Snake-Filled Heads

January 29, 2018

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

This Wednesday, Bertha Vazquez kicks off the first webinar for the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), followed by another webinar the next day with Michael Ryan, author of A Taste for the Beautiful: Evolution by Attraction.

At CSICOP.org, skeptic-comedian Ian Harris, who is also a mixed martial arts trainer, promises it's okay if you wind up killing him when you challenge him to a fight. To make you feel better, he'll tell you:

I am suicidal, and I have seven-and-a-half terminal illnesses all at once. You’d be doing me a favor. I have a waiver in my pocket, and we can video this. I will again indemnify you of all guilt, because nothing would make me happier than to go out via a fiery chi ball of death. Please triple back flip in at unrecordable speed, so that I can turn around to find you behind me with my heart still beating in your palm. Then I can look down at the hole in my chest for my last moments, give you a Kung Fu salute and say “I am sorry for doubting you! Please forgive me, Master!” Before over-dramatically dropping to the floor. 

He doubts this will happen, however. 

At Reasonable Talk, we have Eugenie Scott's presentation from CSICon 2017 on the rejection of science.

Courtland Sykes, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, says feminists have "snake-filled heads" and goddamn it his girlfriend better have dinner on the table at six!

A company called Rocket Lab is sending what looks like a giant 65-sided shiny thing into orbit, the Humanity Star, so people can appreciate connection to the cosmos or something when they see it pass by. Actual scientists are kind of annoyed by it. Oh, and much respect to the Post's Ben Guarino for this line: "But the giant Dungeons & Dragons die floating through space is not a critical hit."

Kimberly Winston looks at a new crop of snake handlers from a new book by Julia Duin:

Snake-handling churches have dotted Appalachia for a hundred years and are generally secretive. Members tend to be older and born into the church, rather than converts. But Duin’s book focuses on a new breed of snake-handling preachers — young and adept at using social media to attract attention, including teenage and 20-something members and television crews, to their dangerous services. 

In Pakistan's Express Tribune, Raza Habib Raja writes of the recent murder of a college professor by a student who accused the professor of blasphemy, and how it shows that the country's criminalization of blasphemy has gotten out of control:

This time there has been no misuse of the law pertaining to blasphemy, but instead, a complete bypassing of the legal process. There was no angry mob involved, and unlike Salman Taseer’s murder, where due to his high profile one factor was perhaps a desire for self-glorification, this killing has been done purely out of deep-rooted beliefs. Moreover, this man showed absolutely no remorse after killing a person, and brazenly admitted that he is not afraid to kill. There is a strange sort of self-righteousness embedded in his behaviour, which is extremely concerning. 

Azeen Ibrahim at Al-Arabiya says this extremist attitude is becoming more and more entrenched:

Politicians and politically motivated military leaders are finding that there are votes in pandering to the well-organized religious extremists, and the political discourse in the country seems to be steadily veering to the right. This has put items such as the blasphemy law or religious extremism beyond the possibility of debate in the mainstream conversation. 

The secret to longevity is being kept by naked mole rats.

Capcom, maker of video games like Mega Man and Street Fighter (yes I'm old and that's as far as I'm going), will pay you a hefty bounty (£50,000) if you can prove that one of a select group of cryptids actually exists. This all just about promotion of their new game Monster Hunter World, and as Laura Kate Dale at Kotaku notes"

If you can conclusively prove the Loch Ness Monster is real, with actual verifiable evidence, I think you might be able to fish around and find a better offer for your evidence than £50K, but it'd be a good start.

Kathleen Rest and Andrew A. Rosenberg at Scientific American lament "the loss of critical expertise and capacity in the science agencies of the federal government," which is going to hurt everyone.

Colbert gets a chance to take the steam out of Gwyneth Paltrow, but blows it.  

Scientists in Spain have an idea as to why the universe is accelerating its expansion: It's not. It just looks like it because time itself is slowing down. Oh great.

In India, practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine prevent the practitioners of "prophetic medicine" from holding an academic conference, due to the "unscientific nature" of their treatments. Isn't this kind of like Star Wars fans saying the Star Trek is too far-fetched?

This is still happening: parents in the UK are found trying to "cure" their kids' autism by making them drink bleach.

The Google Assistant in Google Home products had some trouble telling people who Jesus was. After an update, the Assistant now responds to questions about JC by saying, "Religion can be complicated, and I’m still learning." Aren't we all? 

Garrett the flight attendant, however, is more straightforward: "God's not real, when you die you're dead!" 

Quote of the Day

Despite Pope Fluffy's Laudato Si, the University of Indiana's David Konisky shows that Christianity doesn't seem to be making anyone feel more like stewards of the Earth:

Analysis of multiple measures of environmental attitudes reveals little evidence that Christians have expressed more environmental concern over time. In fact, across many measures, Christians tend to show less concern about the environment. This pattern generally holds across Catholic, Protestant and other Christian denominations and does not vary depending on levels of religiosity. These findings lead to a conclusion that there is little evidence of a “greening” of Christianity among the American public. 

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