Widespread Ignorance Bordering on Idiocy

December 31, 2013

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

What better way to close out the year than with a huge blow to the head that is Pew's data showing that fully one-third of Americans don't accept evolution, and that a majority of Republicans (you know, the party that controls the House and the Supreme Court) reject it. And, just to make sure you understand that "unaffiliated" or "nones" does not equal "atheist," 20% of the unaffiliated reject evolution as well.

Human Rights Without Frontiers publishes a comprehensive report on the imprisonment of religion dissenters around the world. I focus on the blasphemy charges and persecuted nonbelievers, and Brian Pellot notes the horrible irony of the offenders sitting on the UN Human Rights Council. 

Chuckle at the silliness that is the War on Christmas with AU's Rob Boston and Point of Inquiry's own Josh Zepps

Tom Flynn says the Suzanne Moore Guardian piece on the conflict between atheism and "ritual" is a great example of the difference between secular and religious humanism.  

Luke O'Neil at Esquire bemoans the rampant fakery that has eaten the Internet:

The Internet, like the Sphinx, is a ravenous beast that eats alive anyone who can’t answer its hoary riddle. We in the media have been struggling for twenty years to solve that riddle, and this year, the answer arrived: Big Viral, a Lovecraftian nightmare that has tightened its thousand-tentacled grip on our browsing habits with its traffic-at-all-costs mentality—veracity, newsworthiness, and relevance be damned. We solved the riddle, and then we got eaten anyway. 

M. Sophia Newman that since Pussy Riot was never formally charged with "blasphemy," but something more like "hooliganism," their pardoning may have little implication for actual blasphemy convictions. 

Susan Gerbic posts a year in review for the diligent work and trench warfare that is Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia. 

Harriet Hall works to disabuse us of the idea that doctors are just out to make money, as opposed to alt-med hucksters:

As new evidence becomes available, they are constantly changing their practices to eliminate the unnecessary and the ineffective. The contrast with CAM providers is striking. 

My kid seems to go nuts when he has sugar, but apparently it is one of many winter science myths

I haven't read this Charles Simic piece at NYRB yet, but you know I will, because it starts like this:

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, but do we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit. 

Richard Dawkins talks to Slate about his public persona:

[S]ome people find clarity threatening. They like muddle, confusion, obscurity. So when somebody does no more than speak clearly it sounds threatening. 

With a lot of dilapidation, Kolkata, India has become a breeding ground for ghost stories and alleged hauntings.

Franklin Graham tries to pull rank on Pope Fluffy when it comes to how much we should hate gays. 

Deborah Orr expresses what I imagine will be a controversial sentiment about religious rights:

[I]f some people are allowed to practise their religious beliefs, then all should be able to. How easy that is to say. How hard it is to implement. Multiculturalism, really, can be seen as an attempt to put that simple, treacherous idea into practice. It can also be seen as an aspect of identity politics that has fared less well than others. With good reason. For human rights to flourish, religious rights have to come second to them. We are all human. We are not all of the same religion, or religious at all. One cannot protect religious rights if they are used as a reason to abuse human rights, human equalities, as so often they are. 

Peter Boghossian talks about dispelling religious belief on the Humanist Hour. 

Quote of the Day

Really interesting piece by Robert McGinley Myers on the placebo treadmill that folks can get stuck on:

Maybe each of these activities (listening to high end audio gear, drinking high end wine, having needles inserted into your chakras) is really about ritualizing a sensory experience. By putting on headphones you know are high quality, or drinking expensive wine, or entering the chiropractor's office, you are telling yourself, "I am going to focus on this moment. I am going to savor this." It's the act of savoring, rather than the savoring tool, that results in both happiness and a longer life. Of course, you don't need ultra high end gear to enjoy your music, or ultra high end wine to enjoy your evening, just as you shouldn't solely use acupuncture to treat your cancer. It might be as effective to learn how to meditate. But maybe we all just need to meditate in different ways.       

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