Oh Variola, What Are We Going to Do With You?

May 5, 2014

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

Saturday, CFI and allies protested Saudi Arabia's persecution and imprisonment of Raif Badawi, the dissident atheist blogger. I'm told the folks inside the embassy were perturbed. Here's a couple of pics from our boss Ron Lindsay and our public policy office.  

Meanwhile, another major focus of CFI's free expression efforts, Indonesia's Alexander Aan, was profiled in the New York Times

Lindy West of Jezebel will be among the amazing speakers at Women in Secularism III (11 days away!), and she's interviewed at Skepchick as part of their series on conference speakers. 

Make sure you catch up on everything else CFI community members are up to in the latest edition of Cause & Effect.  

We loved Lauren Becker's essay on Madison for the National Day of Reason, and looks like she caught the ire of a writer at the John Birch Society affiliated The New American, who, as you can imagine, disagrees with Lauren. (Notice they didn't even link back to us.)

Speaking of Lauren's essays, Neil deGrasse Tyson would agree with her Earth Day postas he tells Business Insider:

We are warming [the Earth], and that comes with consequences. By the way, Earth will survive this. People say ‘save the Earth.’ No, don’t worry about Earth. Earth will be here long after we have rendered ourselves extinct.

Michelle Nijhuis at io9 has a pocket guide to preventing being taken in by bull[pucky]. Useful?

Nesrine Malik looks at the nuances of nonbelief in places like Saudi Arabia:

I would make the distinction between individual atheism as a matter of belief, and the position of publicly declaring oneself atheist – or, more potently, "ex-Muslim". The former is a personal position, the latter a political one that seeks to challenge authority. 

As the Secular Coalition's chief Edwina Rogers marks two years with the organization, Hemant interviews her, and offers an assessment:

I have yet to hear any reason that Rogers’ [Republican] political affiliation has done any damage. While some of her responses still sound awkward (getting the attention of CPAC board members won’t win her many atheist fans…), I still believe there’s a benefit in getting Republicans to hear our message. 

Kentucky is paying to bus kids to private and religious schools

The Council for Secular Humanism (part of CFI of course) is one of the supporters of a new initiative, Openly Secular, waged to combat discrimination against dirty, nasty heathens. 

There's a new book about how to start over technologically after an apocalypse (handy!), and SciAm excerpts the bit about rediscovering photography

A big welcome to ununseptium, Element 117!

So, hey, about those last remaining specimens of variola, the smallpox virus...what should we do with them

Gordon Haber says the parsonage tax exemption is not worth getting "worked up about," but sees value in other legal moves against special privileges for religion.

HuffPo profiles Tarot readers in Brooklyn because, well, I don't know why. 

A naturopathic "physician" is suspended for using an experimental cancer "treatment" on patients. 

Scanning exoplanets' atmospheres for signs of life might be futile until we can deal with the interference of their moons

There's a marketing seminar for Loch Ness and its nonexistent monster. 

Catherine Dunphy goes on a conservative radio show (actual audio forthcoming I presume), and one of the Christian panelists says Jesus was a humanist. We need to get her on the radio more often.

Sharon Hill advises skeptics to dial back the jerkiness:

I’m pissed that skeptics are still thought of as curmudgeonly, closed-minded, know-it-alls. No wonder people dislike them. Many do seem to be complete assholes. The answer to why people subscribe to paranormal or fringe beliefs is far more complicated than “they’re stupid”. 

Young blood rejuvenates old mice? I see an upward trend in AARP vampirism coming. 

Quote of the Day

Michael Gerson, former Bush II speechwriter, opines in favor of vaccinations, as well as in favor of cosmology, where he makes this key point:

It is a deep weakness for any theology or ideology to be wrong about the scientific nature of the universe. 

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

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