Perturbations of the Mind

January 2, 2018


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

It’s 2018, and everything feels pretty much the same. 

I ended the year with a fun Point of Inquiry episode featuring Kavin Senapathy and Yvette d’Entremont (aka the SciBabe) for a conversation about pseudoscience and misinformation in food and health. I learned things, I laughed, and I heard the word “spatchcocked” for the first time.  

Protests have been going on for six days in Iran, with 9 people being killed in clashes earlier this morning, and 20 altogether. Erin Cunningham at The Post says, “What began as frustration over Iran’s sluggish economy has broadened to include open defiance of Iran’s Islamic leadership itself.” 

Another kind of protest is going on in India today, as 40,000 doctors take to the streets to oppose the National Medical Commission Bill, which licenses alt-med quacks to practice conventional medicine, and replaces a long-standing medical governing body of experts with a government-appointed council.

Skeptical Inquirer has two new-to-the-web pieces on the theme of conspiracy theories: 

  • Jeffrey S. Debies-Carl uses the Pizzagate fake-plot as a lens through which to examine conspiracy theories and how they can be better understood as legends.
  • Eric Wojciechowski looks at why people with otherwise-impressive resumes and life stories feel the need to make up additional stuff about themselves. Cough Brian Williams cough. 

48 underage girls are rescued from the Adhyatmik Vishwa Vidyalaya cult in New Delhi. The Post reports:

Officials say they have found women and girls kept in prisonlike conditions, behind barbed wire and multiple locked gates. Authorities say there are hundreds more properties and potentially thousands of women and girls living in them. 

Trump is on track to have publicly lied 2000 times during his first year in office. Imagine how much bigger that number would be if they tracked him in private too.

Diphtheria is on the rise in Indonesia, due in part to a belief by many that vaccines are dangerous and a violation of Islamic law

Robert McCrum at The Guardian picks the 100 best nonfiction books ever-ever, and one of them is The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. 

What would be the most absurd thing for the whole “raw” movement to tackle? Here’s a nominee: Water. “Raw water” is untreated, unfiltered water. A man named Skip Battle (no really, that’s his name) will sell you a machine that sucks water from the air to get that great, raw taste for just $4500! Rachel Becker at The Verge points out how misguided this is, and why even groundwater really does need to be filtered.

Becker also takes on the thankless task of refuting the nonsense idea that cold weather means climate change isn’t real, this time emitted by Trump (see lie count above). 

According to an analysis by an org called Church Clarity, none of the biggest 100 churches in the U.S. are cool with LGBTQ folks, 93 are run by white people, and only one has a female pastor.

A 14-year-old girl is hit with a child pornography charge for sending a boy a nude picture…of herself. What?

In an op-ed for the Shreveport Times promoting church-state separation, Prentiss Smith writes:

Over the past 30 years it appears that one party in this country has taken on the mantra of being the party of God. That same political party appears to have become an arm of the “religious right” or the “religious right” has become an arm of the party. Recently, it has even become the party that supports child molesters, pedophiles, and sexual predators, which is something no one I know could have ever imagined would happen in their lifetimes.

Well, I guess he doesn’t know me, because I think it’s been pretty obvious for some time now. 

Hemant has a New Year’s resolution for you: Spread critical thinking wherever you can, politely, and weather the pushback. If only there was a national organization that championed critical thinking as its raison d’etre that you could support. Hmmmmm.

Sugary energy drinks are destorying teenage brains. How would you know? 

(Zing from the world-weary 40-year-old! Shapow!) 

Cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, is going extinct. Happy new year.

Quote of the Day:


I have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate human actions, but to understand them; and, to this end, I have looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger, envy, ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, not in the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, just as pertinent to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, and the like to the nature of the atmosphere, which phenomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary, and have fixed causes, by means of which we endeavor to understand their nature, and the mind has just as much pleasure in viewing them aright, as in knowing such things as flatter the senses. 

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Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash 

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