The drive from Cleveland to Columbus was punctuated frequently by heavy rains, which made the trip something less than enjoyable, though the 120 miles passed without incident.  Approaching the Wexner Center, there was a considerable queue of people in front of the building, waiting for the doors to open (it was over an hour to show time).  I secured my car in a nearby garage and joined the line, and we chatted a bit before 6 PM arrived and we were admitted to the auditorium.  I quickly learned that my sojourn was one of the shorter ones among the attendees.  A mustachioed gentleman who had stood behind me had seen this same program in Chicago.  Two young men who sat to my left had come from Iowa, and the woman and her party to my right had flown in from Dallas!  There could be no doubt that the magnetic pull of the two men who were the foci of the evening had a very long reach indeed.

Finally it was 7 o’clock and the leader of the local Students Secular Alliance stepped to the podium to introduce The Unbelievers.  For those of us who have gotten to know Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss through YouTube and other presentations, this film is really nothing new, though there were moments which interested and sometimes fascinated me.  Krauss walking to a lecture he was to give to a mostly Muslim group and seeing a clutch of them on the lawn, bending toward Mecca in prayer (“Hmm, that may be my audience!”), Dawkins’ astonished reaction to Cardinal Pell’s assertion that Homo sapiens likely descended from Neanderthals on the television program, Q&A, Krauss’ effusive statement to a radio interviewer that “No one should be intimidated by science!”, a quiet scene in a hotel room where Dawkins is participating in a phone interview, mostly silent, then punctuated by statements like: “That’s the most horrible idea I’ve ever heard!”, these were snippets, fragments of the quest taken on by two very brave and ambitious men.

The high point of the film for me was less the Reason Rally, which still stood a close second, than it was the Global Atheist Convention, a “Celebration of Reason” held in Melbourne, Australia, two years ago this month.  The hall was enormous, as were the crowds attending, and the featured guests no less so, from Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Ayaan Hirsi Ali to our friends, Lawrence and Richard.  To hear each of them speak, put their ideas in the atmosphere and to feel those in attendance respond, both on the screen and in the hall, there could be no doubt but that We HAVE Something here, something essential, powerful, and important.  It’s not very often that this old curmudgeon can say he was moved by something, but in that place and at that time, I was.

Credits roll, Cameron Diaz, Woody Allen, Bill Pullman and Tim Minchen among others give their own take on what atheism means to them, the lights in the theater come up and There They Are



Immediate, instantaneous standing ovation, accompanied by applause and cheers which should have shook the building.  This is the real treat, to see these men we so admire, to talk to them and listen to their answers in a spontaneous environment.  A teenage girl from southeast Ohio asks about how to deal with her largely theistic companions.  “Start conversations,” offers Krauss.  A high school biology teacher faces students who want to talk about Answers in Genesis rather than evolution.  “Cut them off,” Dawkins asserts, “They’re wasting your time and that of the rest of the class,” with an addenda from Lawrence that we need to teach science more as a PROCESS than just FACTS.  A young woman asks how to deal with depression in the face of the insignificance we represent by comparison with the whole of creation.  Krauss initially demurs at the question (“I don’t wanna sound like Dr. Phil!”), but suggests that embracing our own lives and creating our own purpose can be a counteragent to that depression, though clinical depression wants the attention of a specialist.



The last question was good, the last answer even better.  A gentleman talked about the future, the possibility of a coming “singularity,” Artificial Intelligence and machines that may be come conscious and evolve past man, and asked Dr. Dawkins for his impressions.  Richard acknowledged the possibility of such a development, though he doubts the likelihood of the “singularity” and noted that with current technology, duplicating the human brain, which requires a mere 10 watts to operate, would entail a system which would consume 10 terawatts!  Still, one day it might happen, Richard mused, and it may be that humankind would be overrun.  And then, perhaps a few thousands of years from now, some cyber-creatures in exploring their history would stumble onto records of a race of odd, “wet” beings who came before them, who supposedly designed and built the precursors which gave rise to them, to which they respond with disgust and dismay:

I didn’t come from THAT!!!

Views: 174

Tags: Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins, The Unbelievers

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Comment by Loren Miller on April 8, 2014 at 1:59pm

Joan, it's pretty obvious that trying to sum up my post in 140 characters is a fool's errand, and the last thing I would want to do is expose someone without their permission.  As you'll recall, that self-same thing happened to me not that long ago, and while I am openly an atheist, I was none too happy about being outed without so much as a by-your-leave.

That said, if you wish to post links to my pieces on Twitter or other media, I have no problem with that, as you well know.  As for the other participants, I will not presume speak for them.

Comment by Future on April 8, 2014 at 1:45pm
That's about where I tend to end up as well, but it just leads to "see, you admit that there was something there all along - so where did that something come from?" I then just emphasize how in a space where mass was absent, mass spontaneously appeared, and we are now capable of reproducing and measuring some form of this phenomena in a laboratory setting. It's not absolute proof of the beginning of existence, but it does disprove the concept that something cannot come from nothing.

The funny part is how extreme the believers will go to make a claim for divine intervention. The omnipotent creator guy could just snap his fingers to make shit happen, but when confronted with these scientific results the creator's process becomes that he must have just created the "energy and properties" that allowed for us to appear hundreds of billions of years later. Oh, and it cares about the status of your foreskin!
Comment by Joan Denoo on April 8, 2014 at 1:43pm

Loren, you wrote,

"The best audience for The Unbelievers are those who are on the fence, uncertain but curious ... and I wish we could get it to more of them."

I agree, wholeheartedly. That is why I ask for permission to post comments from AN to Twitter and Facebook. People sitting on the fence and Non-members need to read what is written on these pages. I don't like the process I was using and am trying to come up with a better way to get those posts to the public without exposing those who do not want to be known. It is very important that I am not the one exposing anyone. 

So!!! If anyone has any ideas about how I can post to Twitter. The problem with Twitter, of course, is the terribly few words one can use. As you all remind me, I write chapters in my comments and I can't post to Twitter unless I do it from a published comment. This exposes AN members.  

Facebook is OK. I can post a long piece there. 

The easiest way is to link AN to buttons:  "Share," Twitter", "g+1" and "fLike", at the end of the comment. The problem is, everyone on the string is revealed. 

Richard Haynes

Comment by Loren Miller on April 8, 2014 at 1:36pm

Joan, seeing them on the screen was one thing.  HEARING them live and in person, watching them listen to questions, then give thoughtful, articulate answers, and then later being able to shake their hands ... frankly, the movie paled by comparison and especially to that last.  Just that simple human gesture told me that these were DECENT men, that they were engaged, that they gave a damn, and that attitude was an intrinsic part of who they are.

Yesterday was the real deal for me ... and all I want is MORE.

Comment by Joan Denoo on April 8, 2014 at 1:31pm

I suspected that those of us who value the opinions of Dawkins and Krauss have heard it all before. Watching them on a big screen would be a treat for me, compared to my 7" x 11" computer screen. The real thrill would come standing beside one or both of them and getting a photo.

Of course, teach science more as a PROCESS than just FACTS! That is what we are all about. What is the process one uses to come to decisions and sort fact from fantasy? 

Of course,   "We HAVE Something here, something essential, powerful, and important." That is why we are so clear, uncompromising, competent, confident, and perseverant! 

As promised, your photo is going up on my wall!

Thanks. You are a great representative for all of us who think and reason and sit quietly with our thoughts, eschewing dogma and domination. 

Comment by Loren Miller on April 8, 2014 at 1:21pm

The way I see it is this: what we think of as "empty space" is superficially empty, but it has both energy and properties, as Krauss says.  It actually WEIGHS something and this is a substantial, confirm-able fact!  Just HOW they do that I think went well beyond the scope of the meeting, but that discovery, in and of itself, is to me one of the most fascinating things I have ever heard.

There wasn't that much talk about "debate points" during the Q&A, though I mentioned to Krauss when I met him how much I enjoyed his preemptive take down of WLC during one of their debates in Australia.  THAT was CLASSIC.

Comment by Future on April 8, 2014 at 1:13pm
I assume that there was some discussion on the science of 'something from nothing'. Krauss's book on the matter is excellent. Unfortunately, when it comes to intelligently summarizing it's contents to those believers who cannot get past this stumbling block, I find myself not being an effective communicator. Did he happen to give any pointers on succinct talking points to use in that sort of debate?
Comment by Loren Miller on April 8, 2014 at 10:22am

The way I understand it, Dawkins, Krauss and Black Chalk Films are keeping close control of their baby and have so far been successful.  Apparently, William Lane Craig somehow came into possession of an audio copy of the film and has since wound up with his slacks around his ankles for ill-informed comments he has made on it.  As the showing last night was the last in this series (or at least I thought I heard as much while there), my guess is that distribution via DVD and other media may be in the offing.

And no, there really is very little new to the film itself, and we really aren't its intended audience.  The best audience for The Unbelievers are those who are on the fence, uncertain but curious ... and I wish we could get it to more of them.

Comment by Michael Penn on April 8, 2014 at 10:13am

Thanks, Loren, for this posting. I doubt that any of us will learn anything new, but I really do want to see "The Unbelievers." Right now I'm looking for that film everywhere and am not finding it. (Is there an atheist hacker group?)

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