Not So Special in the Grand Scheme of Things

February 13, 2013

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

Today marks one year for me at CFI. (It's not one year for The Morning Heresy, as I didn't start that until the next week, and even then it was still an internal document only.) I'd have a big party with cake and whatnot with my coworkers, but 1) I telecommute from Maine, the End of America, so it'd be hard to get together, 2) I don't like parties, and 3) I'd rather have ice cream or cookies than cake. But still, it's kind of a big deal to me.

There's a lot of consternation in the skepto-atheist movement these days (I guess there almost always is for one reason or another), and very often CFI finds itself at or near the center of it. But that's part of what I like so much about CFI. It covers all the bases, it tackles the tough stuff, but not in a bomb-throwing, outrage-for-the-sake-of-outrage kind of way. Instead, CFI is, to me, about confronting tough questions with a purpose: science, reason, and secularism for the betterment of our species. For our intellectual enrichment, yes, but also for our overall well-being. That sometimes gets people mad, but it also adds substance to the overall discussion of what the heck it is we're all doing here in this movement. And I like where we stand. So even though times in Skepto-atheistville are tumultuous, I'm proud to advance under the banner of the Blue Flaming Meatball and count myself as a part of the Center for Inquiry. Happy anniversary, us!

To the news! 

Susan Jacoby (who will in fact be presenting at the next Women in Secularism conference) is the guest on the latest Point of Inquiry, talking about her new book on Robert Ingersoll. 

Mark Joseph Stern at Slate digs in to the creationist books of Ken Ham:

. . . that’s pretty much all Ham has. Blind faith in the Bible is superior to belief in evolution, because the former was written by God, while the latter is a myth perpetuated by sinful atheists. Science is a myth simply because it cannot be allowed to contradict the Bible. That’s Ham’s starting and ending point, his premise and his conclusion. Such unquestioning trust and circular logic pervades the pages of the book, presented with smug satisfaction.  

Petition begins to keep Greek children from being forced to participate in Orthodox prayer in schools. 

Beyonce is a tool of Satan, apparently. 

Harry Potter, Gandalf, take note: You are not welcome in Chechnya. (Unless you convert to Islam.) 

Buzzfeed reminds readers that atheists "don't eat babies" (that's what you think) with a listicle of 15 questions atheists are sick of answering.

New Hampshire tax credit system that allows businesses to reduce their taxes by giving to groups that pay for private (and usually religious) schools begins a repeal process in the state House. 

The Revealer rounds up religion's recent PR problems, from poorly-tipping pastors to groping Buddhists. 

Atheist scientist Adam Frank, who doesn't like "strident atheists," writes a love letter to Karen Armstrong:

Armstrong burns to understand all forms of aspiration to the sacred, seeing it as a fundamental human need. Its this overarching perspective that makes her the perfect guide to spirituality for the novice, open-minded atheist. 

White House petition to have acupuncture covered by medicare passes 25k, Sharon Hill reminds us "Science doesn’t work by democracy." 

Christopher Hitchens gets a bar named after him in Toronto. 

Brian Hudson at Skeptoid writes about his efforts to introduce skepticism to his science students.

Pet-psychic-to-the-stars Sonya Fitzpatrick is holding workshops in Houston:

When you receive the animal's language, it's very subtle. People will say, 'Well, that's just imagination. I have to teach [people] how to use all of their senses...I'll then take them into how you start with animal communications. Understanding how your animal feels, what it senses and how it sees the world. 

Holy crap: Lightning strikes the Vatican after the pope announces his retirement!

Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the Legion of Doom on the importance of Ash Wednesday to Catholics:

We can feel a little funny with ashes on our foreheads, but for Catholics, that’s how we mark the start of Lent. Ashes don’t say we’re holy. They say we’re sinners. 

Instagram creator and coffee snob Marco Arment tests the extraordinary claims of those who say buttered coffee gives one "boundless energy and focus":

I’m skeptical of all claims from people who believe in or peddle pseudoscience and quackery, but for you, my dear readers, I actually bought a stick of unsalted, happy-cow butter3 and risked this morning’s coffee — a fine Kenya I roasted two days ago, wet-processed to avoid mycotoxins — to test this for you. 


Quote of the Day

Rep. Rush Holt, author of the Darwin Day resolution in Congress, writes beautifully about what is actually so great about science:

Although scientists are not immune to arrogance personally, the practice of science has a fundamental humility. Every theory (that is, framework for organizing ideas) is provisional. Every scientist must keep in mind that his, or her, best thinking will be superseded by other theories based on further evidence. Newton superseded Galileo. Einstein superseded Newton. Darwin superseded Linneaus. Modern evolutionists have superseded Darwin. In other words, science elevates humankind, but keeps reminding scientist that they are not so special in the grand scheme of things.  

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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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