About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

At the Global Atheist Convention

Bruce Everett is guest blogging at Butterflies and Wheels, covering his visit to Melbourne (he lives in Adelaide) to attend the Global Atheist Convention. His first contribution appears here.

Bruce attended the panel at Embiggen Books, where I spoke on Thursday night, along with Meredith Doig and Graham Oppy. He begins:
My Thursday night’s event of choice, which meant missing out on Dan Dennett and Peter Singer, was a discussion of Sean Faircloth’s ‘10 point plan’ on how to push secularism forward, and how a similar approach could be adopted in Australia, held at Embiggen Books. The discussion featured secularist power-houses Russell Blackford, Meredith Doig and Graham Oppy.

Near-consensus seemed to be reached that a series of such points should, at least in an Australian context, represent underlying secular principles from which specific policy points emerge, rather than being a shopping list of policy wants (which is pretty much what Faircloth’s list is). The difficulty in this however, it was suggested, was making such a series of points politically relevant and attractive to Australians. Abstract political concepts aren’t the easiest thing to sell, especially when you’re running up against savvy evangelicals and Australian Rules football.
... and goes on from there (I've gotta say that I do like the label "secularist powerhouse").

Meanwhile, there is much other discussion of the convention on the internet, which I'll leave readers to hunt out for the themselves. Apparently there is a fair bit of coverage, predictably negative, at the ABC Religion and Ethics Portal. Speaking for myself, I am happily ensconced in the convention's hotel, and I attended the reception last night - but got involved in conversations that kept me away from the first evening's opening comedy acts (apparently these created some controversy overnight, but at this stage I have no idea why).

I ran into various of the great and the good, among them Anthony Grayling, Jane Caro, and expect to meet up with many more people over the next couple of days. As I write, I am missing Peter Singer's presentation (why start the program so early?), but I've read many of Peter's books, so I have a fair idea of his views. Hopefully I'll be briefed by someone if he said something that was unexpected.

It looks as if I am actually going to miss a fair chunk of the morning at this rate, but hopefully I'll at least start getting to sessions soon - coming up today are presentations by, among others Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


Anonymous said...

Apparently the conference is in Saudi Arabia next year.

steve oberski said...

And I hear Club Med is opening a new resort near Chernobyl.

Mike said...

The pro-religious moderation at the ABC Religion & Ethics Portal is getting very heavy-handed.

Maybe time to take out the "& Ethics".

steve oberski said...

Ayaan Hirsi Ali would make a great 4th horseperson.

Russell Blackford said...

There's actually a Four Horsemen panel later today with Ayaan Hirsi Ali standing in for Christopher Hitchens.

Russell Blackford said...

I should just say that the Four Horsemen panel with Ayaan Hirsi Ali was very good - thoughtful, searching, reflective discussion.