A Brief Time in History

March 14, 2018

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

Stephen Hawking died. I mean, it's a near-miracle we had him for as long as we did, but still. It SUCKS. I think his Brief History of Time was the first "grown-up" science book I ever read any of, because I was really curious—and a little bit scared—of black holes.

He was funny and self-effacing. He had the good taste to appear on Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons back in the day, and the bad taste to think The Big Bang Theory is funny. He was human, people! We all make mistakes. Here's a cool picture of him with our own Richard Dawkins, as well as Brian Cox and David Attenborough. 

Yesterday was a newsy day for many reasons. For example, the president fired the secretary of state in a tweetCIA Director Pompeo will get the State gig, and HIS job will be taken by his deputy, Gina Haspel, who ran one of the CIA's "black site" prisons where, you know, you could torture people. But hey, what happens in a black site stays in a black site, right?

I think other people were fired too, but I can't remember. Oh god, I hope it wasn't me... 

Trump wants a space force! SPAAAACE FOOORRRRCE!!!! 

In the special House election in Pennsylvania, Democrat Conor Lamb seems maybe possibly to have beaten Rick "Defender of God" Saccone, in a district the Trump won in 2016 by almost 20 points.

In the special election for a State Senate seat in Tennessee, atheist candidate Gayle Jordan was utterly defeated by Republican Shane Reeves, who had said "her views are radical." 

23 U.S. Senators sign on to a letter urging the Navy to reject the application of an atheist chaplain. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said:

Our military chaplains serve under the motto ‘for God and country. It is troubling that the Navy could allow a self-avowed atheist to serve in the Chaplain Corps. I am hopeful that the Navy leadership will reject this application and preserve the distinct religious role that our chaplains carry out.

Wicker's colleague in the Senate, Thadd Cochrane, did not sign on, and his spokesperson said, "Senator Cochran has consistently backed policies and legislation that supports the rights our service members to express their religious beliefs." 

Hey, Sedgwick County Commissioner David Unruh, how do you feel about atheists?

If you don't believe in (God), that's fine with me. I don't care, go to hell. It's fine.

Cool. It's fine.

Brennan Gilmore, who captured video of a Nazi's vehicular murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, is suing Alex Jones, Gateway Pundit, and other alt-right/conspiracist types. He writes in a Post op-ed:

I captured that horrible moment on my phone’s camera, shared the video with police and posted it on social media. Not long after that, I was verbally attacked by InfoWars’s Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists, who wanted to portray me as a “deep state” operative motivated by a desire to undermine President Trump and his administration. As a result, my family and I have been attacked and threatened. That’s why I’m suing for defamation. ...

I decided to sue InfoWars, the individual behind Gateway Pundit and others because of the stunning effect their absurd dispatches have had on me and my family. But also because of the danger they pose to our country. These outlets have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of followers and, in the case of InfoWars and Gateway Pundit, have been granted White House press credentials.  

Relatedly, the parents of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich are suing Fox News for intentionally spreading lies about Rich's death. They write:

Seth’s death has been turned into a political football. Every day we wake up to new headlines, new lies, new factual errors, new people approaching us to take advantage of us and Seth’s legacy. It just won’t stop. The amount of pain and anguish this has caused us is unbearable. With every conspiratorial flare-up, we are forced to relive Seth’s murder and a small piece of us dies as more of Seth’s memory is torn away from us. 

Christopher Mellon, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence in two administrations, wonders why UFOs aren't being taken more seriously, and posits, "nobody wants to be 'the alien guy' in the national security bureaucracy." I'll do it.  

This is so weird. British flat-Earthers falsely claim William Shatner is one of them, to which Shatner says, "Please remove this lie immediately."

At CSICOP.org, Kylie Sturgess interviews Nick Toscano, co-author of a book on Belle Gibson and her infamous "cancer con," The Woman Who Fooled the World.

This church in Altoona, PA has a REAL PIECE of Jesus's cross! It cures people's cancer! Which is weird because I'm pretty sure the first thing it did was kill a guy.

Those times when a headline says it all: "Homeopathy Paper on Pus Retracted After Alleged 'Fake Doctor' Authors Got Arrested" 

Quote of the Day

Hawking plays along with John Oliver:

Oliver: If computers had become sentient, what better way to convince people they hadn't then by co-opting the voice of the most intelligent man on the planet? 

Hawking: You're an idiot.

Oliver: Yes, but who's saying that? You or the machine?

Hawking: Both of us. 

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