A Worm-Like Creature

April 27, 2017

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

Pew Research looks at the connection between education levels and religious belief in the U.S. and finds that while higher levels of education are linked to lower levels of religious belief, it's not a blowout, and it doesn't even seem to apply to Christians.  

Does this count as a shark-jump? Pope Fluffy gives a TED Talk

Santhosh Mathew at The Guardian considers the theological implications of discovering life on other worlds:

The core question would be, does God’s creation extend beyond a single planet? If so, would the inhabitants of those planets believe in the same gods as humans do? How could the creator of the universe deny the inhabitants of those worlds a chance to redeem their sins? Does that mean that God incarnated as Jesus in those worlds contrary to Bible teachings that say that the redemption in Christ was a unique event meant for humans on Earth? 

Peter Singer, writing at Nautilusconsiders the moral status of extraterrestrials, and seems pretty concerned we might eat them. But this passage about consciousness in octupuses, this is heavy:

The behavioral evidence, not only for consciousness but also for intelligence is very strong . . . Yet our last common ancestor with the octopus was a worm-like creature living 600 million years ago, long before there were any minds at all on this planet. So mind has evolved twice—at least—on this planet.  

In Skeptical Inquirer, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explain humans' penchant for cognitive dissonance, and the challenge it poses for rational do-gooders like us:

Skeptics already have an immense challenge in debunking pseudoscience, con artists, and conspiracy theories; to this burden we’d add another: facing our own sources of dissonance—ambiguity, complexity, and compromise.  

Doubly-disgraced Judge Roy Moore is running for the U.S. Senate. Well, if ever there was a time he'd fit in... 

Also in Alabama, the state legislature passes a bill allowing faith-based adoption agencies to opt out of any rules that conflict with their beliefs. Meaning no adoptions for same-sex couples, obviously.

Well, at least another species is more enlightened: Two lesbian penguins are raising an adopted penguin chick together. Weep, Alabama. Weep.

I don't know how much more Alex Jones lunacy Julia Belluz can take, but she's still at it, today showing how his custody trial calls into question the entire premise of his public persona:

[Jones's lawyers are] building a case that he is merely a “performance artist” and his angry on-air rants are a “character” he plays on radio and TV. ... Kelly Jones’s lawyers are building the opposite case: that the Alex Jones you see on TV is the real deal. Offline, they argue, he is exactly the paranoid, unhinged, racist misogynist he appears to be on Infowars. 

I've Instapaper'd this piece for later: Kevin Kelly says the coming apocalypse by superhuman artificial intelligence is a myth, "more akin to a religious belief ." 

Reporters Without Borders releases its latest World Press Freedom Index, and as you might imagine, it's not looking good:

Attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms - especially in democracies. ... Media freedom has never been so threatened. 

For example: 88% of Trump voters say that when the press criticizes the president, that's an indication that Trump is on the right track. Of course. They also think of him as a lion. Not kidding.

Yesterday, Google's doodle celebrated Cassini as it flies between Saturn and its rings. 

After the Washington Blade gives her the full scoop on the murders of Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy one year ago, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser abruptly cancels her meeting with Bangladesh's ambassador.

Trump's Holocaust remembrance proclamation used almost the exact wording that appears on the Holocaust Museum's website. Because of course it does.

Saima Baig at Pakistan's The Nation writes that with the mob-killing of Mashal Khan over blasphemy accusations has caused many activists and critics of the state to silence themselves. "Nobody wants to be the next Mashal." 

Amanda Hodge at The Australian says the Mashal killing and the Ahok trial in Indonesia show that Islamists are getting exactly what they want from blasphemy prohibitions.

The FDA, in a rare show of principle, goes after 14 companies that are selling more than 65 "holistic" and alt-med products that falsely claim to treat or cure cancer. 

Sen. Mike Enzi, who seems to remain alive and employed despite the lack of a functioning heart, tells a group of kids that "a guy who wears a tutu" deserves to get beat up. I kind of feel like it's incumbent now for many, many men of all orientations to show up at his Senate office in tutus, and dare him to beat them up. 

Quote of the Day:

Bob Sojka, a scientist and chair of the Twin Falls County Democratic Party in Idaho, speaks up for the value of science in political decision making, and says:

The greatest misconception held by science deniers is that science is just another belief system not unlike religion. Science actually functions as almost the exact opposite. It is, in fact, a disbelief system.  

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