Find Two Rules to Get Rid Of

December 5, 2016

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

A little good news: It looks like the Russell Amendment, which would have allowed religiously-based discrimination by federal contractors, has died in conference. We dance on its grave:

“This is an even more important victory than it might seem,” said De Dora. “The incoming administration is being staffed by figures who enthusiastically endorse discriminatory measures like this one, and those being pushed through statehouses across the country. It is imperative that we build widespread resistance today so that we are better prepared to defend the secular nature of our government against the assaults of tomorrow.”

Before you stare into the Trump-shaped abyss for the week, catch up on the previous fortnight with CFI’s Cause & Effect newsletter

Now, the abyss. 

So hey, the secular community has been complaining a lot about Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, but come on, let’s be fair. Let’s hear from DeVos herself before we judge her:

Our desire is to be in that Shephelah [where David and Goliath fought], and to confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory. … It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture — to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things — in this case, the system of education in the country.

Oh. Okay. So. Okay. We know where we stand. And here’s where Mike Pence stands on public education and vouchers, via Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones:

Pence’s voucher program [in Indiana] ballooned into a $135 million annual bonanza almost exclusively benefiting private religious schools—ranging from those teaching the Koran to Christian schools teaching creationism and the Bible as literal truth—at the expense of regular and usually better-performing public schools. Indeed, one of the schools was a madrasa, an Islamic religious school, briefly attended by a young man arrested this summer for trying to join ISIS—just the kind of place Trump’s coalition would find abhorrent. 

Ed Yong at The Atlantic looks at the myriad ways Trump will eviscerate science. “The decisions won’t be made on science, but on whether you can find two rules to get rid of,” said Amit Narang of Public Citizen. 

Ben Carson is nominated to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Almost nothing about that sentence makes sense. 

The newspeak-sounding Ohio Pastor Protection Act — which of course is about discriminating against gay people because GOD — passes through its House committee, and will likely be voted on by the full assembly. 

The Army Corps of Engineers stops, for now, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock reservation. 

The Vatican hosts a conference on the ethical implications of artificial intelligence. CFI’s Ron Lindsay is cool with that, but asks, “As far as Vatican ethics are concerned, does morality require prohibiting robots from distributing condoms?” 

Joe Nickell goes panning for the gold (literally and figuratively) of ancient civilizations that never were for Skeptical Briefs.

Bibles are becoming less common in hotel rooms. LA Times reports:

A recent survey by STR, a hospitality analytics company, found that the percentage of hotels that offer religious materials in rooms has dropped significantly over the last decade, from 95% of hotels in 2006 to 48% this year. 

The Rolling Stones, now nearing a million years old, seem to really like alt-med

Just as I’m developing a taste for white wine, and never having been a fan of red wine, I find out white wine might make you more prone to melanoma, which recently struck my family. So forget that stuff. Though Steven Salzberg says, “Before you panic, let’s revisit the actual amount of risk here. The 13% increase in risk does not mean that you have a 13% chance of getting melanoma from drinking white wine.” Still.

A judge in the UK tells a father in the middle of a custody dispute that it was “unwise” to take his kids, who are being raised ultra-Orthodix Jewish, to a science museum where their brains might be poisoned by evolution.  

Quote of the Day:

Bob Gance, a reader of the Asheville Citizen-Times, responds to the idea that Trump’s election was ordained by God:

Proclaiming God’s intervention is a throwback to the Divine Right of Kings, the foundation of rule that was rejected by the American Revolution. Suggesting that biblical principles uniformly endorsed Trump exposes a suspension of reason and a proclivity for selectively interpreting scripture out of context.

Thomas Jefferson’s reference to “nature and nature’s God”, not exactly a ringing endorsement of Christianity, reflects the influence of the Age of Enlightenment on the founders’ approach to establishing American democracy. They valued logic and scientific method and rejected the application of religious orthodoxy to civil affairs.

The resultant separation of church and state is now being eroded by politically engaged evangelicals who, in tandem with alt-right media, appeal to irrationality, fear and paranoia: the tools of demagogues.  

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