I’m back from the Global Atheist Convention in Dublin and very good it was too. I’m too busy and guilty about taking time off to write much about it, but I have to congratulate Atheist Ireland for putting on an excellent gig.
If I have a complaint, it’s that the panels could have been designed a little better. For example, the one on sexism in atheism was uncomfortably one-sided, but fortunately this was addressed later by Rebecca Watson. While I’m delighted that none of the panel have encountered much in the way of sexism, I doubt this is the typical experience. The joint message of the panel and Rebecca’s talk was that women can succeed if they push themselves forward, but that they expose themselves to risk by doing so. Given what I know of some of Rebecca’s past battles along these lines, I was puzzled that she wasn’t on the sexism panel anyway. She’d have been the first person I’d have asked.
The accomodation/confrontation panel seemed a bit of a wasted opportunity. I’d expected it to be a discussion between people with different views on the subject. At the least, I expected a discussion about the relative merits of each. Instead, most of the panellists talked about their experiences of confrontation which – while interesting – weren’t really on topic. Only Richard Green of Atheist UK really seemed to understand that there even is an ongoing battle. Unfortunately, he was rather dull and I fear his message might have been lost on many.
These niggles aside, it was a great event. We were invaded by some Muslim creationists, seemingly led by Hamza Andreas Tzortzis. He or one of his cohorts made a nuisance oh himself during one of Dawkins’ panel sessions by barking the usual creationist questions at him (video here, thanks Jerry). You can hear his disingenuity (“no, really, I’m a student, I just want to learn”. Sure.) and the reaction of the audience, which is onto him immediately. The group remained outside for the remainder of the conference, spamming the twitter feed relentlessly with inconsequential babble and accosting people they wanted to ‘engage’ with.
Ah, but it’s a slippery word, ‘engage’. It became increasingly clear that what they meant by ‘engage’ was ‘agree’. When anyone argued with them, they said it wasn’t engagement and went back to gleefully saying that PZ and Richard refused to engage with them, knowing full well that they were inside the conference listening to talks.
According to the twitter feed, at one point PZ was talking to them outside when Dawkins walked out and saw what was happening, sighed “fuckwit” and went back inside. I don’t blame him, they were every bit as dull and fuckheaded as any other variety of creationist. If anything, they were ruder and more bewildering than the average, constantly interrupting and changing the subject mid-sentence. There’s no point in talking to such people.
PZ and Aaron Ra had a go, which you can see here. Don’t expect anything but babble from the creationists.