Jupiter Looking Askance

November 19, 2014

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

Kimberly Winston talks seriously with Richard Dawkins about the controversies that have erupted over some of his recent statements, and gets perspective from backers and critics alike. I like Todd Stiefel's thoughts, which show an all-too-rare generosity of spirit:

It is wonderful that we have such a brilliant asset with a keen, logical mind and passion for integrity. But he is not perfect. He has flaws and weakness, just like we all do. I forgive Richard his faults and try to care for him as a human being, just like I would any other person. I think it is OK to admire Richard for his strengths and forgive him his weakness. 

Speaking of Todd, the campaign he's helping to lead, Openly Secular, declares this month to be, in fact, Openly Secular Month

At the Keep Health Care Safe and Secular blog, CFI's Nick Little looks at the physician assisted suicide (aka "death with dignity") legislation that just passed the NJ assembly, but might face a likely veto from Chris Christie.

The Texas Board of Education (yes, yes, I know) holds a hearing on textbooks, with all stakeholders pitching for their ideologies. 

Oregon is seeing more of the parents who allow their children to suffer and die because of "faith healing" face prosecution, but at the same time, the problem remains unaddressed in Idaho, where, as Shane Dixon Kavanaugh at Vocative reports, "the body count is rising." 

The U.S. Air Force weakens its restrictions on proselytizing. It had restrictions? 

It looks like some of ISIS's military conquest strategy is being guided not by strict realpolitik, but by prophecy

Philae "sniffs" Comet 67P, smells what might be organic molecules.

Jennifer Ouellette at Wired looks at how scientists are looking for evidence of the multiverse in "bubble collisions" of expanding universes. 

"What do you say to a space alien?" asks SETI's Seth Shostak, a CSI Fellow, quite seriously:

Don't assume that the way we think or describe things will be the same for the extraterrestrials. Context and local knowledge are the frameworks of our daily lives, and it's easy to forget that these are peculiar to us, both in place and in time. The aliens will not get our jokes, our literature, or our reality TV. Their minds, presumably vast and deep, could be as different from ours as those of bats and beetles. 

Frogs falling from the sky. Explain THAT skeptics! Oh, Ben Radford does. Never mind. 

Maxine Beech says including humanism in religious studies courses increases student engagement. (But secular humanism, we repeat, is not a religion.) 

Wait, does this mean we can't keep using "unicorn" as shorthand for "couldn't possibly exist"? (No.) 

The Kenyon Review collects thoughts and essays on the Voyager probes' Golden Record, and whether the record itself is an essay. 

Douglas Long at Deep Sea News would like you not to believe all the garbage about sea monsters you read on the Internet. 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of Jordan:

It is ... disturbing how few to nonexistent have been the public demonstrations of anger in the Arab and Muslims worlds over the crimes being perpetrated [by ISIS] — notwithstanding the clear condemnation by many Arab and Islamic governments.

James Lileks at the Star Tribune:

There’s a story I think you all missed; came out at the start of the month. “Moon sized UFO may be evidence of Type II civilization.” I know, I know - I’m tired of moon-sized alien craft turning out to be from Type I civ. 

Quote of the Day

Breaking with tradition, let's go with a Picture of the Dayfrom Astronomy Central, where they're showing you some astronomical objects' sizes in relation to more familiar things (like Earth in the middle of Saturn's rings, which is crazy). Here's my favorite, Jupiter's eye looking askance at North America.

jupiter

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