Friday, September 25, 2009

Skepticon 2

Last year I spoke at Missouri State University (in Springfield) alongside P.Z. Myers, for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, on science, religion, and morality (video of the whole event is available on YouTube). They weren't sure if they could make it an annual event, but lo and behold, they exceeded their wildest dreams. Now Skepticon 2 is on for Friday and Saturday, November 20 and 21 (2009). And boy, are they amping up the dial to 11! Check out their official event website for all the information and updates as planning develops. And for more details about the MSU campus and the group hosting the event, see last year's blog.

Though an exact schedule is still in the works, the roster of speakers they've secured this time is already incredible to behold. Instead of just two of us for a half-day event, this time it will be an amazing two-day conference. The emphasis is on exciting content, so I doubt any of it will be boring. There will be at least eight speakers: apart from myself, Richard Carrier (more on that below), you'll also get to see Dan Barker (who is always an entertaining speaker), D.J. Groethe (a freethought radio personality who is also a real pro), P.Z. Myers (if last year is anything to go by, he'll definitely be fun to hear), Joe Nickell (I was on a panel with him some years ago and I can vouch for him: no matter what he talks about, you'll be riveted), Robert Price (he rankles some, but let's be honest: the guy is funny, and a master of words--even if you don't agree with him, you will not be able to deny you enjoyed hearing what he had to say), Victor Stenger (I've not heard him speak yet, but if his last book is anything to go by, you won't want to miss him), and Rebecca Watson (by all accounts definitely no dull speaker she).
Richard Dawkins is still a possible addition--he was interested, but scheduling conflicts will likely nix an appearance this year. For more background and links on all these speakers visit the Skepticon II Speakers Page.

There is also a strong possibility of a panel debate with local heads of the Assemblies of God (their national office is located just down the street), on which I and a few of the other speakers will be representing the godless side. And of course many speakers, myself included, will be selling and signing our books throughout the event.

The whole conference is going to be free and open to the public, a rather amazing feat. To do this they need help with funding, and are asking anyone who believes the Midwest needs this sort of thing to donate small amounts, just five, ten or twenty dollars (you can even send it through PayPal). If enough people do even as little as that, they can cover all their costs, and they won't have to break anyone's bank. I think this is a great event and really deserves your help. If you want to support it, go to their website and donate now. The more donations they receive, the more likely this event will be continued in future years, and perhaps inspire other godless events in Midwest, where a dose of good sense is often much in need.

Since it's the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I prefer to be more humorous in my presentation. This year I'll be delivering a reprise of the well-received comedy-talk I first gave at the West Coast Atheist Meet in San Francisco in 2006 (which I then expanded and delivered again in Las Vegas in 2007): Where the Hell Is Jesus!? Weird Stuff from the Gospels to the Apostles.

The title's a bit different because I've extended it even more, with additional material, no longer focusing solely on the book of Acts. Basically, I humorously examine why Acts is so odd if Jesus really existed as the Gospels claim. Though the facts presented in this speech are entirely true, and the conclusions are not unwarranted, it's by no means be a complete or systematic case for the non-historicity of Jesus. It's meant more to be fun than convincing, falling in the category of "Things That Make You Go Hmmm..." Nevertheless, I'll have a Q&A session afterward, where the issue can be discussed further. In connection with that, well before then I shall have sent two new updates to my donors on the Historicity of Jesus book I've been engrossed with perfecting for far longer than I expected!

Update: video of my talk at this event is now available on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Appearing in Arizona (II)

On Sunday 8 November (2009) I'll be appearing in Scottsdale, Arizona (near Phoenix) for the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, in a special banquet room at HomeTown Buffet (on 1312 N. Scottsdale Road). Breakfast begins at 9am, introductions around 9:45am, then my talk and Q&A (and book sale and signing) will run to 11:30am or so. The event is on the HSGP calendar, but you'll get more of a description here.

Topic: Christianity and Science: Ancient and Modern

Abstract: This will be a more off-the-cuff version of the talk I gave at Indianapolis in early 2008 (which I presented as a narrated video, as I was deathly ill), this time expanded to include some additional examples from astronomy (the original talk focused only on biology). In short, I compare ancient and modern Christian creationism, with ancient and modern science, showing themes shared across history, especially regarding scientific values.

The event is free and open to the public, but you have the highly recommended option of enjoying the buffet for $8 (be sure to mention the Humanist Society at the cashier).


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Appearing in Sacramento (II)

Last year I promised to make several appearances around the country, and now these are all coming to fruition. I blogged the SFSU event last week. This week I'll be blogging several more.

Tuesday, October 20 (2009), I'll be appearing in Sacramento (California), at 191 Lathrop Way, Suite D, for the Sacramento Freethinkers, Atheists and Nonbelievers (FAN). For directions see the website of the The Sacramento Tree Foundation (FAN is borrowing their venue for the evening). Event begins around 6:30-7pm and runs to maybe 8:30 or 9pm, which includes introductions and Q&A. I'll also be selling and signing my books afterward.

Topic: Embracing Naturalism as a Worldview

Abstract: We all have a worldview, whether we know it or not. Everything is guided by it, our morals, our politics, our methods of deciding what's true or false, even which doctor we go to. So, what if naturalism is the only credible worldview? How does that affect your morals, your politics, your methods? Find out as Dr. Richard Carrier, author of Sense and Goodness without God, explains what naturalism is and how it matters.

I've delivered versions of this talk before, many years ago for AOF (also in Sacramento) and last year for CFI Indianapolis. Since then I've streamlined it and updated bits. See the FAN calendar listing for more info and a means to RSVP.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Appearing at SFSU

Students at San Francisco State University want me to give a talk and take questions on the subject of mathematics and god, from the perspective of physics and naturalism. It's been quite a long time in the making, but we've arranged an event for Tuesday, 29 September (2009), 4-6pm. The talk is sponsored by the SFSU Department of Philosophy and by the Philosophy of Religion Society. It's free and open to the public. I will be selling and signing copies of my books afterward. 

The event will be held in Room 587 of the SFSU Humanities Building. You can get directions (and info about parking) from the SFSU website (among many options, there are shuttles and buses to the campus from the Daly City BART, and I hear the Muni M line goes somewhere near as well, but don't quote me on that). For exact locations, see the southwest section of the SFSU Campus Map. There is no website for the event, but inquiries can be emailed to Steve Baughman.

The title of the talk is: "The Universe Is Mathematical, Therefore God Exists! (Or Not)." As advertised: Dr. Richard Carrier, author of Sense and Goodness without God, explains how godless naturalism explains the mathematization of physics without any Mind behind the Universe. Using examples from Archimedes to modern String Theory, Carrier will show how advocates of the contrary view, like Russel Howell and Mark Steiner, don't understand the true nature of physics or mathematics. Then he will take questions from the audience on the remarkable thesis that mathematical laws prove the existence of God.

This is basically a summary and update of my ongoing debate with Howell and Steiner, which I've blogged about before: "Our Mathematical Universe" (5 October 2007). Except this time I'll use examples from ancient (and modern) science to show why the mathematization of nature is actually expected on naturalism.