Hähnchen Über Alles

June 15, 2017

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

The Southern Baptist Convention, after being shamed into it, votes to condemn white nationalism and the alt-right. (Before you get too excited, they also voted to condemn Planned Parenthood and to commend "those leaders who choose not to meet privately with members of the opposite sex who are not their spouse," meaning Pence.) 

If you live in Oregon, make sure you tell your governor (whose name is Brown, not Smith, as I incorrectly put on the original action alert because I'm slightly dumb) to veto SB 856, that ridiculous bill that gives naturopaths all kinds of life-and-death authority that is supposed to be reserved for, you know, DOCTORS.

Fox News is dropping its almost self-parodying tagline "Fair & Balanced," and opting for the more technically (and unfortunately) correct "Most Watched. Most Trusted." 

Speaking of fake news, Jeff Jarvis lays out plans to confront "media manipulation," which he calls an emergency (and I agree).

I almost forgot, the latest Cause & Effect newsletter is out, delightful as ever. I am biased. 

The Church of Scientology really wants to make a trade for some land in Clearwater, Florida to build the L. Ron Hubbard Hall, the city council for some reason seems reticent to let the deal go through. I mean, who wouldn't want these guys having an enormous and gaudy presence in the middle of their city? With a giant orb, no less!

Hey you know what? We're looking for a Web Content Coordinator over here. You wanna coordinate web content? Go check it out.

Lauren Markoe at RNS profiles Americans United's Rev. Barry Lynn as he gets set to retire after 25 years on the job:

I take the rituals of religion very seriously and I take the questions raised by it more seriously: Is there a purpose to the universe? There doesn’t have to be something. Why is there anything? I always tell humanist groups, I am not here to convert you, I’m just here to tell you that if we have to figure whether God exists in order to save the Constitution, it will be dead and we’ll still be arguing about God in 2,000 years. 

On the podcast The Benito Juarez Experience, the hosts discuss the recent research suggesting that atheists in America may be vastly undercounted.

CNN looks at the challenges faced by teachers when it comes to talking about climate change. Said one teacher, "I get much more pushback from other teachers than students. Adults have already pretty much made up their minds."

SkepDoc Harriet Hall provides a handy guide to countering anti-vax arguments, with this reminder:

Vaccine skeptics want what we all want: to keep our children safe. We mustn’t blame them or insult them for their concerns about vaccines. But we can give them accurate information to counteract the myths.  

In Belgium, parents of a baby who died of malnutrition and dehydration are given suspended prison sentences for allowing him to die because of their insistence on feeding him an "alternative diet":

They were attempting to raise their son on an alternative diet that included quinoa milk. ...  the court heard that his mother and father failed to seek medical attention despite the baby gasping for air in the days before his death. An autopsy showed he was dehydrated and his stomach was completely empty.   

Footprints alleged to belong to a sasquatch are found in Round Rock Parks in Central Texas. Looks to me like regular human footprints, but I'm no scientographer. 

A teenager in New Mexico gets video of a UFO. I couldn't get the video to play in my browser, though, but that just tells you that the aliens don't want us seeing their ship.

Kenan Malik at NYT defends "cultural appropriation," and makes a sobering comparison:

In minority communities, the gatekeepers are usually self-appointed guardians whose power rests on their ability to define what is acceptable and what is beyond the bounds. They appropriate for themselves the authority to license certain forms of cultural engagement, and in doing so, entrench their power.

The most potent form of gatekeeping is religion. When certain beliefs are deemed sacred, they are put beyond questioning. To challenge such beliefs is to commit blasphemy.

The accusation of cultural appropriation is a secular version of the charge of blasphemy. 

Edmonton, Canada police are warning folks to watch out for fake psychics and astrologers (which is all of them), citing a recent case where someone was bilked out of $100,000 (in Canadian dollars, so I think that's like five bucks here, though I could be a little off) to chase away black magic.

Venture capitalist Hermann Hauser berates European universities for being too "chicken" to stand up to pseudoscience in the age of Trump, emphasizing, "Germany in particular is a chicken." Why don't you say that to Angela Merkel's face? Yeah that's what I thought. 

The leader of Britain's LibDems, Tim Farron, steps down because he is unable to reconcile his evangelical Christian beliefs with the policies of his party. 

George Weigel of the Christian publication First Things goes to great lengths to debunk an argument that no one is making:

...facts are stubborn things. And the fact is that two Catholic priests, Gregor Mendel, O.S.A., and Georges Lemaitre, were pivotal figures in creating two of the most important scientific enterprises of the twenty-first century: modern genetics ... and modern cosmology ... So unless one wishes to assert that Mendel and Lemaitre were split personalities who said Mass in the morning and did science in the afternoon, thereby dividing their lives into hermetically-sealed containers, the cutting edges of modern science itself would seem to rebut the claim that “believer” and “scientist” are mutually incompatible human types.

Um, you got us? I guess? I mean, we knew that, but sure.

Tom Waddell of the Maine FFRF was going to give a secular invocation to the Maine Senate, as he had to the Maine House. But some Members didn't like what they heard, and had the Senate rescind their invitation. Waddell tells his story in an op-ed

Quote of the Day:

This has nothing to do with the usual subjects covered here, but I had to show this to you. From the Bangor Daily News here in Maine, the headline is "Maine woman attacked by rabid raccoon drowns it in puddle." Now behold how Mainers do NOT mess around:

The raccoon sank its teeth into Borch’s thumb and “wouldn’t let go.” Its paws were scratching her arms and legs wildly as Borch screamed and cried.

In a matter of seconds, Borch, who could not unhinge the raccoon’s jaw to shake it off her hand, noticed that when she had dropped her phone, it had fallen into a puddle in the path and was fully submerged.

“I didn’t think I could strangle [the raccoon] with my bare hands,” she remembers thinking, but holding it under the water might do the trick.

Connecting the dots quickly, Borch, then on her knees, dragged the still biting raccoon, which was scratching frantically at her hand and arms, into the puddle.

“With my thumb in its mouth, I just pushed its head down into the muck,” Borch said.

With the animal belly-up, she held its head under water. “It was still struggling and clawing at my arms. It wouldn’t let go of my thumb,” she said.

Borch said she held it there for what felt like an eternity until finally it stopped struggling and “its arms sort of of fell to the side, its chest still heaving really slowly.”

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