Saturday, January 30, 2010

PZ Myers!

Well, I actually cut band rehearsal on Thursday night. This is almost unheard of for me. The only times I've ever missed rehearsal, I was either ill or in England. I did have what I consider a really good reason, though. PZ Myers was speaking just down the road at Sierra College!!!

Author of the blog Pharyngula, PZ Myers is one of the top science bloggers AND one of the top two atheist bloggers (the other being the much "friendlier" Hemant Mehta). The Sierra College stop wrapped up a whirlwind eight day speaking tour of mostly Northern California for him that included UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and Stanford. I'm not sure how Sierra College managed to rate a stop, but I'd like to thank the Freethinkers of Sierra College for hosting.

His blog may be strident and snarky, particularly about religious insanity, but in person he really is very soft-spoken and polite. He gave a very interesting talk about creationist's sometimes seemingly deliberate misunderstanding of evolution and the differences in the ways creationists (including intelligent design advocates) and scientists get their points across to the general public.

During the question and answer period after the talk, a creationist in the audience actually identified himself and asked questions. I felt kind of sorry for him. His hands and voice were shaking. It must have been awful feeling as though he were the only theist (he wasn't, actually) completely surrounded by a sea of atheists. Oh, wait. I know exactly how that feels, as I'm sure did all of the other atheists in the audience.

Part of the exchange between PZ and the creationist went something like this:
Theist: Blah, blah, blah, ontological argument, blah, blah (Ok, so now maybe I'm being a little snarky. Oops)
PZ: [reasoned and rational explanation of the ontological argument and why it is based on circular, fallacious arguments]
Theist: No it's not!
PZ: [reasoned and rational explanation...need actual evidence]
Theist: No it doesn't!

PZ is well known for going out for drinks after he gives a talk, and Thursday was no exception. About 30 people met afterwards at a local brew pub (including the theist, surprisingly!), and guess who somehow managed to snag a seat right next to PZ! I'm not quite sure how that happened... Unfortunately, all I had was my phone, which doesn't take the best photos.

Thanks to Brett for taking the picture!

I got the opportunity to tell PZ that, when I first started an "atheist" blog, as I said in this post, my mother was very concerned that religious nutcases would shoot me or burn crosses in our front yard. I told her that there were other far more prominent atheists out there (meaning PZ, among others. Especially PZ) and I would be way down on the list. He's of the opinion that you just can't live your life in fear, and the vast majority of theists of any religion are decent people. It's only a very small percentage of the most radical theists who are actually dangerous.

The famous Crocoduck tie. There were two made, and the other belongs to Richard Dawkins (there are now knock-offs you can find on the internet). I really wish I'd remembered my camera...

PZ was recently interviewed by, so you can see how soft-spoken he really is:


Brother Phil said...

First! OK, it's not the most lofty goal, but I beat everyone else to the post!

I suppose everyone has to have a hero and Dr. Meyers is not a bad choice. I personally idolize Colin Chapman. (No, not Graham Chapman.) He died too young of a heart attack in 1982, but the Lotus 7 lives on.

Laurie said...

Considering there are only about three people who ever actually post comments on this blog, it isn't that difficult to be either first or only. But everyone has to have goals I suppose, lofty or not...

My real hero is Horatio Hornblower. If you can have a dead hero, I can have a fictional one.

Poodles said...

I wish he would come here to speak, but Utah is probably one of the last places PZ would ever like to find himself.

Barry Leiba said...

I suppose this calls for a comment, to bring out all the commentors. Actually, the mobile-phone photo comes across well: PZ looks oddly surprised, but you look great... perfect smile.

Mr Bill didn't go with you?

Laurie said...

Poodlez - Can you blame him? Actually, according to his website, he did some post-doc work and used to teach at the University of Utah, so back in the late 80s and early 90s you could have found him there a lot!

Barry - Did I sound sorry for myself? *sigh* I do find it interesting that people often send me comments about my posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and email rather than posting a comment on the actual blog.

I think what PZ really looked was tired. His glasses had also broken earlier in the tour, so he may have been having trouble focusing.

Bill doesn't read Pharyngula, but he did think it sounded interesting, so he went with me. This also had the added benefit of me having a designated driver...

Poodles said...

I was at the U in the early 90's! However, I wasn't a science major, so I am sure I never met him.

Lesley said...

I always think it's fascinating to meet someone in real life to see how they are in person compared to how they come across on their blogs or online. I wasn't familiar with PZ before this post (theist ignorance...shame on me!) but congrats on meeting someone you admire so much...and even getting to have drinks with him. Did the theist's argument end in "I KNOW YOU ARE, BUT WHAT AM I??" Heh.

Laurie said...

Wow, that is EXACTLY how the theist's argument ended! Interestingly enough, that's also how conversations with my brother usually end.

I wouldn't call it theist ignorance. He's probably only really well known in the on-line atheist community.