They’re Glassy-Eyed and They Chant

February 16, 2017

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

Good news, everybody. According to Pew, Americans' feelings about atheists and Muslims have moved "from cool to neutral." I just this moment decided that From Cool to Neutral is my next album title.

Make sure you have nothing dangerous in arm's reach that you could throw in anger before you read this next sentence, and maybe take a few deep breaths before and after to read it. RFK Jr. holds a press conference with Robert DeNiro in which Kennedy says he's still having discussions about heading a "vaccine safety commission," and is even offering $100,000 to "prove" the safety of vaccines. Okay, now take your next deep breaths. You good? Buzzfeed gets perspective from our friend Paul Offit:

While Kennedy said that he’s not anti-vaccine — arguing instead that he’s just in favor of safe vaccines — Offit disagrees: “He says we need safe vaccines that don’t cause autism,” he said. “We already have safe vaccines that don’t cause autism.” 

The blandly named Council for National Policy, a right-wing "think" tank which has boasted Bannondorf and Kellyanne Conway as members, is looking to the Trump administration to dismantle the Department of Education, inject "historic Judeo-Christian principles" into education, and of course get God into classrooms. (Would he fit?)

The Day Without a Woman general strike is set for March 8

Ars Technica looks at the the two leading candidates for White House science advisor: Princeton's William Happer and Yale's David Gelernter, both of whom are climate science deniers, which leads one to ask: "WTF are they doing at Princeton and Yale?" Here's a sampling of Happer:

“There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult,” Happer told the Guardian. “It’s like Hare Krishna or something like that. They’re glassy-eyed and they chant. It will potentially harm the image of all science.” 

And this about Gelernter makes him sounds straight-up dopey:

Climate change is unlikely, he posited, because the Earth is very big and humanity isn't.  

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NYT's Brendan Nyhan says that Democrats are becoming big conspiracy-believers in the age of Trump, saying, "since the election, there has been a noticeable increase in the flow of dubious and unsupported claims among liberals." Personally, I think the examples Nyhan provides are weak tea compared to things like Pizzagate and the Sandy-Hook-was-a-hoax conspiracy theories, but hey it's important to be fair and balanced no matter what right. 

Speaking of conspiracy theories, Trump complains about CNN and MSNBC trafficking in them about his administration. ("@foxandfriends is great!" Barf.) Jake Tapper responds:

These are news stories. Conspiracy theories are false & more like "Ted Cruz's dad was with Lee Harvey Oswald" or "vaccines cause autism" 

The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine give their blessing to gene editing in human embryos to create particular traits:

The new report heralds a day scientists have long warned is coming. After decades of science-fiction movies, cocktail party chatter and college seminars in which people have idly debated the ethics of humanity intervening in its own evolution, advancing technology dictates that the public now make some hard choices. 

The GMOs...will be us. 

It looks like the State Department is keeping on Randy Berry, its special envoy for LGBTQ rights, and the Religious Right is NOT happy.

An appeals court rules against sectarian prayers at meetings up the Jackson County (MI) Board of Commissioners. AP reports:

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said prayer invocations at public meetings can be legal. But in Jackson County, the court noted that only commissioners offered a prayer, not audience members, and the prayer was always Christian, not from other faiths. "There is no distinction between the government and the prayer-giver: They are one and the same. The prayers, in Bormuth's words, are literally 'government speech,'" said judges Karen Nelson Moore and Jane Branstetter Stranch. 

I'm a little late to this: Kim Jong Nam, half-brother and enemy of Kim Jong Un, was assassinated in Malaysia on Monday, and it's just crazy, like something out of a movie, which is probably what Kim Jong Un wanted.

Have you seen the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer yet? Get your hands on it, because it's got Richard Dawkins talking about 40 years of The Selfish Gene plus the return of James Randi as a regular columnist!

This new thing from The AtlanticQuestion Your Answers, this looks cool. 

Harriet Hall shows us how exercise is crucial, but not for weight loss

Here's a waste of a government's time: Washington state might name the Sasquatch its "official cryptid."  

Earth has another continent you didn't know about. And it's very wet. Come visit Zealandia

Winston Churchill once wrote about aliens in an essay that was never published:

I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets. ... I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time. 

Quote of the Day:

Phil Zuckerman shames those upright and moral Evangelicals that support Trump:

Donald Trump has proven himself - by the hour - as a cold, heartless lover of lies and hater of humanity.

And 81% of white Evangelicals voted for him.   

That’s right: those Americans among us who claim to love Jesus the most, who attend church the most, and read the Bible the most, and pray the most, and claim to be the most loving of God, are largely responsible for making this pock of a man the leader of our country, who is already causing - and will continue to cause — an inordinate amount of flagrant deception, pain, misery, violence, and immorality in our nation and the world.

And to top it all off, these Evangelical Christians have the perpetual gall to take the moral high-ground. They claim that they vote their values. They claim that secular people are immoral. The sanctimony reeks almost as bad as the hypocrisy. 

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Comments:

#1 Mario (Guest) on Thursday February 16, 2017 at 11:03am

Popular speculation about life on other worlds—even the conclusion that there IS such life—goes back at least as far as the early 19th century.  It was old hat even when Winston was a baby.

#2 Mario (Guest) on Thursday February 16, 2017 at 11:17am

NYT: “Even though we live in a democracy, a few people will always run things anyway” (from the “conspiracy predispositions scale”).

One has to have a conspiracy complex to believe this??  Jeesh.  Next, people will be claiming that a tiny percentage of the population owns most of the wealth.  Paranoid dingbats.

NYT: “Whoa—‘conspiracy predispositions scale.’  This shit must be real.  Duhhh.” 

Use big words, impress elites.  Beats working for a living.

#3 Randy (Guest) on Friday February 17, 2017 at 2:20am

“some hard choices”

Glow in the dark humans are coming!  YES!

#4 Randy (Guest) on Friday February 17, 2017 at 2:24am

“Buzzfeed gets perspective”

When you’re in the gutter all the time, the perspective does tend to be unusual…

#5 Mario (Guest) on Friday February 17, 2017 at 6:40am

Sometimes I think we so-called progressives actually wanted Trump to win so we could ramp up our favorite hobby—lecturing to Evangelicals about what hypocrites they are.

Yes, education has to go—it empowers the rabble by teaching them stuff.  Once our friends in the GOP have run out of things to get rid of, will they call it a day and disband?

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