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Old 16th April 2012, 06:11 PM
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Keith_W Keith_W is offline
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Default The best points from the GAC

I forgot to bring a notepad, so I didn't take lecture notes. I am hoping others will contribute with what they thought were the most memorable points made by presenters at the GAC. I will start.

Dr. Leslie Cannold's call to action really resonated with me. She crystallized immediately what my issue is - it is not actually the presence of religion that bothers me, it is the effects of religion, and how it is facilitated by the believers of religion. Therefore a good step would be to build bridges with the more moderate elements of religion because they are opposed to the same things that we are.

Sam Harris' insight on our fear of death and how it is the central motivation in the mind of the religious was also a very good point. "When you argue with religious people, you are actually arguing with their fear of death". It gives them so much comfort that they will protect it by any means necessary, even by turning away logic. That made a lot of sense.

Dan Barker made an excellent point about how religion can smear our understanding of morality, but unfortunately I can't quite remember the story he used. Can anyone help?

That's it from me for now. What did you guys take away from the GAC?
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Old 16th April 2012, 08:15 PM
Podblack Podblack is offline
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

Since I have now dusted my hands of something that has NOT impressed me at all...

The volunteers. The people in blue, the people in black, the people who got you organised in lines, who helped me find a safe door for an injured friend to get through without being trampled. Who answered questions, who sold shirts and helped set up stalls. Who missed the talks in order to stand outside and wait for hours. Who had to watch the protestors outside, knowing that if things got violent, they'd probably be the first targets as they were obviously working for the event.

The people behind the scenes - who kept time, coordinated speakers, kept said speakers comfortable and made it alright for them so when they did go out into crowds, they felt rested and less stressed by the sight of 3000 people or so who all wanted photo ops or every question answered.

And everyone who made it look and sound pretty. Lights, sound, banners, advertising, catering - the whole shebang that brands the event as global-class.

I saw more of this than most and that's why they'll go down more in my memory - because I also missed many (if not all, come to think of it) of the presentations but if it wasn't for them, there'd be no damned event.
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Old 16th April 2012, 09:03 PM
riddlemethis riddlemethis is offline
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Good ones Keith & well remembered!

Leslie Cannold exceeded my already high expectations of her & the call to arms she issued was a very important one.

Sam Harris is now one of my favourite public intellectuals! I've struggled a bit with some of his lines of thinking in the past few years but yesterday I really got it! And it's renewed a practice for me (that of mindfulness/meditation) that I'd all but left behind really. I'm fascinated by his research & more convinced than ever that he's discovering really important things about our cognitive make up. And he's a "spunk rat" ;-)

My favourite of all though was Laurence Krauss! Physicists just rock I reckon! Having things so complex explained in an accessible way is just brilliant - he's an extremely skilled orator too I thought. The most thrilling thing for me out of his talk, and he seemed quite pleased it was my take-away when I discussed it with him, is the important ontological discussion his work has opened up with respect to the idea of "nothing". With respect to the big question of 'how did something come from nothing?', how we've defined 'nothing' is a nonsense as shown by the evidence & must be changed. This can go an enormous way to not only elucidating the origins of the universe but kicks the shit out of all creationist argument. It's gold!
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Old 16th April 2012, 09:17 PM
EvilDRMike EvilDRMike is offline
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

Apart from the "spunk rat" bit mainly as I'm sure I don't want to know what that means. I have to agree. I am also hugely impressed with P.Z.Meyers as I do like a real firebrand to get the spirits up. To be honest I was not hugely interested by all the speakers without exception. Although I have read several of Sam's books and bought another at the GAC I was not so sure about the meditation thing. Not sure how I can do it with my internal monologues arguing about stuff.
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Old 16th April 2012, 09:37 PM
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Voltairine Voltairine is offline
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

Just to add to PD's remark about the helpers, while we were settled in and listening to the speakers, they were still working. They volunteered their time and missed the start and end of the presenters' talks for us! I acknowledge and thank them for their sacrifice.
What, indeed, is an atheist? He is one who destroys delusions which are harmful to humanity in order to lead men back to nature, to reality, to reason. Baron d'Holbach


If we go back to the beginnings of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture and deception embellished them; that weakness worships them; that custom spares them; and that tyranny favours them in order to profit from the blindness of men. Baron d'Holbach
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Old 16th April 2012, 09:56 PM
davros davros is offline
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

My high point was PZ:

So how do you kill an idea? How will we sack the city of faith?

By coming up with a better, more powerful idea. Thatís the only way we can win.


Itís called science.


We are Ö the People of Reality

Organisers and volunteers deserve massive thanks too.
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Old 16th April 2012, 10:54 PM
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Keith_W Keith_W is offline
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

Thank you all for your contributions, but can I please make clear that I started this thread so that we can remember the best intellectual arguments made at the GAC. It was not intended to thank the organizers of the GAC - there is a seperate thread for that (in which I have already expressed my thanks). If people could continue posting their favourite points made by the speakers I would be most grateful.

Another one: Ayaan Hirsi Ali made a point about the nuclear ambitions of Iran. She said that moderate liberals like many of us tend to dismiss this kind of talk as "they don't really mean it", or "they are only playing to their flock" - however the extremist Christians like Sarah Palin have no doubt it is true. They are the ones who see the urgency in dealing with a nuclear powered Iran.

Up to now, I thought that the sabre rattling coming from the right wing of U.S. politics was thanks to their warmongering habits. But - of course they believe it is true. After all, they are religious nutcases themselves and they can see how fellow religious nutcases might behave if given the opportunity.
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Old 18th April 2012, 12:47 PM
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askegg askegg is offline
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

@podblack - Yes! Yes, yes, yes.

I cannot express how much I appreciate the handwork of all those thankless people behind the scenes. You make it possible for the remainder of us to simply enjoy ourselves, which we did to the best of our ability.
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Old 18th April 2012, 05:33 PM
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

Organisers did a wonderful job, they always seemed to be busy;

I also think the exhibition centre staff need to be given a thankyou I could tell someone of them where not comfortable with what was being discussed any more than I would be working at revival meeting, yes they got paid but they also didn't deserve some of the crap that went their way during feeding time and moving into the hall and out of it.
"The amazing thing is that every atom in your body came from a star that exploded... So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today." - Lawrence Krauss
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Old 18th April 2012, 06:44 PM
stewiegriffin81 stewiegriffin81 is offline
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Default Re: The best points from the GAC

I was extremely disappointed by Sam Harris's talk. The central assertion that the primary motivation behind religious belief is a fear of death appears to be unsupported by strong evidence. Sam Harris didn't bother referencing any studies (although it would be fair enough to omit them in an informal speech such as his one), and while it is self-evident that all religion is pre-occupied with death and the after-life, it is equally pre-occupied with birth/life/family/ethical rules etc.

I was also extremely disappointed by his decision to incorporate mindfulness meditation in his talk. Not only was it not entirely clear why he added it in, he also seemed to imply that it may be useful for death-related grief. Again, there is no strong evidence supporting this, only minor evidence.
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