The War on Philosophers

November 11, 2015

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

It seems like the press has had a good chance to digest the whole Ted Cruz atheists-aren’t-fit-to-be-president thing. Scott Timberg at Salon sees the larger GOP bias against non-Christians as an example of the party making itself electorally irrelevant in national contests. Christian Science Monitor‘s Husna Haq looks at existing prejudices against atheists, as well as how demographics will upend this over time. (And relatedly, Robyn Pennacchia ponders how a President Donald Trump might enforce his promise to make us all say “Merry Christmas.”)

Oh, the best part about last night’s (excruciatingly dull) GOP debate? His climate science denial aside, no one openly disagreed with Rand Paul when he said the Earth was 4.5 billion years old. It’s a low bar, but we take what we can get. 

Here’s a subject that could do with a little more critical thinking: the drug war. Point of Inquiry this week features Sylvia Longmire, an expert in Mexico’s struggle with the drug trade, to talk about new developments in legalization, and what it all means. 

A new study shows that California’s most widely distributed 6th-grade science textbooks position climate change as a matter of opinion with no consensus. Science Daily reports:

The texts emphasized abstractions, such as deforestation or the burning of wood, without referencing humans. When attributing information to scientists, the textbooks used verbs such as believe, think or propose, but rarely were scientists said to be drawing conclusions from evidence or data. 

Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier’s full report on this past summer’s Reason for Change conference is now available online, where he calls it “a stimulating conference that took us back to the founding roots of the modern skeptical movement.” 

The European Court of Human Rights upholds France’s hate crime conviction of comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala for promoting Holocaust denial in his 2009 act. According to the AP, the court declared that “the right to free expression does not protect anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial.” But I actually think it does, or at least protects the expression of those things. 

A Texas court, meanwhile, rules that Scientologists can’t claim “religious freedom” to harass and abuse the wife of a former official. 

At the Course of Reason blog, Sam Farooqui distinguishes secularism and nonbelief from fluency in science, which she says has become a kind of unnecessary credentialing for the movement. 

The LA Times’ editorial board urges SCOTUS to reject the latest slate of “religious freedom” claims against the Affordable Care Act. 

The paper also features a slew of reader responses (many in the form of tweets) to the idea that, gasp, some kids might not get raised in a religious tradition

Another interesting thing about last night’s debate was the GOP’s new War on Philosophers — Marco Rubio upset that welders aren’t overtaking philosophers, and Ted Cruz railing against “philosopher kings.” Well, Keith Frankish at Aeon explores whether philosophy’s more obscure tendencies are a bug or a feature:

Philosophers do not simply marshal facts: they engage reflectively with a problem, raising questions, teasing out connections, investigating ideas. Readers can respond with their own questions, connections and ideas. Consequently, great works of philosophy naturally generate different interpretations. But is that because readers engage with the problem being discussed and explore their own ideas about it? Or because they engage with the problem of what the author meant and try to come up with hypotheses? Only the former is the mark of good philosophy.  

Foreign Policy profiles Robert Dees, “the man behind Ben Carson’s foreign policy,” a retired general who believes he’s on a mission from God

A dead “alien” thing is found in a woman’s back yard after the recent UFO sighting that turned out to be a Navy missile test. Okay, but what the hell is that thing?

Here’s a constructive take on the Starbucks red cup nonsense. 

Quote of the Day:

The quote for the day is a comic strip from The Oatmeal, which you may have already seen because, you know, the internet, and which really doesn’t work just kind of shoved in to this post, so I’ll just show you one bit, and leave it as a teaser for the whole thing, which will choke you up and widen your eyes and all that:



* * *

Original images 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. 

Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry 

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

News items that mention political​ candidates are for informational purposes only and under no circumstances are to be interpreted as statements of endorsement or opposition to any political candidate. CFI is a nonpartisan nonprofit.  

The Morning Heresy: “I actually read it.” – Hemant Mehta