January 3, 2013

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

Look out! Today's date is 1/3/13!!! That's, like, two thirteens right in a row if you ignore the slashes! And you don't add a zero before the single-digit numbers! And you don't write out "2013" in its entirety! 

Speaking of which, the Washington Times, the paper founded by a guy who thought he was the messiah, reports on the fear of the number 13.  

Michael De Dora reports on the UN's resolution calling for the end of female genital mutilation, "an irreparable, irreversible abuse of human rights of women and girls." 

WaPo profiles Representative-elect Kyrsten Sinema, who is really tired of talking about her sexual orientation and her maybe-maybe-not lack of religious belief. 

Debates percolate on the Internet about Sinema’s spiritual beliefs, a dynamic fueled by the vague responses she gives when asked about this aspect of her life. The fascination with Sinema’s spiritual life is another source of pique for her. She is frequently referred to as agnostic or non-theist. But when I asked, she wouldn’t go into detail, saying merely, “I am not a member of a faith community.” What she does believe, she says, is that Americans deserve “freedom of religion and freedom from religion.” 

SciAm: The ancients of China and Rome also felt that every sperm is sacred

Putin signs into law a requirement for Russian students to be taught fundamentals of religion

Stumbled upon blurbs for a new book that may be of interest to readers: God in Proof, a history of sorts of folks trying to prove the Big Sky Daddy's existence.  

Paranoia over Batman-conspiracy-based school massacres closes more schools.

Daniel Peterson at the LDS's Deseret News points at the "unattractiveness" of secularism in the wake of recent tragedies. 

Ben Radford debunks a part of his own past! 

The Legion of Doom scrambles to obstruct gay marriage equality in Illinois. 

Angels visit Sen. Mark Kirk, recently brought down by a stroke:

What Illinois' junior U.S. senator experienced was three angels standing at the foot of his bed. 

"You want to come with us?" Kirk was asked. 

"No," he told them. "I'll hold off."

Netherlands ends subsidies for religious broadcasting.

Sam Harris tackles the gun issue

Passage of contraceptive law in the Philippines marks the waning of the Catholic Church's influence there. 

Brian Hughes at the National University of Ireland, Galway, releases his class materials for his course "Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience."  

Quote of the Day

Kylie Sturgess interviews skeptic star of Talk Nerdy to MeCara Santa Maria, at the CSI website. Here she is talking about false equivalencies:

When it comes to science, oftentimes there's a right answer and a wrong answer. Sometimes we don't know. But when we talk about this side of the argument or that side of the argument, a lot of times what we're actually talking about is science and anti-science, non-science, junk science, or pseudoscience. And it's very difficult for the casual reader of science to be able to tell the difference, because that's the tricky and intelligent thing about pseudoscience peddlers. That's why we call it pseudoscience, it sounds like science. It uses the same words.

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 leftover on Thursday January 03, 2013 at 9:19am

I have a great deal of respect for Sam Harris. We don’t always agree, but in this essay I do agree with the bulk of what he has to say. But as a gun owner myself, I feel Sam is sidestepping an important issue: semiautomatic firearms.

It’s true mass killings are rare, and school shootings even more rare. But the tragedy in Newtown, and the other tragedies this year…last year…the year before that…tell us that something must be done to reduce the potential for firearm injury and death in the United States. More radical restrictions and regulations will not stop crime…that’s true…they won’t stop homicidal lunacy…that’s also true…and there’s obviously much more than just guns feeding the frenzy of violence in America. But as responsible gun owners, we must be the ones to show a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the greater good. And that sacrifice must be semiautomatic firearms.

As a responsible gun owner, Harris surely realizes the greatly increased potential for injury and death, especially in mass shootings, that semiautomatic firearms represent. He must also be aware that hunters do not need semiautomatic firearms. Persons concerned with self defense do not need semiautomatic firearms, either in the home or on the street. We can continue to diddle ourselves with “assault weapons” bans, magazine restrictions, stricter background checks, mental exams, all the things that have either not worked as implemented or have failed judicial scrutiny, or we can do what needs to be done: Act decisively, and quickly, to significantly reduce the potential for injury and death from firearm related violence.

We need to restrict the ownership of semiautomatic firearms to law enforcement only. All rifles. All handguns. We need to implement, fund, and aggressively enforce a mandatory national buyback program to remove as many semiautomatic firearms from circulation as quickly as possible. We need Congress to rescind its moratorium on funding for firearm injury research through the CDC. We need to promote these actions because, as reasonable and responsible gun owners, we recognize this is the necessary first step in creating a safer environment for all Americans…but especially our children. Anything less is what Einstein would describe as insanity.

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