Misinterpreted as Marketing

September 20, 2016

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

Holy freaking crap: Pigeons can READ:

After narrowing down to the four brightest birds out of 18, over eight months of training, the advanced-class pigeons were taught to distinguish four-letter words from non-words. They were even able to tell the difference between correctly spelled words and those with transposed characters, like “very” and “vrey," or words with different letters included to make them completely misspelled. In these instances, "the pigeons’ performance is actually more comparable to that of literate humans than baboons’ performance," the study authors write. By the end of the experiment, the pigeons learned to discriminate between 26 and 58 words. Hopefully none of them include "world" or "domination."

The suspect in the Manhattan and New Jersey bombings, Ahmad Khan Rahami, is said to have undergone a religious change in recent years following a long visit to Afghanistan:

When he returned, some patrons [of his restaurant] noticed a certain transformation. He grew a beard and exchanged his typical wardrobe of T-shirts and sweatpants for traditional Muslim robes. He began to pray in the back of the store. His previous genial bearing turned more stern. 

Climate change is going to be the cause of a lot of human migration, and we have a lot to do to figure out how to deal with it all. That's one of the themes of the latest episode of Point of Inquiry, where Josh Zepps talks to geographer Barry Vann about the coming population shifts.  

(And Phil Plait reminds us that yes, climate change does affect the weather.) 

Andy Greenberg at Wired reports on Google's Jigsaw project, which aims to solve "the free-speech paradox" of curtailing online abuse, cutting off violent extremist recruitment, as well as stopping attempts to stifle free expression. 

Oklahoma voters will soon be deciding on State Question 790, which would remove language from the state constitution that bars state funding of religion. You know who's not happy about this? Clergy:

“Any time money begins to flow from the coffers of the state, there are strings attached to that money,” said [Mitch] Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman. “I don't think churches have thought through the dynamics of this state question.” 

Donald Trump: The candidate who will stand up to the menace of free expression

A lot of new sites are being added to the Freethought Trail in West-Central New York! Here's some info on "Obadiah Dogberry" (actually Abner Cole) and his freethought newspaper The Reflector.

Something called Media Bias/Fact Check purports to measure the degree of partisan or ideological slant from a given news source. Well CFI is listed there, much to our surprise, and much to MY surprise, we are considered to be "Least Biased." Wow! I thought for sure we'd be pretty biased in favor of things like facts, data, and reason.

David Sherfinski at Washington Times looks at the rise of the nontheist voting bloc and nontheist candidates. 

Billy Graham (or whoever it is that writes under his name these days) says to pray for your atheist friend and ask "God to convict him of his sin and pride." How sweet. 

Kyle Campbell, a senior at the University of Alabama, makes the case for disinviting alt-right showhorse Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking. Not because he disagrees with his speech (though he does), but because he's detrimental to the very purpose of a university:

Though I am a progressive, I would never call for the disinviting of a conservative economist or politician or professor. ... But universities exist primarily to educate, and nothing about Milo’s writings are educational. Inviting a sixth grader to make “your mom” and “women belong in the kitchen” jokes would be equally valuable to our academic community. We don’t allow our professors to teach homeopathy or astrology in the name of “free speech,” because it is the role of an institution of higher learning to ensure students graduate with a worldview compatible with reality. Milo’s pseudoscientific views on race and gender are historically even more dangerous than the anti-vaccine movement is today ... Milo exercises his First Amendment rights the way mass shooters exercise their Second Amendment rights, with a blatant disregard for the well being of those around him. 

CFI–L.A.'s Jim Underdown is the guest on the Geeks & Ghosts podcast

The "Amazing" Atheist, TJ Kirk, says go vote for Trump. Hemant Mehta literally can't even:

Kirk doesn’t care about whether Trump is elected. His life and his well-being have little riding on the decision. If the world burns, his bubble won’t be affected. For the rest of us, though, this isn’t a game. ... If you want to make a case for Trump, then make a real case. Show us that you understand the issues and prove that his ideas — which rarely go into detail and which are widely derided — make more sense than hers. Tell us why science and civil rights and critical thinking and reason mean nothing to you as an atheist.

Father Gabriele Amorth, performer of over 70,000 exorcisms, is dead at 91. 70,000??? At some point, you're just phoning it in, right?  

Quote of the Day

I assume that by now you know about Donald Trump Jr.'s tweet comparing terrorists-hiding-among-Syrian-refugees to a poisoned Skittle. BBC reminds us that while we have a 1 in 3408 chance of choking on our food (including Skittles), we have a 1 in 3,640,000,000 chance of being killed by a refugee terrorist. Skittles itself (actually Denise Young, a spokesperson for Wrigley) released a response to the whole kerfuffle:

Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don't feel it's an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing. 

"Refugees are people." We agree. But maybe now that it's been said by a candy, we'll listen. 

* * *

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.

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


#1 SpiderHugger on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 11:47am

The Kyle Campbell essay was hilarious. It’s always a treat to see the creative ways people have of trying to explain their aversion to free speech. Of course, after all the throat-clearing about free expression he’s still saying “Disinvite this guy because he’s wrong,” the same old message plaguing campuses and shutting down young minds across the land. But points for florid earnestness.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:03pm

“Refugees are people”

So are murderers.  Is there some point here?

#3 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:07pm

By the way, we shouldn’t forget where the Skittles thing came from.  It is based on the M&M’s propaganda from feminists.  “Imagine a bowl of M&Ms;. 10% of them are poisoned”.  This image meme was used to justify the claim that all men should be treated as rapists.  Funny how regressives are OK when the target is men (sex being a theoretically protected characteristic) but not when it’s immigrants from a region where our values are held in low regard.

#4 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:08pm

“Kirk doesn’t care about whether Trump is elected”

Does Hemant now have mind-reading powers, or did Kirk actually say this?

#5 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:13pm

“nontheist voting bloc”

Thanks for the laugh of the day!  There are nontheists, but we are by no means a “bloc”, and even if we were, nobody is listening to us.  Nobody.

To be a bloc, we need to be honest about what our issues actually are (hint: not pronouns) and get involved in both major parties.

#6 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:17pm

“nothing about Milo’s writings are educational”

That’s simply absurd.  First, Milo is a comedian, and comedy is certainly valid on campus (so far).  But second, most of the issues he raises are real and his positions tend to be correct.  He’s very broad, and that necessarily results in him not being very deep.  That’s not what he does.

I’m not saying Milo is a great guy.  He’s a coward, a liar, and perhaps a financial fraud (time will tell).  But he is correct on many of the issues he brings to campus.

#7 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:36pm

“We don’t allow our professors to teach homeopathy or astrology”

Really?  Because your 17th Annual Rural Health Conference held there last April included “complementary” (i.e. alternative, i.e. NOT) medicine.

#8 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:40pm

“I thought for sure we’d be pretty biased in favor of things like facts, data, and reason”

You (CFI) have a liberal/left bias, and it’s not hard to detect.  However, that’s regarded as “neutral” these days.

You’re a bit (maybe exactly) like a church trying to obey the IRS campaigning rules.  You can’t say it, but we all know what the bias is through what you talk about, and how you organize.

#9 Randy (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 2:45pm

“the free-speech paradox”

The only paradox is that almost every person who is for “free speech” has failed to define the term, and doesn’t actually believe in it, under any definition, anyway.

People only support the freedom to say what they want to say, or what they want to hear. 

Almost nobody supports the freedom to say things they don’t want said.  Oh sure, they say they do…. But you can test this by saying things they don’t want said. 

To your credit, I’m sure you don’t like much of what I say, but as far as I know, I have not been censored.  Then again, I don’t check…

#10 Mario (Guest) on Tuesday September 20, 2016 at 9:49pm

Religion reporting in 2016:  “Nones blah blah blah blah, nones blah blah blah blah, nones blah blah blah blah….”

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