Blog Archives for January 2016

ICYMI Here is me talking about whether atheism is a faith position

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 31, 2016

In case you missed it, here is an interview with me on whether atheism is a faith position. On Closer to Truth.

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Scientism, The Limits of Science, And Religion - Part 2.

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 30, 2016

The last part of the preceding post.

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Scientism, the limits of science, and religion

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 30, 2016

Here's a penultimate draft of a forthcoming book chapter. Alister McGrath is one of my various targets. Dawkins is discussed too.This includes and extends a previous post.

Archaeopteryx Matters

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 29, 2016

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

Huffington Post's Nick Wing spoke with me about Bernie Sanders' recent comments about God and the candidates' alignment with humanist principles:

"I think everyone believes in God in their own ways," Sanders said in his interview with The Washington Post.

Glossy platitudes like this have become typical in the hyper-religious arena of national politics, but as Fidalgo points out, it's a blanket statement that casually dismisses nonbelievers. Coming from anyone else, it might be expected. But for the godless Americans who have followed Sanders' career and support his presidential campaign, the words sting more. 

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People Abandon Rabbits

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 28, 2016

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

Pew releases a trove of data about religious attitudes in politics, including the warming of Christians to Trump, and the incremental lowering of that "would not vote for an atheist" number, which remains very high. 

Muslim scholars will convene in Morocco next week with an aim to emphasize, and hopefully politically codify, the rights of non-Muslims in majority-Islamic countries. Laudable, of course, but while other faiths are specifically cited as having equal rights, no mention at least in the reporting of the rights specifically of nonbelievers.

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Hologram-Filled Catacombs

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 27, 2016

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

Bernie Sanders opens up a little more about his religious beliefs, and boy does he get one big thing really wrong right out of the gate:

I think everyone believes in God in their own ways.

No, actually. No, everyone really doesn't. 

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A Modest Proposal for Achieving Secular Objectives

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
January 26, 2016

A state court in Florida has determined that the state can finance a Christian ministry that provides biblically based rehabilitation services because the program has a secular objective, namely rehabilitation, and no one is compelled to participate in the program. A federal court has ruled that Ken Ham’s Arc Encounter theme park is entitled to a tax incentive because even though the park is intended to promote a religious message, the tax dollars will serve the secular objective of promoting tourism, and no one is compelled to visit the theme park.

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Inverted Snobbery

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 26, 2016

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

Those antiabortion activists that secretly recorded conversations with folks at Planned Parenthood? And tried to make it look like they were selling baby parts? Right? Remember? Well funny thing: they managed to get a grand jury to look at what Planned Parenthood was doing, and, doesn't it just figure, and like you'd never guess, but the grand jury winds up indicting not Planned Parenthood, but the people who did the misleading sting videos! Classic, right? And PP has been cleared of any wrongdoing! What do you know, huh? What a world. I tell ya.

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Solving the 1932 Bladenboro Fire-poltergeist Case

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 26, 2016

In 1932, several mysterious fires erupted in a house on Elm Street in the small town of Bladenboro, North Carolina. Police, fire experts, and others were baffled by the outbreaks that occurred over three days in the home of elderly residents Council H. Williamson and his wife Lydia. Beginning on January 30 with a burning curtain and window shade in the dining room, and continuing the next day with a set of bedclothes, a stack of papers stored in a closet, and a hanging pair of trousers, the rash of twenty mysterious fires ended about noon on February 1. Soon, however, the fiery case went cold and, according to an article by AtlasObscura.com, remains unsolved to this day (Tomlin 2016). But that has now changed.

Rivalry and Enmity

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 25, 2016

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

Happy Monday! Here's how you'll probably die.

While we were celebrating our merger with the Dawkins Foundation, a judge in Florida handed us a kick in the gut, ruling that explicitly-Christian rehab operations for former prisoners, groups literally called Lamb of God and Prisoners of Christ, aren't "sectarian" and can keep on sucking up taxpayer dollars. We are gobsmacked by how wrong this ruling is, we are not pleased, and we will appeal.

The Bigfoot Obsession

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 25, 2016

With Joe Gisondi’s Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot (2016), the subtitle says it all. Gisondi, an outsider, traveled with Bigfooters, those credulous folk motivated to search for the fabled creature despite zero scientific evidence for its existence. At times he sounds like a skeptic: “How could creatures presumed to be so large remain so elusive?” (77). At other times he seems a believer: “. . . I felt something watching me” (37). He is, in fact, a journalist trying to be objective and show both sides: “As always I straddle the world of what could be and what is” (42).

Science Demands Openness

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
January 25, 2016

One of the great tragedies of modern science and scientific publication has been the degree to which, fearing the loss of profits posed by electronic publishing, publishers have been increasingly moving science behind "paywalls." This trend is slowly beginning to reverse, and we should continue to fight for more freely available scientific papers. 

A Toddler Religion

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 22, 2016

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

Lots of talk about the big CFI/Dawkins Foundation merger! Kimberly Winston has a big story at RNS that's running in lots of places, where it's called a "royal wedding," which, you know, may be overstating it somewhat, but I get it. Anyway, it's got positive reactions from Ryan Cragun and Todd Stiefel in there too. Oh, and me. Whatever.

Hemant says, "It sounds like a win-win for both sides." JT says, "I could not be happier about this." Dan Arel says, "Given that secularism is on the rise in the U.S. I believe the merger can only bring more positive change."  

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Warming Up Relentlessly

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 21, 2016

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

So this is a big, big day for us. If you didn't already get the email or the press release, let me be the first to tell you that CFI has merged with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, and their executive director, Robyn Blumner, is taking over for Ron Lindsay as CEO. Huge, right? Do you need a moment? It's cool, it's cool, I get it. There's a lot to figure out and a lot to do, but you can get more information in this handy-dandy F.A.Q. about the merger, which talks about how it will all work, what role Prof. Dawkins will play, and stuff like that.  

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Kicking at Your Screen

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 20, 2016

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

Point of Inquiry this week has host Lindsay Beyerstein in conversation with Dr. David Grimes, author of Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation

At Skeptical Inquirer, Matan Shelomi shows how we humans share something in common with produce at the grocery store: we may all be, in a way, GMOs...

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We Should Brace for Change

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 19, 2016

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

Skeptical Inquirer's cover story about the dismantling of the Bermuda Triangle mystery 40 years ago by Larry Kusche is now online, and it's good stuff. 

Alexander Stille at The New Yorker looks at the "what did he know and when did he know it" question about Ratzinger and the sexual assault of children by priests. Ratzinger does not come off well, but this is also of note:

Though the sexual-abuse crisis reached its peak in the public sphere during Benedict XVI’s papacy, the single figure most responsible for ignoring this extraordinary accumulation of depravity is the sainted John Paul II.  

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Milbank vs Law on God: Blood on the Carpet

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 18, 2016

Prof John Milbank and I exchange blows on God. We did not pull our punches.

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The Big Short: A Lesson in Financial Skepticism (film review)

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
January 15, 2016

The Academy Award-nominated film The Big Short is, at it heart, a tale about the importance of skepticism: demanding evidence, doing original research, and not just accepting what you’re told—even by “experts.” 

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Get Helen Mirren to a Safe House

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 15, 2016

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

Tomorrow is Religion Freedom Day, marking the 230th anniversary of the  Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. So we have an action alert we want you to sign on to, to tell Congress to honor the spirit of that statute, the wall of separation, and civil rights for all no matter their beliefs.  

Embodying the opposite of those principles, Saudi Arabia hands a death sentence (yes, another) to Ashraf Fayadh, a poet charged with apostasy. Yes, they're going to kill him for "abandoning Islam."

Investigate the Earth’s Roundness

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 14, 2016

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

I've always been uncomfortable with the common refrain from the climate-realist camp saying that "97%" of scientists accept human-caused global warming. I always thing, but what's up with that 3%? Well, according to this really fascinating piece at Skeptical Inquirer by James Lawrence Powell, that figure is wrong. The real number? 99.9%, verging on total unanimity. Now I feel much better.  

Indian comedian Kiku Sharda is arrested for "offending religious sentiments" when he performed as guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh (the "guru in bling") on TV, who is himself under investigation for urging followers to undergo castrations. Yowza. 

Love the Method

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 13, 2016

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

Yesterday we found out that award-winning Saudi human rights activist Samar Badawi, sister to Raif and wife to Raif's one-time attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair (both in Saudi prison), was arrested for allegedly using her husband's Twitter account. We did not take kindly to this, and spoke out strongly. Samar is an ally and friend of ours, and Michael De Dora has been keeping close track of what's happening. Our response and our ability to confirm particular details were noted by the APThe GuardianThe Independent, and others. We just moments ago found out that she's been released for now, but will be appearing before police tomorrow.

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Big Pharma Conspiracy Debunked

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
January 12, 2016

Does Big Pharma really prevent the publication of studies unfavorable to their popular drugs? A closer look.

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Brutal, Fear-Driven, Apocalypse-Based

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 12, 2016

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

Turkey is "disturbed" by the rhetoric against Muslims in the GOP presidential race, and, well, I don't blame them. Of course, I'm pretty disturbed by a lot of what Turkey does and says lately, too. So.

800th time's the charm? Michael Newdow is suing to get "In God We Trust" off the money, this time using RFRA.

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See “The Real ‘X-Files’”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
January 11, 2016

By now you have perhaps learned of the online video by Vice Media, The Real “X-Files?” in which I star as “the real-life Scully” (as in Agent Dana Scully from the popular TV series and film).

A Hyperactive Productivist Churn

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 11, 2016

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

David Bowie is dead at age 69, and it looks like people are going to have some trouble coping with it today. I get it.

Danielle Teller at Quartz explains that Americans' failure to recall basic scientific facts isn't the core problem with "scientific literacy," it's really about taking a rational approach to questions...

3 Comments

In the Pocket of Big Egg

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 08, 2016

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

A working group of 24 geoscientists says, welcome to the Anthropocene epoch. It still remains for the International Commission on Stratigraphy (say that three times fast) to make it "official." You can read more about the Anthropocene in the Feb/March 2013 cover feature of Free Inquiry.

Joel Baden and Candida Moss look at the efforts of the Green family (of Hobby Lobby infamy) to buy up rare biblical antiquities. Once again, I refer you to previous coverage of said subject in Free Inquiry (subscribers only).

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The Tapescrew Letters (part 2)

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 08, 2016

Continuing from the previous blog post.

The Tapescrew Letters (inspired by C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters)

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 08, 2016

Here's something from a while back, in case you missed it (been posted elsewhere before). Letters from a senior to a junior Guru in a new religious movement. I aim to expose the methods by which people become ensared by cults.

Our Goal is Eternity

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 07, 2016

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

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore tells state courts that they may not issue same-sex marriage licenses. Refusing to do so is a "ministerial duty," he says. WHAT A GUY.  

Marco Rubio goes the Full Jesus in a new ad, in which he says, over a sweet and mellow piano underscore...

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A Codification of Common Sense

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 06, 2016

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

Good morning. Oh hey, North Korea says it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. So. The AP has a running post of updates on developments, condemnations, expressions of outrage, skepticism, and the like.

Yesterday, we filed a brief with the Supreme Court on the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a.k.a. the big Texas abortion case. But rather than advancing the general cause of a woman's right to end her pregnancy (which we of course wholeheartedly support), we are joined by a dream-team of scientists and the Dawkins Foundation in arguing that the evidence being presented by the state in favor of onerous restrictions on abortion providers is based largely on pseudoscience and manufactured controversy, and that there's no way the Supremes can make an informed judgment about constitutional rights based on nonsense faux-evidence.

Validated by a Flock of Geese

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 05, 2016

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

Our boss Ron Lindsay, rather quick on the draw I'm happy to say, takes to Huffington Post to confront the latest madness from Antonin Scalia, and the idea that government ought to favor religion over nonreligion:

Neutrality between religion and non-religion is for Scalia not only something that lacks constitutional warrant, but, disturbingly, he also maintains that such neutrality risks incurring the wrath of God or, at best, his indifference. Apparently, the United States cannot expect to prevail in any future conflicts if we show equal respect to theist and atheist alike.

4 Comments

Sucker Bet

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
January 04, 2016

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

Happy new year. Not looking good so far:

Saudi Arabia executes 47 people for "terrorism," including Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a Shia religious leader, charged with leading anti-government demonstrations. (We were among those protesting his sentencing in November.) Iran is extremely pissed about this, and while also fuming over the massive death toll of the hajj stampedes in September, cuts diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia. So I'm sure this will all work itself out calmly.  

Short podcast on god and science that will be basis of a CFI animated short

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
January 02, 2016

Audio recording of myself that will form the basis of a short video for CFI animated by Steph Hope.