Reviled by Many

December 21, 2017

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

I was wary of this idea at first, but once I got the gist of this, I am now its biggest fan: Our own Tom Flynn, the Anti-Claus himself, will do as he always does, which is work a regular work day on December 25, and this year we’ll be livestreaming his whole work day! That sounds incredibly boring and weird, right? MAYBE. But throughout the day, Tom will be answering questions from viewers and helping to raise funds for our vital Secular Rescue program. You can win prizes too, like a “Santa Can Suck It” embroidery. Bookmark centerforinquiry.net/christmas now, and come back on the big (ordinary) day.

After that big New York Times report on the secret military program to investigate UFOs, belief in alien spaceships visiting Earth is, to some, starting to look legit. But come on, that’s CRAZY, right? Not quite. Alexandra Ossola at Futurism interviews CFI’s own Joe Nickell to understand why believing in UFOs isn’t a sign of lunacy, but a natural wish for answers:

Science hinges on discovery and the pursuit to understand the unknown. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, then, that some of these UFO reports are worthy of rigorous investigation.  

Shannon Hall at NYT explains why the winter solstice (today!) really is worth celebrating, because without our particular axial tilt, things would be very different on this planet. Venus, for example, has an axial tilt of 177 degrees, which is crazy, and Venus is not a planet we want to emulate. Oh, and there’s this very, very serious point. David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute, said:

Uranus is wild. 

I’LL BET IT IS! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA oh god i’m sorry.

(By the way, can we just make the pronunciation “YUR-in-us” official? Or maybe change its name to something like “Smith”?) 

Also at the Times (boy, that paper sure seems important), Jason Horowitz looks at the divergent approaches to handling sex-abuse-hiding Cardinal Law (now dead!) between the U.S. and Rome:

For many, Cardinal Law became the face of a complicit church hierarchy that hid and enabled sexual abuse, a scandal that has had a lasting impact on the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. But beyond that, Cardinal Law, who died at 86, also symbolized the divergence between the United States and Rome on the problem. Reviled by many back home in Boston, he was embraced by those in the Vatican who took him in after he could no longer cling to power in his archdiocese. 

Stay classy, Vatican.  

So I understand some massive a-bomb of legislation was launched out of Congress last night. In celebration(?) both Ben Carson and Mike Pence offered prayers in praise of the Almighty. For Carson, it was God. For Pence, it was Trump. This is truly weird and unsettling, folks. And I’m no expert in body language, lord knows, but Trump looks a little too Mussolinish for comfort. 

But hey, there is this: Sens. Rubio, Casey, and Wyden got a unanimous resolution “recognizing the pervasive threats to freedom of the press and expression around the world.” That’s…something?

Dennis Prager’s fake university-on-YouTube, PragerU, quote-mines a piece from Skeptical Inquirer to prove that God exists, so “potholer54” takes them to task

The fact that the head of religion programming for the BBC is an atheist is giving some folks the vapors. Hemant explains why this is not a big deal (and how silly that it even needs explaining). 

Despite some of the overwrought reactions to the CDC’s “seven words,” there’s definitely a problem with Newspeak in the era of Trump. One of the only folks I trust to report on this wisely is Julia Belluz, and so she does:

The administration appears to be controlling terminology to suppress well-established truths in science and take language about health in a more ideological direction, in ways that could harm Americans. 

Rene Salm, an atheist writer in Eugene, Oregon, is threatening to sue the city over a Christmas banner urging folks to celebrate Jesus.

Barry Sherman, the head of a huge Canadian generic pharmaceuticals company, died last week, and an unpublished memoir reveals his atheism, which I assume is a surprise. The lede from the Toronto Star: “A 1996 memoir manuscript written by Barry Sherman reveals the late pharmacy mogul gave ample thought to the meaning of life, and concluded there was none.” Well, that’s correct. 

The non-alien asteroid from another system, ‘Oumuamua, might be a comet, as Ars Technica puts it, “covered in carbonaceous crud.” 

Quote of the Day:

Reza Aslan has a new book about God. (Hey great.) Thankfully, Emma Green has got a handle on it. The opening paragraph of her review:

A word of advice to the religiously curious: Don’t trust any history of God that has only 171 pages of text. Reza Aslan’s new project, “God: A Human History,” is aimed at the analytically minded spiritual seeker, the type who hopes to answer deep questions on the divine with study data and tidbits about evolution. But instead of arming readers with interpretive tools and good questions, Aslan tells a highly selective, generalized tale with the goal of proving his own beliefs. 

OH SNAP, EMMA. 

(I will go ahead and recommend Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God as a much better alternative “hey-it-turns-out” book on this subject.) 

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