Triumvirate of Delusion

September 15, 2016

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

Kimberly Winston reports on a University of Minnesota study that shows that atheists, while still really unpopular, are now slightly less disliked than Muslims. I do not feel at all good about this minor change in favorability. Also interesting, "nones" (the religiously unaffiliated as opposed to straight-up atheists) are mistrusted by 12 percent of Americans, and 40 percent of Americans says the rise in "nones" is "not a good thing."

Relatedly, Kelsey Dallas at Deseret News notes that the Democratic Party is becoming religiously-unaffiliated at a faster clip than the public at large. And Amanda Abrams at WaPo looks at the growing phenomenon in D.C. of non-denominational churches aimed at millennials and, yes, "nones." Weirdly, the word "Unitarian" never appears in the article.

Now we know what happens when Jesus Christ comes into an Apple Store: SECTARIAN CONFLICT!!! Only ONE can be the TRUE RELIGION.

Also in silly news, Donald Trump goes on the Dr. Oz show. You just need to put Ray Comfort up there with them and you'd have a Triumvirate of Delusion. (Oz is totally Lepidus.) Natasha Geiling at ThinkProgress explains why Trump going on Oz's show is entirely appropriate:

Dr. Oz is a proven peddler of pseudoscience and misinformation. It’s also absolutely perfect, because Dr. Oz and Donald Trump are more similar than you might think — both are entertainers that have convinced millions of Americans to buy the expertise they are selling. ... 

Like Trump, Oz is a man that has turned his professional past into a career in entertainment. Ultimately, both men leverage that fame to sell a product — in Trump’s case that product is, ostensibly, wealth and success. In Oz’s case, that product is ostensibly health. But in both cases, the product that the consumer is really buying is little more than a name.  

Lawrence Krauss (coming to CSICon!) is prolific at The New Yorker this week! He's got his own reaction to Trump's answers to the questionnaire ("There is something here for everyone, because every view, no matter how inconsistent, is presented somewhere.") and then takes on the House Science Committee, led by the zealot Lamar Smith, who loves to subpoena the scientific community, looking for someone to tarnish:

By attempting to intimidate government scientists and environmental organizations that are simply trying to communicate their results, Smith and his committee are demonstrating that the healthy functioning of our democracy is less important to them than the advancement of their ideological agenda. 

Joe Nickell displays another part of his vintage quackery collection, Fink's Magic Oil from the late 19th century. "What was magical about Fink’s oil? Its secret ingredient was alcohol—at 87%, a whopping amount even by patent-medicine standards." 

Big Pharma buys Big Ag, as Bayer takes over Monsanto. (As someone on Twitter put it, I forget who, it's "Big Farma.") I'm sure this won't bother the anti-vax, anti-GMO, alt-med types at all.

Forget that, check out Big God: According to a study in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, faith-based business in the US earns $378 billion a year in revenue, beating out Facebook, Google, and Apple combined. Imagine how much more it would be if the tyrants in Washington would stop oppressing religious liberty!

The Secular Coalition updates their presidential scorecard with grades for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. Johnson wins a B, and Jill Stein gets an A. Wait, wait, wait. An A? Well, they're judging on church-state issues mainly, and nothing about vaccines or GMOs.

At Politico, Graeme Wood talks to Rukmini Callimachi, a journalist who has been on the ground with ISIS and its followers, and says this of their motivations: 

People who have left the group talk about how a religious inspiration took them to ISIS. It was their feeling of being marginalized as Muslims in the society where they were living, and then buying into the promise of a caliphate and of a Muslim land that is governed as in the time of the prophet. I have yet to meet anybody, or speak to anybody, who was not religiously motivated at some level. There are other things: the excitement of taking part in a war, a sense of belonging. 

The Dawkins Foundation newsletter this week asks an important question. After his derision of Daniel Radcliffe for being an atheist, the newsletter asks, "What the hell is wrong with John Kasich?" 

Canada is going to legalize prescription heroin for the purpose of treating heroin addiction. Here's the really novel part: It's a treatment based on actual evidence. 

The European Space Agency presents a map of one billion stars

Digging deep into South African mines, with no access to light or warmth from the Sun, scientists discover microbes and worms flourishing in the same conditions that exist on Mars

Former Jehovah’s Witness Lloyd Evans has a new book about his experience, The Reluctant Apostate

Sigh. We're bummed because it turns out Lyz Liddell won't be working with us as planned. But I must say, feeling exhausted and burned out in professional skepto-atheism? Yeah, I get that. Best of luck Lyz. Can't wait to see what you decide to kick ass at next. 

Quote of the Day

This is from April, but it's the first I've seen it. "Dr. ZDogg M.D." explains how the anti-vax movement helped him see the light:

Now the people who brought this to my attention were the anti-vaccine advocates who were brave enough to come to my Facebook page and weather the storm of criticism from highly educated, highly trained medical professionals who thought they were crazy. But they let me know that despite my four years of UCSF Medical School education, three years of Stanford internal medicine training, and ten years of experience practicing medicine, understanding immunology and epidemiology, that I still hadn't done "my own research."

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#1 Randy (Guest) on Thursday September 15, 2016 at 1:38pm

“What the hell is wrong with John Kasich”

I’m going with “still grumpy after losing to the orangutan”.  Really, any human would be…, right?

#2 Randy (Guest) on Thursday September 15, 2016 at 1:47pm

“they’re judging on church-state issues mainly”

And that’s a problem.  Not only does it ignore issues such as you mentioned that matter to skeptics and rationalists (and ought to matter to atheists), but it also ignores the blatant embrace of religion by Clinton and the resultant pandering to the religious and failure to even acknowledge atheists.

How does a candidate get an *A* for ignoring the question about whether she would appoint a nontheist to a leadership position?  Skipped questions should count as zero points.

How does a candidate get an “A” for saying that healthcare decisions should be made by “...[a person’s] *faith*, with the counsel of [a] doctor”?! 

In my view, this organization has no credibility in evaluating candidates.

#3 Randy (Guest) on Thursday September 15, 2016 at 1:53pm

“There is something here for everyone, because every view, no matter how inconsistent, is presented somewhere”

It’s amazing how well this works for Trump.  And it’s terrifying what it means for politics, even if he loses.  This approach is now viable.  I think it’s a long-form pre-emptive Gish Gallop.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Thursday September 15, 2016 at 1:57pm

“Democratic Party is becoming religiously-unaffiliated”

This is good, but it is not great.  Without competition between the major parties, atheists and other nones will continue to be ignored.

Like it or not, atheists must do more to make a home in the Republican Party.

#5 Randy (Guest) on Thursday September 15, 2016 at 1:59pm

“40 percent of Americans says the rise in ‘nones’ is ‘not a good thing.’”

Ironically, just like with climate change, their continued actions will result in an increase.

#6 Mario (Guest) on Thursday September 15, 2016 at 2:38pm

“Digging deep into South African mines, with no access to light or warmth from the Sun, scientists….”

If these scientists are able to survive with no access to light or warmth from the Sun, then all they’d need to live on Mars would be air.  So why haven’t they been sent to colonize that planet? 

Seems like a major missed opportunity to me.

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