The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Two ugly stories out of Saudi Arabia: Human rights activist Samar Badawi, sister of Raif and wife of his lawyer, the also-imprisoned Waleed Abu Al-Khair, has been banned from travel before getting a chance to get to an EU human rights forum. (Our own Michael De Dora met Samar in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council.) Also, two activists championing the rights of women to be allowed to drive (that’s it, just be allowed to drive) are separately arrested.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, a lawyer defending a professor accused of blasphemy is shot at by dudes on motorcycles, and warned to drop the case.
Ben Radford questions a well-meaning graphic meant to calm Ebola panic, and considers the balance between truth and good intentions in communication.
Vaccines save lives, but they don’t always save all of them. The CDC says the existing arsenal of flu vaccines may not cut it this year.
David Koepsell looks at the scientific prefixes that are “in fashion” for funding:
For a time it was everything “cyber,” then it was anything “genomic,” “nano,” and now “neuro-” …. these fads can be traced through successful funding achieved with these prefixes attached to them. To get funding, to get attention, to achieve success (which is often measured by universities through dollars brought in), one must show that one is on the forefront of the “next big thing.”
David Gorski is among the reality-based scientists cited in this NPR piece on the problem with the “Food Babe.”
What blows Bill Nye’s mind? The fact that, as Sagan said, we, mere collections of dust, are a way for the universe to know itself.
New York appeals court rejects a lawsuit looking to secure legal personhood rights for a chimpanzee. Wrote the judges:
Unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions. … In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights—such as the fundamental right to liberty protected by the writ of habeas corpus—that have been afforded to human beings.
Putin gets a little theocratic in his state-of-the-nation address, claiming that Crimea is the spiritual source for Russia because of Grand Prince Vladimir’s conversion there a millennium ago. Reuters’ Lucian Kim calls this “scary.”
Stuart Vyse looks at research on the comfort religion seems to provide:
[M]any people value feelings, gut reactions, and intuition over reasoned argument. These religious people and defenders of the status quo will find it very difficult to reject bad ideas that feel so good.
The DC city council votes to nix a religious exemption to nondiscrimination laws, aimed at private religious schools.
Josh Rosenau of the NCSE doesn’t think respect for James Watson’s achievements should keep scientists silent about his “insensitivity”:
I do not intend to be quiet about injustice, especially when it emanates from eminent scientists or entails the misuse of science for political ends.
Those class acts at PETA are using the recent corpse-in-the-bedroom story to make a point about the “corpses” on your dinner plate. Remember these are the folks who want you to think that milk causes autism.
So I come across a piece titled “Using Poison Ivy as a Medicine” and I’m all “noooo” and then I see it’s by a guy whose bio says he’s a “pioneer of new paradigm medical thinking” and I’m all “noooooooo” and then I see this sentence, “Ask any person familiar with homeopathy and they can tell you about the positive health benefits of Rhus toxicodendron,” and I’m all “NOOOOOOOOOOO.”
Spider-Man, God, Santa, and the systematic torture of heretics. There’s overlap.
Quote of the Day
The Fellows of CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry jointly release a statement to media asking that the word “skeptic” stop being used to describe climate change deniers:
Real skepticism is summed up by a quote popularized by Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” [Sen. James] Inhofe’s belief that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” is an extraordinary claim indeed. He has never been able to provide evidence for this vast alleged conspiracy. That alone should disqualify him from using the title “skeptic.”
Image by Shutterstock
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