Blog Archives for July 2016

Jason Bourne Is Back

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
July 29, 2016

Jason Bourne reunites Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass about a decade after their film The Bourne Supremacy. By this time they're both old pros, which is both good and bad: good because the learning curve is behind them and bad because they seem on autopilot for Jason Bourne, and the end result isn't so much bad as it is stale.

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Project Malarkey

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

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

Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party last night, and as Hemant Mehta points out, this Bible-quoting methodist chose "e pluribus unum" as the American motto to emphasize (over that other one), and declared "I believe in science," followed by a wry giggle that read, to me, as "I can't believe I actually have to say that."

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The Dreamed Visit

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 28, 2016

This is about the reality of an illusional experience. Philosopher Paul Kurtz was founder of The Center for Inquiry. (Written in the style I’ve developed, called Improvisational Rhyming, the poem is probably more effective read aloud.)

Lots of Things He Said Were Stupid

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

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

David Smith at The Guardian has a really interesting piece on the response of Jewish Democrats to the DNC staffer's email suggesting Bernie Sanders be attacked for atheism. The takeaway: For Jews in the party, at least, it would have made no difference:

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said on Tuesday: “...If I was running the DNC, no one would say that because I’d kill them. I mean that figuratively.” 

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Historical Gravity

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

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

Hillary Clinton was formally nominated last night by the Democratic Party, the first woman ever to be the candidate of a major party in U.S. history. You knew that already, but it seemed weird not to mention it. 

Wendy Kaminer (a Women in Secularism 4 speaker) is the guest on Point of Inquiry this week, having a rather pointed discussion with Lindsay Beyerstein on the conflict over things like free speech and safe spaces.

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What’s so great about the sword of reason?

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
July 26, 2016

There are (at least) two ways in which we can attempt to influence the beliefs of others:

 

(i) We can use reason. We can provide scientific and other evidence to support beliefs, subject them to critical scrutiny, reveal contradictions and inconsistencies, and so on.

 

(ii) we can appeal to such mechanisms as peer-pressure, emotional manipulation, humour, sarcasm, repetition, fear (especially of uncertainty), tribalism, vanity, and so on.

 

Now, we free thinkers put a lot of emphasis on (i) rather than (ii), don't we? Why is that?

Nothing To Do With Spaceships

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

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

In a statement cosigned by CFI's CEO Robyn Blumner, Board Chair Eddie Tabash, President Ronald Lindsay, and Council for Secular Humanism chief Tom Flynn, we came down hard on DNC CFO Brad Marshall for his suggested attacks on Bernie Sanders for his incorrectly presumed atheism. ...

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Three Dowsing Questions Answered

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
July 25, 2016

A brief and skeptical look at dowsing, including why an oil company wasted $7 billion in a fruitless search for oil when a dowser could presumably have located it (or not) for a few thousand dollars. 

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The X-Claim Argument Against Religious Belief

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
July 25, 2016

You can read a prepublication draft of my forthcoming paper here.

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Infiltration Activities

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

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

On Friday, the Center for Inquiry filed suit in Illinois to allow Secular Celebrants trained and certified by CFI to solemnize marriages. This is the same kind of case we won (big time) in Indiana in 2014, and Illinois is under same appeals court jurisdiction, so this is a super-strong case (and our legal chief Nick Little calls Illinois' law a "pointless snub of the secular community"). Our plaintiff in Illinois is CFI Secular Celebrant Galen Broaddus, who notes we tried a lot of other avenues to make this happen, to no avail.

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W.T. Rawleigh Company

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 22, 2016

William Thomas “Will” Rawleigh (1870–1951) was an American medicine peddler, who eventually parlayed his early success (beginning in 1889) into an international manufacturing enterprise.

Oh, Now, We Took it Back Too Far

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

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

Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president last night, you may have heard. And you may have literally heard because he yelled the whole thing. Yoni Applebaum at The Atlanticnotes the glaring difference between Trump's speech and all other modern GOP nominees': Trump never made himself out to be a man of God, but implied that the All Powerful was he, alone:

I am your voice, said Trump. I alone can fix it. I will restore law and order. He did not appeal to prayer, or to God. He did not ask Americans to measure him against their values, or to hold him responsible for living up to them. He did not ask for their help. He asked them to place their faith in him.

Maybe We Shouldn’t Have Done That

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

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

Last night, Mike "Christian, Conservative, Republican in that order" Pence gave his acceptance speech at the RNC. But whatever, that wasn't interesting. What WAS interesting was that Ted Cruz gave what I assume was his speech announcing his run for president in 2020, getting boos from the audience for not endorsing Trump, and even apart from that he said:

Freedom means religious freedom, whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, or atheist. Whether you are gay, or straight, the Bill of Rights protects the rights of all of us to live according to our conscience.

So it's a crazy year is what I'm saying. 

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House of Pain

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

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

At Deseret News, Billy Hallowell looks at the history and modern implications of the Johnson Amendment, which keeps churches and nonprofits (like us!) from endorsing political candidates. CFI's Michael De Dora provides a lot of background and perspective for this article.

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Triumph of the Retrograde

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

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

So! So. Um, did you see the GOP convention last night? I, uh, I saw a lot of it. Yep. Rudy Giuliani, you know, he yelled a lot. Melania Trump, she plagiarized a lot. Hillary Clinton was accused of murder a lot. And on MSNBC, Rep. Steve King told Chris Hayes that non-whites haven't done much for civilization. There was a lot more, of course. Yep. 

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There’s Just a Bad Feeling

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

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

Oh, for a week of nothing but the uplifting and trivial. A brief respite from calamities and turmoil. Not likely...

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Merciless Moderation, Ruthless Education, Overpowering Carefulness

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

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

You already know about the nightmarish attack in Nice, France yesterday, where at least 84 people are killed by a man, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, plowing a huge commercial truck into crowds of people in the middle of Bastille Day celebrations. The attack is being referred to as terrorism likely from or inspired by ISIS, but no firm connection has yet been made between the attacker (who was shot dead by police) and any known terror organization. Nonetheless, President François Hollande told the country, "The times have changed, and France is going to have to live with terrorism." How grim things have gotten.

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“Yesterday’s Home Runs Don’t Win Today’s Games”

Guest Blog from Nicholas Little
July 14, 2016

We’ve had recent victories in culture war battles, in particular regarding LGBT rights. With Lawrence v. TexasUnited States v. Windsor, and Obergefell v. Hodges, we have moved from a situation only thirteen years ago where states could imprison people for being gay, to one where marriage equality is the law throughout the fifty states. But it would be a terrible mistake to think either that the fight is done, or even that we have the upper hand in the battle.

Victorian Moralizing

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

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

The fourth Women in Secularism conference is coming in September, and we put out a reminder about it, focusing on the courage of many of the great speakers who will be there. 

The New York Times' Jeremy Peters looks at the GOP 2016 platform, and calls it "almost Victorian in its moralizing"... 

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Religious Freedom and Gay Rights, OUP book, just published. Read my chapter.

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
July 14, 2016

A new book - Religious Freedom and Gay Rights - has just been published by OUP. I have a chapter in it. You can read the pre-publication version of the chapter here.

The Memory Keeper

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 13, 2016

This is a poem dedicated to Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who died July 2, 2016. His numerous books included Night, based on his memories of imprisonment at the concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Apocalyptic Reactions

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

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

We need you to tell your Congressmonster to vote "no" on this crap bill called the "Conscience Protection Act." But Paul, you say, what's so bad about protecting people's consciences? Don't you like consciences? And they're so cute! They look like Jiminy Cricket! To which I say, NO, you have been fooled. This bill is actually meant as yet another way to let religious privilege trump the law so health care providers can refuse to provide abortion and contraceptive services. Oh, see, now you get it. Good. Now get clicking.

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Toxic Death Cream

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

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

On Point of Inquiry this week, Josh Zepps talks to computer scientist David Levy about how technology makes it difficult for us to find peace of mind amid a torrent of digital information. I have no idea what that's like. 

Skeptics can be indecisive. We need your help to pick the T-shirt design for CSICon 2016 Las Vegas. Skeptics also like to have opinions on the Internet, so this should be no problem for any of you. 

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Minds, Myths, and Madness

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
July 11, 2016

Even while science affords us ever greater understanding about the universe around us, the universe within us remains a distant mystery in many ways. Material reductionism about the brain and ever-better scientific tools and computerization should, one would expect, help us to uncover the mechanisms that make brains and thus minds work as they do, as well as help clarify their various malfunctions. We are a long way off from that understanding and should remain skeptical of breathless claims made about advances in neuroscience and its ability to cast light on mental illness.

Human Overconfidence

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

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

I was on vacation all last week (I hiked! Me! Twice! What the hell is that about?), not off the grid, but with the grid at arm's length.

OMG Stef McGraw did such a great job filling in for me last week, not just with the Heresy, but with all the other vast (and often byzantine and baffling) communication and PR-hack duties. Thank you, Stef!


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Ultimately our lives are meaningless

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

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

Paul is still on vacation, so you're still stuck with his Morning Heresy understudy, Stef McGraw (with the help of Outreach colleague Cody Hashman).

We just discovered this piece which argues that Bangladesh's recent acts of terrorism are home-grown rather than connected to ISIS, and it's written by none other than the Prime Minister's son. So, take that with the appropriate dose of skepticism.

This is also few days old, but it's an interesting read nonetheless: The Washington Post reports on a former Ivy League student who joined ISIS, became disillusioned, and then called on the FBI to help him escape.

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Unco Junto: Should Skeptics Be Paid for TV Work?

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
July 06, 2016

I've been doing investigations and appearing on TV shows for well over a decade, but an unresolved issue plagues skepticism: Should experts should ask (or demand) to be paid for appearing on TV shows beyond expenses? It's a bit of a tricky issue. I and four contributors discuss the topic.

Tortuous millennia of climate change

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

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

Paul is still on vacation, so you're still stuck with his Morning Heresy understudy, Stef McGraw (with the help of Outreach colleague Cody Hashman).

We joined with the ACLU and others in telling the Supreme Court to not permit the funding of church facilities with taxpayer dollars. This is in regard to the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Pauley, where the state of Missouri did something right and rejected a church's application for public funds to be used for a church-run children's play area. You can read the amicus brief here .

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“The Conjuring 2”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 05, 2016

p> On the heels of the 2013 The Conjuring comes another James Wan-directed horror film, The Conjuring 2, but it is a bit of a stretch to call it a sequel. It does not continue the case of the Perron family hysterics in Rhode Island, but rather presents another one, that of the Enfield Poltergeist in England, 1977 to 1979.

 

Deal with it, #Jupiter

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

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

Paul is still on vacation, so you're still stuck with his Morning Heresy understudy, Stef McGraw. 

To our American readers, hopefully you had a good Fourth of July weekend where you grilled some food, watched some fireworks, and didn't get arrested for burning a flag like this guy.

Freedom, right?

“Genius:” A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 05, 2016

Movies about genius continue to hold our interest—films like The Imitation Game (2014, heralding the father of the modern computer, Alan Turing), The Theory of Everything (2014, about the theoretical physicist Steven Hawking), and The Man Who Knew Infinity) 2016, on the life of math visionary Srinivasa Ramanujian).

Dispelling Demons of “The Conjuring”—on Site

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
July 01, 2016

During mid-June 2016, after her invitation, I drove to the rural Rhode Island home of Norma Sutcliffe, who lives in the allegedly demon-haunted house that was the subject of the 2013 scary movie The Conjuring. Whereas “demons” allegedly plagued the Perron family for ten years beginning in January 1971 (Perron 2011, 2013, 2014), Norma Sutcliffe (having acquired the property in 1987) has lived there with her companion Gerry for three times as long, and has never had trouble from demonic forces.

That actual hole in the ozone

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

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

Paul is on vacation for the next week, so now you're stuck with his Morning Heresy understudy, Stef McGraw. Thanks to CFI Outreach intern Sam Farooqui for finding some of these stories, though no "thanks" should be given to her for finding the creepy fish with human-like teeth (see below).

We have an action alert out, and it's to urge your U.S. representative to oppose the hilariously misleadingly titled First Amendment Defense Act. From our alert:

[The bill] would bar the federal government from denying a tax exemption, grant, contract, license, certification, accreditation, or employment to a business, non-profit, or individual “based on their belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

Get angry and take action, because the hearing for the bill is taking place exactly a month (July 12) after the Orlando shooting of 49 LGBTQ people and allies.

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