Blog Archives for October 2014

‘But it Fits!’

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....

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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.

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

Guest Blog from 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. 

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. 

Martin Gardner’s 100th Birthday

Access Points with Timothy Binga
October 14, 2014

October 21st, 2014 will be Martin Gardner’s 100th Birthday. “The Father of the Modern Skepticism” was a polymath, magician, skeptic and writer. His book Fads and Fallacies In The Name of Science (Dover, 1957) was the work that kicked off the modern interest in skepticism.

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After Work: the good life and post-industrial society

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
October 14, 2014

What shall we do with ourselves if entrenched and incurable unemployment results from increasing automation in goods production, dissemination, and services? What is the human prospect for the good life as work and income become distinctly different than we have grown used to?

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Here Comes the Boo-Boo Fairy

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

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

Gary Gutting finally snaps, interviews himself about the existence of God.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals lifts the stay on same-sex marriages in Idaho, and they should be good to go tomorrow morning. 

Look out, National Science Foundation. Rep. Lamar Smith is coming for you. 

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It’ll All Be Over Soon

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

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

The Vatican says it's going to be nicer to gays, and that LGBT folks have "gifts and qualities to offer" the church. While that reads kind of funny and more than a little patronizing (they find same-sex unions to have "moral problems"), they seem to be challenging themselves at least a little. Here's some context from a document signed by 200 bishops:

Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a further space in our communities? ... Are our communities capable of proving that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony? ... Without denying the moral problems connected to homosexual unions it has to be noted that there are cases in which mutual aid to the point of sacrifice constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners. 

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He Remains Very Clever on Ants

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

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

Malala Yousafzai (you probably know who she is already) and Kailash Satyarthi (Indian children's rights activist) are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Our legal director Nick Little guest-posts at the Alliance for Justice's website on religious rights in the context of prisons. 

Chris Stedman interviews Sikivu Hutchison about the Moving Social Justice conference taking place at CFI-Los Angeles this weekend. Kimberly Winston previews the event, at which "organizers hope to examine issues of special interest to nonwhite atheists, especially the ills rooted in economic and social inequality."

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Consume As Much As You Can

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 09, 2014

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

So many of you reached out to help the Ugandan humanist group HALEA after their violent robbery, and now we have an update from one of their leaders, Kato Mukasa, about the progress they're making as a result. "HALEA can now afford to dream again," he writes. It's an inspiring read.

CFI applauded the recent rulings in favor of marriage equality from the Supreme and Ninth Circuit Courts:

“Legal blockades to same-sex marriage, rooted in religious dogma and inapplicable to a modern, secular society, are collapsing all around the country,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI. “We offer our heartfelt congratulations to those who will be awarded their basic civil rights and the freedom to marry by this decision.” 

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‘We Can Now Afford to Dream Again’ - How You Helped Humanists in Uganda

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
October 08, 2014

This past summer, we asked you to help us lend a hand to our humanist allies in Uganda, the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability. HALEA’s offices, located in the slums of Kamapala, were robbed, during which a security guard was severely beaten (and who is now recovering well, I’m happy to say), and the offices were stripped of everything of value: computers, cameras, phones, printers, microphones, power cords, media players, and more. ...

“Bracketing” for Historical Detectives

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
October 08, 2014

For my collection of dictionaries (which also includes various related volumes such as antique spellers and other wordbooks), I recently purchased a little primer (about 3 x 4 12’’ tall) bearing no publication date. I usually pass over undated works because their use in literary investigation is therefore limited.

Probably Quite Smart

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 08, 2014

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

Because one major victory for marriage equality just wasn't enough for one week, the Ninth Circuit strikes down gay marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho. Judge Stephen Reinhardt:

The lessons of our constitutional history are clear: inclusion strengthens, rather than weakens, our most important institutions ... When same-sex couples are married, just as when opposite-sex couples are married, they serve as models of loving commitment to all.

I know this will surprise you, but the Catholic Church in Ireland is uneasy about the idea of nixing the country's blasphemy law. 

Two Percent

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

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

Just as I was hitting the "submit" button for The Morning Heresy yesterday, the news came down that the Supreme Court had decided not to act on its slate of same-sex marriage cases, opening the flood gates to marriage equality in several states. Robert Barnes at WaPo says, "The court’s action marks a turning point. A majority of Americans now live in states where gay couples can wed, and the court’s decision could soon bring the number of those states to 30, meaning there may be no going back."

The Court also rejected the appeal of an Ohio science teacher who was fired for trying to push creationism on his students.  

Spluttering with Fury

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

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

Happy Monday from the New Scientist:

It's worse than we thought. Scientists may have hugely underestimated the extent of global warming because temperature readings from southern hemisphere seas were inaccurate. 

Whee! 

The Daily Journal profiles our own Reba Boyd Wooden, director of CFI-Indiana, on her work as the head of our Secular Celebrant program (paywalled but with nice pictures). 

A Healthy Dose of Isopropyl Cyanide

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

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

Our own Ed Beck was the special guest of the Secular Coalition for America's national movement update call yesterday, where he gave a great overview of the Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign, and you can listen here.

harsh ruling by the the 5th Circuit does enormous damage to Texas women's ability to get an abortion, closing most clinics and leaving only eight left. 

Rev. Alexander Santora writes about last month's Religion Newswriters Conference for the Jersey Journal, and seems uneasy about the "hijacking" of the affair by secular groups, including us...twice! 

I Was Part of a Jazzercise Class

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 02, 2014

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

If you're free at noon today, check out the Secular Coalition's weekly movement conference call, which will have our own Ed Beck talking about our Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign. 

Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab of Bahrain is arrested for unspecified tweets that allegedly "denigrated" his government. Just before this, he'd been at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva along with our own Michael De Dora.

Tom Krattenmaker at USA Today explores the potential for atheists running for office...

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Relics of a Fading Fringe

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 01, 2014

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

On International Blasphemy Rights Day yesterday, Ireland's government announced its intention to hold a public referendum on its own blasphemy law

Tomorrow, CFI's Ed Beck will be a special guest on the Secular Coalition's weekly conference call update, where he'll talk about our Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign. 

A few weeks back, Lindsay Beyerstein interviewed Caitlin Doughty of "Ask a Mortician" on Point of Inquiry. Today, Doughty is interviewed by CFI-DC's Simon Davis for VICE.

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