October 20, 2017


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

Happy 50th birthday, fake Bigfoot footage.

Smarmy-faced Nazi dirtbag Richard Spencer came to the University of Florida yesterday, and all but select journalists were kept from bringing anything like notebooks or writing utensils into the venue. Nonetheless, somehow the LA Times reports:

Spencer initially protested the boos as suppression of his speech but later began taking questions from audience members who variously asked why he hadn’t left yet or how he could form a white ethno-state without performing violent ethnic cleansing. 

Hey, yeah, good question. No answer here, though.

Florida’s Alligator Brewing company encouraged UF students to get as many of the free tickets to the event as possible, and then to come in and trade them for free beer. The tickets would then be destroyed, with the goal of leaving Spencer with the sparsest possible crowd. “We unfortunately can’t stop him from bringing his hate to Gainesville,” the brewery posted. “But we can empty the room so his disgusting message goes unheard.”

In two totally unrelated events, former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama excoriate the political atmosphere fomented by Trump, without ever mentioning the current president. It seems Obama’s speech was a more traditional energize-the-base kind of thing, but Bush’s was something else. Here’s a line that perked my ears:

Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.

Obama, I should note, also used that same word. Not blasphemy: “The world is looking to us as an example. The world asks what our values and ideals are and are we living up to our creed.”

At the Al Smith Dinner, Paul Ryan makes jokes about the horrible things the president he backs does, ha ha, and makes this oh so clever observation:

Steve Bannon says I was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation. … Amazing. No one knew Steve believed in science.

Somewhat dampening the impact of this zinger is the fact that Paul Ryan doesn’t believe in science either. So, you know, ha ha ha we’re all gonna die.

11-year-old seventh grader Gitanjali Rao has invented a device that can detect lead in water more quickly than existing tools, and she won $25,000 for her efforts. Hell yes.

Now available online is the great Skeptical Inquirer cover feature on the politicization of science by Jeanne Goldberg. 

Dawkins and Krauss are going to be touring in New Zealand next year, and I’m sure they want to bring me along so I can be where they filmed Lord of the Rings and among my people of the Shire. (I’m sorry, New Zealand, for generalizing your entire country as a movie set.) 

Terry Stawar at Indiana’s News and Tribune goes over some explanations for ghost sightings, and wisely cites our own Joe Nickell.

VidAngel, a company that “filters” movies to make “clean” versions of them, files for Chapter 11 after getting sued into oblivion by the studios. This reminds me of what one of the student actors in the play tI’m directing old me, that a high school put on a production of RENT, but wasn’t allowed to mention AIDS, so they changed AIDS to diabetes. Yes, that’s right. La Vie Ho-hum.

Excerpted from her book Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change, Ashley Dawson is not optimistic (I will, for now, forgive the use of “obliterating” twice in one paragraph):

Around the globe, the hyperwealthy 1 percent are engaged in a feckless, hedonistic binge to end all binges, their systematic consumption obliterating the prospects of the poor, nature, and future generations. While they loot the planet, the rich live in well-protected penthouses and suburban garrisons, assiduously averting their eyes from the global majority, the swiftly deteriorating natural world, and the future they are so heedlessly obliterating. At present there is no way for future generations to interrupt the orgies of the rich, no way for the natural world to assert its rights, and slender chance for the victims of climate chaos to overthrow the tyranny of the 1 percent. 

The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California is a real place, and students consider it “Christian Hogwarts.” Here’s the idea, as reported by Molly Hensley-Clancy at BuzzFeed:

The miracles of biblical times — the parted seas and burning bushes and water into wine — did not end in biblical times, and the miracle workers did not die out with Jesus’s earliest disciples. In the modern day, prophets and healers don’t just walk among us, they are us. To Bethel students, learning, seeing, and performing these “signs and wonders” — be it prophesying about things to come or healing the incurable — aren’t just quirks or side projects of Christianity. They are, in fact, its very center. 

Annie Hylton at Longreads reports on how Trump’s global gag rule, by which US foreign aid services are barred from even mentioning abortion as a legal health option, is detroying the lives of African women.

Stonehenge! The Great Pyramids! Scientists are BAFFLED by them, we are told. Except, no, they’re not.
Ben Radford looks at the “science can’t explain X canard.

Twitter, again, says it’s going to take important new steps to combat harassment and abuse on its platform. This time it will work. 

At the Catholic magazine America, Kelsey Hazzard makes an atheistic case for being anti-abortion (pro-forced-birth). The “abortion industry” doesn’t want you to know that people like her exist, you see. Anyway, this is not a convincing case, say I.  

NYT reviews a new book by atheist philosopher Tim Crane looks to reframe what religion means to people for atheists who, to him, miss the mark:

For Crane, the religious worldview is better understood as the combination of two attitudes. First: a sense of the transcendent, of an unseen moral order to the universe, often known as God. Second: an identification with a community that tries to “make sense of the world” by attempting to bring its members into alignment with this moral order through a tradition of narratives and rituals. Crane concedes there is a cosmology here; a belief in the transcendent is “a claim about the universe.”  

Quote of the Day:

Trump-loving preacher Rodney Howard-Browne knows what really goes on in Hollywood. I can’t even believe this was said in front of actual people and no one just bust out laughing:

They sacrifice children at the highest levels in Hollywood,” Howard-Browne declared. “They drink blood of young kids. This is a fact. … The human sacrifice and the cannibalism has been going on for years. Some of you say, ‘Oh, they don’t do that.’ It’s worse than what you think. … And many of the Hollywood actors that you go see on a screen, what you don’t know [is] they bring a witch, they do a big seance right there on the set and they worship devils and they allow devils to come into them before they take the part of what they’re going to act. It’s a fact what I am telling you.

We do the same thing in theatre, except the devils just stand on the side of the stage and say over and over, “That’s not how I did it when I played your role in summerstock.” 

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