An Unconventional Global Atheist Convention Round-Up – Wednesday To Thursday #AtheistCon

An Unconventional Global Atheist Convention Round-Up – Wednesday To Thursday #AtheistCon April 19, 2012

New Token Skeptic Podcast out tomorrow morning – Episode #115 – On Myths And Makeup – Pseudoscience And Cosmetics! I’ll have a link to a partial transcript of the show, some time in the future.
Embiggen Books - Warren Bonett, Peter Ellerton and Peter Doherty

Firstly, my apologies for this being a little late with the first half of an overview, but there was so much to write and I ended up thinking that photographs and links might give a better idea of my experiences over this rather long weekend.

There’s plenty of other blogs that have done comprehensive and thoughtful summaries (and they were actually in the audience, unlike me!) – including:

The Young Australian Skeptics with “Diary Of A GAC Attendee
The Australian Heathen
Nigel McNie
Nikkablogger – who writes about meeting Dawkins at Q&A!
Mike Stuchbery
Mitch Sullivan posted a very pithy summary of GAC criticism
That’s My Philosophy has run-downs on pretty much every speaker

Jo Hilder – based on reviews online – but it’s so good, I’m including it as an exception to the rule
* Lots of photos thanks to Crouchy69

An opinion piece in The Age – Value in the questions for believers and atheists alike“It is admirable, though, that our society can host an event as potentially provocative as a conference on atheism. It speaks well of our civility and tolerance, as well as our right to freedom of religion. For that reason alone, we are glad to have the godless among us.”

Feel free to suggest other posts you’ve found, in the comments! I recommend the podcasts:

Triple J with comedian Simon Taylor, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s mother Christine Assange, Chris Stedman, Comedian Khaled Khalafalla.

SBS with Atheists Meet To Discuss Faith Or Lack Of It – Clare Atkinson reports, speakers used both science and comedy to argue the case for non-belief.

ABC – Andrew Skegg: Tasmanian Atheist

Noise 11Shelley Segal

And the Twitter accounts of:

as having great material that they Tweeted throughout, using the hashtag #atheistcon.


I arrived late on the Wednesday and went straight to Embiggen Books, where there was an interview being conducted by Peter Ellerton of Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, introduced by Warren Bonnett. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear a Nobel Prize winner address the issues of science communication, education and interest in science and the venue was absolutely packed – I’ll post a link to the video when it’s posted, which should feature at the website of Embiggen Books.

Some of the Tweet-notetaking I made from the night:

Engagement and science – how in his experience it’s about solving problems and seeing a need for science.

“Be passionate about science, learn it, so you know how to solve the problems you care about.”

“Start with Wikipedia. Reputable journals. Some sites on vaccines are barking mad…”

“We need more good, reliable blogs. The Conversation is recommended – we need to get out there; electronic, forget newspapers, go books!” 🙂

“We need scientists in novels too!”

Great points about the openness to being wrong in science, the randomness of discovery. 

Now EmbiggenBooks talks of the disconnect that people may have when understanding medicine – when its not alt med.

Then I think I hugged everybody. Sorry, everybody. I was nearly staggering with tiredness, but a twenty-minute walk up the road to see co-host’s Lawrence Leung’s show “Beginning, Middle and End” kept me wide awake. If you haven’t seen it, it starts with fan-fiction – resulting in a show that’s wild, brilliant and well worth catching. The show will be appearing in Sydney from Tuesday 1st-Saturday 5th May, at The Factory Theatre.

As usual, I got lost in Melbourne on the way home and it took me about an hour to reach the hotel, because my phone had run out of charge and despite clenching a MiKi card in my fist while walking down dim streets, I was too worried about catching the wrong tram and ending up even more lost. So, I just walked. By the time I got back to my room, I was determined to wear flat boots for the next two days at least. Whatever. The whole day was an adventure and I got to catch up with great people and see two wonderful events – before anything even got started with the big show we all came for.


This day is mostly a blur. Here’s what the early morning looked like to me – crisp, clear, cloudless and it would remain this kind of weather until I woke up on Monday and discovered that yes, rain still exists but it stayed away until the godless were all done.

Firstly, I went on a tour of the Melbourne Museum, with PZ Myers, his wife, and a whole bunch of great people from the AFA forum and the Pharyngula blog. It wasn’t MEANT to blow out to over a dozen people, but someone else… blogged about it and Tweeted about it with merry abandon… and then suddenly there were… lots of people. Oh dear.

I wasn’t even sure of the entry-way to the Geological collection, but there were others who knew where it was and they joined in!

We all kind of look like this:

Here, I am holding a fossil found by Charles Darwin…

And here’s the proof. It’s also in a book that documents his findings.


Then we saw some of the displays inside the museum and I had my very own freakout about one of the displays and there’s no way I’m going back near an open-air spider display ever again unless I’m warned about it beforehand.

I’m fine with spiders, I just like to be told where they are and how close they can get to me first.


Then we somehow (magically almost) managed to hail a large taxi-bus and got us all back safely. I think I collapsed for the rest of the night, I can’t remember. I had three very long days ahead of me after two very long-walking tours of the city and I had to be ready to go.

Thanks again to Rolf and all the fine people at the Melbourne Museum; you were so incredibly gracious with your time and your knowledge and your tiny spaces that we filled up with science-mad atheists.


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