A Codification of Common Sense

January 6, 2016

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

Good morning. Oh hey, North Korea says it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. So. The AP has a running post of updates on developments, condemnations, expressions of outrage, skepticism, and the like.

Yesterday, we filed a brief with the Supreme Court on the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, a.k.a. the big Texas abortion case. But rather than advancing the general cause of a woman's right to end her pregnancy (which we of course wholeheartedly support), we are joined by a dream-team of scientists and the Dawkins Foundation in arguing that the evidence being presented by the state in favor of onerous restrictions on abortion providers is based largely on pseudoscience and manufactured controversy, and that there's no way the Supremes can make an informed judgment about constitutional rights based on nonsense faux-evidence.

President Obama gave a very emotional address at the White House yesterday on his new gun control initiatives, and two points are relevant to us in skepto-atheist land. One, he framed part of his pitch, as Sarah Posner explains, as a religious freedom issue, citing the various faith groups who have been victims of gun rampages in their places of worship. Also, he perked my ears up when discussing Congress's ban on CDC study of gun violence, saying, "Research, science -- these are good things! They work!" That's true!

Ammon Bundy, among those leading the armed occupation of Oregon federal property, believes he is following directions from God, according to the AP, but his particular take on Mormon theology is being rejected by the church itself. 

The Catholic Church scores another regressive victory by getting Philippines' legislature to scrap funding for contraceptives

Also, the Vatican newspaper doesn't like Charlie Hebdo's cover marking the anniversary of the massacre. I know you're shocked. Oh, the same paper also hated The Force Awakensas explained by Stephen Colbert.

Bangladesh's supreme court upholds the death sentence for Islamist leader Motiur Rahman Nizami for crimes during the 1971 war of independence.  

A Sharia court in Nigeria sentences 9 people to death for "making blasphemous statement [sic] against Prophet Mohammed." 

The FTC is making the creators of the Lumosity "brain-training" program pay $2 million back to subscribers for their false promises about staving off dementia and making people smarter. "Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads." 

Stephanie Savage contemplates the nuances and misunderstandings about evolution -- human evolution in particular -- at The Secular Spectrum:

I favor the theory that religion is a side effect of the instinctive human need to see patterns and understand them, even to the point of inventing just-so stories to explain them. And if that’s the case, there still hope that through reason human society will one day evolve away the need to believe in an all-powerful genie. And then there will truly be no Hell below us, above us only sky. 

Public policy never rests, so here's what our Office of Public Policy was doing while not-resting in December. 

Wheaton College, despite looking like a bunch of jerks, goes on with the process of firing its hijab-wearing political science professor Larycia Hawkins. 

“You have the right not to believe.” So sayeth billboards that have gone up in Poland, via that country's FFRF.  

The FBI declares that it's found no evidence that the San Bernardino attacks were directed from outside the U.S., by ISIS or anyone else. 

Students at Glenview Elementary School in New Jersey will no longer say "God bless America" after the Pledge of Allegiance, thanks to the ACLU.

So last month, Arizona's state senate got a new education committee chair, creationist Tea-Partier Sylvia Allen. It gets worse! I was pointed to a 2013 Facebook post of hers in which she insists that airplanes are spraying "grids" of chemtrails near her home, citing other nutty conspiracies as evidence that this one is real, too. 

John Horgan at Scientific American does yeoman's work attempting to explain Bayes' Theorem ("a codification of common sense"), and how it can be misused:

The plausibility of your belief depends on the degree to which your belief--and only your belief--explains the evidence for it. The more alternative explanations there are for the evidence, the less plausible your belief is. ... [But] If you aren’t scrupulous in seeking alternative explanations for your evidence, the evidence will just confirm what you already believe. 

Quote of the Day:

Trump is going to make his pitch to Liberty University. Jerry Falwell Jr. says of Trump:
 
I think Trump reminds me so much of my father. He says exactly what he thinks no matter what anybody cares.
 
Like, what else is there to say? 
 
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