Philosophical Cockfighting

February 19, 2018


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

I yet live.

While I was away, someone decided to make a stage play out of The God Delusion and the band Muse made a song inspired by Richard Dawkins’ conception of memes. Band member Matt Bellamy explains:

If you spend a few hours watching American news, well, that’s were the first part of the song came from really. It’s kinda like some strange bubble where they’re all living up Trump’s bum, basically … It gets inside your mind. I think that’s where the song came from really. You start walking round worrying about things that you wouldn’t normally think about and so the song came from that. How other people’s ideas can kinda take over your own if you’re not careful. 

Stephanie Russell-Kraft at Religion & Politics talks to Terry Heaton, a former producer for The 700 Club who is “making amends” by publishing a kind of behind-the-scenes exposé:

“We are the ones who invented Fox News,” he tells me. “And I can tell you how we did it. We did it by just assuming we had the right to be on the same level and same spectrum as anybody else in the press.” (The only problem, he adds, is that The 700 Club wasn’t producing news; it was producing propaganda.) 

This piece at The Stranger has me a little dizzy: It takes the idea that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was right about “inheritance of acquired characteristics,” which is now known because of new research on epigenetics, which is then be used to explain urban planning. It’s too early for this.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo declares the state will no longer do business with any company that uses a “gay panic” excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people. 

Newt Gingrich has gone so far off his rocker that someone else just went and sat in his rocker while he was away:

“The rise of a secular, atheist philosophy” in the West is “an equally or even more dangerous threat” to Christianity than terrorist organizations that will kill Christians if “they don’t submit,” Gingrich said. 

One of my favorite talks at CSICon 2017 was Ross Blocher’s on how we interact with people whose beliefs we think are nutty, and having a bit more generosity of spirit. And here it is on our video series Reasonable Talk.

In Wentzville, Missouri, a woman is removed by police from a meeting of the city council because she spoke against the “In God We Trust” motto in the room. Unreal. And yet. 

Iowa State Sen. Craig Johnson, who obviously thinks he is much more clever than he actually is, responds to Justin Scott’s complaint about prayers at senate sessions:

if you use an eight-hour day as an example, 480 minutes, 3 minutes, 0.00625% of that day was spent on prayer, the rest of the day’s wide open for whatever.

Oh, okay! So by that logic, I can come to a senate session dressed as a turkey, hop up and down on one foot, and scream “BRING BACK FIREFLY!!!” over and over for three minutes straight, and hey, that’s only 0.00625% of their day, so they have the whole rest of the day wide open for whatever. 

Massimo Polidoro has a really cool Skeptical Inquirer piece on the myths about the design, construction, and use of the Roman Colosseum

Also in Skeptical Inquirer, Sam Scott profiles the work Jennifer Eberhardt whose groundbreaking research has revealed “the long, pernicious reach of unconscious racial bias.” She says:

I always knew I wasn’t going to be the person who made a difference because I had the loudest voice. … I wasn’t going to make a difference from litigation or from protesting. I felt like through the research I could make a difference. 

At Truthdig, Maj. Danny Sjursen provides a history lesson in the religious zealotry that served as part of the bedrock of the first English colonies. “Could you imagine living with these people, comporting with their way of life?” he asks. “It sounds like a nightmare. Yet we Americans hold these antecedents in high esteem.”

The Times of Trenton editorializes in support of Princeton professor Lawrence Rosen. In an anthropology course on hate speech, blasphemy, and pornography, he uses the n-word to illustrate the word’s impact, and two students have filed complaints, leading to the cancellation of the course.

A bill in Oklahoma proposes to allow sex offenders early release from prison if they agree to chemical castration. The ACLU says the idea that this would prevent further assaults is based on pseudoscience.

David Gorski looks at the online world of alt-med promoters, and how three categories differ and overlap: true believers, entrepreneurs, and scammers

Jonathan Jarry, who has been publishing video interviews with CSICon 2017 speakers, talks to our own Joe Nickell and the case of the shrinking bullet.

Turns out there might be a troubling correlation between exposure to the radiation given out by cellphones and women’s miscarriages. No one knows why yet, and the study hasn’t been replicated. 

Quote of the Day

In the case of U.S. v. Cruz, a dude claims his religious beliefs give him a Free Exercise right to engage in cockfights. What? Here’s what the court said:

Here, Cruz has failed to make a showing that the act of engaging in animal fighting ventures stems from sincerely held beliefs that are religious in nature. Although Cruz continually refers to the “God given” dominion of man over animals, he does not identify any specific religious tenets or practices that are burdened by the statute. Nor does he identify any religion or denomination from which his beliefs derive. Indeed, in “attest[ing] to the importance of the God given rights of the American farmer,” Cruz cites quotations in which the founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, exalted agriculture…. This suggests that Cruz’s beliefs are philosophical or political in nature.

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