FTBCon3 is Up and Running!

We’re stocked up on Mountain Dew and Funyuns (no seriously…I’m going old school this weekend), I’m in my official FTBCon uniform:

Me in a bathrobe and slippers, big grin and hands on my hips

…all of the tech seems to be in place and opening remarks with Stephanie Zvan and Debbie Goddard are a go!

Debbie Goddard speaking in a Google Hangout

Treating the Brain: Skeptics Talk Therapy and Therapists just started at 5:30pm CST. A full schedule is located on Lanyrd: http://lanyrd.com/2015/ftbcon-august/

You can find the link to the Google Hangout (and YouTube from there) by clicking on the link in each Lanyrd event page, here:

Shows an Lanyrd page for "Treating the Brain" panel and a red arrow pointing to the "official session page" located in the right sidebar.


Other important links:

We hope you can join us sometime this weekend!

FTBCon3 is Up and Running!

The Secular ProLife Argument is Poop

Some people are upset with Dave Silverman for Saying Some Things. And with Hemant Mehta for Letting Some Things Be Written. I am one of these people, and for many of the reasons that others have posted. If you want to consider more whether “just asking questions” is a good thing, Stephanie Zvan wrote about this. And Greta Christina has a very good piece on who said what and why none of that shit matters and can we please stop telling those who are under the knife here to be “calm and reasonable” about the real threat to our basic human rights and the ability to make our own health decisions without government interference.

And now I’m going to fly in the face those who say that this isn’t a debate that we need to be having, and that we have already established that there are no humanist pro-life arguments worthy of consideration. I’m going to tell you why the secular pro-life argument is without merit because I haven’t really looked at it before now, and I cannot get over how simple it is to refute.

Human poop refutes the primary premise of the secular pro-life argument.

I know that this will annoy those of you who are enjoying the 3000-word, flowery and academic, reasoned and serious writings on the matter, but really…it all comes crumbling down with just a little bit of poop.

According to the Secular ProLife website, their position rests on four points:

1. The fetus is a human being.
2. There is no consistent, objective distinction between “person” and “human being.”
3. Human beings possess human rights.
4. Bodily integrity is not sufficient to justify most abortions.

I’m striking number four from this discussion because it is a moot point if the first three are struck down. Also, there are entirely different (read: fallacious, spurious, misogynistic) arguments used by Secular ProLife on their website to try to justify this premise. Those are for a different blog.

And before I get started, EVERYBODY LISTEN UP: These aren’t new arguments. The religious anti-choice groups have been making these same “secular” arguments since before Roe v. Wade – and we have answered them! The claiming of these arguments by atheists doesn’t make them any more valid now than they have been previously.

But onto the specific wording in the premises put forth by Secular ProLife:

The first two points are an argument to ambiguity. By conflating the terms “human being” and “human in origin” this specious word garble almost sounds like it makes sense.

Number two happens to be something with which many of us could agree; one might use “person” and “human being” interchangeably in certain circumstances. But using “human being”, when what you mean is “human in origin”, is deceptive and so obviously self-serving that it makes me queasy.

If you replace “a human being” with “human in origin” in the premises, you no longer have a convincing argument.

1. The fetus is human in origin.
2. There is no consistent, objective distinction between “person” and “human in origin.”
3. Things that are human in origin possess human rights.

The first sentence is true. Absolutely. No argument here. They got one right.

Do you know what else is human in origin? Sneezes, tumors, poops, excised warts and that clump of hair that collects in the shower drain catch. These “human” things are not granted human rights or personhood.

And oh yes, I know the prolife rebuttal to this argument: Unlike sneezes, tumors, poops, excised warts and that clump of hair that collects in the shower drain catch, an embryo has the potential to become a person. Bahahahaha! Really? This argument has been laughed at since the “abortion wars” began. An embryo has the “potential” to become a person. So what? So do sperm. So do ova. Let’s ban masturbation and menstruation! Don’t talk to me about “potential” – it’s an untenable position that has already been pounded into the dirt.

And the second argument is now patently false, as PZ Myers explains in his recent post on the subject. And this is not an argument to my FtB overlord’s authority, but an argument made by a subject expert in the field of evolutionary and developmental biology. He describes the biologically distinct difference between an undifferentiated embryo and a mature, developed, self-sufficient person. I would even bet that there is a scientific consensus about this difference among EvoDevo scientists (*gasps* she invoked scientific consensus!)

To recap:

  • The first premise, that a fetus is human in origin, is true but meaningless. In other news, fire is hot and water is wet.
  • The second premise is false – there is a difference between a person and an undifferentiated clump of cells.
  • The third premise is false. Because poop.

Now, I’m not naïve about the human stubbornness that will keep anti-choice atheists from going “OMFSM – poop! You’re so right! Why have I been shaming people who get abortions and wasting my life on this anti-abortion cause!? Here Brianne, let me contribute to your Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser for Pro-Choice Resources!” (Ahhhhh – see what I did there?)

But, there it is. Once again. The secular prolife argument has no legs upon which to stand. None. Zero. Their academic posturing hinges on the idea that human embryos are people with inherent rights. They are not. On a related note, Avicenna points out the real danger in attempting to apply academic reasoning to the real-world situations of those who must make reproductive healthcare decisions.

There are no arguments against abortion – secular, religious or otherwise – that justify legislating the healthcare decisions of autonomous individuals, hindering individual access to abortion, or of the ability of professionals to safely provide abortion care.


More on this from around Freethought Blogs (pardon me, my fellow bloggers, if I missed any. When did we get so big???)

Ophelia Benson has several posts on Dave Silverman’s statements at CPAC and on social justice and abortion in a broader context between March 10th and today.

Jason Thibeault writes about why he supports the criticism of Dave Silverman’s off-the-cuff, misleading comments about secular prolifers at CPAC.

Dana Hunter shows off the colorfully summarized secular prolife arguments, as written by Giliell,  professional cynic, and calls out David Silverman for throwing reproductive rights under the bus.

Zinnia Jones writes about the idea of competing arguments, and why some ideas (in this case, abortion) are open to disagreement within the atheist community, while others are not.

Lilandra at Ace of Clades writes about the disagreement within the secular community after Silverman’s CPAC statements and why entertaining anti-choice arguments isn’t good for people with a uterus or for our secular community.

The Secular ProLife Argument is Poop

FtBConscience TONIGHT!

It’s here! Yay!

Oh crap – it’s here!

You’ve read about it! You’ve chatted excitedly on social media about it! And now the wait is over! Tonight is the start of


This is very exciting. I LOVE attending conferences. They’re little nuggets of energy-packed, inspiring, information-sharing. They’re like a triple shot of caffeine! A jump start to the engine of my skepticism! Okay, I may not have gotten much sleep last night. And speaking of caffeine: I’ve had a lot already this morning.

FtBConscience is FREE and ONLINE. It’s nice not having to pack an overnight bag, make hotel reservations or find couch space, take a long car ride or navigate an airport and get groped by theTSA, or budget for meals and gas and all of the little expenses that come with traveling. And FtBCon has an incredibly laid back dress code for attendees and presenters alike (PJs! PJs!)

Another really cool thing about being online: We have booked speakers from all over the world. We have booked ONE HUNDRED AND NINE panelists, according to Lanyrd! Many of our speakers are in North America, but we also have panelists from Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe. I’m not sure if we have any South American-based speakers… Hmmm… Next year we need to go for FULL world domination. We are, however, anticipating audience participants from all four corners of the globe (I love the contradictory nature of that statement. You know what I need right now? MOAR COFFEEEEEE!!!)

You can view the schedule of this weekend’s events on our Lanyrd site, the official FtBCon website, or on Google+. We have a Facebook page, and the Twitter hashtag is #FtBCon. To learn about HOW TO PARTICIPATE as an attendee, check out the front page of the FtBCon website.

I’ve listed the panels that I’m going to be on below. Hope to see you there!

Reproductive Rights

Satuday July 20th – 2pm CST – Official Google+ session page

A panel of reproductive rights activists come together to discuss access to abortion in current events, clinic escorting and some common religious and non-religious arguments against abortion. Our panel consists of clinic escorts – including one panelist who volunteered before FACE laws went into effect (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances), health care professionals, an author and several bloggers who write about reproductive rights. Our panelists hail from Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia and Ireland.

Atheist Music

Saturday July 20th – 9pm CST – Official Google+ session page

Join us to hear a few songs and have a casual chat with ukulelist and FtB blogger Ashley Miller, classically trained singers Ania Bula and JT Eberhard, and Australian singer-songwriter Shelley Segal. At conferences you can sometimes catch JT belting out musicals or warming up a mike with a bit of opera. Shelley Segal published An Atheist Album in 2011, and she has played at the Reason Rally, the American Atheist Convention, Women In Secularism and other events. Ashley graces YouTube with her ukulele stylings and Ania will wow you with her clear, heady soprano. Seanna Watson, director of CFI-Ottowa, and Steve Watson – a former church guitarist – will also be joining us. We’ll discuss issues relating to music and religion, the role music plays in our lives as secularists and some our favorite atheist songs and artists. Panel facilitated by Brianne Bilyeu.

Video Games, Religion and Morality

Saturday July 20th – 11pm CST – Official Google+ session page

Religion and morality systems in video games are often grossly oversimplified, to the point where choices are entirely binary and you’re often forced, as a gamer, to do things that you might otherwise find appalling, like working in service of a god or gods. How are these heady topics handled in the slowly-maturing video game industry? Who’s already doing this stuff right? How can these topics’ treatment be improved?

FtBConscience TONIGHT!

Bits and Pieces

First – whadaya think of the new theme? After spending a few days with it, I have to say that it’s growing on me. I think it looks more sleek and modern than the old primary blue and yellow that this replaced. If you haven’t had a chance to report bugs on other FtB blogs, put ’em in the comments and I’ll pass them up the chain.

Second – the radio show I work with, Atheists Talk, recently put up a new Facebook page and Twitter account. Pretty please consider liking us on FB and following us on Twitter because more numbers help make us look awesome to potential sponsors and guests. Oh yeah – and because you’ll get the occasional sweet update about show guests and photos from the studio and stuff like that 😀

Third – Someone wrote an article that I really disagree with on western attitudes about female genital mutilation. I really, really disagree with it. Really. A lot. Essentially it’s a cultural relativism argument, and all I’m hearing is “cutting up girl parts isn’t really so bad because they want to do it so quit being all judgmental ” But the early comments on the article give me hope for the human race (if you get over there quickly you might get to read them before the ZOMGWhatAboutMaleCircumcision!? derailing starts!) and Zinnia Jones has done an analysis of the article here that picks apart why the author’s arguments fall short.

FourthProlife advertisements on coat hangers. Oh hell no.

FifthAnti-abortion Christian reality TV show featuring women who regret their abortions. Repeat: Oh hell no.

Sixth – Kitty is back from dental surgery. Poor thing had to have three teeth extracted. It’s my own damn fault for not bringing her in more often, and I feel really shitty about it. I have to force feed her painkiller drops for the next three days, and what appears from her reaction to be nasty-tasting antibiotics for the next 10 days. She’s a little dizzy and confused right now, but she’s managed to eat some soft food and use the litter box, so there’s that.

Chasing the dragon – kitty in a buprenorphine daze.

Prada is 13 years old and I had somehow worked myself into a tizzy that she was going to die in surgery because surely she’s too old to survive general anesthesia!!! Thanks, asshole brain. Way to put that non-existent veterinary license to good use. At some point I caught myself thinking about how it sucks that I don’t believe in an afterlife, how I don’t have the comfort of thinking that she might die but-at-least-she’ll-be-in-a-better-place. Actually, that was a turning point in the emotional roller coaster that was my morning while I waited for the vet to call with an update on the surgery. The fact that there is only this one life, that there is no better place that she’ll go when she dies, that I won’t get to see her again in heaven, that there are no do-overs…those thoughts made me more determined that I would do what I could to get her home and healthy again. Even the life of a little cat seems more significant when I remember that this is the only one she gets, and the only one I get to share with her.

Bits and Pieces

Read ALL the FTB Blogs!

Some of you read Biodork because you’re my friends and family, and you read me uncaring of the fact that I’m on a larger, atheist blog network. This post is not for you. I’m writing this for those of you who want to read blogs that are about atheism or which are written from an atheist perspective. This is for those of you who read some, but not all, of the FTB writings.

You may have noticed that we recently had two new bloggers join Freethought Blogs: Non-Stamp Collector (oh my FSM – sweeeeet!) and Avicenna (love A Million Gods, been reading it for several months). I was scanning the comments on NSC’s intro post, and this one made me pause:

Another FTBer to add to the rss feed. Aaaarrrrgggggg.

To which I say: Do you mean to tell me that you’re not reading ALL the FTB blogs???

Okay, okay. I get it: There are currently over 30 blogs on FTB, we’re growing all the time, and many of us post at least one new entry every single day, if not more. That’s a lot of new material to read.

Or is it?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t read everything that is published here. But what I do manage to do is scan through every new article on Google Reader using the FTB RSS Feed. Right now this is one screen-width of FTB feed for me (click to enlarge):

Represented above are articles by Duncan Deacon (Althenian Worldview), Kylie Sturgess (Token Skeptic), Avicenna (A Million Gods), Jason Thibeault (Lousy Canuck), Ophelia Benson (Butterflies and Wheels), PZ Myers (Pharyngula), Stephanie Zvan (Almost Diamonds), Mano Singham (Mano Singham), Cuttlefish (The Digital Cuttlefish) and Ian Cromwell (The Crommunist Manifesto)

That’s a lot of variety in both author and subject matter, and they’re all under the same feed! I can quickly scan through the articles in Google Reader and choose to stop or not. Sometimes there’s fluff piece or an administrative update that I don’t want to read. Sometimes there will be an in-depth analysis of some minutia of something I don’t care about. Sometimes I’ll not want to get involved in a post topic. *click* Aaaaaand it’s gone. Easy-peasy.

“But Brianne,” someone says, “some of those people make me really angry or bore me nigh unto death and I don’t wanna read them!”

Click right past ’em. Just keep going. Seriously, you can see a name that you don’t like to see and just fly on by. Because seeing and skipping a post in order to potentially find something else that’s new and exciting is very much worth it. There are such different focuses and interests among the bloggers here at FTB, something that I mentioned in my “I’m moving over to FTB” post back in February:

… we’re all atheists of one stripe or another, and we tend to blog either a little or a lot about atheism, infringements of church and state, humanism, and other related topics. Some of the blogs on the network are devoted primarily to exploring religion or atheism, some have a focus on politics or civil liberties, or diversity, or are more personal (like mine). They are all unique and owned by their authors.

I thought that back when I joined. Nine months after I started, I know it.

I love the diversity of ideas here at FTBs, and not only between bloggers but in the ideas of a single blogger (interblogger vs. intrablogger, if you will). On a fairly frequent basis, a blogger who has a style that I think I know will post something completely unexpected, either because they’ve created something completely different (this is one of the great beauties of blogs; they can change and fluctuate with their authors’ moods, beliefs, and new experiences), or because I’m getting to see or know a new side of a blogger because I’ve been following their work.

As an example of a blogger throwing me for a loop, I offer up yesterday’s post by Crommunist. Here’s an excerpt that made me laugh out loud at work, to many puzzled looks:

Adam: Snake! Right. It was a snake. And it talked. To her (pointing at Eve). And she ate the fruit from the tree. And then she made me do it.

Eve: Okay that’s totally not what happened. Adam came to me with this fruit that had a bite of out it and…

Adam: (Interrupting again) Shut it, rib! (To YAHWEH, laughing, gesturing with his thumb) Look at her, thinking that she can talk. (To Eve) Ribs can’t talk, stupid.

Eve: Oh, but snakes can? (Adam glares at her, she rolls her eyes)

So, my humble suggestion, dear readers: If you like to read blogs by atheists or about atheism, freethought, or lives lived without the influence of belief in the supernatural – follow the full FTB RSS feed. Scanning the new content takes seconds, and you never know when you’re going to find something that really connects.

Read ALL the FTB Blogs!

Welcome Zinnia Jones and Ashley Miller!

I am very excited to announce that I’m not the baby any more! Freethought Blogs has added two new bloggers to our cadre of heathen writers! Please welcome Zinnia Jones and Ashley F. Miller to our ranks.

Here’s Zinnia’s write-up:

Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer and videoblogger focusing on the impact of religious belief, political follies and LGBTQ rights. Since 2008, her videos have been viewed over 7 million times and her articles have been featured in the Huffington Post, The New Civil Rights Movement, and The Fight magazine in LA. Originally from Chicago, she’s currently living in Florida with her partner Heather and their two children. She is still insufferably Midwestern. Her pleasures include picking apart everyone’s arguments, rationality, feminism, philosophy, transhumanism and pet rats. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ZJemptv, and her YouTube channel is at www.zinniajones.com.

And here’s some information about Ashley:

Ashley is a passionate writer and general smartass who focuses too much of her attention on atheism, feminism, gay rights, mass media, culture, the oxford comma, and the ukulele. Her speaking engagements have included spots at The Amazing Meeting, Dragon*Con, and The Unite Against the War on Women Rally. She is working on a PhD in Mass Communications from the University of South Carolina, graduated cum laude from Emory with a BA in Film Studies, and has an MFA from FSU’s Film Conservatory, where she focused on writing and editing. In other lives, she has been an accountant, a banker, a reality television editor, and pretty much everything on a film set you can imagine. She has lived in Pawleys Island, SC; Greenville, SC; Columbia, SC; Atlanta, GA; Tallahassee, FL; and Los Angeles, CA.

Don’t they sound wonderful? If you’re so inclined you can visit Zinnia’s blog and Ashley’s blog and leave ’em some welcoming comments!


Welcome Zinnia Jones and Ashley Miller!

Hank Fox Departs FtBs To Be Home Home On The Range

When I joined Freethought Blogs, I was contacted by one of the other bloggers, Hank Fox. He sent me a very nice email welcoming me to FtBs, and he sent me a copy of his book, Red Neck Blue Collar Atheist. He even signed it! Isn’t that awesome?

The wise man with his Good Book at the manger.

Last weekend I was pretty stoked because Hank and I were both going to be at the Reason Rally, so we made plans to meet in person.

I don’t want what I’m going to say next to sound jerkish, but I need to give you a little background.

Continue reading “Hank Fox Departs FtBs To Be Home Home On The Range”

Hank Fox Departs FtBs To Be Home Home On The Range

Final Post on Biodork

But not really. It IS my final post on WordPress.com, though – because I’m MOVING!

And I’m not even begging you to help me move boxes! Just to update your links and RSS feeds.

Guys. GUYS! This is really exciting.

I’ve been invited to move this blog over to the FreeThought Blogs network. For those of you who don’t know what that means, let me just say that THIS. IS.

That’s right. This is handmade-silly-sign-photographed-in-my-pajamas HUGE.

I’m SO excited. But first, a little information: A blog network is a group of individual blogs gathered under one umbrella. This type of setup is nice because fans of one blog get exposed to other similar blogs, and the blogs get more exposure from new readers. In this case, the similarity is that all of the bloggers are “Freethinkers” – we’re all atheists of one stripe or another, and we tend to blog either a little or a lot about atheism, infringements of church and state, humanism, and other related topics. Some of the blogs on the network are devoted primarily to exploring religion or atheism, some have a focus on politics or civil liberties, or diversity, or are more personal (like mine). They are all unique and owned by their authors.

One reason why this is exciting for me is because some of my favorite, most inspiring atheist bloggers are already in this network: Blag Hag, Pharyngula, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, Greg Laden’s X-Blog, Almost Diamonds, The Lousy Canuck, Greta Christina’s Blog, JT Eberhard, Digital Cuttlefish, Camels With Hammers, En Tequila Es Verdad. I’m not going to hyperlink all of these, but you can find them on the FreeThought Blogs front page (ooo…see how handy that network thing just was?).

But Biodork is not changing.

I don’t have to change one damn thing about the way I post, or what I post, or how often I post. The shell will look a little different, but the content will be staying mostly the same. The only thing that is changing are the pop-up ads. I know, I know! Ads are annoying, but they’re how FTB pays the bills. And hey, if you feel like clicking on an ad now and then, you’ll be supporting me and I’ll be grateful.

I’ve had some incredible commenters and discussions, tons of fun visitor interaction with the First World Problems Contest and the Close Up Photo Contest (CUP Update: Carly just got back to me with a blog topic, and I’m in the middle of putting together the winners’ photo books), and I’ve had a place opine, expound and to record and share some really neat life experiences. And that’s all going to continue over at Biodork v2.0. I’m in the process of transferring my archives, and my pages are already there.

Thanks for reading, and I do hope you’ll follow me next door to my new house:


If you have questions, concerns or comments about the move, let me know in the comments or send a private email to me at bio_dork(at)hotmail(dot)com, or contact me on Twitter (@abiodork), or let me know via any of the other gazillion ways we might be connected!

Final Post on Biodork