The Morning Heresy 6/27/12: Babbling Prophecy

June 27, 2012

Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities

There's a lot to cover today, folks. I hope your computer has the RAM to handle all the browser tabs you're about to open. 

CFI is not through trying to win the freedom of jailed (and further endangered) Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan. On Friday, July 6th, CFI-NYC is organizing a protest outside the Indonesian Consulate. See more details here, and go to the protest's Facebook event page to declare your intention to join in this important cause. 

Meanwhile, CFI-Poland has put out a petition on Aan's behalf. 

Hey hey! We're not done with conferences over here in CFI-land! Get ready to mark your Mayan calendars for October 25-28, 2012 for CSICon in Nashville!

Science and reason are taking quite a beating lately.

Popular culture, academia, and even the halls of government seem swarmed with alternative medicine hucksters, extraterrestrial conspiracies, psychic scam artists, and science-deniers who infuriatingly refer to themselves as “skeptics.”

It’s time for the real skeptics to get together and make a little noise of their own. And where better to do that than in Music City itself?

That’s right. It’s time to get empirical. 

CFI's John Shook takes an enlightened look at the rise of nonbelief among millennials, and Bill O'Reilly, well, less so

Kylie Sturgess flinches over the Texas GOP's platform regarding education, invites disillusioned Texans to move to Australia. 

Political guru Mark Mellman in The Hill notes that Obama's support among atheists is declining, but uses that fact to illustrate a larger point about focusing too hard on subgroups, so don't get too excited. 

At The American Scholar, William Deresiewicz tempers his atheism with an embrace of shared values with non-fundamentalist believers. 

Salman Rushdie writes a book. The theocrats of the Muslim world are incensed. They declare a fatwa, demanding his murder. The next step? Turn it into a video game.

We're UFO-heavy today, folks.

First of all, what you see up there might not be a spacecraft, but one self-contained, big, space-faring alien being! Like this one! Or this one!

"Zeroid" is the generic term applied to bioforms which may populate the recesses of free space. . . . For sustenance, zeroids' primary bill of fare might well be intergalactic dust and gas. 

Apparently over one-third of Americans believe UFOs exist (but what that means, I don't know -- they believe that there are aliens here now? That they are "out there" somewhere? That they believe that some objects that fly are, in fact, unidentified?), and two-thirds think Obama would be better suited to handle an invasion by aliens than Romney. 

Is that underwater Millennium Falcon-looking thing disabling electronics? 

And here's the Best Update on a UFO Story Award:

A caller to Neil Mitchell is 100% sure the East Malvern UFO is a shoe rack storage device. Nick told listeners you can easily find one on Ebay for $70.  

Yes, even the Christian Post seems a little befuddled by the Loch-Ness-Monster-proves-creationism story in Louisiana. 

Just to make you a little ill, here's an excerpt from the textbook in question:

Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie,’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.

Could a fish have developed into a dinosaur? As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles. This gradual change from fish to reptiles has no scientific basis. No transitional fossils have been or ever will be discovered because God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals. Any similarities that exist among them are due to the fact that one Master Craftsmen fashioned them all.

SCA's Lauren Anderson Youngblood is interviewed by the Atlanta Atheism Examiner on strategy, principles, and of course, defending Edwina Rogers.  

Religion & Politics talks to Robert Wuthnow, author of Red State Religion, about the role of Christianity and conservatism from the perspective of small town Kansas.

Speaking of Kansas, public radio station KCUR in Kansas looks at the relevance of James Madison to our current struggles over church-state separation:

Unlike modern candidates, Madison avoided public professions of faith, and he openly expressed an idea that would be heresy today: on the critical problems of democratic politics—maintaining political stability while balancing majority rule and individual rights—religion offered little help. European history taught him that where one faith dominated a society, it would form an oppressive alliance with the state. Where two religions of comparable strength existed, they could rip a society apart. Liberty could only flourish where, as in the United States, a variety of religious factions could check and balance one another. 

In Turkey, pro-secular academic Kemal Gürüz is jailed for no stated reason. 

In Brazil, you can shorten your jail term if you read up on the classics

Mark Turner at Friendly Atheist busts apart the notion that the Air Force could possibly be "hostile to religion." 

Wired looks at folks who think they're the messiah when they come to Jerusalem:

There’s a joke in psychiatry: If you talk to God, it’s called praying; if God talks to you, you’re nuts. In Jerusalem, God seems to be particularly chatty around Easter, Passover, and Christmas—the peak seasons for the syndrome. . . . more severe cases can lead otherwise normal housewives from Dallas or healthy tool-and-die manufacturers from Toledo to hear the voices of angels or fashion the bedsheets of their hotel rooms into makeshift togas and disappear into the Old City babbling prophecy. 

Speaking of people who think they're the messiah, Tony Blair has more blather on "aggressive secularism" (for which I strongly called him out a couple years back).

There is an aggressive secularism here — the aggressive secularism actually has a common link with the aggressive view of religion. Both want to define religion in a way that a large part of the middle ground would find abhorrent. So that is why people of faith have to stand up and be counted and say this is not what we think religion is. 

Okay. Let's say that you really feel optimistic about technology and its implications for our species. Let's also say that you don't fear the potential melding of human and artifical intelligence. And for good measure, let's also say that you feel like the Singularity predictions of Ray Kurzweil (look it up) seem pretty well-founded and are, at the very least, plausible and even desirable. 

Well, this trailer for a "fictionalized," straight-to-DVD movie version of The Singularity is Near will probably make you do a full one-eighty on that. Or at least make you despair for the state of filmmaking. And all this despite the Oscar-worthy cameo performances by Tony Robbins and Alan Dershowitz. It looks like one of those fan-created Internet Star Trek series, except, you know, not about Star Trek. (Hat tip Andrew Aghapour.) 

Quote of the Day     

Be Scofield looks for ways for atheists and the religious to see eye-to-eye:

From my perspective the most appropriate religious response to atheism in America is to genuinely engage with atheists and ask questions. What's it like to be you? . . . There's no reason that we as progressive spiritual or religious leaders can't address the dehumanization that atheists face -- regardless of whether we agree with their views about God. Furthermore, these issues intersect. For example, a religious community concerned about racism shouldn't ignore the complexities of racism in the case of black atheists. 

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. 

Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry 

Got a tip for the Heresy? Send it to press(at)! 

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