Blog Archives for February 2016

Scientism - for comments

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
February 29, 2016

Here is an updated final section for my chapter on Scientism, and how religious apologists use the label confusedly to try to protect their beliefs from scientific refutation.Comments welcome.

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Please Die More Quietly

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

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

Last week marked one year since the murder of Avijit Roy, and things aren't getting any better in Bangladesh. We're asking you to contact your Member of Congress to back House Resolution 396, demanding that Bangladesh do more to protect the human rights of dissenters and minorities. 

Two weeks is a crazy long time. No way you can remember everything that happened over a whole fortnight. Good thing there's Cause & Effect, CFI's newsletter.

RIDDLEculous X

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 29, 2016

RIDDLEculous X

Threats to Religious Liberty: Real and Imagined

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

Religious liberty is under attack. A number of presidential candidates have made this claim, and it was one of the key issues in Thursday night’s Republican debate. One of the moderators, Hugh Hewitt of Salem Radio, even asserted that his worries about religious liberty keep him up at night.

Natural Born Zodiac Killer

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

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

I'm still reeling from that GOP debate last night. I mean, holy buhjeezus what a spectacle. I just. I just don't even know. 

Oh wait, yes I do. Right after the debate, Trump speculated that the IRS was auditing him because "I'm a strong Christian." He really said that! Relatedly, Ben Radford is about to release a new book, Bad Clowns. SEE WHAT I DID THERE

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On What Claims are Permitted

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
February 25, 2016

Should we police our internal arguments in public or in social media for the sake of not revealing to our opponents our weaknesses, or shall we air all claims that are not outright lies given that doing so provides the best basis for their testing?

A Cascade of Computations

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

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

The coming of the Depp to the Reason Rally is making news. Our evil plan is working.

Matthew Sheffield created NewsBusters, so I'm not exactly a fan, but at The American Conservative, he gets something very right: The right will have to contend with the fact that "nones" are the future:

In 2016 and beyond, Christian conservatives face a choice. They can embrace identity politics and become a small group of frustrated Christian nationalists who grow ever more resentful toward their fellow Americans, or they can embrace reality 

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Clarifying the Anti-Christ

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 24, 2016

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

So, no kidding, Johnny Depp is going to be at the Reason Rally. If he doesn't sing some Sweeney Todd selections I will be sad.

Larissa MacFarquhar is the guest on Point of Inquiry, talking to Lindsay Beyerstein about attitudes toward those who throw themselves into charity and volunteerism

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Reverend Peter Popoff: Still Unrepentant

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 23, 2016

I chanced upon an infomercial for the notorious Peter Popoff, televangelist and roving healer, on TLC (January 21, 2016), featuring a “Toronto Miracle Crusade.” For me it was dèjá vu once again.

We Do Violence to Reality

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 23, 2016

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

Tamar Wilner at Newsweek reports on the ongoing, often maddening attempts to shut down "cancer quack" Stanislaw Burzynski, who compares his critics to Nazis who will face something akin to "Nuremberg trial."  

Ted Cruz's campaign falsely accuses Marco Rubio of saying that the Bible has "not many answers" in a video, which is quickly proven to be untrue. In the ensuing hubbub, Cruz's communications director Rick Tyler apologizes profusely to Rubio, and Cruz fires Tyler. The irony, of course, is that Rubio had said there were not a lot of answers in the Bible, he'd have been right.

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Lessons from a Middle School Bermuda Triangle Q&A

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
February 22, 2016

A Q&A session with a middle school class about the Bermuda Triangle offers an unexpected lesson.

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Cockfighting for Jesus

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

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

Ron Lindsay considers the benefits of meditation, and rebuts some of the positions of Sam Harris about the utility of the practice. 

We recently got a report from CFI–Uganda about the great work they're doing to celebrate reason, debunk superstitions, and educate on diseases such as HIV/AIDS.  

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On the Pursuit of Meditation: Buddha vs. Faust

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
February 21, 2016

Should we meditate? If so, to what extent? What benefits can we realistically expect from meditation? And what might we be sacrificing to engage in meditation? Is devoting a substantial amount of time to meditation ethically questionable?

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CFI–Uganda Educates and Celebrates with Science and Humanism

Guest Blog from Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
February 19, 2016

We just got a great report from CFI–Uganda, a very active CFI branch that deals with things like the problem of belief in witchcraft among much of the population and superstitions about medicine and disease. And they tackle these issues, and many more, directly, person by person.

Moral Fuzziness

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

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

More more more. More exemptions, cry religious employers, horrified not only by the idea of offering legally mandated contraceptive coverage, but even aghast at having to declare their opposition to doing so! That in itself is a violation of their Religious Freedom™! We say no. Along with our friends at American Atheists, we've submitted an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the case of Zubik v. Burwell to argue that these claims of religious exemption -- exemptions from even having to exempt oneself! -- have gone too far:

“This ludicrous case is a transparent attempt to legislate from the pulpit,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice-President and General Counsel. “It showcases the intolerable consequences of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act], a bad law that has predictably been twisted into a scattershot weapon used by those who want to see their narrow religious beliefs imposed on everyone else. It is religious privilege at its worst.”  

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Death of Cynthia Dwyer

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 18, 2016

Cynthia Dwyer is a name you probably will not recognize, but it caught my attention when it appeared in a Buffalo News headline, February 16, 2016, announcing her death at 84. She had been the “53rd hostage” from the Iranian crisis that began in 1979. She was also, subsequently, the editor of my first book, Inquest on the Shroud of Turin.

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Heal the Bern

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 18, 2016

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

Today's top story: God, taking a cue from Stephen Fry, has left Twitter

While they can't claim a straight line of causation, scientists are warning that outbreaks such as the Zika virus could be greatly accelerated by global warming.

People Shriek Their Secularism

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 17, 2016

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

Bangladesh police shut down a stall at a Dhaka book fair because it is reported that some of the books "hurt religious feelings." Police also arrest three people for the publication of the book Islam Debate. One year after his murder, Avijit Roy's works are no longer being sold at the book fair as sellers and publishers fear meeting the same fate. The U.S.'s ambassador in Dhaka expresses optimism for a "breakthrough" in the year-old case.

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Sheen of Plausibility

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 16, 2016

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

CFI president Ron Lindsay takes to HuffPo, not to praise Scalia, but to bury him. More specifically, to bury his supposedly "rational" originalism:

The more fundamental flaw [in Scalia's thinking] is to assume that the Founders wanted us to use detailed historical research, or perhaps necromancy, to discern the specific things they were thinking of at the time they wrote the Constitution. 

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Justice Scalia and Originalism: May They Rest in Peace

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
February 15, 2016

As a jurist, Antonin Scalia will likely be remembered most for championing the “originalist” view of constitutional law, that is, the view that in determining how constitutional provisions should be applied today, we need to adhere without deviation to the “original” meaning of the provisions. Scalia maintained this is the only legitimate way for an unelected judiciary to apply the Constitution because otherwise they would be acting as legislators. Scalia repeatedly heaped scorn on the view that judges should interpret constitutional provisions in light of contemporary conditions and standards.

Odin is Judging You

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

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

Richard Dawkins records a message to update everyone on his condition after a minor stroke last week. Even as he works to recover, he's still displaying wit and insight. David Gibson at RNS looks at the discussion about whether believers should pray for Dawkins' health. Some are apparently upset that folks would dare to do, and Hemant says, "To suggest [the prayers] were anything but an honest plea for his quick recovery suggests a bitterness that just isn’t there."

As you are no doubt already aware, Justice Antonin Scalia is dead. There will be a great disturbance in the Force as a result.

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Invisible Music

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

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

First, we start the day by wishing a speedy recovery and good health to Richard Dawkins, who last week suffered a minor stroke. He's doing okay and is expected to be back in action, but there will be some work ahead to recover. CFI and RDFRS staff is handling his Twitter account for now (thus, alas, a spelling error in a recent tweet that Dawkins himself would never make). 

But a Happy Darwin Day to him and to you nonetheless.

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Transbunnyism

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

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

Rapid Growth, which is a news outlet in Grand Rapids -- get it? Rapid growth? -- checks to see what all the fuss is about with the secular Sunday Assembly services, and highlights the area's existing freethought community represented by CFI–Michigan.

Scott Gavura considers the ethics of marketing and selling complementary and alternative medicine. And there are none. There are no ethics.    

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Feral Children in Fact and Fiction

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
February 10, 2016

Legends from around the world tell of children raised by wild animals including wolves, bears, and apes. 

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Poem: “The Bigfoot Bear”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 10, 2016

For the past few years, I have been intensely studying what I call “The Bigfoot Bear”—that is, any bear, especially if standing and even walking upright, that may be mistaken for a Bigfoot. Here I offer a poem on that subject (rather than an investigative report). It is written in a style I have developed, that I call improvisational rhyming. It is perhaps best appreciated when read aloud.

Really Most Sincerely Dead

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 10, 2016

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

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump handily win the New Hampshire primary. Sanders becomes the first non-Christian to win a presidential primary. Trump is the first, uh, whatever he is to win a presidential primary [citation needed]. 

Bizarro Vermont

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 09, 2016

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

My neighboring state of New Hampshire (or as one friend once referred to it, "Bizarro Vermont") is holding its sort-of-first-in-the-nation primary today, and you can almost feel the electricity and the excitem--- that's not true, it's just a regular cold day here in Maine. 

Good stuff: Point of Inquiry this week is all about the new chapter for CFI and the merger with the Dawkins Foundation, as Josh Zepps interviews both Ron Lindsay and our new boss Robyn Blumner

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The Work of CFI’s Office of Public Policy and Legal Department

Democratic Discourse with Michael De Dora
February 08, 2016

Threats to fundamental human rights can take horrific and immediate forms, such as the campaigns of terror and murder by groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS. At the same time, human rights are also challenged, and often entirely erased, in ways that do not necessarily make the top of the evening news — and yet require a passionate and persistent response, and demand our fullest attention and energy.

A Proper Villain

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

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

In The New York Times, Susan Jacoby argues that secularists must find ways to combine their powers and hold politicians accountable for their positions and their language, citing the CFI-RDFRS merger as a rare example of "a rare union of secular forces," and mentions Michael De Dora's efforts to build coalitions with non-secular groups. 

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Rev. Downs’ Elixir

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
February 05, 2016

Shown in the accompanying photograph, this 12-paneled aqua bottle (hand blown in a two-piece mold and measuring about 5 38’’ tall by  1 1316’’ diameter) is embossed “REV. N. H. DOWNS’ / VEGETABLE / BALSAMIC / ELIXIR.”

Appetite for Mars

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

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

Bernie Sanders' religion or lack thereof is, surprisingly to me, a very hot topic of late. At Quartz, the most excellent Jennifer Michael Hecht (who notes that she leans toward Clinton) reflects on the broader importance of Sanders' secularism:

Sanders’ deeply humanist views make me think that he could turn out to be a good leader for our heterogeneous nation—both because he is brave enough to speak a new kind of truth about religion, and because he is motivated to do the right thing for its own sake. ... A candidate ready to admit that he is not a part of any religion, while respecting people whose beliefs differ from his own, might well be the person who can lead our fractured country toward trust and unity.

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Come and See the Dead Monk

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

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

President Obama visits a mosque, the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and says this, which kind of chokes me up:

Let me say as clearly as I can as president of the United States: you fit right here. You're right where you belong. You're part of America too. You're not Muslim or American. You're Muslim and American. 

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Luxembourg…In…SPAAAAACE

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 03, 2016

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

A very positive development: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom writes to Secretary Kerry to urge the State Department to provide humanitarian parole for Bangladesh's secularist writers and activists in danger. CFI and a coalition of other groups did the same in December. (Catch up with the rest of CFI's policy work from last month in our Advocacy Update.)

As a side note, apparently John Kerry has been referring to ISIS as "above all, apostates," which seems really, really counterproductive.

They Want Us to Swallow It

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 02, 2016

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

Last night, the people of Iowa decided who the next president will be, and nothing that happens from here on out matters whatsoever. Trump has been revealed as a flash in the pan, Clinton can't possibly recover from having narrowly won, and third-place Marco Rubio is the next Obama. Or that's what I glean from Twitter, and really, what else is there. Man, it's too bad there aren't any more primaries after this one...

Neither a Duran, Nor a Duran

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
February 01, 2016

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

Egyptian satirical cartoonist Islam Gawish is arrested for "running a website without a license." NYT reports:

The Sunday raid on the Egypt News Network, where Mr. Gawish worked, was carried out because the website was operating without an official permit, said Maj. Gen. Ayman Helmy, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry...

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