Saturday, February 6, 2010

Greta Christina on Atheism & Sexuality (with video)

Greta Christina's talk at Purdue last night was awesome! We had about 80 people in attendance, which I consider a great success, especially because 1) it was snowing pretty good and 2) that's more than IU had even with good weather (neener neener, insert silly disparaging remarks about our rival here). Thankfully you don't have to take my word for it, because we have it on video*.

My favorite bits:

- Her Broccoli Analogy against emotivism
- Sex connecting us to our tetrapod cousins
- Her closing remarks about porn and other media

Yeah, now you have to watch it, don't you? It's long but worth it. (podcast?)

I actually think one of the best parts was the Q&A at the end, because it really showcased Greta's talents. She's prepared to answer pretty much any question about atheism, and she can do so in a concise, punchy, memorable matter. This was especially important for the couple "questions" that were really people (probably philosophy students) pontificating for 20 minutes about some theological concept against atheism that didn't relate to the topic at all. While my response probably would have been a short "Irrelevant, moving on," Greta replied intelligently just as quickly.

The drive home was probably the most interesting part of the night for me. The weather was pretty crummy, so a two hour drive to Chicago took three, and I think I counted 5 cars in ditches along I-65. Hooray for snow! But talking with Greta for three hours was a special pleasure - I should have been taping that, since it was effectively the Extended Edition of her lecture (featuring Jen McCreight). We discussed everything from our annoyance of feminists who reject science, to why she totally needs to get a Twitter account, to why the hell there are so many billboards for adult stores and strip clubs in conservative Indiana (backlash? truckers? Illinois laws? Anyone have a better hypothesis?)

I've heard nothing but happy reviews from other Purdue students - thank you so much for coming, Greta!
Secretary, Treasurer, Greta, and President. Who says there aren't any female atheists?!

*Yes, I know the audio has some annoying background hum. If anyone out there is savvy with audio editing, let me know and I can send you the mp3 file.


  1. Sounds awesome. Glad you made it through the snow.


  2. Purdue has the infrastructure in place to record in alot of the classrooms. I'm not sure they do it for special events but I'd assume they do.

  3. Send the audio file my way! ( I can try running it through a few matlab filters.

    Also, CASH board from MN says hi!

  4. I'd think with a campus the size of Purdue there'd be equipment from either the AV dept or something related to the media degrees that you could rent as a student organization including high quality cameras and a lapel mic or something, maybe a second mic to use with the Q&A too... If not check the local libraries, I know FFW has checked out camera's from the Allen County Public Libraries main branch in Ft. Wayne.

  5. Sigh. This is not working at all. I went to the Vimeo site but I don't see any way to download it. At least on GooToob I can download the video and watch it offline. With this I can't even listen to the soundtrack.

  6. Awesome video. I've never heard any of her talks before (or read her blog very often), but I'm very impressed. I could nitpick about her saying that we are connected to 'every living thing' through sex since a huge number of species are asexual but I'll let it slide this time.

    While my response probably would have been a short "Irrelevant, moving on," Greta replied intelligently just as quickly.

    Tsk tsk, Jen. I'm telling you, you are going to have to learn some counter-apologetics at some point. Yes, I know, it sucks and it can be boring but it is a very important weapon to have in your utility belt. At some point a Creationist is going to try to claim victory over you just because you don't have an answer ready at hand to club him over the head with.

  7. add comment moderation to your blasphemy blog, you little idiot...

  8. I just realized that you're in Indiana. I managed to escape last spring (finally) and now live in St. Louis. It's skeptically delicious here. :)

    My brother attends Purdue - Taylor Engle, majoring in psychiatry. Heard of him? We're very similar and exact opposites at the same time.

  9. I'm seriously impressed with Greta and her presentation, she has restored my faith in American common sense. I have to say that I learned a lot about myself today, and as a constantly eveolving person I am open to new lines of thought, and Greta has given me a lot to think about.

    Despite being a lifelong atheist, my family wasn't at all religious, I still had deeply indoctrinated ideas of life about sexualiy that I now see as wrong, indeed, having opened my mind I am learning about a whole new world between the male and female gender steriotype.

    If you thought that there was just male and female in the world I think you are in need of some education, there is a sliding scale of sexual identity from M to F. I have come to recognise the need to accept that there is the possibility of a third gender, and there are some great people in the world who are striving for this to be recognised.

    Sass Rogando Sasot is a name to remember.

  10. Great lecture! I wish I could be there. I also like the Broccoli Analogy!

    There is nothing inherently wrong about mixing Greek and Latin word elements (not "roots"). The Romans themselves did it (e.g. monoculus), as did the Greeks (e.g. Claudiopolis).

    Non-monogamy, by the way, is a mixture of Latin (non) and Greek (monogamy)!

  11. This talk was well worth listening to; thanks for posting it.

  12. @ DM, I tried reading through some of that little cry session you linked to in search of an actual argument or point but it was remarkably devoid of coherence or anything resembling an actual thought...

    I gather that in your opinion choosing free speech over censorship makes one an idiot? That's rather sad... You need to understand that you'd have to posses ideas or arguments that we'd find threatening in order for your censorship to be desirable. There's no point in censoring someone who isn't even coherent. Image very related, and amusing.....

  13. You lucky Indiana folks! I knew Greta was a wonderful person, but I've never before seen her public speaking skills showcased. I wish I could have been there, but I'm definitely going to watch this video all the way through.

  14. Video downloading: I was able to snag it with Fast Video Download, a free plug-in for Firefox.

    Five areas of morality (54:30 in the video, in response to the first question): This sounds like Jonathan Haidt's "five pillars of morality". I'm wondering if Greta Christina was basing what she said on Haidt's work, or if others have obtained similar findings -- because Haidt's theory seemed rather dubious to me.

    Photo: y'all're ridiculously cute and adorable.

    Pete Knight: I have gender dysphoria and consider myself "genderqueer", but I was not offended by Greta's oversimplification of the sexual spectrum. The well-documented existence of multiple, continuous dimensions of gender did not seem relevant to the points she was making, and would have clouded an otherwise clear explanation.

  15. Anybody has a link to the cartoon she speaks of in the end?