The great ballroom was packed with people waiting for the arrival of Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher. Their appearance would signal that the culminating event of the first day of the 2009 AAI convention was about to begin and the air was electric with anticipation. Most of the crowd had been there for hours, first enjoying cocktails at a reception and, later, watching a live, streaming video of Real Time with Bill Maher where Dawkins was appearing as a guest. Then, while everyone waited for them to make the short drive from the TV studio to the convention center (both were in Burbank), entertainment was provided by Brian Dalton, better known as Mr. Deity, whose humorous skits on YouTube have a worldwide following.
...the show was interrupted for a couple minutes by cheers and applause as they made their way to their table. Bill Maher was accompanied by a beautiful young woman -or so several people told me. I was seated too far away to tell (a dissenting opinion came from a female atheist I spoke with. "Beautiful? Hmpf!" she said. "Only if you like collagen-injected lips and silicon-injected boobs!" I mention her assertions only in the interest of completeness. As a critical thinker, I cannot vouch for a hypothesis that I'm unable to personally test... darn it!).

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I like the bit in the Dawkins video where he mentions that he disagrees with Mahers stand on medical issues (I think he's an anti-vaxer, from memory). Many are accusing New Atheists (their term which I don't like) of forming a new religion and of Dawkins being the high priest. If that were the case, Maher would have been excommunicated for disagreeing with dogma. Instead Dawkins acknowledges that there will always be issues on which we disagree and that's OK.
I have it on good authority that Bill Maher came into the award ceremony with a gorgeous girl on each arm instead of just one as previously reported. Since Bill is an occasional guest at the Playboy Mansion, I'm guessing he picked up this practice from Hugh Hefner. One wonders if it ever leads to a religious experience...
I like this:

"He [Dawkins] pulled no punches. He made it abundantly clear that getting the award was no endorsement of the crazy stuff, but an acknowledgement that there was something worth recognizing in Maher's contribution to free-thought and the debate on religion."

That is very important. And interesting that (from the articlae at least) there was no big fight over it. Gotta love free-thinking!

(And, yes, part of that "crazy stuff" is about the Anti-Vax campaign, though I really think that it's all a ploy by Maher to get into Jennifer McCarthy's pants)
Hugh, once again you've captured the essence of an event in entertaining fashion. Nice article, amigo.

David Gorski wrote a very detailed (and long) blog post about Bill Maher's more controversial views of medicine over at Science-Based Medicine.
I'll sum it up real quick:
Bill Maher is...
anti-vaccination (because getting the flu vaccine for 5 years will increase your risk of Alzheimer's ten-fold)
suspicious of the germ theory of disease (because Louis Pasteur recanted on his deathbed - where have we heard that before?
a believer in the toxins-causing-all-disease quackery (he won't get the flu on a plane because his body isn't a toxic breeding ground)
sympathetic to the HIV/AIDS denial movement
a wacko (that one's just a bonus from me)

There are tons of quotes and sources in the blog.
Just went to Science-Based Medicine's home page and, lo and behold, there's an update on the Bill Maher front, again from David Gorski.
I heard some of Bill Maher's craziness when he was interviewing Bill Frist, the heart surgeon and former Senate Republican Majority Leader, on Real Time last night. It's a sad day when a member of a party that sponsors Birthers, Deathers and Tea-Baggers, sounds more rational than an atheist.
Yeah, it is very disappointing. I quite enjoyed Religulous, but after reading about his views and hearing him spout stupidity, it's left a sour taste in my mouth.




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