Eleven Years Off

November 21, 2013

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

Famed fake-psychic Sylvia Browne is dead at 77. Of course, she predicted 88, but whatever. (Hat tip to Tim Farley for that tidbit.)

Quora is like a Wikipedia for Q&A. What's protecting it from pseudoscientific infestation? As I show at Friendly Atheist, not much, it seems.  

Sarah Posner, having broken the W-raises-money-for-Jews-for-Jesus story, breaks down why it makes so many folks angry:

The crux of the criticism of Bush's fundraising for MJBI was not a sense that Messianic Judaism threatens Judaism's survival, but rather that Jews find the proselytizing and the claims of Jewish spiritual "blindness" offensive. That's a view shared by Jews of the many stripes identified in the Pew survey, ranging from Orthodox to secular. 

Church of England synod overwhelmingly votes in favor of the ordination of female bishops

Same-sex marriage in Illinois, on the books

William Saletan helps delineate the tinfoil hat crowd from real skeptics:

[P]eople who suspect conspiracies aren’t really skeptics. Like the rest of us, they’re selective doubters. They favor a worldview, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites. 

At Skeptical Inquirer, Harriet Hall catalogues the mistakes and self-delusions of an acupuncture-boosting Navy neurologist.

David Gorski senses an essence of quackery from the new Surgeon General nominee. 

NCSE policy director Joshua Rosenau posts his testimony to the Texas Board of Education

Steven Kettell publishes an article in the journal Secularism & Nonreligion on the politics of "the new atheism." (First citation goes to our own Tom Flynn.) Not for nothing, but I did a masters thesis on much the same topic in 2008, now available as a cheap-as-dirt Kindle book.

Ohio Supreme Court okays a school district's firing of a creationism-spewing teacher who, among other offenses, burned a cross onto a student's skin. 

Georgia town's police chief uses Facebook to promote Jesus and corporal punishment.

Utah Valley University hosts a debate on "Surviving Dinosaurs in Africa," and...wait, what?!?! 

WHYY's Newsworks looks at the history of blasphemy laws right here in the U.S.-of-A. 

Ben Radford looks at the history of belief in "ley lines," which was a new thing to me, supposed "energy" connections between important landmarks and and geological features. 

David Sessions at Patrol watches the backlash at Alec Baldwin for recent homophobic slurs, and says the reaction from the left is dangerously overblown:

. . . this is a devastating mentality for the left to embrace. I left behind the religious conservatism I grew up with partly because I saw, over the first 20 years or so of my life, the self-defeating absurdity of movement orthodoxies and the obsession with moral shibboleths.  

Scott Gavura looks at whether vitamin supplements can prevent heart disease or cancer. (Spoiler: Probably not.) 

Plan to give taxpayer funds to the Child Evangelism Fellowship in Washington state is nixed

This is kind of odd. Wall Street Journal hosts a series of "experts" to address the question, "What is the biggest misconception people have about alternative medicine?" One such "expert" is David Foster, an expert because he produced the show House. Anyway, his answer:

In this question, I am not sure to whom “people” refers. If “people” refers to doctors, then I would say the biggest misconception is that alternative medicine is this big, dangerous enterprise that patients need to be protected from. If “people” refers to patients, then I would say the biggest misconception is that alternative medicine is this big, benevolent enterprise that can only help them. 

Dr. John Soto gets it right (who, weirdly, was an adviser on House...what is it with that?):

More helpful, I think, is viewing alternative medicine as “proto-medicine,” i.e. as techniques that may someday be adopted into conventional medicine if well-conducted clinical trials show a favorable ratio of benefit to harm. 

Quote of the Day

Paul Ryan says poverty is not cured by help from the state, but "spiritual redemption: That’s what saves people." Jonathan Chait quips:

Basically, Ryan loves the poor the way fundamentalist Christians love gays. 

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