Face Oblivion

August 17, 2016

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

Did you know that Skeptical Inquirer is 40? So what does a skeptics' magazine do to mark its big anniversary? Why, by being skeptical of course...about skepticism! In the big anniversary issue, leading skeptics contribute their thoughts about what skepticism is doing right, and what it isn't. It's got that funny science guy, that new-Cosmos guy, the New Atheist who looks like Santa, and many, many more. Get this issue in print or on your mobile device. 

Point of Inquiry has David Gorski on this week to talk about cupping (why is that word so funny?) and the other pseudoscience health fads on display at the Olympics.

CFI–Kenya's George Ongere has a new report on his organization's activities, like the Humanist Orphans Center, fighting HIV/AIDS misinformation, now even helping other African humanist groups get on their feet. Yeah, I got a soft spot in my heart for CFI–Kenya.  

On Twitter and in a Medium essay, Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia thanked CFI for our support of the Freedom of Religion Act of 2016. You, sir, are WELCOME. You can tell more congressbeasts to support the bill here.

This piece by Judith Shaw Beatty, who survived childhood polio in the 1940s and 50s (enduring the iron lung and all), is a punch to the gut of vaccine denial. So many quotable snippets, I can't choose just one. Oh okay here's one: 

Either [vaccine opponents] declare that I never really had polio, or else they insist that polio is still around and has new names because the vaccine was ineffective and that this is part of a cover-up by “big pharma.”  ... The lack of compassion expressed by these people is startling. I’ve never interacted with a vaccine refuser who cared one way or the other about my life as a polio survivor. They don’t want to hear about it because I’m an inconvenient truth, just like all the other polio survivors I know. On Facebook, I’m lectured and attacked by arrogant people who claim they know a lot more than I do about polio. 

Independent experts at the U.N. call out Bahrain for "the intensified wave of arrests, detentions, summons, interrogations and criminal charges" aimed at the Shiite Muslim community. 

Steven Novella picks apart the tactics used in pro-homeopathy propaganda, including this old favorite:

Ah, the Galileo Gambit – there is no more certain sign of pseudoscience than comparing oneself to the great astronomer. The difference, of course, is this – the medieval Vatican based their beliefs on rigid religious dogma. The modern scientific community bases their tentative conclusions on an ongoing campaign of careful scientific investigation. See the difference? 

Remember earlier this year when Elon Musk said there's something like a one-in-a-billion chance we're NOT living in a computer-simulated universe? There's a new Vox video that actually helps explain what the hell he's talking about, which I found clarifying. 

Michael O'Loughlin at the Catholic magazine America explores the Methodist faith of Hillary Clinton, and the tension between keeping it private and putting it on display.

But walking squarely into Crazytown is George Neumayr at American Spectator who says Christians "face oblivion under [Hillary Clinton's] administration. Underpinning Hillary Clinton’s political philosophy is a coercive secularism that eliminates conservative Christians from public life." WOW. She must have magic powers. 

UK-based radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary is convicted of trying to rile up support for ISIS. 

A Brooklyn man, Oscar Morel, is arrested for the murders of Imam Alauddin Akonjee and Thara Miah. No motive has been disclosed.

Amanda Taub at NYT points out how Trump uses honor culture framing to talk about how he'll protect the West from Islamic honor killings.

NPR's Around and About talks to psychologist Thomas J. Coleman III about his studies about the possible correlations between autism and atheism, which was quite interesting to me, being an atheist who just a couple of weeks ago found out that I am autistic. (Hat tip to Hemant.) By the way, I resent the ever-living-crap out of the headline used by WUTC, "Do Atheists Have Malfunctioning Minds?" Hey, thanks, guys. Way to make both atheists and autistic folks feel accepted.

Cronkite News profiles some of the "nones" and nonbelievers of Arizona

So, Sausage PartyApparently an atheistic allegory. Tracey Moody says, "Who knew a profane sausage could be a mascot for the godless?" I still think I prefer His Noodliness. 

Rob Owen at the Post-Gazette has a friendly interview with TV "psychic" Tyler Henry, and hilariously ends the piece with, "I still think he’s a charlatan, but he’s such a pleasant, poised kid, it’s hard for me to be a hater."   

John McLaughlin, who kind of invented the pundits-shouting-at-each-other political TV format, is dead at 89. "Bye-BYYYEEEE." From the NYT obit:

In a 1992 profile in The Times, Mr. McLaughlin defended his style. “Does this depreciate journalism?” he asked. “Not one damned bit. Journalists can get very pompous, especially in the formalized days of ‘Meet the Press,’ when they took themselves so damned seriously. This show demythologizes the press, and I think people like that.” 

Quote of the Day

Katie Mack, without a doubt, gets, like, quote of the millennium. First, she tweets, "Honestly climate change scares the heck out of me and it makes me so sad to see what we're losing because of it." And then: 



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#1 1e3ld on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 2:03pm

The author of the article about AZ atheists confuses a couple ideas and I think this leads to the quoted professor issuing a complete non sequitur. Faith, religiousness, participation in religious ritual and membership in a particular religion are mutually independent things. The context and data of the article is on people self-reporting as atheist but Cady explains this phenomenon by people opting-out of civic organizations and organized religion.  This has nothing to do with identifying as atheist or agnostic or non-believer. There is something else feeding growth in lack of faith. Social media does allow people to unapologetically express their lack
of faith. Even though they get cursed, threatened and generally harassed, this may be part of the effect.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 4:01pm

“quote of the millennium”

To understand this quote, you really need to see what she was responding to… (a climate denier).

#3 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 4:04pm

“This show demythologizes the press, and I think people like that”

Very much.  I didn’t watch often, but I always respected his style, though not his every opinion.  We need more of him.

Bye-BYYYEEEE, John :(

#4 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 4:10pm

“Way to make both atheists and autistic folks feel accepted.”

Indeed.  But I think psychology (the field) plays a role in this.  I think many people on “the spectrum” are simply nerds and don’t need a fancy disorder assigned to them.  To be honest, I think “normal” people are ill.  And if there were fewer of them, I bet I could get the APA to write that down somewhere, and start medicating them.  THAT is a problem.

#5 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 4:16pm

“Underpinning Hillary Clinton’s political philosophy is a coercive secularism”

I see no evidence of this.  Hillary is a Christian conservative with a feminist twist, and a disdain for atheists.  This is no threat to Christianity.  Except for some fundamentalists, Christians are going to be very happy.

#6 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 4:21pm

“a computer-simulated universe”

What does it matter?  Clearly, with all the praying and sacrifices, whoever wrote such simulation as we may be living in is uninterested in our feedback.

Even if this isn’t a simulation, any relevant meaning in the universe is imposed on it by us.

#7 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 4:36pm

“The modern scientific community bases their tentative conclusions on an ongoing campaign of careful scientific investigation. See the difference?”

I think the Galileo Gambit can work in reverse as well.  Not that it is happening here, but that I have seen it elsewhere.  That is, if someone is working essentially alone, tackling something “impossible” or “obvious”, then people feel it’s OK to mock them, regardless of their reasoning.  (Especially true if the topic is not only scientifically, but also socially, taboo).

And yet there are still hermits who work alone, outside of “the system”, and come up with novel mathematical proofs, or prove previously unproven statements.  I’m not sure whether math is, or is not, science.  But it is “the queen of the sciences”. 

Further, individuals working with small teams are still discovering new things about stuff that was supposed to be settled long ago (for example, the Coulomb explosion which is why alkali metals react so violently with water).  All because of faster cameras, and someone who doubted the lie we were all taught in high school.

It seems very reasonable that science is still ripe for individuals or small teams to dramatically change our understanding of things.

It’s a problem, because how is the general public supposed to be able to figure out whether they’re dealing with nonsense, or science?  It matters, because the general public votes in the people who decide public science funding.  I think this is more important than any of the actual science being worked on right now.

#8 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday August 17, 2016 at 4:51pm


Sure it’s funny.  I think Nicolas Batum of the Hornets used it for his “balls” or “basket”.  Or something.

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