The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
The theater where I direct a show with University of New England students every year (we’re doing Into the Woods this year because we’re crazy) is apparently haunted. As long as the ghost doesn’t screw up the performances, then fine.
Peter Boyer at Esquire reports that the Trump communications team may evict the press corps from the White House altogether. They say that if they do it will be to find a space to accommodate greater numbers, but no one actually believes that:
Another senior official, however, suggested a more pointed motivation for the move. According to the official, the potential relocation reflected a view within the transition team that coverage of Trump has been so hostile as to indicate that the press has abandoned its role as neutral observer. “They are the opposition party,” a senior official says. “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”
Margaret Sullivan calls what awaits journalists in the Trump era a “hellscape.”
Kristina Rizga at Mother Jones explores the ideology and theology of Betsy DeVos, nominee for Secretary of Education, who goes before a Senate committee today:
While Dick and Betsy DeVos have donated large amounts to hospitals, health research, and arts organizations, these records show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools and evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks, like the Acton Institute and the Mackinac Center, that want to shrink the public sector in every sphere, including education.
You can still prod your senators to make sure she doesn’t get away without explaining her extreme positions.
Sara Whitlock at STAT explains why scientists fear not only the Trump administration’s threats to science, but to the scientists themselves:
I worry, as I progress in my career, that if government doesn’t like the results of my research, they’ll proclaim it false and discredit me. I’m not the only one. … I’m scared. Most, if not all, of my graduate training will happen during the Trump presidency in an atmosphere hostile to science. I wonder, will my work have any relevance? Will the project I pour my life into help anyone? If I am able to discover new facts about the world or new therapies, will anyone be listening? I fear that science will get relegated to the land of alchemy or magic where it is ignored because no one believes it is real.
Case in point, the smear campaign waged against Michael Mann for his work on climate change…and this is BEFORE Trump.
Princeton physics professor William Happer will be fine, though, as he believes global warming will be really great.
Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, says there’s hope in the fact that Trump is a germaphobe.
Religious-right zombie-daddy James Dobson believes he knows why people voted for Trump: “The sanctity of human life, the Constitutional guarantees of religious liberty that are being shredded, and the promise by Mr. Trump to appoint pro-life Justices to the Supreme Court.”
Trump will almost certainly be sworn in on a Bible, if not just a framed picture of himself, or both, but remember: Bibles aren’t required and haven’t been used in every inauguration.
Sam Harris talks to Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower and Going Clear, on his podcast.
Rep. Steve King introduces a copycat bill of the recently-vetoed Ohio “Heartbeat Bill,” which Christine Grimaldi at ReWire says “amounts to a total abortion ban.”
Americans United’s Rob Boston reminds us that Martin Luther King would have been no friend to today’s religious right. On the SCOTUS decision that took prayer out of schools, King said:
Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right. I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision.
Donie O’Sullivan at CNN profiles women who have dared to leave Saudi Arabia, including some who have left Islam as well.
Sohaila Abdulali at The Guardian is a non-believing Muslim, but feels anxiety for and solidarity with Muslims in the Trump era: “I care about many things. Allah doesn’t happen to be one of them. I’m just a slacker Muslim. I just don’t care. I don’t WANT to care. Why can’t I just not care?”
amil Smith calls what’s happening in American politics “a war on critical thinking.” Alas, I don’t think it’s all that new.
But hey, what was the biggest change in religion during the Obama years, according to Pew? “When it comes to the nation’s religious identity, the biggest trend during Obama’s presidency is the rise of those who claim no religion at all.”
South Dakota queues up a “strengths and weaknesses” evolution-undermining bill for public schools.
Protests at UC Davis succeed in the cancellation of an event starring Milo Yiannopoulos and Martin Shkreli.
Meanwhile, Arizona State Rep. Bob Thorpe wants a law that bans all college events that have anything to do with social justice. No, really.
Wells Fargo wants you to customize your debit card! Unless you want it to say “Black Lives Matter.” Then no. Wells Fargo has stated in advance that they will also reject “Black People Are Important.”
In Skeptical Inquirer’s 40th anniversary issue, Lawrence Krauss says that when it comes to science and the acceptance of reality, if we had souls, these would be the times that try them.
I, like Hemant, have no idea who this guy is, but nonetheless WWE wrestler Seth Rollins tweets his “100%” atheism. “Disbeliever all the way.”
Behold, the POTUS Shield. If you pray hard enough, I believe it gives you a bonus to saving throws versus enlightenment.
Quote of the Day:
You’ve likely seen this going around the interwebs, but just in case, here’s the Scotland Sunday Herald‘s TV listing for the Trump inauguration:
After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories – among the most common is the “What If The Nazis Had Won The Second World War” setting – but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press, and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present.
The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into voting to make Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.
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Photo credit: Several seconds via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
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