Trigger Warnings: Public Service or Fallacious Fad?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
January 06, 2013

Proponents and critics of "trigger warnings" (warnings placed before discussions and descriptions of potentially traumatic events in articles and blogs) have argued that the warnings are either important, useless, a cynical attempt to get readers, infantilizing, considerate, ridiculous, and everything in between. There seems to be little real research into the validity and utility of trigger warnings; for those who wish to take an analytical look at the topic, here's a place to start. 

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New Religion: Not Liking Flu Shots

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 04, 2013

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.  

Buzzfeed rounds up some firsts for the 113th Congress (first Buddhist senator, first openly gay senator, etc.), but it's US News that focuses in Kyrsten Sinema as the first "none," as in "no religion."

The image to the right is from the Hindu American Foundation, which is pretty excited about the first Hindu congressperson, Tulsi Gabbard, here being sworn in by John Boehner on a Bhagavad Gita -- which I'm sure threw him for a loop. 

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The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 03, 2013

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.  

Look out! Today's date is 1/3/13!!! That's, like, two thirteens right in a row if you ignore the slashes! And you don't add a zero before the single-digit numbers! And you don't write out "2013" in its entirety! 

Speaking of which, the Washington Times, the paper founded by a guy who thought he was the messiah, reports on the fear of the number 13.  

Michael De Dora reports on the UN's resolution calling for the end of female genital mutilation, "an irreparable, irreversible abuse of human rights of women and girls." 

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Questioning a Local Landmark

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
January 02, 2013

In my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of the top tourist attractions is the Sandia Peak Tramway, "the world's longest." But is it? 

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UN Approves Landmark Measure Calling for Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
January 02, 2013

In a move welcomed by the Center for Inquiry (CFI), the United Nations General Assembly has adopted by consensus its first-ever text caling for a global end to female genital mutilation. 

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Top Ten Uses for Assault Weapons

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 02, 2013

In light of continued mass shootings using assault weapons, and the argument of some (including many espousing “humanist values”) that such weapons have no purpose other than mass killings, I have provided this helpful top-ten list of uses:

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Ricocheting Between Hysteria and Delusion

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 02, 2013

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.  

Welcome to 2013! Let's all try not to screw it up. 

Slate comes down hard on Dr. Oz for peddling medical malarkey to a credulous public:

We can . . . arm ourselves with the knowledge that not all evidence is created equally, and celebrities—even famous doctors—are not credible sources of health information.

Best-selling sci-fi author Scott Sigler talks to Indre Viskontas on the latest Point of Inquiry, the best podcast in the history of the universe. 

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New Year’s Resolutions - For Humanity

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
January 01, 2013

The hopeful and helpful resolutions needed for our world are still here, always ready when needed.

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A Jaunt around the Sun

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 31, 2012

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.  

I hope you enjoyed this last jaunt around the Sun. The neat thing is that there's really no "start" to Earth's orbit, so any day can be New Year's Day. If you like, you can at any moment say, "This is the beginning of my new year." You don't have to go by the Gregorian calendar. 

Of course, if you don't, you'll be late for all kinds of stuff and miss appointments. But it's your new year!


1) NYT publishes a feature piece on how humanists are "absent" from times of great grief and crisis such as the Newtown atrocity. Read that.

2) Our own Tom Flynn responds in a blog post/letter to the editor, challenging assertions by the author and those quoted in the piece. Read that.

3) People comment on Tom's post, Tom comments back, etc. Read those, too. Good stuff! 

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Responding to a Slam in the New York Times

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
December 29, 2012

It's Saturday, and each Saturday brings a new religion feature story in the New York Times. This week's installment is by Samuel G. Freedman, with the lurid headline "In a Crisis, Humanists Seem Absent." It concerns a phenomenon widely noted within the nontheist community, as well -- the fact that despite the great increase in atheism's social prominence, freethinkers were largely unheard from in the social response to the Newtown massacre. In fairness, Freedman's analysis was more even-handed than his essay's headline would suggest. He recognized that unbelievers were as much shut out of "interfaith" outpourings as they failed to step up. But does it make sense to say that there's any sense in which the nonreligious actually "failed to step up"? Greg Epstein thinks so. He is Harvard's humanist chaplain and, for all intents and purposes, the current "pope" of the religious-humanist camp. He told Freedman, "we need to provide an alternative form of community if we're going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers." But I'm not convinced. Truly secular people, precisely insofar as they are secular, have outgrown the need to seek emotional support primarily from a group that has been twice segregated to resemble them: segregated once by adjacent residence, and segregated again by worldview. That's what a traditional church congregation is, after all: a community of people who live in the same area and see the world in about the same way. Secular humanists tend not to seek that parochial sort of support. That's a distinctive characteristic of their approach to life, not a shortcoming. Colloquially, it's a feature, not a bug. I wrote a letter to the New York Times making this point. Since I'm more likely to be struck by lightning twice while marrying a terrorist than to see my letter published, I reproduce it below.

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