Saturday, April 30, 2016

Our New Freethought Action Hero!!!

Earlier today, Lisa Pedersen was presented with the FREETHOUGHT ACTION HERO AWARD at the 7th Annual Orange County Freethought Alliance Conference. 

Lisa Pedersen

Lisa Pedersen is an ambassador, educator, advocate, and a humanist. She is a co-founder and former board member with the secular non-profit organization Friends of Freethought. She also founded the Women's Secular Group of Southern California, which hosts an Adopt-A-Family outreach within secular communities. 

She raises awareness and educates the public on matters such as morality, the history of freethinkers, and activism. She does this in person and online, helping people access reference materials. She attends outreaches to educate the public as an example of what an atheist and humanist is. 

Lisa is also involved in many community service projects, raises money for orphanages, helps orphans and homeless children to receive free dental care, and in two years raised over $25,000 for Project Hope. 

Lisa Pedersen became the fourth person to be presented with this award. 

To see more about previous award winners, click HERE

Christians to flock to massive atheist rally in D.C.

Call it resistance with love. A massive gathering of atheists taking place in Washington, D.C., will now face some concerted counterpointing, thanks to the rally call of one church in California for those of Christian faith to travel to the freethinkers' scene to try and change hearts.


The Reason Rally is coming soon!

June 4, 2016

Visit the site here:

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Norwegian Would

You may recall the NC statewide "One Nation Indivisible" billboard campaign FreeThoughtAction organized over the 4th of July holiday in 2010, with six billboards in six cities from the mountains to the sea….

Several months ago, I was contacted by journalist Even Gran from the Norwegian Humanist Association. He asked to use one of the pictures I had taken of the billboard on the Billy Graham Parkway for the cover of his new book about American secularism. I said "Yes!"

Well, the book is out now. Even kindly sent me a signed copy. Here's what it looks like…

It is currently only available in Norwegian HERE.

He says it will soon be out in an English version.

While I’m on the subject…

Several months ago, I made this video about the “One Nation Indivisible” billboard campaign. It has a little over 5 minute overview of what happened at the beginning, then it includes about 25 minutes of some of the television news coverage we received, ending with the ABC World News Tonight coverage. 

National Day Of Reason Is Coming Up Soon!

A consortium of leaders from within the community of reason endorsed the idea of a National Day of Reason. This observance is held in parallel with the National Day of Prayer, on the first Thursday in May each year.

This year it's coming up on May 5, 2016.

Visit the website for the National Day of Reason where you can endorse reason, send a proclamation, sign a petition, find out about events and government actions, and learn more about it. You might even consider organizing your own event!


More News...

Missouri 'Religious Freedom' Bill Defeated In House Committee Vote

Ted Cruz Under Fire Over Adviser Who Wants Abortion Providers To Be Executed

26 states urge appeals court to uphold Md. cross ruling

Lafayette schools to rethink Pledge of Allegiance policy

Defying "In God We Trust" Trend, Arkansas Police Department Puts "We the People" On All Vehicles

Lawmaker introduces resolution extolling reason 

Congressman Wants A 'National Day Of Reason' As Atheist Alternative To Day Of Prayer

Two Lawmakers Want National Day of Reason as Alternative to National Day of Prayer

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Catching Up On Old News...

Atheists & Atheism

Poll Finds Americans, Especially Millennials, Moving Away From Religion

As Usual, Survey Shows Religion in Decline, Especially Among Millennials

Why more people call themselves 'Nones'

7 Facts About Atheists

U.S. Demographics Shift: White Christians No Longer The Majority

Survey Shows That Atheism is Still a Political Liability, but Not As Much as Before

Nonreligious voters present a puzzle for political parties (ANALYSIS)

Disbelieve it or not, ancient history suggests that atheism is as natural to humans as religion

Atheists Outnumber Southern Baptists in US Military

Report Says Britain is No Longer a Christian Nation and Must Reflect That In Its Policies Also: Poll: widespread indifference to Christian beliefs, but Christians feel comfortable discussing their faith [UK]

The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children's Altruism across the World

Teacher Sued After Punishing Second-Grader for Being an Atheist

Church & State

Unbelief As A Belief System: Core Tenet For Christians' Fight For Religious Rights

The 8 Most Terrifying Threats to Separation of Church and State


Research Suggests Jesus Never Existed

Study Suggests Bible Could Be Based On Popular Fairy Tales

Religion has been causing conflict for over 2,000 years, say scientists and Anthropologists say religious ties did not bind early societies together as had previously been thought Related: Holy Horrors: Religious slaughter through the centuries

Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds and Religious kids are harsher and less generous than atheist ones, study says

How the Fear of Death Strengthens Christian Nationalism (and Leads to More Crime)

Christian terrorism is a bigger threat to U.S. freedom than Islamic extremism

Christian group conducts study, finds out that Christians have the most abortions

The Catholic Church Has Paid Out $3,994,797,060.10 as a Result of the Sex Abuse Scandals

Little Boy Who Claimed to Die and Visit Heaven Admits He Made It Up

The Satanic Temple's Seven Tenets Are Far More Ethical Than the Ten Commandments


Alabama's Abstinence-Only Sex Education Classes Are Hurting Students Across the State

Creationist Selected To Lead Arizona Senate Education Panel


Bringing time and space together for universal symmetry

Equation shows that large-scale conspiracies would quickly reveal themselves

Acceptance Of Profound-Sounding "Bullsh*t" Linked To Lower Intelligence

We're the Only Animals With Chins, and No One Knows Why

Sean Carroll On Six Arguments Used by Science Denialists

Forget What the Science-Deniers Say; Evolution Really Can Be Observed

Evolution of Creationism

And if you're bored...
If The Moon Were Only A Pixel - A Tediously Accurate Scale Model of the Solar System

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence"

Carl Sagan is credited with the popular skeptical phrase, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” or, later, “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” At or about the same time (probably slightly later than Sagan), founding Skeptical Inquirer editor Marcello Truzzi is on record using the phrase, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” All three of these variations of this concept are still currently in circulation.

Tracing this thought back in time, we find American magician and skeptic Joseph F. Rinn expressing this idea in a 1911 Washington Post article debunking psychics. His version was “Wonderful phenomena demand wonderful evidence in their support.” Skipping back a little further we find French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace considering this concept in some detail. In 1814, he argued that “the more extraordinary the event, the greater the need of its being supported by strong proofs,” and “the probability of the falsehood increases in the measure that the deed becomes more extraordinary,” and “the probability of the error or of the falsehood of the witness becomes as much greater as the fact attested is more extraordinary.” Taking it a little further, he said, “There are things so extraordinary that nothing can balance their improbability.”

Thomas Jefferson’s formulation of this concept predates Laplace by six years where he suggests that extraordinary claims’ “verity needs proofs proportioned to their difficulty” in 1808….

“A thousand phenomena present themselves daily which we cannot explain, but where facts are suggested, bearing no analogy with the laws of nature as yet known to us, their verity needs proofs proportioned to their difficulty. A cautious mind will weigh well the opposition of the phenomenon to everything hitherto observed, the strength of the testimony by which it is supported, and the errors and misconceptions to which even our senses are liable.”

We can trace this idea back one step further to Scottish philosopher David Hume. His formulation of the idea in 1739 was “A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence.” Expanding a bit, he said, “Suppose, for instance, that the fact, which the testimony endeavours to establish, partakes of the extraordinary and the marvellous; in that case, the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more or less unusual,” and “Such an event, therefore, may be denominated extraordinary, and requires a pretty strong testimony, to render it credible…”

He also said, "When any one tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle."

For some time I wasn’t able to trace the formulation of this idea any further back. I’ve now run across the concept expressed by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) as “[I]t is far more probable that our senses should deceive us, than that an old woman should be carried up a chimney on a broom stick; and that it is far less astonishing that witnesses should lie, than that witches should perform the acts that were alleged.”

The phrase, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” has become very popular in the freethought and skeptic communities where it can be found on everything from bumper-stickers to tee-shirts. A waitress in a restaurant once approached a freethinker wearing a tee-shirt with the phrase imprinted. She commented, “You must work for an insurance company,” which brought much laughter to everyone at the table.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is more than just a good policy for insurance companies. It is a most useful idea to employ when assessing any extraordinary claims, and it is an essential aspect of critical thinking.