Monday 23 November 2009

proposed version 2 of the sa objects and rules, for ratification at the agm

here's the formatted version of what we hammered out yesterday. i've tweaked a few more minor bits, corrected grammar, reconciled bits relating to changes elsewhere, and rearranged the sections better than we could in a noisy pub at the end of four hours of work. i've also taken the public officer out of the category of officebearers where we put it yesterday, as  with my understanding of the position as we were discussing it, none of the clauses under that heading actually apply to it. this is borne out in the existing rules.

 i'm satisfied that what we came up with is fairly representative of what we want, considering there were about ten of us working on it, and i don't think any of the changes i've made will be controversial, so hopefully people will be happy and it will pass easily. today is the last day to put proposals on notice for the agm, so it looks like this will be the only one made. however if any amendments need to be made on the day, that will be possible.


Originally posted by kate

Saturday 21 November 2009

Sydney Atheists Committee Meeting

The Committee of Sydney Atheists is meeting on Sunday 22nd November 2009 at 2pm at the Hotel Clarendon . 156 Devonshire St Surry Hills.
The agenda includes making changes to the Rules of Association the structure of the new committee, and nominations for committee positions at the AGM on December 13th.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Sunday 11 October 2009

The New Atheists - A Near-Total Failure? October meetup

The next meetup is Sunday October 11th 2009 at 6pm at The Clarendon Hotel  156 Devonshire St, Surry Hills.
The guest of the evening will be Peter Bowden, from University of Sydney. Peter Bowden’s research is primarily concerned with individual and institutional ethics. He is currently a Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy at Sydney University, working on institutional ethics, runs with others a Philosophy Cafe (Philo Agora) in Sydney and is on the National Committee of Whistleblowers Australia.
Abstract: "The New Atheists - A Near-Total Failure?"
Peter Bowden describes himself as a Huxley Agnostic, although tending largely to agree with Richard Dawkins. Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog, coined the term agnosticism, presumably from the Greek, agnostos, unknown or unknowing. He stated that we do not know whether God exists or not. Peter Bowden certainly does not know. Nor that we can prove it either way. But he does believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God who listens to our prayers is highly unlikely. Even logically impossible.
The new atheists are Dawkins along with Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. The Four Horsemen they call themselves and the can be found on the web. Adding in Michel Onfray and his recent publication The Atheist Manifesto only extends the concern that they are all barking up a dead end canal.
The reason is that they show a complete ignorance of human nature. Even if they correctly identify the reasons why human beings came to develop a God or Gods , and religion, they do not recognise the messages behind the stories that they themselves are telling
And until they do they will continue to be voices crying in the wilderness. Except that they do not appear to be even part way to accepting their own messages

Note: This meetup will start at 6pm, with the topical hour and take place in the Clarendon Hotel, 156 Devonshire St, Surry Hills.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Christopher Hitchens on ABC's Q and A Forum

You can watch Christipher Hitchens gracefully endure the harranguing of his opponents on ABC's Q and A with Tony Jones:
download episode WMV | MP4 (average size 200MB)

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Sunday 4 October 2009

Darwin's Dangerous Idea on SBS

SBS has posted a pro-creationist blog entry here: in response to the documentary Darwin's Dangerous Idea which is being shown on SBS1. The text has obviously not been through a spell-checker, and is unashamably apologetic creationist. Blogger Mark Jones advocates creationism and attacks "Darwinism" as unscientific.
"Surely God is big enough to account for a world that is continually in a state of being created."
"Id like to know if every aspect of evolution can be definitively proved in the modern lab."
Now SBS offers space for people to comment, and when I looked there were 3 comments. I naturally wrote my own comment,and somehow its ended up there twice  Write your own comment and expand the debate. You can also watch the entire episode on the SBS website for the next two weeks, so be quick if you missed it.
Here's my comment:
The evidence is strongly in favour of blind evolution and against design and manufacture by an intelligent person. The evidence is strongly in favour of evolution and strongly against creation of any sort. There is nothing we can observe that requires the concept of a "soul" or "spirit" to be explained.

In the absence of any need of "creation" or "souls" to explain anything we experience or observe on the Universe, why invoke these pre-scientific superstitions?

If you are seriously suggesting that an intelligent non-human is magically intervening to badly design over billions of years what would take even humans just a few centuries, then you haven't really grasped the concept of evolution. Its lack of awareness is crucial to its mechanism. Yes, every aspect of evolution can be definitely proved scientifically.

We can explain the world successfully without "creation" and without "souls", "spirits" or "ghosts".  The world is full of enough wonder without invoking magic. As Laplace explained to Napoleon, "creation", we have no need of that hypothesis.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Saturday 3 October 2009

Christopher Hitchens streamed live from Sydney Opera House

Christopher Hitchens is opening the Festival of Dangerous Ideas run by the St James Ethics Centre at Sydney Opera House at 8pm tonight. You can watch the live stream video of his talk here from 8pm (and after) :

 MP3 Audio [48 MB]
MP4 Video [333 MB]

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Monday 28 September 2009

Jesus: All about lies!

I just thought I'd send out a salute to the genius who grabbed the url For those who haven't been past a church in NSW or WA in the last couple of months, there's a campaign with the slogan "Jesus: All about life" and a great many churches have a large poster out the front with that slogan.

The parody site is brilliant and comes up #4 on a google search. I'm sure this campaign will afford us many opportunities for slander and enturbulation

I wonder if it's got something to do with "Collect '09"?


I've also found out that the url has been linked to Secular

A friend of mine, Dr Chaotica has just put out the song 'All about Life'

Nice work, peeps!

Originally posted by Critical Mass

Victorian churches can legally discriminate on grounds of sexuality and marital status

In a new equal opportunity bill to be introduced next year, Victorian religious groups will no longer be allowed to discriminate based on the grounds of race, disability, age, physical features, political belief or breastfeeding. Sure, that sounds great, but it's interesting that two of the major sources of discrimination amongst religious communities, sexuality and marital status, will not be included in the new bill.

The gut reaction is likely to be something along the lines of "well great, if the churches are going to discriminate, it'll just drive people away from them, aiding in the secularisation of Victoria", but what is often forgotten is the role that religious communities play in community support, employment and social services. This means that religious schools will be able to deny employment to adequately trained people if they are homosexual, a single parent or even living with a de-facto partner, if their religion supports it. It means that welfare could be denied to single parents. It is a disgrace.

More interestingly, many of the religious communities who will be selectively discriminating against these groups will still be recieving tax benefits which are compensated for by the taxes paid, in part, by the very groups that they are discriminating against!

So what's next?

News sources
The Age

Originally posted by Critical Mass

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Happy Singer and some guy

Dave being told off for "inappropriate" posing with a cardboard cut-out:

Jason and the Pope
 Rachel at Theology on Tap:
World Famous Singing Priests explain where their millions in royalties will go at Theology on Tap. 

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Atheists at the Observatory

Our trip to Macquarie University Observatory

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Max Wallace spoke on what the lack of separation of Church and State is costing Australia

Max Wallace at the Sydney Atheists meetup explaining how much the deficit could be filled with taxes unpaid by Churches.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Podcast recording

Alan, Dave, and Jason in the studio

Alan on the mic.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Podcast People

Alan, Fleur, Dave, and Jason recording the podcast

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Saturday 25 July 2009

Urgent Sunday 26th July meeting moved to the Clarendon hotel

Anthony has just announced that the special meeting for which the scheduled meeting was cancelled, has been moved from his home to the Clarendon hotel at 12pm. The agenda has not been seen, but we're assured its something to do with future events.

Originally posted by  Ian Woolf

Monday 6 July 2009

Urgent - tonight's committee meeting has been cancelled

Normally committee meetings are scheduled for the first Monday of the month at the Clarendon Hotel, and all are welcome. Tonight's meeting has been cancelled by the president, to be replaced by a special committee meeting to be held on Sunday July 26th at 12pm at his home.
Anthony is keeping his plan under wraps, and none of us know what the meeting will be asked to decide about. Anthony says this will be an important gathering so I strongly urge you to be involved. Other viewpoints are actively encouraged. 

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Monday 27 April 2009

Pope Mobile charges dropped

The charges against Sydney Atheists member Ian Bryce for driving a fake pope mobile have been dropped! This is a victory for free speech, and against blind reverence of religious figures.
"I was setting out to inform," he said.
"The purpose of the pope-mobile was the draw the media attention and the public's attention to the false claims and the very bad actions of the Pope and the Church in coming here for World Youth Day, which I believe is in effect a latter day crusade."
Mr Bryce says he had a barrister and solicitor from the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, which he believes persuaded the police to drop the charges.
"It was against the Pope's claims to have supernatural authority, and all the harm he's doing in the world in banning condoms and trying to avoid family planning," he said.
"And now he's said that gays are an equal threat to mankind as climate change, and I can't for the life of me see what harm they're doing anyone."

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Intolerance leading to murder of an atheist in 2005

A man was murdered by his Fundamentalist Christian flatmate for being an atheist. His defense tried to please insanity. The murderer's family taunted and harrassed the atheists at the trial.

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Nate Phelps speaks at the American Atheists Convention 2009

Nate Phelps is the son of Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. This is a personal story of survival, and ultimately, freedom.
If you don't know Fred Phelps or why I've used the term surviving, the man is hate personafied. Watch the below video, showing him condemning the victims of the recent Victorian brushfires.
For the tearful and uplifting story from Nate, please visit the Atheist Nexus site here . You won't regret it, it's one of the most amazing things I've ever read.

Here's the video of the horrible man, Fred Phelps.

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Saturday 11 April 2009

Critical Mass podcast #5

Critical Mass Podcast episode 5 is out!
Hosted by Dave The Happy Singer, this hilarious episode features Ian Woolf, Jason Brown and special guest Fleur Dickinson.
Topics include:
  • Our enlightening visit to Hillsong Church
  • Creationism in the Sydney Morning Herald
  • Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen at Abbotsleigh School
  • The Collect 09 Connect 09 conversion campaign
  • Useful things to do with a former church.
Plus music from Dave The Happy Singer and Baby Hammer Death.

Show notes and links

Separation of church and state in Australia:

Hillsong Church:


Hell in Matthew's gospel:

Lot and his daughters:

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life:

Collect 09:

Epicurus and the problem of Evil: Posting Policy:

Muhammad's nine-year-old bride:

Johann Hari on the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights:

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a link to Pope Awesome XII's Prostitute Races. Sorry about that.

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Intelligent Design slammed on ABC Unleashed by Mike Jones
Intelligent design
With the demise of the Bush Empire, I was labouring under the illusion that we had a slim chance of emerging from the latest go at recreating the Dark Ages. But I was wrong. Very wrong. We seem to be only replacing one kind of idiocy with a couple of new flavours.

So much of the recent climate change debate rests on head banging contests between those who believe in science and those who believe in whatever they want to believe in. Listen up. Can you hear the axes grinding?
Read the rest at

Why is intelligent design such a bad thing?


Unleashed presents diverse and robust opinion about politics, society, belief and behaviour.
7 April 2009, 13:30

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Jews try to impose their beliefs on you too

Just when I was starting to think the Jews were the most sensible of the Abrahamic religions, they think it's acceptable to stop people of other faiths buying bread! Oh the horror! buying bread? God will surely smite you
See,7340,L-3691416,00.html for details
Admitadly, there is some light of reason here. Last year Judge Tamar Bar-Asher Zaban ruled that it was legal to sell bread during passover, it's only the ultra-Orthodox community's "Court of Justice" and the "Committee for Sanctity of Shabbat in Jerusalem" that are decrying the freedom to buy basic foodstuffs.
This is typical of religious thought, "YOU can't do this thing, because it infringes on MY rights". I just can't understand how they don't see that preventing someone from buying food impinges on other people's rights. 

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Tuesday 31 March 2009

If Atheists Ruled the World

All text taken directly from online Christian fundamentalist forums.
Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Saturday 28 March 2009

Yes, religion causes harm

Today there are two examples of religion causing harm.


Prominent medical journal The Lancet said the Pope had "publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue".It said the male latex condom was the single most efficient way to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV/Aids. "Whether the Pope's error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear," said the journal. But it said the comment still stood and urged the Vatican to issue a retraction. "When any influential person, be it a religious or political figure, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record," it said. "Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/Aids worldwide."
Full story at

and 2,

So-called "honour killings" in Turkey have reached record levels. According to government figures, there are more than 200 a year – half of all the murders committed in the country. Now, in a sinister twist, comes the emergence of "honour suicides". The growing phenomenon has been linked to reforms to Turkey's penal code in 2005. That introduced mandatory life sentences for honour killers, whereas in the past, killers could receive a reduced sentence claiming provocation. Soon after the law was passed, the numbers of female suicides started to rocket.
All Elif had done was simply decline the offer of an arranged marriage with an older man, telling her parents she wanted to continue her education. That act of disobedience was seen as bringing dishonour on her whole family – a crime punishable by death. "I managed to escape. When I was at school, a few girls I knew were killed by their families in the name of honour – one of them for simply receiving a text message from a boy," Elif said.
Full story at

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Thursday 26 March 2009

Rejection of "defamation of religions" campaign

Sydney Atheists, together with 185 other non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries around the world, called on U.N. member states to reject a "pervasive and mounting campaign" by Islamic states to ban criticism of religion under international law.
"It’s an attempt to gut the concept of human rights of its original meeting, which is to protect individuals from harm or state control, not to shield a set of beliefs from critical inquiry," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, an independent human rights monitoring organization.
"Our freedoms of speech and religion are facing a combined assault by multiple regressive resolutions this week at the U.N. Human Rights Council, and proposed provisions for next month’s Durban 2 conference that endorse the Islamic proposal to change a core UN treaty on racism."

Following is the joint NGO statement and list of 187 signatories:

Joint NGO Statement on Danger of U.N. “Defamation of Religions” Campaign
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations,
Deeply concerned by the pervasive and mounting campaign by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to produce U.N. resolutions, declarations, and world conferences that propagate the concept of “defamation of religions,” a concept having no basis in domestic or international law, and which would alter the very meaning of human rights, which protect individuals from harm, but not beliefs from critical inquiry;
Deeply concerned by the attempt to misuse the U.N. to legitimize blasphemy laws, thereby restricting freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press;
Deeply concerned that “defamation of religions” resolutions may be used in certain countries to silence and intimidate human rights activists, religious dissenters, and other independent voices; Alarmed by the resolution on “defamation of religions” recently tabled at the current 10th session of the UN Human Rights Council;
Alarmed by the draft resolution on freedom of expression circulated by Egypt, whose amendments seek to restrict, not promote, protections for free speech;
Alarmed by the recently-announced initiative of the U.N. “Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards” to amend the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by adding a protocol on “defamation of religions”;
Alarmed by provisions in the latest draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference that, through coded language and veiled references, endorse and encourage these anti-democratic initiatives;
1. Call upon all governments to oppose the “defamation of religions” resolution currently tabled at the UN Human Rights Council, and the objectionable provisions of the freedom of expression resolution;
2. Call upon all governments to resist the efforts of the “Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards” to alter the ICERD;
3. Call upon all governments not to accept or legitimize a Durban Review Conference outcome that directly or indirectly supports the “defamation of religions” campaign at the expense of basic freedoms and individual human rights.

(I've highlighted some of our australian friends below -ND)
1. UN Watch 2. International Humanist and Ethical Union 3. Freedom House 4. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty 5. Centre for Political Studies (CEPOS) 6. Muslim Council of Canada 7. International Association of Prosecutors 8. World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission 9. Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (Italy) 10. The International Quranic Center (IQC) 11. International Press Institute (IPI) 12. Human Rights Without Frontiers International 13. Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (LICRA) 14. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) 15. American Islamic Congress 16. World Union of Progressive Judaism 17. United Nations Association of Mauritius 18. World Jewish Congress 19. Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) 20. Association for World Education 21. Association of World Citizens 22. International Publishers Association 23. The Institute for African Alternatives 24. International Jurist Organization 25. Frontiers Association (Lebanon) 26. International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty 27. Rationalist Association 28. Greek Helsinki Monitor 29. British Humanist Association 30. Sidmennt Ethical Humanist Association 31. National Secular Society 32. B’nai B’rith International 33. International Foundation for Population and Development 34. North London Humanist Group 35. Endeavour Forum Inc. 36. Association Suisse des Libres Penseurs 37. Humanist Academy of Scotland 38. Media Institute of Southern Africa (Regional Secretariat and its chapters in 11 SADC countries) 39. American Humanist Association 40. Darfur Peace And Development Centre 41. American Atheists 42. Media Institute (Kenya) 43. Union of Freethinkers 44. Maharat Foundation (Lebanon) 45. Open Doors USA 46. Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) 47. One Law for All Campaign 48. Organisation against Women’s Discrimination (Iran) 49. The DiaHumanism Institute 50. Women’s international Zionist Organization (WIZO) 51. Canadian Humanist Publications 52. Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS-Azerbaijan) 53. Indian Humanist Union 54. The Tandem Project 55. Ahmadiyya Muslim Community 56. International Committee to Protect Freethinkers 57. Center for Security Policy 58. World Citizens Foundation 59. South Sudan Movement in Disapora 60. International PEN Writers in Prison Committee 61. Atheist Foundation of Australia 62. Minority Rights Group (Greece) 63. Nigerian Humanist Movement 64. National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) 65. Social Development Foundation (India) 66. Swedish Humanist Association 67. Rationalist Forum of Hyderabad (India) 68. Manava Vikasa Vedika (India) 69. European Union of Jewish Students 70. Centre for Study of Society and Secularism ( India) 71. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention 72. North East Humanists 73. Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI) 74. Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies (CEHURDES-Nepal) 75. New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists 76. Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL) 77. International Council of Jewish Women 78. Humanist Canada 79. NGO Forum (Mauritius) 80. European Humanist Federation 81. Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM-Serbia) 82. Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations 83. Burgerbewegung Pax Europa 84. Media Watch (Bangladesh) 85. Finnish Humanist Union 86. Humanist and Ethical Union of Kenya 87. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI-Egypt) 88. American Jewish Congress 89. Atheist Centre Andhra Pradesh (India) 90. Spurthi Dalit Humanist organisation (India) 91. German Forum for Human Rights 92. Jihad Watch 93. Rationalist Association of NSW 94. Adhra Pradesh Rationalist Association (India) 95. Satya Shodhak Sabha, Gujerat (India) 96. Arab Archives Institute (AAI-Jordan) 97. Open Doors International 98. Council of Australian Humanist Societies 99. Jubilee Campaign USA 100. Simon Wiesenthal Centre 101. Humanist Society of Queensland 102. Algerian Centre for the Defence and Promotion of Press Freedom (CALP) 103. Atheist Alliance International 104. CWA, Switzerland 105. Rationalist Society of Australia 106. Media Rights Agenda (MRA-Nigeria) 107. Humanist Society of New Zealand 108. Consultative Council of Jewish Organisations 109. Center for Inquiry, Low Countries 110. Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers 111. World Union of Jewish Students 112. Humanist Association of Northern Ireland 113. Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS-Venezuela) 114. Center for Religious Freedom of the Hudson Institute 115. Humanist Association of Ottawa 116. Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP-Liberia) 117. Liberté de Conscience 118. Syria Reform Party 119. The Free Press Society (Denmark) 120. International Free Press Society 121. Muslims Against Sharia 122. Centre for the Study of Social Change (India) 123. Danish Atheist Society 124. Mouvement Pour la Paix et Contre le Terrorisme 125. Minnesota Atheists 126. Free Media Movement (FMM-Sri Lanka) 127. Cultural Bridges 128. American Ethical Union 129. Hotline Human Rights (Bangladesh) 130. Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association 131. Women’s Missionary Society AME Church 132. Unie Vrijzinniger Vereningingen (Belgium) 133. Humanistisch Verbond 134. Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands 135. Montagnard Foundation, Inc. 136. Humanist Association of Ireland 137. United American Committee 138. Humanistiche Vrijzinnige Vereniging (Belgium) 139. Quadlibet Strategic Ventures NFP 140. Netradana Protsahaka Sangam (India) 141. Human Rights Service (Norway) 142. Pink Triangle Trust 143. Gujerat Mumbai Rationalist Association 144. Southern California Ecumenical Council 145. Viveka Vidyalayam (India) 146. International Christian Concern 147. The International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) 148. International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization 149. Disha Dalit Humanist organization (India) 150. European Union of Public Relations 151. Socio-political Analysis and Research Organization (India) 152. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) 153. Jana Vignana Vedika (India) 154. Society of Catholic Social Scientists 155. Society for Humanism and Social Change (India) 156. Evangelical Alliance UK 157. Indian Radical Humanist Association 158. Fondation Genereuse Developpement (FGD-Cameroon) 159. Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association 160. Center for Inquiry International 161. Swedish Youth Humanist Association 162. Religious Freedom Coalition 163. Act for America 164. Belfast Humanist Group 165. Council of ex-Muslims of Britain 166. Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti (Italy) 167. Secular Student Alliance 168. Summit Ministries 169. Doha Centre for Media Freedom (Qatar) 170. Fire Rescue Development Program 171. Sydney Atheists 172. Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech (Kazakhstan) 173. European Network Church on the Move 174. Traditional Values Coalition 175. Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) 176. Humanist Society of Queensland 177. Jewish Human Rights Coalition (UK) 178. Redeem the Vote 179. Pray in Jesus Name Project 180. Humanist Society of Victoria 181. Index on Censorship 182. Unity Coalition for Israel 183. Sociedad Humanista-etica, Deodoro Roca (Argentina) 184. Secular Party of Australia 185. India Committee of the Netherlands 186. Humanistische Alliatie (Netherlands) 187. Norwegian PEN

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Wednesday 25 March 2009

A Heartless Faith

You should head over to PZ's blog (one of my favorite sites on the net) for a eloquently written piece about what runs through the mind of a Christian when innocent children are killed in a plane crash.
I'll give you a taste, I wish I could write like this.
Once again, I am confirmed in my opinion that Christianity is a breeder of evil, a cesspit in which the most hateful and inhuman commitment to lies and delusions can ferment. Don't ever preach at me about Christian morality: I've seen it, and it is empty of love for humanity, replaced with sanctimonious idolatry and commitment to dead, dumb superstition.
Originally Posted by Nathan Dunn

Monday 23 March 2009

"The Atheists" on Compass on Sunday

ABC1   Compass -  The Atheists

10:05pm Sunday, 29 Mar 2009  Society and Culture   CC PG Compass Website
Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Thursday 12 March 2009

Godless Holland

Sure the car in the background is small,  but this is still some huge billboard.
Dutch atheists billboard
Inspired by the London bus campaign, a group of Dutch atheists and humanist organisations pooled together to start their own buscampagne. Since the responsible advertising company refused to run their ad on buses, they went with another company and billboards. And its up since today, close to Amsterdam Airport. In a virtually flat country this one should stand out. Unfortunately, for two weeks only.
If you go their site you might have noticed a picture taken inside NewQ of our Dutch Mardi Gras bus. They liked our idea when I asked them about their slogan a few weeks ago, that they put up a picture of the half finished bus up onto their frontpage.

Originally posted by ansgar

Monday 9 March 2009

Mardi Gras photos are starting to arrive!

Thanks to everyone who showed up to mardi gras and helped make it a fantastic night.
I've put the first photo up at (see above, under About Us) and more will follow.
Please let me know at if you have any photos to submit - or any suggestions on what Sydney Queer Atheists should do next!

Originally posted by kate

Sunday 1 March 2009

Mardi Gras is upon us!

Hi all, at a committee meeting a while ago, almost the whole room put up your hands indicating you would march in the mardi gras if we made a float. Well since then, I've heard from very few of you, while a few of us have done all the hard work and provided you with a float. Now don't let all that go to waste, all that you need to do is RSVP, and show up on saturday. And read all of this:
mardi gras is now less than a week away! please read this email carefully, it contains everything you need to know.

firstly, please rsvp to or 0417450802, even if you did earlier, to let me know who to expect and that you've gotten all the information below. please give me you mobile number too, it'll make life a lot easier once there are ten thousand people trying to get into the marshalling booth!

the day will be saturday, march 7. we will be meeting by 4.30 on Pitt St, near Goulburn St, outside the Mandarin Club. please don't be late, or more chaos will ensue and you may be left behind. we have been allocated in the last timeslot for registration, so if we don't do everything smoothly at that point, we will be locked out.

NewQ will be open from early for last minute work on the buses, and a group will leave there at 3.30 to travel in together, with the buses. it will be good if a number of people can be there, to help handle all the buses.

you'll need to record these details:
our float is number G11 and we are the Sydney Atheist Bus Campaign.
in case you can't find us or anything happens, contact kate 0417450802 or frank 0421618534.

we're not specifying a dress code, but it would be good if people who have Sydney Atheists tshirts would wear them. if you don't, they're still being sold for $20 and we can bring one for you on the day, so if anyone is interested in buying one let me know and we can talk sizes, colours and slogans.

as one of the later floats, it will be a long night. we can expect to be finishing around 11pm. this means you need to bring enough food and water and weather-appropriate clothes for quite a long time waiting in the street, but remember you will need to carry everything you bring.

i also have to tell everyone that the entirety of mardi gras will be an alcohol free zone, it's a public event and you may be photographed, and that the parade will be broadcast live - but only on foxtel, pay per view. i can send you the official email about how to register for that, if you're interested.

meanwhile, NewQ will be open again today (Sunday 1/3) for more bus making. nine buses are coming along nicely, but we still need harnesses, a banner and some painting. see you there!

Originally posted by kate

Monday 16 February 2009

Woman arrested over church scuffle
A woman has been arrested over a scuffle outside an Adelaide church.
It is alleged she punched a police officer outside the church at Kilkenny on Sunday.
Police allege the woman had been swearing and behaving in a disorderly manner as parishioners left the morning service and that she turned on police when they tried to calm her down.
The woman, 44, from Woodville Gardens has been granted bail to appear in Port Adelaide Magistrates Court next month.
Map: Kilkenny 5009

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Thursday 12 February 2009

Critical Mass podcast #4

Critical Mass podcast episode 4 is out now!
This episode is hosted by Ian Woolf, with Alan Conradi, Jason Brown and Dave The Happy Singer.
Topics include:

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Sydney Atheists respond to opinion piece in SMH "Questions Darwinism cannot answer"

Sydney Atheists president, Anthony Englund, has written a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in response to the piece "Questions Darwinism cannot answer", SMH Opinion section February 9, 2009.
You can read the piece here, I should note it's by the Professor of Theology at Charles Sturt University, Tom Frame. How does one get a professorship in imaginary friends anyway?
Our response letter was as follows.
Subject: Response to opinion piece "Questions Darwinism cannot answer", SMH Opinion section 9 Feb 2009

On behalf of Sydney Atheists, please publish this in your letters section.

Questions Darwinism cannot answer
Tom Frame is correct to write that evolution doesn't explain everything. But Darwin's theory explains a great deal and gives us a very powerful picture of how the natural world, including us, came to be. It is a mistake to conclude, simply because there are things we don’t yet know, that those "gaps" must be filled in by a supernatural creator. It is also wrong to assume that you need to believe in "spirits" in order to be "spiritual". We are entirely natural creatures. As part of this, we are also conscious beings. We live, love, laugh, hope, are poetic and, at our best, can be both reasonable and compassionate. An understanding of science can help us to find our way. And an understanding of each other can do the rest. Despite what Tom writes, one form of knowledge does not come at the expense of the other and nothing beyond the two is needed to live enlightened, full and meaningful lives.
Anthony Englund
Sydney Atheists Inc.

Sydney Atheists is a non-profit organisation

 Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Questions Creationists can't answer

I write my personal reponse to the SMH article at Here's Why: 
Today I found a Christian Theologian attacking Richard Dawkins in the Sydney Morning Herald. The article was actually an advertisement for the Creationist's new book. Was it a free ad? Or was he a paid contributor?

 It was no surprise that an article entitled "Questions Darwinism cannot answer" was written by a Creationist. "Darwinism" is a word only used by Creationists. Perhaps the article should have been labelled as the advertisement for his book that it surely was?

 What are these questions for "Darwinism"? After slogging through a personal attack on Richard Dawkins and implying that every atheist is an evil murdering fascist, it turns out they're Christian Apologetic questions and not scientific questions at all. I'll start with the questions and get to the slog afterwards.

The first question was "When does design become domination?" If the Universe is an artificial artifact as Mr Creationist insists, then it emulates a wild natural environment extremely well and we are living in The Matrix. If we are living in The Matrix, then any "Act of God" like a murderous bush fire is an infringement of free will - which is domination. The administrators of fake reality would be cruel and unethical to impose so much suffering without the consent of the free beings who inhabit the fake world.

 This question assumes that that the world we are informed of by our senses, our instruments and each other is fake. If the world is a simulation then its either being run by non-human aliens, or its being run by our post-human descendants as an ancestor simulation. If the persons running the simulation impose suffering and limit choice, then they are dominating.

 "Why did God create human beings, lay a good life out before them and then include the capacity to behave otherwise?" he asks. Again this assumes that the evidence of our senses is faked. Evolution and geology and nuclear physics show that life developed through small changes over very long periods of time. They show that the universe is full of things moving around in random ways, except where humans create artifacts. Humans were not created, they evolved from earlier forms of hominid and the hominids from earlier primates, the primates from earlier mammals, all the way back to the earliest self-replicating molecules that weren't properly alive. However, as a good theologians we should ignore the evidence. If we didn't have free will we'd be zombies who just reacted to stimulus from a pre-programmed script. That answers your second question. If we live in a simulation as Creationists insist, then the persons who run the simulation didn't want zombies. There's no evidence that we live in The Matrix.

 Finally, "Would knowing why there is something rather than nothing make a difference to life?" Darwin's answer is that curiosity is a behaviour that promotes the spread of genes, so it was selected for in the random evolution of our ancestors. Most of us want to know the answers of our origins, and we are not satisfied with silly stories about a stork or a dove.

 Mr Creationist claims that evolution cannot explain the origin of life. We have seen self-replicating molecules start replicating from non-living matter. We have found the organic molecules essential for life in distant clouds of interstellar gas. We can scientifically explain the origin of life. He concludes that evolution cannot cast light on life's destiny. Evolution shows us that life doesn't have a destiny, the Watchmaker is blind. Evolutionary processes can build eyes up, or blind them, depending on the environment that animals live and breed in, but the process is random, and the environment changes randomly.

 "Evolutionary theory" does NOT require or imply "continuous creation" Mr Creationist. Evolution doesn't require any intervention by magical persons at all, its the inevitable outcome of mutant survivors of disasters breeding their inheritable traits into the next generation. Mutation and sexual recombination produce variation, predators and changing environment provide the random selection. The inevitable outcome is that some variations will breed more than others and species change over very long periods of time.

 Mr Creationist, quoting notable people is an Argument from Authority. With your high academic station, you surely know that its a logically invalid argument, so why did you use it? "These lines of reasoning do not prove God's existence". Could it be that you simply don't have a valid argument?

Ad Hominem attacks are not valid arguments, either, but this doesn't stop you from personally attacking Richard Dawkins.  Of course the attack is simply a disguise for the same vilification of atheists as mass murdering fascists as used by Toongabbie Anglicans a few weeks ago in their sermon "Does God exist?". Mr Creationist vilifies atheists as supporting "imperialism, genocide, mass deportation, ethnic cleansing, eugenics, forced sterilisations and infanticide." He then admits that reality doesn't match his opinion, because his vilification is false. Instead of apologising and explaining his error, he accuses Richard Dawkins of lacking commitment, courage and philosophical conviction. It looks like a classic case of Freudian projection.

Mr Creationist uses arguments which he admits are invalid, vilification which he admits is invalid, claims of definition which are easily shown to be invalid, and questions which are for his contradictory Creationist cosmology and not validly for Darwin at all. Perhaps Mr Creationist lacks the courage of his own philosophical convictions? Could he have abandoned valid methods of argument and persuasion because he doesn't believe his position can be validly argued? Or is this just the usual request to open your wallet?

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Friday 6 February 2009

Man in Japan

"Man in Japan" has linked to us from his blog, after visiting us at the Newtown Festival. I love the quote from his wife in the first paragraph, talking about our gong with the sign "Hit the gong if you don't believe in gods!". For her, it was like saying "hit the gong if you think the sky is blue".
I met so many wonderful people that day, I hope I had the chance to shake hands with MIJ and his wife.
Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Thursday 5 February 2009

Queensland white pages is doing it right

Try searching for a "magic shop" in Queensland in the white pages. Obviously correct for turning wine into blood, and that old magicians favourite, biscuits into flesh. But I'm not sure where you'd go if you wanted to buy equipment to saw a woman in half or pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Sydney Atheists respond to opinion piece in SMH "Faith no more does little good for society"

Sydney Atheists president, Anthony Englund, has written a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in response to the piece "Faith No More Does Little Good for Society", SMH Opinion section 3 Feb 2009.
You can read the piece here, I should note it's by Dr John Dickson, director of the Centre for Public Christianity, so don't expect coherence or logic.
Our response letter was as follows.
Subject: Response to opinion piece "Faith No More Does Little Good for Society", SMH Opinion section 3 Feb 2009
It is pleasing to see that John Dickson recognises the contribution that non-religious people make to society. As the Census data makes clear, the number of non-religious people, and the size of their collective contribution, continues to grow. There is a dawning recognition that compassion, charity and service to your fellow human being is not the exclusive province of those who believe in supernatural beings. Rather, it is a responsibility that arises within all of us naturally and that each of us takes to heart consciously. Through the work we do supporting charities and within the community, Sydney Atheists hopes to show that you can be "good without God". Ultimately, it is the results of the work we do that counts, not whether the person who performs it is a believer or not. We think there is plenty of room for all of us to contribute.
Anthony Englund
Sydney Atheists Inc.

On a personal note, I'd like to point out another SMH article This piece contains the wonderful quote Those of us who thought the shop up the road was all about helping the poor stand corrected. "The primary function of the society," said St Vincent de Paul's lawyers, "is to inculcate the Catholic faith in its members." This article from 2nd Jan is well worth a read and heartily disproves the theory that religious people contribute to charity because they care. It's all about new converts!

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Monday 2 February 2009

Darwin in the Botanical Gardens 2009

Darwin Exhibitions and Public Programs 2009

2009 will commemorate two significant anniversaries of Charles Darwin’s life and work - the bicentenary of his birth and 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of Species - his controversial theory outlining the evolution of life-forms through the process of natural selection.
Darwin collected and studied plants throughout his life, and he spent his last forty years experimenting with plants in his home garden. His life’s work continues to inform our scientific research and inspire our education programs.
Hopefully our collective legacy will be to inspire a passion and appreciation for nature, fostering budding naturalists and the next generation of scientists.

11 February

Dining with Darwin: Evolution and extinction, adaptation and climate change

Join compere Jennifer Byrne and a panel of experts for an evening of lively discussion and debate. This event is a partnership between the Botanic Gardens Trust and the Australian Museum.
When: 11 February, 6.30 – 10.30 pm
Where: The Pavilion, 1 Art Gallery Road
Cost: $150 pp incl three course dinner + wine
Bookings: 9320 6389

12 February

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin

Join Dr Tim Entwisle and scientists of the Botanic Gardens Trust for birthday cupcakes in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth.
This event will also launch the Trust's new landscape installation reflecting Darwin’s contribution to our current understanding of biodiversity and the evolution of life.
When: 12 February 10.30 am
Where: Myrtales Bed, Royal Botanic Gardens (Click here to view map)
RSVP: 9231 8134

12 February - 24 November

DARWIN installation

Visit the spectacular garden display reflecting Charles Darwin’s contribution to our current understanding of the diversity and evolution of life.
When: 12 February to 24 November, 7 am to sunset every day
Where: Lawn 44, Map ref L7

24 March

Darwin's Greenhouse: soot, steam and passion flowers

Author and lecturer Dr Jim Endersby explores Charles Darwin’s botanical research and its relation to industrialisation and empire.
When: 24 March 6-7.30 pm
Where: Maiden Theatre
Cost: $15 pp incl light refreshments
Bookings: 9231 8134

14-17 and 20-24 April

Charlie D and the Great Seed Mystery

Children aged 6-12 explore the gardens to solve the mystery of seed dispersal, create seed transporters and play games with seeds in motion, guided by our experienced educators.
When: 14-17 and 20-24 April, 10.30 am-12 noon & 1.00-2.30 pm
Where: Community Education, via Woolloomooloo Gate
Cost: $15 pp
Bookings: 9231 8134

21 May

Musings on Mr Darwin’s Shooter

Join acclaimed author Roger McDonald for discussion and readings from his award-winning book. A Sydney Writers Festival event.
When: 21 May, 6-7.30 pm
Where: Maiden Theatre
Cost: $15 pp incl light refreshments
Bookings: 9231 8134

1 August-24 November

Darwin and the Trees of Life

An exhibition showcasing Trust Scientists’ work in the field and the lab.
When: 1 August to 24 November, 10 am-4 pm weekdays
Where: Red Box Gallery, National Herbarium of NSW
Enquiries: 9231 8111

16 August

Darwin’s Legacy at the Royal Botanic Gardens: Open Day

Meet Botanic Gardens Trust scientists and come behind the scenes with herbarium, plant pathology and DNA lab tours, demonstration, guided tours of the Gardens and more.
When: 16 August 10 am-4 pm
Where: Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney
Enquiries: 9231 8331

10 September, 10 October and 3 November

Darwin - Special interest walk

Plants have evolved to thrive in diverse and extreme environments. Explore some of their fascinating adaptations and cooperative evolutionary partnerships with animals and insects.
When: 10 September, 10 October and 3 November, 10-11.30 am
Where: Leaves from the Palm Grove Centre
Cost: $28 pp
Bookings: 9231 8134

Public lecture by Trust Scientist Dr Peter Weston

Folow this link to listen to Trust Scientist Peter Weston’s talk published on the Australian Academy of Science website:

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Darwin's Birthday 12th February 2009

Darwin’s 200th birthday is next week on Thursday 12 February.
The menu for his birthday dinner was released today – from the primordial ocean to dinosaur drumettes.
Also, this Sunday the Archbishop of Melbourne joins us in celebrating Darwin’s contributions to humanity.
And in Sydney and Melbourne UK geneticist Steve Jones asks if evolution is over? This is the first in a series of speakers talking about Darwin and his relevance over the next two weeks.

Eat your way through 4 billion years of evolution

Melbourne will host a unique dinner to celebrate Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday on 12 February at Melbourne Museum. Guests will eat their way through the evolutionary tree – from primordial soup, to the first life on Earth, to the mammals.
The menu was developed by John Long, one of Australia’s leading palaeontologists, and head of science at Melbourne Museum.The birthday party is open to the public and will include evolution themed entertainment.“We’ll start with crusty arancini symbolising the earth’s crust. Four billion years ago the Earth was young and lifeless,” says John.
“Algae appeared in the oceans three billion years ago. We’ll be eating algae – as sushi wrapped with nori,” he says.
“The oceans thickened to form a primordial soup – represented by shots of seafood bisque – and filled with invertebrate life – represented by scallops, prawns and oysters.
“480 million years ago fish appeared. Then life spread from the oceans to the land, the dinosaurs, birds and the mammals appeared. All will appear on the menu."
 “The killer asteroid that ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago is the theme for desert. It’s marked with meteorites of churros with a lava centre."
And then Chris Darwin, Charles’ great great grandson, will cut a unique 200th birthday cake modelled on an Aldabra Island tortoise from the Museum’s collection. These tortoises grow to over a metre and can live for more than 100 years. They demonstrate the gigantism that Darwin saw on the Galapagos Islands.
“There dinner concludes. The rise of the primates is off the menu."
Entertainment will be provided by the National Institute of Circus arts and their spectacular Whale Evolution show, IMAX film features, and the museum’s own exhibits.
Tickets are available for $150.
Details and bookings at
Darwin’s birthday party is just one of a series of events marking Darwin’s work and ideas. Melbourne’s celebrations commence with a church service at St Paul’s Cathedral on Sunday 8 February.
Interviews: please contact Penny Underwood, (03) 9818-8540,

Celebrating Darwin at St Paul’s

A church service is probably the last thing you would expect to kick off a year-long celebration of evolution - but that’s exactly what’s happening at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne at 2pm on Sunday 8 February.
Entitled Science and Faith: The Intersection the service will be the first official event of Evolution – the Festival, a public celebration of 200 years since the birth of Charles Darwin and 150 years since the publication of the book in which he set out his theory of evolution by natural selection, On the Origin of Species.
2009 is also the International Year of Astronomy, celebrating 400 years since Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sky.
Given that many Christian groups still dispute the idea of evolution by natural selection, and that the Roman Catholic Church placed Galileo under house arrest for his view that the Earth revolved around the Sun, the service sets out to explore whether faith and science can be harmonised as different paths to truth.
“I have never believed science and faith to be at odds,” says Prof Phil Batterham, a committed Baptist, who is associate Dean of Science at Melbourne University and a speaker at the service.
“There is much common ground between the pursuits of faith and science. Both search for truth.”
Batterham is chair of the organising committee for Evolution – The Experience, a major conference on the impact of Darwin to be held in the Melbourne Convention Centre from 9 February to 13 February.
He will be providing his views at the service, along with the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Revd Dr Philip Freier, whose first degree was in biological science, and emeritus Professor of Physics at Monash University, Prof John Pilbrow, who is current president of the Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology (ISCAST).
More at:

Is Human Evolution Over?

Steve Jones is speaking at the University of Sydney this Thursday, and in Melbourne on Monday 9 February
Jones is a leading evolutionary thinker and great talent.
He can talk about Darwin’s work, its importance today and the future evolution of the human race.
His lecture is on the future of human evolution.
“Many people are concerned about what the future might bring and, from Thomas More's Utopia of 1516 to the latest science fiction fantasy, they have made lurid models of what may be to come.
Evolution is all about understanding the past; but I will argue that we now know so much about our own biological history that it is possible to make some informed guesses about the Darwinian future.
Everything we see around us suggests that, at least for the time being and at least in the modern world, the agents that lead to genetic change - mutation, natural selection, and geographic isolation - are losing their ability to do so and that human evolution is more or less over. There is, as a result, no need to worry what Utopia might be like, for we are living in it now.”
For interviews contact me on 0417 131 977or
For public information go to:
Time: 6:30pm
Location: Eastern Avenue Auditorium, University of Sydney
Cost: Free
Contact: Sam Solomon
Phone: (02) 9036 9926

Evolution speakers

And next week there are a host of speakers attending a Darwin conference in Melbourne.
Here’s a list and brief summary.

Prof. Steve Jones, University College London

Without variation we'd have no genetics and no evolution - still no one really knows why it's there. This is just one of the many big questions Professor Steve Jones explores through his work, along with sex, variation, race, and inherited disease.
His book, In the Blood, explores, confirms and debunks some commonly held beliefs about inheritance and genetics. Topics explored include issues as diverse as "lost tribes", European royal families and haemophilia.

Prof. Jonathan Marks, University of North Carolina

Prof. Marks' research interests focus on primate/human evolution, race, molecular genetics and evolution, general physical anthropology, history of studies of human evolution and variation, anthropology of science, critical studies in human genetics, and general anthropology.

Prof. Michael Ruse, Florida State University

As one of the most prolific and well known philosophers and historians of Darwinism, Prof. Ruse has authored and edited many classic books including:
The Philosophy of Biology, Sociobiology: Sense or Nonsense?, The Darwinian Revolution, Is Science Sexist?, Taking Darwin Seriously, Homosexuality: A Philosophical Inquiry, Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction?, Can a Darwinian be a Christian?, Cloning, Genetically Modified Foods, Stem Cell Research, Debating Design: Darwin to DNA, Darwin and Design: Does Evolution have a Purpose?, The Evolution/Creation Struggle, and Charles Darwin.

Dr Robert T. Bakker, Tate Museum

Bakker was the first man who hypothesized that dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded, and was the scientist who believed that diseases caused the demise of the terrible lizards. He is also the author of the famous book The Dinosaur Heresies.

Prof. Alan Dixson, Victoria University, Wellington

Prof. Dixson’s lecture will deal with the origins of human mating systems and sexual behaviour as illuminated by comparative studies of the reproductive anatomy and behaviour of extant primates.

Prof. Tim Flannery, Macquarie University

An internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist, Tim Flannery has published more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers. His books include the landmark works The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers.

Prof. Douglas J. Futuyma, Stony Brook University, NY                                  

Douglas J. Futuyma is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook University.
He is the author of the textbooks Evolutionary Biology (3 editions) and Evolution (2005), and of Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution (1982, 1995), which concerned the conflict between science and creationism.

Prof. Jenny Graves, Australian National University

Jenny Graves is a geneticist who works on Australian animals - kangaroos and platypus are a specialty, but devils (Tasmanian) and dragons (lizards) and even frogs are fair game.
Her laboratory is famous for using this unique perspective to explore the origin, function and (dismal) fate of human sex chromosomes, and even to discover novel human genes.

Prof. Randolph Nesse, University of Michigan

Randolph Nesse's primary current research focus is on how selection shapes mechanisms that regulate defences such as pain, fever, anxiety and low mood. His work emphasises the utility of negative emotions, and how a signal detection analysis (the "smoke detector principle") explains why defence expression so often seems excessive.
He notes that low mood is useful to disengage effort from unreachable goals, and failure to disengage often leads to depression. Closely related is his work on how social selection for relationship partners can shape human capacities for altruism, empathy and complex sociality.

Prof. Neil Shubin, University of Chicago

Neil Shubin has been one of the major forces behind a new evolutionary synthesis of expeditionary palaeontology, developmental genetics, and genomics.
He has found new fossils that change the way we think about many of the key transitions in evolution: from the reptile-mammal transition and the water-land transformation, to the origin of frogs, salamanders, turtles and flying reptiles.

Prof. John H. Vandermeer, University of Michigan

John is one of the great names in ecology having undertaken an extraordinary professional journey throughout his career: from population theory to sustainable agriculture and the role of ecologists as potential agents of social and political change.

Prof. Margo Wilson and Prof. Martin Daly, McMaster University

What does evolution tell us about homicide? Trained in the study of nonhuman animal behaviour, Margo Wilson and Martin Daly have brought a Darwinian perspective to bear on human social behaviour, including interpersonal conflict as manifested in homicide and nonlethal violence.

Prof. Jim Chisholm, University of Western Australia

Prof. Chisholm uses the principles of evolutionary ecology, life history theory, sexual selection theory and parental investment theory to investigate the role of early psychosocial stress and attachment history in the evolution and development of theory of mind, the capacity for culture and the development of alternative reproductive strategies and their implications for health and health inequalities.

Prof. Ross Crozier, James Cook University

What can ants tell us about evolution?
Ross Crozier's interest in biology began from watching ants and termites in South East Asia as a child.
He's explored many aspects of the evolution and genetics of social insects, for example how do they recognise and estimate relatedness?

A/Prof. Jonathan Foster, University of Western Australia

He has combined a career in the UK and Australia as a senior international researcher in cognitive neuroscience with a role as consultant neuropsychologist in clinical practice. Foster's research has focused on the key mechanisms underpinning the changes that occur in neurocognitive functioning across the lifespan.

Prof. Peter Gluckman, University of Auckland

Peter's research encompasses the hormonal regulation of fetal and postnatal growth, developmental neuroscience and neuroprotection, and comparative aspects of the evolutionary-developmental biology interface.

Prof. Michael Goddard, University of Melbourne

Since his PhD on genetics of guide-dogs for the blind (1973-77), Michael Goddard has worked on research into the genetic improvement of livestock. This concentrates on the utilisation of molecular genetics in livestock improvement. For instance, he helped develop the concept of "genomic selection" and is now applying this to dairy and beef cattle.

Prof. David Green, Monash University

David's proof of the universality of networks in 1992 showed that networks (nodes linked by edges) are inherent in both the structure and behaviour of all complex systems. It also established a link between evolution and self-organisation in general.

Prof. Colin Groves, Australian National University

Colin Groves’ has worked for 40 years on the taxonomy and phylogeny of primates (including humans) and other mammals.
This research has involved work in museums, fieldwork in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, and much writing and lecturing on evolution and in opposition to creationist fantasies.

Prof. Brian Hall, Dalhousie University

Prof. Hall trained as an experimental embryologist at the University of New England (UNE), Armidale (NSW), and is an expert on skeletal development. He has played a major role in integrating evolutionary and developmental biology into the discipline now known as Evolutionary Developmental Biology (evo-devo).

Prof. Ary Hoffmann, University of Melbourne

Ary Hoffmann has shown how natural populations evolve in response to environmental stresses, initially using Drosophila as a model system and later applying the same approaches to beneficials and pest organisms.
His research has led to major advances in understanding how stressful periods influence evolutionary rates, how insects adapt to overcome stressful conditions, and when evolutionary limits occur.

Dr John Long, Museum Victoria

John's research work has focussed on the early evolution of fishes in Australia and other parts of Gondwana. He has collected fossils throughout Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, South Africa, and has been on two expeditions to Antarctica. He has become well-known for his discoveries of well-preserved Devonian age fish fossils from Gogo, in the Kimberley (including his discovery of Mcnamaraspis, the state fossil emblem of Western Australia), and of dinosaurs and marine reptile fossils in Western Australia.

Prof. Rick Shine, University of Sydney

Rick's studies on sexual selection in snakes and lizards have provided some of the first and most detailed information on topics such as sperm competition, cryptic female choice, and sexual conflict.
His recent studies on invasive cane toads have documented remarkably rapid evolutionary responses both in the toads and in the Australian species with which they interact, suggesting that an evolutionary perspective can play a critical role in formulating solutions to conservation issues.

Dr Suzanne Sadedin, Monash University and University of Tennessee

Fortunately, a flirtation with computer science provided Suzanne with an avenue into theoretical evolution.
Her recent work includes investigations of cultural evolution, social networks, landscape genetics and the evolution of complexity.

Dr Thomas Suddendorf, University of Queensland

Thomas' research interests include the cognitive abilities of primates and young children and the evolution of the human mind. Of particular interest to him are representational capacities such as those related to understanding of self, time and mind.

Read about the conference at
And the other events at
Further details on evolution story opportunities later this week.
Niall Byrne
Science in Public
Full contact details at

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Sunday 1 February 2009

people declaring no denomination has nearly trebled from 6.7 per cent to 18.7 per cent

"Since the 1971 census, when the "no religion" option was included for the first time, the number of people declaring no denomination has nearly trebled from 6.7 per cent to 18.7 per cent."
Please see for statistical proof that we are growing :)

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Toongabbie Anglican: nice people, still wrong

Sydney Atheists Member Jason Brown has written an excellent report on our recent visit to Toongabbie Anglican.
Toongabbie Anglican: nice people, still wrong
Sydney Atheists members quietly attended a service, without causing a fuss (or even being noticed), and afterwards engaged some locals with interesting conversation. The drawcard that had caught our attention was the stated topic "Tough Questions: Does God Exist".
The one outstanding thing that came of this visit was that we heard a brand new argument for the existance of god. This is almost unheard of! It's very exciting. What is this profound truth that will have atheists converting in droves?
"The argument from inability to smell your own brain".
Not convinced? you'll have to go to Jason's Blog and read all the hilarious detail.

Originally posted by Nathan Dunn

Friday 23 January 2009

Thursday 22 January 2009

Magic in the Biblical World: From the Rod of Aaron to the Ring of Solomon Edited by Todd Kultz

I found this great review of a scholarly look at all the magical shenanigans in the Bible. There are a lot of divinations and wonder workings for a document that forbids magic so harshly. Joseph practices oneiromancy, the divination of dreams, and he's the hero, so its not forbidden. Moses has a wizard battle with the Pharoah's wizard's and works the same wonders as the Egyptian magicians. Jesus does some faith healing, some necromancy (raising the dead), and goes on to perform the multiplying fishes and loaves, then closes with the classic water to wine trick. Then he turns to the camera and says "all that I have done, you shall do, and more!". There are many schools of Jewish and Christian Occultism such as the Rosicrucians.
The five page article is here:  FindArticles - Magic and the Bible reconsidered Judaism, Summer-Fall, 2005, by Alex Jassen
Here's a nice passage that sums things up:
"Deuteronomy 18:9-14, with its outright condemnation of magic, divination, and necromancy, often serves as the starting point for the study of magic in the Hebrew Bible and in later Judaism and Christianity. The Deuteronomic prohibition of magic and all associated phenomena, however, does not attempt to define any of these magical acts. Later biblical texts are equally inconsistent in their understanding of what exactly falls under the rubric of Deuteronomy's prohibited magic. For example, 1 Samuel 28 narrates how Saul solicits the aid of a necromancer in order to consult the now dead Samuel. In presenting the actions of the necromancer, the text clearly identifies her behavior as a flagrant violation of the Deuteronomic strictures. At the same time, the stories of Elijah and Elisha are replete with examples of many wondrous deeds that could easily be classified as magical phenomena. For example, Elijah and Elisha raise people from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; cf. 2 Kings 13:20-21), foretell the future through the use of signs (2 Kings 13:14-19), and perform other supernatural acts (1 Kings 17:7-16). Never, however, are Elijah and Elisha condemned as soothsayers nor is their behavior classified as a violation of Deuteronomy."
"D. Marguerat's study on "Magic and Miracle in the Acts of the Apostles" demonstrates how Luke (the putative author of Acts) was very aware of the sociologically dictated distinction between magic and miracle. In the Roman world, Marguerat observes, supernatural healing was often viewed as magical phenomena. Seeking to ensure that his audience recognizes apostolic healing as a divinely inspired miracle, Luke carefully structures healing narratives such that any confusion is quickly dissolved by the clarifying apostolic word. This stands in contrast to the apostolic opponents who are consistently identified as magicians (see Acts 8:9-13, 18-24; 13:6-12)."

Originally posted by Ian Woolf

Tuesday 13 January 2009

I'm Not Worried

A response to the recent article by Narelle Jarrett of Sydney Anglicans

“We are going to die and that makes us the lucky one. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia.”
Narelle Jarrett of Sydney Anglicans used some interesting logic recently to try and suggest to us that not only is there a god but that the life of Atheist is a wasted life spent worrying about death. I personally prefer to quote the likes of Richard Dawkins from Unweaving the Rainbow above as a way of encapsulating my position, or perhaps even the late great Epicurus from his Letter to Menoeceus:
“Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.”
It does not bother me to quote genuine intellectuals in my response as opposed to Jarrett’s Eric Idle and Woody Allen, I only hope that the Sydney Anglicans are aware of who Richard Dawkins and Epicurus are before they judge us. I wish no longer to dwell upon death however because it is of such little concern of me, instead I will focus on the life affirming activities of the Sydney Atheist community that I am part of.
This past weekend Sydney Atheists gave blood, spent the afternoon in the Domain enjoying the Sydney Festival First Night and heard a fantastic talk in the pub of the great success the NoToPope coalition was. All was done with a fantastic group of people that went from the eight that donated blood to the thirty that came along to our talk on Sunday afternoon. At no point in the packed weekend of Sydney Atheists did the topic of death arise; we were way too busy focussing on the enjoyment of the life that we have now to concern ourselves with issues that we have neither control over nor knowledge of.
I must apologise again for invoking an intellectual heavy-weight in my argument but it is difficult not to when the side of Atheism contains a glut of such resources. Victor Stenger in his mind blowing God: The Failed Hypothesis effectively demonstrates how the universe exists beautifully by itself and indeed the comforting words of John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
As quoted by Jarrett come up short when explaining the truly amazing nature of the universe in which we live. The reality is that beyond the reality that there is no evidence for such a creator, such a creator certainly wouldn’t make the universe any more special than the ant farm you toyed with for a week before getting bored with as a kid.
I also take exception with Jarrett’s statement that she found she:
“was impressed by the integrity of these Christians, by their honesty and transparency. They didn’t think they came by chance from nothing, or that they were going to nothing.”
Beyond the basic error of this egregious non sequitur I can’t tell if I therefore lack the honesty and transparency of a Christian. I would challenge Jarrett to put questions to the Sydney Atheist community or myself, we have nothing to hide and will prove to you that the link between honesty and transparency and believing in going somewhere when one dies is not merely tenuous but non-existent.
Finally I want to dispel a myth that is often held about Atheism:
Atheism a worry free life - even for an optimist, that’s a myth.”
No Atheist would think being so leads to a “worry free” life. Any Atheist still has the same problems to face in the world as any Christian; money, war, disease and famine all concern Atheists deeply. Money, war, disease and famine possibly even concern Atheists more because we don’t believe we have a second chance at this life. Despite this Atheists don’t act on something because they don’t believe in God; Atheism is not a philosophy. Atheism is the absence of a belief in a god. Atheists - those who do not have a belief in a god – take their philosophies from Humanism or other schools of thought but we do not act out of the absence of our belief in a god; we act because of our concern and love of other human beings. The top two philanthropists in the world; Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both happen to be Atheists but that does not imply a link between Atheism and charity anymore than there is a link between religion and charity. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett act because they care about the fate of other people, and that is a human nature not a religious or secular one.
To finish I again want to extend an invitation to Narelle Jarrett to join Sydney Atheists at one of our meetings before again publishing such unreferenced rubbish. We meet several times each month and are always open to newcomers.
Originally posted by Tynan Bryant