The Old Fringes

August 8, 2017

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

Please imagine now that I am dressed in a silver wig and oversized glasses, not unlike one Sophia Petrillo/Estelle Getty from The Golden Girls. Actually, exactly like that:

Picture it: Earth. 517 A.D. The Year of the Consulship of Agapitus and Paulus. The Byzantine Empire is in tumult, Aryabhata is figuring out the planet's axial rotation, and the people of Illyria are blissfully unaware of the earthquake that will soon destroy the city of Scupi. It was also the last time global temperatures could have been as high as they are now, thanks to climate change, according to a draft report by 13 agencies of the federal government obtained by The New York Times:

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration. ... It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited. “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” a draft of the report states.  

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the USDA has been ordered to avoid even mentioning climate change, along with other terms and phrases that acknowledge the reality of global warming. 

New research published in Nature, lead by Free Inquiry contributor Will Gervais, shows that despite the progress made by nonbelievers, "Entrenched moral suspicion of atheists suggests that religion’s powerful influence on moral judgements persists, even among non-believers in secular societies." And holy crap is this paper getting a lot of media coverage

Check this out! The good folks at CFI Michigan are going to be volunteering with the Healthy Homes Coalition on Thursday, as reported here by MLive.

On our web series Reasonable TalkCarol Tavris at last year's CSICon talks about cognitive dissonance and it's power to keep us from accepting that which contradicts our beliefs. 

This was published while I was on vacation, but I wanted to make sure y'all didn't miss it. Our legal director Nick Little has a special report that begins, "Homeopathy is a sham." He outlines our efforts to to make sure that homeopathic products are sold in accordance with new regulations, and that we're ready to take legal action if they're not. 

Also for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Essam Munir discusses the phenomenon of the “Feeling of Presence,” the sensation of being near someone when no one is there, and how science has revealed much about the neurological basis. 

Richard Dawkins is interviewed on WNYC radio by Jonathan Capehart, guest-hosting on The Leonard Lopate Show. Contrasting from that high-minded discussion, he also subjects himself to the questioning of Laura Ingraham on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show.

Leave it to Yvette d'Entremont to come up with those zinger headlines (assuming she's writing her own headlines, which I suppose I shouldn't assume): "David Avocado Wolfe is the biggest asshole in the multiverse"

The Voyager spacecraft are so very, very far away. They must be incredibly lonely. So NASA wants us to come up with some uplifting messages to the Voyagers, and they'll choose winners to beam out into interstellar space.

The FDA wants the tobacco industry to reduce the nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, which the industry is NOT happy about. Robert Jackler at the Sacramento Bee notes, "There is ample reason for skepticism that our government will have the political will to resist the influence of the powerful tobacco lobby, which has a long history of suppressing regulation through pseudoscience, litigation and generous political contributions."

A student from the district of Rep. Lou Correa painted a cute picture of the Statue of Liberty wearing a headscarf, which he has hanging in his office. So of course this means that angry PATRIOTS from We the People Rising must protest this CRIME. Correa, though, probably has a better handle on it: “You take it in the context of a lady, probably a Muslim American — with all that’s going on, she’s a proud American. That’s what it says to me.” 

Quote of the Day:

Kurt Andersen at The Atlantic has a big piece on American credulousness, and why the fervent belief in the ridiculous (climate change denial, creationism, conspiracy theories about UFOs, secret cancer cures, 9/11, etc.) is uniquely intractable here:

The short answer is because we’re Americans—because being American means we can believe anything we want; that our beliefs are equal or superior to anyone else’s, experts be damned. Once people commit to that approach, the world turns inside out, and no cause-and-effect connection is fixed. ... A senior physician at one of America’s most prestigious university hospitals promotes “miracle cures” on his daily TV show. Cable channels air documentaries treating mermaids, monsters, ghosts, and angels as real. ... The old fringes have been folded into the new center. The irrational has become respectable and often unstoppable. 

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