Poke at It and Sniff It

February 24, 2015

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

I feel like the National Geographic Society is confused. On one hand, their latest magazine cover is a powerful acknowledgement of the assault on science from deniers, magical thinkers, and conspiracy theorists, with the feature store being the exploration of science non-acceptance by Joel Achenbach the Heresy linked to last week. But then our boss Ron Lindsay turns up this gem from NatGeo's books for kids, 1000 Facts about the Bible, released only a few weeks ago, which includes the parting of the Red Sea by Moses as, well, fact! NatGeo, which is it??

Point of Inquiry has a special episode with comedian Leighann Lord, highlighting her upcoming appearance at the Reason for Change conference in June.  

Speaking of Reason for Change, we just got the summary of the presentation we'll be getting from science-education hero Eugenie Scott. It sounds awesome. 

CFI board member Barry Kosmin of Trinity College is in the news for his latest study on anti-Semitism in U.S. colleges. Over half the surveyed Jewish students reported anti-Semitism, with over 70 percent in schools in the South. Says Barry:

The patterns and high rates of anti-Semitism that were reported were surprising. Rather than being localized to a few campuses or restricted to politically active or religious students, this problem is widespread. Jewish students are subjected to both traditional prejudice and the new political anti-Semitism.

CFI-DC's Simon Davis, who has glommed on to the dead-people beat for VICE, interviews CFI's legal director Nick Little and other experts on the legality of photographing corpses. People and their hobbies.

Ben Radford goes on KOB-TV to lend his skeptical expertise to a report on chupacabra, underscored with spooooooky music. Ben says, "I wanna poke at it and sniff it." People and their hobbies.

Ben also weighs in at The Pulp on the magical thinking surrounding tabletop games where luck is a major factor. 

The pope says members of the Mafia can repent and all will be forgiven. Wow, that's easy! 

Former CFI staffer and wine enthusiast Julia Burke describes the homeopathy of the wine world: "biodynamics," which involves "stag's bladder" and relying on the Zodiac.

Sibel Utku Bila reports on Twitter's unprecedented capitulation to the censorship demands of Turkish authorities. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali wants the U.S. administration to take seriously the religious foundations of the ISIS threat:

It is this motivation—the sincere desire to live under Islamic religious laws, and the concomitant willingness to use violence to defend the land of Islam and expand it—that has led thousands of Western Muslims, many of them young and intelligent—and not the oft-described “losers”—to leave a comfortable professional and economic future in the West in order to join ISIS under gritty circumstances. 

By the way, I just got around to reading that big Atlantic piece by Graeme Wood on "what ISIS wants," and holy moly, everybody. It's going to blow your mind and scare the crap out of you. 

Larry King, "probably an atheist," and looking seriously at cryogenics. (He's been hanging out with Dr. Oz.) 

Hemant rounds up some of the arguments for and against the recent moves by Susan Gerbic and her crew to expose psychics like Chip Coffey, which she wrote about for Skeptical Inquirer.

While many Members of Congress might want to say they're part of the LGBT Equality Caucus, they don't seem to want to have to pay for it. 

Federal judge clears the way for an atheist's "reason station" inside Warren, Michigan's city hall, alongside similar religious outposts. 

A young man is reportedly sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for blasphemy and apostasy, having recorded video of himself denouncing Islam and hitting a Quran with a shoe. 

Ed Brayton on Rudy Giuliani's and others' accusations that President Obama doesn't "love America":

Does Obama “love America”? Who cares. Confession: I don’t love America. I don’t even know what the hell it could possibly mean to love America, or any other country. There are many things I like about this country. There are many things I dislike about this country. But the idea of loving America is a marketing slogan, not a serious position.

Daniel Loxton talks to io9 about the future of the skeptic movement:

I know this: this kind of work is part of the human condition. As long as there have been human beings, there have been charlatans who are willing to sell bullshit for money. And there have always been people who wanted to get to the bottom of the stories. There have always been people who wanted to push back against fraud. That's true now and it was true in the time of the Roman empire, and it will be true in another 500 years. But what form those things will take is an open question. 

Quote of the Day 

Today's Quote of the Day is actually a photo, as more than 1000 Muslims form a human shield around an Oslo synagogue in condemnation of the Copenhagen attack. This photo is from the Reuters article.

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Original title 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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The Morning Heresy: "I actually read it." - Hemant Mehta


#1 Randy on Friday February 27, 2015 at 9:46am

“I don’t even know what the hell it could possibly mean to love America, or any other country”

Well, that’s just bizarre, but unsurprising given the source.

I suspect that biologically it makes sense to love a place you call (or called) home.

And intellectually, it makes sense to love a place where you probably won’t be executed, or attacked by a mob, for questioning the government or popular belief.

It’s one thing not to experience a particular emotion, but to not even understand what it would mean to someone else?  That’s closed-minded.

#2 Randy on Friday February 27, 2015 at 9:54am

“Twitter’s unprecedented capitulation to the censorship demands “

Google (Blogger/blogspot) just announced it’s banning most adult blogs.  They get to decide what is porn, and what is art.  What could possibly go wrong?

Twitter and Google are examples why communications on the internet should be by protocol (decentralized), not by service (centralized and censored).

#3 Randy on Friday February 27, 2015 at 10:06am

“Over half the surveyed Jewish students”

While it can be useful to study people’s opinions about their experiences to gain insight into their self-perception, this is not a useful way to determine whether there is bigotry against a group.

For example, ask Fox News viewers whether the US is full of anti-Christian bigotry, and they’ll say yes, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Here’s the most important line in the report: “it is necessary to make clear that anti-Semitism was self-defined by the respondent and the survey instrument did not question ... any particular incident.”

It’s disturbing that an author of such a study would be a board member of a supposedly skeptical group.

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