The Biology Behind Placebo Effects
February 21, 2019 ·


Common statements heard when discussing placebo effects include “it’s not real; it’s the placebo effect” or “it’s just in your head.” Each of these statements reflects the belief that placebo effects aren’t beneficial or are worthless. This is an erroneous viewpoint; placebo effects often produce robust psychological and physiological effects that are very real. Placebo-induced …

The Overwhelming Exaltation of Ignorance
February 21, 2019 ·


There’s a new Point of Inquiry episode! This time, Jim Underdown talks to Massimo Polidoro and Kenny Biddle, “two of the top investigators in the skeptic movement.” In our latest Secular Rescue story of success, we have Dhaka Tribune columnist and Mokta-Muna contributor Nur E Emroz Alam, aka, “Tonoy”: He lamented the “overwhelming exaltation of ignorance” in …

Tigers in the Unicorn Pen
February 20, 2019 ·


If you’re in New York state, and you don’t want to see the measles outbreaks get worse there, maybe check out our action alert and tell your legislature to end the religious exemptions for vaccinations. Daniel Dennett has a big feature in Wired on the possibility of consciousness for artificial intelligences. That’s going in the …

Slow-Loading Memories
February 19, 2019 ·


Bangladesh authorities have charged six people with the 2015 murder of Avijit Roy. bdnews24 reports: Among the six accused in the murder are alleged Ansarullah Bangla Team leader and sacked military officer Major Syed Ziaul Haq and ‘militant blogger’ Safiur Rahman Farabi. Five other suspects are still being sought, but have not been identified. I …

The Prodigy: A Skeptical Film Review
February 18, 2019 ·


The new horror film The Prodigy is about an evil child, and therefore follows a fairly predictable formula. The kid starts as a bundle of joy, then bad things happen but no one wants to believe the child did them, then the terror escalates as a parent or caregiver discovers a horrifying secret that leads …

Spontaneous Human Combustion? Coroner Solves London Mystery
February 15, 2019 ·


Under the heading, “Man spontaneously combusts in streets of London,” Fate magazine in late 2018 resurrected the fiery bogeyman of spontaneous human combustion. That is a pseudoscientific term for an unexplained fire injury or death. I have since followed the case to its final resolution at a coroner’s inquest, and have here placed it in …

Kick the Laity into Shape
February 13, 2019 ·


CFI leads a coalition of freethought groups urging House Natural Resources Committee chairman Rep. Raul Grijalva to once again take up the issue of making “so help me God” optional in witnesses’ oaths: Removing the requirement to recite this clause is a long-overdue step that would bring the committee in line with the overwhelming majority of …

Outweighing Humanity
February 12, 2019 ·


The horrified, “you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me” reactions continue to pour in over the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a Muslim death row inmate the chance to have an imam present at his execution. Our legal guru Nick Little writes: This basic right to a moment of solace in face of death is one granted by Alabama law, but …

With Alabama Execution Case, Supreme Court Declares that Only Christianity Matters
February 11, 2019 · 1 


Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. ___ (2014): Local government can start public meetings with sectarian prayers. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, 573 U.S. ___ (2014): For-profit corporations can hold religious beliefs, and use them to gain an exemption from a law requiring them to provide insurance covering contraception to their employees. Trinity Lutheran …

Be Nice to Other People and Eat All Your Vegetables
February 11, 2019 ·


An investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reveals that since 1998, almost 400 Southern Baptist church leaders have been accused of sexual assault, leaving more than 700 victims in their wake. And you won’t be surprised to know that a lot of the offenders were welcomes right back to the pulpit. And …