Gloriously Spiky

August 31, 2017

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

The Los Angeles City Council votes to scrap Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. I like it.

After the uproar caused by the rape conviction of Indian mega-guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, Swati Gupta and Vidhi Doshi at The Washington Post seek to understand the prevalence of spiritual movements in India that are outside of the religious mainstream:

In this rapidly industrializing country, “alternative spirituality” persists alongside increasing levels of education and increased economic prosperity, said Ronki Ram, a professor of political science at Panjab University. Sermons from religious teachers are beamed into homes on religious channels, and a number of self-styled “godmen” have amassed fortunes selling branded products. People buy into religious rhetoric, Ram said, because godmen are often charismatic speakers and make their followers feel part of a fraternity. 

Wow, that sounds familiar somehow. After he gets out of prison, Singh should probably run for Prime Minister.

(But could Trump convince 400 men to cut off their own testicles? I'm gonna say yes. Because when you're a star, they let you do it.)

New research shows that a majority of Americans approve of gene editing to treat and prevent disease, but only a third support gene editing to enhance people's abilities (I guess like an Avenger or something). Not surprisingly, those who are "very religious" are least supportive, and the nonreligious are the most enthusiastic. 

This is kind of hilarious. CFI's own Joe Nickell, the world renowned investigator of all things paranormal, wrote a brief review of An Inconvenient Sequel for the CFI blog. This inspired this dude at the wacky-right-wing outlet The Federalist to expend effort dissing Joe for being "credulous" and guilty of "scientism." My guess is that this fellow probably really likes Joe, and had his heart broken when he discovered that Joe accepts the findings of science in areas other than just ghosts and cryptids. Poor guy.

Steve Donoghue at the Christian Science Monitor picks three books that inspire a love of science, including Richard Dawkins' new Science of the Soul. (Attention copy editor: you spelled "compelling" with three L's.) He says:

Dawkins's book ranges from parodies to polemics to ideological tributes to everybody from Charles Darwin to Carl Sagan to Christopher Hitchens, all of it rendered in gloriously spiky and opinionated prose.  

Holy crap: While there has been a lot of debate over evacuation in the Houston area, one city is damned sure it needs to get everybody out...except it's in Germany. 70,000 people will be evacuated from the city of Frankfurt as specialists attempt to defuse a two-ton British World War II era bomb that could still explode, and if it did, would level buildings within a one-kilometer radius. So, holy crap.

Prosperity gospel expert Kate Bowler explains why people hate Joel Osteen so damned much. It comes down to his richer-than-thou gaudiness, the general mistrust of prosperity gospel pitchmen, and the observable fact that there is way too much poverty to convince folks that God wants you to be rich. I think it's the toothy, smug grin he never lets go of, but that's just me. (Bowler says he's a pretty nice guy, which may be entirely true.)

CFI Northeast Ohio is holding its 2017 Humanism Award Banquet on September 29, honoring Frank Zindler with an award, and featuring special guest Ali Rizvi. 

Quote of the Day:

You may have noticed that, as valuable as the New York Times is as an institution, its opinion section is fairly abysmal. (Bret Stephens, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, etc. I mean for jeebus sake, they have an op-ed by Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, arguing that, hey, America needs to hire more private paramilitary contractors to run the Afghanistan forever-war. I wonder if he has a vested interest in that.) At The Outline, Leah Finnegan excoriates the Times' opinion section with aplomb:

The controversial pieces the Opinion section runs under the auspices of fomenting some sort of “conversation” are done so disingenuously. The Times is not furthering useful conversation with these bad and wrong op-eds, it is spraying its readers in the eyes with tear gas and then asking them why they’re screaming. They’re not seeking to upend established, calcified viewpoints, but deliberately instigating anger and spreading disinformation in an insincere attempt to “show both sides.” This is particularly egregious when you consider that, post-Trump, the Times has widely marketed itself as a crusader for capital-T Truth and an essential component of a healthy democracy. But the Times’ version of the Truth is highly subjective, and when it lends credence to vile idiots like Erik Prince or Louise Mensch, it loses any semblance of legitimacy. 

And from earlier in the piece, this was quite a punch in the gut:

Traditional newspapers are by nature conservative, not wanting to believe anything is happening until there is concrete, or official, proof, which marginalizes the oppressed who do not have means of providing such proof. 

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Comments:

#1 SpiderHugger on Thursday August 31, 2017 at 10:53am

“Traditional newspapers are by nature conservative, not wanting to believe anything is happening until there is concrete, or official, proof.”

Yes, those things are called facts. And those are the things that make it worth the price of your subscription. Reporters and editors do the thing that no amount of online loudmouths can accomplish: they verify information. If they get it wrong, readers will know, and will harass them to get it right.

Leah Finnegan, whoever she is, doesn’t seem to have the slightest grasp of how information is collected or disseminated or verified. First clue: she thinks the op-ed section is supposed to enshrine “T-ruth” (whose? hers? mine?). Those are opinions, and they’re right where they need to be.

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