Things Might Not Turn Out Fine

September 22, 2017

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

It's safe to go to Brigham Young University now. They're letting in Coke and Pepsi.

At Wired, Michelle Dean has a big story on what is a surprising degree of drama and stress (financial, personal, political, etc.) behind the scenes at Snopes.

In this season of brutal hurricanes, Ben Radford reminds us that it was Hurricane Hugo that helped spark the current mythos around the chupacabra, as the creature was believed to have escaped from a lab during the storm:

This explanation, shared by the tabloid media, is widely accepted among Puerto Ricans, that the US government created the chupacabra in a secret laboratory, in a clandestine genetics experiment gone horribly wrong, a sort of Frankenstein-like conspiracy theory. 

At Healthline, Harriet Hall helps explain the dangers of alt-med "home remedies":

“There is no such thing as ‘alternative medicine.’ There is only medicine that has been tested and proven to work, and medicine that hasn’t,” Hall told Healthline. “Alternative medicine is a marketing term, not a scientific one.” 

So it turns out there's an animal without a brain that also sleeps, the jellyfish Cassiopea. Ron Lindsay tweets the connection to current events:

Don't need a brain to sleep so Roy Moore spouts nonsense for only 16 hours a day.  

Speaking of Roy "Sleeping Jellyfish" Moore, the next senator from Alabama (sorry, Luther Strange, you know he's going to beat you) says in a debate what I think should be the United States' tourism slogan: "Crime, corruption, immorality, abortion, sodomy, sexual perversion sweep our land." He makes American sound a lot more fun than it really is.

It's troubling to remember that people like Moore couldn't hold the positions that they do without upsetting stats like this one: 23% of Americans think that being gay should be illegal

You may have heard of this artificial intelligence experiment in which the AI was said to be able to tell whether a person was gay just by analyzing their photo. James Vincent at The Verge raises the red flags:

[S]ome worry we’re reviving an old belief with a bad history: that you can intuit character from appearance. This pseudoscience, physiognomy, was fuel for the scientific racism of the 19th and 20th centuries, and gave moral cover to some of humanity’s worst impulses: to demonize, condemn, and exterminate fellow humans. ...

...  it’s more important than ever that we understand the limitations of artificial intelligence, to try and neutralize dangers before they start impacting people. Before we teach machines our prejudices, we need to first teach ourselves.    

In Australia, where same-sex marriage is going to be voted on, a Christian teenager is fired from her gig with a children's entertainment company for expressing her intention to vote "no" on the issue. Thus the debate begins over whether this was illegal discrimination. 

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook will no longer allow untraceable ads from unidentified parties:

We’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser’s page and see the ads that they are currently running to any audience on Facebook. 

Cosmic rays. They zip around the universe, but until now we didn't know where they originated. Well, now we at least know that they're not coming from inside the galaxy.   

Hey guess who's becoming un-endangered: Sea turtles

🎵 There's a swingin' place I know called....Octopus City... 🎵

Vann R. Newkirk II at The Atlantic commemorates The Hobbit's 80th anniversary with an appreciation for all the things about it that seem outdated in the age of Game of Thrones:

The overwhelming lesson of The Hobbit’s time “between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men” is that things might not turn out fine, but that people can become whole through the effort of making them so. 

Quote of the Day:

John Paul Brammer at BuzzFeed explains why some LGBTQ folks feel a connection to mythical monsters like Mothman and Babadook. He describes an early identification with a certain cast of popular characters: 

Like many other young queer people, I rooted for the villains in Disney movies, who were often coded to have traits similar to mine, like Scar’s dripping sarcasm or Jafar’s fondness for eyeliner. The heroes seemed to have more in common with the people that made my life miserable. They always ended up in a heterosexual relationship, of course — their reward for beating down the queer baddies who had dared to rise above their station. The villains, meanwhile, were always sent back to where they belonged: in hell, or the at bottom of the ocean, or hidden away in a lamp. Out of sight.

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