“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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Tim Farley Ignites Skepticism at Dragon*Con

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
October 20, 2014

Tim Farley has an idea for a new format for skeptical outreach in bite-sized bits.

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Weekend at Bernie’s 3: God’s Not Dead 2

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 20, 2014

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

The HHS is taking public comments on all the bending-over-backward they keep doing for "religious" businesses and nonprofits, and we'd like you to chime in. Here's how.

CFI legal director Nick Little examines the implications for humanism and free expression in the horrific threats against Anita Sarkeesian. And absolutely no one had any opinions about it.

Speaking of opinions, the CFI Institute has a course coming up on How to Make Arguments (Not Just Argue).  

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Utah, Guns, and Free Speech

by Nicholas Little
October 17, 2014

Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist writer most known for her analysis of sexism in video games, was meant to give a lecture on Wednesday, October 15th, at Utah State University. I say “meant to” because Sarkeesian cancelled her lecture, fearing for her safety. 

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That is Hogwash

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 17, 2014

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

Check out the major papers' homepages today, and it's an Ebolapalooza. The end, it seems, is nigh. How much should you worry? Well, don't go by me, because I worry about everything. Suffice it to say, it looks like the president is considering appointing an "Ebola Czar," so cue the conspiracy theorists there. USA Today's Liz Szabo asks for less panic and more compassion. And in a major example of "not helping," Terrence McCoy at WaPo reports on how a Liberian news outlet, the Daily Observer, is reveling in the manufacture of click-generating Ebola fictions and conspiracies. 

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A Vast and Unexpected Stimulus

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 16, 2014

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

Emily Wax-Thibodeaux at the Washington Post reports on the use of alternative remedies for veterans at VA hospitals:

Among the options: Equine therapy. Alpha stimulation. Qigong. Guided imagery. Life coaching. Yoga and Pilates. Hypnosis. Aqua therapy. Botox. 

In honor of the 100th birthday of the late Martin Gardner, Skeptical Inquirer is republishing some of his classic articles at the CSI website. 

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An Ever-Shrinking Intellectual Ghetto

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 15, 2014

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

A very cool new Point of Inquiry is out, with astrobiologist Steven J. Dick discussing the impact on our civilization if we discover hard proof of extraterrestrial life.

It's the love that couldn't last even an entire news cycle. The Vatican scurries back from the nice things it said about gay people. CNN reports:

In a statement, it said the report on gays and lesbians was a "working document," not the final word from Rome. The Vatican also said that it wanted to welcome gays and lesbians in the church, but not create "the impression of a positive evaluation" of same-sex relationships, or, for that matter, of unmarried couples who live together. 

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