If You Push Something

April 20, 2017

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

First off: Get your hot-off-the-servers edition of Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter

So Bill O'Reilly became too toxic for Fox News, and out he goes. But don't get too excited. Jesse Waters and Eric Bolling are getting promoted on the air, and O'Reilly's show will be taken over by the loathsome Tucker Carlson. Same as it ever was.

Speaking of Tucker Carlson, scientists at Washington State University have observed "negative mass." See what I did there? Anyway, it's actually crazy:

In theory, matter can have negative mass in the same sense that an electric charge can be positive or negative. ... "With negative mass, if you push something, it accelerates toward you," said co-author Michael Forbes, assistant professor of physics at WSU. 

AP: Dow Chemical is trying to get the federal government to ignore its own findings that Dow's chemical pesticides are harming 1800 threatened or endangered species. Yes, one thousand, eight hundred. Oh yeah, this seems significant:

Dow Chemical chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Donald Trump. The company wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump's inaugural festivities.

Our boss Robyn Blumner was interviewed on the Mythinformed podcast.

This is cool: The Defense Department now includes humanism as a protected belief system, and has changed its demographic reporting from having a “Faith Group Code” to a “Faith and Belief Code.” 

Reuters reports that the Putin-backed think tank the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies concocted a plan to swing the 2016 election to Trump. Also:

Neither of the Russian institute documents mentioned the release of hacked Democratic Party emails to interfere with the U.S. election, according to four of the officials. The officials said the hacking was a covert intelligence operation run separately out of the Kremlin. 

It seems pretty clear to me that SCOTUS is going to rule in favor of Trinity Lutheran Church. But I'm no legal expert.  

At NYT, Julia Baird looks at the conflict within Christianity over "complementarianism" (a very newspeak-y term that is new to me), the Biblical obligation of women to submit themselves to the authority of men:

If a husband wants his wife to lose weight, she must go on a diet. If he wants to have sex, she must acquiesce. If he wants her to home-school their children, she should obey. “None of this is considered abuse,” [Carol Howard Merritt] said. “It’s considered the husband’s God-given authority. And if a woman questions that authority, the full force of the church community, their social connections and their Christian doctrine backs him up. I can tell you that growing up in this environment as a little girl was very abusive for me.”

At his own blog The Moral Perspective, Michael De Dora asks whether religion should have any role at all in policymaking, a tricky question when one considers that more progressive religious beliefs are often used to advance secular policy.  

The madness in Pakistan grows, as three women, sisters, shoot 45-year-old Fazal Abbas to death, who they say committed blasphemy...thirteen years ago. They told police, “We couldn’t kill him at the time because we were too young then.”

PRI's The World covers the lynching of Marshal Khan. It's taken a weirdly long time for this incident to permeate into the western media.

For some reason, there seems to be some doubt as to Alex Jones' fitness as a parent. Sam Barsanti at the AV Club:

[Opposing counsel] Newman tried to indicate that Jones is too unstable to take care of his kids by showing a series of clips from InfoWars videos in which Jones ripped off his shirt and went on slurred rants about “male vitality” and how “1776 will commence again.” Jones’ attorneys said that the videos were part of his “political satire” and were therefore “unrelated to parenting,” but Newman claimed that Jones also took his clothes off during family therapy sessions. 

Megan Meyer at Wired explains why science needs way more replication to be funded, but too much attention is given to "exploratory studies" that are more novel and newsworthy. 

Julia Belluz reports that PubMEd will start including conflict-of-interest statements on the abstracts of scientific studies it displays.

Heather Mac Donald at City Journal writes about her experiences of being intimidated and aggressively protested by students at her campus speaking engagements, saying faculty at these schools need to step up and defend against censorship. (Her descriptions of what she endured does sound harrowing and would scare me if I were the focus of such ire, and at the same time her own arguments as articulated in this piece also seem pretty flimsy and her rebuttals to students' complaints seem like non sequiturs.)

Benjamin Radford reviews the book Ghostly Encounters: The Hauntings of Everyday Life for Skeptical Inquirer

Steve Ballmer, former head of Microsoft, is battling misinformation in his own way: a new website called USAFacts. “When people are grounded in the same facts, they find that the ground between them is smaller than they thought.” 

In Saudi Arabia, ultraconservative folks are not happy about things like monster truck shows, Comic-Cons, or even cross-looking structures that have been around for 25 years. And were just bulldozed. 

Bill Nye, in an extraordinary jacket, provides science support. Magnets are not magic, Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and after a nuclear war, things would suck.

You should read the Ijeoma Oluo interview with Rachel Dolezal at The Stranger because it's super good. 

Juhem Navarro-Riverra is not impressed with Michael Shermer's view of Trump as a "closeted secular":

Amazingly, for a man who rails against identity politics, he seems fine with claiming victory for secularism because the President is not that religious (according to Shermer). Cheerleading the victory of a megalomaniac, sexist, racist con man is fine as long as it can serve as a f-u to religious American voters. Thankfully, not all of us have such low standards in our identity politics. 

Nicole Hemmer at US News warns about the rise of "intellectual racism" and racist pseudoscience:

Racism is about power, not ignorance. It is infinitely adaptable. It comes in fitted suits as well as flowing sheets, in well-appointed faculty lounges as well as smoke-filled dive bars. 

The Mansfield News Journal reports on a presentation by geology and natural sciences professor Mark Wilson on why Bigfoot probably doesn't exist.

Someone wake up Percival Lowel: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds what is OBVIOUSLY a a ventilation roof for an underground city and NOT just a crater with sand in it.

Quote of the Day:

"People have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not." In a new video, Neil deGrasse Tyson offers what he says "the most important words I have ever spoken." I'll take him at his word, and put it here:

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.

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The Morning Heresy: "I actually read it." - Hemant Mehta

Comments:

#1 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 2:29pm

“progressive religious beliefs are often used to advance secular policy.”

That’s what gave you RFRA.  There’s always a little bit of poison in what “progressive religion” does, and it’s particularly dangerous because the naive are willing to accept it to achieve short-term goals.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 2:37pm

Good article from Megan Meyer.  We need more, until things change.  The media (including social media) is the culprit here.  Shift the attention and the studies will likely shift to match.  At every opportunity, we need to shrug off new reports, and celebrate replications (or non-replications).

#3 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 2:40pm

“We stand against all forms of oppression and we refuse to have Mac Donald speak”

The hypocrisy is almost beautiful.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 2:46pm

“it’s super good”

I’m gonna need a bit more reason to read it.. it’s rather long. This is the internet…

#5 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 3:07pm

Nicole Hemmer.  Was there not just a march for science?  Science should be free to investigate precisely those things that the public or the establishment does NOT want investigated.  And that includes racial differences.  There are obvious racial differences physically, and there is zero reason to expect that, just because we’re discussing humans, differences in race would stop there.

While there are no sharp dividing lines between races, despite largely evolving on continent-sized islands, there is an “empirical clustering” effect.  Generally, we can make a good guess as to someone’s race just by looking.  The races are real, just not precisely defined.

Understanding the full range of differences between races would help us implement better policy, and underscore the correctness of laws enforcing equality.  We treat each other as equals not because we are equal, but because we are NOT.  It is unfair to allow those with advantages to run over the rest, in things that matter, like voting.  And it is unfair to apply group characteristics to the individual (i.e. prejudice), in other things that matter, like employment and housing.

We should never allow what amounts to excessive politeness to interfere with the search for facts.  Articles such as Nicole’s, which cherry pick an anecdote, add to the chilling effect that permeates this topic, and others, in science.

(Unfortunately Nicole also relied on the notoriously biased SPLC for some of her information.  Anyone who calls Maajid Nawaz an anti-Muslim extremist is clearly not an honest source).

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