Stop Giggling When I Say “Cometary Panspermia”

March 13, 2013

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

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain declares March 14 to be the International Day to Defend Apostates and Blasphemers, highlighting the persecution of folks like Alexander Aan, Alber Saber, and other dissidents highlighted by our own Campaign for Free Expression, and CFI's president and CEO Ron Lindsay is a signatory to the effort. 

If this is true, it's a big deal: Carl Franzen at The Verge reports on news about the Red Planet:

NASA just announced that its Curiosity rover has discovered evidence that Mars had the conditions necessary to support life in ancient times, specifically microorganisms.  

And not just "kind of" support life:

"We have found a habitable environment that is so benign and supportive of life that if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it," said John Grotzinger, Curiosity's chief project scientist. 

And if this is true, it may be an even bigger deal: Cardiff University scientist Jamie Wallis claims to have found fossilized microbes in a rock...from space. Says Wallis:

This provides clear and convincing evidence that these obviously ancient remains of extinct marine algae found embedded in the Polonnaruwa meteorite are indigenous to the stones and not the result of post-arrival microbial contaminants. 

Samples have not yet been made available to other scientists, so, as the article from MIT's Technology Review reminds us, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." (Also, may be time to get all your giggles out of your system before reading the term "cometary panspermia."

Meanwhile, New Scientist says Craig Venter may be close to fabricating life out of whole cloth. Whoa, that was a lot of metaphor for one link. 

CFI's Bill Cooke files a report from his outreach travels to Africa

This story is just stuffed with crazy, it's hard to know what to start looking incredulously at: Iran's president Ahmadinejad is in trouble with Iran's cleric-bosses for hugging the grieving mother of the late Hugo Chavez, because Islam dictates that such contact with a non-relative female is forbidden. I know!

Speaking of the recently-departed Venezuelan president, Ben Radford tells us if it's plausible that the US intentionally gave Chavez cancer. (No.) 

Doubtful News releases its Media Guide to Skepticism.  

Surly Amy unveils the dudes who will be getting the second round of grants to attend Women in Secularism 2

UC Berkeley and Duke University study shows that 20 percent of Americans have "no religious preference," which jibes with Pew's data from last year on the number of "nones." 

Study in the journal Secularism & Nonreligion says that nonbelievers are just as moral as anyone else. Hat tip to John Shook. 

Far-right Christianist John Hagee opens a big $5 million ark for kids complete with robot animals, one of which starred in that 2012 Cusack movie! 

Guys, don't worry. I know that there's a shortage of swordsmen in Saudi Arabia, but most folks seem to think that it's cool according to Islamic law to execute people by firing squad rather than beheadings. Whew, right? 

Chairs of the Secular Coalition for North Carolina opine in the News & Observer against the proposed elective Bible study classes in public schools:

We . . . object to the favoritism of the Christian religion inherent in the bill and wonder why the legislature would propose elective courses in the “holy” book of one religion and not any other. This is discriminatory on its face.

Activists call upon the UN Human Rights Council to intervene on behalf of an American pastor, Saeed Abedini, jailed in Iran for encouraging private, peaceful gatherings of Christians.   

150 suspects (out of an estimated 3000 rioters) are arrested for the attacks on a Christian village in Lahore, Pakistan over alleged blasphemy. 

New CIA director John Brennan took his oath of office on a copy of the Constitution, not a Bible, and so religious conservatives are upset and blah, blah, blah. 

Not for the faint of heart: The Global Mail's Jo Chandler on the horrific treatment of women accused of sorcery.  

Family of a suicide victim in Detroit blame the mind-warping of a messianic cult

IHEU helps persecuted Moroccan atheist Kacem Elghazzali in confronting the Moroccan delegation to the UN:

May I, through this Council, ask the government of Morocco why, under the Constitution, is no atheist allowed to be a citizen?  Why does the Constitution insist that anyone with an Islamic name must be a Muslim?" And why should an atheist be threatened with death? 

Voter fraud...by a nun!

Sister Marguerite Kloos, 54, Delhi Township, illegal voting, a charge that carries up to 18 months in prison. Kloos, who resigned last week as The College of Mount St. Joseph’s Dean of the Division of Arts and Humanities, told investigators that she filled out an absentee ballot for Sister Rose Marie Hewitt, another nun who died a month before last November's election. Kloos has agreed to plead guilty.

CFI-Indiana will host Dr. Jason T. Eberl on March 17 for his presentation, "Genethics: Clones, Chimeras, Stem Cells, and Enhancement." 

David Niose is bearish on the impact on American life if an American were to become pope: ". . . these men often do more than anyone to show America the wisdom of humanism and secularism." 

If you want to get yourself free of the Catholic Church, yes, there's an app for that: "Excommunicate: The Guide to Enlightenment" on iOS. 

RNS on the burgeoning "modesty movement" for religious women:

“The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form,” says Christian writer Sharon Hodde Miller. “It treats women’s bodies not as glorious reflections of the image of God, but as sources of temptation that must be hidden.” 

So, ladies, just come back to Jesus and extend your lifespan!   

Folks in Phoenix still hung up over 16-year-old UFO sighting

The Center for American Progress thinks the next pope has a responsibility to tackle climate change. The pope-mobile is probably not fuel efficient, I would guess. And that black smoke every time they don't get to a decision? Come on, guys. 

If you're into it, next week is the week to bust out the big "A" on your Facebook profile pic. 

UK's The Sun says Britain in obsessed with psychics, and has a craaaaazy infographic to prove it. 

Local Orlando news outlet plugs "community acupuncture" clinic, and adds, "Before receiving any holistic treatment, do research and discuss it with a doctor." Yeah, I should say so.

Fake psychic Rose Marks accused of $25 million in fraud

A man is stoned to death in Pakistan for having sex outside marriage. The woman in question may also have been executed. 

August Berkshire, former president of Minnesota Atheists, goes to the Minnesota state legislature to speak on behalf of marriage equality.  

Judge denies request to have a Jew-free jury in trial of a suspected terrorist, because of all the terrible things the suspect will probably say about Jews.  

Sarah Palin will "write" a "book" about "Christmas." 

Quote of the Day 

tweet from @SciencePorn:

According to Astronomy, when you wish upon a star, you're actually a few million years too late. That star is dead. Just like your dreams. 

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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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