Camel-size Moral Imperatives

November 16, 2017


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

Twitter rejiggers its verification policy, stripping the blue checkmarks from the accounts of white supremacists like Richard Spencer.

Check out the latest edition of our Cause & Effect newsletter, which kicks off with a well-deserved award for Bertha Vazquez. 

A nearby exoplanet has been discovered that looks to have the potential for habitability, and it’s getting closer to us all the time. Ross 128 b may have a temperature -76 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and unlike Proxima b, it doesn’t have “giant tantrums of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation,” like those thrown by my 5-year-old, for example.

While conservatives are praising the woman-avoiding stance of Mike Pence as a noble contrast to Weinstein, et. al., Christianity Today editor Katelyn Beaty writes at the Post that this kind of moralistic pose is damaging in other ways:

Jesus condemned the teachers of the law for fastidiously keeping religious traditions while neglecting the greater law — “justice, mercy and faithfulness.” Religious leaders of his day would show great care to strain insects from their wine. Yet in straining out a gnat, Jesus said, the men “swallowed a camel.” In other words, one can follow personal codes of morality down to the iota while neglecting camel-size moral imperatives like loving your neighbor as yourself. 

Here’s another example of Christian men being uncomfortable with women as people: The Tennessee Baptist Convention is cutting loose the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City because they hired a woman as a senior pastor. HOW DARE THEY. (the Alabama Media Group) is defiant in the face of Roy Moore’s legal threats against them over their reporting of his sexual assaults. Company VP Michelle Holmes says:

We stand behind our past reporting on Roy Moore, and vow to continue to doggedly pursue the truth on behalf of the people of Alabama. These threats will not silence us, and they will not slow us. 

Pro-Roy-Moore forces are robocalling Alabama voters, and pretending to be calls from the Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein offering to pay women to make more accusations against Moore. It’s even worse than it sounds, as Matt Ford explains:

Impersonating a journalist to smear the entire profession is a nasty enough maneuver on its own. But the Alabama robocall also seems to draw upon the dark motifs of anti-Semitism to accomplish its goal. The fake Bernstein’s nasally, high-pitched voice and forced New York accent evoke anti-Semitic caricatures and stereotypes. 

Pastor Robert Coy, head of one of Florida’s biggest megachurches, is accused of molesting a 4-year-old girl.

Saudi Arabia, I kid you not, bestows citizenship on a robot, the Audrey Hepburn-modeled “Sophia,” which probably gives her more rights than the human women of Saudi Arabia.

While Saudi Arabia has an A.I. citizen, Anthony Levandowski is creating an A.I. deity. Mark Harris at Wired reports on Levandowski’s work toward “the realization, acceptance, and worship of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed through computer hardware and software.”

Also at Wired, Laura Mallonee goes to a major “Bigfooters” conference

Harriet Hall writes at about the utility and ethical fuzziness of “sham surgeries” for controlled testing in trials:

Sham surgery trials raise ethical concerns, but one might just as well argue that not doing a sham surgery trial is more unethical, since it means that far greater numbers of patients will be harmed in the long run.  

The Da Vinci painting Salvator Mundi, which depicts Jesus holding an orb and doing that little finger-cross thing, sells for a record $450.3 Million

Victoria, Australia toughens its rules for children getting vaccinated before starting public school.  

More trouble at home, as the US Commission on International Religious Freedom scolds the State Department for not turning in its latest list of “countries of particular concern” on time. 

The US will vote against a UN resolution condemning Nazi speech, because of concerns for free speech protections. The US has always abstained from this vote, and this is the first time they will cast a no vote.

Philip Kennicott at the Post previews the opening of the Museum of the Bible in DC, explaining how it puts on the veneer of neutrality toward its subject, and that this veneer is very thin.

That sort
-of triangular shape on the surface of Mars is obviously a spaceship. Things with three sides don’t just happen all on their own!!!   

A bakery gives rightwing Christians an excuse to loudly express just how offended they are when it ran an advertisement featuring a nativity scene with a sausage roll instead of Jesus. 

Quote of the Day:

At the Hartford Courant, 27-year-old Arthur Nowell describes coming of age as the Earth heats up:

As for me, my uncertainty about the future remains unabated. Sometimes I feel I am mourning a loss yet to happen. In spite of any hopeless feelings, I know my best option is to keep trying to make progress wherever I can. And to those who still insist the experts are wrong, all I can say is, I hope you’re right. I really do. 

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