Embittered Punitive Nitpicking

August 24, 2017

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

CFI and our legal director Nick Little are front and center in this Deseret News piece by Kelsey Dallas. She reports on our community's efforts to be included in the process of policymaking, particularly regarding religion and international religious freedom. "We will stand with coalitions and groups defending Christians around the world," said Nick, "and it's also important that the U.S. opposes atheists being threatened." 

I urge you to read at least the lead article from this fortnight's Cause & Effect, because it spurred a small handful of folks to write me angry emails about how deluded I was concerning the obvious #fakenews about the white supremacists in Charlottesville, and how it was really the "alt-left" that was to blame. When I make these people mad, I know I did something right. 

More from the gaping abyss of bigotry coming from Pennsylvania Avenue: The White House has now laid out its guidelines for banning transgender Americans from the U.S. military, and empowering the Secretary of Defense to kick out existing transgender servicemembers. 

Meanwhile, 54% of Trump's supporters think that whites and Christians are the most oppressed group in America. I can't even. 

A study of the conversations held among economists on anonymous online message boards shows what the New York Times reports as "outright hostility toward women" in the profession.

And as if that's not bad enough, you know who else is crappy toward women? Computers. By that I mean machine learning systems that are exacerbating stereotypes of women through image-recognition software. Wired reports:

Two prominent research-image collections—including one supported by Microsoft and Facebook—display a predictable gender bias in their depiction of activities such as cooking and sports. Images of shopping and washing are linked to women, for example, while coaching and shooting are tied to men. 

Leo Igwe, in Nigeria's The Guardian, says the superstitious and witchcraft-obsessed caricature of Africa doesn't do justice to the skeptical side of the continent's people:

I am interested in another Africa, the questioning Africa or, better, the critical and inquisitive Africa. This is the Africa that thirsts for explanations, answers and truths. The Africa that is not contented with received wisdom and seeks to understand the source and credibility of the said wisdom. I am fascinated by the debating, questing Africa, the Africa that doubts and disbelieves; the Africa that challenges claims and demands evidence for claims. 

The man nominated by Trump to become the USDA's chief scientist, Sam Clovis, is not a scientist but an ignoramus who says stuff like this:

If we protect LGBT behavior, what other behaviors are we going to protect? Are we going to protect pedophilia? Are we going to protect polyamorous marriage relationships? Are we going to protect people who have fetishes? What’s the logical extension of this?

He's like a way-dumber Rick Santorum. 

A science advisor to the State Department, Dr. Daniel M. Kammen, resigns in protest over Trump's public sympathies for white supremacists, encoding into his message, using the first letters of each paragraph, the word "IMPEACH."

So that permafrost in Alaska? Not so "perma" anymore

Sarah Jones at The New Republic examines whether it still makes sense to champion free speech absolutism, after the ACLU backs the white supremacists' right to march, but reverses course when they bring their weapons:

If anything, this political climate chills free speech for those on the left, not white supremacists. ... [Free speech absolutism] has to be bolstered by strong cultural norms, including a consensus that the president must not legitimize and amplify the speech of those who openly bear the swastika and believe that other races are inferior to the white race. 

The organization Truth In Advertising is filing a formal complaint with regulators in California against Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop business, citing "deceptive health and disease-treatment claims to promote products in violation of the law."  

Kimberly Winston talks to St. Lawrence University's Damon T. Berry, author of a new book on the overlap of Christianity and white supremacy, Blood & Faith

Kimberly also fact-checks the claims that the eclipse caused a cross of light to shine over the Moon. Yeah, no. 

This will surprise you not at all: Some Trump supporters believe the violence in Charlottesville was a false-flag conspiracy. And how do they know this?

Asked what he meant by having seen the information "all over the place," [Trump supporter Robert] McCarthy said he had see "a lot of it on Facebook" -- a source he said he trusts far more than the mainstream media, despite the fact that he couldn't necessarily trace the origins or source of the videos he was watching or information he was reading. 

FFRF asks Marco Rubio to stop tweeting Bible verses, saying that anything coming from that account is government speech, and therefor endorsing religion. Our former boss Ron Lindsay disagrees, saying, "An individual legislator is not the government." Ron clarifies that he is not at all endorsing Rubio's actions, adding, "But it's a moral failing not a legal one."

CFI intern Vicki Smith writes about some of the things she's learned while working with us:

I had not thought of skepticism in particular as a movement due to my focus on atheism, and the way skepticism is approached at CFI was something I admired immediately. I realized my background in science had already taught me about critical thinking and skepticism in a way that could as easily be applied to any unfounded claim. I became more passionate about science education and skepticism over the summer, and how my biochemistry and research experience could be used to promote the values I care about. 

Denis Hart, Archbishop of Melbourne, urges Australian Catholics to reject a "postal survey" measure on the legalization of same-sex marriage. "Yes, human rights are important," he says, I have to assume with a smirk. "But so are human responsibilities." Whatever.

I already don't really understand what a gravitational wave actually is, though I do understand that confirming their existence was a big deal. Well now New Scientist is reporting that a second variety of gravitational wave may have been discovered, born not of colliding black holes, but neutron stars. 

Max Tegmark has a new book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Haym Hirsh reviews it for Science.

Benjamin Radford reviews Robert Sheaffer's book Bad UFOs: Critical Thinking About UFO Claims for Skeptical Inquirer

So there's this really expensive skin cream, which was apparently invented by this guy Max Huber, and he's dead, and Estée Lauder hired a psychic medium to contact him? I think?  

If you think you saw alien spaceships in the sky over Russia in 1967, 1. I have some questions about what you were doing there to begin with, and 2. What you saw was probably a secret Soviet first-strike missile called "FOBS." Hehe. FOBS.

Michelle Bachmann is establishing a ministry to the UN, and it's not because she's decided to embrace diverse cultures:

I don’t know a darker, more deceived place on earth than the U.N. Because as we saw at the Tower of Babel, that’s probably the last time when we saw all the nations of the earth come together in a moment of deception … Their goal has been from the very beginning, the creation of a one-world order; but not a one-world order under the umbrella of the Holy Spirit, a man’s attempt at a one-world order that only brings about chaos, confusion, deception, delusion, pain.

I dunno, that last part sounds a lot like the Trump administration. But what do I know? I'm just a globalist cuck.

Quote of the Day:

Here's something I wouldn't have expected even a couple of years ago. The Washington Post publishes an op-ed by Lucien Greaves, co-founder of the Satanic Temple, in which Greaves pushes back against those blaming Satanism for the crimes of white supremacists:

In allowing the colloquial use of “Satanic” to stand unopposed as a blanket term to describe all that is reprehensible and morally corrupt, one also tacitly affirms the implied opposite, that Christianity defines all that is just and morally sound. Correcting this assumption is more than a matter of embittered punitive nitpicking; it’s a matter of maintaining fidelity to historical facts so that we might more appropriately confront the dire issues of the present. ...

Blaming “Satan” for any misdeeds, real or imagined, has never been a victimless crime. ... Trump’s own conspiracy scapegoating, his cozy relationship with deranged paranoia-mongers and his near unanimous support among evangelicals have all unquestionably contributed to the increasing flagrance of the racist right. Blaming Satanism for Charlottesville only adds fuel to the growing flames of conspiracist unreason while shifting responsibility from where it properly belongs. 

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Comments:

#1 SpiderHugger on Thursday August 24, 2017 at 8:54am

Yes, “it still makes sense to champion free speech absolutism.” Free speech has never lacked for enemies, and the ones we’re panicking about today are few in number and hemmed in by strong laws. The free speech we protect today is our descendants’ birthright; we are cowards if we throw it away for an illusion of purity or security.

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