The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Larry Decker, chief of the Secular Coalition for America (of which CFI is a member) is the guest on Point of Inquiry this week, talking with Josh Zepps about – what else? – the bloody election.
The theme right now for what’s to come is right in CFI’s wheelhouse: the fate of facts, objective truth (only made more salient by the news that white-nationalist-conspiracy-theorist Steve Bannon – who also seems to dislike Jews and Muslims – will serve as White House chief strategist). Lots of stuff on this general idea today:
- Nic Kristof says the news media landscape “looks grim,” as truth-seeking journalism suffers and alt-right propaganda sites prosper.
- John Oliver, giving a stern middle finger to 2016, faults social media (and, really, all of us) for allowing misinformation to flourish.
- This past Sunday’s This Week in Tech also has a great conversation about Facebook and Twitter’s responsibility to weed out the lies.
- Kurt Eichenwald decides not to punch a Jill Stein voter in the face (good call, Kurt), and says liberals allowed themselves to be taken in by their own side’s conspiracy theories.
So why did religious Americans pin their hopes on Trump? Arlie Russell has a sobering answer:
I think Trump is offering people the promise of rising to heaven in a sort of secular rapture. There is this belief in a rapture—that the world will come to a sudden end, that believers will rise to heaven, that bad people will be stuck in a world turned to hell, and that God will make the determination which direction you go. Trump is pitching himself in the role of that God-like figure who is making the determination.
The super-right-wing Family Research Council commissioned a poll from WPA Research, and it found that Trump supporters were in large measure driven by their opposition to abortion and feelings about “religious liberty.”
Florida has a new “religious freedom” bill that goes way off the deep end. Not only does it have the usual provisions for discrimination against gays and religious health facilities being able to refuse certain services, which is reprehensible enough, but wait, there’s more (via Slate, emphasis mine):
The bill states that “a health care facility,” “an ambulatory surgery center,” “a nursing home,” “an assisted living facility,” “a hospice … operated by a religious institution,” and any “health care provider” can refuse to treat a patient or administer a medication if doing so would be contrary to its “religious or moral convictions or policies.”
Neil Carter wants to know why one man is being tasked with the sole responsibility of handling a huge number of sexual harassment cases in the secular movement. Something seems weird.
Can one’s own self-loathing cause autoimmune disease? If so, I am 100% screwed. Harriet Hall says, “The idea that we can take control of our destiny and can prevent or cure illness with our thoughts alone is a seductive one. Wouldn’t that be nice? I wish it were true.”
John Cook has some good ideas about “inoculating” people against anti-science nonsense, and writes in Skeptical Inquirer:
When you communicate a scientific concept, you should also explain the techniques or fallacies that might be used to distort that science. When people subsequently encounter the myth, they’ve acquired the critical thinking skills to discern how that myth attempts to distort the science and mislead them. The bull has lost its horns.
Jackie Wolcott and Sandra Jolley of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom pen an op-ed on the power of nations speaking with one voice against threats to religious freedom.
Freedom House releases a report on the state of social media censorship and criminalization around the world:
Internet freedom has declined for the sixth consecutive year, with more governments than ever before targeting social media and communication apps as a means of halting the rapid dissemination of information, particularly during anti-government protests.
Pardon me for a moment as I continue with the shtick of personifying the year 2016 as a sentient, malevolent being. So 2016 is all, hey, let me take away someone you’d never even begin to suspect would die, someone really great and kind and vital to your public discourse. Proving itself to be a bastard who wishes to rub salt deep into our throbbing wounds, 2016 takes the form of cancer and ends the life of Gwen Ifill. This one really hurts.
Adam Lee asks a question I find also have trouble with lately after this election:
This has forced me to confront whether political activism makes any difference. If people couldn’t be persuaded to care about this election, when the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been and possibly ever will be, is there a point in trying to get them to care about anything lesser?
Ben Radford reviews Doctor Strange through a skeptical lens, and finds some aspects that might rankle:
I winced a bit when Strange, the symbolic man of medicine, rationality, and science, is beguiled by his new master. The Ancient One explains, with undisguised condescension, to Strange that the gulf between the rational and mystical worlds is the result of willful blindness on the part of Western culture. If only Western doctors and scientists would break free of their restrictive, narrow-minded views of the world, they can learn to accept a wondrous reality far beyond their understanding-one of psychic powers, astral projections, miracle healings, and so much more.
The Supreme Court says it’s not going to take up a case about whether Kansas state science standards “promote atheism.”
Simon Brown, assistant communications director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is moving on to new adventures, and The Morning Heresy salutes him. In his farewell post, he writes:
Before joining AU, I reported on tax issues for non-profits – including the Religious Right’s war on the Johnson Amendment. That is how I learned about Americans United and became invested in its mission. If Trump does as he said he would, I will feel a great sense of loss if something I fought for so long to maintain is killed with a pen stroke by someone who clearly does not understand why it existed in the first place.
Although I am leaving Americans United, the cause of church-state separation will remain deeply important to me and is something I will keep fighting for. The next four years could represent the most serious challenge to that constitutional principle perhaps in the history of the United States. I encourage everyone to stand up for the things that matter to you and to fight when you see bigotry and discrimination in the name of religion.
Quote of the Day:
There is something absolutely poetic and perfect about this. Colin Dickey at The Atlantic points out something crucial concerning alleged “ghost-hunting” tech:
[I]t’s precisely because [the K-II meter is] not particularly good at its primary purpose that makes it a popular device for ghost hunters. Erratic, prone to false positives, easily manipulated, its flashy LED display will light up any darkened room of a haunted hotel or castle. Which is to say, its popularity as a ghost hunting tool stems mainly from its fallibility. …
All of this technology—both the custom and the repurposed—works along more or less the same principle: generating a lot of static and random effects, hoping to capture random noise and other ephemera. The ghost hunter, in turn, looks for patterns, momentary convergences, serendipity, meaningful coincidence. For the believer, this is where ghosts live: in static, in glitches and in blurs.
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