The Radical Unity of Narratives

January 12, 2015

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

As I talked about in the Heresy last week, Saudi Arabia carried out the first 50 of its 1000 lashes on Raif Badawi on Friday. Condemnations came from such voices as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the European Union, the Washington Post, and countless others. Our own Michael De Dora discovered this footage which seems to be of the event itself, from someone obviously trying to hide the fact that they were recording it.

Amnesty International reports: "Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain."

Paris was flooded by peaceful demonstrators in a show of solidarity for Charlie Hebdo and free expression, and those marching together included world leaders like François Hollande, Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, King Abdullah, and David Cameron. 

CFI-UK's Stephen Law examines the arguments against publishing Charlie Hebdo's cartoons poking fun at figures of Islam:

[T]he kind of satirical material publishers have held back from publishing - and should be publishing now - is the kind of material they have been happy enough to publish when lampooning other faiths, despite the fact that it also causes offence. 

David Brooks says the Hebdo attacks should be "an occasion to end speech codes. And it should remind us to be legally tolerant toward offensive voices." 

France sends police and military to protect Jewish schools from possible attack. 

21-year-old Egyptian Karim al-Banna is sentenced to three years in prison for announcing his atheism on Facebook. 

CFI-Michigan’s Jennifer Beahan and Shirley Draft sat down for a great interview about the need for community and support among nonbelievers on WGVU radio. 

Ross Pomeroy reminds us that debunking myths is not as simple as presenting the facts:

What matters most is the overarching narrative. For a single fact or even a group of facts to topple a mindset is an immense task. 

I'm puzzled by Kristin Dombek's essay at NYT on how astrology is kind of okay

Critiques of astrological thinking that assume it is opposed to science tend to ignore the “sort of” and “as if”: the radical utility of narratives that provide a sense of connection to a cosmic drama. 

Five years after the earthquake in Haiti, treating the epidemic of depression and mental illness requires doctors to collaborate with voodoo priests to treat people. 

Our Office of Public Policy's bill tracker is getting busier

Variety reports on the Discovery Channel's plans to reclaim some credibility

Carly Weeks at The Globe and Mail reports on the problem of marketing alt-med cold remedies to parents. “There’s really no evidence any of them work.” 

Could a new dream-recording app help determine who is and isn't having prophetic dreams? Meh. 

You knew this already, but research confirms that men have trouble believing that there is sexism in the sciences.  

Fossil fragments of a "uniquely Scottish" ichthyosaur are found, leading to dumb "Nessie's relative" headlines.  

Kansas City Star profiles the nonreligious community group Kansas City Oasis

King, North Carolina opts not to wage an expensive legal battle with Americans United over a sectarian war memorial.

The Onion reports that 9/11 was only half of an inside job

Do my telomeres took small to you?

Quote of the Day

Nate Resnikoff predicts the next-next Star Wars movie:

STAR WARS VIII: De-Sithification of the Stormtroopers Has Left Us Without an Effective Military Command Structure  

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Image by Shutterstock

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#1 P. S. (Guest) on Monday January 12, 2015 at 8:26am

“Paris was flooded by peaceful demonstrators in a show of solidarity for Charlie Hebdo and free expression, and those marching together included world leaders like François Hollande, Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, King Abdullah, and David Cameron.”

But not Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Kerry, or even Eric Holder, who was in France at the time.

#2 Code Monkey on Monday January 12, 2015 at 10:07am

Gender misrepresentation does not equal gender discrimination. Facts of misrepresentation, thus, do not prove discrimination and such “science” is no science at all. It’s called psuedo-science which is far too generous a term. It’s very frustrating that scientifically minded people and proclaimed skeptics continually fail in this. It’s apparently not PC enough to believe most women just actually don’t prefer to be in the same fields as men. Steven Pinker talks a lot about this in his book The Blank Slate. Read it and be wiser all you “correlation = science” people…

#3 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 at 1:55pm

“You knew this already, but research confirms that men have trouble believing that there is sexism in the sciences.”

You knew this already, but I couldn’t let that go by.  Even if the statement is true, the article you linked to is itself sexist, by casually denying misandry, assuming that a contrary male-appearing opinion is evidence of some sort of actual male commenting privilege, assuming that gender-based differences are due to bias in males rather than bias in females or some combination, and assuming that sexual dimorphism is irrelevant despite ample evidence to the contrary.

“If that’s the case, this latest study might not have much of an impact, either.”

Can’t think of any more poetic reason to defund it.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 at 2:23pm

“debunking myths is not as simple as presenting the facts”

The problem is that these are only “facts” to the person speaking them.  To be “facts” to a listener, the speaker must establish trust.  In most scientific debates, the average person is unlikely to be able to understand, much less analyze and test, scientific results.  So it comes down to trust.

It can be easier to build trust with disinterested observers than with the person you’re actually arguing with. 

It certainly is worth mentioning that atheism is not the only topic this could apply to.  Ahem.

Regarding the brainpower “myth”, I disagree.  It doesn’t matter WHICH 10% of my brain that I’m using on average.  Just because it changes does not make it 100%, and the unused part is not going to immediately degenerate when I’m not using it.  My guess is anyone using 100% of their brain all the time is probably going to overheat and cause damage to themselves.  The only reason fMRI is even useful for anything is because we DON’T use 100% of our brain at once.

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