Abstract, Jargonistic, and Near-Mystical

August 18, 2016

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

The editorial board of Scientific American, not known for partisan polemic, castigates Trump for his "outright contempt" for science:

When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up. 

Relatedly, Wired does something novel for this year: It endorses a candidate. You can guess which one. 

Dr. Jill Stein and her Green Party running mate Ajamu Baraka get a CNN town hall special of their very own, and, you know, be careful for what you wish for. Anyway, Stein defended herself on vaccines and science, for what it's worth:

Asked if she was anti-vaccine, Stein said she had been "taken out of context" on the issue. "I think there's kind of an effort to divert the conversation from our actual agenda," Stein said. "The idea that I oppose vaccines is completely ridiculous." 

To clarify, though, the rap against her is not that she "opposes" vaccines, but that she's pandered to the anti-vax crowd by muddying the waters. She has plenty of other anti-science, beliefs though.  

Trump picks up a new campaign chief executive, the head of Breitbart News, Steve Bannon. Ho boy. 

Ian Graber-Stiehl at Popular Science considers Olympic athletes' penchant for pseudoscience treatments, and has a sympathetic conclusion:

It’s hard to fault athletes. Through the last few games, more so than ever before, records have fallen thanks to small-scale engineering, from silica nanoparticle-loaded racquets to carbon nanofiber golf clubs, and Big Data analytics that digitize athletes, model their movements, catalog performances, and help formulate strategies. When the best arrows in Olympians’ quivers are among science’s most abstract, jargonistic, and near-mystical, it’s not surprising they’d find pseudoscience indistinguishable--or perhaps even more plausible due to its seeming simplicity. 

Pope Fluffy appoints Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia to be the new head of both the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which is ostensibly about antiabortion "bioethics." Ron Lindsay tweets:

Vatican institute for bioethics has same standing as a Russian institute for study of corruption and a Chinese institute for free speech

Anti-abortion activist and minister Alveda King says Hillary Clinton is trying to "usher in the Antichrist." Come on, right wing, make up your mind. There's a BIG DIFFERENCE between ushering the Antichrist and actually BEING the Antichrist. PICK ONE. 

The Secular Coalition releases the first big piece of its 2016 voter guide, rating Hillary Clinton with an A and Donald Trump with an F, to no one's surprise. Third-party grades are forthcoming. 

Pseudohistorian David Barton says there aren't any atheists in the countryside. That will be news to the atheists in the countryside. 

Nasir Saeed at Pakistan's Daily Times calls for government action against the problem of kidnappings and forced conversions to Islam

Sam Kriss at VICE endures a meeting of the Young British Heritage Society, a bunch of people who hate "political correctness" and are afraid of feminism. Kriss writes:

The anti-PC brigade aren't angry that they can't say what they want; they're angry that when they do say what they want, other people sometimes disagree with them. ... All this is tied up with a deeply dispiriting debate-nerd pedantry. Speakers never tired of making fetishistic invocations of Logic and Reason and Facts; as Sophie Thomas insisted, the "utter hatred for people with different views goes against Socratic debate" – as if everyone you impose yourself on should have to follow Oxford union rules.  

Quote of the Day

You already know that we're doing these cool interviews with CSICon Las Vegas speakers. Usually it's a layperson like me or Susan Gerbic talking to one expert or other, which is great, but now we have two mega-experts in conversation, as climate expert Mark Boslough interviews fellow climate expert Michael Mann. That is quality content, my friends. Perhaps no one other than Al Gore has taken more crap for his climate work, and Mann says more scientists need to be ready:

Not only can we teach young scientists how to function in the increasingly hostile environment they may find themselves, we must teach them to do so. ... The stakes are simply too great—we cannot lose the battle against the forces of unreason and inaction. 


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