The Atheist Alliance International convention October 2-4 in Burbank California is being touted as the biggest of its type this year... and no wonder! Among the scheduled speakers are Richard Dawkins (whose foundation for reason and science is co-sponsoring the event), philosopher Daniel Dennett (he and Dawkins are two of the so-called "4 horsemen of atheism"), biologist PZ Myers (the feisty host of the Pharyngula science blog), Brian Dalton (of the Mr. Deity Show), Prof. Jerry Coyne (known for his devastating commentary on the Intelligent Design debate), anthropologist Eugenie Scott (executive director of the National Center for Science Education) and a host of other luminaries from the atheist and secular humanist communities.

Special guest and recipient of the 2009 Richard Dawkins Award will be Bill Maher, comedian and host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher show. His controversial satire on religion, Religulous, was a 2008 box office hit.

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I would totally go - never been to anything like that before. But if by some miracle I can get someone to work for me on a Saturday I have a family wedding to go to.
I went last year. It was really something; atheists as far as the eye could see. It was a place where you could really let your hair down and be an atheist without worrying about repercussions from co-workers, family, neighbors, etc., as some of us do in real life. It was also great fun. This one promises to be bigger though. It has more big-name speakers.
This has been said before (for example on Pharyngula), but it bears mentioning again here. Bill Maher is a really fun guy and his ridicule of religious belief on Real Time and in Religulous are much needed, entertaining, and certainly appreciated by a lot of people (including me). For this he deserves credit, but he seems to be a bit of a kook when it comes to parts of western science, at least western medicine. He has stated publicly, at least once while on The Late Show with David Letterman, his distrust of western medicine. This included advising Letterman to stop taking his medicines and rambling on about some barely comprehensible gibberish about the workings of the human body and deceases. You can see it here on YouTube. As the official criteria for the Richard Dawkins award includes that the recipient should have advocated increased scientific knowledge (read it here), his getting the award seems a bit unfitting, unless he has publicly retracted his statements since then, in which case I take back what I have said.
True enough, Leo. I think Bill Maher is a little wacko when it comes to PETA, food culture and pharmaceuticals. I guess the main reason he was chosen for the Richard Dawkins award was for the publicity. Does that mean that atheists don't ever whore themselves when promoting something? Well, er, uh, hmm, uh... As a promoter of my own articles, I think I'd better plead the Fifth Amendment here.
According to Bill Maher's Wikipedia article, he serves as a board member of PETA. He's also had the president of PETA on his show. Thankfully, he doesn't talk about it often. Nothing wrong with wanting people to treat animals ethically of course, but PETA goes a little more overboard about it than the SPCA.
I'd have to agree that the overall concept and idea behind PETA is good. Unfortunately their leadership seems to have one too many wingnuts at one time or another.
At first I wanted to think that it was just poorly worded, poorly thought out skepticism of the medical industry concerning specific drugs (hence his analogy to the tobacco industry while on Letterman), but it seems to be much more serious than that. Maher apparently sides with the antivaccination movement, denies the germ theory of decease and prefers "alternative medicine" to scienficially tested medicine. Orac has a long post about it here with links detailing it all. It is, sadly (which is say since I still like Maher because of his humor and political & religious commentaries), much more than healthy skepticism toward financially motivated companies coupled with badly thought out wording.
I don't trust any RX Drugs. They just create these drugs and push them on the market with very little research just to make that money,not knowing what the side effects are. Usually the side effects make u more fucked up then before u started taking the drug. Now, drugs do help ALOT of people don't get me wrong, but these anti-depressants...PLEASE who isn't depressed (especially right now) at times. Just smoke a damn Joint!!!!!
Wish had the money to go. All the way in TN and have a new-born. would LOVE to hear Dawkins speech.
Woohoo! I can't wait for this event.

I have to agree that Bill Maher, in some aspects, was a horrible choice for the award. Having said that, though, I think that what Bill Maher has done for the argument against organized religion is commendable.

Bill hardly avoids answering questions and I do appreciate his willingness to "take the other side" on many issues - even ones that he agrees with.

We'll get to see his true character when those who attend actually ask him for this thoughts on these issues.

I'm flying more than 4 hours to get to the conference and others are complaining about not being able to afford it? Come on - this is going to be huge! (And I'm hoping there will be more than 20 of us at the Atheist Nexus party!)
There's an Atheist Nexus party? I'm onboard with that!




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