A Thousand Separate Indignities

April 21, 2017

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

They actually did it. Russia bans Jehovah's Witnesses, deeming the sect to be "extremist," and confiscating its property.

PolitiFact now offers a list of known fake-news websites that you can check against. 

This is by no means a complete list of offenders. Nor does it mean every post on these websites is fake. But in most cases, these sites work hard to fool readers, and you should take that into consideration if should you see a link being shared from one.  

Rep. Don Beyer is enlisting science experts to rebut the misinformation promoted by the House Science Committee in their recent climate change star chamber I mean hearings, and wants more scientists to get involved in the fact checking.   

French journalist Julien Pain has a novel way of dealing with fake news: livestreaming his fact-checking over Facebook Live by talking to passers-by on the street about fake news items. 

According to a survey of New Jerseyans by Fairleigh Dickinson University, those with more political knowledge were more likely to believe false conspiracy theories about the opposing party.

Judge Roy Moore's suspension by the Alabama Supreme Court has been unanimously upheld, so he's off the bench for the remainder of his term. I'm sure this means he'll soon be governor or president or something soon.

Julia Belluz at Vox goes into the lion's den (Alex Jones subreddits) to talk to Infowars fans and see what they're all about, and much to her surprise, they did not fit the stereotype:

Most said they believed in climate change and the benefits of vaccines. Some were former NPR listeners who felt the mainstream media had let them down. Others were looking for interesting and alternative opinions online. Still others championed science and were glad scientists are marching in the streets this week. 

Our own Joe Nickell is a guest on the Coast to Coast AM radio show, discussing Bigfoot, UFOs, and the paranormal. 

Snopes tackles the crazypants conspiracy theories propagated by anti-vaxxers about Sesame Street's new autistic character Julia.  

Christopher Hale looks at how Bill O'Reilly used religion to deify himself:

O’Reilly regularly invoked religion as a part of his show and acted as an aggressive right-wing prophet decrying the elitist secular left. Perhaps O’Reilly imagined himself as a modern-day King David, a prophet and psalmist, who with eloquence and persistence, would protect God’s people from the Goliaths of today — most notably the left. 

Sarah Jones at TNR discusses how the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale exposes the lie that it counts as a win for feminism when women are given positions of power to enforce oppressive conservatism:

Fundamentalism asks you to endure a thousand separate indignities, and tells you this is freedom. They sell it to you by telling you it’s feminism—or “empowerment” or “choice,” if the f-word feels a bit too threatening. They promise you it’ll fix your problems and the world’s, too. Like any authoritarian ideology, it expects you to tire of fighting. 

Benjamin Radford answers a reader's question about the mysterious "Paulding Lights" in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and yeah it's probably car headlights. 

Athena Salman, a first-term legislator in Arizona and an atheist, causes a stir trying to offer a secular invocation instead of a prayer to a "higher power." She was denied, spurring a demonstration. "It doesn't take an atheist to see this is fundamentally wrong," said Salman.

Tim Requarth tells scientists to stop thinking that just explaining the facts will win over deniers and opponents, saying, "There’s a certain irony that scientists, of all people, know so little about, well, the science of science communication."  

George G. Coe, writing at PBS's Newshour, says that teaching kids the facts about world religions isn't enough to combat intolerance. They must understand and see religious practices and sites.  

An Ohio company called the Bigfoot Project Investments Incorporated is offering a million bucks for evidence leading to an actual Sasquatch discovery. Good luck.

Quote of the Day:

Henry David Thoreau in Walden:

It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields. What old people say you cannot do, you try and find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new. Old people did not know enough once, perchance, to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going; new people put a little dry wood under a pot, and are whirled round the globe with the speed of birds, in a way to kill old people, as the phrase is. Age is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living.

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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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#1 Mario (Guest) on Friday April 21, 2017 at 4:09pm

Tim Requarth: “There’s a certain irony that scientists, of all people, know so little about, well, the science of science communication.” 

No, that’s just the way it’s always been, as a rule.  Unfortunately, scientists are the last people to admit it.  Or, for that matter, to even realize it.

#2 Thomas B (Guest) on Saturday April 22, 2017 at 6:43am

“Don’t just keep explaining why climate change is real—explain how climate change will hurt public health or the local economy.”

But if your audience doesn’t believe that it’s real, how are they going to take your warnings about how it’s going to hurt the economy seriously?  Won’t they just scoff and call you an alarmist?  Catch-22.

#3 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 3:17pm

“list of known fake-news websites”

Given the shenanigans that went on last year, if CNN.com itself isn’t on the list, then it’s incomplete. 

Rather than relying on biased lists of forbidden sites, the smart reader will sample a wide variety of sites, and then ask themselves “what’s more likely” based on the provided evidence.  It’s time consuming and annoying and imperfect.  But that’s the world we live in now.

The idea that some news outlets AREN’T fake news is lazy thinking.  At the very least, the best news sites will still lie by omission, and present a distorted view of the world that will encourage clicks.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 3:22pm

“those with more political knowledge were more likely to believe false conspiracy theories”

This tells you about the character of the people we elect.  The system must change to drive out the psychopaths and con artists and attract motivated, compassionate thinkers.  Good luck with that.

#5 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 3:25pm

“Some were former NPR listeners”


How do you go from Fresh Air to Alex Jones, if you don’t even believe him?  Is this the talk equivalent of WWE?

#6 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 3:37pm

“the lie that it counts as a win for feminism when women are given positions of power”

This is part of the problem I have with feminism.  Consider Canada’s federal cabinet, which was appointed by genitals.  One male, one female, one male, one female, etc.  (and led by one male to rule them all).  Not only did they seek to artificially create the illusion of equality, without it arising naturally from the vote, they didn’t even do THAT right.  It’s an odd number, with advantage to men.  (Then there’s the whole issue that it would be illegal for staff to be picked this way outside of parliament).

A major message of Clinton’s campaign was about voting for her because she was a woman, not just because she would be the first, but because women claim to be better at governing than men.  Was Sarah Palin good?

It should not matter who is in power, in terms of their race or their genitals or their orientation.  Firsts might be cultural milestones, but they are irrelevant to governing.  All that should matter is what they intend to accomplish, and their ability to actually get that done.

#7 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 3:42pm

“that teaching kids the facts about world religions isn’t enough to combat intolerance”

When you fail your class because you added 2 and 3 and got 4, it’s a bit much to be told to respect someone who thinks the world is a turtle.

Either there are facts, and they matter, or nothing matters.  There is a disconnect in what we’re currently doing.

#8 Randy (Guest) on Sunday April 23, 2017 at 3:47pm

“One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living”

Well, if they can communicate that knowledge convincingly, by demonstrating the application of rational thought to the evidence, while not sacrificing charisma, then yes.

Personal anecdotes are also very valuable as counter-examples to popular generalizations.

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