Conga Lines for Xenu

August 29, 2014

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

(Note: Paul is on vacation. Today's guest Heretic is Ed Beck.)

For swindling citizens there, a Quebec “clairvoyant medium” has been charged with fraud—and sorcery.

i09 surveys the current state of vaccination in the United States and finds parents increasingly relying on herd immunity to avoid vaccinations, thus undermining herd immunity.

Skeptical surgeon Orac breaks down the new manufactured “CDC Whistleblower” anti-vaccine non-troversy.

CFI/CSI’s own living legend Joe Nickell examines the case of the supposedly “incorruptible” corpse of St. Cecilia.

Possibly the greatest Scientology video of them all leaked this week, a fundraising plea to members of their Atlanta chapter. I have nothing more to say than, “I’m sorry.”

At the Daily Beast, philosophy professor Elizabeth Picciuto interviews a handful of ethicists who take issue with Richard Dawkins’ measure of persons with Down Syndrome.

At his fantastic new blog iMortal, our own head heretic Paul Fidalgo tackles misogyny in video games and examines the social science on the effects of violence in games on children.

At NPR's 13.7 - Cosmos and Culture, anthropologist Barbara King points out that yes, in fact, atheists feel awe too.

On a similar theme, Chris Stedman examines just what goes on at a nonreligious wedding

…and James Croft reaches out to the “joiner” atheists among us.

CFI’s old pal Chris Mooney talks to terrorism expert Arie Kruglanski about the psychological reasons why an American may want to join ISIS/ISIL. 

Quote of the Day

Even though he wasn't too kind to atheists, in honor of his 382nd birthday today here's John Locke, from his 1689 A Letter Concerning Toleration (a light weekend read):  

“Nobody, therefore, in fine, neither single persons nor churches, nay, nor even commonwealths, have any just title to invade the civil rights and worldly goods of each other upon pretence of religion. Those that are of another opinion would do well to consider with themselves how pernicious a seed of discord and war, how powerful a provocation to endless hatreds, rapines, and slaughters they thereby furnish unto mankind. No peace and security, no, not so much as common friendship, can ever be established or preserved amongst men so long as this opinion prevails, that dominion is founded in grace and that religion is to be propagated by force of arms.”

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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 Randy (Guest) on Saturday August 30, 2014 at 10:09pm

Someone more capable ought to respond to the video games opinion in full, but it’s important to note that Anita has been repeatedly shown to be false, by people who actually know the subject area.

It’s deeply disappointing to see someone associated with “inquiry” so willing to look for anything to justify the whole of Anita’s “work”.  It sounds so familiar, like those who pick nice Bible verses to justify Christian belief.  We all may succumb to this thinking on emotional topics.  And we should be called out.

Paul claims to be concerned about video game violence, and praises Anita’s mention of violence against men in games, but the bulk of her material is about how video games are misogynistic.  If there is a problem with violent video games, then the problem is violence.  To emphasize perceived misogyny is to improperly elevate female character suffering over the likely larger male character suffering, which is sexist (against both men and women) and should be called out.

While the APA maintains that video game violence contributes to real violence, “One especially large gap is the lack of longitudinal studies testing the link between habitual violent video game exposure and later aggression, while controlling for earlier levels of aggression and other risk factors.”  (In other words, the most convincing kind of study, because it directly tests the claim, is absent).  My estimate is that even if this link is true, the real world impact is far smaller than the price we’re willing to pay just to drive on the highway.  Also, it can hardly be overlooked that claims like the APA’s are what can lead to the Twinkie and Affluenza defences to murder.  Expect to see a “video game” defence win (although it hasn’t convinced a jury yet, despite being tried).

“My fellow skepto-atheists hang our hats on scientific consensus”.  Of course.  We have no choice.  That is the best available option with, for example, climate science, which can’t be done from a living room.  But when claims are made about particular video game content, we can just play the games ourselves.  All it takes are open eyes to see that the games and events within them are being misrepresented by Anita, for monetary gain.

Last, if Anita has “fled her home” due to “threats”, that says nothing about her honesty (and indeed, may turn out to be evidence of dishonesty).  I look forward to police laying charges against whoever made the threats.  Uttering death threats is a crime, and the people who commit it should be brought to justice swiftly.

“I don’t like comments sections”.  Neither do I.  But it’s the tool that has emerged for discussing posted content.  Censoring the whole thing is inappropriate, and simply means the discussion you started will happen without you.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Saturday August 30, 2014 at 10:13pm

I “Last”-ed when I should have “Also”-ed.  Such is life in the comments editor box.

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