Magnificent Collection of Useless Crap

December 17, 2014

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

Methane on Mars might mean life on Mars. No, really, it might. 

Folks are still talking about our statement to the media on the misuse of the word "skeptic" when discussing climate change deniers. Lawrence Krauss, a signatory, writes in Slate:

Skepticism is all about critical examination, evidence-based scientific inquiry, and the use of reason in examining controversial claims. Those who flatly deny the results of climate science do not partake in any of the above. 

Ars Technica's John Timmer calls the statement a "good start" to a difficult and nuanced conversation. Paul B. Farrell at MarketWatch is despondent:

[Denialists] not only don’t give a damn how climate scientists label them, they’re laughing all the way to the bank. Once again they have trapped their enemies in another distracting, meaningless side game. 

And I think we need a Godwin's Law for Orwell references. Robert Tracinski at The Federalist doesn't like our statement:

Oh, and the name of this group: the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. George Orwell, please call your office. 

Josh Zepps welcomes Frank Schaeffer to Point of Inquiry this week, discussing the "War on Christmas" and the fundamentalist mindset. 

Whatever one thinks of the "war," Eric Chemi at CNBC says that the war's already been won as far as the South is concerned. 

Bob Churchill of the IHEU guest posts at Brian Pellot's column on the targeting of nonbelievers in so many parts of the world. 

Big majorities of U.S. Christians think CIA torture was justified, compared to 41% of the nonreligious. I thought our number would be much lower.

Scientists at Stanford begin a century-long study on artificial intelligence. The computers will probably tell us to stop before then. 

Lindy West, who spoke at our last Women in Secularism conference, discusses finding meaning in Christmas regardless of her lack of belief:

I’m hanging stockings this year, and, Kenny Rogers willing, they’ll be filled with the most magnificent collection of useless crap the world has ever seen. 

Kimberly Winston reports on the new practice of celebrating a "Secular Solstice." 

I haven't written anything about the Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan yet, because what could I really say that would make sense in the context of The Morning Heresy. This cartoon struck me as noteworthy, if for no other reason than that it uses the occasion to actually depict Muhammad.

Dave Pell writes of awe in the presence of Christopher Hitchens

You, too, can learn to be a fake psychic

Anti-science "strengths and weaknesses" bill dies in Ohio

Rev. Libby Lane will be the Church of England's first female bishop

Who wants to feel their scalp tickled through YouTube?

Barry Karr finds a homeopathic Christmas card

Dig these awesome illustrations of women in science.  

Here's how the terrorists get foiled. They find it very frustrating.

A sea monster is found by Google Earth, just as Google deprecates its API. COINCIDENCE??? 

Quote of the Day

Carbon Dating's take on the scientific consensus-vs-denier problem: 

Our studies are so numerous they will blot out the sun!

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Image by Shutterstock 

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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#1 Randy on Friday January 02, 2015 at 11:17pm

“I thought our number [supporting torture] would be much lower.”

Nonreligiousness doesn’t necessarily tell you much about belief, and even if it did, it still wouldn’t tell you much about ethics.

In order to oppose the CIA torture, you have to be willing to accept the evidence that the torture not only didn’t provide useful information (as a result of the torture itself), and that it was not ever likely to do so, but you have to be confident enough that if your only child’s life had been in the balance, and the call was entirely up to you, you would still prevent the torture of a person associated with the group responsible.  And you’d need the ability to prioritize your reasoning ahead of your emotions, in the moment.  And the ability to resist mounting social pressure.  And the willingness to accept the consequences should the captive ultimately be proven to have had information that would have been useful.

Standing from a distance, it’s clear to me that the CIA was wrong (and should be disbanded as a result). 

But in the moment… how can I say it would have been clear?

This is one reason why we have laws (e.g. against torture) and why government organizations such as the CIA must follow them, particularly when there is pressure not to.

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