Blog Archives for July 2015

Your Beak is Too Short

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 31, 2015

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

The CFI Leadership Conference is underway, and I have been dubbed the Captain of the Merchandise Table (okay I dubbed myself that, but I think I need four rank insignia pips). 

We announced our support this morning of a House resolution by Rep. Tusli Gabbard urging Bangladesh to seriously address violent extremism, in the wake of the murders of atheist bloggers by Islamists. 

Could a Machine Think?

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
July 31, 2015

Here's a (long) animation script I wrote that introduces the philosophical puzzles of whether machines could think. The idea is it would be one of a series on the 'Big Questions'. Anyone interested in producing it, let me know...

2 Comments

Caffeine and Pickled Vegetables

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 30, 2015

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

The CFI Leadership Conference kicks off this evening, and I'm currently in transit. (I mean, right now I'm sitting at my computer, but, like, today I'm mostly traveling is what I'm saying, not like I'm driving and typing at the same time.) The theme is "Moving Freethought Forward," and I think my job is to make sure that while we're moving it forward we don't bump it into walls or knock over anything expensive. 

With Berkeley, CA's new warning label law for cell phones, Carina Storrs at CNN looks at what the science actually says about radiation and phones...

From N-rays to EM-drives: when does science become pseudoscience?

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
July 29, 2015

A fair amount of pseudo-science begins as blue-sky, basic scientific hypotheses and experiments. Hypotheses can challenge basic accepted notions, or begin with them, and may yet somehow go off the rails. How does this happen, and at what point do scientific inquiries become obsessive or pathological?

“Mr. Holmes”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 29, 2015

As Sherlockians know, one of the great detective’s earliest (pre-Watson) stories (“The Musgrave Ritual”) was set in Sussex, as were some later tales penned by his faithful sidekick (“The Sussex Vampire” for example). And in 1903 Holmes retired to Sussex Downs to enjoy life as a beekeeper, although mystery intervened: In “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” Holmes must solve a case of strange horror, but he does so, not with his deductive genius but by his powerful memory (recalling a book he once read).

A Crammed, Exotic Cocktail

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 29, 2015

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

A sobering and fascinating Point of Inquiry, as Harvard foreign relations expert Stephen M. Walt talks to Josh Zepps about what happens if and when the Islamic State stops being a crisis or a revolution, and just becomes, well, a state.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says no to a rehearing of the case to keep the Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol. Republicans threaten a constitutional amendment to clear the way for it.

Ideal for Assassinations

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 28, 2015

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

The Boy Scouts of America ends its ban on openly gay adult leaders, but local units sponsored by churches can still opt to discriminate. The Mormon Church is so mad, they threaten to start their own scouts.

In USA Today, Tom Krattenmaker takes the next logical step to urging the BSA's welcoming of atheists:

Ultimately, it would be self-defeating for the Boy Scouts to forfeit the chance to spread Scouting skills and values among the population of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or otherwise not religious. More and more youths are growing up in non-religious homes; why would the organization squander the opportunity to serve and influence these boys? 

1 Comment

Render unto Caesar – Unless You’re the Greek Orthodox Church

Guest Blog from Bill Cooke
July 27, 2015

It’s long been known that Greece's wealthier citizens have evaded paying taxes on a massive scale. But, until recently, surprisingly little attention has been given to the Greek Orthodox Church which, despite being the largest land owner in Greece, pays laughably low amounts of tax.

1 Comment

Chocolate Snakes (Alleged)

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 27, 2015

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

It's my daughter's third birthday today. I love her so damn much.

Catch up on the last fortnight of activity from the CFI community with Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter.

Greg Epstein calls Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me "the quintessential atheist and humanist text of my generation."

Prayers Are Not Pixie Dust

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 24, 2015

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

Yesterday my MacBook Pro's display went haywire, so as it is nursed back to health by Apple Geniuses, I am using my wife's older MacBook Pro with an old spinning-disc hard drive, as opposed to the SSD in my newer machine. Folks, as we embark on our march of progress morality, medicine, technology, and human rights, let us all vow to forsake the spinning-disk hard drive forever more, banish them to the dark ages of molasses-slow computing from whence they came.

NASA (which is on a freaking roll lately) announces the discovery of the most Earth-like exoplanet yet found, Kepler 452b, orbiting in the "Goldilocks zone" of its star, with a year of 385 days. CFI's president and CEO Ron Lindsay immediately appoints me to lead our initiatives there...

2 Comments

The Case of the $500,000 Palm Reading

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 23, 2015

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

A glimmer of hope for moderate Islam is on a mountain in Pakistan: Tim Craig at WaPo profiles the success of Karimabad.

Tobin Grant looks at research that shows that religious equality is definitely not the norm around the world, as most of the population lives somewhere that gives at least preferential treatment to one religion, and a huge percentage lives where the state is overtly hostile to any at all. 

1 Comment

New Horizons Was Born in Kenya

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 22, 2015

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

We have a new action alert, urging you to tell Congress to quit the ridiculous attacks against Planned Parenthood, the victims of faux-stings by right wing activists. The New York Times agrees that the attacks are absurd:

Lawmakers responding by promoting their own anti-choice agenda are rewarding deception and putting women’s health and their constitutionally protected rights at risk. 

In Seattle, only 81.4 percent of kindergarteners have been vaccinated against polio. Reports Isolde Raftery at KUOW:

That’s lower than the 2013 polio immunization rates for 1-year-olds in Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Algeria, El Salvador, Guyana, Sudan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Yemen, among other countries, according to data from the World Health Organization.

1 Comment

I Don’t Have High Expectations

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 21, 2015

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

Medical ethics, particularly when we're talking about end-of-life issues and patient autonomy, have changed a lot over the past couple of generations. On Point of Inquiry this week, Lindsay Beyerstein talks to Dr. Barron Lerner about what we've learned and what we're still figuring out.

(Also check out Lindsay's interview with Paul Offit, now published for Skeptical Inquirer.) 

Ethics, good god, what are they good for? David Koepsell looks at the value of ethics education, when "those trained in ethics appear not to behave any better than any other group." 

1 Comment

Is Studying Ethics (or anything) Worth it?

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
July 20, 2015

Recently, a study released by some philosophers raised this question, framing it in their study of the ethics of ethics professors. It is an interesting conundrum, and their results are rather interesting. It turns out that ethics professors are no more or less likely to behave “ethically,” and they draw some interesting conclusions about this. 

A Baggie of Dirt

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 20, 2015

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

David Cameron announces a 5-year plan to combat Islamic extremism in the UK, telling young British Muslims attracted to the Islamic state:

You won't be some valued member of a movement. You are cannon fodder for them. They will use you. If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you. That is the sick and brutal reality of ISIL. 

Three pieces from the latest Free Inquiry have been posted and made publicly available: Ron Lindsay's op-ed pushes the "good without God" meme further to "better without God"...

2 Comments

When Everything Falls Apart

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 17, 2015

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

Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been pardoned by Bahrain's king after his four months in jail for criticizing the government. Giving an interview to RT, he says:

This positive step towards me is a positive one, but you have thousands of other behind bars. They are behind bars just because of their struggle, or because they speak, because they criticize the government in a way or another.Those people have to be awarded and they have to be welcomed rather than to be put behind bars. 

Another week, another mass shooting. In Chattanooga, the shooter (now dead) said to have ties to Islamist terror groups, kills four U.S. Marines.

Ancient Obfuscations

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 16, 2015

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

We're always glad to get updates from George Ongere at CFI-Kenya, and in his latest report he has some great news: Their Humanist Orphans project has gotten official certification from the Kenyan government, which was no easy feat. 

Wow, look at the surface of Pluto. And while you're at it, dig this close-up of its pal Charon.

Church Fires: Racism, Copycat Crimes, or Random?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
July 15, 2015

A rash of recent church fires has left many Americans wondering if we're experiencing a wave of hate crimes.

CFI–Kenya: The Plight of Children in Africa and Our Humanist Efforts

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
July 15, 2015

This is a special guest post by George Ongere of CFI–Kenya.

In Africa, children often find themselves in unfortunate situations due to local beliefs, practises and representations, which always lead to mistreatment, exploitation, violence and deaths. In most cases, a great number of children find themselves in circumstances that they do not understand or comprehend; and sadly, they can be hacked to death or chased away from the only families and homes they have known in their entire lives without any explanations given to them.

My Latest: “American Hauntings”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 15, 2015

Co-authored by Robert E. Bartholomew, a world expert on panics and hysterias, is our American Hauntings: The True Stories behind Hollywood’s Scariest Movies—from The Exorcist to The Conjuring.

A Bit Like a Bad Blog Post

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 15, 2015

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

New Horizons is a huge freaking success. Alice Bowman, the operations manager says, "The spacecraft was happy." 

President Obama tweets that "Pluto just had its first visitor!" John Podesta, known UFO enthusiast (let's say), counters:

.@POTUS: how can you be sure this was Pluto's first visitor? #justasking

Kuiper Belt Object of Our Affection

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 14, 2015

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

Hello, Pluto! NASA's New Horizon does its flyby of the coolest Kuiper Belt object, like, ever. 

Mark Oppenheimer profiles the doings of one of the most amusing and odd aspects of the religious freedom debates of recent years: Those wacky Satanists

“It Is Said That . . .”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 13, 2015

Yawn. Another ghost book, long on mostly unattributed anecdotes and short on anything resembling evidence.

Universal Ham Sandwich Coverage

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 13, 2015

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

The previous two weeks had much win in them. Get the full scoop in Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter

Nick Little, our legal director, has a great blog post on why states' Blaine Amendments are so important, regardless of their origins:

If a religious organization accepts state money, it should play by the same rules as everyone else. A secular humanist should not have to pay taxes to fund a rehabilitation facility claiming that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way out of addiction. Similarly, a Catholic should not have to fund a fundamentalist Baptist school which teaches that the Pope is the antichrist. And a Jewish citizen should not have to pay taxes which fund an Islamic counseling center. 

1 Comment

Why Blaine Amendments Must Be Defended

Guest Blog from Nicholas Little
July 10, 2015

It’s been almost two weeks since the Supreme Court decided the Obergefell case, and extended marriage equality across the nation. In that two weeks, there has been remarkably little smiting of America by a vengeful God. Either he is busy with other things, or he wasn’t overly upset by the decision after all.

Doctors, Attorneys, and Candlestick Makers

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 10, 2015

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

We've got our first closeup picture of Pluto and its partner-in-gravity Charon. Beautiful. 

Bonya Rafida Ahmed, who survived the attack by Islamists in Bangladesh that took her husband Avijit Roy, denies reports that she identified any suspects in the murder, and says none of the Bangladeshi authorities have contacted her at all since May. 

Excruciating Detail

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 09, 2015

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

Both houses of Congress are debating the the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and we need to you to tell them to keep vouchers, which cripple public education to find private religious schools, out of the picture. Actually, both houses rejected voucher amendments last night! Thank you to those who reached out!

In revelations that will surprise no one, it is discovered that ExxonMobile knew that global warming was happening as early as 1981, and yet has spent more than $30 million on efforts to deny it. (This seems relevant to this topic.)

Usually a Parasite

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 08, 2015

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

We got our win on vaccines in California, but a bill for end-of-life options has stalled in the State Assembly over fears of "suicide tourism" (what?!?!?) and, of course, religious pressure.

CFI, along with other organizations of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, write to Congress urging passage of the House resolution calling for the repeal of blasphemy laws worldwide. 

Harmless to Ingest

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 07, 2015

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

Today marks 10 years since the London terror attacks of 7/7. Relatedly, Amanda Hess looks at how young folks seem to really like 9/11 truther jokes

Ron Lindsay writes at Huffington Post that grappling with the ugly side of history is not as simple as taking down some flags; along with the symbols, we need to deal with the system:

Historical knowledge is, all other things being equal, a good thing, but as with other sources of knowledge, it is best to drink it in deeply. 

2 Comments

Christian Right Targets Indiana Children

Freethought from the Heartland with Reba Boyd Wooden
July 06, 2015

The Good News Club, which is the child evangelism component of a wider network of the Christian right movement, is targeting Indianapolis July 13-25, 2015. 

1 Comment

A Quite Gobsmacking Power

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 06, 2015

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

CFI-Indiana catches wind of the fundamentalist Good News Club's plan to target Indianapolis kids for proselytizing and generally scaring with hellfire. So they put out a warning today for parents to be ready. 

The editorial board of The Oklahoman is unhappy that the State Supreme Court nixed a Ten Commandments monument, and wants the state constitution's Blaine Amendment repealed, the one that keeps states from funding religion. It cites our lawsuit in Florida, calling us "radical secularists." You're welcome.

Might it be pretty obvious there’s no Judeo-Christian God?

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
July 06, 2015

Er, yes it might be pretty obvious. In fact, it is pretty obvious, And we shouldn't shy away from saying so.

14 Comments

Today’s Foghorn, Tomorrow’s Footnote

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 02, 2015

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

The US Episcopal Church votes to approve same-sex marriage, striking the words "man and woman" from the marriage canon in favor of gender-neutral wording. 

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig makes a Christian case for vaccinations at The New Republic:

Vaccination is not only an individual healthcare choice, but a decision to participate in an act of self-sacrifice for one’s broader community. In most cases, the sacrifice is exceedingly small: a little bit of soreness at the injection site, and at worst, a day or so of feeling lousy. But it is worth it, in Christian terms, to protect the vulnerable.  

(Imagine There’s) No Country for Old Gods

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
July 01, 2015

Absent states or churches, humans would have greater, not lesser freedom to pursue their associations with one another. The Hobbesian notion of the "war of all against all" in the state of nature is a useful means to entice people to pray for peace, and seek security in the state, but both serve mostly to subject us to usurping our inherent freedoms, and are likewise myths.

Please Wear Socks

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
July 01, 2015

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

Gov. Jerry Brown wasted no time signing into law California's SB 277, tossing out belief exemptions for required vaccinations, which is a huge win for reason over conspiracy-mongering. We said in our statement:

By embracing the scientific method and empirical evidence over pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, the children of California will be better protected from preventable infectious diseases, which in turn protects all of us.