There Are No Historical Facts

April 4, 2017

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

I recently read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time (and wow), and there's a new edition out with a new forward by Margaret Atwood, published in the New York Times:

In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere — many, I would guess — are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can.

Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall? 

The Conjuring movie franchise is beset by lawsuits over who owns the rights to the "true story," only, you see, it isn't true:

"Lorraine and Ed Warren's claims of what happened in their Perron Farmhouse Case File, which the Defendants freely and publicly admit their The Conjuring movie was based on, does not at all jive with the real historical facts," [Attorney Patrick] Henry writes. "This is a pattern of deceit that is part of a scheme that the Warrens have perpetuated for years ... There are no historical facts of a witch ever existing at the Perron farmhouse, a witch hanging herself, possession, Satanic worship or child sacrifice."

Neuroscientist Kelly Clancy at Nautilus has a whole new way of looking at evolution that downplays conflict, writing, "The relief of an easier life can inspire new biological forms just as powerfully as the threat of death."

Deploy the Galactic Swiffer! For -- behold! -- scientists have detected 13 billion-year-old dust from the infancy of the universe, enough to fill 6 million of our suns. No wonder my allergies have been acting up since the Big Bang.   

Susan Gerbic and the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project bring badly needed neutrality to the Wikipedia entry for facilitated communication. 

The LA Times lands its third blow this week into the Trump edifice:

It’s one thing to complain about a judicial decision or to argue for less regulation, but to the extent that Trump weakens public trust in essential institutions like the courts and the media, he undermines faith in democracy and in the system and processes that make it work.

Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, who remember is running for reelection, is set to finally testify at his own blasphemy trial

Rahad Abir, a writer in Bangladesh, describes what happens when people ask him what he does for a living:

The look they give me is easy to interpret. My gut feeling has always been that they are thinking, I am either stupid or insane. For time immemorial, intelligent people has been considered crazy, unsocial, and held on contempt for reading too much. Moreover, there is an orthodox belief in Bangladesh that all intellectuals are atheists. 

Two Al Qaeda-linked militants in Bangladesh are going to be executed for the 2013 murders of two people, including atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider. 

The Atheist Society of Nigeria is trying to sound the alarm over medical practitioners who rely on religious magic over actual medicine:

Nigerian doctors, who are religious, take their faith in God seriously. They believe that sick persons could be cured through supernatural means. So many of Christian doctors, hence, refer patients to faith healers for treatment. 

Kelsey L. Munger at Catapult describes her experience growing up terrified of demonic possession:

My parents’ diligence in claiming our house for God was comforting, and I felt lucky to be a member of such a small group who knew the truth about what was going on in the spiritual realm. No one else at our church, not even the pastor, seemed to understand that. 

Jeff Jarvis announces a new program at CUNY's journalism school aimed at bolstering media literacy and addressing the problem of misinformation

Jack Lessenberry at Michigan Radio (NPR) looks at the efforts to blow up the Johnson Amendment, and has a good solution to the whole debate:

In fact, a religious leader CAN threaten his or her parishioners with excommunication based on their vote, as long as they do one thing – give up their tax-exempt status. 

Steven Novella comments on a study about transcendental meditation and the reduction in murder rates:

The point of this and other similar TM studies is to confirm the belief (they are not testing the belief) that if enough people put good vibrations into the universal field of consciousness, society in general will benefit. How many is enough? Well apparently they have an answer for that. It is the square root of 1% of the population. Why? Because math. 

Mormon elder Valeri V. Cordón: Even if you're starving, give your money to our already-very-rich church

Here's a thing: A new book about Houdini and how he apparently blew the mind of Arthur Conan Doyle

Students don't like lectures, says science. Speak for yourself, science.

Kirk Cameron is hosting a Bible game show and AAAAUGH WHAT IS LIFE.

Pastafarians wrestle with the scientific consensus about climate change and their doctrinal belief that global warming has something to do with the decline in the pirate population. 

Quote of the Day:

Neil deGrasse Tyson does a Reddit AMA, and talks about the unlikeliness of finding intelligent extraterrestrial life in our lifetimes, his desire to see Elon Musk's mother go to space (it makes sense in context) and more. I liked this:

What matters in society is not how many STEM professionals are running around. What a boring world that would be if we were all scientists and engineers. The world needs poets and artists and actors and comedian, and politicians, and even lawyers. What i see is that if you like STEM, but for whatever reason will not become a STEM professional, you can still gain basic levels of science literacy in your life, and blend that awareness into your work. This is already happening in the Arts. There's no end of art installations, sitcoms, dramas, screenplays, first-run movies, that have been inspired by science. Including The Martian, which helped turn the word "Science" into a verb, and Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time. So if your will not become a scientist yourself, then do not hesitate to allow science to serve as the artist's muse. Next in line -- scientifically literate politicians. 

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