Bureaucratic Doodling

February 20, 2017

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

Happy Presidents' Day. <writer has sudden and seemingly endless coughing fit>  

Five years ago today, I wrote the very first edition of The Morning Heresy, but don't bother looking for it, because it was an internal email for CFI staff so they could be kept up to date with the news. A little while later it became its own blog. 

Check it out: ABC News' Nightline does a fairly skeptical piece on a "psychic detective," and checks in with none other than CFI's own Joe Nickell, who says:

What people should realize is psychics cannot do what they claim to do. They have been reviewed by mainstream science, and they can't do it. If they can do it, let's see that they do it.

The Texas Medical Board proposes $380,000 in fines and the revocation of the license to practice medicine for none other than Stanislaw Burzynski. We'll know for sure what's up by March 3. 

So! This Milo Yiannopoulos fellow. Bill Maher embraces him, and that does not go over well with in all quarters. Ed Brayton has entirely had it, citing Milo's assertion that people need to be "protected" from transgender folks, and Bill's seeming agreement. Milo claims that transgender people are "vastly" disproportionately involved in sexual assaults as though they were the perpetrarors, when in fact they are the victims. Anyway, I tried to watch the whole thing, and I couldn't, my heart and amygdala couldn't handle it. 

Then it's revealed that Yiannopoulos has on several occasions defended and endorsed certain forms of pedophilia, which he denies. But really, you could have written him off well before that.

Somewhat relatedly, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, you know, she who seemed to think that the slaughter of secularists in the streets was the victims' fault, is backing legislation to allow grown men to marry underage girls.

Patrick Blanchfield at n+1 lays out a litany of lies from the world of Trump and Breitbart and observes how they create an alternate reality not unlike something out of Borges' Tlön, Uqbar, and Orbis Tertius:

It is impossible to say what brew of motivations led to [this list of lies'] specific production: stupidity, contempt, incompetence, cynicism, manipulation, indifference—they all seem likely, in varying degrees. But what’s behind it matters less than what it is, and that it’s “incorrect” matters less than that it’s wrong. Subjecting the list to fact-checking is only a minimal, insufficient response—what’s called for is not just empirical assessment and “correction” of what it contains, but rather moral denunciation and rejection of what it is. 

Unsurprisingly, the Department of Energy's website for kids has been heavily altered to downplay the impact of fossil fuels.

Brandon Withrow at The Daily Beast compares American evangelicals' embrace of the ungodly Trump with that of the Russian Orthodox Church's partnership with Putin. It's grim.

Also having Trump's ear, the virulently anti-Muslim ACT for America. Abigail Hauslohner at WaPo explains, "A safer America, to ACT, means a nation free of all Islamic influence, a goal that has led some civil rights activists to call it a hate group akin to white supremacists."

And also somewhat in this vein, Robert Allen at the Detroit Free Press profiles Church Militant, a super-right-wing Catholic group that sees Trump as their Constantine, and is building "a multi-media empire."

CFI's Ron Lindsay has a modest proposal for saving Trump from his own desperate need to be loved - more fake news: 

To forestall a complete meltdown by our unappreciated leader, a bipartisan congressional team, in collaboration with White House staff and major media outlets, should create fake newspapers, television programs, and websites: a fake CNN channel that lavishes praise on President Trump; a fake New York Times that trumpets his many accomplishments; a fake Washington Post that compliments him on his hair and golf game. 

If you live in Florida, we need you to tell your lawmakers to reject a new bill that would allow all manner of religious indoctrination in public schools. If you don't live there, share this with someone who does.  

Matthew Nisbet in Skeptical Inquirer looks at how we're faring in the war over vaccines, evaluating strategies in which "the goal is to make a belief exemption by parents less convenient and more burdensome."

Lauren Markoe looks at the efforts of scientists to communicate the importance of action on climate change to religious groups.

Fake-psychic Sonia Lisa Marks faces up to two years in prison for charging for fortunetelling, which is against the law in Oklahoma. 

Emily Willingham reports on new research showing that changes in the brain in infancy might be able to predict autism in kids with autistic siblings. "The study, published in Nature, doesn’t tell us anything about causation," she notes, "but it does incidentally confirm that the MMR vaccine has nothing to do with autism."

Scientists at Harvard say they are close to producing a live woolly mammoth-elephant hybrid

That's nothing! Ken Ham has gladiators fighting dinosaurs

Apparently there is a professional athlete who believes Earth is flat, so USA Today gets an astronomy professor's reaction

Alternative carrots look tastier than the real thing. 

Quote of the Day:

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking at Georgetown:

We need – all of us – to defend international law -- international refugee law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law. For they – and the institutions that uphold them – are the very distillation and sum of human experience. They are not, as some would have you believe, the outcome of post-war bureaucratic doodling. They were woven together from the screams of millions who died violently or suffered horribly over many centuries. We know very well what will happen, should they be dissolved. ...

... I want to be one of those who speaks up on every occasion. Stands up to defend the rights of everyone, peacefully – especially those most vulnerable.

I want to believe the human impulse towards a greater good will always eclipse those menacing instincts lying deep within us all, that makes us vulnerable to suggestion.

I want to be part of a movement beyond my affiliations to family, to tribe or nationality, beyond my ethnicity, race, religion or gender, my professional affiliation, my sexual orientation or the like.

* * * 

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#1 Mario (Guest) on Monday February 20, 2017 at 11:57am

“Brandon Withrow at The Daily Beast compares American evangelicals’ embrace of the ungodly Trump with that of the Russian Orthodox Church’s partnership with Putin. It’s grim.”

Which is why we should rejoice that evangelicals are only a small minority of the U.S. population and, as such, without the necessary power and influence to mess up our government.  Oh, wait—I forgot about the sacred media narrative that puts born-agains in charge of our democracy.

I keep thinking that money and power rule the day in America, when of course it’s really conservative religious zeal.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Monday February 20, 2017 at 4:53pm

I like the crunchy carrots…

#3 Randy (Guest) on Monday February 20, 2017 at 4:55pm

“We need – all of us – to defend international law”

No we don’t.  Nobody elected that.  And based on the European experience, the jury is out on whether people even want an elected multinational law-making body.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Monday February 20, 2017 at 5:07pm

“Milo claims that transgender people are vastly disproportionately involved in sexual assaults”

I was inclined to agree with you, until you failed to refuse Milo’s claim.

That disturbs me.  What ARE the numbers?

#5 Randy (Guest) on Monday February 20, 2017 at 5:07pm


#6 Randy (Guest) on Monday February 20, 2017 at 6:05pm

“Then it’s revealed that Yiannopoulos” ... like Dawkins is speaking from his personal experience at not being a victim.  And like with what happened to Dawkins, people pile on instead of actually “listen and believe”.  For most, it doesn’t even matter what he said, because it’s about finding a magic weapon with which to slay Milo, regardless of the content or meaning of that weapon.  It’s just delightful to beat the bad gay, right?  He had it coming.

What is this aversion to facts on this topic?  It’s not like the data isn’t there.  We know that attraction to minors is a sexual orientation (or a group of orientations according to some).  And we know that, like other orientations, people appear to be born with or without it, and it can’t be changed, even by castration (chemical or physical).  We know that people like Milo or Dawkins who experience sexual activities with adults when they are young do not experience trauma at the time, nor do they experience trauma later in life any more than the population at large does.  We know that people attracted to minors are, to a degree unlike any other group, blamed as a group for the violent actions of people who aren’t even attracted to minors but who harm them, and they are targeted for shunning, shaming, violence, and murder (with no small amount of collateral damage, particularly in the UK where the hysteria is in overdrive).  Indeed there are people who actually make sport of it online.  We all saw very well what they did in Russia prior to Sochi, to people they claimed were interested in minors. 

When these are the facts before me, I don’t see how I can dismiss it, or why I would want to.  Whether you come at it from a skeptic’s viewpoint, or a humanist’s, there is a serious wrong being done today to these people and those who refuse to condemn them, and it has to change.  And it’s not going to change by waiting for someone else to do it.  Doing the right thing is an individual responsibility, unavoidable.

#7 Randy (Guest) on Monday February 20, 2017 at 6:33pm

“what’s called for is not just empirical assessment and “correction” of what it contains, but rather moral denunciation and rejection of what it is”

How do you expect this to work, when at least the average person holding these views holds them because they believe the center-left to be immoral and deceptive?  It’s like trying to put out a fire with loose tissue paper.

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