A Few Faint Notes of “Shake It Off”

January 5, 2018


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

Kavin Senapathy, a most excellent skeptic and debunker of anti-GMO myths, often gets called a “shill” for Big Ag and Monsanto. At Slate, she turns the tables and calls out Monsanto for hosting a conference chat between the company’s “director of millennial engagement” (oh barf) and Prof. Jordan Peterson. And the problem isn’t that stupid “millennial engagement” title (let’s discuss biotech, my fellow kids!):

[Peterson] is best known for the YouTube channel that has made him a “belle of the alt-right,” Peterson’s oratory cloaks bigotry in pseudointellectual arguments, revealing a chillingly detached dismissal of civil rights. … Peterson describes the idea that there is such a thing as marginalized groups as “comical.”

Also, check out my recent Point of Inquiry conversation with Kavin and Yvette d’Entremont.

Ross Pomeroy of Real Clear Science glowingly summarizes some of Joe Nickell’s approach to ghost investigation:

Unlike others in his line of work, Nickell plies his trade with a less credulous mindset. After all, to prove the existence of ghosts or similar phenomena would be a world-changing discovery! All other explanations for unsolved paranormal mysteries must be rooted out first, and any corroborating evidence must be critically assessed.  

At NYT, physician Lisa Pryor explains how the purveyors of pseudoscientific fake medicine confuse the public:

Just like that naturopath on Facebook describing herself as a “specialist” with a “practice,” alternative-health gurus harness the language of medicine to seem authoritative. They order investigations, adopt protocols. And of course what they say is always half right, which is how pseudoscience works. … In the face of this circus, we doctors must hold tight to evidence. We must hold tight to our doubt, our knowledge of our fallibility as individuals and as a profession, knowing that humility is a strength, not a weakness.

The State Department releases its latest list of Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act, putting Pakistan in a whole new category, the Special Watch List, for the worst offenders. Hard to argue with that.

The Templeton Foundation wants you to know just how seriously it takes atheism and the study of those godless types. 

John Timmer at Ars Technica reports on recent findings showing that astronomers may have been underestimating just how big stars tend to get:

The expectation has been that 150 solar masses would be the upper limit, but the researchers found one that’s more than 200 solar masses (other researchers have claimed a star in the area is about 300 solar masses). And their data can only rule out stars of 500 solar masses with a 90-percent confidence. … On a basic level, that means that our models of star formation are incomplete and don’t successfully account for the conditions of a starburst event. But it also means our expectations for the rate of various phenomena could be way off.  

Ryan F. Mandelbaum at Gizmodo reports on new experiments that seem to be able to represent a 4th spatial dimension, and I don’t understand one bit of it. Of course, I can’t even manage to orient myself in three dimensions. 

The new book about the Trump White House in which Steve Bannon calls the meetings with Russians “treasonous” also has a bit about how Elon Musk tried to get Trump jazzed about the SpaceX plan to get humans on Mars. (Not a surprise, of course, and I don’t quite see why Business Insider needed three reporters bylined to tell us this essentially one-sentence story.)

Neil Steinberg at the Chicago Sun-Times has a novel way of analogizing the recent claims of visitors from other planets:

Taylor Swift lives in my basement. I saw her. Well, saw a flash of something once out of the corner of my eye on the stairs. But I’m convinced it was her. I’ve also snapped a photograph — it looks like a murky blotch, because it was dark, but it’s definitely her. I know it. Some nights I awake to catch a scurrying sound, which seems like a few faint notes of “Shake It Off” filtering through the walls. It’s the only explanation.

Convinced? Would it help if I point out that I am a professional journalist, for whom honesty and observation are vital skills?

No? What’s the matter? Closed-minded? Hostile to Swift, an intelligent and talented young woman? Can you prove she isn’t there? 

Quote of the Day:

Here’s the opening of an op-ed by Phillip Tutor at the Anniston Star:

Republican lawmakers in South Carolina want to erect a monument that honors that state’s black Confederate veterans of the Civil War. They might as well build shrines to Betty Crocker, Dr Pepper and Aunt Jemima. Bigfoot and Mrs. Butterworth, too. 
None of ’em exist — then or now. Betty Crocker and Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth are marketing creations. Dr Pepper is a gawdawful drink that tastes like 5w30 Valvoline mixed with sugar, not an inventor or physician. No one’s found Bigfoot. (Yet.) And black Confederate soldiers are a myth promoted by Lost Cause defenders, would-be historians and CSA flaggers desperate for faux proof that lessens the racial overtones of their causes. 
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