Blog Archives for January 2013

Sweet Vindication

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
January 31, 2013

For a decade I've been writing that secular humanists and other atheists need to compel greater social acceptance by making themselves "irresistibly visible." Now social science has backed me up.

3 Comments

The Taliban Card

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 31, 2013

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

Alber Saber's appeal of his blasphemy conviction in Egypt is rejectedSaber was at the hearing, which muddies the previous reporting that he had left the country. This article, however, makes it unclear as to whether Saber attended this hearing, as he has been otherwise reported to be out of the country.

At CSICOP.org, Sharon Hill talks about the "sticky wicket" of the line-of-demarcation problem between science and what we call pseudoscience. 

Also: Anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy is going to headline a health event in Ottawa. Sharon says, "What a DUMB move." 

What Are Ya, Some Kind of Secular Humanist??

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 30, 2013

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

CFI's boss Ron Lindsay suspects that while the Boy Scouts of America may open up to LGBT Americans, the prospects for it doing the same for atheists are grim:

Allowing atheists to become scouts would constitute a tacit admission that we don’t need God for morality. And if we don’t need him for that, what do we need him for? 

RealClearReligion's Jeffrey Weiss, however, sees hope for would-be atheist scouts.

Herb Silverman is less than impressed.

The modified policy would, in effect, kick the can down the road to local sponsors, who could continue the abominable policy of deeming gay teenagers too “immoral” to participate in Boy Scout activities. 

3 Comments

Why the BSA Will Not Admit Atheists Any Time Soon

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
January 30, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America appears to be ready to take a small, but significant step forward by changing its national policy prohibiting gay scouts. This is good news. Unfortunately, the BSA will continue to exclude atheists, and I predict the organization will continue to do this for some time.

3 Comments

Crop Circles and Christian Sex

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 29, 2013

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

Now this is cool. Point of Inquiry snagged Paul Krugman. I'm going to listen right now instead of work. What? 

Boy Scouts of America discusses ending its ban on gays. Now, what about atheists while you're at it? 

Hilarious: Intelligent design-touting group the Discovery Institute cites our own Ben Radford's debunking of crop circles to back up their quasi-creationism.  

Saber Rattles

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 28, 2013

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

Blasphemy-convicted blogger Alber Saber leaves Egypt while on bail, and unloads on the Egyptian powers-that-be in a new interview with Daily News Egypt

CFI boss Ron Lindsay is the guest on Skeptically Speaking, talking about the ethics of medicine, euthanasia, and what's to come in medical technology. 

Also in podcast-land, our own Michael De Dora is the guest on Meet the Skeptics

Point of Inquiry Live! in Boston

Guest Blog from Point of Inquiry
January 28, 2013

We're proud to announce that on Sunday, February 17, Point of Inquiry is hosting its first ever live show! The event is happening at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Boston, MA.

Chris Mooney and Indre Viskontas will host the show together, and will be joined by the acclaimed Harvard psychologist and bestselling author Steven Pinker, whose most recent book is The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Maybe They Haven’t Had Coffee Yet

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 25, 2013

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

Remember 2012? Man, that year was crazy. So crazy, we decided to take a comprehensive look at the work of CFI throughout the year, with an eye to 2013, and -- ta-da! -- we have our very first CFI Annual Report, just out today.   

The Rhode Island House of Representatives votes big in favor of gay marriage equality.  

Really cool mini-documentary video: The US government didn't fake the Moon landing because they couldn't have, they didn't have the technology to do so. As in, they would have been unable to. Adds filmmaker S.G. Collins, "The US government lies all the time about all kinds of things, and if they haven't lied to you today, maybe they haven't had coffee yet."

Freedom is a Gift from Odin

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 24, 2013

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

The Secular Census releases a report on women's experiences in the freethought movement, based on their survey data. From the conclusion:

Women seem to want groups that do more than criticize religion. They are attracted to positive messages and education. They'd like their groups to share their values and take positions that reflect those values. They'd like their interactions to be positive; they seem quite willing to abandon groups where they have had to deal with problem behavior, including unwanted advances. They could sometimes use some help with childcare.  

Of course, to really delve into this topic, you're going to want to register for the Women in Secularism 2 conference, happening in May in our nation's capital (presuming your nation is the United States). And now there are a whole ton of videos from last year's conference posted online. 

1 Comment

HORROR-SCOPE FOR SKEPTICS II

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 23, 2013

This incorporates the very latest in astro-illogical forecasting by Nickell-o the Seer.

Saudi Religious Police vs. Dinosaurs

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 23, 2013

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

NYT opens up a whole "Room for Debate" series on what, to me, is a dumb question, "Is Atheism a Religion?" Despite the dumb question, there's some interesting stuff in there. 

Physicist Sean Carroll sits with Chris Mooney on Point of Inquiry to talk about "the particle at the end of the universe." 

Here's a bill you'll like. Dig H.Res.41.IH: "Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2013, as Darwin Day and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity."  

Is This Our Future?

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
January 22, 2013

“If we fail in this great experiment," author Ronald Wright told journalist Chris Hedges, "this experiment of apes becoming intelligent enough to take charge of their own destiny, nature will shrug and say it was fun for a while to let the apes run the laboratory, but in the end it was a bad idea.” Is humankind's assault on its planetary home already past the point of no return?

2 Comments

No Bright Line That Can Be Readily Drawn

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 22, 2013

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

The president got himself sworn in once again yesterday (ceremonially, as he was sworn in officially the day before in private), and if you heard the speech and the surrounding to-do, you know that there was at least one really good thing for the reason-based community, and one not-so-good thing.

The not-so-good, man, was that inauguration God-heavy. Lots of biblical-this, scripture-that, God-given-this, we-pray-for-that. David Gibson has more on those themes. (And Cathy-Lynn Grossman reminds us that "so help me God" is an informal add-on to the oath.)

On the plus side, the president made a big stink in his speech about climate change, which surprise almost everybody. He rejected the nonsense about it being a hoax, and made clear that it was a generational responsibility to respond to the reality of the crisis. So that was cool. 

5 Comments

What’s Not Important is to Be an Atheist

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 18, 2013

 

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

Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, is accused of blasphemy for allegedly making comments that one angry guy felt were derogatory to the Prophet Mohammad. Rehman is a supporter of reform of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.

Tom Flynn demolishes the recent article from Dennis Prager for his misunderstanding of atheism.

Because some folks asked what the CFI policy was on blocking folks on Twitter (though not in a nice way, like, at all), we decided to, you know, have a policy -- rare as it is. Here's the policy in full, and I blogged about it from my own perspective. Of course, all the comments are nasty, so I just can't win.

 

2 Comments

How to Get Blocked (and Not Blocked) by a CFI Twitter Account

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
January 17, 2013

As there is a lot of heated back-and-forth going on within the skepto-atheosphere, Twitter has become perhaps the prime arena for arguments and debates. Not all of it is constructive, of course, and some of it is downright abusive, and it can be hard to know what crosses the line from criticism (well-meaning or otherwise) to raw hectoring or simply being hurtful.

90 Comments

Inanimate Objects Possessing Their Own Will

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 17, 2013

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

The Supreme Court of Pakistan dismisses the blasphemy case against Rimsha Masih. The law itself still remains, of course, but Rimsha has been deemed innocent of violating it. 

CSI-ers Ben Radford and Robert Blaskiewicz both weigh in on Sandy Hook conspiracy nonsense for Huffington Post.

Skepchick continues its profiles of speakers at Women in Secularism 2 with scientist Adriana Heguy, cofounder of the website Atheist Universe

Personas: 1000 and Counting

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 17, 2013

As will likely be known by those who have visited my website, I have spent my life in a hands-on search for knowledge—part of it relevant to my career of “paranormal investigator,” but much more of it, I think, applicable to my being a “secular humanist.”

Prager Misses the Point

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
January 17, 2013

In a NATIONAL REVIEW rebuttal of Susan Jacoby's NEW YORK TIMES piece on the atheist response to the school shootings at Sandy Hook, right-wing pundit Dennis Prager proves that he doesn't understand atheism nearly as well as he thinks he does.

2 Comments

Atheism and the Consolations of Philosophy

It’s Only Natural with John Shook
January 16, 2013

Why would atheism have to console people as much as religion? 

2 Comments

Not the Lucky Charms Leprechauns

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 16, 2013

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

Folks, I'm telling you, the CFI universe is generating all sorts of high-quality content today. I'm not even kidding. Dig this. 

Deseret News focuses on the religious-liberty battles happening at the state level, and looks to our own Michael De Dora for perspective:

I try to tell our people, 'You might think that what's going on in Congress right now is the most important thing right now, but it's absolutely not. You need to pay attention to what's going on at the school board, city hall and state levels because that's where things are happening.

There's this really great post from one of our CFI On Campus folks, Seth Kurtenbach, on how IBM's Deep Blue may have passed the Turing Test as far back as 1997, at the expense of Garry Kasparov's sanity. 

Tripping on the Trebuchet: An Interview with George Hrab

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
January 15, 2013

 Not long ago, when George Hrab's latest CD Trebuchet came out, I sat down (not actually, literally, or even metaphorically) and asked him about his music and skeptical influences. And, really, things I probably shouldn't have asked, but there you go. And here you go. 

Satan (Hearts) Rick Scott

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 15, 2013

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

Yesterday, Ron Lindsay joined the panel on HuffPost Live to talk about the practice of borrowing religious rituals between and outside of their originating faiths. Of course it gets heated.  

Who doesn't want to be more like Sherlock Holmes? (I mostly just want to be more like Benedict Cumberbatch.) On Point of Inquiryguest Maria Konnikova tells us how to think more like the literary supersleuth. 

CSI's Joe Nickell (nonreligious) talks about how he and his wife Diana (Baha'i) go together on "religabouts". . .

Religabouts

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 14, 2013

On December 9, 2012, my wife Diana and I escorted an elderly friend to an annual Polish Wigilia—an event featuring the traditional meal that a Polish family would have on Christmas Eve, followed by the singing of Polish Christmas carols. It was a delight to immerse ourselves in this old tradition.

2 Comments

Towards Increasing Non-knowing

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 14, 2013

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

Internet activist, co-creator of RSS, co-founder of Reddit Aaron Swartz kills himself in the midst of prosecutorial pressure after attempting to make freely available the contents of the JSTOR academic archive. 

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald refuses to stop a new regulation in NYC concerning parental consent for metzitzah b'peh circumcisions, which are the ones "involving direct oral suction of the penis" by the rabbi.   

Amanda Marcotte on scientists' limited political options:

Since scientists have no ability to stop Republicans from attacking science, their only real option is to take power away from Republicans by supporting Democrats.

1 Comment

Here’s Where Science and Brainless Merge

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 11, 2013

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

Apparently the "nones" are leveling off, just as we were "rising," like, five minutes ago. Who can keep up? 

The Supreme Court turns down an appeal to stop embryonic stem cell research. 

Anti-gay pastor Louie Giglio takes himself out of the presidential inauguration ceremony. Sarah Posner unpacks the mess.

1 Comment

The Silliness Bound Up in Being Human

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 10, 2013

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

CFI chief Ron Lindsay is asking for it. As he gets set to meet with the leaders of the other big groups of the skepto-atheosphere, Ron wants to know what you think about how best to address some of the latest controversies and concerns of the movement. I tried to stop him, but he never listens to me. Anyway, read his post and help him out.

CSI's Ben Radford at Yahoo News sounds the alarm on the threat to vaccination workers around the world due to urban legends and xenophobia.   

Meanwhile Faheem Younus at WaPo, a medical doctor and a Muslim, tells of his often-obstructed attempts to bridge religious divides in providing free flu vaccinations:

The ruthless flu virus was not going to screen Americans for their faith before attacking. I gave the flu shots to the worshippers at Bait-ur-Rehman mosque located in Silver Spring, MD. Free of charge. Free of expectation. Free of faith. 

1 Comment

The HEADS Meeting: Your Input Requested

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
January 09, 2013

I think it’s fairly common knowledge that the leaders of the various nationwide secular organizations have an annual meeting (called “HEADS”) to exchange ideas and discuss how we can best advance our shared objectives. This is your opportunity to give me some input prior to the meeting on a couple of specific topics.

85 Comments

Phantasmagoric Biotheology

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 09, 2013

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

Don't miss this big CFI event in DC: CFI presents a symposium on the topic "Why Tolerate Religion?" with such heavy-hitters as Jacques Berlinerblau, Caroline Mala Corbin, Wendy Kaminer, Brian Leiter, Barry Lynn, and our own Ron Lindsay and John Shook. April 27 at the Wooly Mammoth theatre (where my wife has totally performed). 

Hoosiers take note: CFI wants you to contact your state legislature to stop the expansion of a religion-subsidizing school voucher program.

Elizabeth Drescher at Religion Dispatches warns against lumping all "Nones" with nonbelievers and secularists.  

4 Comments

You Have Died of Dysentery, Jesus

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 08, 2013

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

HuffPo's Jaweed Kaleem explores the atheist take on death and lack of an afterlife, and talks to me and CFI-Indiana's Reba Boyd Wooden for some perspective. My quote's pretty fatalistic, but hey, that's me for ya. 

We're pretty excited about this one, folks. Point of Inquiry's got Phil Plait, talking the end of the world. 

The Verge: Kuwaiti activist Rashid Saleh al-Anzi sentenced to two years in prison for a tweet that "stabbed the rights and powers" of the country's emir. 

1 Comment

NRA: Answer or Problem?

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 07, 2013

Regarding the recent mass shooting at a Connecticut school, the NRA, at its press conference of December 21, 2012, equated problem mental states with such shootings involving assault-style weapons. Indeed, NRA head Wayne La Pierre brought his own problem mental states to the issue by suggesting that the solution was to place armed guards at all schools. Let me take this opportunity to make some additional suggestions—each in the La-La Pierre vein.

1 Comment

Whatever it is Humans are Responsible For

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 07, 2013

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

An Indiana state senator introduces a bill to allow prayer in public schools, and Indiana's WTHR TV news talks to CFI-Indiana's Reba Boyd Wooden, who calls it "a lawsuit waiting to happen."

Katherine Ozment pens a long feature in Boston magazine on the choices faced by nonreligious and "none" parents.

 

National Catholic Reporter headline: "Bishops investigating US nuns have poor records on sex abuse cases"

 

Trigger Warnings: Public Service or Fallacious Fad?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben 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. 

11 Comments

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. 

9 Comments

Triskaidekaphilia

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." 

1 Comment

Questioning a Local Landmark

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben 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? 

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. 


3 Comments

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:

4 Comments

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. 

1 Comment

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.