Argument and Reason and Words

November 17, 2015


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

There’s no other way to put this: The Republican presidential field seems more or less unified on the idea that only Christian refugees from Syria should be admitted into the U.S., and Ted Cruz is the standard-bearer. Here’s what the president said about that:

When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion. 

Or for anything else. 

GOP governors are going out of their way (and perhaps out of their authority?) to declare that no Syrian refugees will be allowed in their states.   

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar compares the public discourse about ISIS and terrorism to a Monty Python sketch

Sylvie Kauffmann at NYT explains how France’s new war, much like the U.S.’s after 9/11, is murky and full of obscurities.  

I am going to take a wild guess that most of the readers of this blog are Star Trek fans. That being assumed, allow me to direct you to my podcast Thinkery, where my co-host Brian and I chat with John Champion, of the Roddenberry-blessed Mission Log podcast. We discuss what Star Trek would be like if it were developed today for the first time, and put a special emphasis on how the show might handle religion. Oh, and it turns out Champion is a pal of CFI–Los Angeles! 

The University of Iowa releases a study showing, yet again, that facts don’t matter when people have made up their minds about something, even if that false belief hurts them. 

Also to be filed under sad-but-predictable, PRRI releases data showing that xenophobia is seeing an uptick, anti-Muslim sentiment specifically. 

If you think vaccinating against whooping cough isn’t important, try to get through more than five seconds of this video posted by a mom of her tiny baby coughing his brains out after picking up the disease from school kids. (My kids have colds right now, and their coughing is enough to send me into fits of panic and despair. I can’t imagine them or me enduring what baby Fern is. I think I watched about three seconds.)

Greg Sargent at Mother Jones says that there may be some give in the GOP resistance to accepting the reality of climate change. Meh, sort of, maybe.

Katherine Stewart says that despite public swings in support of things like gay rights, the religious right isn’t backing down: “It would be foolish to underestimate their resolve.” 

Keep your eyeballs on the newsstands for the piercing papal stares of John, Benny, and Frankie. Free Inquiry is taking a critical look at the Catholic Church as it struggles to remain relevant in a changing world.  

Sikivu Hutchinson has written a new novel about three fictional women who get involved with Jim Jones’ church (of the Jonestown mass suicide): White Nights, Black Paradise

Here’s a policy victory that’s a little under the radar, but super-important: an agreement has been reached in Congress about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), and thanks in large part to the pressure put on by our supporters and many other groups, there will be no private-school voucher scheme in the bill. This is all the more remarkable when you consider how voucher-happy so much of Congress is lately. 

Sophia A. McClennen, co-author of a book on the importance of satire, makes the case that while Bill Maher is wrong on some important stuff, his role as provocateur is extremely valuable:

Whether we agree with him or not, his desire to ask tough questions and derail fundamentalist positions is a welcome intervention in a media landscape dominated by extremes. 

Also, Maher and Stephen Colbert have a knocking-of-heads of a sort over religion.  

At the Skeptical Inquirer website, Gurmukh Mongia interviews Mike Bohler of the Skeptic’s Guide to Conspiracy podcast. 

Pastafarian Lindsay Miller gets to wear a colander for her Massachusetts drivers license photo.  

David Niose at Psychology Today says Pastafarianism might be just the thing to counterbalance what is represented by ideologies like that of ISIS:

Talking to a television reporter with her spaghetti strainer proudly placed upon her head, [Lindsay Miller] may not come across to casual observers as reason personified. But first impressions can be deceiving. Pastafarianism is indeed a weapon in the arsenal of reason, a rebuke of religions that rationalize violence, treat women as property, and promise eternal rewards to those who take innocent lives. The FSM apparently disapproves of such things.  

The founder of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster says, “I think Pastafarianism is at its best when it’s good-humored, and at its worst when it becomes hateful.” Yep. 

A Muslim political party is launched in Australia, largely in response to explicitly anti-Muslim parties already active. 

Cathy Gulli at Maclean’s reports that physicians are worried about parents giving their kids “vaccine alternatives” — homeopathy, of course. 

Ugh: A new documentary (sort of) series emerges, The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest, which is full of things that are very wrong

Quote of the Day:

The president, making a damn good case for what it is we do at CFI (without intending to of course):

We also have these values of free speech. And it’s not free speech in the abstract. The purpose of that kind of free speech is to make sure that we are forced to use argument and reason and words in making our democracy work. And you know, the you don’t have to be fearful of somebody spouting bad ideas. Just out-argue ’em, beat ’em.

Make the case as to why they’re wrong. Win over adherents. That’s how– that’s how things work in a democracy.   

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Original images by Shutterstock

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