The Sham Institution That Employs You

February 18, 2013

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

President Obama begins a decade-long moon shot to bring on the Singularity. Not really, but he does intend to "build a comprehensive map" of the human brain, hoping to make big leaps in treatments for things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and advances in artificial intelligence. 

Something for seculars to think about regarding our numbers, our percentage among the population. Following new Gallup data that estimates gay, lesbians and transgender Americans at about 3.5 percent, Andrew Sullivan writes:

And why on earth does it matter if we make up 10 percent or 1 percent? A minority’s civil rights are not dependent on how many of them there are or how large a segment of society they form. Do we say: sorry, guys, you only form 2 percent, you don’t meet the minimal bar for becoming a minority? It’s not like running for the Knesset.  

CFI is now a proud member of the pro-marriage equality coalition Respect for Marriage.  

Russian right-winger (yes, there are folks to the right of Putin) Vladimir Zhirinovsky blames the US for the meteor last week: "Those were not meteorites, it was Americans testing their new weapons." 

Folks are still unsure about this other meteor-like thing in the UK. 

Did Christianity give science a hand in Olden Tymes? John Shook says not so much

Michael Lofgren, a former GOP staffer, blasts his party as a cult akin to Scientology, whose purpose is now to "fleece the yokels."

Mississippi just now gets around to officially banning slavery. No really. It was an accident, though. 

At the same time, a Mississippi bill advances to allow prayers at school events

Physicist Max Tegmark: Literally everything is math:

. . . the cool thing is, all the properties that electrons have are purely mathematical. It’s just a list of numbers. So in that sense, an electron is a purely mathematical object. In fact, there’s no evidence right now that there’s anything at all in our universe that is not mathematical. 

Ed Brayton on Rep. Paul Broun, the science-denying Republican running for Senate in Georgia: "It’s the hipster wingnut; he was making crazy conspiracy theories about Obama before it was cool." 

Ben Radford does a post about the misleading use of statistics and language for even laudable purposes, using the work of Eve Ensler as an example. Anger ensues.

Ahmed Rajib, an anti-Islamist Bangladeshi blogger, has his head hacked apart with a machete at a protest rally.  

Kansas City local TV reports on growing use of homeopathy to fight the flu, because, as one homeopath said, "What we have seen is that some of the people that are the sickest with the flu this year are those who've been vaccinated."

Yahoo News talks to Will Storr about his new book, The Heretics: Adventures With The Enemies Of Science. 

Joshua Knobe and Ara Norenzayan do a Bloggingheads about whether atheists should un-closet

In my struggles with the Western Canon, I find a familiar bit of the secular movement in Machiavelli:

[It] started to make me a little nervous, as though we’re no longer just talking about princes, but any secular person who values the meaning and value that can be extracted from our short, mortal existence, rather than aspiring to some fuzzy posthumous reward. 

US Army demands Blake Page, the atheist cadet who resigned from West Point, to pay them up to $250,000 for his trouble. 

Ross Douthat: The Catholic Church has missed its chance to wield even greater influence. 

WaPo reports on leaked documents that reveal "tales of rivalry and betrayal, and allegations of corruption and systemic dysfunction that infused the inner workings of the Holy See and the eight-year papacy of Benedict XVI." 

New York Magazine profiles NYC's popular astrologer Susan Miller. 

Archbishop of New Orleans says it's okay to eat alligator during Lent.

Brandon Ambrosino gives up God for Lent:

Indeed, the God of my rigid ideologies, of my complacent Theology; the God who validates my unwillingness to explore heresies, and rewards me for arrogantly dismissing them as sinful; the God who grounds my intellectual arrogance in His omniscience, and my politics in his omnipotence; the God who vanquishes all of His and my inquisitive foes, forever silencing their obnoxious questions with the fires of Hell; whose very Nature demands that humans separate and categorize the world into manageable divisions; the God who has made His Will known to us through Natural Law, and a Holy Book, every word of which we are to follow without hesitation or consideration; whose ethical character remains beyond discussion; whose decisions remain beyond the scope of human analysis; the God who grounds all Thought in his Being - this God, who is Himself nothing more than an idol of Modernism, is dead. 

Toothpaste for Dinner on global warming

Stephanie Zvan announces grant winners for Women in Secularism 2.  

Michael Nugent talks about the upcoming Conference on Empowering Women Through Secularism in Ireland, a compliment to our own Women in Secularism conference.  

Mano Singham looks at the drop in Catholicism in Brazil, and diagnoses religion's larger crisis: 

Modernity thus poses a double threat to religion: a rise in secular thinking and a drop in fecundity.  

Speaking of the Singularity (way back at the top), Rick Searle at the Singularitarian group IEET expresses a wish for a reconciliation between science and religion with the eventual discovery of alien life:

My hope is that the discovery of life elsewhere in the Milky Way, rather than result in continued conflict between religion and science (in which many of the religious play a role similar to “climate deniers” and view such an amazing scientific discovery as a cabal against their deeply held beliefs)  will encourage the religious to back off from using cosmological justifications for their faith.  

Quote of the Day

A truly excellent email exchange between science professor Callan Bentley and the Discovery Institute (the Intelligent Design folks), seeking to use some of his images:

I hold the Discovery Institute in the lowest regard, and it sounds like the new book will be a further perversion of reason in the name of pseudoscience. As a science educator, I could never support such an effort! I will not grant reproduction rights to any of my photos or drawings to any creationist effort such as the one you describe here.

Best wishes for your good health, and the speedy demise of the sham institution that employs you. 

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