Pains and Penalties

January 10, 2018

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

In October, I handed the prestigious (and heavy) Balles Prize for Critical Thinking to New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova for her book The Confidence Game. She told us at the time that she was in the midst of researching and writing her next book on the psychology of poker. Apparently she's got a good grasp of it, because she just won the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure National Championship, beating almost 300 other players and winning almost $85,000, which is way more than we give with the Balles Prize. Maria is awesome, and she has my congratulations and my envy.

Jules Montague at The Verge calls out Apple for its 2016 ad in which an autistic teenage boy uses an iPad to communicate via something called the Rapid Prompting Method (RPM), which relies in part on the pseudoscience of facilitated communication:

RPM has been labeled pseudoscientific, unethical, and inhumane. Michelle Dawson, an autistic researcher, called it “bad science and bad ethics.” The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) says that “RPM is a technique without any research support.” ... as Apple continues to operate and expand in the health and wellness sector, it would do well to avoid featuring pseudoscience, even in passing.  

Andy Savage, pastor of the Highpoint megachurch seems to have reached a low point, having been accused of sexual assault by a woman who was 17 at the time of the event. After the alleged assault, Savage went on to teach his "True Love Waits" workshop on abstinence. True love waits, but I guess lust is in a hurry.

In case you weren't sure, the pro-science/skeptic community really, really doesn't want Oprah to be president. Megan Thielking at STAT reminds us:

She connected a cancer patient to “junk science,” a Washington Post analysis says. She promoted charlatans on her show, according to Slate. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee put out a statement Tuesday attacking Winfrey for “giving a platform to anti-vaccination campaigners and other dangerous health quackery. 

The previous year's Balles Prize winner, Julia Belluz, has a similar rundown/takedown of hypothetical-candidate-Winfrey.

A federal appeals court upholds the validity of a 2014 Tennessee ballot measure to specify in the state constitution that it does not include abortion rights.

Newly-elected member of the Waltham, Massachusetts city council, Kristine Mackin, was sworn in using a secular affirmation, replacing "I do solemnly swear" with "I do solemnly affirm," and "so help me God" with "I do so under the pains and penalties of perjury."

Dennis Prager says a belief in the afterlife is required to keep a person from going insane. Ha ha, joke's on him, I was nuts well before I decided not to believe in an afterlife. 

Quote of the Day:

A very interesting take on Oprah 2020 comes from Ross Douthat, who usually makes me wince, but is on to something here:

[Oprah's] essential celebrity is much closer to the celebrity of Pope Francis or Billy Graham. She is a preacher, a spiritual guru, a religious teacher, an apostle and a prophetess. Indeed, to the extent that there is a specifically American religion, a faith tradition all our own, Oprah has made herself its pope. ...

...the Oprah boomlet is a chance to recognize her real importance in our culture — and the sheer unpredictable weirdness, perhaps eclipsing even Donald Trump’s ascent, that might follow if our most important religious leader tries to lay claim to temporal power as well. 

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Comments:

#1 Max (Guest) on Wednesday January 10, 2018 at 6:09pm

Congrats to Maria! Poker seems to be the one “sport” where women hold their own against men. Even in not very physical “sports” like chess, archery, shooting, golf, curling, and car racing, women generally don’t compete against men, with some exceptions.

But now computers have gotten better than humans at poker.

#2 Don (Guest) on Thursday January 11, 2018 at 12:04pm

Actually, car racing is a lot more physical than most people realize.

#3 Max (Guest) on Thursday January 11, 2018 at 2:02pm

Yeah yeah, you need a thick neck, but you don’t win a car race by being stronger than your opponents.

Oh, and I forgot to mention billiards.

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