You May Wear Pants

June 29, 2017

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

Cardinal George Pell is the third-most powerful official in the Catholic Church as head of the Vatican's finances. And he's just been charged multiple sexual assaults in his native Australia. I think it's time to play this song again.

Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky signs into law a bill allowing Bible classes in public schools. I'm sure that not far behind are classes on the Qu'ran, the Bhagvat Gita, Dianetics, and the Books of Bokonon. Any day now.

ProPublica reveals "a trove" of Facebook's internal documents showing its secret guidelines for determining what is and is not hate speech, and thus able to be censored. And some of it is frankly disturbing:

One document trains content reviewers on how to apply the company’s global hate speech algorithm. The slide identifies three groups: female drivers, black children and white men. It asks: Which group is protected from hate speech? The correct answer: white men. ... White men are considered a group because both traits are protected, while female drivers and black children, like radicalized Muslims, are subsets, because one of their characteristics is not protected. 

Adi Robertson at The Verge notes that Facebook's task is more or less impossible:

If the company decides to promote a positive social environment without taking clear political sides, it will trend toward a faux neutrality where “hate” is any negative opinion, punishing people who criticize the status quo. But if it admits to an ideological bent, it will have to start formulating political stances on which groups worldwide deserve the most protection from hate. The more social responsibility it accepts, the more liable it is for failing to police its users, and the more power it has to control speech — not just comments to other users, but personal timeline posts or photographs. 

Oh, hey hey hey, make sure you dig the latest Cause & Effect newsletter. It's got international news, SCOTUS news, and not all of the news is bad!

CFI's Benjamin Radford is on the panel for a discussion about psychics (along with a bunch of alleged psychics) on WNPR's Colin McEnroe Show.

Another "psychic," Michelle Marks of Dixon, Illinois, is arrested for "exploitation of an elderly person and multiple weapons charges." Wow she was busy!

Researchers at the Catholic University of Louvain wanted to see if atheists in Western Europe were more or less closed-minded than the religious. And that's what they found, more or less:

Atheists tended to show greater intolerance of contradiction, meaning when they were presented with two seemingly contradictory statements they rated one as very true and the other as very false. They also showed less propensity to be able to imagine arguments contrary to their own position and find them somewhat convincing.

A group of scientists and other figures sign on to an initiative called Mission 2020, intended to get greenhouse gas emissions to "curve downward" by 2020, because failing that, the goals of Paris become unattainable. While it's noble, I am skeptical. Especially after my Point of Inquiry interview with Elizabeth Kolbert earlier this month.

Undaunted by my kind of despair, a "global covenant of mayors" pledging to meet the goals of the Paris accord has brought on board more than 7400 cities.

Cleve Wootson at WaPo introduces us to Michael Tate Reed, the guy who keeps ramming his car into Ten Commandments monuments, as he did in Arkansas yesterday:

[In 2014] He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and released under an agreement that required him to continue treatment. He sent a rambling letter to the newspaper apologizing and describing the voices in his head and his attempts to recover from mental health issues. 

Speaking of which, Joseph Frankel at The Atlantic looks at how the phenomenon of "hearing voices" in one's head -- which is sometimes what makes people think they're psychic, and others say they're psychotic -- may be more common than once thought, and also may be more controllable:

These experiments suggest that auditory hallucinations are the result of the mind failing to brand its actions as its own. Watching what the brain does during these hallucinations may clarify how that works, and what differences in the brain create these experiences. ... Drawing a parallel with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the [researchers] are interested in the extent to which the psychics they saw “might occupy the extreme end of a continuum” of people who hear voices. 

The Mormon Church is taking bold strides into the latter half of the 20th century, offering paid maternity or parental leave to church employees and (hold on to your butts) allowing women to wear pants.

A California health department report says that 111 people have chosen to take their own lives in the first six months of the state's right-to-die law. 

Uranus isn't just odd because its name makes you chuckle (which is why I must pronounce it "YURen-uss," not, you know, the other way). It's on a crazy 98-degree axis, and its magnetic shield is all wobbly.

When there's somethin' strange...in the neighborhood...who you gonna call? The Royal Thai Police Force! They ain't afraid o'no phi pob. 

Ken Ham's Ark Encounter is a fun, scientific, educational museum experience for the whole family! Oh wait, the city wants them to pay a "safety assessment fee"? I meant to say, it's a ministry. So, sorry. Exempt. Phew! I mean, "amen."

My home state of Maine gets its first case of measles in 20 years. Oh god I hope it's not me! 

Quote of the Day:

I'm just gonna give this one to Colbert:

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