Blog Archives for November 2014

There’s a Trilobite in My Latte

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

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

The city of Royal Oak, Michigan authorizes "ghost tours" led by "ghost hunters" of a 19th century farmhouse. CFI's Joe Nickell is disappointed (the piece says "upset," but Joe doesn't get "upset" about this kind of thing), and tells the Free Press:

When you allow ghost tours to operate, you are sanctioning mysticism and pseudo-science ... Most people don't want to believe that you actually die. This gives them the promise that your spirit lives on somewhere. 

The American Astronomical Society releases a definitive statement on the "Shirtstorm" regarding the poorly-chosen shirt and analogies made by Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor...

Ode to Bolts and Screws

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

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

This might be the most irresponsible "news" article I've ever seen. The Daily Mail claims definitively that homeopathy can cure Ebola:

Homeopathy could have cured Ebola if the World Health Organisation had not stepped in to prevent a trial, according to members of a group who travelled to Liberia hoping to try out remedies including rattlesnake venom and the aphrodisiac Spanish Fly. ... Organisers of the trip are still inviting donations from supporters of homeopathy - whose ranks include Prince Charles - to fund a second attempt to run an Ebola trial in Liberia. 

Tom Chivers at The Spectator pounces:

Take a moment to think about this....

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Jupiter Looking Askance

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 19, 2014

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

Kimberly Winston talks seriously with Richard Dawkins about the controversies that have erupted over some of his recent statements, and gets perspective from backers and critics alike. I like Todd Stiefel's thoughts, which show an all-too-rare generosity of spirit:

It is wonderful that we have such a brilliant asset with a keen, logical mind and passion for integrity. But he is not perfect. He has flaws and weakness, just like we all do. I forgive Richard his faults and try to care for him as a human being, just like I would any other person. I think it is OK to admire Richard for his strengths and forgive him his weakness. 

Frog Falls and Fallacies

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
November 18, 2014

I wrote a piece about the classic Fortean phenomenon of frogs falling from the sky, and I here address two rebuttals--one old and one new.

God the Insurance Agent

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 18, 2014

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

Jessica Steinhauser, aka Asia Lemmon, aka Asia Carrera, is a member of Mensa with an IQ of 156, a mom, a Utahan, a former porn star, and now an out and proud Pastafarian with a colander on her head. I think we've found our new leader.

Pope Francis disses physician-assisted suicide and its “false sense of compassion,” which he also compares to abortion. Meanwhile, HuffPo publishes CFI president Ron Lindsay's article on the connection between public acceptance of physician-assisted suicide and same-sex marriage. Take that, Pope Fluffy! 

CFI's Michael De Dora, current president of the UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief will moderate a panel discussion on the economic benefits of religious freedom on December 10.

Tea After Death

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

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

The New York Times reports on a Chinatown "aura" business, with skeptical perspective from CFI's Joe Nickell.

New Jersey's General Assembly passes a bill for physician-assisted suicide, and it's not at all clear what its ultimate fate will be in the hands of the White House-eyeing governor. 

CFI president Ron Lindsay considers the movement in favor of physician-assisted dying, and connects it to the growth in acceptance of same-sex marriage rights...

Physician-Assisted Dying and Same-Sex Marriage: The Connection

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
November 17, 2014

Two major changes in the American legal landscape are in progress, although one change is further along than the other. I'm referring to the legalization of same-sex marriage and physician-assisted dying (PAD), a.k.a. physician-assisted suicide. Same-sex marriage is now legal in over thirty states and, depending on action by the Supreme Court, may soon be legal nationwide. PAD is currently legal in only four states, but initiatives to legalize the practice are underway in several other states. Just last Thursday, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill that would legalize PAD in that state.

Rosetta at the Genius Bar

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 14, 2014

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

CFI's David Koepsell looks askance at some of the criticism over scientific accuracy in the film Interstellar:

Harping upon scientific ‘errors’ or complaining about the license taken by the storyteller in making his point risks undermining the philosophical value of storytelling.

David Moye at HuffPo consults with Ben Radford on the claims of a mother who believes her 4-year-old son is the reincarnation of a dead Marine. "When your parents tell you that you're possessed by a dead soldier, that's a profoundly scary thing," said Ben. "Especially for a young child." 

On Philosophy, Science, and Fiction

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
November 13, 2014

Some of the best and most useful philosophy comes to us by way of stories, and learning to enjoy, tell, and understand their messages is at the heart of humanism, and necessary for both science and art. 

2 Comments

10, 4 Billion, 40,000

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 13, 2014

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

Once upon a time, a little probe called Rosetta chased a comet for 10 years, and then sent a little box with legs called Philae to land on it, and the world went nuts with delight. 

Here's Rosetta's official Flickr account so you can see Comet 67P in all its rocky glory. xkcd live-comic'd the whole event. ("I'm okay and I'm on a comet.")

A federal judge rules South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional (BAM!), the Supreme Court clears the way for Kansas same-sex marriages to go ahead (SHABAM!), but then the people of Miami-Dade, Florida come out in force in favor of discrimination against transgender folks (BOOOOOOO).

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A Statement from CFI’s Management Committee

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
November 12, 2014

As a rule, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) does not disclose to the public the medical conditions of its employees. We respect the privacy of our employees and public disclosure of this information could violate the law. However, the situation discussed in this statement is exceptional.

Captured by a Vacuum Cleaner

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 12, 2014

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

Hey man, things are tough all over. I totally get it. But you know what? The European Space Agency is about to land a thing on a freaking comet! Come on, a comet! It's supposed to make contact at about 11am ET. Watch the Rosetta mission livestream here

A recent court case involving a federal prison inmate who wanted his humanist study group authorized ended up with a federal judge deciding that secular humanism is a religion. I'm sorry, what? Well, folks on CFI's leadership team have something to say about that, with an important piece by Tom Flynn, Ron Lindsay, and Nick Little: "Secularism Humanism: Not a Religion"...

Secular Humanism: Not a Religion

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
November 10, 2014

Litigation always carries risk – first of all, the risk of losing one’s case, but also the risk that a court decision will bring unintended consequences. On October 30, 2014, the American Humanist Association had what may prove to be a similar experience. In American Humanist Association v. United States of America, a federal district court in Oregon ruled that a prisoner had a valid legal claim when he alleged that prison officials refused to authorize a humanist study group. So far, so good. However, in reaching this conclusion the court bizarrely ruled that secular humanism is a religion, when the nature of secular humanism was never even an issue in the case. Of course, the judge may have been persuaded to reach this conclusion because in its arguments to the court the AHA vigorously contended that humanism is a religion, and made no effort to distinguish its brand of humanism from secular humanism.

7 Comments

We Are a Depraved, Disgusting Species

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 10, 2014

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

Did you do anything cool for Carl Sagan Day? Lots of CFI communities have, including this science enthusiast at CFI-Canada

This is actually huge: The new government in Indonesia, the same one that persecuted Alexander Aan, says it aims to protect the religious freedom of all citizensincluding atheists

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Beyond the Obvious Physical Realm

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 07, 2014

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

Looks like we're going to have that big Supreme Court fight over same-sex marriage after all, as the 6th Circuit upholds same-sex marriage bans in four states. 

CFI boss Ron Lindsay considers the implications of the midterm elections, less the new GOP Senate majority, but more the Republicans' expanded majority in the House, which will likely carry over into the next administration. 

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Some Observations on One Aspect of the 2014 Elections

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
November 06, 2014

Everyone is talking about the new Republican majority in the Senate. This is significant. It gives the Republican Party complete control of Congress. It will also make it very difficult for President Obama to have his judicial nominees approved by the Senate. But perhaps more significant in the long term are the Republican gains in the House of Representatives.

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Reflections From Freethinking Pen Pals: Part 2

Guest Blog from Sarah Kaiser
November 06, 2014

This guest blog post is by Michael Cluff, one of the pen pals with CFI's Freethought Books Project. The Freethought Books Project provides donations of freethought and secular literature to inmates. We also have a pen pal program that matches up freethinking volunteer pen pals with inmates looking for a connection with someone who shares their worldview.

"I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town.
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
but still is there because he's a victim of the times."

- Johnny Cash, "The Man in Black."

Honey Island Swamp Monster Film: A Patterson Knockoff

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
November 06, 2014

Louisiana Honey Island Swamp Monster fakery continues to sell, while sometimes common-sense skepticism on the subject has all the currency of—well, a wooden nickel. This was brought home to me personally when I was asked by a production company to look into the latest alleged exploits of the ever-elusive creature. Unfortunately, after I enlisted the aid of Tom Flynn—CFI’s resident photograph, film, and video expert—the producers left us in the lurch. It’s pretty obvious why: the evidence—a brief Super-8 film of the Swampster—is so bad that any critical analysis would leave one asking why the show would be made at all.

Robert Ingersoll, American Idol

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 06, 2014

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

Our public policy guy Michael De Dora rounds up the wins and losses for skepto-humanists in Tuesday's elections. It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't good, and Kimberly Winston has a look at atheists' rough night.

Howard Friedman summarizes some exit polling that looks at the voting behavior of faith groups. (Only 29% of "nones" voted for the GOP.) Sarah Posner notes that although "nones" make up about twenty-some percent of the population, they were only about 12% of the electorate this year. Seriously: WTF, nones?

Ben Radford writes at Discovery News about how Pope Fluffy balances between the rational (accepting evolution) and the ridiculous (support of exorcisms), and quotes CFI's Tom Flynn... 

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A Mix of Wins and Losses in the 2014 Midterm Elections

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
November 05, 2014

The Republican Party has won control of the United States Senate, giving Republicans control of both chambers of Congress next year. Yet, as important as this shift is, it is not the complete story on yesterday’s elections. In fact, you might be heartened to learn of some lesser-known results. To help fill you in, here's a brief summary of noteworthy results for the secular, skeptic, and humanist communities.

Ingersoll and Bennett Portraits

Access Points with Timothy Binga
November 05, 2014

Earlier this year, we received two paintings from the James Hervey Johnson Charitable Education Trust. These paintings might seem familiar to those who have more than a passing interest in Freethought history. Robert G. Ingersoll and D.M. Bennett are the subjects of these two portraits soon to be displayed at the Center for Inquiry.

Alabama Will Not Become a Caliphate

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 05, 2014

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

So. How was your night? Well.

Among the many, many other things that happened as a result of yesterday's elections, Colorado's personhood initiative went down to defeat, as did North Dakota's "life begins as conception" thing, but Tennessee's amendment which would add to its state constitution that "Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion" is approved.

But Alabamians need not worry about Sharia, as a "no foreign law" amendment is approved

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Reflections From Freethinking Pen Pals: Part 1

Guest Blog from Sarah Kaiser
November 04, 2014

This guest blog post is by Addie Lass, one of the pen pals with CFI's Freethought Books Project. The Freethought Books Project provides donations of freethought and secular literature to inmates. We also have a pen pal program that matches up freethinking volunteer pen pals with inmates looking for a connection with someone who shares their worldview.

I decided to become a pen pal with the Freethought Books Project because I've always enjoyed writing and receiving letters. It is a dying art that I would like to keep alive as long as possible. It has always been important to me to find people who have a different world view and I'm always looking learn something new.

He Suckered Me

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 04, 2014

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

It's Election Day in the U.S., but it's a midterm election, meaning that most of us have no idea what it is we're about to vote for. (For example, here in Maine, we have a referendum on the best/most ethical way to hunt bears.) Luckily, I accidentally discovered how handy (and concise) Google can be in times of ignorance like this. And please vote!!!

This is pretty cool: We have a special episode of Point of Inquiry, recorded before a live audience in New York, where Josh Zepps talks to two experts in epidemics about the facts and fiction of Ebola. Really good stuff.

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The “I Am…” Meme: Co-Opting Identities for Social Change

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
November 03, 2014

It has become fashionable in recent years for social justice protestors to choose a person who symbolizes a tragic event and then declare to the world that they are that person. It certainly sends a clear message of solidarity, but but it raises thorny questions about the ethics of speaking on behalf of others.

5 Comments

The Vision Thing and the Tinfoil Hat (post 2 of 3 on Young Earth Creationism)

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
November 03, 2014

How the strategy of explaining all evidence against what you believe can have soke interesting psychological effects. Start making that tin foil hat now...

1 Comment

A Dog Might As Well Speculate on the Mind of Newton

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 03, 2014

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

Bill Nye was our keynote speaker at the CFI Summit last year, and we have the audio of the first part of his presentation at our Center Stage podcast. The next big conference is happening June 2015, with keynote speaker Rebecca Goldstein.

In case you missed it, Point of Inquiry did a special Halloween extra, where new producer Nora Hurley interviews Joe Nickell, and Joe attempts our 18th annual Houdini Séance. 

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