Worse Than Useless

February 22, 2018

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

Yesterday I put out Cause & Effect issue number 100. Everyone at CFI had a big party and there was cake and Pin-the-Chi-on-the-Chopra and we all looked back on one hundred issues of newsletter excellence. And I got a BIG RAISE.

Ha ha none of that happened. Fake news. But it was issue 100.  

Jonathan Jarry from the McGill Office for Science and Society has been providing us with a great series of interviews with the speakers from CSICon 2017, and here he has a kind of melange of skeptics all weighing in on how we can all go about being better decision-makers.

Internships! We got yer internships right here! Get ’em while they’re hot!

Scientists at CERN are going to move antimatter from one building to another a few hundred meters away, not through quantum teleportation, but in a van. And they’re just TELLING everyone about it so a supervillain can come and hijack the van to rip open the fabric of spacetime. Nice work, guys.

On the whole question of how we make ourselves fat and what we should or shouldn’t eat, I officially give up. Julia Belluz reports on, yes, another study (Julia is very good about picking studies to cover and putting them in appropriate context) that says a low-carb diet isn’t nearly what it’s cracked up to be. “The researchers did not find evidence of any dramatic effects after switching to a low-carb diet.”

Stuart Vyse in Skeptical Inquirer wrestles with the problem of trying to change the minds of racists:

People who have the extraordinary patience to reach out to those whose beliefs they find abhorrent have, on occasion, been able to forge the kinds of shared bonds that reduce conflict. This kind of work is not for everyone. 

Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin wanted to serve as foster parents to a refugee child. The agency, which takes government funding, denied them because they do not “mirror the holy family.” The women are suing the Trump administration.

The MORENA Party’s nominee for president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is breaking a kind of political taboo by vocally embracing faith as part of his message. AP reports:

He pledged to seek “not only material well-being, but the well-being of the soul” if elected in the July 1 elections, adding, “There are many who have said Christ is love.” … “Those who think this topic doesn’t belong in politics have forgotten that the highest goal of politics is to achieve love.” … “I do not believe this contradicts my theory of a secular state,” he continued, quoting the biblical book of Matthew: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Crazypants religious-right organization Focus on the Family is not a church. But that’s not what they tell the IRS. Why? Probably so they are shielded from audits. Maybe CFI should declare itself a church and then try to get away with sneaky stuff.

Former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was convicted of blasphemy last year, and now he’s reportedly requesting a case review before Indonesia’s Supreme Court.

The Oklahoma State Legislature, which is really quite something, might just pass this bill requiring public schools to display “In God We Trust” alongside their American flags. Require

And just to make sure they’re in the mix, the Florida House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring porn a public health risk, after refusing to discuss the possibility of maybe banning assault weapons. Priorities. Have some. 

Quote of the Day

Daniel Schultz, a pastor with the United Church of Christ, says that “thoughts and prayers” doesn’t have to be an empty, cynical gesture, but too often, it is

Thoughts that don’t lead to new things aren’t very deep thoughts. Prayers that don’t change those who worship aren’t really prayers. Giving thought to the problems of gun control, police killing, sexual violence, is worthless without thinking about how things could be different. Praying for victims of violence and injustice without being changed by their grief is shit.

In sum, offering thoughts and prayers without listening for the new world that is coming into being is worse than useless. It’s pathetic, an empty shell of faith, like a firework launched high into the sky only to fall back to earth unconsummated.  

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.

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