The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
CFI’s Joe Nickell is headlining the University at Buffalo’s Science and Art Cabaret on February 7, presenting a talk on paranormal investigation and “the art and craft of critical thinking.” UB’s John Massier says of Joe’s appearance:
Joe Nickell’s investigative and research pedigree is broad and gigantic, and his knowledge of the field extremely deep. We know his presentation will give great clarity to the tools of critical thinking and skepticism as used in considering subjects many often take at face value or believe in too readily. Our cabaret has always had an ongoing theme of the value of critical thinking, and we know Joe’s experiences and insight will give great texture to this theme. It should be a telling cue to our audience that Joe has placed the word ‘paranormal’ within quotations marks. True believers may have their belief systems challenged.
Joe is also citied in a Psychology Today piece what makes some places seem “haunted.”
At the Post, Vidhi Doshi reports on the way ayurveda is used as a tool of political and cultural power by India, both at home and abroad, and it’s not necessarily benign:
Ayurveda’s efficacy is disputed. [Prme Minister] Modi’s critics associate the ayurveda push with his Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu nationalist ideology. Some of ayurveda’s most prominent supporters have links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu supremacist organization. Some proponents of ayurveda even extol the virtues of drinking cow urine as an antidote to cancer and other illnesses, because of a belief in the cow as a holy animal.
Michael Gerson explains why the Trump team’s efforts to discredit the Russia investigation with conspiracy theories are a danger to democracy:
People who believe conspiracy theories cease to believe in the possibility of discourse and deliberation. When the whole game is rigged, debates can only be decided by power. At stake in our political moment is respect for the rule of law itself.
Rep. John Gannon of Idaho’s state legislature has a bill that remove any exemptions from prosecution for parents who let their kids die because of faith healing, which is a big thing in Idaho. There is, however, little hope the bill will go anywhere.
Malala Yousafzai was on hand for an event at Worcester College in Oxford honoring the memory of Pakistani student Mashal Khan who was killed one year ago by an angry mob over accusations of blasphemy.
Lee Billings, who was recently my guest on Point of Inquiry, has a fascinating article on how astronomers looking for signs of life on the TRAPPIST planets will be looking not just for oxygen, but for methane and carbon dioxide.
Yvette d’Entremont (oh hey she’s ALSO been on Point of Inquiry with me) writes in The Outline that alt-med for pets is just as stupid as alt-med for you. One of the products she mentions is “Homeopet”:
The quantity of active ingredients in Homeopet Wrm Clear was not listed in grams or milligrams but by dilution, making it damn near impossible to figure out how much medicine was even in the product. When your dog is shitting worms, there is no time for creative mathematics.
Gulalai Ismail, a human rights activist in Pakistan, founder of Aware Girls, and a past Women in Secularism conference speaker, is bringing charges against a women who charged Ismail with blasphemy with a social media campaign.
Madison Young at Romper profiles some of the practitioners of pseudoscience for childbirth, and makes an interesting observation:
The mistreatment of women is well documented, most pointedly in the witch trials of the 17th century, and there is some overlap between the marginalization of supposed “witches” and women simply looking for care in a system driven by insurance calculations and, in some cases, outdated medical protocols. The surging popularity of the occult among millennial women has to be read, in part, as a backlash to a society that does not meet the needs of young women.
Rina Rafael of Fast Company goes to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop conference/infomercial/medicine show, and holy crap it just keeps getting weirder:
The longest lines were reserved for IV drips. “I’ll get this instead of coffee,” I overheard a 50-year-old laugh as a needle pierced her hip. …
… the first panel … featured medium Laura Lynn Jackson conducting a live reading. The psychic stood alongside the Goop CEO [Paltrow], listing off her claims of the afterlife (good news: Paltrow’s deceased dog will supposedly be waiting for her at the pearly gates). “I feel all this beautiful energy rushing forward [in this room],” gushed Jackson. “The way it works is I will get pulled to someone . . . and the other side really chooses who gets the reading.”
“Awesome,” deadpanned Paltrow. Her nervous laughter and shifty eyes suggested that even the conference’s New Age queen might have found this particular session a bit too over the top.
Earth’s magnetic field could flip poles at any time, which would screw with our electronic infrastructure. I should point out that I understand almost none of this.
Searching for a lost submarine with 44 people on board, Argentinian officials waste money and time by hiring a psychic.
Queer Disbelief: Why LGBTQ Equality Is an Atheist Issue, the crowdfunded book by Camille Beredjick and published by Hemant Mehta, is available now.
Hemant also notes that a study, touted in headlines to show that atheists are smarter than religious people, has been misinterpreted (YOU’RE KIDDING):
When intuition came into play, and there was a discrepancy between the logical answer and a person’s gut instinct, atheists fared better. But that wasn’t always the case. But to say that atheists are therefore smarter than religious people is a complete exaggeration. You can’t conclude that based on one study with a select group of participants that looked at a specific kind of skill.
Quote of the Day
Beth Mole at Ars Technica on a fun subject – Heeeeeeeere coooooomes SUPER-LEPROSY:
Strains of Mycobacterium leprae—the main bacterium behind leprosy*—are hypermutating and becoming extremely drug resistant. …
When it does infect people, researchers know that it usually takes up residence in peripheral nerve cells. Some evidence suggests M. leprae reprograms the cells into a “stem-cell like” state to do its bidding. Infection leads to the inflammation, granulomas, and systemic bacterial spread within the patient. Eventually, patients also suffer sensory loss, disability, and deformations. Left untreated, the infection can be fatal. …
… researchers noted eight strains that were hypermutated, which came from five different subtypes of the bacterium. These hypermutants contained large numbers of mutations throughout their genome. They also all had broken versions of a gene that normally would allow the bacteria to proofread and fix DNA sequence errors, which explains the hypermutation.
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