Blog Archives for December 2017

Excuses, Insults, and Hand-Wringing

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 29, 2017

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

Climate scientist Mark Boslough, a fellow of CFI's Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, has for four years in a row challenged climate change deniers to prove their case, and put up $25,000 of his own money to make it interesting. He started this in partnership with us back in the Olden Days, the Long Long Ago, of 2015. (I came up with the line, "It's time for the Heartland Institute to put their money where its exhaust pipe is." Well, I thought it was funny, and Ron didn't veto it.) No one has taken him up on the challenge yet, but Mark is at it again...

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It Stems from Human Stuff

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 28, 2017

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

In Skeptical Inquirer, Brett Taylor has a really interesting piece on the myths about Hollywood "curses" surrounding films like The Exorcist and celebrities like Bruce and Brandon Lee, and how the studios take advantage of those myths to sell their movies. 

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Rare “SANDS’S SARSAPARILLA” Bottle

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
December 27, 2017

In my continuing study of historical quackery, I recently acquired an antique sarsaparilla bottle that is especially interesting for the clues to its age that have been captured in the glass—analogous to ancient insects preserved in amber.

Fallback Spiritual

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 27, 2017

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

Bangladeshi blogger Asaduzzaman Noor is arrested by immigration police when attempting to leave the country, and charged with "mocking Prophet Mohammed and made bad comments against Islam, the prophet and the Koran on Facebook and YouTube." ... 

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#MerryXmasMoFoes

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 26, 2017

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

Tom really did it. Tom Flynn livestreamed himself at his desk for his whole workday on Christmas. Luckily, each magical moment is now preserved on the internet machine, so you can relive it over and over and over and over again. Oh, and according to Martina Fern at the end of the livestream, we raised over $2500 for Secular Rescue, which was then matched to make over $5000. That's great.

The Darkness Closes In

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 22, 2017

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

There are a LOT of atheists-at-Christmas stories popping up everywhere, way more than I usually see this time of year. (And I've been dong this blog for, what, decades, right?) Here are a few:

Thomas Hooven of Columbia University writes in the Times about being in a science-inclined, nonreligious family during the Christmas season...

Reviled by Many

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 21, 2017

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

I was wary of this idea at first, but once I got the gist of this, I am now its biggest fan: Our own Tom Flynn, the Anti-Claus himself, will do as he always does, which is work a regular work day on December 25, and this year we'll be livestreaming his whole work day! That sounds incredibly boring and weird, right? MAYBE. But throughout the day, Tom will be answering questions from viewers and helping to raise funds for our vital Secular Rescue program. You can win prizes too, like a "Santa Can Suck It" embroidery. Bookmark centerforinquiry.net/christmas now, and come back on the big (ordinary) day.

There is a Bulge in the Rib Cage

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 20, 2017

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

Two Reuters journalists, U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, are arrested in Myanmar after obtaining photographs of a mass grave where the bodies of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are being disposed of. The government is arresting many more residents of the local villages are being arrested as well.

Tic Tacs from Space

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 19, 2017

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

Very encouraging news: The FDA says it's going to take a tougher stance against the manufacturers of homeopathic fake-medicine, which, we note in our statement, is long overdue:

“Homeopathy is marketed as a ‘natural’ way to treat maladies, when in fact it has proven to be both ineffective and often harmful,” said Little. “As the FDA itself has recognized, taking tainted homeopathic products can cause illness. Patients who rely on homeopathy rather than evidence-based medicine often do so instead of seeking real medical treatment, and this can lead to serious long term harm or even death, especially in children, who have no choice in the matter.”

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“Loving Vincent”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
December 18, 2017

Loving Vincent is unique: the world’s first animated feature film that was entirely painted in oils! Its storyline begins a year after the death of Vincent Van Gogh and follows Armand (a postman’s son) as he attempts to deliver the painter’s sidetracked last letter to his brother Theo. Along the way Armand is forced to consider whether Vincent’s suicide was in reality a homicide.

‘Why Are You Asking?’ Reporting the Black Santa Story

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
December 18, 2017

A viral news story in 2016 about racial outrage against a black mall Santa Claus turned out, fortunately, to be false. So why was researching the truth seen as problematic? 

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Bananapants Camp

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 18, 2017

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

Sorry, everybody, I was sick on Friday. Actually, I was sick all week, but I just couldn't even on Friday. I'm also sick today, but I care too damn much to leave you for so long.

There was very good reason to freak out on Friday, when the Washington Post reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was banning the use of certain words, and you really couldn't get more outrageous as far as the CFI crowd is concerned. ...

A Cow is Loose

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 14, 2017

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

Two days after losing the Alabama Senate race, Roy Moore refuses to take no for an answer, which I suppose was also the case with him and underage girls. He said:

We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization and our religion and to set free a suffering humanity. Today, we no longer recognize the universal truth that God is the author of our life and liberty. Abortion, sodomy and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Uniquely Awful

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 13, 2017

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

Well I'll be damned.

As regular readers of this blog (all four of you) will tell you, I have been pretty certain that Roy Moore, the vile theocratic, arrogant, bigoted, pretadory swine, would easily win his race for Alabama's Senate seat. I was wrong. Last night, Democrat Doug Jones eked out a very narrow victory over Moore, thanks in large part to the state's African-American population. Moore wants a recount, because there's no way God would let him down like this. 

We Are Willing to Be Wrecked

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 12, 2017

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

Happy Alabama-Probably-Elects-a-Child-Molester-to-the-Senate Day! (Hey, I could be wrong.)  

Now you'd think this was maybe one of those Bad Lip-Reading videos, or maybe some still-in-rehearsal SNL sketch. Nope, this is real. Kayla Moore, Roy's wife proves Moore's lack of bigotry by telling "fake news" that "we have many friends that are black," and best of all, to dispute the notion that Moore "does not care for Jews," clarifies with the weirdest look of smugness, "One of our attorneys is a Jew." 

Two More Perfect Men

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 11, 2017

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

Allison Kaplan Sommer at Haaretz explains the theological basis for the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital:

The fact the evangelical community’s desire to see Jerusalem being irrevocably in Israeli hands is based on religious beliefs rather than practical political concerns means that a fear of the anticipated violent reaction from Palestinians and the Arab world was easily dismissed as irrelevant by Trump and the decision-makers around him. ... [Diana Butler Bass says,] "Of all the possible theological dog-whistles to his evangelical base," the Jerusalem declaration "is the biggest. Trump is reminding them that he is carrying out God’s will to these Last Days. They’ve been waiting for this, praying for this." 

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Better Than Yar

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 08, 2017

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

Sen. Al Franken announced his resignation from the Senate yesterday, making sure to note the sick irony that Roy Moore will likely be coming into the Senate as Franken goes out. 

Oh, but you know who else is resigning? Arizona's ultraconservative Rep. Trent Franks, who is being investigated for the sexual harassment of two female staffers.

Is the Beale Treasure Haunted?

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
December 08, 2017

Does a ghost guard the famous (or notorious) Beale treasure—an alleged cache of gold and other valuables hidden in 1819 by a Thomas Jefferson Beale and his partners near a historic Virginia inn?

Serious or Almost Serious

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 07, 2017

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

I am super proud of this latest episode of Point of Inquiry with Margaret Sullivan, media columnist for the Washington Post and former New York Times public editor. I mean, I'm no big deal or anything, but she's great, and I feel so much wiser from our conversation about the challenges now faced by the reality-based press. She was so cool. Please listen, subscribe, share, and enjoy.

One of the things Margaret and I talk about is the overwhelming torrent of news that wears people down, and Pew Research has numbers about that: 76% of Americans say they would benefit "a lot" from at least some kind of assistance in accessing, understanding, and evaluating digital information.

Some Study Somewhere

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 06, 2017

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

Time managed not to screw this one up, as its 2017 Person of the Year is "The Silence Breakers," the women (and some men too) who risked it all, spoke out, and started to change a toxic culture.

McKay Coppins at The Atlantic does a deep dive into the messianic leanings of Mike Pence, who seems damned sure God has chosen him to lead. I drew a picture of Pence last night which is only okay, but it does have happy clouds and a happy sun.


The Sweetest Words the President and I Ever Hear Are When People Grab Us

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 04, 2017

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

BBC radio highlights the voices of atheists in Pakistan who are trying not to get tortured or killed for their nonbelief. It's dizzying. 

Meanwhile, Pamela Constable at NYT reports on the Pakistani government's capitulations to Islamic extremists over the past couple of weeks.

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The True, Heartwarming Story of the Mall of America’s Black Santa

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
December 01, 2017

One year ago today an ugly and widely-reported episode of racial hatred tainted the beginning of the 2016 holiday season. Fortunately it didn't happen.

Made of Life-Stuff

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
December 01, 2017

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

Not that it matters, but I turn 40 today, and I'm not handling it well at all.

Our government affairs office has a new action alert to save the Johnson Amendment, so that churches don't become de facto superPACs for candidates.