Nasty, Nasty People

October 17, 2017

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities. 

Results from a Pew Research survey shows what may be a key turning point for American nontheists: For the first time, a slim-but-solid majority of Americans (56%) says that one does not need to believe in God to be moral. While obviously "nones" help push this number up (with what I think is a surprisingly small 85%), but it's also Mainline Protestants and Catholics who also agree. 

This is a big deal: Two years ago, the existence of gravitational waves was confirmed, and this year, scientists have for the first time witnessed the collision of two neutron stars which, as Sarah Kaplan put it, "rippled the very fabric of the universe" with gravitational waves. This phenomenon called a "kilonova" have scientists "beside themselves," as they now have an entirely new way of perceiving and studying the universe.

There's a lot of talk about this huge New Yorker piece on Mike Pence by Jane Mayer, in which the record and statements of the vice president are explored in order to grasp what kind of president he might be. (Fun fact: the article's lead picture of Pence that looks all two-dimensional is an actual photograph of the man before he gets into makeup for TV appearances. It's amazing what a little blush can do.) In the piece, we learn that Trump jokes that Pence wants to hang gays, which is SO FUNNYcough-cough-retch. Here's more on Pence's zealotry:

There have been other evangelical Christians in the White House, including Carter and George W. Bush, but Pence’s fundamentalism exceeds theirs. In 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design, which argues that life on Earth is too complex to have emerged through random mutation. Pence has described intelligent design as the only “remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”

Oh, and the headline for this piece in the print edition of the magazine? "The President Pence Delusion." 

Trump apparently believes that, thanks to him, we're all saying "Merry Christmas" now. In October. What power this man has.

Openly Secular Day is this Friday, October 20, and here's what the campaign hopes you'll do:

This year, we invite you to celebrate Openly Secular Day in two main ways:

1. By contacting your representatives to tell them you’re a Secular Values Voter.
2. By engaging in interfaith activities that foster mutual understanding across religious and philosophical divides. 

Florida's governor, Rick Scott, has declared a state of emergency in Alachua County, because of an approaching storm front. Well, more like Stormfront, as in the Nazi website, because the state of emergency is not about weather, but about the upcoming appearance of celebrity-Nazi Richard Spencer at the University of Florida. Said Scott:

We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion. However, we have zero tolerance for violence, and public safety is always our number one priority. 

Surely, Scott is protecting us from "both sides." Spencer, of course, says the problem is "these antifa groups. They’re thugs. Nasty, nasty people." As opposed to him and his Nazis. Anyway, Scott also wants to give a lot of money to Jewish schools for security, for obvious reasons.

University of British Columbia researchers Chris Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic are forced to retract their paper in which they purport to show a connection between vaccines and autism. Turns out they data had been altered. You don't say.

The head of Atheists in Kenya, Harrison Mumia, is hosting an election night party at his place for supporters of Kenya's National Super Alliance (abbreviated "NASA," a coalition of left-leaning groups)! How fun! Oh, it seems one has to be a woman to attend. It's, like, a ladies' night! Okay! But he'll be there too, I guess...I mean it's his house...and what's this? "An endless supply of wine is guaranteed." ... Um ... Y'know, I think all the NASA-supporting women are busy that night...

I would like to congratulate Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop for winning Skeptic UK's Rusty Razor Award for the worst in pseudoscience. They really earned it.

Richard Dawkins has a new video up at Big Think, this time discussing the possible evolutionary roots of religious belief, and why those beliefs are not too different from a moth's inclination to kamikaze into a blazing fire.

Here's an interesting case in Quebec, where a man from an ultra-orthodox Hasidic community, Yohanan Lowen, has a lawsuit against the provincial government for failing to provide an equal education to all children. In fact, a common practice is for Orthodox families to use the official provincial curriculum to homeschool their kids in addition to their sectarian education. Says Lowen:

We never learned the rules of a language. We never had literature. We didn't develop a rich vocabulary for writing or even for talking. I never learned French. Je ne parle pas bien en français.

Get ready, DC. It's almost time to open up the big, new, hi-tech Museum of the Bible, brought to you by our friends at Hobby Lobby! Apparently, the project has retreated some from its original purpose of straight-up evangelization, and it moving toward something more, um, neutral? I guess? As the content director says, "Our goal isn’t to give answers but to arouse curiosity." Oh I bet.

I almost missed this from a few days ago: Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore, almost certainly the next senator from Alabama, has been discovered by the Post to be up to some financial funny business with a Christian charity he founded, taking in over $1 million for himself.

Speaking of the decalogue, the city of Bloomfield, New Mexico wanted to keep its own Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of its city hall, when a court told them 'no way.' The city appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case, leaving the lower court's ruling in place. 

Still speaking of God's wishlist of obsequious behavior, Gary Bauer (who apparently still exists) tells the Values Voter Summit:

We’re ... seeing the left now turn into an American Taliban declaring war on our monuments. It didn’t start with Southern memorials, it started with the Ten Commandments. In the last couple of decades, we’ve see left-wing groups file lawsuits all over America forcing Ten Commandments plaques and monuments to be taken down from courthouses and schools in state after state after state.

And then they came for the Confederates, which is of course the last straw for this crowd. 

Barbara Flynn Taylor pens an obituary for her husband, TV producer and science writer Jeremy Taylor, who has died at 70. Among his many works, he brought two of Richard Dawkins' projects to the screen: Nice Guys Finish First in 1986 and The Blind Watchmaker in 1987.  

Quote of the Day:

The right-wing media is really miffed at Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown for saying this:

Historically, no god has survived science. Gods evolved. ... I happen to believe in looking at advances through technology. ... Over the next decade our species will become enormously interconnected at a level we are not used to, and we will start to find our spiritual experiences through our interconnections with each other. Our need for the exterior God that sits up there and judges us... will diminish and eventually disappear. ... Now more than ever we need to look at why we believe what we believe, look at our information sources and be very discerning.

I bet there's a hidden message in there somewhere. 
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