Like a Diamond in the Sky

January 20, 2015

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

The decibel level of the demands for Saudi Arabia to cease its punishment of Raif Badawi is getting much louder (and to think we were struggling to get anyone to care just a few weeks ago). 18 Nobel laureates appeal to their peers in Saudi Arabia to speak out, and eight U.S. Senators wrote to King Abdullah. At the end of last week, Raif's punishment was postponed, and his case was put up "for review" by the Saudi Supreme Court. I told Iain Thomson at The Register:

It's hard to believe that they would have referred the case for any reason other than responding to the sudden international pressure over the case. ... The attention is there, that's great, but pressure needs to be more forceful. 

The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, is going to decide on same-sex marriage nationally. Wow.

Despite the unity marches for peace and free expression, there remains great anger and protest over the Hebdo cartoons. 

Stephen Law at the CFI blog poses a challenge to religious philosophers:

Can we rule out an evil god on the grounds that the world is not nearly evil enough? Of course we can. But then why can't we similarly rule out a good god on the grounds that the world isn't nearly good enough? 

You can also catch Stephen in podcast form, discussing his online arguments with the religious think tank Theos over whether humanism is "Christian." 

Rob Boston decries the attempts by the Religious Right to co-opt Martin Luther King.  

Turkey threatens to cut off Twitter and other social media (again) unless they close the accounts of a left-wing paper. Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ all comply by removing the "offending" content, not by closing the accounts. 

Kylie Sturgess interviews "science babe" Yvette Guinevere, a kind of anti-Food-Babe, at Skeptical Inquirer. Says Guinevere, "I like to joke that it’s 'scientist as drinking buddy'; because I am trying to humanize the scientist."

VICE reports on Canada's own blasphemy law, and CFI-Canada's efforts to get it repealed. 

Hey, is the Sun a star? We don't know. Is the Moon a planet? Who can say.  

A new organization launches to serve those "unsafe at home" find a way to safety and resources, Secular Avenue

Big thinkers weigh in on the prospects and perils of artificial intelligenceSam Harris posts his response at his blog, and he's not cheery about it:

The moment of truth might arrive amid circumstances that are disconcertingly informal and inauspicious: Picture ten young men in a room—several of them with undiagnosed Asperger’s—drinking Red Bull and wondering whether to flip a switch. Should any single company or research group be able to decide the fate of humanity? The question nearly answers itself.

Shin Dong-hyuk, a survivor of North Korea's prison camps, now retracts many of the claims he made about his experiences.

David Gorski comes down on Bill Maher for being an anti-vaxxer: "No, Bill. You’re the one who’s full of bovine excrement, not the flu vaccine." 

The Indian River County Board in Florida goes ahead with sectarian prayers at meetings, with one dissent coming from board member Claudia Jiménez:

I want to make it clear that, if implemented,… I, as a board member, will continue to be excluded by this policy and practice. 

Here's a rarity: Fox News issues an on-air retraction for its claims of Muslim-dominated "no-go zones" in Europe.

Keith Kloor shakes his head at what he says is the "scaremongering" of Salon on the alleged "dangers" of WiFi exposure.   

Washington State puts a stop to an alt-med autism treatment being used on children. 

Conservative Member of the UK Parliament, James Arbuthnot, comes out as an atheist:

The pressure on a Conservative politician particularly of keeping quiet about not being religious is very smiler to the pressure that there has been about keeping quiet about being gay. For the avoidance of doubt, I'm not gay either. But I wanted to say it is telling that it has taken me 28-years in this House, and frankly the knowledge I won't be standing at the next election to make this point. 

Holy moly, documents from the Canadian national archives reveal that First Nations kids in Manitoba were tested for psychic abilities in the 1940s, which was just one aspect of the abuse First Nations children suffered. (And no, no psychic powers were found.)

Morris County, NJ Freeholder William Lyon introduces a resolution to end public funding of church preservation.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky: It's just a balloon, not a spaceship. 

A psychic doing a show at a casino. That sounds like a bad idea for everyone. 

Quote of the Day

A new survey shows that 80% of consumers want warning labels on food...ahem...containing DNA. Oh boy. Marc Andreeson jokes:

What happens when the DNA spins out of control and infects all the non-DNA crops? 

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