Thursday, July 23, 2015


Edd Doerr notes that the the Unitarian Universalist Association have releases a statement issued  , approved by the UUA General Assembly in late June --- 2015 UUA Statement of Conscience - Reproductive Justice. ARL board member Ken Sandin was a delegate at the General Assembly in Portland, OR,  this year.

The UUA has long been supportive of reproductive choice and was involved from the beginning in 1973 with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, on whose board I served from1973 until 2004.

By the way, in 1982 I was the author of the UUA General Assembly resolution on “Public Education, Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State”, which passed unanimously. Below are the relevant sections  ---

“Whereas, the constitutional principles of religious liberty and the separation of church and state that safeguards liberty and the ideal of a pluralistic society are under increasing attack in the Congress of the United States, in state legislatures, and in some sectors on the communications media by a combination of sectarian and secular special interests;

“Be it resolved: That the 1982 GA of the UUA  affirms its support for these principles and urges the Board of Trustees and President of the Association, member societies, and UUs in the US to:

“1. Defend the democratic, pluralistic public school, opposing all forms of direct and indirect public aid to support sectarian private schools, such as tuition tax credits or vouchers;

“2. Uphold religious neutrality in public education, oppose all government mandated or sponsored prayers, devotions, and religious indoctrination in public schools; and oppose efforts to compromise the integrity of public school teaching by the introduction of sectarian religious doctrines, such as ‘scientific creationism,’ and by exclusion of educational matter on sectarian grounds.

“3. Uphold the principle of judicial review, and oppose all efforts to deny the federal courts jurisdiction  over school prayer, abortion rights, or other church-state disputes.

“4. Uphold the principle enunciated by the US Supreme Court that all levels of government must remain respectfully neutral with regard to all religions.

“5 Uphold the constitutional privacy right of every woman, acknowledged by the Supreme Court in 1973 in Roe v. Wade and other rulings, to plan the number and spacing of her children and to terminate a problem pregnancy in collaboration with her physician, opposing all efforts through legislation or constitutional amendment to restrict that right or to impose by law a ‘theology of fetal personhood’; and

“6. Support all efforts to preserve and strengthen church-state  separation.”

[NOTE: In 1981 humanist leaders Edward Ericson and the late Sherwin Wine founded Americans for Religious Liberty. In 1982 was asked to be ARL’s executive director. ARL’s positions match those of the UUA resolution. All issues of ARL’s quarterly journal and other material may be accessed on our website – ARL appreciates the support of all who share these positions.]

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A review of "Christianity without God"

a review by Edd Doerr of  Christianity without God: Moving beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative, by Daniel C. Maguire. SUNY Press, 2014, 226 pp, $24.95.

“In these pages,” Dan Maguire  writes as he begins this important book, “I argue against the existence of a personal god, the divinity of Jesus, and the belief that continued living is the sequel to death. I find no persuasive arguments for any of these hypotheses,” these assumed foundations of Christianity. “What would be refreshing,” he adds, “is a moratorium on god-talk so that together we could explore alternatives to earth’s current social, political, economic, and ecological distress.”

Maguire, Professor of Ethics at (Jesuit) Marquette University and a former priest, is a longtime supporter of women’s rights regarding contraception, abortion and overpopulation. (See my review of his book, Sacred Choices, in Voice of Reason No. 80 in 2002 at In this brisk new book, brimming with humor and common sense, Maguire eviscerates the myths and supernaturalism of the Bible and traditional Christian theology but says that there are gems of wisdom and ethics to be found in those sources, though, one cannot help but note, those gems are buried under mountains of muck that require a patient, careful geologist like Maguire to unearth. The book reminds one of the Jefferson Bible or Bernard Shaw’s quip that as his followers did not understand Jesus’ religion, they made him the religion.

Maguire pokes fun at the Vatican’s “pelvic zone orthodoxy” and highlights the importance of dealing with climate change and its concomitants: “deforestation and  habitat destruction, soil erosion and salinization, water management problems, overhunting, overfishing, foreign species affecting native species, human population growth, and increased per capita impact of people,” a litany similar to the one I have long been chanting.  He concludes: “No deity will come to save this gifted and generous earth. It’s a challenge for humans not for gods. . . . The hour is late; some damage is irremediable. But it is not too late to start reversals.”

Further: “We are a spoiled species that seems hell-bent on wrecking the earth that cradles us and we are well on in that demonic suicidal project. It is an alluring temptation for the likes of us to imagine a superbeing with parental passions who is both omnipotent and all merciful who will make everything right ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. Such delusions are typical of adolescence. And adolescent is what we are.”

Maguire’s humanism shines brightly through in this terrific book, though he does not use that term. And it bears out what I wrote in this haiku: “Labels may conceal / far more than they may reveal / they can mask what’s real.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Scott Walker & Public Education

by Edd Doerr

We continue to have newly announced candidates for Prez.  The news recently was all about Scott Walker’s announced run for Prez. Here is the response I posted re the Washington Post’s 7/14 editorial on the matter. My comment left out that Walker signed a bill promoting “abstinence only” sex ed in schools.  

Scott Walker has made it abundantly clear that he is an enemy of public education, women's rights of conscience, religious freedom, and our constitutional heritage of church-state separation.

He has worked overtime to undermine public education by increasing the diversion of public funds to special interest (mostly faith-based) private schools, a plan that has been a manifest failure in Wisconsin and other states, while cutting back on public school funding. He strongly supports having government force all taxpayers to support religious institutions that divide kids along religious, class, ideological, ethnic and other lines. He has attacked the University of Wisconsin, whacking its budget.. He has been working hard to shrink women's rights of conscience on abortion, seeking to impose his own narrow values on all women. He has made clear that he has no respect for the rights of working people. He seems unfamiliar with his own state's constitution.

To top it off, Scott Walker says that "My relationship with God drives every major decision in my life." Walker claims that "I needed to be certain that running [for President] was God's calling. I am certain: This is God's plan for me."

This unhinged college dropout evidently wants to turn our country into something resembling Ayatollah Khomenei's Iran or a fundamentalist caliphate. Walker would turn the Oval Office into the Offal Office. 

Arctic Methane

by Don Wharton

The state of scientific knowledge on arctic methane is profoundly disturbing. The scientists talk about how much they don't know but then the seeming consensus is that that there a high confidence that there is no risk of a substantial game changing Artic methane release. This is on its face contradictory. If they don't know then they don't know.

Topics to be covered:

1. Current sharp rise in methane from pre-industrial times.
2. Extreme lack of current information on Arctic methane release.
3. Thermal shock to climate system preceding at unprecedented rate.
4. Known mechanisms that can significantly increase transport of ocean methane to the atmosphere.
5. A known mechanism that can significantly ease the release of land methane deposits.
6. A known mechanism which can significantly magnify the impact of methane that is released.

There is a great many discussions about anomalously high methane readings from the modest tracking that is done. Readings of 200 to 900 ppb above normal readings seem to be given the charming term dragon breath. The standard readings for methane seem are now approaching 1900 ppb which is over 2.5 times the 721 ppb assumed for pre-industrial times. This can be seen from the graphs included here:

There is a current five year program to fly planes over Alaska, called CARVE. There seems to a gross discontinuity between the initial reports that were disturbing and the initial final report which is sanguine:
Quoting one paragraph, “Some of the methane and carbon dioxide concentrations we've measured have been large, and we're seeing very different patterns from what models suggest," Miller said. "We saw large, regional-scale episodic bursts of higher-than-normal carbon dioxide and methane in interior Alaska and across the North Slope during the spring thaw, and they lasted until after the fall refreeze. To cite another example, in July 2012 we saw methane levels over swamps in the Innoko Wilderness that were 650 parts per billion higher than normal background levels. That's similar to what you might find in a large city."

Of course, with the radically increased warming in the Arctic during the summer we are seeing many more small lakes being formed which can nourish the methane brewing bacteria that feed on the massive amounts of organic material in the permafrost. It is easy for the frozen water from the permafrost when thawed to migrate to the slightly lower levels and form these very shallow swamps/lakes.

There are recent maps posted by NASA on these CARVE flights which show the significant differences in CO2 and methane levels along the flight paths for the planes:

Compare the disturbing evidence above with the formal announcement,
NASA: Alaska Shows No Signs of Rising Arctic Methane:

The title conveys the very sanguine message. However, read especially the last paragraph in the following quote from news release:

“Alaska composes about one percent of Earth's total land area, and its estimated annual emissions in 2012 equaled about one percent of total global methane emissions. That means the Alaskan rate was very close to the global average rate.

"That's good news, because it means there isn't a large amount of methane coming out of the ground yet," said lead author Rachel Chang, formerly at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and now an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Charles Miller of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, the principal investigator for CARVE, noted that results from a single year cannot show how emissions might be changing from year to year. "The 2012 data don't preclude accelerated change in the future," he said.

Vast amounts of carbon are stored in undecayed organic matter -- dead plants and animals -- in Arctic permafrost and peat. Scientists estimate that there is more than twice as much carbon locked in the frozen North as there is in the atmosphere today. The organic material won't decay and release its carbon as long as it stays frozen. But climate change has brought warmer and longer summers throughout the Arctic, and permafrost soils are thawing more and more. If large amounts of undecayed matter were to defrost, decompose and release methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the impact on global temperatures would most likely be enormous.

//end quote//

In fact the message in the title of this news release reflects ignorance. Since the researchers did not know the prior rate of methane release they can say that there are no signs of methane increase. That clearly does not provide evidence that there is no increase. The fact is that there is massively greater organic material being thawed each year and the starkly high “dragon breath” readings are unlikely to have existed in a past when permafrost actually remained frozen.

The rate of increase in global warming gasses is preceding at a pace that has never been equaled in the history of our planet. This may provide a thermal shock to the climate that has never occurred in the past. Even during the very extreme Permian extinction it is unlikely that the rate of climate change equaled what we are going through now.

David Archer is a respected climatologist and is seen as someone who does an excellent job in debunking climate change deniers. He very much supports the majority of climate scientists who do not see any catastrophic release of Arctic methane. I have read over 100 pages of his detailed discussion on the topic including this one:

My recollection is that many dismissive discussions of methane rising from the ocean floor talks about how most of the methane will dissolve in the water and be eaten by bacteria. However, Archer discusses a research piece that calculated a 50 year half life in the ocean. Quoting from the above link:
“Rehder et al. (1999) inferred an oxidation lifetime of methane in the high-latitude North Atlantic of 50 years.
An oxidation lifetime of 50 years leaves plenty of time for methane gas to evaporate into the atmosphere. Typical gas exchange timescales for gas evasion from the surface ocean would be about 3–5m per day. A surface mixed layer 100m deep would approach equilibrium (degas) in about a month.
Even a 1000-m thick winter mixed layer would degas about 30% during a three-month winter window. The ventilation time of subsurface waters depends on the depth and the fluid trajectories in the water (Luyten et al., 1983), but 50 years is enough time that a significant fraction of the methane dissolving
from bubbles might reach the atmosphere before it is oxidized.”

Large emissions of methane has been documented along the Siberian coastline. Coastal melting has resulted in 2500% supersaturation concentrations of methane relative to the atmosphere in Siberian shelf waters (Shakhova et al., 2005). With a supersaturated solution the rising bubbles cannot dissolve and will proceed unimpeded to the atmosphere.

I was astonished to note that ocean surface temperatures of over 60 degrees were being recorded in small areas of the Arctic and Alaskan Pacific. This is likely to substantially add heat to subsurface methane deposits. A massive fraction of the Arctic land mass is covered by small and medium sized lakes. It is likely that the surface water on those lakes will have similar increases in maximum and average temperatures. Arctic lakes typically never freeze at the bottom in the winter. The implication is that there is an area, called a talik, that remains unfrozen and penetrates deep into the permafrost.

An article on these taliks:
talk about how a significant minority of them already reach down below the zone of methane hydrate stability. Some of them are projected to have an unfrozen talik extending down 300 meters. What this means is that there is a mechanism that allows for easy release of methane from below the lake and perhaps easier movement of the increased surface heat to deep permafrost deposits. Obviously the rising methane bubbles will pull some of the water with them. To some extent the resulting partial reduction in fluid pressure will pull fluid from any source that can provide it. Almost certainly that will include some of the warm surface water. This will result in much more than the possible release of preexisting methane, There is massive amounts of organic carbon that has not yet been converted to methane combined with bacteria that likes to eat it and produce methane. In another study it was noted that the thawed area under one lake extended 8 feet in a single year.

Subsurface soundings very often document frozen methane hydrates by the methane bubbles below the methane stability zone. The bubbles cannot move upward because methane hydrate is cemented in all of the available pore space. What will happen when the majority of the taliks penetrate the stability zone instead of only 25% of them or less. The methane pressure near the talik is much reduced when the bubbles below and near the talik are released. The remaining bubbles can in principle move laterally because the pore spaces are not clogged with hydrate. In addition the oxidation of carbon by methanogenic bacteria will release some heat in the same way that oxidizing carbon by burning it releases heat. Obviously this mechanism will create heat at a slower rate than burning but we know that land dumps that are producing methane can become extremely hot because of this mechanism. I have seen no studies documenting this possibility in the Arctic but it is a very well understood phenomenon in domestic dump sites.

It is common knowledge in the waste industry that 5% of landfill fires are caused by spontaneous combustion due to bacteria digesting material. This can be substantially enhanced by any mechanism that adds oxygen to the mixture. However, even more heat is often generated without oxygen. In terms of the magnitude of the heat consider this article:

“The maximum reported temperatures generally varied from approximately 40 to 65°C and were observed within the middle one-third depth to over one-half depth of landfills with total waste heights
of approximately 20 to 60 m. An exception was reported by Koerner #2001# where low temperatures between 10 and 20°C were measured for wastes with a maximum height of nearly 50 m in the long term #more than 9.5 years#. Temperatures up to approximately 30 to over 50°C were reported near or at the base of landfills #Dach and Jager 1995; Rowe 1998; Gartung et al. 1999; Yoshida and Rowe 2003#,”

Even modest generation of heat in permafrost or organic material near methane hydrates by this mechanism can vastly enhance a tipping point process that continues to a runaway human disaster.

The methane hydrates are a major risk because they are known to very unstable if the specific conditions required to maintain them are changed. However, the existing organic material in permafrost is also a risk. Quoting from the Archer article:
“Peat deposits are a substantial reservoir of carbon, are estimated to be 350–450 Gton C (Stockstad, 2004). With a thaw will come accelerated decomposition of this organic matter, increasing the flux of CO2 and CH4 (Liblik et al., 1997; Rivkina et al., 2000, 2004). Soil that has been frozen for thousands of years still contains viable populations of methanotrophic bacteria (Rivkina et al., 2004). The flux of methane from peat soils to the atmosphere also depends on the location of the water table, which controls the thickness of the oxic zone (Bubier et al., 1995, 2005; Liblik et al., 1997). If 20% of the peat reservoir converted to methane, released over 100 years, this would release 0.7 Gton C per year, doubling the atmospheric methane concentration.”

OH ions are needed to oxidize methane. High levels of methane will reduce the OH ions in the atmosphere and extend the half life of methane. This can substantially expand its warming impact. A formal model calculating this impact started with a base assumption of a 9.1 year half life now. With 4 times the methane it expands to 14.7 years. A seven fold increase would produce a 18 year life.
I saw one suggestion that a catastrophic methane release could produce a 40 year atmospheric life for released methane. Given that we have only 3GT of methane in the atmosphere now and there are possibly thousands of gigatons in various deposits, this big a release is certainly conceivable.

The study referenced in the last link above ended with:
“There is a possibility that the Arctic temperature increases could be followed by extensive permafrost
thawing, with enhanced CH4 emission from thermokarst lakes [Walter et al. , 2006], with later release of CH4 from gas hydrates that would eventually be affected by warming temperatures. Considering the large, nonlinear atmospheric chemistry feedbacks discussed here, future CH4 emissions from permafrost deposits could be a larger concern for climate warming than previously thought.”

The majority of mainstream climate scientists use this very careful language. However, they also are documenting categories of risk that are very inconsistent with the seemingly unconcerned IPCC summary judgment. The known science suggests that we at minimum need a massive investment in the science so that we can have confidence concerning what is happening now and make reliable predictions on the future. A 6 degree centigrade increase in planetary temperature will make most of the world profoundly miserable for humanity. This will not cause humanity to become extinct. However, there will be a massive reduction in human population combined with destabilizing war as people desperately fight for the resources required to survive.

We have no proof that we will have any catastrophic methane release from the Arctic. However, virtually every aspect of the current system has elements that are only partially understood and can vastly expand the release of methane beyond current assumptions. We need to do the research to either verify that the carbon and methane will remain stable or give us an understanding about the magnitude of our climate risk.

Monday, July 20, 2015

An Hypothesis on the Secular Vote in 2016

by Gary Berg-Cross

Bill Scher, the Online Campaign Manager at Campaign for America's Future, (and the executive editor of, often blogs about the problems that the Republican Party & Conservative Pols face. Recent ones include "Why Republicans Can’t Stop The Iran Deal (And Shouldn’t Want To) and "Republicans On Track To Lose The Latino Vote, And The Election, Again." But the most recent one (JULY 20, 2015) to catch my eye was, "Republicans Can’t Win Without Solving Their ‘Secular Problem. ’

The idea is simple, the highly religious and fundamentalist vote is maxed out.  The less religious and nones are growing and up, like the Latino vote, for being grabbed.

Scher points out some trends starting with an 2006 exit poll data that showed that:
'Democrats crushed Republican among voters who went to church “a few times a year” (60-38 percent) and “never” (67-30 percent), while the Republican margin among those who attended church “weekly” was slashed from 16 points in the previous midterm to seven."
'…In 2008, Sen. John McCain received 39 percent support of voters who seldom attend religious services, and 30 percent from those who never go. Both numbers represent a 6-point drop from what Bush received in 2004…
…Obama received 43 percent of the vote from voters who attend religious services weekly or more than weekly. For Kerry, those numbers were 41 percent and 35 percent…'
The idea here, which jives with the type of things we see among the current crop of GOP candidates  is that conservatives are aiming at keeping their Evangelical base.  The battle is for the more casual religious.

Scher reports that in 2012 an openly religious Obama did no better than Kerry among the  42 percent of voters who said they were regular worshipers. (The secular vote is also about 42%) Although a very religious Mitt did worse than Bush's 2004 results among the 57 percent who "never went to services or who went irregularly."

President Obama carried Religiously Unaffiliated voters 70% to Mitt Romney’s 26% according to a report from The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life exit poll data of the 2012 election. Although the President’s percentage was lower than in 2008, it still continued a trend of the nones supporting the Democratic candidates. The exit poll numbers were larger than a similar election poll in September when the President held a 65 to 27 lead on Romney. (from  President Obama Wins A Landslide From The Religiously Unaffiliated)

So 2016 shapes up in this view to having a new swing vote group he call the Secular. Candidates need to speak to them on secular topics. Renouncing “religious freedom” laws
that would permit discrimination is one he sites along with women's freedom to choose. Supporting equal rights for the LGBT community is obviously one that appeals to young seculars in particular based on their experience.  Even if they are not persuaded by a liberal candidate they find offense in how a socially conservative candidate  panders to the Conservative base on these and other Judeo-Christian inspired topics that do not respect the separation of Church and State. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Colorado Supreme Court’s & the Douglas County school voucher plan

Edd Doerr's (Silver Spring, Md.) letter on the Douglas County school voucher plan was published in the Denver Post on July 2, 2015. Curiously, a Post editorial on June 29 angrily denounced the ruling, thus thumbing its nose at the state constitution, the voters of the state, the public schools, religious liberty, and the principle of church-state separation.  

The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling [June 29]  against the Douglas County school voucher plan was a great victory for public education and religious liberty, the right of taxpayers not to be compelled to support religious institutions. The ruling lined up nicely with the view of Colorado voters, who rejected vouchers at the polls in 1992 and 1998 by a landslide average margin of 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent.

In 28 state referendum elections from coast to coast between 1966 and 2014, millions of voters rejected vouchers or their variants by an almost identical margin, most recently in Hawaii in 2014 and in Florida in 2012.

Taxpayers for Public Education (one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Douglas County schools) is to be commended for its efforts.

Pope Francis, The Ban on Contraception and Climate Change

Edd Doerr continues to provide commentary on the Pope in this case linking climate change and over population.
This letter was published in the July/August 2015 issue of The Atlantic in response to Ross Douthat’s essay “Will Pope Francis Break the Church?”  ---

Ross Douthat’s essay contained not one word  about Pope’s Francis’s position on climate change, a most important threat to our planet that Francis could help solve by the simple expedient of reversing the Vatican’s 1968 condemnation of contraception.

That mistaken ban has contributed enormously to the overpopulation that is driving climate change. Removing the ban would reduce the abortion rate, save the lives and health of countless women, and improve life for millions of children.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ghost Stories

by Don Wharton

We had a couple of God believers join our discussion group earlier this month (July 2015). Perhaps that is the reason why some of our members decided to talk about ghosts stories. One member recalled talking with a friend and looking down a hallway seeing the shadow of someone crossing the hall. The two people both saw this image. They went down the hall, searched the area and confirmed that no one was actually there. Another person then shared a story about a friend that was taking a nap and had the tactile hallucination of someone placing a hand on them. He woke up and no one was there.

In both cases there was a story stating that a ghost existed in the house with a specific name and specific personality traits. But wait it gets even better. One of our members was ordered by her mother to not go out of the house one night when she was 16. She sneaked out of the house anyway and joined up with her sister. They drove around and got into a horrible auto accident. He mother showed up at the hospital at 6am steaming mad. She reported that she had a vision of an auto accident, including a nearby brick building and a red or orange car coming out from a side street to hit her daughter from the passenger side. She reported that was the reason that she ordered her daughter not to leave the house that evening. Supposedly she had not talked to the police to get these details. She then reported that whenever she plans to go on a plane trip she consults with her mother to see if she should go. In all cases her mother has said, “You're OK.”

I did not comment on these stories other than to say that there are billions of people on our planet and each of them will have many thousands of stories in their lives. It is statistically improbable that we would not have some of them that would appear strongly suggestive of supernatural phenomenon of one sort or another. I got named “snarky Don” during this discussion. I did not say anything other than the obvious epistemological comment noted above. I do confess to eye-rolling, looks of astonishment, face palming, etc.

My assertion here is that virtually everyone who wishes to explore supernatural actions as existing in their lives will accumulate such stories of supernatural causation. There are Christians who will assert that virtually everything positive that happens in their live deserves thanks to God. It is very routine for prize fighters to give thanks to God, as if all the work to hone skills and maintain high levels of stamina had nothing to do with it. This is obviously crazy but so are the acceptance of ghost stories of a less probable form.

I recall that some friends and I decided to if we might have ESP. We very rapidly accumulated a series of five events that seems to spectacularly confirm that we did have ESP. I can't recall all of them at this time since I reviewed the evidence and decided that there was really no evidence whatsoever for ESP. The only one that I do recall is that I was asked to think of a number between 1 and 100. I choose 37 and another member of our group guessed that number. Well in retrospect the fact that my phone number at that time started with 37 probable fully explained this one. I don't recall the other four tests for that we had for ESP but I am rather certain that most of our group would have found the list to be rather impressive if I reported them here.

I also recall on occasion having an impression of a shadowy object passing over part of my visual field. When this happens I would look more closely at the place where the motion appeared and conclude that nothing was there. The visual information that we receive outside the very center tends to be rather sparse. Much of what we see is an effort in our brain to construct a model of what we might presume to be out there. Some of that reconstruction is in error. If people are vulnerable to ghost stories and especially if they are talking with someone else who likes ghost stories then ghosts become very real. My guess is that my visual neurobiology is not radically different from those of others. If this is somewhat normal then we live in a universe that must of necessity have ghost stories.

My guess is that everyone reading this post has encountered at least one story or another that seemed to confirm magical phenomenon of one type or another. We need to ask the question, with massive numbers of stories occurring in every life what is the likelihood of such stories deriving by chance? Then there is the fact that such stories satisfy the criterion in religion studies of being “minimally counter-intuitive.” That is having at least one element that outside the normal to make it highly interesting and thus very likely to be repeated. This is why cultures of almost everywhere will accumulate the magical stories that become the basis of religion.

If it were possible for people to exist as coherent beings after death there would be some of them that would actively wish to be present in a lab environment to fully confirm their existence. That has not happened. If precognition could happen that again would have been confirmed in a lab situation. The military put much effort into an attempt to confirm “distance viewing.” Again there was one story strongly suggesting that there was something to it. However, after considering how many such possible stories were considered it became rather certain that one of them would in fact be that close to the reality that supposedly was being viewed.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act

By Mathew Goldstein

Our Congressional representatives want to hear our opinion on two new bills.  The Secular Coalition of America has Action Alerts making it easy to send emails.

The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015, S 991, was voted favorably out of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  Tell your Senator to stand up for evidence-based policymaking.  The act would establish the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking in the executive branch. The 15-member committee, made up of academic researchers and data experts would use data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures.

Using evidence to inform policy will help ensure that policies will be effective and applicable not only on paper, but in the real world. Taxpayer money shouldn't be wasted on policies that are unproven, untested, and unscientific.  It is incredibly important to support bills that advocate for evidence and research-based policy. Too often bills are introduced and even passed despite the overwhelming evidence of the inefficacy of the policy. S 991 is a step in the right direction towards effective and evidence-based policymaking.

The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), H.R. 2802 and S. 1598, proposes to legalize religious discrimination against same gender couples. Urge your Member of Congress to Block Legalized Discrimination.  The stated purpose of FADA is to protect the tax-exempt status, government contract, or any other Federal benefit of those who do not comply with the Court’s same-sex marriage ruling. This act’s true impact would allow for sweeping, taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children under the guise of religious liberty.  FADA would completely eviscerate the historic nondiscrimination Executive Order that President Obama signed last summer that prohibits federal contractors from engaging in discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  The first amendment protects freedom of religion and freedom from religion, not the special privileges of the religiously affiliated at the expense of the fundamental rights of other Americans.