Not the Genetic Mutagen We Thought it Was

October 22, 2013

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

Today is a big day for my own religion, the Cult of Apple, in which the prophet Tim Cook, emissary of The Steve (peace be upon him), reveals the latest Holy Gadgets of Loveliness. It seems as of this moment that the Apple online store is down...it's a sign!!! Steve be praised.

CSI Fellow Mark Boslough uses a metaphor involving a child's blocks to help us understand why we are really in trouble with global warming, no matter the small fluctuations:

Not knowing exactly how energy is "partitioned" into its various forms at any given time is like not knowing how much melting an asteroid will cause, how small the pieces will be when a boiler explodes, how the victims of a drunk driver will die, or how many minutes it will take for the Titanic to sink. 

CFI expresses its disappointment with a Long Island-area public library that hosted a psychic's event, serving mainly as a commercial platform for fake paranormal services. 

If you happened to be tuned in to WNRP news radio in Pensacola, FL last night around 6:35pm ET, you may have heard me chat with host Branden Rathert about the Living without Religion campaign (though it was so short, if you happened to scratch your ear or stretch you may have missed it). Branden was actually really cool to talk to, though he did ask me twice if we at CFI are devil worshippers.

Kimberly Winston looks at the overarching context of Oprah-gate, and quotes Ryan Cragun:

Americans are beginning to realize that there are atheists, but they don’t really know who and what atheists are. They likely still think atheists are just crotchety old men saying, ‘Your god doesn’t exist!’ Thus, when they encounter an actual atheist who says, ‘I’m constantly amazed at the world we live in and it makes me stop and wonder all the time,’ they are surprised. 

(Note: Those crotchety old men are still there, too. FYI.) 

George Dvorsky at io9 considers some serious moral quandaries that once were only the purview of science fiction, but may be real genuine issues very soon. Sticking out to me were whether only humans could be "persons" and "Should people be forced to die once indefinite lifespans are achieved?" Whoa.

Chris Christie will not mess with gay marriage in New Jersey. 

But for Tea Partiers Rick Scarborough and Peter LaBarbera, it's time to file a class-action lawsuit against, well, gayness! 

Russell D. Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention makes a weird argument in favor of legislative prayers:

A prayer, by definition, isn't a speech made to a public audience but is instead a petition made to a higher Being. For the government to censor such prayers is to turn the government into a theological referee, and would, in fact, establish a state religion: a state religion of generic American civil religious mush that assumes all religions are ultimately the same anyway 

The League of Conservation Voters is taking a chance on an ad campaign attacking certain politicians for climate change denial.

Speaking of denial, The Verge does a big feature on vaccine denialism, headlining it as "dumb" and "dangerous." 

Far-right Christianist zealot Bryan Fischer needs some help with math, thinking that if you give every American $2 million for health care, it will cost $600 million total. Um. (Hat tip Ed Brayton) 

Kenyan transgender woman Audrey Mbugua, also an atheist, fights to have the state recognize her identity in legal documents.  

A reader alerts me to a worthy-looking cause: Kids Heart Kids, a charity for humanist schools in Uganda. 

David Ropeik speculates about irrational fears of radiation at NYT:

Our anxiety about nuclear radiation is rooted in our understandable fear of the terrible power of nuclear weapons. But in the 68 years since those weapons were first used in anger, we have learned, from the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki themselves, that ionizing radiation — the type created by a nuclear reaction — is not nearly the powerful carcinogen or genetic mutagen that we thought it was. 

Miri Belsky reports that for many American Jews, the emphasis is less on the faith, and more on their "Israeliness." 

I admit it, these "slender man" pictures freak me out

Quote of the Day

Harriet Hall considers how best to talk about alt-med to its believers, and posts a letter she received from an acupuncturist, who writes:

Your article about acupuncture made me angry. I thought that you had to be wrong because (of course) I had heard about so much research about the evidence for acupuncture… got me to actually look at the literature instead of just ‘knowing’ that it exists. In trying to prove you wrong I proved myself wrong.One textbook made a claim that acupoint such and such is good for stimulating the pituitary to produce anti-diuretic hormone for patients with polyuria. I thought, “wow that’s really interesting I wonder where the reference is.” I looked for a reference and was struck by the fact there were no references at all anywhere in the book for any of the claims. I have gradually let go of the belief that acupuncture has any basis for treating anything.    

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