The Boundary Within Which Nothing is Able to Escape

December 13, 2016

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

Horror in Aleppo. Assad’s forces plow into the city, executing dozens of activists and just regular civilians, including women and children. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 257 journalists have been jailed in 2016, the most since they started keeping track in 1990. The big offender? Turkey. 

The blasphemy trial of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (aka “Ahok”), Christian and ethnic Chinese, gets underway. BBC reports:

In the streets outside court, hundreds of demonstrators, mostly men, gathered to protest. “Jail Governor Ahok now,” they chanted. They punched their fists in the air and shouted: “We must defend Islam from those who insult the holy book.” 

CFI’s Ron Lindsay says he’s tired of talking about Trump, and decided to write about something more pleasant. So at Huffington Posthe has a piece on male circumcision (really, what else is left to talk about?): 

We rightly value self-determination, but our ability to choose our own path and make our own decisions about our bodies begins after our bodies have already been shaped by our parents in ways we are powerless to change. In this light, agonizing over the loss of a foreskin is an unwarranted, excessive reaction. 

Trump says about climate change, “Nobody really knows.” False!

Media Matters calls out USA Today for doing the false-equivalency thing on coverage of the Scott Pruitt nomination for the EPA, and uses CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry as a resource:

In his op-ed, [the Hoover Institution’s David] Henderson repeated the myth that Pruitt is not a climate change “denier,” asserting that Pruitt is instead a “skeptic” of climate change. But the term “skeptic,” which USA Today also used in its editorial, should not apply to Pruitt, a politician who has refused to accept the consensus of the world’s leading scientific institutions that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are the main cause of global warming. As the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has explained, true skepticism “promotes scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason,” which is different from “political efforts to undermine climate science by those who deny reality but do not engage in scientific research or consider evidence that their deeply held opinions are wrong.” 

Little Green Footballs recommends Skeptical Inquirer as a holiday gift:

I can’t think of a better Christmas present for that intelligent person in your family who just lacks the tools of critical thinking.

I wouldn’t tell them that’s what you’re giving it to them for, but still. Good call.

Religious freedom! The separation of church and state! Genghis Khan! Wait, what?   

The Hare Krishna movement in America is turning 50, and as The Economist notes, it’s becoming sort of conventional.

With the new 21st Century Cures Act, and the likely stances of the Trump administration, the FDA is poised to become a shell of its already-not-all-that-impressive former self.

Knightstown, Indiana’s town square had a Christmas tree with a Christian cross on top. Not anymore

It is apparently still necessary to point this out, but no, homeopathy ALSO doesn’t work for cows

Last year, the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (aka “ASAS-SN”!!!!) saw what was thought to be the biggest supernova ever seen. But now new observations of the event have led to a different conclusion as to what the heck it was they saw: a hungry, supermassive black hole spinning through space and devouring a star. OM NOM NOM. The European Southern Observatory tells us:

The mass of the host galaxy implies that the supermassive black hole at its centre has a mass of at least 100 million times that of the Sun. A black hole of this mass would normally be unable to disrupt stars outside of its event horizon — the boundary within which nothing is able to escape its gravitational pull. However, if the black hole is a particular kind that happens to be rapidly spinning — a so-called Kerr black hole — the situation changes and this limit no longer applies.

Sounds like how things are everywhere. 

The Chicago Sun-Times confirms the bad news: Veteran atheist activist Rob Sherman has been killed in a plane crash. 

Quote of the Day:

Katherine Stewart on the Trump administration’s intentions for education: 

Mr. Trump’s senior strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, may not appear to be a religious warrior, but he shares the vision of a threatened Christendom.

“I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis,” he said at a conference in 2014. This was “a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.”

What is distinctive about the Christian right’s response to this perceived crisis is its apocalyptic conviction that extreme measures are needed. There is nothing conservative about this agenda; it is radical. Gutting public education will be just the beginning.

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Photo credit: jronaldlee via / CC BY 

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