The Young Australian Skeptics on Skeptically Speaking – podcast out now

If you missed the live streaming of Saturday’s Skeptically Speaking episode featuring Jason Ball, Elliot Birch and myself from the Young Australian Skeptics, you can now download it as a podcast from either the Skeptically Speaking website or iTunes!

I’ve been told by a few people who listened live that apparently it was one of the best shows of the year so far, if not the best, so, er, yeah. You might want to listen to it. I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I’d appreciate it. Well, technically I won’t be able to tell that you’ve listened to it, unless you post a comment here. Er, yeah, do what you want.

I’ll stop digging myself a hole of awkward neediness right about… now.

I’m going to be on Skeptically Speaking!

Along with Jason Ball and Elliot Birch (we’re all from the Young Australian Skeptics), I’m going to be interviewed live on the Canadian skeptical radio show and podcast Skeptically Speaking tomorrow at 10am EST (Australia), or Friday 6pm MST (North America).

We’ll be chatting with the lovely and wonderful Desiree Schell, the host of Skeptically Speaking, about young people in the skeptical movement – how they’re getting involved, what more can be done to engage them, how young people see skepticism, and a bunch of other topics. I, personally, may comment on the fact that I’m not a huge fan of rap music, we’ll see.

You can send in questions to be read out on air, and during the show you can listen live and be part of the chat room via UStream.

Stepping into a new (Ray) Comfort zone

Creationists on the University of Melbourne campus! Today! Handing out Ray Comfort’s “Special Edition” of On the Origin of Species!

I first knew something was up when, while waiting for a lecture to start, I saw a student holding a copy of the book. I asked her where she’d got it, and she said that people were handing them out near the university tram stop. Yep, it had to be them – Ray Comfort clones, doing what they do best – spreading ignorance through the medium of semi-persuasive and seemingly educational books.

After my lecture, I met up with Richard Hughes, and later Jason Ball, both of whom grabbed a copy of the book and started talking to the people handing them out. Richard wrote about it on his new blog Divisible By Pi – check that out, he goes into detail about his particular experiences with the whole thing.

Jason was also recording his conversation with one female creationist on his iPhone (which should be online soon, probably on the Young Australian Skeptics blog), but while this was happening I found that I didn’t have anything to do, so I just stood there, looking around at the five or so people handing out free books to unsuspecting university students and staff.

It was then that I was approached by two people, one with a camera and one with a microphone. I’d noticed them earlier, interviewing one of the creationists handing out the books, and assumed that they were from a university media organisation or something, as there were no obvious signs that they were creationists as well and related to the book giving-out scheme.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

They asked me, as I stood there, if they could get a few of my thoughts about what was happening. I said sure, and stated on camera that I wouldn’t mind being interviewed and that the recording could be put online and on DVD. The first couple of questions were immediately related to the event taking place: what did I think of what was happening; did I think that they should be allowed to give out these books, etc. I still thought they were secular, unbiased reporters. But suddenly I was asked a question about irreducible complexity, and then… then I really knew what I was dealing with.

The questions came thick and fast after that. “How do you know evolution is true? What about the eye? How do organisms know what to evolve? Where are the transitional forms? What came before the Big Bang?” – the types of questions that could only be asked by a Young Earth Creationist with an interviewing agenda to push. The man interviewing me didn’t even leave me enough time to effectively state my case – I was literally trying to educate him in evolutionary theory out of his biased perspective of Christian fundamentalism, and that takes more time than what he was allowing me.

In the end, he got to the classic Ray Comfort tactic that absolutely confirmed their association with the group handing out the books – the “Have you ever told a lie?” line of questioning, designed to make the person feel guilty for their sins against the Christian God. It really doesn’t work on an atheist, since you have to accept the premise that their God exists before you can feel guilty for going against Him. I made that clear to him, and he seemed to agree, but he still went ahead anyway.

And that’s where it ended, after about 30 to 40 minutes of questioning. Overall it was a very pleasant interview – I was surprised at how calm I was throughout, probably due to going into it thinking that they weren’t creationists and that initial relaxed attitude carrying on after I gradually learnt the truth.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the interview ends up, edited, on the Internet somewhere – they’ll use it for something, and probably quote-mine the hell out of what I said, distorting each line until my words sound completely illogical and uneducated. Jason recorded at least a little bit of them interviewing me on his iPhone, so that’ll be up on the Young Australian Skeptics blog soon enough for all to see.

It was actually all a lot of fun, really. I’ll keep you informed as more information and testimonies about the event surface.

Final YAS Blog Anthology 2009 selections announced

YAS Blog Anthology Finalist

Last year, the Young Australian Skeptics started to put together an anthology of the best skeptical blog posts of 2009, calling for people to submit entries – either their own or the work of others – that they thought were worthy of consideration. Well, the final selections of the panel of judges has been released, including – somewhat surprisingly – a post by yours truly.

“What is Philosophical Naturalism, and why do I accept it?” was published on Homologous Legs in June of 2009, and is one of the many posts that has been considered to be of a sufficiently high quality to be included in the anthology. To say I’m honoured is an understatement – just look at some of the other bloggers who got their work in the final mix too: Stephen Novella, PZ Myers, Phil Plait, Ben Goldacre, the list goes on! Of course, there are a few lesser well-known skeptical bloggers in there as well (who are also clearly worthy of being included, as they are also great writers and communicators of skeptical and scientific thought), but I still can’t believe I’m going to have my work published along with such great people.

To be entirely clear here, I didn’t submit any of my posts to the anthology myself – someone else did – so this is even more surprising to me. Thank you to whoever it was who did submit my work, I wouldn’t be in this situation otherwise!

When the Young Australian Skeptics Blog Anthology 2009 becomes available to buy (either as a physical book or a PDF), I’ll let you know – judging by the list of posts that are to be included, you’d be crazy not to get it for your bookshelf.

Interviewed on the Skeptic Zone podcast? I do believe I was!

Yep, I mentioned it a while ago, but it’s finally up. Jason, Elliot and I (of the Young Australian Skeptics) were interviewed by Kylie Sturgess for the Skeptic Zone podcast about being young in the skeptical movement, blogging as a communicative medium and our own experiences in the wild world of podcasting. It was a fun interview to do, as we all know Kylie, so we had a few laughs. Skepticism can do with a bit of youthful humour sometimes, can’t it?

If you’re an impatient person, here’s the direct link to the episode, but you can also subscribe to their podcast through iTunes and download it that way. Don’t forget to check out their website as well – perhaps consider donating to either the podcast and/or the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe fund to help pay for their trip for TAM Australia in November. Both are good causes.

After you’ve had a listen, tell me what you thought of it. I don’t do many interviews (if I did, I’d certainly tell you about them), so I’m always conscious about how I sound.

Gonna get my Skype on, ya’ll

Why? Because tonight, along with Elliot and Jason from the Young Australian Skeptics, I’m going to be interviewed by Kylie Sturgess for the Skeptic Zone podcast, about various topics relating to podcasting, young skepticism and general youth-ness. Should be a wonderful experience, most likely!

I’ll let you all know when the interview is released, if, for some strange reason, you want to hear the sound of my voice babbling slightly coherently about things.

Oh yes, I know how to sell myself.

So, you wanted to know about Briskepticon? Sure thing.

Briskepticon – the Australian Skeptics National Convention for 2009… Where do I start? Well, I suppose I could try and start by saying that the convention ran from the 27th to the 29th of November, Friday to Sunday, at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

I traveled from Melbourne to Brisbane with Jason Ball, the producer of the Pseudo Scientists podcast, and we had some exciting adventures on the first day, including wandering around the UQ campus for 25 minutes trying to find Emmanuel College after our bus driver dropped us on the opposite side of the campus from where we needed to be. We eventually had to make our way to the 3rd floor of the Physiotherapy Building to get a map – the lady at the Student Services Desk was, thankfully, very helpful.

But I’m sure you don’t want to read about our lack of navigation skills in a place we’d never been before – that’s boring. What you really want is pictures! Nothing says “riveting blogging” like making other people (hopefully) jealous.

Continue Reading…

Skeptical Blog Anthology – Before time runs out!

Submit to Skeptical Blog Anthology 2009

The Skeptical Blog Anthology, which I’ve mentioned before, has a closing date! And that date is… December 1st! Oh no, that means you only have 11 more days to submit your favourite skeptical blog posts from 2009!

So, if you know of a great post that someone wrote this year, one that made you think, made you laugh, made you read a book intensely, or made you go to university to study the history of cryptozoology (I don’t know, it could happen…), then submit it to the anthology for the chance for it to be published in a tome that will be used by many people to bring skepticism to the masses.

Before you submit, just have a glance at the guidelines of submission, which are handily the same as the ones for the Skeptics’ Circle. Oh, and the post must have been published after January 1st 2009 and before December 1st 2009.

Get to it!

Skeptical Blog Anthology open for submissions

I refer you to the official release from the Young Australian Skeptics:

Dear skeptical bloggers, podcasters, and keen supporters of skepticism,

Inspired by the annual The Open Laboratory, the Skeptical Blog Anthology is a printed anthology of blog posts voted the very best of 2009, managed by the Young Australian Skeptics in conjunction with the Critical Teaching Education Group (CTEG).

Entries for the Skeptical Blog Anthology can be submitted to the Young Australian Skeptics Website at http://www.youngausskeptics.com/anthology/

The anthology is an attempt to bring a greater awareness of the skeptical content on blog sites and showcase some of the range and diversity in the blogosphere. With a combined aim to provide text-based resources to classes and general readers who may be interested or intrigued by what skepticism has to offer, entries from January 1st to December 1st 2009 are eligible for submission. Both a print and portable document format (pdf) will be made available for purchase via Lulu.com, with estimated printing early in 2010.

Entries can be self-nominated or proposed by readers of skeptical blog sites. The guidelines proposed by the popular Skeptics’ Circle Blog Carnival are a fine indicator of the kind of content suitable for the anthology. These include urban legends, the paranormal,  quackery, pseudoscience, intelligent design, historical revisionism, critical thinking, skeptical parenting / educating skeptically, superstitions, etc. The submission form on the Young Australian Skeptics site will guide you through the eligibility criteria.

Inquiries can be made to either youngausskeptics@live.com or ksturgess@podblack.com.

Thank you,

Elliot Birch

Creator, Young Australian Skeptics

So, get nominating, people! When we check the pile at the end of the year, I want an excellent selection of skeptical writing to be at the top, so don’t let me down.

You may have noticed that I’ve placed a Skeptical Blog Anthology badge in the sidebar, which looks like this:

Submit to Skeptical Blog Anthology 2009

You can get one for your own site here. And who wouldn’t, with the brilliant design work of Joel Birch on show? I literally jumped at the opportunity.