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Strange Bedfellows at AAI

The weekend is upon us and I am super excited because I have a table at the Atheist Alliance International Convention this weekend in Burbank, California! Woot!
There are going to be some amazing speakers, Pz Meyers, Eugenie Scott, Daniel Denett and Carolyn Porco just to name a Dawkins and Maherfew. Do click on the link above for a full list of all the fantastic speakers.

The headlining speaker and man of the hour is of course, Richard Dawkins. Many skeptics attending the event are especially interested in an award being presented by AAI in Richards Dawkins’ name. The “Richard Dawkins Award” to be exact.

The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins.

This year the award is being presented to Mr. Bill Maher. Yes, Religulous was a funny movie and I enjoyed it but to present an award with the above quoted criteria to a man who doesn’t believe in germ theory, who thinks that all disease is caused by mystery toxins and who says things on twitter like, (sic) “If u get a flu shot ur an idiot.” and who doesn’t even claim to be an atheist is a bit odd. I direct your attention to an in-depth summery of the Dawkins and Maher debacle here on Orac’s Scienceblog.

Whether you approve or disapprove of AAI’s decision to award Mr. Maher with the Richard Dawkins Award, one thing is for sure, it’s going to be a very interesting weekend.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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29 Comments

  1. My take on Bill Maher is that he seems to take the unpopular stance on any issue. I’m not sure if he’s just being contrary or is looking for a niche market. Either way, it’s likely he’s going to offend almost everyone on at least one topic.

  2. I’d not heard much about Bill Maher before seeing Religulous – which I thought was a good documentary – but based on what I’ve read, Dawkins should be ashamed of himself for allowing an award in his name to be given to the man. Maher is one of the “enemies of reason” that Dawkins usually does such a good job at attacking.

  3. How did I not know about this??? I live in Burbank about 2 miles away from this! Crap on a cracker! Anyone know if I could pop into the Expo to say “Hi” or do I need a ticket to enter the expo?

  4. raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance…advocates increased scientific knowledge… Well, they got it half right.

    I’ve been following this mess on Pharyngula (*pause* Squeeee! you get to meet P.Zed!) and I feel for Dawkins. He didn’t choose Maher and yet now is expected to bring down some diety-like wrath upon the heads of those who did.

    But isn’t it nice that people are yelling at Dawkins (via the intertubes) and writing up carefully considered questions that not only express their disapproval but dig into the heart of magical thinking. These questions will be presented to Dawkins and he will answer them. Some of his answers won’t satisfy. Some might even upset people who respect Dawkins.

    But it won’t keep them from buying his books and it won’t change their mind about atheism, woo and their dedication to rational thinking. Because, unlike religious fundamentalists and rabid True Believers, the rational person can accept that a well-respected person is wrong on some detail. We can question our own authorities in a search for truth.

    Imagine what would happen to Ray Comfort if he were to hand an award to Maher.

  5. Amy;

    I will not be in attendance myself, but I have a mission for you, should you choose to accept it.

    You’re mission: Turn the AAI Richard Dawkin Award ceremony into a fight like you might see on Geraldo or Springer. 50 cool points for every punch thrown, 100 for every chair throw, addition 100 if its broken, 250 for every injury worthy of medical treatment, and 1000 for every man crying. (To be clear, that is gender specific. Men are only allowed to cry if a loved on is dead or dying.) If you top 100,000 cool points in this mission, you will be award a “Its cool because I did it” card, which, once tendered, will award you the absolute value of a negative cool action. (Basically, if doing something gets points taken away, use this card, and you’ll get that many points instead.)

    If you are successful-I will be your very own groupie (in spirit, but not person). Should you accept and fail, you will lose all cool points you’ve racked up-you’ll total will be 0.

    Amy, do you accept this challenge?

  6. As a neither an atheist or an agnostic ( I’ve stated previously that I think the term apathetic describes my view of organized religion – it simply plays no role in my everyday life ), I’ve always felt a lttle bit awkward in the skeptical movement ,especially amongst aggressive atheists, until I attended events. Only then did I realize there’s a lot diversity within this litter and some dogs simply bark louder than others, but all our voices are heard if it’s expressed within the principals that makes critical thinking so critical.

    The common bond we have is rationale thought, the scientific method, and critical thinking. But this bond must be applied across the board in one’s life. Yes, we may all have pet superstitions that linger, but that’s not the same thing as applying critical thinking to religion, but not to science itself.

    We , as individuals, cannot be expert in all areas , but collectively , we can be an intellectual powerhouse. Maher’s selection potentionally creates a schism that could fragment the movement. A personal agenda cannot be a keystone within skepticism. A personal agenda is everything that skepticism is not. Skepticism is not analogous to atheism. And if it is, then I’m not a skeptic afterall.

  7. I happen to believe that scepticism and rationalism (consistenly applied) imply atheism.

    However, this award to Bill Maher demonstrates clearly that atheism does not necessarily imply scepticism or rationalism.

  8. I still enjoy Bill Maher. He cuts to the quick on political and social issues, and does a pretty good job on the religious stuff. You have to remember that he’s a comedian, an entertainer, not a scientist. It doesn’t excuse his guano loco nonsense about medicine, though. I think it would be interesting to have someone he respects take him to task on that issue. Perhaps and evolutionary biologist of some note? Hmmmm…

  9. I’ve been suggesting that the AAI should have given Religulous a “movie of the year” award, if they liked it so much, rather than honouring Maher as a person. Annual awards for books and movies and such just sound like a good idea on general principles (not least because it’s easier to find a praiseworthy book than a wholly rational person). Maybe people who are at the AAI convention would like to talk that possibility up?

  10. This is where I take issue: “who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge”.

    Anti-science. Anti-vaccine. Conspiracy-theorist. Irrational thinker. Who gets the award next year? Oprah?

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