Monday, November 12, 2007

Short Summary of CFI Conference Day 2

This second day of the convention was excellent. First was a panel with Rebecca Goldstein, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and Susan Jacoby about secularism through history. Topics of discussion were the enlightenment, Spinoza, the difference of "scientism" vs science. Jennifer Michael Hecht said something about not believing in science, and Rebecca Goldstein retorted science isn't something you believe in - it is based on empirical observations. What Hecht was saying reminded me of the whole postmodernist idea of all knowledge being relative. I found myself agreeing with almost everything that Goldstein said.

Next, there was a panel about science and the public, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan, Victor Stenger, and Richard Dawkins. Although it was interesting, I have to say there wasn't much that was new to me. Ann Druyan yelled at Dawkins for interrupting her, which was funny. And I agreed with Tyson's comment to Stenger that we don't always have to have answers to all the questions that the religious ask of us. The great thing about science is it isn't so presumptuous to say that it does have the answers to everything already. We can say "we don't know yet, but we are working on it" rather than making up some story to provide an answer to a deep question that we can't explain. And I find that so much more satisfying.

Then there was a panel about Religion and Politics with Michelle Goldberg, Wendy Kaminer, Damon Linker, and Edward Tabash. They mostly discussed the threat of the religious right to the secular society and what we can do about it. It was interesting and frightening at the same time.

After the lunch break, there was the video appearance by Christopher Hitchens. However the sound quality was horrible, so I could hardly hear anything he was saying. However it didn't seem to be much different than the majority of interviews with him.

Next Paul Kurtz, Derek Araujo, Austin Dacey and DJ Grothe talked about the CFI and how they needed money to get a location in NYC.

Then Peter Singer talked about morals without religion, and how scripture has been used as justification for the maltreatment of animals. I now feel intensely guilty about the fact that I eat meat.

Finally, DJ Grothe hosted an interview with Richard Dawkins, which will eventually be on Point of Inquiry. Again, I've heard so many interviews with Dawkins, so it really wasn't anything new, but he sounded intelligent and eloquent as usual. Afterwards I was third on line to get my book signed by him, but I managed not to say anything intelligent while he signed it. I think I mumbled something about loving the God Delusion, and Unweaving the Rainbow.

Overall, the convention was very thought provoking and a lot of fun. I'm able to attend more, similar events in the future. I'll make sure I register for AAI in time next year!

No comments: