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Skeptic Summary #306

By The Staff
Posted on: 10/30/2010

Irrelevancy, sub-par arguments, teabaggers, greed, headcolds, God and more!

Week ending October 30, 2010 (Vol 7, #41)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Forum Highlights:
How do we make religion irrelevant? - There’s no easy answer, or we’d have done it already.

Par for the course - More like a double bogey.

Really courageous, these teabaggers! - Indefensible stomp to the beat of a different drum.

Editor’s Choice: Atheism and avarice - Whoopsie!

New Article This Week:
The Curse of Being a Skeptic with a Cold - A dilemma like the one ’s’not any fun.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
God in America — PBS’s American Experience and Frontline’s joint presentation of the history of religion in America. Introduction:
Since the days when the Puritan “city on a hill” beckoned on the horizon of the New World, religious faith and belief have forged America’s ideals, molded its identity and shaped its sense of mission at home and abroad.

For the first time on television, God in America explores the tumultuous 400-year history of the intersection of religion and public life in America, from the first European settlements to the 2008 presidential election. A co-production of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, this six-hour series examines how religious dissidents helped shape the American concept of religious liberty and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation’s courts and political arena; how religious freedom and waves of new immigrants and religious revivals fueled competition in the religious marketplace; how movements for social reform — from abolition to civil rights — galvanized men and women to put their faith into political action; and how religious faith influenced conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War.

Interweaving documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians, the six-part series is narrated by actor Campbell Scott and includes appearances by actors Michael Emerson (as John Winthrop), Chris Sarandon (as Abraham Lincoln) and Keith David (as Frederick Douglass), among others.

“The American story cannot be fully understood without understanding the country’s religious history,” says series executive producer Michael Sullivan. “By examining that history, God in America will offer viewers a fresh, revealing and challenging portrait of the country.”

As God in America unfolds, it reveals the deep roots of American religious identity in the universal quest for liberty and individualism — ideas that played out in the unlikely political union between Thomas Jefferson and defiant Baptists to oppose the established church in Virginia and that were later embraced by free-wheeling Methodists and maverick Presbyterians. Catholic and Jewish immigrants battled for religious liberty and expanded its meaning. In their quest for social reform, movements as different as civil rights and the religious right found authority and energy in their religious faith. The fight to define religious liberty fueled struggles between America’s secular and religious cultures on issues from evolution to school prayer, and American individualism and the country’s experiment in religious liberty were the engine that made America the most religiously diverse nation on earth.
The series is presented in six approximately one-hour segments. Also look at the several online-only ADDITIONAL FEATURES, including God in the White House (“From Washington to Obama — the presidents’ religious beliefs and their impact on politics”) and People & Ideas (“How religious ideas and individuals’ spiritual experiences have impacted American social, political and cultural life”). God in America is a great series and a must-see for anyone who wants to understand exactly how we have arrived at where we are now in this country.

In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
— Stephen Jay Gould

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: You know, I (Kil) can only make so many of these things up. We need someone to log chat and do a summary. Any takers? Anyhow, I was there, so I know chat happened. I had stuffed peppers for dinner while chatting. They were really good. Some of the best stuffed peppers I have ever had. And that’s saying something. They were slowly stewed rather than baked. Now that's the way to go! For desert, I had a small piece of berry pie. Chat was great!

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:
There were no new members this week.

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
After Sweat Lodge Deaths, Fewer Tourists With Spiritual Needs

Bacteria ’R’ Us

Body Parts! Get Your Body Parts Here!

Climbing Heinlein’s Hill

The Death of Halloween

The Disco ’Tute runs a bait and switch on BioLogos

Early Sauropod Dinosaur: First Complete Skeleton Found

Evolution Nominated for Silver Birch Award

FDA Issues Warnings to Marketers of Unapproved ‘Chelation’ Products

Fluoridated Water ‘debate’ returns. Nothing new is said

How many habitable planets are there in the galaxy?

How not to attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical misconceptions about Methodological Naturalism

Indian Ocean Tsunami Resources

Lost your libido? Let’s try a little neuro-realism, madam

Paranormal Activity 2

Penn Jillette’s Masturbating Bathtub for Women

Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy Laws on Human Rights

A Quiz for Atheists from a Creationist

Skepticality #140 — The Earth Moves

Skeptics: It’s time to stop preaching to the converted

Skeptics Preaching to the Choir

Stepping Up The Challenge For Skeptics, We Can Indeed Do More!

Theological catfight!

The Valley of Taboos

What’s New by Bob Park

What’s Really in Herbal Supplements?

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions, by Stephen L. Macknik, Susana Martinez-Conde and Sandra Blakeslee.

“Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, the founders of the exciting new discipline of neuromagic, have convinced some of the world’s greatest magicians to allow scientists to study their techniques for tricking the brain. This book is the result of the authors’ yearlong, world-wide exploration of magic and how its principles apply to our behavior. Magic tricks fool us because humans have hardwired processes of attention and awareness that are hackable — a good magician uses your mind’s own intrinsic properties against you in a form of mental jujitsu.

Now magic can reveal how our brains work in everyday situations. For instance, if you’ve ever bought an expensive item you’d sworn you’d never buy, the salesperson was probably a master at creating the ‘illusion of choice,’ a core technique of magic. The implications of neuromagic go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education. Sleights of Mind makes neuroscience fun and accessible by unveiling the key connections between magic and the mind.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. Really courageous, these teabaggers!
  4. The Supper
  5. The Battle of Tehran
  6. Amway, religious-right pyramid scheme, returns
  7. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  8. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  9. Dracorex hogwartsia
  10. Crabby Catholic curses, well, everything in sight
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Praise for Info on Creationism/Evolution Debate
  4. Scientific Truth
  5. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  6. Skeptic Summary #305
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. The PQ Test
  9. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  10. N. 25, June 2002: Ecology vs. ecophily — being reasonable about saving the environment
There were 7,152 daily visitors this week.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

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