Civility, Tone, and Emotions in Debates

by David R. Koepsell
October 28, 2014

There is no overarching moral necessity to be nice or kind in debating issues, or in pursuing an intellectual agenda. However, the use of derogatory, violent, undermining language threatens to alienate your audience and divide potential supporters. There is an argument to made in favor of forceful but civil expression of ideas based upon strategy, as well as on well established norms of civlity and manners. Finally, respect for the emotions of others suggests that we attempt not to hurt others unnecessarily, even while promoting our ideas freely.

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Put Them in an Alpha or Theta Wave State

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 28, 2014

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

The Course of Reason blog has a really good post on Brittany Maynard and the religious response to her decision to end her life:

Religion has a funny way of deluding people into thinking that suffering a prolonged and painful death is worthwhile to potentially see Heaven. It is hard for secularists to wrap their mind around this concept because we do not have a paradise at the end of our lives. We just have a wooden box buried under six feet of dirt.

Relatedly, CFI-DC's Simon Davis interviews Dr. Atul Gawande for VICE about tough end-of-life questions.

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“Are We Alone?” Speaking at the Trottier Symposium

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
October 27, 2014

In early October I spent a few days in enchanting Montreal, on two of which (the 6th and 7th) I participated in the annual event, The Loren Trottier Public Science Symposium at McGill University. (Dr. Trottier—an engineer, co-founder of the famous graphics and imaging group Matrox, and recipient of many prestigious honors and awards—makes this event possible by his vision and generosity.) The Symposium moderator was McGill’s indefatigable Joe Schwarcz, Director of the Office of Science & Society and a well-known author, skeptic, and CSI Fellow. This year’s theme was “Are We Alone? (The symposium was recorded and posted online.)

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The Spiritual Equivalent of an Ethno-botanist

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 27, 2014

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

Some folks in politics and the media want to scare the crap out of you about Ebola. Others want you to calm down and know there's nothing to worry about. Then you read this interview by James Hamblin with Dr. Steven Hatfill in The Atlantic, and you start to think everyone is full of crap. Or I do, anyway. If Hatfill's name is familiar, it's because he's the guy the Bush administration fingered as the Anthrax guy back in 2001, and he totally wasn't.

Douglas Adams, a sentient puddle of water, and Ken Ham. Stephan Law puts them all together, and, well, it fits!  

Michael Specter at The New Yorker checks your FODMAPS and does a deep dive into the War on Gluten...

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‘But it Fits!’ (What’s wrong with Young Earth Creationism - post 1 of 3)

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
October 25, 2014

Why the way things 'fit' together can sometimes be misleading. We start with the strange tale of a puddle sitting in its hole....This is the first of three related posts on Young Earth Creationism.

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Five Percent Haunted

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 24, 2014

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

Yesterday, we officially announced our 2015 international conference, Reason for Change, happening in June at the CFI mothership in Buffalo. It's kind of a big deal.

Raif Badawi, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for his dissent, is awarded the PEN Canada One Humanity Award, and he asks Alishba Zarmeen to accept it on his behalf

A doctor in NYC is found to have Ebola, and now everyone really is completely freaking out. NYTimes is doing full-on interactive maps tracking where the guy went in the city and everything. 

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“Ghosts of the Queen Mary”: A Nickell-iferous Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
October 23, 2014

Published September 16, 2014—in time for pre-Halloween promotion—is the book Ghosts of the Queen Mary, by Brian Clune with Bob Davis, hosts of a radio show called Planet Paranormal Presents, and with an introduction by Christopher Fleming, former co-host of a TV show called Dead Famous which involved the late “psychic” Peter James. James, we are told, incessantly roamed the historic RMS Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach, California, and was “responsible for discovering the many ghosts that inhabit the ship” (p. 139)—“at least six hundred spirits” by James’ count (66). That’s a lot of ghosts, but before one contacts the Guinness World Records folk, we should point out that the book provides no scientific evidence of existing spirits of the dead. Science, in fact, has never authenticated a single ghost.

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Devoid of Any Aesthetic or Artistic Value

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 23, 2014

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

We've got a really great new Point of Inquiry this week, folks. Lindsay Beyerstein talks to Katha Pollitt about her new book Pro: Reclaiming Reproductive Rights, and how pro-choice folks feel compelled to hedge their support of abortion rights, thereby ceding ground to the anti-choice crowd. 

The conviction of Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (now free on amnesty) is upheld by Russia's constitutional court, finding violation of the ironically named "Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," saying, "If some actions are demonstratively insulting in nature and are devoid of any aesthetic or artistic value, they go beyond the limits of the lawful use of freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution." 

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A Raging Freak on the Internet

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 22, 2014

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

Jailed Saudi dissident Raif Badawi is the recipient of the PEN Canada One Humanity Award. CFI is referenced in the announcement. 

Yesterday we sent letters to the governors of Illinois and Wisconsin, asking them to work with us to allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in their states, now that the federal court's ruling for our Indiana case is final. Illinois and Wisconsin fall under the same circuit court jurisdiction as Indiana. 

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Space Lawyers!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 21, 2014

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

CFI chief Ron Lindsay's new book, The Necessity of Secularism, is available for pre-order, and comes out December 1, which is my birthday! Coincidence?!?!? Probably!   

Kate Greene was part of a NASA experiment of mock Mars missions, and comes away with a pretty solid case based on a wide array of practical factors for women, as opposed to men, being first on Mars.

Saskia Vermeylen, meanwhile, explores issues of jurisdiction, sovereignty, and property rights of hypothetical Moon missions and colonies.

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