I Didn’t Ask to be Synthesized!

May 16, 2016

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

Here's something you probably knew about Facebook and the "filter bubble," and Renee Diresta at Fast Colays it out

Once people join a single conspiracy-minded [Facebook] group, they are algorithmically routed to a plethora of others. Join an anti-vaccine group, and your suggestions will include anti-GMO, chemtrail watch, flat Earther (yes, really), and "curing cancer naturally" groups. Rather than pulling a user out of the rabbit hole, the recommendation engine pushes them further in.  

LiveScience talks to Jeffrey T. Richelson of the National Security Archive at George Washington University about what actually might be hiding in classified documents about Area 51. Not aliens, says Richelson, but maybe a lot about secret research and development of an entirely terrestrial nature.

Pfizer cuts off all of its drugs that are used in lethal-injection executions, meaning that any state that wishes to use this method of execution must go to the black market to obtain the drugs.  

This Sunday, the Independent Investigations Group, out of CFI–L.A., is holding its tenth IIG Awards honoring the promotion of science in popular arts, with special guest Ann Druyan. 

J.D. Trout in Salon argues for disbanding the House Science Committee, given that it is run almost entirely by those who reject, lie about, or simply don't understand science. 

A Buddhist monk is hacked to death in Bangladesh, 75-year-old Mongsowe U Chak. Add Buddhists to the other groups killed likewise: Christian, Hindu, Sufi, and a lot of atheists.

You will not be surprised to hear that, yes, Malcolm Gladwell grossly oversimplifies the concept of "10,000 hours" as a means to mastery of a given skill. Who says? The people who did the original "10,000 hours" research

President Obama delivers a commencement address to Rutgers University (my brother's and my mom's alma mater) in which he lambastes the celebration of ignorance, and quotes Carl Sagan.

Scientists hold a secretive meeting at Harvard Medical School to discuss synthesizing the human genome, allowing for humans to be created who have no parents. Said human at 14: "I didn't ask to be synthesized!"

Jessica Peralta at LA Times profiles "paranormal investigators" (not like Joe Nickell, who's, you know, a real investigator) and paranormal and haunting-related tourist traps in Orange County.

An Indiegogo campaign is launched to fund the creation of a display by the Yale Humanist Community on the Green in New Haven, "a nonreligious symbol celebrating universal human values that can resonate with all people" to go alongside the many religious displays.

Sean Carroll explains in this short little video how the Big Bang is less "the beginning" and more the end of our own understanding. 

A young man in Pennsylvania is given the option to avoid prison for dealing heroin when the judge says he can instead do a report on a Ben Carson book that encourages teens to "put God first." 

South Dakotans are getting eyefuls of religious doubt with over 20 billboards from the Sioux Falls Atheists and Sioux Falls Free Thinkers. 

Fridays-the-Thirteenth and the Knights Templar: two rather banal things overblown by myth

Pope Fluffy will consider whether women can be church deacons

Longreads rounds up six stories about "psychics." 

The BBC has a story about a psychic pig predicting the winners of sportsball games, and I dunno, I always thought better of them than that. 

Quote of the Day:

George Johnson at NYT considers what makes conspiracy beliefs (about UFOs in particular) so appealing, and how it's kind of a waste of perfectly good brain power: 

Sometimes one suspects that a piece of the puzzle must be missing, or dangling cruelly beyond our reach. You can either muddle along without it, as most of us try to do, or put your mind into hyperdrive, making connection after connection and piecing together a hidden order — a conspiracy so immense that it threatens to be more convoluted and complex than what it seeks to explain. ... It takes great mental powers to construct these intricacies no matter how crazy they are. Conspiracy theorists are not stupid people. Given a different turn in life, some might have made good superstring theorists. 

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Original image by Mindaugas Danys

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Comments:

#1 Randy (Guest) on Monday May 16, 2016 at 4:05pm

“Conspiracy theorists ... superstring theorists”

I’m not convinced there’s a meaningful difference at this point.  I’m going to need, you know, evidence.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Monday May 16, 2016 at 4:11pm

“allowing for humans to be created who have no parents”

Of course there will be parents.  But like many, they just won’t be the genetic parents.

Before this is done, we ought to make sure that this individual will irrevocably own the rights to their own genome, regardless of who put it together.  And we ought to make sure this individual is due all the rights that any other child receives.

#3 Randy (Guest) on Monday May 16, 2016 at 4:16pm

“Pfizer cuts off all of its drugs”

If I’m not mistaken, in Mr. Death (1999), Mr. Leuchter, an “expert”, when asked about lethal injection, said he would prefer to be shot, if he was to be executed.  (But then 1999 was a while ago… I might have misremembered).

#4 Randy (Guest) on Monday May 16, 2016 at 4:21pm

“the recommendation engine pushes them further in”

This is one reason why I have only ever Liked one thing on Facebook, about 7-ish years ago, as a requirement to get customer support.  It was some puzzle game.  Maybe that’s when I lost.

Until such time someone devises a Facebook-like open protocol (I’m confident it is coming) I will not use Facebook, or anything like it.  There’s zero reason that something like Facebook should be corporate or centralized, and indeed every reason it should be neither.

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