Blog Archives for February 2014

Evidence-Based Reasoning: Comments on a Blog Post

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
February 27, 2014

Evidence-Based Reasoning. This is a phrase you hear skeptics use a lot. We at CFI use it. We firmly believe in the importance of evidence-based reasoning and critical thinking. This is one reason I’m disappointed in Ben Radford’s recent post. Ben has done some good work for this organization over the years, but I’m afraid this latest post may have been written in some haste.

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Pink Monopoly and Pink Pens

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

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

Ensaf Haider, wife of imprisoned Saudi dissident Raif Badawi, gives a heartbreaking interview to IFEX:

Raef's health has deteriorated; he developed diabetes when he was first arrested, and he has faced problems with his heart. He also suffers from unsanitary detention conditions and from malnutrition, but I have not heard anything about him being subjected to torture or anything of the sort. Despite all of this, his morale is very high and he is not broken. ... My life has changed 180 degrees, it is enough to say that overnight I became both mother and father to my children, and I live in a daily nightmare of questions from my children about Raef. 

Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoes SB 1062. She says:  

Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated. 

“The Invisible Woman”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 26, 2014

Charles Dickens (1812–1870), the most popular and one of the greatest of English novelists, also deserves plaudits for his literary indictments of society for abusing the poor. To be sure, however, he did have faults. For instance, he fostered belief in the pseudoscientific notion of spontaneous human combustion in his novel Bleak House (1852), although Dickens at least seemed honest in his error.

The Anatomy of False Accusations: A Skeptical Case Study

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
February 26, 2014

False accusations are of particular interest to skeptics because skepticism has often been at the forefront of giving voice to the wrongly accused. Here's a recent case study. 

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“You (non-Christian) Kids Get Off My Lawn!”

Hollywood Reality Check with Jim Underdown
February 26, 2014

Nowadays, to be intolerant is not the opposite of being Christian, it’s the essence of it!

1 Comment

Negative Ninjas

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 26, 2014

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

Mitt Romney and John McCain are among the Republicans calling on Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the anti-gay "religious freedom" bill passed by the legislature, and she is expected to do so

Eric Sasson at TNR calls these new "religious freedom" bills "the new stand-your-ground laws":

Purporting to be against discrimination, these lawmakers are trying to use the victim card against the very people they want to discriminate against.  

Indiana's House, for now at least, ditches its own "religious freedom" bill

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The State of Our Meatball

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 25, 2014

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

The state of our Meatball is strong (the "meatball" is the loving nickname we have for the logo): CFI releases its annual report for 2013, "Progress Report: Advances in Advocacy, Community, and Inquiry." It's mighty pretty, is full of really inspiring developments for our organization, and has a free toy inside. Okay, there's no toy, but you can read it anyway. 

Gabriel Sherman is the guest on Point of Inquiry, talking to Josh Zepps about his big exposé on Fox News Supreme Leader Roger Ailes.

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If Scientific Accuracy is Your Jam

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

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

Today's Morning Heresy starts the week on a terribly sad note, as over the weekend freethought activist and friend of the blog Eric Broze died suddenly of unknown causes. Even if you don't know Eric, you're probably aware of some of his work for the movement, which includes the Coming Out Godless project, done with his wife Rose Schwartz, and spearheading the United Church of Bacon based in Las Vegas. 

A Classic Article on the Religious/Secular Humanist Divide

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
February 21, 2014

From time to time I'll flag classic articles from back issues of FREE INQUIRY -- pieces that are worth another read today if you keep your physical back issues. If you're a current FI subscriber, you can also read the article online (link at bottom of this post).

 From the Summer 2002 issue (Volume 22, No. 3), Bible scholar Robert M. Price limns the difference between religious and secular humanism about as elegantly as one can. 

2014 Will Be a Big Year for the Ingersoll Museum

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
February 21, 2014

2014 will be an epic year for the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, New York. Last year we challenged our donors and friends to raise $70,000 for a long-needed redesign of the museum interior. They exceeded the target by more than $20,000. We're well into the redesign process. The Museum will open in May with all-new exhibits and expanded promotion, and in August we'll have an Ingersoll-themed mini-conference in western and central New York State. For the full story see the link at the bottom of this post!

Careening Clown Car

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

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

Yesterday was an ugly day in state legislation.

Arizona passes an anti-gay free pass for discrimination (or, "religious freedom").

Alabama's House Education Committee approves a bill to allow teachers to lead students in prayer, even though most members of the committee voted against it, with the chairman claiming to have "heard" more yeas than nays in a voice vote. . . .

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Congratulations, You’ve Read The Morning Heresy and Now You’re an Insufferable Smartypants

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

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

Herbert and Catherine Schaible, whose adherence to faith-healing resulted in the death of their 2-year-old-son in 2009, are sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for the faith-healing death of their second child, only 8 months old, from pneumonia. On Twitter, CFI chief Ron Lindsay says the judge in the case was wrong to place blame solely on the parents, but should have also pointed to their church. Ron also tweets:

Minister in faith-healing death case insists teachings are correct. Child died b/c of "spiritual lack" in parents. That minister is a killer 

Brian Palmer at Slate is agog at the popularity of the very-much-full-of-crap "Natural News" page on Facebook, and has a request:

When one of your Facebook friends posts a link to a story about spirulina boosting brain function or how to cure pneumonia with vitamin C, I beg you to respond. A simple “bogus” will help halt their descent into insanity induced by Natural News. 

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Politics in the Sky

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

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

Denmark bans the religious slaughter of animals (such as for kosher meat), with the agriculture minister declaring, "Animal rights come before religion."

Alaska's legislature looks to nix an important bit of text from the state's constitution:

No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.

It never stops, does it?

The Earth is in Peril, and People Love That

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

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

Our own Debbie Goddard is featured in a HuffPo piece on the variety of beliefs of African Americans. Among her insights:

There are times when I've felt straight-up rejected by the black community because I'm an atheist. When I tried to start a secular club in college, my closest black friends told me that humanism and atheism are harmful Eurocentric ideologies and implied that if I'm an atheist, I'm turning my back on my race.  

Richard N. Landers comes down hard on the recent and heavily-touted survey showing that young people seem to buy into astrology, saying that respondents likely got the terms "astrology" and "astronomy" mixed up. According to his parsing of the data...

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“The Monuments Men”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 18, 2014

The Monuments Men is a true story, based on a book of the same title, written by Robert M. Edsel and subtitled Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History. No exaggeration that.

To Digitize or Not to Digitize, That Is the Question

Access Points with Timothy Binga
February 17, 2014

I am an adjunct at the University of Buffalo, and the main course I teach is Digital Libraries. We take a hands-on approach to the whole digitization process, from planning, grant processes, and procedures through the physical scanning of objects to the actual uploading and presentation of the images online. I also discuss in detail the various reasons we should or should not digitize because it also will help determine what to digitize and also what are the next steps in the process.

Selfies of Mass Destruction

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

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

A working group made up of members of the European Parliament releases a major report (PDF) on global freedom of religion and belief, with a major emphasis on blasphemy laws and apostasy:

In many Muslim-majority states, conversion from Islam to another religion or to atheism leads to a severe State response. While incidents of official executions are rare, individuals who leave Islam for another religion face imprisonment, intimidation, loss of property, physical abuse, denial of access to education, jobs and civil rights. 

Now, I can't bear to watch this, but you can tell me how it went. Bill Nye goes in Meet the Press to "debate" climate change with GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Nope, I can't do it. 

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Valentine’s Day

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 14, 2014

 

Amiable and Low-Voltage

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

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

US District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen strikes down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage. Happy Valentine's Day. Wrote Wright Allen:

Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so. However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. 

David Morrison, director of the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, shares his thoughts about Sagan in a new biographical memoir of the man

Google keeps showing its progressive cred (which it does not always do), this time with a very auditory Doodle for the big V-day, featuring the stories of couples of various kinds.

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Adventures of Piglet and Hedgehog Provoke Death Threats

Guest Blog from Bill Cooke
February 13, 2014

You wouldn’t have thought that publishing a children’s book would result in getting death threats. But it does in Poland. Andrzej Dominiczak, our CFI man in Poland, runs a publishing arm which specializes in humanist and atheist thought for the Polish market. Dominiczak has run into trouble from hardliners before, even from within the non-religious community. 

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One Giant Foxhole

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

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

CFI's Lauren Becker dusts off a very moving essay of hers for Darwin Day, on the enormous impact Darwin's grand idea has had on humanity's view of itself:

We are not special creations, but part of a vast continuum of life. No longer children of god, we are children of nature. This is our condition. But if this new understanding is a disorder, if it has caused an identity crisis, then science, too, as in so many other cases, offers relief. 

Rep. Rush Holt praises Darwin on the floor of the House. CFI gets its meme on.

At Skeptical Inquirer, Cameron M. Smith has an idea as to why so many of us still have a problem accepting evolution...

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Darwin, Sacks, and Humanity’s Identity Crisis

Guest Blog from Lauren Becker
February 12, 2014

A few years ago, while researching a talk for Darwin Day, I came across an article by Steve Silberman called "The Fully Immersive Mind of Oliver Sacks." Though it seemed unrelated to Darwin, I soon realized that Sacks and Silberman could help me get a better understanding of the cultural controversy over evolution and find an even greater appreciation for the gift of Darwin’s grand idea.

God is a Crude Graffito

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

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

Happy Darwin Day, heretics. We can help you celebrate. We've got posters, a Facebook cover for your profile, and...what's this? A Galápagos cruise???

CFI-Fort Lauderdale is part of a Darwin Day event this Saturday with Donald Prothero and Michele Williams. Kimberly Winston at RNS has more on other D-Day goings-on.

South Carolina is stopped from adopting K-12 science standards because this one guy doesn't like Darwin

The Ethics of Free-Market Kidneys, Part 2

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
February 11, 2014

In some countries selling one’s organs is perfectly legal. In the United States, it is against the law, although many people have suggested that legalizing the trade would save lives and offer real social benefits. Others find it an ethically dubious proposition. Part 2.  

Poisonous and Medieval

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 11, 2014

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

It's a heavy and fascinating Point of Inquiry, as Josh Zepps talks to addiction expert Stanton Peele about some of his contrarian views on recovery, particularly in the context of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. 

Justin Vollmar, head of the Virtual Deaf Church, comes out to his flock, in ASL of course, as an atheist, and "joins forces" with the Clergy Project, calling the whole thing a "profound wonderful change in my life."  

Meanwhile, Clergy Project director Catherine Dunphy is interviewed at Faith in Feminism...

The Ire of Some Tedious Nerd

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

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

The Justice Department will now be extending federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples.  

Michael Kirkland at UPI has a good summation of what's at stake in Greece v. Galloway, the prayer-at-government-meetings Supreme Court case. CFI has filed an amicus brief

Prospective NFL-er Michael Sam comes out as gay, and might wind up being the first openly-gay pro football player. 

3 Comments

Well This Camel Says You’re Wrong

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

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

At the National Prayer Breakfast (barf), the silver lining to that offense-to-all-things-secular was that President Obama did nonbelievers and free expression a good turn with a spirited declaration of the need for global religious liberty:

We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. Sometimes religion is twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, how they pray, or who they love… We believe in the inherent dignity of every human being, a dignity that no earthly power can take away. Central to that dignity is freedom of religion, the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free of persecution and fear.

At Friendly Atheist, I reservedly take it as a positive sign...

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Humanists Helping Pregnant Girls in Uganda

Guest Blog from Bill Cooke
February 06, 2014

Since the beginning of time, becoming pregnant without sufficient means to maintain oneself and one’s baby has been a guaranteed path to hard times. In the event of the man refusing to play his part rearing the child, the girl’s plight has been dire. Right to the present day, teenage mothers are subject to vicious superstitions. Even when they have been raped, everything still ends up being their fault.

Let’s Not Make a Joke of Ourselves

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

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

So there's this National Prayer Breakfast going on, perhaps you've heard of it. And there's the president. Likable guy, smart, heart in the right place, but there he is doing this quasi-official ring-kissing of religion. What's do be done? Lots, actually. Here's one idea for a counter-balance: Tell your congresshuman to support Rep. Rush Holt's Darwin Day resolution (and pass it on, too). That'd be a good, heartening thing.

This is super-cool: Come to the Women in Secularism III conference, stay for the secular celebrant training!  

The leader of the LDS Church is being ordered to appear before a judge in England to face fraud charges against all of Mormonism. Wow, can they really do that?

Two summonses direct Thomas S. Monson of Utah, the Church president, to attend a March 14 hearing in the Westminster Magistrates Court of London to answer accusations that key tenets of the LDS faith are untrue and have been used to secure financial contributions. 

1 Comment

Catholicism’s Sex Abuse Scandal Goes Global

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
February 05, 2014

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child savaged the Vatican today, in a report that accused the worldwide Roman Catholic Church of "systematically" allowing priests to rape and otherwise sexually abuse tens of thousands of children -- and then to evade responsibility for their acts -- over multiple decades. In one sense, this is only a capstone for a scandal that's been erupting in country after country for almost three decades. But freethinkers shouldn't allow the fact that this scandal has been grinding on for so long to blind them to the sheer fact of what a huge, even extraordinary development it represents.

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The End is Nye

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

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

Super Bowl? What's that? The real big game happened last night when Bill Nye debated creationist Ken Ham at the Creation Museum. Folks all over had viewing parties (including CFI branches and the CFI mothership), and Twitter was overflowing with reactions. Overall, I think the event was a net win for us, but I'll expound upon that in some other forum.

Hemant Mehta and I liveblogged the debate at Friendly Atheist, and man oh man, are we hilarious. Hemant wrote a longer piece on his overall feelings about the debate:

I think the Creation Museum stills comes out of this ahead just because of all the publicity, but last night was a stark reminder that when you’re in a debate against someone who doesn’t even understand the topic of discussion, exposing his limitations may be the best weapon you possess. If anyone was on the fence, they almost certainly didn’t come down on Ham’s side. 

HuffPo liveblogged as well, and did so from the CFI-NYC viewing party!

The Ethics of Free-Market Kidneys, Part 1

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Ben Radford
February 04, 2014

In some countries selling one's organs is perfectly legal. In the United States, it is against the law, although many people have suggested that legalizing the trade would save lives and offer real social benefits. Others find it an ethically dubious proposition. A look at the ethics behind organ sales. 

I, For One, Welcome Our New Southern Baptist Robot Overlords

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

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

Tonight is the big Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate at the Creation Museum, which everyone in the skepto-atheist movement is either really excited about or totally livid and disappointed about. But either way, it's happening, so let's enjoy it! CFI branches and campus affiliates all over the country are hosting viewing parties, and Hemant Mehta and I will be liveblogging the debate at Friendly Atheist

Here are the ones I know about: 

RIDDLEculous II

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 04, 2014

More funny riddles with a science/critical-thinking angle.

4 Comments

Making Progress in Poland

Guest Blog from Bill Cooke
February 03, 2014

We all know that good things take time. Nowhere does democracy emerge fully mature, open and transparent. It takes dedicated people to make these things happen. Poland’s progress to open, mature democracy is faltering, with the Catholic Church and far right elements acting as drags on liberalization. Against these powerful forces CFI-Poland is quietly working away. Andrzej Dominiczak, head of CFI-Poland, has built up a reputation for fair-minded and objective work across a range of normally deeply divisive topics.

Bhinneka Tunggal ika

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

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

Excellent news on Friday, as CFI was able to independently confirm that Alexander Aan, the persecuted Indonesian atheist, has been released from prison. Michael De Dora has more, including why all is not roses yet for Alex

Over the weekend, CFI's Debbie Goddard and I took part in Google Hangout panel discussions for Freethought Blogs' FTBCon2. Debbie did one on community building and one on trans men and trans masculinity, and I did one on social media at conferences.

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