The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
I was away for a long weekend, and for about four days I didn’t look at social media. You wanna talk about a detox? A cleansing? Holy crap, folks. I can’t recommend this highly enough. My only regret is that now that I have to bang out the Heresy, making up for the lost days, I have to dive back into the swamp. The impact of the splash will sting, and the filth in the murky water will make me sick. But I do it for you.
Michael De Dora summarizes a busy January for our advocacy efforts.
Sarah Posner writing at The Nation revealed a draft of an upcoming executive order entitled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom.” You probably know what they mean by that:
The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act. … The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted.
Carrie Poppy goes to Tijuana to check out the “Cancer Control Society” alt-med outfit, where among other things they seem to believe that cells literally speak to each other and have their own brains.
Longreads has a big feature on L. Ron Hubbard and the fiction that led to Scientology. I’m putting that one in the Instapaper.
Alan Jay Levinovitz (author of The Gluten Lie) at Vox says we can’t afford to let even one “alternative fact” slip by:
Despite what partisans might wish to believe, science denial has, until now, been a bipartisan affair: Witness fear on the left about GMOs, or Jill Stein’s vaccine skepticism. But with the ascent of Trump, we are in entirely new territory. A central part of Trump’s appeal is his empowering, anti-elitist skepticism of experts. Adding faith in Trump’s assertions to one’s web means eroding key higher order beliefs — the reliability of the media, scientists, government agencies—in a way that no other political candidate ever has.
Koran-burning, mustache-privilege-abusing pastor Terry Jones became an Uber driver so he could diss Muslims to passengers. Uber, who as we know is a pinnacle of ethics, suspended his account.
K. Anis Ahmed writes at NYT about the “creeping Islamism” in Bangladesh, in which language is being replaced by religion as a national identifier.
Of the countries surveyed by Pew, only in Greece and Poland did more people think religion was important to national identity than did in the U.S. (Christianity, specifically.) But Greece? Where they have an atheist prime minister. (You know how many young Germans attach religion to national identity? Literally none.)
Pew shows that though Americans overwhelmingly support vaccine science, denial and “vaccine hesitancy” starts rising for parents of young children. The younger the kids, the greater the hesitancy.
Stephen Buranyi at The Guardian warns that fake data could overwhelm real science, but that the good guys are working on ways to prevent that.
Susan Gerbic writes about SkeptiCamp and the Monterey County Skeptics, which she says can “show people that skeptics aren’t a bunch of curmudgeons and naysayers but are fun and interesting.” Hell of a lift. More power to ’em.
Snopes says the claims about 800,000 “illegal” votes for Clinton, or really any illegal votes, are false.
Gervais and Colbert talk God: “You don’t believe in 2,999 gods. And I don’t believe in just one more.”
Sam Harris and Bill Maher (sans Ben Affleck) talk Trump and radical Islam.
Trump wants to make it easier for the FDA to approve drugs for market, bu
t David Gorski says the standards for safety and efficacy are already too low.
In Australia, 7% of Catholic priests are alleged to have sexually abused kids. That’s almost 2000 priests since 1980.
New Jersey has had more than 130 reported UFO sightings since January of 2016. Yeah, you know they’re afraid to land. Come at us, aliens!
Our master-of-libraries Tim Binga unearths the works of one Helen Hamilton Gardener, a contemporary and devotee of Ingersoll who gave lectures and the like on feminism and eventually headed the United States Civil Service Commission. She was called “Ingersoll done in soprano” by one newspaper. Oh, and get this:
She died in 1925. Her brain was donated to Cornell University, where it is today.
A half-billion years ago, our ancestor was “a tiny, wriggly, sea-dwelling blob that may have pooped through its mouth.” How little has changed.
Spencer Dew connects Steve Bannon to Satan, who Bannon seems to admire for the whole prince-of-lies thing:
The power of Bannon’s Satan resides in illusion, or in keeping his audience trapped in illusion, with no bearing on the really real, no sense of a reality outside the lies, the propaganda, the devil’s version of “truth.” This Satanic power thus depends on a lack of discernment, a loss of grounding. In such a setting, one could never “fact-check” or, to eschew the euphemism, one could never figure out if a claim were verifiable or merely belief; accurate, a lie, or a matter of faith.
Now for the record I did not call Bannon Satan. Those are YOUR WORDS. YOUR WORDS IN A CIRCLE.
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The Morning Heresy: “I actually read it.” – Hemant Mehta