Pharyngula

Wow

We had our very first meeting of UMM Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists tonight. About two dozen people had expressed interest before, so we expected, optimistically, about 20 people to show up. We got there a little early, and people were waiting for us … and then our 20 were there, and then more, and then more, and then more. I had to keep going up to the counter to tell them we were going to have to order a few more pizzas.

Final tally: 60 students showed up. We basically took over the whole restaurant.

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Skatje Myers and Collin Tierney are the co-chairs, and here they are addressing the mob.

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They did a good job. Everyone settled on a meeting time (Thursday, 7:00 every week — we’ll see if that’s sustainable) and took suggestions for events and speakers and so forth. I’m afraid there was one universal call for one particular speaker to be brought in: RICHARD DAWKINS. It might take a bit more than a bake sale to raise the speaking fees and travel expenses for that one.

If Dawkins ever gets tired of Oxford, I think he’d have standing room audiences every night as he hobo’ed around the country. There was huge demand for his point of view. We also had a contingent of philosophers there; they might have wanted him to come so they could have a good argument.

The attendees like the Out Campaign, too. Here we are posing with our snazzy t-shirts — there was a call for a bulk order of scarlet A shirts. I’ll have to see what we can do about that (hmmm…maybe they can stuff Richard Dawkins in with the order!)

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I was very impressed. Maybe Collin and Skatje are just phenomenal organizers, but I suspect there is also a lot of pent-up demand for more godlessness out here in the rural Midwest, just where you might not expect it.

Comments

  1. #1 Mena
    August 30, 2007

    Can Richard Dawkins call in and be put on speaker phone? Fewer cakes to sell that way…

  2. #2 Hank
    August 30, 2007

    Well Dawkins has been to Minnesota.

    Back in the 90s when I was in grad school at the U (Saint Paul Campus), he came and gave several talks. I even managed to wangle my way into an only-for-faculty-and-a-couple-of-Post-Docs dinner at the Crumpled Aluminum Can Art Museum.

    Thus, it isn’t completely out of the question that you could lure him back. You could offer to show him the Kensington Runestone.

  3. #3 KiwiInOz
    August 30, 2007

    I’m sure that Richard Dawkins could be persuaded to appear by video link as a favour for his old mate P-Zed. Cheaper than a flight and surely the appearance fee could be dropped given the free advertising that you are doing with those t shirts. And you could always email him a pizza.

  4. #4 Collin Tierney
    August 30, 2007

    “I’m sure that Richard Dawkins could be persuaded to appear by video link as a favour for his old mate P-Zed. Cheaper than a flight and surely the appearance fee could be dropped given the free advertising that you are doing with those t shirts. And you could always email him a pizza.”

    Sir, it isn’t his actual expertise we want. That can be found in a multitude of books, articles, documentaries and such. It’s actually his autograph and a picture of him standing next to you that costs 50,000.

  5. #5 Brian
    August 31, 2007

    You may not be able to get Richard Dawkins to speak, but we can’t get Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers or Christopher Hitchens to speak down here in OZ. Pity the antipodeans.

  6. #6 Dave Carlson
    August 31, 2007

    I’m not exactly a Dawkins fan-boy, but it seems clear to me that if he owes anybody a favor, it’s you, PZ. Here’s hoping you can “CASH” it in!

  7. #7 ajay
    August 31, 2007

    The obvious solution: Richard Dawkins impersonators/ tribute artists/ cover bands.

  8. #8 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    Mother Teresa an atheist! Woo-Hoo!

    Not quite so fast. Read the whole article. She ended up wanting to be a bodhisattva — to be eternally (!) separated from God so that others might not have to be.

  9. #9 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    Mother Teresa an atheist! Woo-Hoo!

    Not quite so fast. Read the whole article. She ended up wanting to be a bodhisattva — to be eternally (!) separated from God so that others might not have to be.

  10. #10 Jeremy
    August 31, 2007

    You’ve got some generous upperclassmen at UMM, Colin. ‘Course, my campus group was ballroom dance, so it was QUITE a bit more expensive to pay for a coach every week than Dawkins once. Talk to the other orgs, I’m sure some group wants to get an atheist there to talk. Make lots of contacts. Campus org is much like politics. Horse-trading and all that.

    Glad to see it all come together. Good luck to you, coming from Purdue, even there you’d have support. Give it your best! Good luck!

  11. #11 Casey Schmidt
    August 31, 2007

    I know that Richard Dawkins is like the George Clooney of the atheist world but I’m sure there are plenty of other great speakers you could induce. PZ, you should definitely get this group signed up as a student chapter of the Center for Inquiry. They would possibly make some speakers available for your group. Get all the students to become members, it comes with a discounted subscription to Free Inquiry. I think that the Center for Inquiry does good work as an advocate for secularism and rationality. Any chance they can get to announce that they have one more student group, gives them more of a voice.

  12. #12 Tyrone Baker
    August 31, 2007

    “(hmmm…maybe they can stuff Richard Dawkins in with the order!)”

    PZ, maybe this really is an Out Campaign.
    Last time I saw someone slober over their idol this much my sister was hanging pictures of Joey, Jordan, Danny, Donnie and Jonathan in her room with “Hangin’ Tough” playing in the background.
    You’re an odd duck, PZ.

  13. #13 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007
    I really hope you retain a decent core of the enlightened though

    Hmm… Bizarrely, my first parse of that came out as “enlightened dough”. I had to double-check you hadn’t really written that. It must just have been my expectation of a punch-line, given the pizza context.

    See, that’s why there’s supposed to be a comma in front of “though”.

    (As you can see, Tyrone, we are geeks and nerds. I am one of perhaps 100 people in the world who have understood the German comma rules, and I’ve largely understood the — much different — English ones, too. Eat that!)

  14. #14 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007
    I really hope you retain a decent core of the enlightened though

    Hmm… Bizarrely, my first parse of that came out as “enlightened dough”. I had to double-check you hadn’t really written that. It must just have been my expectation of a punch-line, given the pizza context.

    See, that’s why there’s supposed to be a comma in front of “though”.

    (As you can see, Tyrone, we are geeks and nerds. I am one of perhaps 100 people in the world who have understood the German comma rules, and I’ve largely understood the — much different — English ones, too. Eat that!)

  15. #15 saurabh
    August 31, 2007

    :People can think we’re “groupthink idiots” all they want — they are the members of the audience who we would fail to impress no matter what we wore.

    Maybe so, but the ostensible purpose of the Out Campaign is to increase visibility, and to present yourself as a free-thinking individual. I.e., its ONLY purpose is image. If the image is a failure, why stand by it? I suggest you guys make your own t-shirts, and forget about Dawkins’.

  16. #16 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    (Uh-oh… I’m on my comma trip.)

    Welcome to the blog asshole.

    What, pray tell, is a “blog asshole”?

    >duck and cover<

  17. #17 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    (Uh-oh… I’m on my comma trip.)

    Welcome to the blog asshole.

    What, pray tell, is a “blog asshole”?

    >duck and cover<

  18. #18 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    Confused lt (<) and gt (>). There go my nerdy 1337 sgillz.

  19. #19 David Marjanovi?
    August 31, 2007

    Confused lt (<) and gt (>). There go my nerdy 1337 sgillz.

  20. #20 PZ Myers
    August 31, 2007

    But, but…what will I do with my A-labeled pants, shirts, shoes, shorts, and ties? My monogrammed towels? That giant A painted on each side of my house? My custom car in the shape of a swooshy A?

    Look, saurabh, it’s a couple of t-shirts. That’s all. Don’t get carried away with the deep significance of it all. The big A is nothing but an occasional token, not a whole commitment to the worship of all things Dawkins. We wore it because this was the first meeting of a group of people who didn’t know each other at all well, and it was a way to mark the organizers so everyone would know who to ask questions of.

    I also think it’s good to have some kind of marker and some kind of organization. We are all dependent on one another and we all make public commitments of one kind or another to various institutions — it doesn’t mean we’ve become slaves to the symbol. Perhaps you’ve been misled by the bizarre commitment of some other groups to their symbols, whether it’s ten commandments or the flag or the constitution, but that doesn’t mean every symbol is so overbearing. The shirts are nice. People can wear them, or they can skip them. They can design their own little logo, or they can avoid symbols altogether. We don’t care.

    But this attitude that atheists must be consistently and completely unjoined in even the most tenuous way is ludicrous and unrealistic. People don’t work that way. It’s a kind of self-defeating self-hatred that the other sides love to encourage, and it’s the kind of attitude that makes it difficult for freethinkers to increase their clout. We can’t even wear a common t-shirt now and then lest the purists express their outrage? Pathetic.

  21. #21 saurabh
    August 31, 2007

    PZ,

    I’m not getting carried away with the significance of it, and I DON’T think the t-shirts mean a whole lot to those who wear them, and I don’t think they indicate any actual groupthink; my point is, rather, how they will be *construed*, which is the intended purpose of the Out Campaign. There’s already an effort to paint Dawkins, Hitchens, etc., as the leaders of some new atheist evangelical movement. Why feed into that?

    You say: “We are all dependent on one another and we all make public commitments of one kind or another to various institutions…” But what institution are you talking about, here? A commitment to institutions is one of the major failings of religion I’d think we’d like to avoid, and eschewing the appearance of that sort of commitment would seem to me to be a worthy goal for (what amounts to) a marketing campaign. When you’re critiquing a cultish organization, it behooves you, I think, to be savvy about your own appearances. For appearance’s sake.

  22. #22 Blake Stacey
    August 31, 2007

    saurabh:

    Argh. Forget it. I already gave my solution: make your own fucking t-shirts. It would be better for your organization, and it would make you look better. Every campus club oughta have their own t-shirts anyway.

    I figure they will, in a few months. Hell, it takes a semester for the MIT physics department to get a decent shirt design (good physics puns take time), so I can’t be too harsh on CASH for using what’s available.

    I’m still waiting for the Pharyngula merchandise. Dammit, I thought Adam Bly had more business sense than this: why isn’t Seed tapping into the swag market?

  23. #23 Brownian
    August 31, 2007

    I think Skatje, Collin, and PZ look very handsome in their T-shirts (though PZ and Skatje should smile more. I know PZ’s thinking about the enormous pizza bill, but….)

    As for groupthink, well, I’ll just have to wait for Helly Hansen and Dockers to give me my opinion on that before I can share it with you.

    Congratulations!

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