthanasia, Unnecessary Suffering, and the Proper Aims of Medicine." Call (317) 797-5892 or visit