The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Point of Inquiry this week features James McGrath Morris, biographer of “the First Lady of the black press,” Ethel Payne.
69 threats have now come into 54 different Jewish Community Centers across the country, with the latest “wave” of threats occurring yesterday.
Look what Merriam-Webster added to the dictionary: woo-woo: “dubiously or outlandishly mystical, supernatural, or unscientific”
Here comes Texans for Vaccine Choice, an anti-vax group that feels empowered by their new buddy in the White House. Lena H. Sun at WaPo reports:
… now immunization advocates are realizing that they can’t let vaccine critics go unchallenged, saying they need voices other than scientists and experts to make the case. They are recruiting teachers and grass-roots groups to explain how immunization protects families and communities.
Daniel Summers at WaPo would like to claim the $100,000 offered by RFK Jr. and DeNiro:
I could resurrect Edward Jenner and Jonas Salk for joint TED talks about the benefits of vaccination, and somehow I doubt it would make any difference at this point.
Lord Darzi of the Institute of Global Health Innovation in the UK writes in the Telegraph that scientists must take sides against anti-vaxxers in this conflict:
Fake news is damaging but fake science is potentially lethal. Vaccination is probably the single greatest success story of the last century in medicine. We cannot allow it to be sacrificed to ignorance, prejudice and vested interests. … We must join the battle against the vaccine-deniers and evidence must be our weapon. To paraphrase Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for fraudsters to triumph is for honest doctors and scientists to do nothing.
Elizabeth Kolbert at The New Yorker looks at the research on why facts don’t seem to make a difference once we dumb humans have made up our minds about something:
One way to look at science is as a system that corrects for people’s natural inclinations. In a well-run laboratory, there’s no room for myside bias; the results have to be reproducible in other laboratories, by researchers who have no motive to confirm them. And this, it could be argued, is why the system has proved so successful. At any given moment, a field may be dominated by squabbles, but, in the end, the methodology prevails. Science moves forward, even as we remain stuck in place.
Jim Rutenberg at NYT reports on the deeply upsetting degree of influence over the president enjoyed by Alex Jones.
George Noory, host of the paranormalist radio show Coast to Coast AM, is profiled at NYT (he advocates for “skepticism about everything” before he describes his out-of-body experiences), and the piece also quotes our own Joe Nickell, who has appeared on the show several times:
What I’m trying to do is actually investigate claims, like Bigfoot or ghosts or any of the other bizarre topics ‘Coast to Coast’ deals with. I’m confident that if I can actually explain some mystery, the debunking will take care of itself.
The Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Alabama wants its own police force, calling the idea “a way to create a safer campus in a fallen world.” (Hard for me to argue with the fallen world part.) Who would these officers answer to? The church. Huh. A police force just for a particular religious group. Something about that sounds familiar.
Hey look at this: New Hampshire has the highest-ranking avowed atheist in the Republican Party: State Rep. Brandon Phinney, who says:
In an age of information, scientific progress and exploration and the understanding of the workings of our world, it is difficult and to be frank, rather foolish, to hold onto archaic beliefs that deny reality. In these modern times of religious extremism, I do not see the value of belief systems that consistently devalue others by telling them they’re bad people for not believing the same things or having some sort of moral superiority.
Tolulope Edionwe at The Outline explains a new Princeton study on the relationship between social alienation and belief in conspiracy theories. It’s a high correlation, you’ll be shocked to know:
The trauma of social exclusion has been felt by various social groups along the axes of socioeconomic status, race, gender, ability, and more. In recent times, political affiliation has joined the rankings. The rise of the Tea Party and conspiracy sites such as Infowars is underpinned by a sense of exclusion as felt by a demographic that has traditionally held power, balking at shifting social norms around issues like rac
ial equality, immigration policy, gay rights, and religion.
Kavin Senapathy talks to chiropractor Daniel Dopps about his bizarre product “Mensez” adhesive “lipstick.” I don’t even, um, well, I’ll let her talk about it.
David “Axis of Evil” Frum goes on Sam Harris’s podcast. This oughta be interesting.
Bob Jones University is tax-exempt again.
Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD) runs a full-page ad in the Idaho Statesman advocating for ending the religious exemptions for Christian Scientists in child-neglect and abuse laws.
I saw this pop up on Twitter yesterday, so I thought this might be useful: The western black rhinoceros has been declared extinct since about 2006 – it didn’t just happen this year. Or 2011. Or 2012. Or 2015.
Thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, we may actually be able to see what a black hole looks like by 2018.
Ravit Hecht yearns to be an atheist, “And I manage to be an excellent atheist when I am strong, confident and in a just society.” The hangup?
The problem arises when I encounter the dregs of that human existence. Or when I encounter the painful arbitrariness running wild in the world, causing disasters and troubles. Or when I am filled with helplessness accompanied by uncertainty precisely because the world seemingly has no God, i.e., it has no order or guiding hand. … At these moments, to my embarrassment, I turn to the same infantile invention and plead: God, please make everything all right.
Quote of the Day:
One “@SirEviscerate” on Twitter on the alt-something accounts purporting to come from the administration:
How to tell if a rogue government Twitter account is a hoax:
1. It is.
2. Shhhh. I know. I know. It is, though.
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Photo credit: avlxyz via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
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