Stupid and Even Cruel

March 21, 2017

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

I forgot to mention yesterday that the day before that was the 5-year anniversary of The Morning Heresy as a web-published thingy. Here's the first one to appear on the web, and as you can see, the quality has not diminished one iota. Nor has it increased. That's the kind of excellence you can expect from, um, whatever we were just talking about. 

Here's some encouraging news. A study from North Carolina State University suggests that studying the humanities can make one less likely to believe in pseudoscience.

"...humanities courses give students tools they can use to assess qualitative data and sort through political rhetoric,” [Alicia] McGill says. “Humanities also offer us historical and cultural perspective that allow us to put current events into context."

Point of Inquiry this week brings on an expert in a subject that I didn't really even know existed, and may have even been "discovered" by our guest. Judith Matloff talks about the phenomenon of the high correlation between conflict and living in high-altitude, mountainous geographic areas.  

We would like very much to stop the reauthorization of the DC voucher scheme. Take action now

Just look at all the attention lately being given to cognitive dissonance and false beliefs. Julie Beck has a piece in The Atlantic on the subject, here with an example of an experiment regarding people's perceptions of Trump's (incorrect) claims about murder rates:

It becomes unclear whether the person really believes that the false statement is true, or whether they’re using it as a shortcut to express something else—their support for Trump regardless of the validity of his claims, or just the fact that they feel unsafe and they’re worried about crime. Though for the media outlets that are fact-checking these things, it’s a matter of truth and falsehood, for the ordinary person evaluating, adopting, rejecting, or spreading false beliefs, that may not be what it’s really about. 

Garrett Epps at The Atlantic explores the Gorsuch P.O.V. on religious freedom, and sees a familiar blind spot:

In the United States, whose culture and history has been shaped by Christianity, it’s easy to skip the balancing stage. Many people assume that “religious freedom” centers around familiar “religious” beliefs—Christianity, in other words—as opposed to those of religious outsiders, whether they are Mormons, Muslims, or atheists.

Don't worry, Christians! According to Pew, you still utterly dominate American politics. 28 states have congressional delegations that are composed entirely of Christians, six states have entirely Protestant delegations, and only one state, Hawaii, has zero Christians in its delegation.

Emily Flitter at Reuters profiles that plucky but endangered species, the conservative environmental group

Current Secretary of State and former Overlord of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson used to use a pseudonym for emails, "Wayne Tracker." (Seriously?) And you know those teenagers who are suing the federal government over the destruction of their future with climate change? They want those emails

Passengers coming from certain airports in certain Muslim-majority countries will not be allowed to bring carry-on electronics like laptops and tablets into the U.S. David Frum tweets, "Trump admin might even possibly have valid reasons here - but who’ll take their unsupported word for it?"

Charles Camosy says the Democratic Party should make more roon for pro-lifers, particularly given the relatively significant number of them who are millennials. 

Islamic organizations in India are saying it's wrong to assume that H. Farook was murdered because of his atheism and that it had nothing to do with Islam. Don't know how they know that.

Steven Salzberg says the Trump budget's cuts to biomedical research are "stupid and even cruel." Seems like a theme.

Speaking of stupid and cruel, here's an idea for a vaccine-free daycare. You know, so no one gets...infected...with...immunity...?

The toughest conversation topics seem to be: religion and politics and Pluto. A new definition of "planet," should it be adopted, would bring Pluto back into the fold, along with about 100 other objects.  

The assembly of Fairbanks, Alaska considers ditching prayers before meetings. Yeah, that would indeed be a good idea.

18-year-old chess prodigy Dorsa Derakhshani of Iran is kicked off her country's chess team because she refuses to wear a hijab. Her younger brother Borna was also kicked off the team when he agreed to play against an Israeli opponent.

Dennis Prager says that if there is no God, murdering people is totally okay. So, you know, keep away from Dennis Prager. Seriously.

Marikar at The New Yorker looks into Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop newsletter so you don't have to. And you don't. Have to, that is. They're getting into vitamins now, you see. She reports:

...there was a conversation about the adrenal benefits of soaking in a bath of magnesium and about how the antioxidant glutathione is hard to absorb orally.

“What about sublingually?” Paltrow asked.

Junger said it was best administered intravenously. “But we can’t sell those things,” he said. “You can shoot yourself”—Paltrow mimed sticking a syringe into her behind—“but you can’t buy injectable glutathione without a prescription.”

“Right,” Paltrow said. “I think mainlining vitamins might be going a bit far, even for us.” 

To the rescue, Vox's Julia Belluz:

We don’t know how Goop’s products are sourced, but Goop’s website offers no evidence of their effectiveness. At best, they will probably be like most other vitamins: snake-oil pills that empty wallets and don’t deliver on their health claims. At worst, they could be dangerous. 

Tennessee Republicans want "In God We Trust" on all state license plates. Because of course they do. 

I look forward to the Rick Moranis comeback movie, Honey, I Accidentally Gave $25,000 to the Nazis!

Quote of the Day:

This is super-cool: What the heck are "fast radio bursts" (FRBs)The Economist explains:

They do not look like anything observed before, and there is much speculation about what causes them. ... as Manasvi Lingam of Harvard University and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics observe, there is at least one further possibility: alien spaceships. 

Specifically, the two researchers suggest, in a paper to be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, that FRBs might be generated by giant radio transmitters designed to push such spaceships around. With the rotation of the galaxies in which these transmitters are located, the transmitter-beams sweep across the heavens. Occasionally, one washes over Earth, producing an FRB. This idea is not completely mad.  

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