Prepare to Submit to Tyranny

August 19, 2016

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

Katherine Krueger at TPM wonders why Jill Stein, who insists she's not anti-vax or anti-science, continuously leaves a little anti-science wiggle room for herself. 

Emily Willingham (who's coming to Women in Secularism 4!) breaks down the problems with Stein's postures, focusing on the inferences regarding autism:

[Stein] has characterized autism as an “epidemic,” a term that erroneously implies that a developmental condition is somehow an infectious disease, and a term that is a well-known favorite of those who want to blame vaccines for increased autism prevalence. Anyone who has even a passing involvement in the autism community knows how fraught that word is. In keeping with the beliefs of the vaccines-cause-autism crowd, which consistently has sought to dehumanize autistic people and characterize them as toxic monsters, Stein also has called autism a “public health calamity.”  

Funny, I don't feel like I represent a calamity, Dr. Stein. 

Sam Harris pens a hypothetical speech he believes should be given by Hillary Clinton on Islam and jihadism. It reads more like a Sam Harris essay, with terms like "intellectual confusion" and phrases Clinton would never, ever say, like, "Every religious community must interpret its scripture and adjust its traditions to conform to the modern world." But I get it, it's what he thinks she ought to say.

In The New Atlantis, Daniel Sarewitz has a loooooong piece about all the things that are wrong (says he) about science, saying it's in "deep trouble," and accusing it of a lack of accountability and "indifference and irresponsibility." I got that from the first and last paragraphs, though, because it's early and I don't have time to read the whole thing.  

The New York Times editorial board highlights what it says is the hypocrisy of the "burkini" bans in French cities, and is not having it:

This hysteria threatens to further stigmatize and marginalize France’s Muslims at a time when the country is listing to the Islamophobic right in the wake of a series of horrific terrorist attacks. ... The fact that French parents are increasingly dressing their toddlers in remarkably similar suits to protect them from the sun, or that a wet suit also covers the head and body, adds to the hypocrisy of this debate. But at the heart of the dispute is something far darker: French politicians’ paternalistic pronouncements on the republic’s duty to save Muslim women from enslavement — by dictating to them what they can and can’t wear.  

The weirdness about Tabby's Star is still probably not the result of extraterrestrials, but just in case, David Kipping (who I find via Phil Plait) explains more about the idea behind the imagined "alien megastructure." Recommended!

Foundation Beyond Belief is raising funds to help folks impacted by the floods in Louisiana

A Michigan federal court, citing the disaster that is Hobby Lobby, says its okay for the owner of a funeral home to discriminate against a transgender employee because of the owner's religious beliefs. 

In 1912, the "Piltdown Man" fossil was purported to be the missing link between apes and humans, and then revealed to be a hoax by the 1950s. Joe Nickell, who has researched this extensively himself, reports that a new study in Royal Society Open Science reveals that the forger and the "discoverer" of Piltdown Man were one and the same, Charles Dawson. "Those who were wrongly suspected now have their reputations fully restored," says Joe.

Dr. Drew adds fuel to the fire of Hillary-is-very-ill conspiracy theories. In 2012, Joe Nickell had some choice words for the good TV doctor, when he had a "psychic medium" on his show:

Dr. Drew Pinsky does not for a moment believe Van Praagh can talk to the dead. So why, in the name of Ethics, you ask, does he have the pretender doing readings on his $how? Can we $olve thi$ my$tery? 

Three doctors co-write a piece for Newsweek warning against relying on layman internet research to find "weird" cures for what ails you:

Although “Dr. Google” is punctual and doesn’t require a co-pay, it is still not qualified to diagnose and treat. There is no safe substitute for the intimate, one-on-one relationship between a patient and a physician. This will continue to be true as long as doctors remember that medicine is a science and an art, full of both expected outcomes and surprising solutions. 

Pastor Roger Jimenez, who says it's a good idea for gay people to get murdered, is taken to task by Dr. Michael Brown, who merely thinks gays should be demonized and "cured." Guys, guys, come on now. You're both terrible people. 

Mere miles from where I sit, folks claimed to have seen a 10-foot snake near the Presumpscot River, and Sharon Hill notes that the "expert" cryptozoologist that volunteered to check it out has balked and stalled, and that, hey, here's an idea, why not call in an expert on snakes instead?   

OMG OMG OMG this bear who walks on his hind legs all the time. "Pedals," I have to imagine, has got to be the source of several alleged "Bigfoot" sightings. I mean, watch him go!  

Quote of the Day

A letter to the editor in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle either shows the publication's astoundingly low editorial standards or their incredible sense of humor. Here's most of it, written by one Robin Goodspeed (who I also think is a magical Shakespearean forest-being):

Arrogant atheist Wyoming judges are ready to decree that all lawyers and judges in Wyoming must practice as professing atheists. This will create a precedent for all U.S. lawyers and judges to practice atheist rule.

Flat-earth atheist beliefs of genetic homosexuality, gender choice, and homosexual power and privilege will be mandated to the entire U.S. judicial system.

Atheists Stalin, Hitler and Mao murdered 100 million people in the 20th century according to their morality of power.

Unless we stand up for the Christian morality that has been the foundation of the United States of America, atheist America will use their morality of power to murder us and the Rule of Law. Christian silence and cowardice has allowed atheist rule in America ,[sic]and now the foundational American freedom, freedom of religion, is set to be annihilated.

Wyoming and America, stand up against atheist power or prepare to submit to tyranny and the atheist rule of men. 


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#1 dmbierlein on Friday August 19, 2016 at 7:43am

“Katherine Krueger at TPM wonders why Jill Stein, who insists she’s not anti-vax or anti-science, continuously leaves a little anti-science wiggle room for herself.”
And all along, I thought the scientific process was not to prove anything but to disprove things to the point that there is only one option available worth further study. Silly me.
Meanwhile, if the focus is going to be on the vaccine issue, perhaps we should ask the other major candidates:
Hillary Clinton:
Donald Trump:
Gary Johnson: (Well, at least he’s not blaming vaccines for autism. He just thinks it’s not all that necessary.)

#2 dmbierlein on Friday August 19, 2016 at 7:45am

“vaccines-cause-autism crowd, which consistently has sought to dehumanize autistic people and characterize them as toxic monsters”
WOW, just WOW!!! “toxic monsters”???? There’s Liberal hyperbole for you, and I’m a Liberal.

#3 dmbierlein on Friday August 19, 2016 at 8:12am

““Every religious community must interpret its scripture and adjust its traditions to conform to the modern world.”
Certainly happy to see Sam Harris and Judge Cox are on the same side of the issue.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:36pm

“genetic homosexuality, gender choice”

The left, and the right, fail to understand that these cannot both be true, or both be false, at the same time.

#5 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:38pm


There’s a no true Scot joke here, but I’m too lazy to figure out what it is.

#6 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:39pm

“You’re both terrible people.”

And yet one is worse.  I know how it just kills some folks to admit that.  But it is true, nonetheless.

It’s a good way to weed out the dogmatic from the rational.

#7 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:45pm

“Although ‘Dr. Google’ is punctual and doesn’t require a co-pay, it is still not qualified to diagnose and treat. There is no safe substitute for the intimate, one-on-one relationship between a patient and a physician.”

Due to the shortage in my area, it takes me WEEKS to get an appointment with my doctor.  Last time, she acted like she didn’t even know who I was.  I mean.. really?  I’m too healthy?  We pay for this?

Frankly, I’m eagerly looking forward to the time when family doctors are replaced by phone apps.  I will happily throw away my health privacy to get access to a system that learns how to diagnose—better than any human—and never forgets, and never quits, and never goes on vacation.

#8 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:49pm

“Hillary-is-very-ill conspiracy”

There is, nevertheless, the odd seizure she seems to have had, recorded by NBC, and also available from another angle.

#9 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:50pm

“citing the disaster that is Hobby Lobby”

Thank Bill Clinton and the Democrats for RFRA, by the way.

#10 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:51pm

“listing to the Islamophobic right”

Yeah, I’m just not buying that defamation any more.  The French are correct.  The name-callers are not.

#11 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 4:53pm

“don’t have time to read the whole thing”

No shame in that.  It happens.  Points for honesty.

#12 dmbierlein on Friday August 19, 2016 at 5:19pm

“I’m just not buying that defamation any more.”
Fine, if you don’t want to buy that defamation, but you missed the point:
“French politicians’ paternalistic pronouncements on the republic’s duty to save Muslim women from enslavement — by dictating to them what they can and can’t wear.” 
Because it will always be too much or too little, and no one will care what the woman, herself, wishes to wear.

#13 Randy (Guest) on Friday August 19, 2016 at 7:39pm

“Daniel Sarewitz”

I think that Daniel is trying to say that the military-industrial(-congressional) complex is what’s needed to save science from the irreproducible, incomprehensible, crazy mess it has become.

Daniel forgets that “congressional” was omitted for political reasons, but was certainly part of Eisenhower’s identification of the problem.  How’s Congress looking right about now?  Daniel wants these folks in charge?  They have a history of censuring, de-funding, and banning research they don’t like.

Further, it’s ahistorical.  If I learned anything from Burke’s various Connections series, it is that most technological progress is NOT directed, and is the result of unforseeable connections between disparate fields, and accident.

And it seems very unlikely that the DOD would have ever gotten around to discovering the true reaction of alkali metals with water (something taught in high school, so yeah it matters) recently uncovered by a team including a YouTuber who views himself as one of the few remaining generalists able to work according to Daniel’s “beautiful lie”.

When Daniel says “or global average atmospheric temperature to assess climate change”, I might conclude he is a climate denier, but he clarifies later that basic science shows it is happening, but diverges on what the impacts will be, or what might be done.  Whew!

Daniel criticizes “the cost of being at best only an approximation of the complex reality”—uh oh.  Daniel doesn’t seem to understand that, yes, even in classical or quantum physics, that is the best we can ever hope for.

Daniel complains “These two approaches often yield contradictory results”—because they’re answering different questions.  That’s not unusual.  That’s the system working correctly.  What we need is adequate and correct reporting of these results.

He says “big data is like looking all over the world for your keys because you can”.  That’s not true if you feed it to an AI… While AI might be biased in some sense based on its “training”, it can find that needle in the haystack.

Much of this article is a gripe about hard problems being hard, with the implication seeming to be “don’t try unless the DOD says to try”.  That’s not acceptable.

“The data that we now generate overwhelm our abilities of interpretation”—well what did we THINK was going to happen?  Again, this is where AI comes in.  It’s foolish to think the human brain is going to be able to analyze everything we seek to understand.  But we can check the results.

“Will the vaccine succeed? No one can know, but it’s the wrong question”
—Well that’s very odd, because Daniel spent the whole article demanding positive results.  Can’t chicken out now, Daniel.  Where are the results?  They don’t exist.  Why are you assuming the results will appear on schedule?  That’s a beautiful lie, Daniel.

Ultimately, while Daniel has identified a problem (lack of useful results and credibility), he connects it to something else (DOD) which is a partial solution, but also a partial roadblock (doing everything by design instead of natural selection).  We need better than that.

You know, I wonder if Daniel thinks evolution by natural selection is a beautiful lie… GOD… oops, DOD…  didn’t fund and direct it…

Apparently discovering a new “quantum mechanics”-level thing every century just isn’t enough.  It’s good enough for me.

#14 Mario (Guest) on Monday August 22, 2016 at 12:41pm

Newspapers print crank letters for readers who crave them—like, for instance, you.

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