Knuckleheads and Visionaries Alike

February 13, 2015

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

Today marks three years for me at CFI! I've had plenty of time to become jaded, like I've done at most of my other jobs (though in college when I worked at Blockbuster, I started jaded, so that doesn't count), and I still remain inspired and driven by the mission, character, and ethos of CFI and its people. In other words, you're going to have to drag me out. 

The New York Times covers our statement to the media on the difference between deniers of climate science and science-accepting skeptics (a.k.a. us). Justin Gillis writes:

The climate scientists see themselves as the true skeptics, having arrived at a durable consensus about emissions simply because the evidence of risk has become overwhelming. And in this view, people who reject the evidence are phony skeptics, arguing their case by cherry-picking studies, manipulating data, and refusing to weigh the evidence as a whole. 

Today is of course Friday the 13th, and the Ocean County Register learns about the myths surrounding the day from our own Joe Nickell. 

Our boss Ron Lindsay writes in the Huffington Post about two important instances of people in authority either lying or having very, very bad memories: Brian Williams on his brushes with death, and Barack Obama on his past support (or lack thereof?) of same-sex marriage:

Either we strive for a democracy in which the candidates are honest with the voters, or we should strip away all pretense and just treat political campaigns as carnivals in which the candidates are rival barkers, spinning fabulous tales about what lies inside the tent, and we, the citizenry, are the marks. 

Our public policy chief Michael De Dora deeply considers the Chapel Hill murders, and what atheists should -- and should not -- take away from the tragedy:

This event should remind us that mere atheism is not enough — that for humans to find decency and sustain it, we must construct and nourish moral frameworks that engender complete respect for our fellow humans regardless of their beliefs on religion or gods. Hicks was an atheist, but he was apparently not also humanist. Humanism provides no shelter for such hatred and murder. 

Here are pictures from a protest on behalf of Raif Badawi in front of the Saudi embassy in Austria. 

Nearly half of young-adult Britons don't believe in any kind of god, compared to about a third of all adults, according to a new survey, meaning atheist politicians in the UK are well positioned. 

Belief in the scientific validity of astrology is on the rise in the U.S. Come on, people. Really??? Come on. 

Simon Singh takes to Quartz's India outlet to diss homeopathy:

Those politicians and celebrities who have more money than sense will no doubt continue to rely on homeopathic pills, but the rest of us should be smarter and spurn it. 

Tennessee State Rep. Jerry Sexton wants the Bible to be the official state book

Fibromyalgia. Cured. BY A GHOST.

Quote of the Day 

New York Times media columnist David Carr died yesterday at age 58. His work was both skeptical and humanistic. Here he is on the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, one month ago:

It is a principle we have been fighting for since the time of Rousseau and Voltaire, one that is deeply embedded in civil society. And in a modern, web-enabled world, the effort to limit speech will ultimately be fruitless. The fecklessness of those attempts was underlined during the Edward Snowden leaks, when British security forces in the offices of The Guardian oversaw the destruction of hard drives with power tools. Free expression does not live in a single hard drive, film or newspaper; it is widely distributed and reflexively defended as a fundamental right. ...

The bleeding edge of the debate over free expression often involves unpalatable and sometimes patently offensive subject matter. Sometimes it’s trivial — should the makers of a buddy movie be allowed to depict the fiery assassination of North Korea’s leader, as happened at the end of “The Interview”? The answer has to be yes, or the dominoes fall toward much more vital, much more precious speech. Defending free speech means defending knuckleheads and visionaries alike. ...

News and commentary of all sorts frequently causes pain to its subjects and the audience, but it is precisely the unruly and the offensive that require protection. No one is safe from the slings and arrows of unfettered speech: an image of Christ immersed in an artist’s urine, Sinead O’Connor ripping a photo of the pope in half, Eminem fantasizing in rhyme about killing his lover — all of it is intended to offend. But each is worthy in its own way of being defended.    

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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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Comments:

#1 Randy on Friday February 13, 2015 at 11:09pm

“Hicks was an atheist, but he was apparently not also humanist.”

Can we say that?  Humanism is a moral position.  But it seems that Hicks had a longstanding problem with anger and control, which may have been untreated mental illness.

I do not know Hicks’ worldview.  I just know snippets, such as that he defended the so-called “Ground Zero mosque”, or that he was “for equality”.  Certainly these two data points are in line with humanism.

His act obviously is anti-humanist.  But I think we should admit that anti-humanist acts can come from humanists.  This is the necessary conclusion that must be drawn, if we accept yesterday’s quote of the day which says in part “... all human beings [including humanists] are capable of both extraordinary kindness and horrifying brutality, often at the same time ...”

#2 Randy on Friday February 13, 2015 at 11:25pm

“Today marks three years for me at CFI!”

Happy anniversary!  For me, the most visible of your work is this blog, which is among the best that I read, in any category.  Thanks for your work.

#3 Paul the Morning Heretic on Monday February 16, 2015 at 8:18am

Randy, thank you so much.

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