I promised to mention the upcoming Oxford Think Week, which looks pretty entertaining. It starts this Monday, and runs through next Sunday. There are lots of speakers and events, but some of my highlights:
Stephen Law is a philosopher and author of The Philosophy Gym (philosophical questions ostensibly for children, but just as interesting for adults) and The War for Children’s Minds (one of my favourite atheist books, but sometimes difficult to get hold of). His God of Eth argument – that the non-existence of an omnipotent, benevolent god is actually obvious – takes a while to explain, but is neatly compelling.
Peter Atkins wrote Galileo’s Finger, a poetic guide to modern science that goes a stage beyond the usual concepts, particularly regarding the elegant and subtle role of symmetry. Also generally entertaining in religious debates – when theologian Richard Swinburne said the holocaust gave Jews a wonderful opportunity be courageous and noble, Atkins replied with ‘may you rot in hell’.
Paul Pettinger is the BHA‘s anti faith-school campaigner, which puts him at the forefront of the major education battles in the UK. Knows his stuff, and has been a key player in the BHA’s recent victories in these areas. I’m annoyed I can’t be at his talk, as I’m sure it’ll be fascinating – especially given the sex ed. furore of the last couple of days.
Andrew Copson is the BHA’s new chief executive, and a force for good. One of atheism’s clearest and most eloquent public speakers, I’ve yet to see him wrong-footed in a debate (see Newsnight’s exchange over Jewish schools). Also one of the nicest men in humanism.
Julian Baggini is a philosopher and prolific author. He’s particularly good at explaining philosophy very clearly, and in a way that makes you feel clever. Occasionally controversial in skeptical circles for criticising the ‘new atheists’, he’s very much on the side of good, and you wouldn’t want to argue against him. Another entirely decent guy, too.
Samantha Stein ran the UK Camp Quest, which caused a stir in the tabloids for supposedly teaching atheism – which it obviously didn’t. Tough gig, but it was a worthy success.
The BHA Choir are cool. They sing secular anthems such as Imagine and The Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize(!), and are just great. I love the idea of a humanist choir, and hopefully they’ll go from strength to strength.
Evan Harris is the model secular MP – we wish they were all like him. He got the blasphemy law abolished last year, and regularly speaks out on skeptical topics such as homeopathy on the NHS. Understands all the issues, and is actually in a position to get stuff done. As Ben Goldacre once tweeted, vote Lib Dem this election and Evan Harris could be Science Minister in some odd coalition thingy. Also once said hello to me, seeming genuinely interested in the photos I was taking, despite there being Properly Interesting People in the vicinity.
I’ll be taking photos at some of the above. Come say hi if you’re there!