Blog Archives for October 2015

The Mourning Scare-esy!!!

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

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

Pakistan's supreme court would like folks to watch it with the false blasphemy accusations. I can think of a way to cut the number down: don't have a blasphemy law. Raza Habib Raja notes that despite the draconian religious laws of Pakistan, its people are far more moderate, and can have a voice if they choose.

I've been largely uninterested in the story about the high school football team that wants to pray publicly at games ...until the Satanists decided to get involved!  

1 Comment

The Curious Case of Baby Lisa and the Psychic

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
October 29, 2015

In my over 15 years of investigations I've covered many dozens of claims of psychics and psychic detectives. Of those, about a half-dozen stand out as being particularly interesting or intriguing-not just yet another psychic making dubious claims, but some novel twist that at suggests a closer look is needed to understand what's going on. This is one of those cases.


A Gaping Hole in the Fabric of Civil Society

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

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

Big news in the CFI universe, as Melody Hensley steps down after eight years as executive director of CFI–DC, and Ed Beck (the guy who I know works for us but for the life of me I can't tell you what he does) will take the helm in her place

CFI is hosting a conference on experimental philosophy next month ("X-Phi"), and David Koepsell helps explain what the heck it's all about

Sen. Barbara Boxer introduces a physician-assisted suicide bill akin to the one just passed in her own state of California, "which would allow individuals suffering from an advanced illness with intolerable pain or terminal illness to receive medication for the relief of pain and other end-of-life treatment to minimize suffering." 

2 Comments

X-phi: Should Philosophy use Empiricism?

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
October 28, 2015

There is some disagreement about the proriety of using empirical tools in academic philosophy, but a growing movement known as "x-phi" seeks to use empirical studies to help inform philosophical investigations. Why should we use empirical and analytic means to probe the world and human nature? A plurality of methods ought to be embraced and the x-phi movement can contribute to the field.

3 Comments

40 Proof Laxative

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

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

Point of Inquiry this week features religion journalist extraordinaire Sarah Posner, who chats with Josh Zepps about Trump, Ben Carson, and how weird it is that these guys are managing to appeal to evangelicals. 

Allen Rappeport at NYT does a deep dive into Carson's Seventh-day Adventism in the context of the presidential race.  

Yesterday, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, David Saperstein tweeted, "On Int'l #ReligiousFreedom Day, we affirm the right to hold no religious beliefs at all, and to do so free of persecution & fear." We liked it so much, we meme'd it

My Lab Partner, Han Solo

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

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

The House Science Committee is called "worse than the Benghazi committee" by Vox's David Roberts for its "open-ended, Orwellian attempts to intimidate some of the nation's leading scientists and scientific institutions." Phil Plait shows some of the ways committee chair Lamar Smith is looking to make life hell for scientists at the NOAA.

Richard Dawkins did an event in Florida with CFI–Tampa Bay and others, and video of the whole shebang is up. Herb Silverman, as usual, dressed for the occasion.  

What a Fraud You’ll Feel Like

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 26, 2015

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

The New Yorker, just in time for Halloween, republishes its 2002 profile of CFI's own Joe Nickell, with the best caricature of him ever. 

Today, however, Joe warns folks about a telephone scam where callers claim to be the IRS, and investigates claims of "miracles" from the painting of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

4 Comments

Beware Urgent “IRS” Calls

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
October 23, 2015

At 12:09 p.m., Thursday, September 18, 2015, my answering machine recorded an urgent message from the IRS:

1 Comment

Cryptids Love Cheetos

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

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

CFI's legal eagle (sorry) Nick Little is one of the guests on Science for the People on the topic of mandatory vaccinations. 

Also over the radio waves, WSFU covers CFI's lawsuit over taxpayer-funded sectarian prison rehabilitation in Florida (of course).  

1 Comment

Klingons, If You Will

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

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

CFI has for years now been involved in a lawsuit in Florida, challenging the state funding of sectarian Christian prison rehabilitation programs, and things are starting to move. The Blaze and Broward-Palm Beach New Times cover the story, with the latter quoting our boss Ron Lindsay who says, "The ministries that are defendants in this case — and by their own admission, they are ministries — are absolutely free to carry out their activities. However, they cannot use tax dollars to do so." 

2 Comments

HAPA Calls for Investigation of Indiana Contract with Real Alternatives

Freethought from the Heartland with Reba Boyd Wooden
October 21, 2015

The members of HAPA, The Health Access and Privacy Alliance, are disturbed to learn that the State of Indiana has signed a 3.5 million dollar contract with the anti-abortion group Real Alternatives to provide pregnancy support services throughout the state. HAPA urges a full investigation into how this money is being used.

‘Bridge of Spies’ on Spying and Due Process

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
October 21, 2015

'Bridge of Spies' is an engaging political thriller with a real American hero--whether audiences recognize it or not.

The Qatari Heresy

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

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

Two stories about Qatar! One: UN human rights leaders call upon Qatar to release a poet, Mohammed al-Ajami, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for reciting a poem in his home critical of the Crown Prince. 

Meanwhile, Ahmed "Cool Clock" Mohamed, just after meeting the president, is going to move to Qatar with his family so he can attend the Qatar Foundation Young Innovators Program. Listen, Texas. These people have chosen Qatar over you. Self-reflect.

3 Comments

From Lily Dale: A Report on the Spirits

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
October 20, 2015

On Saturday, September 5, 2015, my wife Diana and I attended yet another open-air séance at the village of Lily Dale, on Cassadaga Lake, New York. Lily Dale advertises that it is “The World’s Largest Center for the Religion of Spiritualism.”

If You Could Please Explain the Crab Monster

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

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

Oh hey, Canada! Did you have an election or something? That's cool I guess. Hey let's go see what Trump's up to... 

Delicious, delicious science is the theme for the latest episode of Point of Inquiry, with the chief of Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt, and some culinary mythbusting.

2 Comments

Morally Compromised or Nonexistent

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 19, 2015

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

The Las Vegas Review-Journal seeks the wisdom of our own Joe Nickell in a piece on end-is-nigh prophecies: "Hope springs eternal, but so does fear."

Oh hey there was a lot of news over the last fortnight, so go ahead and check out Cause & Effect so you can look like you were up to date all along. I won't tell.

Why we are entitled to point a finger at Islam on oppression and bigotry

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
October 19, 2015

If we can say that the Christian religion was a root cause of much European anti-semitic bigotry and oppression for many hundreds of years, which it was, then there is no principled reason for supposing Islam can't similarly be a root cause of much contemporary bigotry and oppression.

37 Comments

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of the Posterior Medial Frontal Cortex

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

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

Nikhil Kumar at TIME covers the mortal plight of secularist bloggers in Bangladesh, citing Avijit Roy and his work with CFI. 

I join Loren Grush at The Verge in actually thinking Newt Gingrich's Moon-colony plan was a cool idea, and we are joined by Jeb! Bush, who said, "People started laughing, and I’m thinking, ‘Really?’ I think it’s pretty cool." That's because it is pretty cool. Moon colonies are cool. That's just a #sciencefact.

A Swarm of Megastructures

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

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

I don't want to alarm you, but there really does exist a genuine mystery about what is orbiting a star in the Cygnus constellation, and, I'm not even kidding you, one plausible explanation is that it might, might, might, possibly, maybe be evidence, perhaps, of an alien civilization. Here's Ross Andersen at The Atlantic:

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star. 

Un-Monk-Like

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

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

In The GuardianMaryan Namazie admonishes what she calls the apologists for radical Islam on the political left:

For those who have bought into the Islamist narrative, there are no social and political movements, class politics, dissenters, women’s rights campaigners, socialists – just homogenised “Muslims” (read Islamists) who face “intimidation” and “discrimination” if an ex-Muslim woman speaks on a university campus. 

The Jersey Beanie Baby

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

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

Point of Inquiry this week has one of our own: Josh Zepps interviews CFI senior policy analyst Ed Beck, along with SCA's Sarah Levin, to talk about the anti-vaccine movement and our work on vaccination policy. 

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry announces ten new Fellows of the committee and four new Scientific and Technical Consultants.  

1 Comment

Hungry, Hungry Huitzilopochtli

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 12, 2015

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

Joe Nickell has a fascinating post on the newly-minted Catholic saint, Junipero Serra, showing how miracles are determined from an argument from ignorance, and why Serra's canonization is deeply offensive to many Native Americans. 

Bill Moyers chooses a recent piece from Free Inquiry to republish on his website: Wayne L. Trotta's "The Poetry of the First Amendment." 

3 Comments

Junipero Serra: Pope Francis’ U.S. Saint

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
October 09, 2015

During his first visit to the United States, Pope Francis I canonized a Spanish Catholic Franciscan friar, Junipero Serra y Ferrer (1713–1784). With only one “miracle” to his credit (though not for the church’s lack of trying!) he became Saint Junipero Serra, but the act provoked anger from many Native Americans and his statue at one mission was vandalized.

A Machine That Has Yet to be Built

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

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

So you may have heard that the House of Representatives is more of a mess than usual, unable to find itself a Speaker. (Does that make the House "speechless"?) Anyway, along with the wreckage he's leaving behind, John Boehner is also leaving behind a bill to reauthorize the DC school voucher law, which of course uses taxpayer money to fund private and religious schools. We have an action alert out so you can shout at your Members of Congress. Thwarting our efforts, however, is a bipartisan group of senators, who are trying to reauthorize the bill from the upper chamber. UGH! 

The Precious Fruit

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

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

Wait. I shouldn't...um...

Weren't, um...

Ahem. Weren't we supposed to be...like...yesterday...

Never mind. 

Philip Shenon at Politico reports on the declassification of a CIA report that seems to indicate a lot of shadiness by John McCone, CIA director at the time of the Kennedy assassination:

Annihilation Day

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

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

This will be the last Morning Heresy you ever read, which will be one of the last things you ever do, because the world is ending today, according to the eBible Fellowship, whatever the hell that is.

The commissioners of Blount County, Tennessee have voted 10-5 not to seek God's mercy, avoiding his divine wrath over gay marriage. If only they'd listened to the eBible Fellowship, now we're all screwed. 

2 Comments

Despite everything, the UN justifies its existence

Guest Blog from Bill Cooke
October 06, 2015

It’s easy to be disillusioned with the United Nations. Seventy years after its formation, the Security Council remains unreformed and unrepresentative. And power politics on the Security Council means that blood still flows in Syria. And meanwhile, Saudi Arabia remains on the UN's Human Rights Council. But behind the headlines, real work continues.

What’s so bad about religious schools?

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
October 06, 2015

Why shouldn't parents be free to send their kids to a religious school if they so wish? Even many non-religious folk seem to think, 'Where's the harm?'

10 Comments

Better Call Sol

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

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

Gov. Jerry Brown signs into law California's End of Life Option Act, giving the terminally ill the right to seek the assistance of a physician in ending their lives. Check out his fairly moving statement on the matter, and our response, which says in part:

There can be no more intimate, self-defining decision for a person than the decision whether to continue living. That decision must not rest with any church, politician, or cultural tradition, but with the person who is terminally ill.

On Point of Inquiry this week, Lindsay Beyerstein talks to medical journalist Jon Palferman about the mysteries of the brain, in particular in terms of diseases like Parkinson's, which he suffers from himself. 

Reality Check: Is America ‘Numb’ to Mass Shootings?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
October 05, 2015

In the wake of a shooting that left at least ten dead, last week President Obama stated that "Somehow, this has become routine. We become numb to this." Is that true? 

2 Comments

The Kim Davis/Mark Wahlberg Equation

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
October 05, 2015

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

Do you feel disoriented, like the past two weeks are just a blur? No worries, Cause & Effect, the official newsletter of CFI, is here to help fill in those gaps. 

The mob-killing of Mohammed Ikhlaq, the man in India who was suspected of slaughtering a cow, gets uglier. David Barstow and Suhasini Raj at NYT report that the activist group largely responsible for the attack, "Save the Cow," is made up of political operatives for Prime Minister Modi's Hindu nationalist party.

1 Comment

Turin “Shroud” Still a Fake

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
October 02, 2015

In 2005, Turin Shroud proponent Ray Rogers claimed that earlier carbon-14 tests of the shroud linen—showing it to date from between 1260 and 1390 and to thus be a fake—were invalid because, he hypothesized, the samples must have been taken from a “medieval patch.” Rogers and I had an exchange of arguments in the Skeptical Inquirer. But a new paper by three Italian chemists, in the same journal in which Rogers published, shows who was right.

3 Comments

Wicked Good Monstah

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

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

Another mass shooting. This time we're at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, where a guy kills 10 people, injures 7 more, and is himself killed by police. Reports say he was asking victims about their religion, and as you'll know doubt hear if you haven't already, he was apparently against organized religion, for what it's worth.

The Vatican seems to be doing some damage control around the Kim Davis secret meeting:

The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects. 

1 Comment

“The Gospel According to Stephenson”: Seven Questions for John Schuermann

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
October 01, 2015

In which I ask Writer/Director/Composer John Schuermann about his hoped-to-be upcoming vampire film "The Gospel According to Stephenson."

Yes But My FEELINGS

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

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

I have a new op-ed up at CNN on the pope and how he found time for Kim Davis (not persecuted) but never says anything about atheists being killed and jailed for speaking out (persecuted):

Instead of defending those who have lost their basic human rights, he wastes his political capital on those who seek to deny rights to others.

WIVB talked to CFI's Tom Flynn about International Blasphemy Rights Day and the special issue of Free Inquiry on blasphemy - it was on the tee-vee, but I don't have online video yet.

2 Comments