So Many Mechanisms

February 15, 2017


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

Evenings at the White House must be nuts these days. Last evening, NYT broke the big story that Trump’s campaign aides (unnamed except for the known quantity, Paul Manafort) were in frequent contact with senior Russian intelligence agents during the election campaign.

Tell your congressmonster right now that they need to lay the hell off of DC’s Death with Dignity Act

Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey says a woman is merely a “host” for a fetus, and submitted a bill to require a fetus’s father give consent before a woman can get an abortion. The bill passed a House committee already.

Melinda and Bill Gates oppose Trump’s global gag rule on abortion. 

That super-popular YouTube guy you never heard of unless you’re under 30, “PewDiePie,” gets the boot from both Disney and YouTube for posting anti-Semitic videos. Charlie Hall at Polygon reports:

The videos in question, some of which have been pulled down already, are bizarre. One features individuals in India holding up a sign that reads “death to all Jews.” Another includes Nazi imagery, including “a man dressed as Jesus Christ saying, ‘Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.’ 

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka “Ahok,” the Christian governor of Jakarta who faces blasphemy charges, looks to be headed for a runoff for his reelection. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will continue to battle anti-LGBTQ discrimination, despite the position of the Trump administration.

In Skeptical Inquirer, Rachel Ammirati, Scott O. Lilienfeld, and Dean McKay dismantle the claims of psychiatrist Richard Gallagher, a guy who “helps spot demonic possession.” 

Julia Belluz, who is not one for hyperbole, says of Trump’s alignment with anti-vaxxers: “If there was ever a moment to worry that the anti-vaxxers could win, this is it.”  

Thomas Gallagher, publisher of the Religion News Service, writes in a letter to NYT that Bannondorf‘s influence with the anti-Fluffy wing of the Vatican is no surprise.

João Madruga Dias gives the skeptic’s perspective on the insidiousness of alternative medicine in Portugal:

I have to say most of the medical community is worried about this issue, and most of my colleagues are appalled by what is happening. We’re in the twenty-first century watching health authorities approving what was already quackery in the nineteenth century!  

RealClearScience rounds up six different species of plants and animals that are threatened by their (ab)use in pseudoscience

KSAZ does a puff piece on “energy healing,” noting that “some argue it’s pseudoscience.” I would say it’s less “arguing” and more “correctly pointing out.”

Kristen V. Brown at Gizmodo says the next big pseudoscientific health fads will involve genetics.  

The other half of the Trump administration’s brain along with Bannondorf, Stephen Miller, wrote this:

Atheists may talk about humanism and justice, but when you don’t believe in a soul or the ultimate truth of goodness and morality, then why live your life except in whatever fashion most plainly and immediately benefits you?

No just society can survive which abandons God. 

And relatedly, James Croft responds to criticism of his post about the oppression of atheists:

To reduce all discussion of power to a discussion of laws is to miss so many mechanisms by which people are advantaged and disadvantaged.  

If you saw a UFO in San Francisco, it wasn’t an alien ship. It was a missile. So, worry for different reasons. 

Philip Pullman announces follow-ups to the His Dark Materials trilogy, so there’s some good news:

The Book of Dust will return to the world(s) and characters of His Dark Materials, Pullman said, and Lyra will be integral to the new story — but not in the way she was before. The first volume will take place a decade before the events of His Dark Materials, when Lyra is an infant. The second and third volumes will be set ten years after the original trilogy’s conclusion, and will follow Lyra as a young woman.  

Quote of the

Trump makes the claim that autism rates are sharply on the rise, which is false, but I’m sure he has no idea what he’s talking about. Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribesgives clarity:

There’s no consensus as to whether or not there’s been any significant increase in the actual prevalence of autism, period. The real debate is whether or not there has been a small increase, and there are a number of factors that could play a role in that small increase. For instance, it’s well established that older parents have more autistic kids and people are waiting longer to get married and have kids now, so there may be a small increase there. Some people claim that there are some environmental factors — notably, not vaccines — that may be contributing to a small increase. But the consensus is that there has been no huge, startling, ‘horrible,’ as Trump said, increase in autism. And the CDC estimate has been flat for a couple of years, just as they expected it to be, because the major source of the increase that started in the 1990s was broadened diagnostic criteria and much more public awareness of what autism looks like. 

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