Tag Archives: Melbourne

2018 Global Atheist Convention

Looks like we are going to have another regional global atheist convention.Such

Such conventions were held in Melbourne in 20110 and 2012 and were very successful. However, a lot has happened between prominent atheists since then. People have fallen out and personal campaigns have been promoted for and against personalities. I hope these conflicts do not jeopardise this planned convention.

I guess it will depend on the invited speakers. Salman Rushdie and Ayann Hirsi Ali will be interesting and attract lots of people. I look forward to announcements of other speakers in the planned line up.

So, I have my questions at the moment – but will certainly consider attending if the other speakers are as interesting.

Must renew my passport.

Meanwhile – if you are interested here is the message from the organisers:


The Atheist Foundation of Australia is pleased to announce the third Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne in February 2018.

Bringing together like-minded thinkers, and those who want to challenge their current thinking, the three-day exhilarating event will feature world-renowned speakers and entertainers.

Sign up today for speaker and ticketing announcements.

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The creationism controversy – a summary

Here’s a great summary of the creationist controversy – their claims and why they don’t work. Presented by Eugenie Scott at A Celebration of Reason – 2012 Global Atheist Convention held in Melbourne last April

Eugenie Scott – Reason And Creationism.

I like that she spends much of the time talking about “creation science” and their geological arguments. Turns out these actually have more factual basis (as in making statements of fact that can be tested) than do the intelligent design people and their biological arguments. So I welcomed her change of emphasis.

I still strongly disagree with the way she presents the philosophy and methodology of science in terms of methodological and philosophical materialism and their differences. I think it is actually a poor argument because it plays into the religious apologist arguments for a “supernatural” world that they can ring-fenced against scientific investigation. But more of that in future post – although I have written about it before (eg Science and the “supernatural”).

A disciplined discussion

I have commented several times that the debate format is very unsatisfactory and have favoured a discussion format for public discussion. Richard Dawkins has tried out a number of such discussion formats, I think successfully.

But I think this one is actually quite ambitious – four personalities in discussion, on stage, in front of an audience of 4000. It actually comes out very well. With no chairperson or moderator, everyone seems to get a fair go. No one dominates. And the discussion is fascinating. I would love to have been there.

It’s the panel discussion between Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali which occurred at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention
held in Melbourne last April.

Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris & Ayaan Hirsi Ali – YouTube.

It’s an hour-long – but very interesting.

2012 Global Atheist Convention – Melbourne

The organisers of the 2012 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne have announced that tickets will go on sale from September 1st. If you are planning to go I recommend an early purchase as they did sell out quickly last time. And successful as the 2010 Convention was this one is shaping up to be even better.

Convention organisers are announcing confirmed speakers one at a time – The latest is Ayan Hirsi Ali who is certainly going to be a crowd drawer. She is one of my heroines.

Photos of the other speakers so far announced are below. Click on the individual photos to go to their details.

Daniel DennettRichard DawkinsSam HarrisChristopher HitchensAnnie Laurie GaylorLeslie CannoldPZ MyersLawrence KraussEugenie ScottPeter SingerCatherine DevenyDan BarkerFiona PattenLawrence LeungKylie SturgessTanya SmithAyaan Hirsi Ali

Science has the real debate

Christopher Monckton - Credit: abc

Stephan Lewandowsky from the University of Western Australia has a very topical opinion piece in The Drum (see  The difference between scientific debate and phoney talkfests). Topical here as well as Australia because some local climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics are attempting to finance a visit from Lord Monckton at the end of his current Australian tour. That may not come off (they are currently attempting to find a few donors willing to put in large amounts of cash) but the article is still relevant.

Stephan compares two events:

1: “The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) General Assembly, which attracted 3,200 of the world’s leading experts to Melbourne earlier this month to debate the state of the planet and its future,” and

2: The Australian visit of Vaudevillian climate “sceptic” Lord Monckton, who is currently scouring Australia for venues for his theatrical performances but has given wide berth to the IUGG meeting.”

And we should keep this comparison in mind when these local organisers demand that scientists debate Monckton at public venues. We should recognise this is just their way of attempting to get credibility for minority ideas be getting a place on stage with the real experts. After all, aren’t we justified to ask – if Monckton has any credible point to make why did he not attend, and contribute to, the IUGG General Assembly?

As Stephan says; “For scientists, there is no reason to engage with individuals in an academic setting who refuse scientific debate and accountability, and who demonstrably have nothing to bring to a debate.”

But Stephan finishes with an excellent point:

“Does this mean no debate is ever possible?

No, of course not.

Science is debate.

And the door to scientific debate, on climate or HIV/AIDS or Prospect Theory, is wide open to anyone, even occasional travel photographers: all they have to do is to become knowledgeable in a field and subject their ideas to scrutiny by publishing in the peer-reviewed literature.

If their ideas survive scrutiny, they are then worthy of the public recognition that deniers so crave but which they cannot responsibly be given until then.”

See also:
A letter to Viscount Monckton of Brenchley from the Clerk of the Parliaments
Astroturfing works, and it’s a major challenge to climate change

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Celebrating Reason

2012 Global Atheist Convention

This is worth keeping an eye out for – 2012 Global Atheist Convention. To be held in Melbourne next Year.

I participated in the 2010 Convention – it was great. And even before it opened the organisers were so enthusiastic with the response that they were planning next years one.

A chance to hear some great speakers, meet some really lovely people and buy lots of books.

There are no details of speakers so far but if you are at all interested go to the website and register your interest. That way you will be the first to hear details.

That’s worth something as these conventions get booked out early.

The heart of PZ Myers

Sounds like PZ Myers’ health problems are more serious than he first thought. He is currently in hospital for more tests – and from the sounds of it – an operation (see That’s not a heart! It’s a flailing Engine of Destruction!)

Hopefully things will go well. He will get the necessary repairs, a well-deserved rest and return renewed to his blogging. I try to read his blog, Pharyngula, daily and I know others do as well. I enjoy his daily dose of humour and common sense.

PZ Myers answers questions at the Melbourne Convention. Photo: Geoff Cowan

PZ is an excellent communicator and we need more people like PZ to defend science and reason. I am personally amazed at the time and effort he puts into this communication. During the last year he has been on sabbatical leave. While he has been writing a book I know this is disrupted by the traveling and large number of meetings he has been speaking at. In the USA and internationally.

I met him last March at the World Atheist Convention in Melbourne and was impressed at how eager he was to meet everyone. This willingness to make himself so available has resulted in a hectic round of speaking engagements and public appearances in this last year. While this has been great for the communication of science and reason it must have had a toll on his health.

So, hopefully, PZ will take this health alarm as a warning. Recognise that he needs to consider his own needs more and turn down some of the requests for public appearances. Hopefully Myers will return to blogging soon. And I hope to see his book published. I will be satisfied with that and I am sure most of his regular readers will be too.

PZ has appealed to his readers not to “waste your time with prayers.” After all he is getting some real help from medical experts. I wish him well and look forward to his successful recovery. Many of his readers are doing the same. One of these well wishers was Richard Dawkins, who commented: “How noble, how typical of the man and of everything he stands for, to use humour in making such an announcement.”

Which brings me to another of my concerns. Dawkins is also someone who gives his time extremely readily. His life must also be very hectic. I was aware that at the time of the World Atheist convention he was traveling around New Zealand and Australia and speaking to sell out audiences. It amazed me that he spoke in Auckland on the Saturday night and in Melbourne on the Sunday afternoon. Those who went along to hear him certainly appreciate his willingness to make himself so available. But perhaps he should also be taking a lesson from PZs current health problems.

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From Melbourne to Copenhagen

Echos of last weekend’s Global Atheist convention in Melbourne are still reverberating around the internet and in the print media. There have been some shocking newspaper reports in Australia (eg. Speakers true love of hatred) but also some good ones (eg. Australia’s atheists are a happy bunch).

Probably what we should expect at this stage. After all this convention was unique – the first of it’s kind.

There is good news for all those atheists who missed the Melbourne convention, or did attend this awesome event and are now suffering withdrawal symptoms. The Atheist Alliance International, which co-organised the Melbourne Convention, has planned a series of such international events. The Melbourne Convention was just the first. The next International Atheist Convention will take place in Copenhagen in a few months (June 18-20). Have a look at Atheist Alliance International 2010 Copenhagen Convention for details.

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The greatest show

51OV5uKtcXL._SL160_Here’s a book to look forward to.

Coming this September is Richard Dawkins‘ latest book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. I understand that this book will engage more with the arguments of those who seek to deny this evidence – the creationist/intelligent design proponents.

It should be good. Not only is Dawkins an excellent presenter and populariser of science – he is also an extremely good writer. This is why he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997 and the Royal Society in 2001.

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