December 15, 2015

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

Stephen Law, our CFI–UK provost (because of course he deserves a fancier title than “director”), has two new pieces up. One is at Aeon magazine, where he explores why people are “remarkably prone to supernatural beliefs and, in particular, to beliefs in invisible agents.” And at the CFI blog, he offers five ways atheists and the religious might find ways to constructively discuss their differences. Among them, he suggests that honesty is the best policy:

I for one would much rather understand what my intellectual opponent really believes about me than have them disguise it. After all, if a Christian really believes that, as an atheist, I am hell-bound, they surely have a moral duty to warn me.  

The reality-based community was aghast when it was reported that a North Carolina town had rejected the installation of solar panels for fears that they would “suck up all the energy from the sun,” which is of course nuts, and would require something like a Dyson Sphere. But what the reality-based community didn’t know is that this was not the reality. There was one couple in the town, Jane and Bobby Mann, who did express that absurd concern, but the general thrust of the opposition was due to fears (whether or not they are unfounded) that the panels would depress the area economically, drive away businesses, and things like that. 

Emily Bazelon wrestles with the term “radical,” as both a badge of honor and of danger.  

Hussein Ibish says that Trump’s ban-the-Muslims idea is not only morally reprehensible, but also begs the question: how do you decide who is and isn’t a Muslim? 

Would the definition of a Muslim be based on family heritage, personal beliefs or both? How would that be codified in practice? On what basis could the government categorize people as Muslims? … While my father was a devout Sunni Muslim, my mother remains a devout Anglican Christian. So, despite my name and place of birth being clear indicators of a “Muslim origin,” the reality is more complex.

Moreover, I never embraced either religion, and had agnostic tendencies even as a child. Yet I identify with the Muslim-American community for social, cultural and political reasons. I am part of, and from, the Muslim community, but in terms of belief I am not and never have been a Muslim. So, how would I be categorized?

Kevin Grandia at DeSmogBlog clears up some of the, er, smog that clouds what really happened at the Paris climate talks

The teacher in France who was said to have been stabbed by an ISIS terrorist with a box cutter made it up, and actually stabbed himself. 

Merry Newtonmas? Um, Isaacmas? Principiamas? Must one kiss under an apple, which then falls on your head?

Chris Christie, say what you will about him, doesn’t like anti-Muslim discrimination, not one bit.  

Ben Radford posts a correspondence with a reader with questions about a ghost investigation

Mehmet Görmez, head of religious affairs in Turkey, says secularism “sent the world into a total war by also superseding the amount of violence that stemmed from religions,” because science made atomic bombs and whatnot.  

29 percent of “Nones” say they will go to church on Christmastime

Meet the new head of the British Humanist Association, Shappi Khorsandi

Quote of the Day:

HuffPo’s UFO beat reporter Lee Speigel looks at the sightings in Siberia last month that turned out to be Russian missile tests, which illustrate that just because something turns out not to be aliens, there still may be something to worry about. He quotes former NBC News space consultant James Oberg:

The cynical pseudo-UFO industry is more than just confusing the public. It’s also contributing to the chances of important sightings being lost in the noise. Several times on space flights, critical indicators of vehicle malfunctions first showed themselves as unexpected stuff drifting past the windows. Sometimes, even governments seem to prefer people think what they saw was aliens, and not the government’s secret activities — and Russian UFO reports have played that role for half a century.  

 * * *

Original image 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