Rising from the ashes of atheists, Christians and mouse testes

Dramatic title! Perhaps too dramatic! But whatever! Finally, after a couple of weeks caught up in the Global Atheist Convention 2012, the Test of Faith panel discussion and some hardcore university writing about mouse testis cDNA libraries, I’m back to blogging again, as you can see. I’m exhausted, and I’m not out of things to do yet, but the pressure’s been turned down quite a bit.

If you were wondering, the Global Atheist Convention went spectacularly well. As a volunteer in a vibrant blue t-shirt I was running around all over the place most of the time, but I still got to catch most of the speakers, which were on the whole excellent. Speaker highlights were Sam Harris’s surprise meditation session, the video tribute to Christopher Hitchens, Simon Taylor and Tom Ballard at the Gala Dinner, Leslie Cannold on secularism in Australia, Daniel Dennett on whether or not some Christians actually believe in God, and, of course, Eugenie Scott’s talk on intelligent design. But the real highlights were meeting all of the wonderful people who I never get to see except at large conventions like this – people from across Australia and the world who I’ve met through the Internet.

I finally got my picture taken with Eugenie Scott (at the wrap party, hence my Darwin Tree shirt)! Third time lucky. Also, that's Chris Stedman on the left, who I got to meet for the first time at the convention and is a wonderful (very famous) person.

Kylie Sturgess, who co-MC’d the whole thing with Lawrence Leung, penned a great wrap-up post full of links to various people’s impressions of the convention. Worth a look if you missed out or just want to remember what happened in greater detail because, like me, you have a terrible episodic memory.

Related to the GAC, the Reason for Faith Festival panel discussion on science and religion I was on took place last Monday, which was actually a lot of fun. While six people (plus one moderator) on stage tended to get a little hectic at times, the discussion was respectful and quite interesting. One major thing I learnt was that, for at least the Christians on the panel, who were all accomplished scientists, Christians don’t necessarily think they have the answer to every question (which seems like a silly thing to think now, but for some reason it never crossed my mind that they could be uncertain). When I queried them on the topic of God’s interaction with biological evolution, none of them had formed a coherent idea about what they thought God had to do with evolution – they admitted this. Rather than fall into one of many defined camps (theistic evolution, intelligent design, etc.), they preferred to remain unsure and reserve judgment, something I’d never observed before.

The event was professionally recorded and a video should surface at some point (which I will of course link to when the time comes), so you won’t have to rely on my terrible relaying abilities to understand what happened for long. I was told by a few people who were in the audience (atheists and Christians alike) that I actually did well on the panel and made some interesting points, which I wasn’t expecting, so, er, there’s that.

Oh, and I spent a good deal of this week writing about identifying gene fragments from mouse testis cDNA libraries for a practical molecular biology subject I do at university, and – because of the specific genes I identified – I never want to read or write about histone H3 variants again. Those nucleosomal bastards.

[Insert mouse testis/histone pun here]


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