Things That Never Happened

June 8, 2016

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

The 2016 Reason Rally is now in the books. I am emerging from a haze of exhaustion, humidity, and the rare sense of satisfaction of a job well done. Not just for the Rally itself, for which hundreds of people deserve enormous credit (and vacations), but particularly for the CFI Live website, where Nora Hurley, Matt Licata, and I kept y'all informed and up to date on all the goings-on. If you missed the Rally, or want to relive some moments (and would like to see my writing become progressively punchier as my energy levels dwindled), go check it out at (And I'll tell you my favorite parts of the weekend were John de Lancie and Tulsi Gabbard at the Rally and Bonya Ahmed at the mini-con.)

Oh, and Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination last night. I couldn't wait to show my 3-year-old daughter, who spent the rest of the morning pretending to be the president, and asking us what kind of desks we'd all want in the White House ("We'll bring my bed in mommy's car.")

Religion Dispatches publishes an original piece by CFI's Michael De Dora on the crisis in Bangladesh, told through Michael's own first-person perspective as someone who has dealt with the emergency person by person, trying to help all that we can.

This week, Point of Inquiry welcomes Jessica Valenti, author of the new book Sex Object: A Memoir

At the Reason Rally, Lawrence Krauss spoke of a young woman in Afghanistan who had sought his help to pursue her right to an education. Nick Kristof tells her story in NYT:

The United States spends billions of dollars fighting terrorism by blowing things up; I wish we understood that sometimes the most effective weapon against terrorists isn’t a drone but a girl with a book. 

Krauss also has a piece at The New Yorker excoriating the effort to make people think that Christopher Hitchens had a death-bed conversion, and throwing cold water on the entire concept:

If mental torture is required to effect a conversion, what does that say about the reliability of the fundamental premises of Christianity to begin with?  

Adam Rutherford at The Guardian looks at the lasting impact of The Selfish Gene on its 40th anniversary, and Richard Dawkins himself at the same publication reflects on his written work, marking the anniversaries of four of his books, and uses the opportunity to wish that Carl Sagan had won a Nobel Prize for literature:

The availability of other Nobels for science should not rule scientists out for the literature prize, in competition with fiction. Why fiction? What, when you think about it, is so special about things that never happened? 

Oh, and this is cool. I'm a long-time opponent of the Electoral College system (and a strong advocate of major electoral reforms like ranked-choice voting and proportional representation, and don't even get me started on the U.S. Senate), so it's really neat to see Richard Dawkins do a piece for Time pointing out the Electoral College's absurdity, calling it "gratuitously, inexcusably undemocratic."

CFI–Kenya's George Ongere has written a new book, available now, Does Africa Need God? 

A letter to the editor at the Tribune-Review cites the work of CFI president Ron Lindsay to advocate for legal physician-assisted suicide. 

President Obama makes some key Paris Agreement-related climate deals with India's Naredra Modi. 

Joe Nickell gives cautious approval to Animal Planet's documentary Yeti or Not, contrasting it with Finding Bigfoot: "Yeti or Not uses a scientific approach, making a real search for the identity of the fabled man-beast." 

Michelle Nijhuis at The New Yorker learns from Nicole Boivin at the Max Planck Institute about how the idea of "pristine" nature is more or less a myth, at least as far back as humans have existed, and got right to the project of altering the environment. 

David Koepsell wants us to save liberalism -- not liberal politics per se, but the thing that makes secular democracy work. "As humanists we need to remind ourselves about the role of the humanities in forming a full life, in developing free human beings." 

Marvi Sirmed at Pakistan's The Nation points out the selective enforcement of the blasphemy law, citing two examples:

The state protected a real blasphemer of Quran when it was a Muslim cleric. The state is still protecting a Muslim blasphemer of a faith other than Islam. 

That Tennessee law about how mental health counselors can discriminate against gays because religious freedom? Two activists are challenging the law

A dude says he found Bigfoot's fossilized head. Actual scientists say it's a rock. I say it looks like a big turd. WHO IS RIGHT? 

DID YOU KNOW that because some atheists are talking about the possibility that we all live in a computer simulation, we are therefore embracing creationism? I KNOW RIGHT?!?!

Archerfish can distinguish between different human faces, and then spit at them.

Quote of the Day:

CFI board chair (and really, really strong guy) Eddie Tabash at the Reason Rally did a great job talking about, well, how great CFI is. Citing the time one of our UN people, Josephine Macintosh, was shouted at and bullied by a Saudi delegate, and how she wouldn't back down, Eddie said:

When religious fundamentalist tyrannies make such an effort to silence CFI, we know we are doing great work to rid the world of the scourge of theocratic dictatorships. 

And later he said of CFI's mission is: 

[To] strike fear in the hearts of anyone who wants to use religion or pseudoscience to manipulate or damage the scope of human freedom. 

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


#1 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 at 5:44pm

“Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination last night”

No, actually, she did not.  She had a great night of course, and it will be next to impossible for Bernie to win.  However, she clinched nothing.  For her to “clinch” anything, Bernie will have to quit, or lose by vote at the convention.

Math.  It’s a thing.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 at 6:00pm

“2016 Reason Rally is now in the books”

Unfortunately, I have to be a wet blanket on what is a big individual investment on your part. I think this rally sent a bad message to Congresspeople: We can be ignored, because we’re visibly small and divided.

If an event like this goes forward in 2020, I’m hoping it will be organized by a team serious about bringing a large, ideologically diverse group of people to DC to make a unified statement about secular government, and equality regardless of non-belief.  I don’t think the event should be held at all, if there isn’t a good chance of at least 100,000 people attending.

#3 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday June 08, 2016 at 6:23pm

“don’t even get me started on the U.S. Senate”

I see your U.S. Senate, and I raise you a Canadian Senate.

* Senators appointed permanently until age 75
* Senators appointed by the Queen of England’s representative, on advice of the Prime Minister (because that what a real country would do)
* Only 6 Senators for British Columbia (4.7 million population), but 1 for Nunavut (34,000 population)
* The Prime Minister can cause an extra 4 or 8 senators to be appointed, above the usual allotment of 105 ,for example to ram through unpopular legislation
* The Senate is a place where legislation goes to die (usually by ending the parliamentary session before the legislation gets through the process), allowing the elected government to avoid responsibility for writing (un)constitutional legislation, and allowing them to blame the Senate for their own failures.

Canada might actually be getting some of the voting reform you advocate.  The problem is… with a Liberal majority on the committee, they would surely have chosen STV which would permanently advantage them, and strangle smaller and conservative parties.  But with the fairer all-party committee we have now, they probably will not agree on any system, because no idea (STV, MMP, FPTP) will have majority support and it will deadlock.

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