Pining for the Fjords

January 26, 2017

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

Three people running a religious bootcamp in Alabama have been convicted of child abuse:

"The jury got to hear about the isolation chambers, kids being put in restraints for punishment and transport, and the excessive physical training over several hours with no breaks." 

Now, how on EARTH did they get away with this for years?

While Alabama does have a few basic reporting requirements for private schools, it exempts those that are church schools in every instance. Teachers don't have to undergo background checks and schools don't have to be inspected.

Ah.

Trump is

Jonathan Foley of the California Academy of Sciences, writing about Trump's war on science, warns the president:

Do not mess with us. Do not try to bury the truth. Do not interfere with the free and open pursuit of science. You do so at your peril.

Americans don’t look kindly on bullies [Morning Heretics' note: Yes they do! They elected one to be president!], people who try to suppress the truth, or people who try to intimidate scientists and the press. In the long run, this always backfires. The dustbin of history is full of people who have tried, and failed. You will too. 

Similarly, Eric Holthaus says Trump's attacks on science constitute a national security threat:

Suppressing facts — especially facts that may help to ensure the continuity of our planet’s ability to support life as we know it — is criminal. 

Law professors RonNell Andersen Jones and Sonja R. West write at NYT that when we have a press-hostile president like Trump, journalists best not rest their laurels, or bet their lives, on the First Amendment.

Stephen Rodrick at Rolling Stone profiles the Christianist agenda of Mike Pence, who, you may have heard, is the vice president under the guy from the previous several stories. 

The Economist downgrades the U.S. from a full democracy to a "flawed democracy." Looking at that map, I tell ya, I'm pining for the fjords.

Pizzagate. People really believe it. Our "conspiracy guy" Bob Blaskiewicz, who now happens to work at my undergrad alma mater, unpacks the whole sordid tale.

Our Indiana branch director Reba Boyd Wooden is part of the Health Access and Privacy Alliance, and they have a letter published under her name` in which they target a crop of antiabortion bills...

...because they do not support the health and well-being of women, because they do not meet our values of honesty, health, compassion and justice and because they will almost certainly generate lawsuits, the costs of which will be borne by Indiana taxpayers. 

Stephen Law's "Evil God Challenge" animated video is now a Staff Pick at Vimeo

In The Observer, Richard Flory has a pretty optimistic view of the Rise of the Nones: rather than focusing on their lack of cohesion, he emphasizes their potential to pick up religion's slack as it decays.

Cory Scarola at Inverse says that if Trump puts Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, "his record shows he’ll be largely hostile to atheists and other nonreligious interests."

The Grand Master, not Flash, but of the UK's Knights of Malta, a Catholic order, resigns after a fight with the Vatican over condoms, because of course.

But hey, Pope Fluffy is a big hit with one particular religious group: Nones! Kaya Oakes looks into it:

Many nones say that social justice, care for the marginalized, and the preferential option for the poor—basics of Catholic teaching that the pope has emphasized throughout his papacy—are what makes religion valuable in society. 

Sex offenders are having their religious freedom violated, according to a North Carolina lawsuit, claiming that the registry prevents them from attending worship services. 

The Allman Brothers' drummer, whose actual name seems to really be Butch Trucks, has died at 69. I mention it here because, well, Michael De Dora told me to, and this:

Trucks fell in love with playing the drums as a young man -- despite his Baptist parents not wanting him to be involved with secular music. The Jacksonville, Florida, native was raised in a strict religious home. 

Space dandruff

Quote of the Day:

Matthew Nisbet, a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, writes in American Scientist that scientists and science supporters need to think more big-picture in these dark times:

Funding agencies and philanthropic organizations make risky investments when they devote, for example, billions of dollars to research on climate change or biotechnology, or millions of dollars to training scientist communicators and funding communication research, but they do not also invest in making sure that major cities and regions across the country have full-time, experienced reporters who can draw attention to these issues, explain their complexity, and hold those in power accountable, including scientific institutions.

Mobilizing scientists and their organizations to coordinate their actions on behalf of combating economic inequality, promoting affordable higher education, addressing emerging concerns about scientific advances, and investing in local nonprofit media are just a few examples of goals that might define broader, longer-term thinking. The path forward is ultimately up to scientists and their leaders. But to stay focused on tactical approaches, rather than on social change, puts much at risk.

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Comments:

#1 Randy (Guest) on Thursday January 26, 2017 at 1:52pm

Matthew Nisbet has it right, I think.  While I do criticize scientists as a group for being late to this realization, I am encouraged that it’s recognized that science isn’t that interesting if you lose funding, and your knowledge sits idle instead of improving the world, and that it’s up to scientists not to simply exist and state what is known, but to convince people about the entire project of science.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Thursday January 26, 2017 at 2:07pm

Sex offenders are having far more than their “religious freedom” violated.  They are being punished civilly with criminal sentences, after serving their actual criminal sentences.  It’s sleight-of-hand double jeopardy, and it’s unconstitutional. 

A significant number of sex offenders are, in fact, kids.  It’s high… roughly 1 in 4 sex criminals are kids.  And 1 in 8 of them aren’t even in their teens.  And they’re on the registry. 

Further, people on the registry now can’t get a normal passport.  They get a special mark, to let everyone know that they aren’t a murderer, torturer, or mafia boss—they are so much worse than that… they are a sex offender.

Let’s not forget, people can also get into this registry for simply hiring a sex worker, for accepting a cop’s sexual overtures in a men’s room, or even urinating in public.

There’s no indication that any of this reduces crime.  But we have seen it before.  And we should speak up.

#3 Randy (Guest) on Thursday January 26, 2017 at 2:09pm

“resigns after a fight with the Vatican over condoms, because of course. “

Well, let’s face it.  One size does not fit all.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Thursday January 26, 2017 at 2:29pm

” Looking at that map, I tell ya, I’m pining for the fjords. “

Then you must know the map is flawed, and completely misrepresents Canada.  Good on you.

Canada functions as a rotating dictatorship.  And Prime Minister with the Good Hair hasn’t been as nice to science as he said he’d be. 

In Canada, the Senate is appointed.  (They use some silly process now, but it amounts to the same thing… the Prime Minister decides, even if he delegates that decision to some process). 

In Canada, to elect a member to the Commons, a mere plurality of the vote is all you need, in races that are often fought between three or four parties with real chances to win.  So you can elect an MP with about 30% of the votes cast.  Based on the number of MPs, you can form a majority government with less then 40% of the votes cast nationally.  And with majority government, all the other elected MPs can do is yell at you.  They have no power and might as well go home.

Also, in Canada, like in the US, the concept of “one person one vote” does not apply.  A vote cast in PEI or Nunavut is worth about THREE votes cast in Ontario or BC.

We don’t even get to vote for PM.  The PM is elected by the majority or otherwise dominant party.  Our Head of State is a foreign country’s monarch, who also runs a church in that country.

If this counts as “Full Democracy” something is seriously wrong.

#5 Randy (Guest) on Thursday January 26, 2017 at 2:46pm

“In the long run, this always backfires”

In the long run, Foley, we’re all dead.  I have no time for that.  The Morning Heretic is correct… the electorate loves a bully.

This is not the time for self-delusion.  Threaten Trump with peril?  Now THAT is perilous.

#6 Mario (Guest) on Thursday January 26, 2017 at 10:07pm

Apparently, for many of Trump’s opponents, voting for Hillary was out of the question, so now we have to fight the insane idiot in office.  Maybe standing as one is something we should try BEFORE we’ve lost the election. 

Oh, wait—on page 3 of “How to Lose” (the left-wing bible), it says, “Don’t support own candidate.”  I stand corrected.

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