In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Michigan mayor says giving atheists equal treatment is like favoring the Nazis or the KKK

A Michigan mayor compared atheists to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan to defend his decision to exclude secular groups from setting up a “reason station” alongside a “prayer station” on public property, reported the Detroit Free Press.

7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict

Are you “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestine”? It isn’t even noon yet as I write this, and I’ve already been accused of being both.

These terms intrigue me because they directly speak to the doggedly tribal nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You don’t hear of too many other countries being universally spoken of this way. Why these two? Both Israelis and Palestinians are complex, with diverse histories and cultures, and two incredibly similar (if divisive) religions. To come down completely on the side of one or the other doesn’t seem rational to me.

It is telling that most Muslims around the world support Palestinians, and most Jews support Israel. This, of course, is natural — but it’s also problematic. It means that this is not about who’s right or wrong as much as which tribe or nation you are loyal to. It means that Palestinian supporters would be just as ardently pro-Israel if they were born in Israeli or Jewish families, and vice versa. It means that the principles that guide most people’s view of this conflict are largely accidents of birth — that however we intellectualize and analyze the components of the Middle East mess, it remains, at its core, a tribal conflict.

By definition, tribal conflicts thrive and survive when people take sides. Choosing sides in these kinds of conflicts fuels them further and deepens the polarization. And worst of all, you get blood on your hands.

So before picking a side in this latest Israeli-Palestine conflict, consider these 7 questions…

Satanists want to use Hobby Lobby decision to exempt women from anti-abortion laws

cognitivedissonance:

"The Satanic Temple set up a website where women seeking an abortion can print out a letter for her healthcare provider explaining why she is exempt from informed consent mandates.

The letter reads that ‘[a]ll women who share our deeply held belief that their personal choices should be made with access to the best available information, undiluted by biased or false information, are free to seek protection with this exemption whether they are members of the Satanic Temple or not.’”

YES.

New York Times Editorial Board Calls For Legalization Of Marijuana

thepoliticalfreakshow:

The most authoritative paper in the United States has put its weight behind the federal legalization of marijuana, a momentous endorsement in the prolonged fight to end to the criminalization of marijuana that has been in place since 1937.

Debuting what is to be a six-part seriesThe New York Times editorial board called for an end to the “prohibition” of marijuana, saying the current ban “[inflicts] great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.” The interactive series is to run from July 26 to August 5, beginning with Saturday’s editorial, “High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization.” An accompanying blog post by editor Andrew Rosenthal stated the decision to back legalizing marijuana was “long in the making,” and “as more and more states liberalized their marijuana laws in open defiance of the federal ban, it became clear to us that there had to be a national approach to the issue.”

The board argues that after weighing the pros and cons of legalization, the scale tips in favor of ending the ban. The Times acknowledges that there are concerns about certain forms of marijuana use, including that by minors. Thus, the board advocates for restricting sales of marijuana to those under the age of 21. Addressing other health, social and legal concerns, the board writes that “there are no perfect answers but neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol.” But as the Times argues, the concerns are outweighed by the “vast” social costs of marijuana laws.

From the Times editors:

There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.



As Politico notes, the “The Times is the biggest U.S. newspaper to endorse the legalization of marijuana.” Adding to the significance is the Times’ history of being conservative when it comes to legalization. In 2013, an article stressed the dangers of more potent forms of marijuana as well as use of the drug by teenagers. Following Colorado’s legalization of marijuana in January 2014, a Times article sounded alarm over having more users of the drug behind the wheel. The article was accompanied by a photo of Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin in the film “Up in Smoke,” lighting up in a vehicle. Fears over food laced with marijuana being more accessible to children were sparked by tales of a rise in youth being taken to the emergency room after consuming snacks with the drug. As Washington state moved to join Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana, the Times wrote on the manyhurdles that medical marijuana providers would encounter. In June, the Times hosted an op-ed column where the writer said “Marijuana is more dangerous than many of us once thought,” pointing to a link between marijuana use and schizophrenia. And of course, there was New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s “bad trip,” where she detailed being “curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours,” after trying a marijuana candy bar while on assignment.

Given the Times influence, it could be that the endorsement of federal legalization of marijuana could spur politicians, organizations and publications to do in kind. The Times’ endorsement is strengthened by the paper’s history on issues concerning marijuana and strong language, likening the ban on marijuana to the prohibition of alcohol. Set beside an interactive American flag where stars transform to marijuana leaves as readers scroll, the editorial opens:

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.



The Times editors close with certainty, “It is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

President Barack Obama said in 2012 that prosecuting pot users in states that have legalized it would not be a top priority for his administration, telling ABC News’ Barbara Walters, “We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” The New York Times editorial board endorsement of legalizing marijuana counts as another key voice sounding for a change in how the U.S. approaches marijuana.

CORRECTION: 10:30 p.m. ET — This article previously stated that marijuana had been banned in the United States for 40 years. As Frontline notes, the Marijuana Tax Act effectively criminalized marijuana in the U.S. in 1937.

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.

Social Psychologist John Jost (and fellow scholars)

(Source: alternet.org)

A Satirical Take on Earth’s Dystopian Future

Made by Duncan Elms, this video imagines a future where Earth has been ravaged by wars, cyclones, food shortages, destructive weather and horrible humans and turned into areas of uninhabitable zones. And yet, cities would still make bids to host the Olympic Games, even if they’re during a nuclear winter.

(Source: Gizmodo)

Many people object to “wasting money in space” yet have no idea how much is actually spent on space exploration. The CSA’s budget, for instance, is less than the amount Canadians spend on Halloween candy every year, and most of it goes toward things like developing telecommunications satellites and radar systems to provide data for weather and air quality forecasts, environmental monitoring and climate change studies. Similarly, NASA’s budget is not spent in space but right here on Earth, where it’s invested in American businesses and universities, and where it also pays dividends, creating new jobs, new technologies and even whole new industries.

Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (via thedragoninmygarage)

US Congressman Opens Climate Change Denial Confrence With Rant Against Water Fluoridation

Here at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas, an aging crowd has gathered for the largest climate change skeptic conference in the world. Sponsored by the Heartland Institute—an oil and gas industry-funded think tank famous for its 90s-era role in taking tobacco money to deny the health risks associated with smoking—speakers at the opening session last night stressed that despite being well outside the scientific mainstream, their beliefs will one day win the battle of ideas on climate policy.

Then, things quickly got weird when the most prominent speaker of the evening opened his mouth…

If the atheist complainer is so uncomfortable when they walk into a church that there’s something inside of them squirming and making them feel these feelings of hatred toward the cross of Jesus Christ, don’t you think it’s something inside of the atheist complainer that’s wrong?

I have a solution: Let’s do an exorcism and cast the Devil out of them and then they’ll feel comfortable when they walk into church.

Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, the official Republican nominee for House District 15 in the Colorado House of Representatives

Klingenschmitt made his remarks on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program while responding to a recent Supreme Court decision which upheld a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against a Wisconsin school district that had been holding its graduation ceremonies in a local church…

Klingenschmitt, a confirmed homophobic, demon obsessed, former Navy Chaplain, is no stranger to controversy. Previously Klingenschmitt has claimed President Obama is possessed by demonic spirits; and that regardless of what the courts on earth rule, Jesus will eventually rule against gay marriage and toss all gays into Hell.

(Source: patheos.com)

Political, Religious Identity More Influential Than Scientific Literacy

Belief appears to trump fact and reason, which is why dealing with anti-vaxxers, creationists, or climate change deniers can be such a rage-inducing experience. This news is also a bit disheartening, as changing minds is not as easy as explaining the facts. What can we do to combat the fact that scientifically-literate individuals are turning their backs on facts in order to toe the line for political party or religious sect?

Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism.
Thousands of schools in states across the country can use taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science in the name of a particular religion.
Map: Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism.

Thousands of schools in states across the country can use taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science in the name of a particular religion.