Blog Archives for November 2013

Look at All Those Corpses, Noah!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 27, 2013

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

Get warm and fuzzy, folks, because CFI just launched a video ad in Times Square for Thanksgiving! The baby in the ad was not consumed by any nonbelievers. 

Maria Beelen of On Campus affiliate Center for Inquiry–Grand Valley, recounts the mounting of the big Neil deGrasse Tyson event they held where this happened

Hobby Lobby manages to get its "poor-us-we're-oppressed" religious freedom case to the Supreme Court

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Are You More Clairvoyant Than a 4th-Grader?

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 26, 2013

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

First off, yesterday CFI gave a big, sincere "thank you" to everyone who contributed to our drive for typhoon relief. Again, thank you. 

Lindsay Beyerstein interviews Paul Offit about alt-med on the latest Point of Inquiry

Two pieces at Skeptical Inquirer look at the fallout fake-psychic Sylvia Browne's life. Bryan Farha recounts the ways he and others exposed her as a phony over the years:

A few days after Sylvia made several predictions on the Montel Williams Show for the entire upcoming year of 2005, I asked my niece’s fourth grade class, individually, to predict on the same measures. Data analyses indicated that the fourth-graders were, collectively, 25% more accurate than Sylvia was—and these children were literally guessing on many items they knew nothing about (like world affairs, natural disasters, and politics). This was the real Sylvia Browne. 

Infinitely Dense and Infinitely Hot

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 25, 2013

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

Today is my boy's 4th birthday. He had a party last night and wore his Batman costume because he is just that awesome. Happy birthday, son. I love you and I'm so proud of who you are. 

It's back! Right now, you can register for the third Women in Secularism conference, May 16-18, 2014 in Alexandria, VA. And speaking of women in secularism, CFI-DC's Melody Hensley has just earned Secular Celebrant status in Washington, DC, and she might be the first secular humanist in the U.S. ever to do so. Melody says, "This is a huge win against religious privilege. We want these laws in every state in the U.S."

Remember how Dave Silverman wasn't allowed to get his atheistic NJ license plate, and then the state relented? Well as I write at Friendly Atheistit's happened again to someone else, and this time, they said if they wanted, they could get a plate that says "Baptist." 

I'll admit it: When compiling the Heresy every day, I get a little weary of dumb Bigfoot stories that all pretty much go the same way, and I lose interest. Sharon Hill, however, makes an important point about active Bigfoot skepticism...

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Rockin’ Around the Green Hairy Claw

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 22, 2013

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

Reba Boyd Wooden of CFI-Indiana is interviewed at length on the subjects of nonbelief and agnosticism at the Indianapolis Recorder, the areas largest African American-focused paper. 

CFI's Joe Nickell posts his thoughts on the death and "sad legacy" of fake-psychic Sylvia Browne, writing, "Some might say I helped drive nails into Sylvia’s coffin, and if that is true I accept full responsibility." 

Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention: Husbands and wives as equal partners in marriage, in which there are "wives who aren’t submitting to their husbands," is a "false gospel." 

Eleven Years Off

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 21, 2013

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

Famed fake-psychic Sylvia Browne is dead at 77. Of course, she predicted 88, but whatever. (Hat tip to Tim Farley for that tidbit.)

Quora is like a Wikipedia for Q&A. What's protecting it from pseudoscientific infestation? As I show at Friendly Atheist, not much, it seems.  

Sarah Posner, having broken the W-raises-money-for-Jews-for-Jesus story, breaks down why it makes so many folks angry:

The crux of the criticism of Bush's fundraising for MJBI was not a sense that Messianic Judaism threatens Judaism's survival, but rather that Jews find the proselytizing and the claims of Jewish spiritual "blindness" offensive. That's a view shared by Jews of the many stripes identified in the Pew survey, ranging from Orthodox to secular.

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Delving Into Molecular Innards

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 20, 2013

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

Fascinating: Scientists and physicians are relying on "spiritual healers" in Uganda to alert them to folks showing symptoms of the plague, and to help get them real medical attention:

"We trained traditional healers how to spot the symptoms of the plague," says [medical anthropologist Mary] Hayden, who now works at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. "We gave them cellphones with the hospital's number programmed into it. And we gave them bicycles so they could help get people to clinics." 

Ron Lindsay weighs in on the "hand-wringing" over religious liberty in the marriage equality debate:

The suggestion that the government can require religious institutions to perform a marriage ceremony for anyone is a bogeyman, a phantom worry. . . . The government must respect religious beliefs, and should not compel a person to perform an act affecting that person’s body that is inconsistent with that person’s beliefs.  But that does not imply the religious can attempt to control the actions of others.  

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Here Comes the Mufti! Here Comes the Mufti!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 19, 2013

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

Dig it: Josh Zepps has got Bill Nye for the latest episode of the shiny-new Point of Inquiry!

NASA launches a new mission to Mars, the MAVEN probe, which will explore the planet's atmosphere.  

It's a Ban Ki-Moon kind of day. First, he's urging the European Union to take the lead in fighting climate change (not mentioned: probably because we in the U.S. are really, really not). Then, he goes and declares today World Toilet Day for reasons that are totally not funny but it's still okay to think that it's fun to say "World Toilet Day." 

Putting the Levity in Leviticus!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 18, 2013

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

Monday. Monday, Monday, Monday. So much news to catch up on for Monday's Heresies. Maybe I need to do a weekend edition. Ha! No. 

At Skepticon, American Atheists' Dave Muscato is threatened with a gun. He gives all the details he can here, but he's fine, and totally unharmed, for which the Morning Heretic is very, very glad. (I get all trembly and chokey-uppy just typing this.)

Last week, Neil deGrasse Tyson appeared at an event sponsored in part by CFI-Michigan, and here's an awesome exchange between the man himself and a super-smart 9-year-old about asteroid deflection. 

Andy Kaufman Was Bigfoot the Whole Time!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 15, 2013

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

Quack cancer doctor Stanislaw Burzynski gets front-page treatment in USA Today, with a series of stories on his practice under the banner "Science or Snake Oil?" 

Brantley Hargrove at the Dallas Observer does a long piece on the saga that is the Texas battle over evolution in textbooks. 

Former GOP science policy adviser Mischa Fisher writes in The Atlantic that the Republican Party is getting a bad rap as being anti-science. I take to Friendly Atheist to say, meh, I'm not so sure about that, but I do concede one point:

It’s possible that by shouting from the hilltops that Republicans hate science and they Democrats love it (or, more specifically, that secular humanist atheist liberal poindexter college professor elitists love science), it becomes more and more toxic for Republican leaders to embrace, lest they look like the aforementioned pinkos to their base. 

Pathetic Little Pamphlet

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 14, 2013

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

Ron Lindsay reconsiders the notion that Greece v. Galloway plaintiffs' attorney Doug Laycock threw atheists under the bus in his argument before SCOTUS. Not so much thrown, says Ron, but "bumped." Still, the bus.

CFI joins a coalition of 125 civil rights, religious, and community-based organizations to ask the DOJ to investigate Muslim profiling by the NYPD.

Tim Maudlin at Aeon: Though the universe seems fine-tuned, we are mere accidents. 

Video of the excellent presentation from Maryam Namazie is now up at the Women in Secularism website.  

3 Comments

I Say We Will Have No More Marriages (When We’re Dead)

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 13, 2013

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

This is very cool. The Library of Congress officially opens the Seth MacFarlane Collection of the Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan Archive

Please make sure you're in a stable psychological place before you look at this: Christopher Ketcham at Vice reports on the horrifying "child-rape assembly line" within ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Sam Harris on Twitter suggests, "Perhaps we should send SEAL Team 6 into Brooklyn."

Pope: I say we will have no more marriages. In the afterlife. (I wonder if those who are married already shall keep as they are.)

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Repeat Our Lives in the Sky

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 12, 2013

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

CFI, through its SHARE program, asks that you donate to help the millions affected by the Typhoon Haiyan.

Lindsay Beyerstein gets her first go-around as a new host of Point of Inquiryinterviewing Katherine Stewart at the CFI Summit on fundamentalists' attempts to infiltrate public schools.  

IHEU sounds the moral alarm over a campaign in Nigeria, "Witches on the Run." 

The son of Sen. James Inhofe, Dr. Perry Inhofe, dies in a plane crash

Laundry Instead of Faith

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 11, 2013

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

If you see any CFI folks today who seem to be emitting a particularly intense glow of pride today, it might be because of this: Beyond Faith is a support group for young ex-Christians, run from CFI-NYC by volunteers Dena Roth and Geoffrey Golia, and it just got the attention it deserves from a big Newsweek story out this morning by Katie J.M. Baker. Read it, and have a better Monday as a result. Two good quotes I pulled (of many):

"The group just makes me feel less screwed up," [22-year-old Jacob] Link says. "It seems like when you're done with religion, you should be able to move on; but, in reality, when you've built your entire life around it during your developmental years, you can't just let it go." . . . 

"I can't even describe how refreshing the first meeting was, how invigorating," says [24-year-old Renato] Rengifo, who started attending meetings earlier this year. "I needed people to say, 'I understand how pathetic you feel right now trapped in a mindset that you know you want to get away from but you can't.'" Rengifo says Beyond Faith's support helped him work up the courage to move out, and that his relationship with his parents was slowly improving: "Now I can talk to my parents about laundry instead of faith."

The next meeting of Beyond Faith is December 2. 

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Our Visceral Distaste is Not to Be Taken Lightly

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 08, 2013

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

CFI chief Ron Lindsay looks at the transcript of the oral arguments in the SCOTUS prayer case Greece v. Galloway, and comes away feeling that atheists were "thrown under the bus" by plaintiffs' attorney Douglas Laycock:

Laycock, knowing that he could probably not get a Court majority to eliminate the prayer practice entirely, decided to take the angle that you only have to please the majority of people. Only the majority of people have to be treated equally. Oh, great, so the Establishment Clause was intended not to protect minority rights, but rather the sentiments of the majority. You know, all these years, I had that backward, Doug. Thanks for straightening me out. 

Sarah Posner reports that George W. Bush will keynote a fundraiser for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that wants to convert Jews in order to bring about the return of Jesus. She notes the reaction of Commentary magazine, which warns, "it must be understood that the visceral distaste that the overwhelming majority of Jews have for the Messianics is not to be taken lightly." But to all those who are surprised by this, I have to say, were you not paying attention to this guy the past 13 years?  

Non-Sinister Reptilian Overlords

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 07, 2013

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

Finally, finally, finally, it's here: The first episode of the newly-relaunched Point of Inquiry is up online, with Josh Zepps interviewing Leonard Mlodinow at the CFI Summit! Video too

Yesterday, SCOTUS heard arguments in Greece v. Galloway on prayers at government and legislative meetings. One tidbit, via the AP:

Justice Samuel Alito pointed to the country's religious diversity to voice his skepticism about the call for only nonsectarian prayer. "I just don't see how it is possible to compose anything that you could call a prayer that is acceptable to all of these groups," Alito said. As Douglas Laycock, the University of Virginia law professor representing the residents, tried to craft an answer, Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts jumped in. "You want to pick the groups we're going to exclude?" Scalia said. A few seconds later, Roberts chimed in, "We've already excluded the atheists, right?"   

Ron Lindsay noticed something about Election Day on Tuesday that raised an alarm: He was the youngest one there:

Nothing against old people — like me — but our interests and views should not be overrepresented.  

If You Go to Google on the Internet It Will Back Up What I Say

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 06, 2013

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

Jeez, there's a lot going on today.

There were elections yesterday, and you don't need me to go on about that, though it's fair to say that secularism may have dodged a bullet or two in the Old Dominion. (I should disclose that I sort of worked under Governor-Elect McAuliffe when he was chair of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. He would have no idea who I am now, but he did sign a copy of his book for me on my first day there, in which he declared me the greatest campaign researcher in the world. I don't know how he knew that so quickly.)

And wouldn't you know it, Illinois' legislature passed marriage equality which the governor promises to sign. 

Andorian Filibuster

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 05, 2013

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

Thanks to the Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are reporting that there are perhaps 40 billion Earth-size (and maybe Earth-like) planets in our galaxy alone. Federation Council meetings are going to take forever. I can totally see the Andorian delegate filibustering some dilithium mining bill.

Greece v. Galloway will be argued before the Supreme Court tomorrow, on the constitutionality of prayers at legislative and governmental functions. SCOTUSblog previews. Check out CFI's amicus brief on the case, and our own Michael De Dora's thoughts on the case from August. 

The Serpent of Obscurantism

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 04, 2013

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

CFI's International Program Director Bill Cooke guest-posts at Butterflies & Wheels on the fantastic work being done by George Ongere and CFI-Kenya to help get orphan students the educations they need.

Ireland's Constitutional Convention recommends nixing the 2009 blasphemy law, though replacing it with a measure against "incitement to religious hatred," whatever that means. Members of Atheist Ireland delivered speeches on the subject.

Maine gubernatorial candidate Rep. Mike Michaud comes out as gay in an op-ed, in order to end whisper campaigns and rumors.

Shlomo, Herb, and Esther Part the Sea

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
November 01, 2013

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

Oklahoma atheist group FreeOK is doing a big charity drive for kids affected by natural disasters. 

Pope Francis is looking for ways to let divorced Catholics get communion again. Stop this guy! He's crazy!

I would like to combine these next two links into one gestalt-uber-nonsense story. First, two Nashville pastors proclaim "they can use hyperbaric chambers to treat everything from hair loss to depression." Then, this guy thinks JFK was killed to keep him from spilling the beans about UFOs. Now SOMEBODY GET TO WORK MERGING THESE TWO.