Elderly People Prophesied a Speedy Decay of the Vital Forces

January 22, 2018

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

The Defense Department's National Defense Strategy document, signed by Secretary Mattis, does not include the words "climate," "warming," "planet," "sea levels," "temperature," or "environment" in the ecological sense of the word. Hey I guess that means that global warming is no longer a threat! We won you guys!

The really bad flu going around got a little extra breathing room when the CDC was placed in limbo by the government shutdown. Oops! But now there is apparently a contingency plan. 

Kevin Laland at Aeon makes the case for a new, broader way of looking at the mechanisms of evolution called the "extended evolutionary synthesis," which takes into account the experiences of species within their lifetimes as factors in evolution. I think I sort of get it? This helped:

The way that genes are expressed to produce an organism’s phenotype – the actual characteristics it ends up with – is affected by chemicals that attach to them. Everything from diet to air pollution to parental behaviour can influence the addition or removal of these chemical marks, which switches genes on or off. Usually these so-called ‘epigenetic’ attachments are removed during the production of sperm and eggs cells, but it turns out that some escape the resetting process and are passed on to the next generation, along with the genes. This is known as ‘epigenetic inheritance’, and more and more studies are confirming that it really happens. 

All those I-saw-Goody-Proctor-with-the-devil witch trials during the Reformation may have come down to a kind of theological economics, say two economists. ("Actually, it came down to the quality of bread and pastries!" say two bakers. I'm kidding.) At a time when there was a competition for the hearts and minds of a superstitious population, the Catholic Church and Protestant sects fought to show who was best at stamping out evil spirits and sorcerers.

Pope Fluffy de-fluffs in Chile, accusing the victims of priest sexual assault of "calumny" for pointing the finger at Bishop Juan Barros for allegedly covering up the abuse.

An antiabortion group at Oxford, holding an event on the impact of abortion on men (will someone please think of the men???////?/?/?), has rescinded invitations from two speakers, one of whom is none other than Vincent Rue, the guy behind many examples of manufactured and pseudoscientific "expert testimony" in U.S. abortion cases. Here's how the publication Cherwell explains the problem with Rue:

Rue is not a qualified medical doctor. He has a PhD in human development and family studies from the University of North Carolina.

Nicholas Little, speaking on behalf of the The Richard Dawkins Foundation which is a Division of the Center for Inquiry told Cherwell: “Rue’s work on Post Abortion Syndrome appears designed to take whatever data exists and force it to fit a predetermined theory – that abortion harms women – rather than addressing the issue without preconceptions.

Hey cool that's us! Rue defends himself by saying, "The Dawkins Foundation [accusations] pertains to women and abortion, not men." Perhaps in that instance, but I'd bet we'd be safe in assuming he's a mendacious hack in other areas as well. But that's just me guessing.

John Lloyd at Reuters worries that liberals have become a force for stifling free speech, and cites among other examples the cancellation of Richard Dawkins' event with the radio station KPFA last year.

This is just bonkers-bananapants-stupid: State State Rep. Sue Peterson of South Dakota wants to fine you and put you in jail if you replicate the South Dakota state seal and omit the phrase, "Under God The People Rule." My guess is that if you live in South Dakota and have this person as your representative, you're already in prison.

Oh, hey, also in South Dakota, a State Senator (fancy!) named Neal Tapio (I hope his colleagues call him "Tapioca," or better yet, "Puddin'.") is really mad that the statehouse would host an interfaith event:

Interfaith dialogue is a part of a war. It’s a silent part. It’s a part about taking away the Christian fabric of our nation. Now some people are okay with that.

We are, for example!

Travel Oregon profiles Bigfoot "hunters" Scot Violette and Pete Nelson:

Well aware of the consensus in mainstream science, Violette understands what it may take to convince the naysayers. “I think the academic world isn’t going to accept any of our evidence unless we lay a body on a table." 

Well, yeah. 

Apparently, in Florida the Church of Scientology is allowed to arbitrate complaints against it. So now there's a fight to try to change that, at least in one case. 

From the Joe Nickell snake oil collection, we have Celerina, a cure-all based on cocaine, which, interestingly, was not too far off from the original form of Coca-Cola, "The Ideal Nerve and Brain Tonic." That's still why I drink it. 

"Okay, so you'd like to be the GOP's nominee for Congress from Pennsylvania's 18th District. Let's see. Impressive résumé, I see. Very religious, you don't accept the existence of church-state separation, that's good. Oh and you've done some interrogation consulting for the Army! That's really good! Let's see, where did you cons... um ... Abu ... Ghraib? .... .... .... yeah okay, you'll do."

Darwin Day resolutions have been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate, where, like other organisms poorly adapted to their environments, they will die.

Quote of the Day

I am trying to read Walden. It's taking time and effort, and here's an example of why:

I made a study of the ancient and indispensable art of bread-making, consulting such authorities as offered, going back to the primitive days and first invention of the unleavened kind, when from the wildness of nuts and meats men first reached the mildness and refinement of this diet, and travelling gradually down in my studies through that accidental souring of the dough which, it is supposed, taught the leavening process, and through the various fermentations thereafter, till I came to “good, sweet, wholesome bread,” the staff of life. Leaven, which some deem the soul of bread, the spiritus which fills its cellular tissue, which is religiously preserved like the vestal fire—some precious bottleful, I suppose, first brought over in the Mayflower, did the business for America, and its influence is still rising, swelling, spreading, in cerealian billows over the land—this seed I regularly and faithfully procured from the village, till at length one morning I forgot the rules, and scalded my yeast; by which accident I discovered that even this was not indispensable—for my discoveries were not by the synthetic but analytic process—and I have gladly omitted it since, though most housewives earnestly assured me that safe and wholesome bread without yeast might not be, and elderly people prophesied a speedy decay of the vital forces. Yet I find it not to be an essential ingredient, and after going without it for a year am still in the land of the living; and I am glad to escape the trivialness of carrying a bottleful in my pocket, which would sometimes pop and discharge its contents to my discomfiture.

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