How did you find out about online freethought communities, and what’s your favourite thing about them?
I flat can’t remember. I’ve been in various online communities since the 1980s (yes, my children, there were pre-Web online communities on dialup at 300 baud! :eek:), and Compuserve had a freethinkers forum even back then, IIRC. I also did some usenet and some Fidonet under different aliases back in the day.
My favorite thing about them is the people — bright, acerbic, and knowledgeable. Can’t beat that combination.
What board or fora are we most likely to find you in and what will you be talking about?
These days on RnR, mostly in Evolution, Baby! talking about evolution. I visit Richard Dawkins’ forum once in a while. I write an occasional piece for the Panda’s Thumb, but that’s not a real-time interactive forum.
If you had to spend your life marooned on a tropical island with three people that you’ve met online from this community, who would they be, and why?
Hmm. Depends of what “this” community is, I guess. Rathpig for one — he’s acerbic, opinionated, and different enough to be interesting but not so different as to be incomprehensible (usually). Per Ahlberg, who’d probably spend all his time chipping at rocks. I’d love to learn fossil prep from him. Octavia, on account of her expertise with whips, to fend off the bandersnatch. 😀
Which freethought or humanist thinkers have most inspired you?
Clark Adams, former President of Internet Infidels. Robert Ingersoll — he’s still well worth reading. Christopher Hitchens, for sheer balls and acidity and for stretching the boundaries of public criticism of religion. I want to read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” soon. I expect she’ll join my list.
What’s your least favourite religious verse, and why?
Mark 10:14: “Suffer the little children to come unto me …”. It’s the beginning of the brainwashing.
If you could get rid of one stupid anti-freethought argument, what would it be? Why do you hate this one above all the rest?
“You need God to be a moral person. Obeying God is the basis of all morals.” It implies that humans can’t be moral unless they’re under 24/7 surveillance by an omniscient psychopathic deity. That assumption, like Francis Collins does in “The Language of God,” completely ignores a large literature on the evolution of cooperation, mutualism, and altruism.
Invisible Pink Unicorn or Flying Spaghetti Monster?
I’m a traditionalist: IPU (blessed be her holy hooves).
So what is it you do with your life when you’re not hanging around here, anyway?
I allegedly run a small company that trades derivatives for a hedge fund and am on the township volunteer fire department/emergency squad. I have two big dogs who walk me at regular intervals.
What’s your favourite book, and why?
Hm. Whatever I’m currently reading? 🙂 Right now in non-fiction that’s Carroll’s “The Making of the Fittest” and Hitchens’ “The Portable Atheist.” For fiction I guess long-haul it’s “Lord of the Rings.” I’ve read it maybe 10 times over the decades. Long-haul in non-fiction it’s probably a tie between “Gods, Graves and Scholars,” which originally got me interested in archaeology more than 50 years ago (and incidentally sank Noah’s Ark for me when I was about 12), and “The Ancestor’s Tale,” which I’m also re-reading for the third time now.
What’s the most embarrassing song you sing and dance to when you’re absolutely sure no-one else is around?
Erm, I don’t dance any more, but in the shower I’ve been known to sing “Old Man River” from Showboat or “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess ’cause the bass notes reverberate so well. (I ignore the dogs’ howling — they have no taste in music. :D)
What’s the one thing you want to do with your life before shuffling off this mortal coil?
I’ve done a fair amount of what I have wanted to do over the years, but I’ve not yet flown in a sailplane. That I’d like to try. I’d also like to see the Taj Mahal some day. I’ve had poetry published, scientific research published in peer-reviewed professional journals, and had a glass sculpture in a curated show (the equivalent of peer review for artists), and I’d like to get a short story accepted for publication some day, too, to take care of that art. All I’ve got is a bunch of rejections so far. 😦 I’d like to go back to Andros Island in the Bahamas and dive there again. The wall dive on the Tongue of the Ocean — drifting along the reef 60 or 80 feet deep, floating above deep blue water shading into the blackness of a 6,000-foot drop-off — is magnificent.
What’s your poison? How much of it is needed to drive you under the table?
Before I decided I’d better preserve what few suffering neurons I have left, it was bourbon. And it took a lot — I had Navy training. 😀
Lucky #13: Who do you nominate to be interviewed for next month’s issue?
I’ll nominate Matt, founding Big Daddy of RnR, as the next victim.
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