Great Benefits Upon Future Inhabitants

September 18, 2017

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

Kimberly Winston, reporting on an Annenberg study, writes an excellent and accurate lede for some ugly news. Emphasis mine:

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans incorrectly believe that Muslim citizens don’t have the same First Amendment rights as other American citizens. Also incorrectly, 1 in 7 believe that atheists aren’t protected by those rights. 

In less than a week, the world will end. I know this because David Meade told us that since September 23 is 33 days after the solar eclipse, Nibiru is now set to come to Earth "bringing fire, storms and other types of destruction." Ha ha, joke's on him: We humans can bring plenty of fire, storms, and other types of destruction just fine on our own. We don't need no help from no Nibiru.

Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress keeps up the reporting on the GOP's sneaky efforts to neutralize the Johnson Amendment, and allow churches to become defacto super-PACs. Last week, the House passed the appropriations bill that included the provision about churches and politicking, and Jenkens cites CFI in his update. 

This isn't how it's supposed to go, and yet: PRRI has a new survey showing that since 2011, Catholics, white mainline Protestants, and especially white evangelicals have all become far less concerned about the moral comportment of elected leaders. White Evangelicals went from 30% saying that private immoral conduct does not prevent an official from fulfilling their public duties in 2011 to 72% in 2016. On the flip side, it's the "nones" who moved closer to the belief that personal immorality is a detriment to an elected official's abilities. 

Apparently the extremely rich and famous people working in the TV industry mass-congratulated themselves again for their wealth and fame with the Emmy ceremony. The Handmaid's Tale did very well, which is sort of relevant to this blog. Also, the Emmys didn't seem to have any problem with bringing on a man who used to be the prime mouthpiece for the misinformation we are all trying to work against, Sean Spicer. Ha ha. So funny. 

Remember last week that stuff about Facebook enabling racists to target ads at other racists? Looks like Google is not doing much better. Actually, it's quite bad. Alex Kantrowitz at BuzzFeed reports:

Google, the world's biggest advertising platform, allows advertisers to specifically target ads to people typing racist and bigoted terms into its search bar, BuzzFeed News has discovered. Not only that, Google will suggest additional racist and bigoted terms once you type some into its ad-buying tool.

John McCain strikes again, joining a bipartisan effort to block Trump's transgender ban in the military. 

Eric Boodman at STAT writes about the truly loathsome industry of scammy predatory journals:

With legitimate open-access journals, researchers pay a fee to cover the costs of publishing so that readers everywhere are able to peruse the article for free. But just as the Venus fly trap uses a food-like smell to lure insects, so predatory journals uses the trappings of open access to get money from unsuspecting or desperate researchers without providing services in return. 

Them Satanists are some busy bees, and right now they're suing the state of Missouri, saying its draconian anti-abortion laws violate Satanic religious freedom

Three Catholic priests in Newark, NJ are accused of the sexual abuse of children -- Rev. Michael Walters and the late Revs. Robert Gibney and William Giblin -- and the Archdiocese of Newark succeeds in getting a protective order to shield their personnel files from the public.

The Catholic University of America cancels an upcoming talk by Rev. James Martin, editor of America magazine, because he was going to talk about being nicer to gays. OUT YOU GO, SIR! WE'LL HAVE NONE OF THAT. 

Speaking of which, Andrew Sullivan calls out the religious right for its obsession with gayness:

God’s creation — a function, we now know, of evolution and natural selection — is more complex, and more wonderful and diverse, than most of us used to understand. ... All this constant rhetoric of loving us is therefore phony. You can’t love people without respecting them. You can’t welcome people you are simultaneously dehumanizing and writing out of creation.

There is some interesting hubbub over Democrats' treatment of judicial nominees when it comes to "religious tests." Sen. Dianne Feinstein took some heat for saying to Appeals nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic:

When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.

So Feinstein tells National Review:

I have never and will never apply a religious litmus test to nominees — nominees of all religious faiths are capable of setting aside their religious beliefs while on the bench and applying the Constitution, laws and Supreme Court precedents. However, I try to scrutinize nominees’ records to understand whether they are committed to being impartial and whether they can faithfully apply precedent. ... Senators must inquire about these issues when considering lifetime appointments because ensuring impartiality and fidelity to precedent are critical for the rule of law. 

Citing some other examples from Sens. Durbin and Sanders, Alan Jacobs (a deeply religious, center-right fellow) has this to say:

What all these lines of senatorial questioning have in common is an open revulsion towards people for whom religious belief is consequential. It doesn’t really matter what you think the consequences are, or whether they bear on your job in any way: if you simply think that your religious beliefs matter, that is sufficient to bring you under suspicion.

A Christian man in Pakistan, Nadeem James, is sentenced to death for blasphemy allegedly committed over WhatsApp, who his lawyer claims was the victim of a "friend" who was upset he was dating a Muslim woman.

Tyler Henry thinks he predicted the death of Alan Thicke with his ghost-mind-powers. Susan Gerbic goes after the grief vampire.

This is no surprise, and yet it is a sad reminder of the Fall of All Things: EPA dismantler Scott Pruitt will get to replace 15 members of the agency's Science Advisory Board, and the list of possibilities includes folks who, for example, assert that rising greenhouse gases will "confer great benefits upon future inhabitants of the globe." By "future inhabitants" I assume he means cockroaches or self-aware machines. 

However, in the UK, the Independent Press Standards Organization, which is a "self-policing" watchdog group for the British press, says The Mail "failed to take care over the accuracy of [its] article" claiming that U.S. climate scientists were making up data to push the global warming narrative.

And now Trump might not pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement? Or will? Who knows anymore. 

Seth Andrews and Matt Dillahunty go to the Ark Encounter and you'll never guess what happens next. (Actually you will. Guess what happens.)

Andy Hill says fellow atheists should go to church for "the feeling of community, a link with older generations, and an anchor in my schedule." No thanks, I'm good. Other stuff going on.

While we're all mourning the loss of Cassini, we can check out this seminar with Carolyn Porco for The Long Now Foundation on life beyond Earth.

Quote of the Day:

This opening paragraph from a Scientific American/Quanta article on "infinities," because it makes my brain get all twisty:

In a breakthrough that disproves decades of conventional wisdom, two mathematicians have shown that two different variants of infinity are actually the same size. The advance touches on one of the most famous and intractable problems in mathematics: whether there exist infinities between the infinite size of the natural numbers and the larger infinite size of the real numbers. 

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