A Dream of Purity in a Toxic World

September 5, 2017

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

Happy Tuesday-acting-like-a-Monday. I was at a wedding on Friday, and then we were off for Labor Day, so there's four days of news to catch up on here. I should have gotten up earlier. (HA HA HA cough cough HA HA HA)

Brandon Withrow at The Daily Beast does a deep dive into the study done by Will Gervais and others on people's biases against atheists (you know, serial killers and whatnot), exploring the nonbeliever's point of view on morality without God. In doing so, he talks to several folks in the CFI Cinematic Universe (CSICon 2017: Infinity War is coming soon!) including Richard Dawkins, CFI Northeast Ohio chief Monette Richards, and recent Point of Inquiry guest James Croft

Let's all look at Canada in admiration -- again -- for helping gay and lesbian Chechnyans, terrorized by arrests, beatings, and torture at the hands of law enforcement, to get the heck out of Dodge and safely into the Great White North. 

Now back to our cold, cruel reality. Trump will nominate Rep. Jim Bridenstine, Republican of Oklahoma, to head NASA. Bridenstine (I checked, and his name does not mean he is the bride of Frankenstein) has no science credentials whatsoever, the opposite in fact. Not only does he deny the fact of climate change, he has demanded that President Obama apologize for climate research. Former Obama science advisor John Holdren said this about Bridenstine:

Bridenstine’s stance on climate change reveals him to be a fact-averse, scientifically illiterate ideologue and a danger, if confirmed by the Senate, to NASA’s leadership in space science and Earth science alike. 

So that's really gonna suck. You know who agrees with me? Florida's two senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio. Rubio said, "I just think it could be devastating for the space program."

When does crap like this stop? A baby girl gets lead poisoning from a "homeopathic magnetic hematite healing bracelet" that the parents bought for teething. Parents, please, you have to stop. 

Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says anti-vaccine campaigner Kent Heckenlively​ (who says he's the "world's number one anti-vaxxer") is not allowed into the country:

We're not going to allow him to come here. These people who are telling parents that their kids shouldn't be vaccinated are dangerous. We have been very careful in having a look right through this particular case and it's clear to me that it's not in our national interest that he should come here. 

Hebdo's gonna Hebdo. French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo's cover features Nazis being drowned by flood waters, with a declaration that translates as "God exists! He drowned all the neo-Nazis of Texas!"  

Roy Zimmerman, skeptic parodist, does his take on Dolly Parton's "Jolene" (which I coincidentally heard for the first time this weekend) with a ballad to Joel Osteen

A new study of the fascinating TRAPPIST-1 planets shows that there might very well be enough liquid water on one or more of them for life. Calla Cofield at Space.com reports, "It's possible that the planets were initially so rich in liquid water that, even with the water loss caused by UV radiation, they haven't dried up."

Tabby's Star, meanwhile, still probably isn't accompanied by an alien megastructure (darn it), and is instead just surrounded by clouds of dust. (Maybe it's alien mega-dust!!! Ever think of that, geniuses??)

We have a new update from our beloved Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science, with new workshops coming in Nebraska and Virginia.

They don't like it when you leave the faith and start telling its secrets. No, I'm not talking about Scientology, but naturopathy. Britt Hermes deals with the chest-thumping of a likely cancer-quack, one Colleen Huber.

I missed this when it was published last month, but The Guardian has a long piece by Bee Wilson on the "clean eating" fad, which she says "is perhaps best seen as a dysfunctional response to a still more dysfunctional food supply: a dream of purity in a toxic world."

Relatedly, journalist Brigid Delaney experimented on herself to see what the deal is with all these "wellness" products that have flooded the market and culture, and we have an interview with her by Kylie Sturgess.

Aravindan Neelakandan of India's Swarajya reviews Dawkins' Science in the Soul (at length!), and concludes:

One can disagree with Richard Dawkins on many things. ... But what Dawkins has done in this book is that he unmistakably takes forward, in an uncompromising way, the light of that lamp of science amid the darkness of competing fundamentalism and anti-science denial of even climate change from high places. In this, he continues the legacy of Carl Sagan, though of course, in a more combative mode. 

Israeli-American mathematician Amir Aczel insists that science can't disprove God, and goes after Richard Dawkins and other "militant secularists" by comparing them to BIG PHARMA SHILLS. Sorry, no.

The U.S. Bishops sound almost like Bernie Sanders in their support of unions and against income inequality in their Labor Day statement, also making clear that wage disparity makes it harder for working people to do things like attend church.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Ireland, Nuala McAllister, is an atheist. Thus, at a dinner welcoming her to the job, she didn't kick things off by saying grace. So of course the world is going to end.

Hey, why do Evangelicals still back Trump? Gary Abernathy looks into it:

[One] minister said he grows tired of hearing criticism of Trump on character issues. In the Bible and throughout history, “God uses rulers who aren’t themselves godly,” he said, pointing to the Old Testament example of David, a murderer and adulterer whom God later made king and eventually called “a man after my own heart.” 

BBC tells the story of when, 50 years ago, six "flying saucers" were found "crashed" on the Isle of Sheppey in England. It was a prank intended to test the government's response to a real alien discovery.  

Things could get nutty on Earth in 1.3 million years, when our solar system gets way too close to the star Gliese 710.

Quote of the Day:

This is SO COOL. The amazing Cassini spacecraft is 10 days away from plummeting to its death in the cloudy depths of Saturn. But, like, why are we making it do that? Sarah Kaplan at the Washington Post explains:

The craft couldn't be left to float around in space, on the off chance that it might be knocked out of orbit and crash into one of the potentially habitable moons [Titan and Enceladus]. If that happened, Cassini could potentially contaminate those worlds with Earthling microbes. 

THAT'S PRETTY AWESOME WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT.

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