Future Catastrophes

August 29, 2017

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

Just how bad is Hurricane Harvey? Meteorologist Eric Holthaus writes at Politico:

Harvey is likely already the worst rainstorm in U.S. history. An initial analysis ... compared Harvey’s rainfall intensity to the worst storms in the most downpour-prone region of the United States, the Gulf Coast. Harvey ranks at the top of the list, with a total rainwater output equivalent to 3.6 times the flow of the Mississippi River. (And this is likely an underestimate, because there’s still two days of rains left.) ... disaster economist Kevin Simmons [says] Harvey’s economic toll “will likely exceed Katrina”—the most expensive disaster in U.S. history. Harvey is now the benchmark disaster of record in the United States.

And what it all means:

If we don’t talk about the climate context of Harvey, we won’t be able to prevent future disasters and get to work on that better future. Those of us who know this need to say it loudly. As long as our leaders, in words, and the rest of us, in actions, are OK with incremental solutions to a civilization-defining, global-scale problem, we will continue to stumble toward future catastrophes. Climate change requires us to rethink old systems that we’ve assumed will last forever.  

Grinning megapastor Joel Osteen comes under fire for allegedly closing his palatial church to evacuees. Osteen refutes the claim, saying:

We have never closed our doors. We will continue to be a distribution center to those in need. We are prepared to house people once shelters reach capacity. Lakewood will be a value to the community in the aftermath of this storm.

Hemant Mehta has a good explanation for most of this that is charitable to Osteen and Lakewood. 

Tom Chivers at BuzzFeed has a big report on the torrent of pseudoscientific autism cures being shepherded around the social media bubbles of uninformed and desperate parents.   

As though to make Trumpist dreams come true, masked Antifa agitators attacked right-wing protesters in Berkeley on Sunday, in the midst of a larger "Rally Against Hate" event. One Antifa attacker was reportedly "windmilling kicks," which makes me think these were ninjas, not protesters. Either way, NOT HELPING.

Ben Radford has an interesting piece on the practice of "automatic writing," which is not when Siri is taking dictation, but when self-proclaimed spiritual mediums (media?) claim they can channel the literal words of the dead, usually celebrities. Ben advises, "Ghost hunters and psychic mediums should consider the potential damage they can do to the living (and the legacy of those who have passed) by speaking on behalf of the dead."

Something about my brain makes it very hard for me to comprehend what the hell is going on in statistics beyond the rudimentary stuff (same for maps and directions, economics, and small talk), but Stuart Vyse has a piece in Skeptical Inquirer which looks at how things might get more stringent, as a bunch of scholars and scientists are advocating that scientific journals raise their standard for statistical significance from .05 to .005. Stuart explains what it's all about.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal are filing separate lawsuits against the Trump administration for its military transgender ban. 

Responding to the aftermath of the tumultuous rape conviction of cult leader Ram Rahim, the Hindustan Times gives readers an overview of other cults, including Raelism and Scientology. Look out, you're gonna make Tom Cruise mad.

Iran, meanwhile, considers mystic Mohammad Ali Taheri to be the founder of a cult that has had "deviant" relations with women, and thereby sentences him to death. He had already beaten blasphemy charges in 2014, and may still appeal on this conviction.

Paleontologists identify the 132 million-year-old remains of what is now the oldest known plesiosaurLagenanectes richterae.

Quote of the Day:

Oncologist Suneel D. Kamath writes at STAT about the tragedy of cancer patients who reject science-based treatments with a chance of curing them, and opting instead of alternative medicine, which will not, all because the alternative treatment is "natural":

It is human nature to believe that anything that is “all natural” is intrinsically good. That line of thought can lead people astray. The truth is, cancer is all natural. While some are caused by smoking or chemical exposures, most of them are sporadic, meaning they aren’t caused by any lifestyle factor, food, or chemical exposure. Cholesterol, a major cause of heart attacks and strokes, is natural and even necessary — the body requires it to build cell membranes and the protective covering around nerves. HIV, Ebola, and Zika are all caused by naturally occurring viruses. 

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The Morning Heresy: "I actually read it." - Hemant Mehta


#1 Oro Lee (Guest) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 at 9:12am

Harvey: “Can you hear me now?”

#2 Richard (Guest) on Tuesday August 29, 2017 at 10:05am

As a devoted liberal, I wish Antifa would get lost.

#3 KeithSewell on Wednesday August 30, 2017 at 11:33am

To as many of my fellow freethinkers & atheists as this message my reach: PLEASE, for the sake of the changes that we now so badly need, CLICK ON THIS LINK - http://www.hacktheroot.xyz - and start reading the essay that you will find there. If you start then you will continue; and if the essay’s central idea can be taken ‘viral’ then it will massively enable all of the changes that we desire.

Thanks, and all comments will be appreciated and responded to.

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#5 KeithSewell on Thursday August 31, 2017 at 4:18pm

#4 Standa,
Thanks for your kind response. My present objective is to distribute that URL link as quickly and widely as possible; so if you can think of any way to help then just go for it. Our world seems to be getting crazier by the day, and the social fabric of the US seems to be completely disintegrating under our wonderful president’s wise leadership. I think that ‘Hacking the Root Problem’ could really do some good, but it needs to be gotten out into our public debating arena.
All the best,

#6 Tim (Guest) on Friday September 01, 2017 at 2:42pm

There was a quote in today’s heresy suggesting that Harvey is caused by global warming. We often point to extreme weather and say, “See, global warming.” However, the science does not point to this. Cliff Mass, a professor of weather and climatology at the University of Washington say in his blog that, “Global warming is a serious issue and mankind must deal with it, but hype and exaggeration of the current effects is counterproductive in the long term.” Straying from the science just gives ammunition to those who would like to prove that man-made global warming is not a reality.


#7 KeithSewell on Friday September 01, 2017 at 3:21pm

I think that the broad scientific consensus would be:
‘Harvey’, specifically, was not caused by man-made global warming. But Harvey making landfall as a category 3, and dumping the volume of rain that it did, almost certainly were so caused.
Happily, Irma is now on on a projected course directly towards Mar a Lago. Hopefully its storm surge will coincide with a good high tide. It would be interesting to see the reaction of our Idiot-in-Chief to that.

#8 standa (Guest) on Sunday September 03, 2017 at 2:05am

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