I Saw Goody Proctor with Slender Man!

June 10, 2014

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

CFI joins a coalition of secular groups today in a campaign to urge Pakistan to end its censorship of social media and its crackdown on religious dissent with #TwitterTheocracy. Our policy chief Michael De Dora has written a letter to the Pakistani ambassador to the UN, which has been signed by a wide array of groups.

Point of Inquiry this week features trans rights activist Janet Mock, talking to Lindsay Beyerstein about her new memoir. 

Kylie Sturgess interviews Richard Wiseman for Skeptical Inquirer, and it's all about sleep. I remember that. 

We have an action alert out for Ohio, where the legislature is looking to block abortion and birth control access because of some "personal views." 

Adrianne Jeffries at The Verge looks at how Slender Man is a new go-to excuse for doing horrible things. I saw Goody Proctor with the Slender Man!!! 

James Croft argues for a more human-centric humanism:

[T]he focus on secularism-above-all-else pushes other important political issues relevant to Humanism to the sidelines. When our major movement organizations can find the time and money to lobby against memorial crosses, but have little to say about legal attacks on voting rights or a racist criminal justice system, we diminish Humanism, reducing it to a narrow focus on one issue among many. 

Kimberley Winston talks to Dale McGowan about his new book on believer/nonbeliever relationships. They also tease out six different varieties of nonreligious experience.

CFI-LA director Jim Underdown will appear on AMC's program Freakshow tomorrow, where he'll vouch that yes, those are hot coals someone's going to walk across.

Here's a handy flowchart from io9 on what that light in the sky you see might really be. (Note that nowhere on the chart is "alien" an option.) 

Gene Robinson, the former episcopal bishop who came out as gay, takes apart Hobby Lobby's position on the contraceptive mandate:

No one is threatening the Greens’ right not to use certain forms of birth control, nor is anyone being forced to have an abortion. But the owners of a corporation should not be allowed to decide for their employees what is moral or immoral in their decision-making. 

Rachel Maddux looks what Dayton, Tennessee is like today, almost 90 years after the Scopes "monkey trial." 

The Twin Cities' Archbishop Robert J. Carlson says he's not sure if he knew that raping a child was a crime. Wow.

Siân Eleri Jones at Nonreligion & Secularity explores stigma against atheists, both external and self-imposed. 

None of these will be news to you, but Salon has 5 ways conservatives hijack science. I can't believe they picked only 5.

You'll be shocked to know that the one-percent of Iran, flaunting their Western luxuries, are the clerical class

Rick Santorum is going to something-something march in DC for marriage something-something Jesus. 

Quote of the Day

Scott Huler at Slate has very strong feelings about your culpability when you share conspiracy nonsense or pseudoscience on social media:

My point is straightforward but urgent: This is the front line against viciousness and madness and anti-science and anti-reason. When people post slanderous, malevolent lies, if you forward them without censure, then you are abetting slanderous, malevolent lies. Forget that line on so many people’s Twitter page about retweets not constituting endorsement. Sorry, wrong. If you share something on any social medium, you’re saying, overtly, that you approve of it being shared. That you think it’s worth people’s time. That its point is either valid or worthy of consideration.

We need to adopt a new ethic. The entire point of the Internet is that anything can be put out there, without research or editing or fact-checking. That means every one of us is responsible for fact-checking our feeds, and crying foul when we see a foul. You share it, you stand behind it.

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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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Comments:

#1 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 at 10:11pm

The short summary on trans issues was good to see, and I enjoyed the audio interview as well, due to the knowledgeable and talented host.  She certainly saved from me saying more in this already-long comment, having beaten me to it.

However, while Janet Mock she was refreshingly level-headed and reasonable in this interview, she isn’t always, and some things she says don’t really have a place in organizations and communities that value freedom and rationality. 

While most of the LGBTI community (and indeed the black community) has “taken back” words that used to be harmful, some like Janet Mock in the trans community have decided to make their young names by “giving away” a friendly word, and then harassing long-standing members of the trans community who refuse to play that game.

(This comment is in no way a defence of former TV host Piers Morgan, who clearly didn’t even read Mock’s book before interviewing her about it, and then behaved like a moron.)

In contrast, cisgender is actually a word we shouldn’t label people with.  Consider that gay people like me don’t like being called homosexual for exactly the same reason.  Non-trans people did not choose this term for ourselves, and it should not be forced on us by the trans world (even though it is syntactically correct, just homosexual is syntactically correct).

It’s not cool to call someone cisgender.

I would like to see the scientific and legal and social definitions of gender and sex converge, and reflect the actual diversity of human experience.  It’s a multidimensional space of variables, but there are probably a few useful ways it can be partitioned so we can speak about it in English instead of Math (or simply stand in silence, deprived of language).

Simultaneously, we need a shift in our thinking of sexual orientation from gay/straight (which really derives from historical religious and legal oppression of gay people) to something more like male-loving, and female-loving.  Once we do that, I suspect the biological relationship of orientation to gender, and the origins of both in an individual, is going to make a lot more sense.

One thing science CAN do now is emphasize that the brain IS biological.  The sex your brain thinks it is can only be the result of its biology, interacting with the world. 

A positive result of this would be the termination of the toxic “identifies as” and “presents as” ways of talking about trans people.  Trans people ARE.  It’s not an act (except for drag).  While all people should have the freedom to experiment with gender (especially straight men, who rarely even dare to be seen in anything other than a dark suit or blue jeans, due to rigid gender codes), AND just as “sexual preference” is not an acceptable substitute for “sexual orientation”, Mock should not be using terms that suggest that being transgender is really just a show in all cases.  At the end, she agrees that she “is” a woman, not someone who is “passing” as a woman, so her terminology ought to reflect that.

Once we start regularly speaking about males, females, AND all others, maybe we can truly stop talking about it at all, except when it’s actually applicable.  For example, why does something private and internal and fuzzy like sex need to be on an identity document at all?

#2 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday June 11, 2014 at 10:25pm

Wow.  My grammar is embarrassingly bad tonight.  And no Edit button to save me!  But I’ve read Huffington Post, so I take comfort that I’m not alone in the downward spiral of writing ability.

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