Monday 26 September 2011

Conspiring to persuade

I spent yesterday (Sunday) in London at the CFI's Conspiracy Theory Day.

My motivation for attending this event was David Aaronovitch's scheduled appearance. He's written a book on conspiracy theories and I missed out on an event last year at which he spoke. So I thought this would be a good way to catch up on what I missed.

It turns out Aaronovitch is not well and regrettably had to withdraw. Stephen Law, Provost of CFI UK, decided to fill the gap with someone from "the other side" and so we had a talk by 9/11 truther Ian R. Crane. The audience, too, comprised a fair proportion of conspiracy theorists (though I dare say not all of them care for that characterisation).

I took many photographs of the various speakers (in poor light, so they might not be good enough to display), and James O'Malley of The Pod Delusion was there to record audio of the event. Professional video cameras (on tripods, the whole bit) were also in evidence. It seems therefore that the event will be archived. I intend to write about the various talks in more detail, but for now I'll offer some brief and fairly random thoughts.

Chris French and Robert Brotherton from Goldsmith's Anomalous Psychology Research Unit, as well as Karen Douglas from the University of Kent's School of Psychology, gave accounts of research showing that conspiracy theorists differ from religionists in a fundamental way. Believers in the one true faith tend to discount all other religions as false, whereas people who buy into one particular conspiracy theory are likely to endorse several others as well. It's apparently rare for someone to believe in only one conspiracy theory while discounting all others.

Jamie Bartlett and Carl Miller talked about the fall-out from their 2010 paper "The Power of Unreason" and the role of the internet in that fall-out. All the talks were followed with Q&A sessions, during which the make-up of the audience became more apparent. Despite explicit statements by the earlier speakers that their areas of concern did not include the veracity or otherwise of the conspiracy theorists' claims, several questions focussed on such detail. This was not surprising given the audience composition — the event had been publicised and anyone was free to buy a ticket.

The final speaker was Ian R. Crane, who touched on the definition of conspiracy theory (as previous speakers had been careful to elucidate) but soon went on to present the "9/11 truth" viewpoint. Some of the characteristics described in previous talks were amply demonstrated in the style of Crane's presentation. Whereas French, Brotherton and Douglas made their points by quoting from research papers, sometimes illustrating the results on screen using graphs or lists of references, Crane had his source texts on a table next to him. This was not apparently to enable him to quote directly from those texts, but rather so that he could pick one up and wave it in the air when he mentioned it. As Bartlett and Miller had already described when they mentioned the use of evocative videos with emotional appeal, Crane's presentation relied much on theatricality.

The final session was a discussion panel with all speakers, responding to questions from the floor. It lasted only half an hour, but even in that time things got a little heated. Many questioners seemed oblivious to the idea of a "question" and tended to use their time to address the hall, much to the consternation of the organisers and the increasing impatience of an excitable audience. But on the whole it was an excellent day, and the chance to hear the other side was a welcome additional benefit. I hope David Aaronovitch gets well soon.

Here's another view of the event:

Sunday 25 September 2011

Burnee links for Sunday

Top scientists and organisations come together to say: 'Teach evolution, not creationism!'
Depressing that this initiative is necessary, but there you go. I'm all for kids learning about creationism, but not in a science class, because creationism has no scientific content, nor any explanatory power. Creationism, like its younger sibling "intelligent design", belongs in a philosophy class, along with other speculative but unfalsifiable ideas.

Scientists demand tougher guidelines on teaching of creationism in schools | Education | The Guardian
Apparently this is necessary. Get people talking about evolution and creationism (and intelligent design), and why it matters that children aren't taught pseudoscience.

This horror cannot be unseen | Pharyngula
PZ wonders what exactly the evil atheists have been doing, that a rabbi should characterise atheism as "ugly".

Daylight Atheism > Never Quote Discworld to an Atheist
Don't treat people as things.

Why the Anti-Science Creationist Movement Is So Dangerous | Belief | AlterNet
Adam Lee explains why there is such an anti-science bias in US politics.

Psychic Sally Morgan hears voices from the other side (via a hidden earpiece) | Chris French | Science |
Chris French gives a reasoned and dispassionate assessment of the apparent facts.

Science fiction isn't just fantasy: it changes lives and can change Britain – Telegraph Blogs
Slightly provocative plea - but I'm in general agreement with this.

Coalition teacher training reforms 'too simplistic' - Telegraph
James Williams on training those at the chalkface. (James Williams was the guest on the latest Skepticule Extra podcast — to be released shortly.)

Monday 19 September 2011

The magic of living in a bubble

Here's a quote:
News presenter Jeremy Paxman, in a Newsnight programme, has recently referred to a large section of religious believers as ‘stupid' and religious creation narratives as ‘hogwash.' At many levels this is unacceptable behaviour for a BBC presenter, yet the BBC not only justifies it but allows him to get away with it!
Just who is getting so offended at this blatant anti-religious rant by a famous BBC anchor-man? You've probably guessed already: Creationists!
Although the context was an interview with Richard Dawkins about his new book, The Magic of Reality, Paxman also made categorical statements that the truthfulness of religious creation accounts cannot be taken seriously and should therefore be treated with utter disdain. His disrespect and lack of impartiality was self-evident despite later BBC attempts to justify it. A response from the BBC argued that he ‘was being provocative by playing devil's advocate.' But that isn't how it came across to anyone listening; it sounded very much like Paxman was expressing his own opinion as a statement of fact, not in the context of asking a question to Dawkins.
There's a reason why it sounded like Paxman was making a statement of fact. It's because he was, as it happens, stating a fact. Religious creation narratives are, on the whole, hogwash — meaning false, not true, non-congruent with reality. Dawkins charitably described them as myth, and expressed a fondness for Genesis, as myth. Listen for yourself:

My copy of the book arrived this morning, and I only had time to glance briefly at it before leaving for work. The illustrations are amazing. I look forward to reading the whole thing as I'm apparently within Dawkins' target age-range (12 to 100).

But back to those hyper-sensitive creationists. See how they attempt to justify their position with oblique references to research and other non-biblical texts:
Christian creationists have always recognised the multi-levelled nature of the creation account, reading it both literally and with theological symbolism, and not just with the eyes of simplistic literalism. Creationists are also interested in mapping global creation and flood stories from around the world to see whether there is a common pattern. It would seem in fact that there is knowledge of a global flood in many of those accounts, and this is to be expected if the world population is related to Noah's family, just as the Bible says. Oxford Professor Peter Harrison has also argued recently that a literal reading of the Bible led to a more literal reading of nature, and this helped to get science going in a more meaningful way in the early modern period.
So the creation account is both literal and symbolic? How convenient, allowing them to push the symbolism when their literalism is challenged, and vice versa. Plus there's an appeal to authority — an "Oxford Professor" no less, who has argued. He may well have argued, but has anyone (apart from creationists) taken him seriously? We won't find out from this piece, as it provides no references.
In summary, I would suggest that the BBC hierarchy is out of touch with its viewers and has little interest in genuine respect and dialogue. Instead it appears to be living in a bubble of its own making.
The BBC likely considers creationists deserving of respect, just like anyone else, even if they believe nonsense. But the nonsense itself deserves none. And we can clearly see who's living in a bubble (hint: it's not the BBC).

Sunday 18 September 2011

Burnee links for Sunday

The New Apostolic Reformation: The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare : NPR
This is what Liz Lutgendorff talks about on the latest Skepticule Extra podcast, episode 14. It's frightening. (Episode 15 was recorded this evening and will be posted in a few days.)

I Am An Atheist: 16 Things Atheists Need Christians to Know
Excellent list, succinctly enumerated.

Belief matters, and bad beliefs hurt us all | Pharyngula
Truth matters as well. I heard John Gray's piece (the essay against which PZ so vehemently fulminates) as A Point of View — a podcast of the BBC radio programme of the same name. The man sounds so reasonable with his calm, deliberate delivery, until you actually listen to what he's saying. Then you realise he's speaking from a different planet.

Whither now the Church of England? : Atheism UK
The CofE is squirming, wriggling, trying its best to untangle the moral knots it has woven for itself in an inexorably complex cat's cradle of obfuscation. Too bad, I say. The CofE is history — let it hang there and expire.

Science, Reason and Critical Thinking: Magical v. Rational Candles
The rational candles are great; I want a box of them. But I'm torn — the magical candles use one of my favourite woo-woo words: potentised.

Unbelievable punishment

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I had more than one motive for ordering the DVD set of the Unbelievable? Conference. I've attended a number of events where talks were recorded — video as well as audio-only — and I've been struck by the variable quality of the results. I've watched countless talks on-line that I didn't personally attend, and given the variable quality of those too, I considered how difficult making such recordings might be. I've had the opportunity to test that myself over the past few months, by recording (with permission) most of the talks given at Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub. Four of these are now available as Skepticule Record episodes. One of them — the juggling and maths of Colin Wright — I recorded in video, but video is a far more demanding medium than audio only, and I have yet to get around to doing what's necessary to make that available.

I attended both TAM London 2009 and 2010, but only the first has been made available on DVD (which I have), and in the light of the above I was curious to see what sort of job Premier would make of recording their own conference. I was also interested to see and hear what Christian spokespersons say to their self-selecting audience on the matter of Christianity in Britain. I live in Britain but I'm not a Christian, and what I hear on Unbelievable? (and elsewhere) makes me concerned about religious influence in public life.

Unbelievable?: The Conference DVD 2011 consists of three discs, of which I've so far watched the first. The box, with the subtitle "Honest answers to Tough questions", lists the contributors but gives no information regarding duration (though I understand it's about ten hours), PAL/NTSC format or region coding. (I use a multi-region multi-format DVD player so this isn't a problem for me, but it could be an issue for some.)

Disc 1 (the only one I've watched so far) is the Apologetic Stream, with an introduction by Justin Brierley in the Big Brother chair (sorry, that's how it seemed to me — I haven't watched Big Brother for years, do they still have the chair?) followed by a keynote speech by John Lennox entitled "What are we apologising for?" in which he explains the common misconception about "apologetics" (and how it has nothing to do with apologising). He goes on to explain why apolegetics is necessary as a biblical imperative, and who should do it. He's an excellent speaker, and is talking here to an sympathetic audience, so his tacit assumptions about the truth of scripture are legitimate in such a context.

Lennox identifies two attacks from which Christianity needs defending — first the scientific argument espoused by Richard Dawkins and a "minority" of scientistic atheists, the "New Atheists" — and second the attack on the morality and ethics of scripture. He makes a good point about asking questions of people until they respond with questions of their own, and his anecdotes are amusing, but I'm wary of taking his anecdotes at face value given his misrepresentation of his debate with Dawkins.

Towards the end of his keynote address it seems to me Lennox shifts effortlessly into "preacher" mode, with what appears to be an evangelical strategy for countering fear by appeal to revelation.

John Lennox is also first up in the Apologetic Stream with "Has Science Buried God?" He begins by stating that most scientists of the past were believers. This isn't surprising, and doesn't support his case because almost everyone of the past would have been believers. He states that God is a person not a theory, and then attempts to knock down a straw man of an equation of God and Science. He also states that he's not a fan of Stephen Jay Gould's non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA), and that science itself arose out of the Christian worldview — but when science began, as I've pointed out above, the Christian worldview was pretty much the only one around.

Lennox claims the idea that science equals rationality is false, and "scientism" comes from a false concept of God. He posits the opposition of "God" on one hand and "mechanism" on the other as a false dichotomy. He then goes on to complain about Stephen Hawking's statement about gravity and creation from nothing — a complaint Lennox has apparently addressed in a whole book. I've yet to read Hawking's The Grand Design (it's on my Kindle), but I have suspicions that his poorly phrased statement may have been instigated by his literary publicist in an effort to court controversy (and book sales).

Richard Dawkins' argument about explanatory complexity (in The God Delusion) is then applied to the book itself. Lennox asks, what is the explanation for The God Delusion? It's Richard Dawkins, but Richard Dawkins is more complex than the book, so according to him he isn't an adequate explanation for his own book! This, frankly, is a fatuous argument. Dawkins isn't the ultimate explanation for his book, he's merely one level of a hierarchy of explanation. This matter of explanatory power is something I see throughout a whole spectrum of theistic attempts to explain things by appeal to God — from John Polkinghorne to Ray Comfort to, er... John Lennox. The way we attempt to explain things we don't currently understand is by appeal to things we do understand, and indeed John Lennox himself touches on this when he talks about reductionism. But any attempt to "explain" something by appeal to something that we don't understand is clearly not an explanation at all. (Incidentally this is exactly why "intelligent design" isn't science.)

Lennox next addresses the question, who created God? — claiming it's a trick question, because it assumes that God was created. But is he therefore claiming that the universe could not be uncreated? This argument (known as the Cosmological Argument) is, as we've seen before, an exercise in special pleading.

In the Q&A Lennox begins by writing down a whole series of questions from the audience and then proceeds to answer them en bloc. I found it heartening to hear him cite atheist scientists again and again — this shows that the Gnu Atheists are definitely making an impression, and that theists feel they are obliged to answer. To a question about determinism Lennox responds with the argument from morality, but in a typically shallow fashion that sneaks in the usual conflation of morality and absolute or objective morality. This, I feel, is where the battle lies.

There are also questions about the "multiverse", which leave me cold, as it's all unfalsifiable speculation and not an argument.

Next up in the Apologetic Stream is Jay Smith with "How do I respond to Islam?" Islam, apparently, is the greatest threat to Christianity today. Smith spends much time denigrating the Qur'an as full of incomplete, derivative stories — in contrast to the New Testament, which is "true". (The Old Testament is apparently not relevant to the modern world.) Smith's zealous delivery is fast and furious, reminding me of a fairground huckster or a salesman standing with a microphone in the back of a truck surrounded by dodgy consumables. He's preaching (to the converted, no doubt, here), and I can imagine what he's like at Speaker's Corner, where he's apparently a regular.

Time and again he compares the Qur'an to the New Testament, declaring one to be so much better than the other. He has an answer for everything, as he demonstrates in the Q&A, but he's so slick and so fast I can't help thinking that what he's saying is just too good to be true — just like a snake-oil salesman.

Finally in the Apologetic Stream we have David Robertson with "How do I make the case for faith?" beginning with a clip from BBC Newsnight, in which Jeremy Paxman interviews Russell Brand (the clip isn't actually on the DVD, but I noted the link displayed on the screen and watched it via iPlayer).

Robertson's talk is mainly about making Jesus available to people (such as Brand) who are seeking him, which would seem to restrict his evangelism to those who are already susceptible to a religious way of thinking. Naturally he mentions his book The Dawkins Letters, and makes the claim that Dawkins wrote The God Delusion not as a result of 9/11 but because he was expecting religion to be dead by the beginning of the 21st century. It's an interesting but (at least here) unsubstantiated claim.

Another claim Robertson makes is that atheism is on the decline, which I think is only supportable by cherry-picking the data — just this month there's a report that it's religion that's on the decline: "All in all, these data point to a society in which religion is increasingly in retreat and nominal."

This was a mammoth session and I was flagging a bit towards the end, but I've another two discs to go. Watch this space for more of my punishment.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Grill the world's foremost Christian apologist — Unbelievable?

Last Saturday's Unbelievable? radio programme was a departure from its regular format — which usually aims to get "...Christians and non-believers talking to each other." In advance of William Lane Craig's visit to the UK in October Justin Brierley had him responding to questions sent in by listeners. Peter May, one of the organisers of the Reasonable Faith Tour, was also on the programme.

I wasn't expecting much from this, as the last time Craig was on Unbelievable? he took the opportunity to bad-mouth Richard Dawkins in an unforgivable manner.

But there were some good questions. I've only heard the show once, but here are some thoughts that occurred to me while listening:

When asked by Justin what he thought of Dawkins' refusal to debate him, Craig said Dawkins might be afraid of being humiliated — as he was in his debate with John Lennox. This seems to me a very odd interpretation of events. Dawkins gave up debating theists one-on-one after his encounter with Lennox because Lennox misrepresented the debate afterwards:

Small wonder that Dawkins refuses to debate Craig, when Craig himself echoes Lennox in misrepresenting what actually happened. (The whole of Dawkins' talk is available here: — well worth watching.)

Concerning Polly Toynbee's withdrawal from debating with him, Craig suggested that atheists seem to have got together and agreed to boycott "this type of event". It seems more likely that they got together and agreed not to debate William Lane Craig, as they know he's not interested in dialogue, only point-scoring.

Then Craig answered some listener questions. After some preliminary exposition of the Kalām Cosmological Argument he attempted to rebut Justin Schieber's excellent point about temporal causality — that one can't really say anything about cause and effect when time doesn't exist — and in doing so produced a real howler. He resorted to "simultaneity", claiming that intentions can be simultaneous with actions and therefore not temporal. But "simultaneous" means "at the same time". In what way is simultaneity non-temporal?

Fine-tuning was next up, and as usual Craig, like other theists, simply takes fine-tuning as a given. But look at the size of the universe. No, really, look at its SIZE.
"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is."1
Intelligent life (that stuff the universe is supposedly fine-tuned to support) is as far as we know an infinitesimally insignificant part of the universe. One could characterise intelligent life as a "homeopathically tiny" concentration in the unfathomably vast cosmos. Statistically speaking, therefore, there is no intelligent life at all in the universe. How can the nominal non-existence of any such thing be described as the result of "fine tuning"?

A. C. Grayling's comment that he'd sooner debate the existence of leprechauns and fairies than the existence of God was described by Craig as "condescending". This is symptomatic of the false importance theists ascribe to their wacky beliefs. They complain they're not being taken seriously, yet cannot provide any reason why they should be. We have, of course, heard this before. During a debate in 2009 Richard Harries objected to Richard Dawkins' similar characterisation:
"You can't let Richard get away with that. That's a ridiculous remark. You cannot confuse the God of classical theism, which has animated the whole of western philosophy, with a leprechaun."2
But like Craig, Harries provided no sound reason not to.

Another question was about the moral argument for God, and as expected Craig trotted out his usual claim that it's logically impossible for God to be immoral because it's part of God's nature to be moral. But he merely asserts that this is so. The only justification for such an assertion is that God is defined to be moral. This isn't really a justification, it's nothing more than an arbitrary definition.

And this man is supposedly the world's foremost Christian apologist.

  1. Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy — the original radio scripts. London 1985, Pan Books.
  2. Lord Richard Harries, during a debate at Wellington College, Crowthorne, on the motion "Atheism is the New Fundamentalism", November 2009.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Last Night of the Proms

On Saturday I went to the Last Night of the Proms. I could review it for you — but why should I, when it has been so capably captured here?

Sunday 11 September 2011

Presuppositional apologetics — why bother?

Some of my readers may have endured what has become known as The Fourth Debate, in which the three Pauls of the Skepticule Extra podcast were subjected to the presuppositional apologetic argument of Eric Hovind and Sye Ten Bruggencate. We released it, unedited, as an episode of the Skepticule Record, which is that part of Skepticule intended to archive live events.

I believe I can safely assert that the three Pauls are in agreement that The Fourth Debate was the final word on Presuppositional Apologetics as far as they, personally, are concerned. PA has been shown, increasingly and repetitively, not to work. It doesn't convince atheists, and it doesn't convince those theists (the majority) who claim to have evidence for the existence of God. It appears that PA is only considered valid by those who already hold to it. As an apologetic method, therefore, it's a dismal failure.

For some people, however, this isn't enough. Chris Bolt of the Choosing Hats blog and podcast (though "podcast" is used loosely here, as I can't find an RSS feed that encloses the media files, and have had to download them manually)* has been commenting on the aforementioned episode of the Skepticule Record in obsessive and tedious detail. There are currently four editions of "Praxis Presup" covering The Fourth Debate — numbers 12, 13, 14 and 15. Two-and-a-half hours of commentary (including clips of the "debate" itself) is a lot, and might perhaps be worth it for a "debate" that ran for an hour and nine minutes, but Chris Bolt's commentary in these four editions of Praxis Presup covers only the first half-hour of our podcast. Apparently there's more commentary to come, but based on what's been released so far, I've no incentive to listen further. (An added disincentive is the appalling sound quality of Praxis Presup. I hope Chris Bolt's listeners don't think the podcast we released is of comparable sound quality to the clips he played.)

All of which leaves me with a nagging question: for whom is Praxis Presup intended? Certainly not atheists, who — if they bother to listen — will only be confirmed in their conviction that PA is nonsense. Evidential theists won't be convinced, as PA claims their approach is invalid. The only people who will agree with Chris Bolt's analysis will be presuppositionalists themselves — and why do they need this, if they are already convinced by PA?

It's a mystery.

*It's been brought to my attention (thanks Fergus!) that there is indeed a working podcast feed for Praxis Presup:

A funny thing happened on the way to the Royal Albert Hall

It was yesterday, and actually I was already there, attempting to take pictures of the various flag sellers, when I was accosted by a gentleman brandishing what appeared to be a "Flip" video camera, who asked me if I'd like to take part in a "Vox Pop":

So of course I said yes.

Blog-dearth excuses: Skepticule Extra

My blogging schedule has gone to pot, that's clear. I kept up the one-post-per-day for over eight months, until other things (life, or something masquerading as such) impinged on my daily creative output. Here's an example — the Skepticule Extra podcast comes out every fortnight on average, and the most recently published show features an interview with Matt Flannagan of the MandM blog. He talks about the Euthyphro dilemma and Divine Command Theory:

And there's other stuff. Enjoy.

(The next show, number 14, will be published any day now.)

Sunday 4 September 2011

Burnee links for Sunday

Links all from, mostly circumventing the Times paywall:

The Wonder Years - The Times Leading Article - The Times -
A leader sparked off by excerpts from Richard Dawkins' new book for children. (Note that a forthcoming episode of the Skepticule Extra podcast will be dealing with science education.)

[UPDATE - audio]Evolution? Children do Adam and Eve it - Richard Dawkins - The Times - Eureka -
This is the Eureka article to which the the Times leader (linked above) refers.

Attack of the Theocrats! How the Religious Right Harms Us All- —and What We Can Do About It - Sean Faircloth - Pitchstone Publishing -
Alarming to note that a book like this is necessary in the officially secular US. How much more are such warnings needed in the UK, where state religion puts secularism at a disadvantage?

Leading bishop hits out at Dawkins for reducing ‘faith into ignorance’ - Ruth Gledhill, Religion correspondent - The Times -
It's truly laughable that the quotes chosen are perfect examples of scientific impossibilities, and yet the bishop apparently thinks it insulting that Dawkins points them out to be so. But miracles by definition are occurrences that contradict science. Miracles, fairy tales — how is one supposed to tell the difference?

‘Children are indoctrinated. I want to open their minds' - Alexander Linklater - The Times -
More in the Times: an interview about the new book for children.

17th October — Stephen Law vs William Lane Craig

Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Association, was due to debate William Lane Craig, to kick off his October tour of the UK. She pulled out once she realised what kind of thing a debate with Craig is, and philosopher Stephen Law has stepped in to take her place.

I had decided not to attend the debate, as I was getting pretty sick of Craig's debating style. He does these things not in an effort to explore the arguments, but to "win". We saw this with two recent debates, first with Lawrence Krauss, and then with Sam Harris. Both Krauss and Harris have interesting and original things to say about their particular areas of concern, cosmology and morality respectively. But Craig isn't concerned with learning from either of them. Perhaps though, Krauss and Harris learned something from Craig — but it would not have been anything about the evidence for God, or the moral necessity of God. They may, however, have learned how to score superficial debating points — not that either of them would have been interested in doing such a thing.

So I decided, as noted above, that I was done with Craig and his "Reasonable Faith Tour".

I have, however, reconsidered. Previously I decided not to attend a conversation between Sam Harris and Giles Fraser (regular readers will know how much Fraser irritates me), but later regretted my decision, because when I changed my mind I discovered all tickets were sold.

To forestall potentially similar regrets I do now have a ticket for the Craig vs Law debate at Westminster Central Hall at 7:30 pm on Monday 17th October. Partly this is because I'm currently reading Stephen Law's new book, Believing Bullshit, and partly because of all those put up against Craig on this tour and elsewhere, Stephen Law seems likely to be the most capable of tackling Craig on his own terms. Perusal of his blog indicates he's not taking the debate lightly (he is, at least, getting plenty of advice).

Naturally you can expect a full report.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Burnee links for Thursday

Spirituality: It’s only human! - On Faith - The Washington Post
An older post from Paula Kirby's On Faith column. She's not saying anything new to me, but it nevertheless needs saying, again and again. Maybe, just maybe it will eventually sink in to the religionists that they have no proprietorial exclusivity on morality.

Guerilla Skepticism and Wikipedia
I've often fancied having a go at editing Wikipedia, but I'm aware what a time-sink that endeavour can be. Susan Gerbic has some suggestions for where to start, and why (with a specific — laudable — goal in mind).

Forget What Did: Everything in the garden is rosy.
A cheerful disposition is such a valuable thing to possess...

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Time | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine
Take time to read this list. Some of the items are surprisingly non-intuitive.

Greta Christina's Blog: The Santa Delusion: Why "Religion Is Useful" Is a Terrible Argument For Religion
Don't be like Slartibartfast: "I'd far rather be happy than right any day."