Blog Archives for September 2017

Sarsaparilla for Syphilis?

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
September 22, 2017

I recently acquired an old sarsaparilla bottle, its label stating that it was intended for medical treatment of such diseases as “chronic rheumatism,” "obstinate cutaneous eruptions,” and “syphilitic conditions.” It was to be used orally, not topically. Yes, this is the same sarsaparilla long used as an herbal tea and tonic that evolved into a health drink before finally becoming a soda pop similar to root beer (Nickell 2011).

Things Might Not Turn Out Fine

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 22, 2017

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

It's safe to go to Brigham Young University now. They're letting in Coke and Pepsi.

At Wired, Michelle Dean has a big story on what is a surprising degree of drama and stress (financial, personal, political, etc.) behind the scenes at Snopes.

How a Puerto Rican Hurricane Spawned El Chupacabra

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
September 21, 2017

Hurricanes are well known in the Puerto Rico, but lesser known is how a storm twenty-eight years ago, Hurricane Hugo, helped spawn the world's most famous cryptozoological vampire: the chupacabra.

Dis-Ease

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 21, 2017

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

Our boss, Robyn Blumner, is in Geneva for the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council, and yesterday she delivered an excellent statement on the persecution of atheists in Malaysia. (Don't let yourself be distracted by the incredibly orange and feathery woman sitting next to Robyn and the confused gentlemen who mills about behind her. You may have to watch it twice, but it's less than 2 minutes, so it's all good.)

In a piece for CFI's Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Harriet Hall looks at the findings about the myth of the male-or-female brain in a new book, Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society, by Cordelia Fine...

Dolphins or the Dead

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 20, 2017

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

The Earth continues to writhe.  

More than 200 people are killed in the devastation of a 7.1-magnitude earthquake across central Mexico. Joshua Partlow at the Washington Post reports:

Marisela Avila Gomez, 58, was in her apartment in the capital’s central Narvarte neighborhood when the shaking began, toppling her furniture and shattering the windows. A piece of glass sliced deep into her right leg. “My whole house is full of blood,” she said. 

Behind the Scary Clown Juggalo March on Washington

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
September 19, 2017

Washington D.C. has more clowns in it than usual over the weekend: Juggalos protesting their FBI designation as a criminal gang. Here's the story. 

Sonically Tuned Water, Moonlight, Love, Reiki, and Gem Elixirs

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 19, 2017

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

Check out this fascinating presentation on the Gnostic gospels, given by the wicked-smart Cynthia Grzywinski, who also happens to be my mom. (And introduced with a poem read by my college acting professor, the wicked-awesome Pam Hendrick.)

Neil deGrasse Tyson tells Fareed Zakaria, correctly, that we are more or less screwed when it comes to climate change, saying, "The day two politicians are arguing about whether science is true, it means nothing gets done. Nothing." 

Great Benefits Upon Future Inhabitants

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 18, 2017

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

Kimberly Winston, reporting on an Annenberg study, writes an excellent and accurate lede for some ugly news. Emphasis mine:

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans incorrectly believe that Muslim citizens don’t have the same First Amendment rights as other American citizens. Also incorrectly, 1 in 7 believe that atheists aren’t protected by those rights. 

Fangs and No Face

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 15, 2017

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

Happy Friday: Cassini is dead, and so too may we all be relatively soon. According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, there is a 5 percent chance of catastrophic climate change within the next 30 years, and a somewhat smaller chance that it will wipe out most of humanity. Did I already say "happy Friday?" 

We Are All Saturnians

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 14, 2017

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

Okay, look. We at CFI always counsel skepticism when there are claims about monsters creeping about under water or in the sewers. But in London, there just might be something to it. Beware the "fatberg":

Crews in London are waging a “three-week sewer war” against an enormous “fatberg” ...

Vexed by “Vaxxed”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
September 13, 2017

I am long familiar with the anti-vaccination “movement” (a conspiracy-theory cult based on a hoax), but it nevertheless came home to me recently. Literally. A black bus with the word Vaxxed in 4-foot-high letters parked a stone’s throw from CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY. (No, I didn’t throw a stone.)

Ceiling Cat and Ted Cruz

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 13, 2017

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

Both houses of Congress unanimously approve a resolution condemning white nationalists (which must have been awkward for any white nationalists currently in Congress) and honoring Heather Heyer. The resolution awaits a signature from President Trump, whom the bill urges to speak clearly against hate groups and racism.

Man is Stupid

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 12, 2017

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

So that dude at The Federalist, Aaron Gleason, dissed CFI's Joe Nickell for his favorable review of An Inconvenient Sequel a couple of weeks back. Joe is amused:

Although one might think Gleason is not the brightest bulb, he obviously believes himself smarter than I, Al Gore, 99.9% of climate scientists, and all but one world leader. What makes Gleason so brilliant in his own mind? He apparently jumps to conclusions with the aid of a pogo stick.  

Freedom Weather

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 11, 2017

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

Here's a thing to contemplate: Those who are just now on the cusp of adulthood would have been toddling around in diapers at the time of the 9/11 attacks. (I was living in Brooklyn at the time, toddling around in unemployment.) Here's the AP reporting on some of the memorial activities today.

As hurricanes have been battering Texas, Louisiana, the Virgin Islands, and Florida, EPA saboteur-in-chief Scott Pruitt says, hey, now's not the time to talk about climate change, you know, "with all respect" and whatnot. 

Washington: Ragnarok

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 08, 2017

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

A new survey from Baylor University shows a lot of tension between faith (and non-faith) groups in the U.S., as evangelicals widely perceive Muslims and atheists as morally inferior and even physical threats, and about half of "nones" saying conservative Christians want to limit other people's freedoms. About a quarter of Americans see atheists as less moral and a threat to freedom (what?) and 15% say they're a danger to people's safety. Very, very few people seem to think that Jews are a threat to anyone, which causes one to wonder what it is the white supremacists are so afraid of there.

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Humanity May Perish

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 07, 2017

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

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Lisa Rein at the Washington Post gets the emails between the National Parks Service and Trump officials who really, really didn't want Mark Zuckerberg coming to Glacier National Park to highlight climate change. The cover-up went all the way down:

Interior appointees even questioned why Gracie the Bark Ranger, the popular border collie who prevents bighorn sheep and mountain goats from getting too close to park visitors, was invited to tag along. 

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Response to Fake News on Climate Change in “The Federalist”

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
September 06, 2017

“Prominent Debunker Shows Himself Gullible to Al Gore’s Unsupported Climate Shilling,” read the headline in The Federalist, August 29, 2017 (Gleason 2017a). Why, they were talking about moi!

There Will Be Normal Numbers!

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 06, 2017

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

Over the weekend, the Sunday Herald in Scotland did a profile of our Secular Rescue program, highlighting some of the threatened secular writers and activists that we've helped bring to safety.

The great folks of CFI Austin are collecting donations to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. So far, they've raised $700! You can make donations through PayPal using membership@cfi-austin.org. The deadline is Friday, September 8 at midnight. They’ll use anything they get this week for a food bank or refugees in Austin.

From TV miniseries to the Silver Screen: Pennywise Returns

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
September 05, 2017

Pennywise the evil clown returns later this week in the new version of Stephen King's It. Here's a look back at the film and character.

A Dream of Purity in a Toxic World

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
September 05, 2017

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

Happy Tuesday-acting-like-a-Monday. I was at a wedding on Friday, and then we were off for Labor Day, so there's four days of news to catch up on here. I should have gotten up earlier. (HA HA HA cough cough HA HA HA)

Brandon Withrow at The Daily Beast does a deep dive into the study done by Will Gervais and others on people's biases against atheists...