Arguments That Nobody Cares About

November 27, 2017

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

Tamar Hallerman and Greg Bluestein at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report on the many sides of the debate over the Johnson Amendment and political speech by religious organizations, and they found this smart guy to talk to: 

Nicholas Little, the legal director and vice president at the Center for Inquiry, a secular society group, said it is “incredibly difficult” for the IRS to enforce the Johnson Amendment. Not only is it hard to catch churches breaking the rule, he said, but there is “a taboo element in going after churches.” … One of Little’s primary concerns has to do with the flow of untraceable dark money into politics if the Johnson Amendment is repealed. Why would political actors donate to political groups if the money would be taxed, he said, when they could give tax-free to churches that could endorse?

More than 300 people were killed in a Sufi mosque bombing in Cairo

Scotland’s STV reports on the silliness that is dowsing, and cites a 1999 Skeptical Inquirer article on why it’s a “superstitious relic from medieval times.”

Judges keep thwarting Trump’s plan to ban transgender military servicemembers. This time, a judge has blocked a policy that would ban the funding of sex-reassignment surgery. 

Air pollution denial is a thing, which, you know, of course it is. Here’s a Trump appointee to be a scientific advisor to the EPA, in 2012: “Modern air is a little too clean for optimum health.”

Meanwhile, climate scientists looking for ways to mitigate the damage we’ve done with sunlight-reflecting aerosols, are now getting death threats from the chemtrail crowd. “You’re a part of this mass conspiracy killing life on Earth as we know it,” writes a truther to one researcher.

Okay, so when this fellow Mike Hughes launches himself on a rocket in order to prove that the Earth is flat, will he become part of the mass conspiracy by emitting his own chemtrails? Wheels within wheels, etcetera.

Canada, current bastion of progressivism, used to be, well, not that. Seeking to atone for the truly abysmal persecution of gay Canadians as recently as the 1990s, the government will formally apologize to the LGBTQ community tomorrow.

This is unexpected. GWU biology professor R. Alexander Pyron writes that we should not be so freaked out about species extinctions:

. . . the impulse to conserve for conservation’s sake has taken on an unthinking, unsupported, unnecessary urgency. Extinction is the engine of evolution, the mechanism by which natural selection prunes the poorly adapted and allows the hardiest to flourish. Species constantly go extinct, and every species that is alive today will one day follow suit. There is no such thing as an “endangered species,” except for all species. The only reason we should conserve biodiversity is for ourselves, to create a stable future for human beings. Yes, we have altered the environment and, in doing so, hurt other species. This seems artificial because we, unlike other life forms, use sentience and agriculture and industry. But we are a part of the biosphere just like every other creature, and our actions are just as volitional, their consequences just as natural. Conserving a species we have helped to kill off, but on which we are not directly dependent, serves to discharge our own guilt, but little else. 

Sam White writes that the Pilgrims have something to teach us about climate shock

At The Verge, Alessandra Potenza reports on the decades of the sugar industry’s subterfuge and denial about sugar’s effects on health. 

Nazis. They’re just like us, and the New York Times is ON IT. 

Matt Latimer at Politico POLITICO says the reason Roy Moore will win his Senate election (and yes he will) is actually because the media doesn’t connect with…um…the people who would vote for a guy like Roy Moore. Dude, don’t you read the New York Times? WHAT MORE NEED THEY DO?

Ben Radford uses the example of a construction worker and his gun-resembling tools to illustrate how expectations color our perceptions

Kavin Senapathy says the anti-GMO crowd is guilty of exploiting the anxieties of women. “My inner feminist takes most offense at any movement that tells women to think with the hysterical and irrational parts of our brains.” 

A bunch of people seem to really think a photo of Apollo
17 astronauts gives the lie to the Moon landings.

Anti-vax propaganda may be losing its luster, as vaccine refusal rates are flattening

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Brittney Cooper flips the free-speech-on-campus debate on its head, showing how it is white scholars who have succumbed to “identity politics” as they “believe that their whiteness does not play a role in the kinds of scholarly questions they ask”:

Having powerful white academics claim that marginalized groups — trans people, black people — are impinging on their academic freedom misses the obvious point that those groups rely on freedom of speech to be able to dissent from harmful ideas and to resist their dissemination. 

Newsweek profiles Donia Jessop, an escapee from the FLDS cult-world of Hildale, Utah, who came back to become its mayor.

Joe Nickell investigates some “strange metal” in Roswell for Skeptical Briefs

The Spartanburg Herald Journal reports on the good works of the Atheist Alliance Helping the Homeless.

When it comes to white supremacists, Dave Silverman of American Atheists, writing at Friendly Atheist, is just fine with shrinking the tent. I second this wholeheartedly:

If you are an atheist who believes that it is possible to march with Nazis and still be a good person, we don’t want you. If you are an atheist who believes that the white supremacist point of view may sometimes be reasonable, then we don’t want you. If you are an atheist who believes that discrimination because of race, gender, or sexual orientation is sometimes acceptable, then we don’t want you.

We don’t want your membership, we don’t want your money, and we don’t want your support. Your cause is not our cause.

Also at Friendly Atheist, Sarahbeth Caplin advocates for more cooperation between atheists and progressive believers, saying, “Dwelling on how intelligent, rational adults can still believe in God isn’t productive at this moment.” 

McSweeney’s says the Second Circle of Linguistic Transgression Hell is the serial comma, and I swear to you I will BURN in the fires of ACTUAL Hell and I will STILL insist upon the absolute necessity of the serial comma. Anyway, they write:

One half of this circle is populated by souls who are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons and the infernal mistresses of hell. The other half are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons, and the infernal mistresses of hell. The difference between these two situations seems to matter a lot to both halves. Neither side will listen to you when you suggest that they could avoid this level entirely. 

Ha, ha, and ha.

Quote of the Day:

Today is the last day on the job for Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Marking the milestone, Lynn is interviewed by Michelle Boorstein at the Post.

I got an award at a humanists’ convention years ago, and someone stood up and said: ‘Barry, you seem like a smart guy! If you’re this smart, why are you stupid enough to believe in God?’ At another convention of atheists, I stood up and said: ‘There are a few differences between us. Obviously I believe in God, and you don’t believe there is any god. We’ll debate that for 2,000 years, but we have to protect the Constitution and we have 25 years to get that right.’ 

Barry Lynn was probably the first professional church-state separation activist I was ever aware of, and I don’t think his importance as a champion of secularism and as a proponent for building alliances across theological divides can be underestimated. We salute you, sir.

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