The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
You might remember I was away for a couple of weeks in October for a writers’ retreat, and one of the other writers there with me was Amanda Little, a science journalist who was working on a book on how the hell we’re going to feed 9 billion people. She is incredibly smart and cool, and she’s just published a big Bloomberg Businessweek feature on one aspect of her reporting: little AI robots that tend to crops, plant by individual plant, without screwing up the world.
PRRI has a fascinating new survey on young Americans’ (age 15-24) perceptions of discrimination and persecution among different groups. Women and minorities say they’ve experienced discrimination in numbers lower than I would have guessed, and men, well, one third think they’ve been discriminated against because of their sex. Yes, I’m sure that’s true, poor babies, there there. Young men in general perceive far less discrimination against other groups than women do. Young people also tend to believe that discrimination against Muslims and transgender Americans is on the rise. A meager 18% think atheists face discrimination.
81% of Americans are unable to name a single living scientist. Of those who could name on in this Research America survey:
27 percent named Stephen Hawking, 19 percent named Neil deGrasse Tyson, and 5 percent named Bill Nye. Other answers that scored less than 5 percent included Richard Dawkins, Jane Goodall, and Michio Kaku.
The Blue Whale suicide game internet myth seems like it might be real enough to get its creator convicted in Russia, but as Ben Radford points out, the sources are remarkably unreliable, and there’s still no evidence that this conspiracy has actually claimed any lives, if it exists at all.
This is just unbelievably awful: In rural Nepal, dozens of women and girls have died from being cast out of their homes for the crime of menstruating, as this makes them “unclean” according to some Hindu principle. NYT reports:
Menstruating women often trudge outside at night to bed down with cows or goats in tiny, rough, grass-roofed huts and sheds. Many have been raped by intruders or died from exposure to the elements. … The practice is called chhaupadi, which in the Nepali language means something like “tree omen.” The vast majority of Nepal’s population is Hindu, and in ancient Hindu culture, menstruating women were considered toxic — if they entered a temple, they polluted it; if they handled the family’s food, everyone would become sick; if they touched a tree, that tree would never bear fruit.
It never ceases to amaze me how cruel and novel our species can be in its abuse of women.
David Mislin at Sojourners warns against presuming that a rise in “nones” means that those nones will be largely liberal:
[A Pew study] found unaffiliated voters to be more liberal than the general public on abortion and gay rights. But on the broader issue of the size and scope of government, unaffiliated Americans differed little from their religious neighbors. Both religious and nonreligious respondents were nearly evenly split on the question of whether or not they desired smaller government, a longstanding conservative position. This suggests that while unaffiliated people hold more liberal views on some social issues, they are not united in their political beliefs.
Connecticut’s governor wants to name State Supreme Court Justice Andrew McDonald to be the first gay chief justice of that court, but the Catholic Church is complaining that McDonald is anti-Catholic. Just to make sure we understand, it’s the Catholic Church that’s complaining about bias by a gay man. The Catholic Church. Afraid of being treated unfairly. By a gay person.
Oprah: Still not the choice of pro-science skeptics for president. Kurt Andersen writes:
If Ronald Reagan became the first king of his magical-thinking realm in the 1980s, Oprah Winfrey became the first queen of hers in the following decade. Like Reagan, I believe she’s both sincere and a brilliant Barnumesque promoter of a dream world.
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” guy, Charlie Daniels, is afraid that Taco Bell is not taking the Illuminati seriously enough.
As an Allentown Bible store (that’s a thing!) closes, the owners blame the drop in Sunday school attendance. “The churches don’t need the Sunday school curriculum anymore.”
“Muslim-free” gunshop owner Jan Morgan is going to primary Arkansas GOP governor Asa Hutchinson because he’s not sufficiently worshipful of mass-murder weapons.
Although half of the students in an Indiana school district are of Asian decent, they won’t be getting the Hindu holiday Diwali off from school because of church-state separation. Merry Christmas!
Thailand’s prime minister doesn’t want to talk to the press, so he leaves a cardboard cutout of himself. (Ha ha ha so funny oh but he also thinks he should be able to execute members of the press.)
Quote of the Day:
Mexico’s “Grand Warlock” (not a KKK reference, more Harry Potter really) uses his psychic powers to predict what will happen between the U.S. and North Korea:
Knight of Swords! No bombs will fly. They will reach an agreement.
But things aren’t so good for pop singer Shakira:
I sense someone has cast a spell on her. I don’t think she’ll recover.
Nor will I, Warlock. Nor will I.
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