We Should Brace for Change

January 19, 2016

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

Skeptical Inquirer's cover story about the dismantling of the Bermuda Triangle mystery 40 years ago by Larry Kusche is now online, and it's good stuff. 

Alexander Stille at The New Yorker looks at the "what did he know and when did he know it" question about Ratzinger and the sexual assault of children by priests. Ratzinger does not come off well, but this is also of note:

Though the sexual-abuse crisis reached its peak in the public sphere during Benedict XVI’s papacy, the single figure most responsible for ignoring this extraordinary accumulation of depravity is the sainted John Paul II.  

I almost hate to link to this story, but it's one of those "so awful it must be told" kind of things. A 15-year-old boy in Pakistan at a mosque mistakenly raises his hand when he thinks everyone's been asked if they love the Prophet Muhammad, when in fact they were asked who does not love him. The cleric calls him a blasphemer, he runs home, chops off his hand as penance, and brings the hand back to the cleric. The cleric has been charged with some vague things, and the boy's parents are proud of him. We have sooooo much work to do.

Meanwhile, a bill in Pakistan that would finally ban child marriages meets fierce opposition from the Council of Islamic Ideology (sounds like a fun bunch), who called it "blasphemous." The bill has been withdrawn

A couple in India is attacked by a Hindu group on a train when they were thought to be carrying beef

The Institute of Art and Ideas hosts a back and forth between CFI–UK's Stephen Law and theologian John Milbank on God, belief, science, philosophy, and all that. Stephen posts part 3 of the exchange at the CFI blog.

By the way, if you need a bacon-related ceremony officiated, Stephen is your guy

Walgreens: come for the pharmacy, stay for the witch trials

After CFI was named among the "enemies of religious freedom" by some guy at the Georgia Christian IndexRob Boston shakes his head and notes:

Claims of threats to white Christian privilege posed by nefarious outsiders (who often lack white skin) have periodically plagued this nation from day one. They are the stock and trade of wide-eyed bigots, and it’s embarrassing to see them embraced by someone who holds a position of authority in a major American religious denomination. 

So hey there's that book of essays about what ought to be done about inequality, and one of the essays is mine, and you can preorder it on Kindle now. Spoiler: my essay does not solve inequality, but does make references to Shakespeare original practices. I'm sure it will help. 

Trump goes to Liberty University:

We don’t band together. Other religions, frankly, they’re banding together … we have to unify. We have to band together, we have to do really, in a really large version, what they’ve done at Liberty. 

Remember that star scientists found that looked like it could be surrounded by alien "megastructures"? Heavy with provisos that he is not saying it's aliensPhil Plait shows how the star is even weirder than once thought, with weird changes in brightness that have been going on for over a century, and no one knows what's up with that...other than that aliens, which he's not saying it is, might be "cranking out" Dyson Swarm components.

On Religious Freedom Day, President Obama offered a proclamation.

Reuters reports on how Indonesia's prisons are a "breeding ground" for Islamic militancy.

ScienceDebate.org is back, trying to get presidential candidates to agree to do a debate on, well, science. 

An Al Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for the terror attack in Burkina Faso on Friday that killed 29 people.

Julia Medew at Australia's The Age has a feature on married couple Patricia and Peter Shaw, both scientists, who agreed on a suicide pact and acted on it in their 80s. 

The Supreme Court will be taking on a case involving taxpayers' recycled tires and a church playground.

Try not to be too bowled over by this, but the claims about the HUGE impact "power poses" have on your life are somewhat dubious, despite the claims that "studies" show that it works. Kaiser Fung and Andrew Gelman at Slate say: 

We want to highlight the yawning gap between the news media, science celebrities, and publicists on one side, and the general scientific community on the other. To one group, power posing is a scientifically established fact and an inspiring story to boot. To the other, it’s just one more amusing example of scientific overreach. 

Bill Maher spitballs that Obama won't go on his show because Maher's an atheist. Meeeehhhh. 

Quote of the Day:

NASA climate scientist and former astronaut Peter J. Sellers considers how he should spend his brief remaining time after a diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, considering the long-term problem of global warming:

What should the rest of us do? Two things come to mind. First, we should brace for change. It is inevitable. It will appear in changes to the climate and to the way we generate and use energy. Second, we should be prepared to absorb these with appropriate sang-froid. Some will be difficult to deal with, like rising seas, but many others could be positive. New technologies have a way of bettering our lives in ways we cannot anticipate. There is no convincing, demonstrated reason to believe that our evolving future will be worse than our present, assuming careful management of the challenges and risks. History is replete with examples of us humans getting out of tight spots. The winners tended to be realistic, pragmatic and flexible; the losers were often in denial of the threat.
 
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Comments:

#1 Randy on Saturday January 23, 2016 at 6:34pm

“Bill Maher”

Well, he also wondered if it’s because he’s a pothead.

I think the answer is twofold:

(1) Maher is an outspoken anti-theist who quite possibly knows more about Obama’s own religion than Obama does.  Obama would have to associate with an anti-theist on equal terms, and may expect to defend believing in a talking snake and talking bush, the moral good of slavery (as Cornel West attempted to weasel with on the 15th), and Jesus’ expected sword-mouth return to save 144,000 people but nobody else.  I personally would ask why Jesus would ask us to hate our families, to prove our allegiance to him, and why we should regard that as a good thing.

(2) Maher generally gives softball interviews to his guests who start the show, or who come on near the halfway point.  But he has ripped a few of them, particularly if they’ve snubbed him.  If he chooses to, Maher can skewer Obama with tough questions, and Obama seems unwilling to answer them (as his recent gun law town hall demonstrated).  Since Maher will be in charge, not Obama, he will be pressed to actually answer questions.

In any case, the petition has over 300,000 signatures (about 10% of Maher’s paying audience) and it isn’t even February yet.  I don’t see how Obama can duck this without looking like a coward and a jerk.

Hey, even your new board member has been on the show…

#2 Randy on Saturday January 23, 2016 at 7:47pm

“amusing example”

See, I am not amused at the corrosion of trust in science that this represents.  If you find mistrust amusing, that’s a problem for science funding.

#3 Randy on Saturday January 23, 2016 at 8:04pm

“Indonesia’s prisons” mimic Indonesia’s past?  How odd.

Why do religious people think holy war is something you can turn off once you’ve put yourself in power?

There’s always someone not doing it right, that needs killing.

#4 Randy on Saturday January 23, 2016 at 8:26pm

Obama: “The First Amendment prohibits Government from establishing religion… Our Government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all.”

Interesting word gymnastics.  The government is forbidden from “establishing religion”.  The word “a” isn’t in the Establishment Clause at all, and you can be sure that there’s a good reason for that.

The government absolutely does force citizens to practice a government religion, by permitting God on the money, God in city council meetings, God at the end of every Presidential speech, God in the Pledge of Allegiance, God in the motto, and God in the (4th verse of) the national anthem.  Further, taxpayers pay for religions directly when religions receive tax credits and exemptions based on their religion even while proudly and publicly flouting election law.  The term “God” is widely understood to mean the Jewish/Christian God, not Xenu or Allah, who are referred to by their names.  Even this very proclamation is dated “in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen”.  Whose Lord is that?

Obama: “All people deserve the fundamental dignity of practicing their faith free from fear, intimidation, and violence. “

Except children of course, who can have it forced upon them with surgery, “schools”, segregation, and society.

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