A Two-Bit Civilization

November 9, 2015

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

Happy Carl Sagan Day! Lots of CFI branches and student affiliates are marking the day with events, and for now, you can enjoy this compilation of Sagan’s responses and “comebacks.” 

Dan Vergaro at BuzzFeed reports on the potential for greater scrutiny of homeopathy from the FDA, with commentary from our own Michael De Dora: “They are on the shelves next to real medicine, they look like real medicine, and there is a lot evidence that people don’t know what they are buying.” 

Remember the homeopathic laxative that actually can make you drunk? CVS is also selling homeopathic headache remedy that contains wolfsbane, which is a poison. Reynard Loki at AlterNet writes that all of this points to homeopathy being “here to stay.” 

People went nuts over the weekend when a UFO-thing lit up the sky in Southern California. Turned out to be a ballistic missile test from the submarine USS Kentucky. Kinda fun, though, to see people react and speculate in real time over Twitter. 

Weirdness from star KIC 8462582 is looking less and less like “alien megastructures” according to SETI, who, you know, would be the first to tell us if it were otherwise.

Ben Radford checks to see if anyone was poisoned this year by Halloween candy, or found syringes or something in their treats, and, yeah, no:

While the fact that children and adults have been caught faking tainted candy is troubling, the good news is that the world is not such a scary place, since strangers are not in fact trying to harm or kill random innocent children. 

Ben also helps give a kid some gentle skeptical guidance on the existence of dragons, and tells Huffington Post that, no, that’s not a ghost in the White House in that photo. Busy guy!

The LDS church, which looked like it was becoming for gay-friendly, regresses big time, declaring that the children of same-sex couples can’t be in the church, and Mormons who are themselves in same-sex marriages are now apostates. 

Folks are reeling over this clip of Michele Bachmann claiming that Jesus is “coming soon,” and that Jews need to get with the Christian program, but, I gotta say, this is not exactly news about the former Representative from Minnesota.

Speaking of unsurprising-yet-outrageous statements, Ted Cruz says, “Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this nation.” 

And perhaps explaining the thinking of Ms. Bachmann and Mr. Cruz, researchers at the University of Arizona find evidence that brains can fossilize. Q.E.D.

Russians are incensed over new Charlie Hebdo cartoons about their recent plane crash in Egypt, calling the drawings “blasphemy” and “sacrilege.” 

Hamtramck, Michigan might be the first city in U.S. history to have a Muslim-majority city council

Kim Davis is once again denied in her appeal to the Sixth Circuit.   

Madison Pauly at Hopes & Fears surveys the jihadi lifestyle magazine landscape

Turns out black holes don’t just suck things in, they also burp out beams of X-rays. Well, more accurately their coronas eject the X-rays when flaring up.

I had no idea the Nativity was so violent and gory

Sarah Posner takes a stab at explaining what’s behind Ben Carson’s, let’s say, factual eccentricities, and his use of the apparent pejorative “secular progressives”:

Carson, through his faith in God, the grit exemplified in his life story, and the smarts evidenced by his success as a neurosurgeon, sees the truth and, as a presidential candidate, is conveying that truth to the American people. Questioning his claims about history and the universe’s origin are akin to questioning Carson’s own origin story. Ben Carson believes he has seen the enemy, and casts himself as a prophet warning America of it. Carson’s method of disarming his critics is to portray them as that enemy in a cosmic battle over that truth. The enemy is people Carson facilely refers to as “secular progressives.” 

Ben Carson’s base

Quote of the Day:

Since it’s Carl Sagan Day, and we’ve had some excitement over UFOs a
nd alien megastructures, here’s Sagan in 1968 testifying before a congressional symposium on the question of visitation by extraterrestrials:

…there are very intense, predisposing, emotional factors in this subject.

There are individuals who very strongly want to believe that UFO’s are of intelligent extraterrestrial origin. Essentially to my view, for religious motives; that is, things are so bad down here, maybe somebody from up there will come and save us from ourselves. This takes all sorts of subtle and not so subtle forms. There are also predisposing emotional factors in the other direction; people who very much want to believe UFO’s are not of intelligent extraterrestrial origins, because that would be threatening to our conception of us as being the pinnacle of creation. We would find it very upsetting to discover that we are not, that we are just a sort of two-bit civilization.

It is clear that the scientific method says you don’t take either of those views, and you simply keep an open mind and pursue whatever facts are at hand with as many diverse hypotheses as possible, and try to eliminate each suggested hypothesis, and see if you are lucky with any one.

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Original images by Shutterstock

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