Squash Us All

November 3, 2016


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

I am told that a sports franchise based in Illinois has won a key victory that was a century in the making. Hemant Mehta, besides apparently being a partisan for this athletic faction, is also glad to see the possible end of talk about Cubs curses

Skeptical Inquirer‘s Ben Radford and CSI Fellow Seth Shostak are both guests on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk Radio. I haven’t listened yet, but Ben says they talk about cow butts.

Islamists in Indonesia are calling for blasphemy charges and jail time for Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, who decried the use of Quranic scripture against him in his campaign. A hardline Islamic leader declares, “We will occupy the House of Representatives complex and stay there until Ahok is either arrested or the parliament impeach him.”

British Gymnastics suspends athlete Louis Smith over a leaked private video that showed him mocking Islam. Stephen Law says this is a bad move

I do not think there is anything ‘special’ about religious beliefs that requires we give them a privileged status that we don’t extend to other belief systems. If you think there is, I’d be interested to hear your suggestions. And note that if all religious belief systems are to be privileged in this way, then Monty Python’s Life of Brian can no longer be shown – not even in private. … Smith, who drunkenly took the piss out of Islam in private, is being used by religious authoritarians as a pawn in their much larger game of getting Islam made immune to mockery – through fear, if not through legislation.

Jacob Fuderi at Spiked (or is it “sp!ked“) agrees:

The decision to ban Smith sets a dangerous precedent for infringements on freedom of speech. Regardless of whether his actions were insulting, Smith was punished for expressing an unpopular opinion. The mere fact that some people find it disagreeable isn’t a sufficient reason for punishment. Of course, a disciplinary response might be appropriate if Smith was the chief executive of the Friends of Islam Society. But he’s not. He rides pommel horses for a living.

Carrie Poppy answer’s history’s most contentious question: Was Hitler a vegetarian?

Sort of, off and on. He certainly advocated a vegetarian diet and lifestyle at certain points, but he by no means maintained the diet consistently. And when trusting people at their word, the last person you might want to trust is, well, Hitler. 

The New York Times calls for firm American support for and participation in the International Criminal Court

Phil Plait sings the praises of Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist who champions climate change action and an evangelical Christian. 

Emily Willingham explains that, counterintuitively, Trump may have a talent for empathy:

One version of empathy is cognitive, our ability to understand someone else’s emotions by reading their cues–vocal changes, facial expressions, body language–and accurately interpret the feelings they express. … Having this ability doesn’t automatically make you a fully empathetic human being. Some people can abuse their talent for this form of empathy, precisely interpreting another person’s emotional state and then exploiting it for their own gain. …

So Trump supporters get a full dose of cognitive empathy directed straight at them from the man at the campaign podium. No one is reading those supporters and playing them better than Trump himself.

A fellow in Western New York carves the Silver Lake serpent out of a tree, and gets in a little trouble for it. Joe Nickell and Skeptical Inquirer are cited in the article.

Angela Merkel expresses her concern that “freedom of the press and opinion is again and again being restricted” in Turkey. 

The male birth control study that ended because the men were being sissies about it? Not quite right, explains Julia Belluz:

These stories are wrong and misleading. The study was halted, but it wasn’t because the men who participated in it were wimpy. It was halted because one of the two independent committees that were monitoring the trial’s safety data was concerned about the high number of adverse events the men reported.  

Rev. Celia M. Hastings manages to oppose almost everything we stand for in just four short paragraphs, as she recommends Bible-based “spiritual homeopathy.” It’s like a mirror-universe Center for Inquiry, but called something like the Center for Submerging Your Head in a Bucket of Hallucinogenic Pudding (CFSYHBHP, pronounced “sef-si-bip,” later shortened to CFP, the Center for Pudding).

Jesus is coming…out of this woman

Quote of the Day:

Farhad Manjoo at NYT laments the death of facts in the Internet Age:

Psychologists and other social scientists have repeatedly shown that when confronted with diverse information choices, people rarely act like rational, civic-minded automatons. Instead, we are roiled by preconceptions and biases, and we usually do what feels easiest — we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not. …


“There’s always more work to be done,” said Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of Snopes.com, one of the internet’s oldest rumor-checking sites. “There’s always more. It’s Sisyphean — we’re all pushing that boulder up the hill, only to see it roll back down.”

Yeah. Though soon, I suspect, that boulder is going to squash us all.


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