No Owls, Bats, or Moths

January 22, 2015

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

Amnesty International says Raif Badawi’s second round of flogging may be postponed for medical reasons for the second time. The Guardian profiles Raif’s wife Ensaf Haidar, and it’s fairly heartbreaking, but boy is she an inspiring person.

Kevin Sullivan at WaPo looks at the big picture of Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on human rights, and notes that the Saudis are “allies” in the West’s fight against ISIS. Meanwhile, Adam Taylor, also at the Post, compares the legal punishments of Saudi Arabia with those of ISIS, and, well, you’d be forgiven for getting them mixed up.

The United States officially has the silliest legislative chamber in the world, and I’m not even talking about the clown show that is the House of Representatives. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted 98-1 that climate change is not a hoax — yes, including James Inhofe, who clarified that it is not the change of climate that’s a hoax, but the idea that we’re responsible. La-dee-da, Senator. It was Mississippi’s Roger Wicker who voted against. BUT THEN they voted on whether humans were the cause of global warming, and that amendment failed with an insufficient 50 votes

Ziauddin Sardar reminds us that Islam’s history is full of freethinkers and reformers, but their contributions have been suppressed by the current crop of extremists. 

Joe Nickell reviews Selma, and he approves. 

As much as we roll our eyes at the practice of prayer at sporting events, more than half of Americans think that God “rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success,” according to a PRRI/RNS survey. About a quarter of Americans think God is actively involved in the games. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson does some fine Neil-deGrasse-Tysoning here, talking 15-year horizons

Lutz Bachmann is a German right-wing activist who really hates the “Islamisation” of the West, but come on, he’s not HitlerOh wait

A baker declines to make an anti-gay cake, and gets sued

Edzard Ernst, outspoken critic of homeopathy and alt-med, goes up against the woo-loving Prince Charles, claiming the prince caused him to lose his job

Eugene Volokh gives us a brief history of religious exemptions in the U.S.  

Rev. Bryant Wright, giving a sectarian invocation at the Georgia State Capitol (remember they do those now), says, “We are living in a society that’s on a collision course with the choice between erotic liberty and religious liberty.” Now that’s an exciting collision! 

Bill Nye tells Lifehacker about his workflow, and he seems to really be into scanners. 

Did we say the “Ark Encounter” would attract millions? We meant, like, a third of that. Ahem. Look! People riding dinosaurs! <runs> 

Waiter, there’s a Loch Ness Monster in my soup. Why yes, I’ll have seconds.  

Quote of the Day

The Guardian asks what life on Earth would be like without the Moon, and commenter Adam Rutherford responds in full:

Inconceivably different, for at least four reasons. The first is that the probable cause of the Moon was that it was smashed off the Earth in its infancy by a Mars-sized rock called Theia. That impact gave the Earth its 22 degree tilt, which is the underlying cause of the seasons. The Moon also acts as a stabiliser, without which the Earth would wobble much more over its orbit. Second is that the Moon causes the tides, and a huge proportion of life is dependent on coastal zones; absence of tides would disrupt food chains unimaginably. Third is that the Moon provides light at night for nocturnal creatures that are adapted to operate in low light, which make up a huge proportion of animals. With light only from the stars, these creatures would probably have not evolved. And finally, the Moon has slowed down the rotation of the Earth by a few microseconds per year, which has built up over time to give us the current 24 hour day, and made the Earth rounder. Without the moon, day would be more like eight hours, and we would have a bigger equatorial bulge.
So a moonless Earth would have no seasons, no tides but a lot of wobble, a fat middle, very short days and no owls, bats or moths. 

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