Something to Think About to Not Think About the Other Things

December 19, 2016

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

Catch up with the previous 14 days with Cause & Effect, the official propaganda outlet of the Glorious Democratic People's Republic of the Center for Inquiry. I mean newsletter.

For his podcast, Sam Harris posts the first of his two conversations with Richard Dawkins, recorded at the Alex Theater last month on Dawkins' recent U.S. tour.

Embattled climatologist Michael Mann (who also has a piece in the latest Skeptical Inquirer) pens an op-ed for WaPo on his fears for the integrity of science and the safety of scientists during the reign of Trump:

As we’ve seen recently, a segment of Americans is receptive to fake news, and some are eager to act on it. Wild conspiracy theories have propelled a woman to make death threats against the parent of a child killed at Sandy Hook Elementary and motivated a man to discharge an assault rifle in a family pizza restaurant in Washington.

I fear the chill that could descend. I worry especially that younger scientists might be deterred from going into climate research (or any topic where scientific findings can prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests). As someone who has weathered many attacks, I would urge these scientists to have courage. 

White supremacists, in their publication The Daily Stormercall for the harassment of Jews in Whitefish, Montana. 

Meanwhile a GOP candidate for the Louisiana state legislature, one Michael "Duke" Lowrie (I always worry about people nicknamed "Duke") says the U.S. should boycott businesses run by or employing Muslims, and will hate-by-example: "I for one will no longer knowingly go to or do business with any establishment that has someone who I know is a follower of Islam working there."

I for one would be glad not to have him. 

Ex-Muslims of North America post a video telling the story of Stephanie, someone who adopted Islam but later had doubts and fears for her children. "No extreme is ever an answer to anything." 

Google, Apple, Uber, and IBM say they will not assist in any efforts to build a "Muslim database" for the Trump administration should they be asked. Oracle, they're not saying. 

Marcia S.B. Bernicat, U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, explains in an interview how the country has become a top priority for ISIS and Al Qaeda

GOP members of South Carolina's legislature propose a new bill that would allow public school teachers to “express a religious viewpoint” or “conduct or participate in any student-led prayer or student-organized prayer groups, religious clubs, or other religious gatherings organized by students.” 

Chris Jones ay NYT profiles Sara Seager, an MIT astrophysicist who's "obsessed with discovering distant worlds."

Let's say one of those distant worlds has some living beings on it. Brandon Ambrosino at BBC explores how Earth's religions might react

The Awl, which has become incredibly unpleasant, responds to Ambrosino's musings with:

Or maybe aliens and religion are both bullshit. Still, it’s something to think about to not think about the other things, which are real and which are actually going to happen.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief releases a conference summary on “Freedom of Religion or Belief and Sexuality.” 

Fred Karger, head of the group Rights Equal Rights, says the Mormon Church should no longer be tax-exempt, and is pushing an effort to rescind their status.

Star HIP68468 is eating its planets.

Sean Hannity and Kevin Sorbo are collaborating on a movie about an atheist who converts to Christianity. I can't believe I ever watched that show Andromeda

A memorial for Rob Sherman, the atheist activist who died in a plane crash, will be held at chaumburg Regional Airport on Thursday. 

Quote of the Day:

Charlie Jane Anders at Wired on the casting of Sonequa Martin-Green as the lead in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, and the franchise's humanist foundation

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Original image by Jason Dunne 

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#1 Stacey C. on Monday December 19, 2016 at 9:46am

What’s your beef with The Awl? Seriously…I see nothing at that link or a quick perusal of the front page that would back up your claim…

#2 Old Rockin' Dave (Guest) on Monday December 19, 2016 at 11:50am

After a nearly three decade career in medicine I can confidently state that Duke Lowrie will be in trouble if he ever needs hospital care.
There are a great many Muslim doctors and scientists employed across the entire spectrum of US medical care, from major research institutions seeking out the most talented staff from around the world to small rural hospitals hiring foreign medical graduates because American graduates don’t care to work there.
He had best also not fall ill while traveling in the UK, most of the EU, India, or Israel, to name but a few countries where Muslims are likely to be on the medical staff or employed in other capacities, such as clerical, support, or administrative staff.
Ohh, and let’s not forget chaplains, too.

#3 Old Rockin' Dave (Guest) on Monday December 19, 2016 at 12:01pm

Michael Mann should switch his personal email to a service like ProtonMail.
All mail can be sent with public key encryption. All mail on their servers is encrypted and ProtonMail doesn’t hold the key to any account. Individual account keys are kept only by the users.
They are located in Switzerland, putting them outside the reach of the US, EU, or UK, and protected from the Swiss government by its own law.
(It also doesn’t hurt that their servers are in a former military bunker under a thousand meters of rock.)

#4 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 at 2:18am

Star Trek: Discovery…

I sure hope there’s actual interest in a Star Trek show where the captain is a minor character.  I have a difficult time imagining how you can make a show around space fungus.

Maybe it speaks to the low expectations of our times… we don’t as a culture seem to aspire to lead any more, to take on the ultimate responsibilities…

#5 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 at 2:20am

“an atheist who converts to Christianity”

Isn’t that every Christian movie ever?

#6 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 at 2:42am

“I always worry about people nicknamed ‘Duke’”

Me too.  My high school guidance counsellor was a “Duke”.  He was also a homophobic religious nut, who should never have been near students, right up to the end.  He’s one person I’m glad 2016 took.

#7 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 at 2:57am

“The Daily Stormer”

Eww.  Is this really a thing we need to pay attention to now?  I was kind of hoping it was something like flystrike that was gross and exists, but I didn’t need to really give it much mind time….

#8 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday December 20, 2016 at 3:17am

“I worry especially that younger scientists might be deterred from going into climate research”

Is this sort of chilling effect new?  Congress has denounced science before, condemning the (later confirmed) Rind meta-study in 1999, in House and Senate votes totalling 455 to 0. 

So this time it’s climate science, but there certainly hasn’t been anything close to that level of condemnation of results.

“I would urge these scientists to have courage.”


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