September 21, 2017
The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Our boss, Robyn Blumner, is in Geneva for the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council, and yesterday she delivered an excellent statement on the persecution of atheists in Malaysia. (Don't let yourself be distracted by the incredibly orange and feathery woman sitting next to Robyn and the confused gentlemen who mills about behind her. You may have to watch it twice, but it's less than 2 minutes, so it's all good.)
In a piece for CFI's Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Harriet Hall looks at the findings about the myth of the male-or-female brain in a new book, Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society, by Cordelia Fine:
Testosterone was traditionally viewed as the biological wellspring of the hormonal essence of masculinity, what Fine calls a “steroid tsunami that destroys all hopes of sexual equality.” Not anymore! Now, no one is suggesting that the testes are a social construction, but the notion of testosterone’s powerful influence has not survived recent scientific investigations. Sure, it does stuff—important stuff. But that stuff is only part of a highly complicated system. Testosterone blood levels are an extremely crude guide to testosterone’s effects on the brain.
This isn't entirely relevant to this blog, but I am schadenfreude-ing all over myself about it: All five of the major network-news organizations have said thanks-but-no-thanks to hiring Sean Spicer as a paid contributor. Unnamed executives say it's all because of Spicer's "lack of credibility." Yeah, that sounds right. (Although, how do they then explain hiring folks like Corey Lewindowsky?)
This is deeply depressing and more than a little frightening: In Pakistan a political party is rising that was sparked into existence by the protests in support of Mumtaz Qadri, bodyguard who killed a provincial governor because of the victim's criticism of the blasphemy law. They are the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan party, and their rallying cry is "death to blasphemers!"
For some reason, EPA dismantler Scott Pruitt feels he needs triple the personal security detail of his predecessors, which coincidentally pulls special agents away from investigating environmental crimes. Hey, as long as Scott feels safe, the world can go ahead and burn, right?
Hemant Mehta is Kickstarter-ing a book written by Camille Beredjick, and edited by him, on why the LGBTQ and atheists movements need each other. It's called Queer Disbelief.
A fellow running for governor of Oklahoma, one Dan Fisher, pledges to ignore the law in regard to abortion rights, sort of promising that he'll abolish abortion with a hatchet or something, saying:
I will disregard any unjust rulings or perversions of the U.S. Constitution that claim that there is a right to murder preborn human beings in the womb.
Dude, your party-in-the-back haircut is preborn. (I'm sorry, that was cheap. I'm cheap.)
Bradley Wright at Christianity Today says new survey data suggests that the binary religious-or-not model may actually be more of a spectrum, with religious "nones," "somes," and "liminals" in between.
The Public Education Department of New Mexico released new science education standards that are weirdly devoid of any mention of evolution, climate change, or the actual freaking age of the planet we live on. As reported by Olivier Uyttebrouck at the Albuquerque Journal:
Christopher Ruszkowski, secretary-designate for the Public Education Department, said the proposal gives New Mexico an opportunity to update its science curriculum in a way that reflects the “diversity of perspectives” in New Mexico.
WHAT? I mean, like...WHAT? In contrast, Kim Johnson, president of the New Mexico Academy of Science, said something sane: "I’m certainly not going to move a high-tech company here, because I’m not going to get a scientifically educated population."
The Santa Fe New Mexican is not happy about this:
For this state — of all states — to adopt even a hint of pseudo-science in its curriculum should be out of the question. ... Politics — and kowtowing to a fundamentalist, conservative base — has no place in our schools. ... [T]hese standards cater to a small slice of New Mexicans, people occupying a place where where dogma trumps science and believers want to impose their views on the rest of us.
Meanwhile, there's some funny business going on with a Los Angeles public school district, in which the district is paying Catholic schools to enroll their students in the public schools' "virtual academy" online program.
John Verhovek at ABC News rounds up the theocratic tantrums that have made up the career of the "twice-removed former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice" Roy Moore. (Sounds like a family tree: "Oh, this is my great-aunt, and this is my Chief Justice twice-removed.")
Here's Trump's pick for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Jeff Mateer, on transgender kids and the devil:
Texas State Senator Dawnna Dukes, a Democrat, is in a lot of trouble for alleged corruption, and also reportedly wasted $51,000 on an online psychic. It's not clear to me whether this was her own money or state funds.
I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity? I mean it just really shows you how Satan's plan is working and the destruction that's going on.
At Slate, David Groff laments the damage done by the late New Age guru Louise Hay, whose pseudoscientific claptrap blamed people for the maladies they suffered ("You had to take responsibility for your 'dis-ease,' as Hay dubbed it, because you caused it.) Her impact was even worse on those who suffered from AIDS in the 1980s, who she made feel responsible for their illness, based on her "fatuous view of the body."
This old white guy wants you to know that Darwin and Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood) are racists, and that evolution as a theory is racist, so he's dressing up like the KKK and saying horrible racist things.
Lawd, lawd, lawd we're so busy around here. Check out the latest Cause & Effect to see what we've been up to. (We've reached issue number 90, so I wonder if I get some kind of award, or get to do a Netflix special, when I write the 100th.)
Quote of the Day:
Seth Breedlove, a filmmaker interested in mythical monsters, has an explanation for today's fascination with Bigfoot and whatnot that rings very true to me. He tells Susan Elizabeth Shepard of the Missoula Independent:
I keep getting asked why Bigfoot and cryptids are big right now, and I honestly think it's the fact that the world as it stands today is so crappy, that there's something very appealing about going out in the woods and looking for something that everyone else says doesn't exist.
Yes. It is so crappy.
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