The Crack

February 8, 2017


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

First things first. We need you to tell tell the White House not to pull the trigger on this “Religious Freedom” executive order, which we’re calling “a religious blank check for conservative Christians to claim special privileges.” Go do that, then come back.

The Senate is having issues. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Steward of God’s Kingdom I think, passes Senate confirmation by a single vote, Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaker. This is the only time that’s ever happened with a cabinet nominee. (Scary Mommy has some ideas as to what parents and other concerned citizens can do about this.)

Then the Senate Republicans vote to rebuke Sen. Elizabeth Warren for being mean to a fellow Senator, telling her to sit down and be quiet, because she read aloud from a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King denouncing Jeff Sessions. “I’m out of the game of the Senate floor,” she said. “I don’t get to speak at all.” 

Here comes the “Free Speech Fairness Act,” the bill that would kill the Johnson Amendment and allow for priestly politicking. Friend-of-the-blog Kimberly Winston of RNS did a Facebook Live chat to answer questions about the issue. 

A former NOAA researcher, John Bates, charges the agency with failing to comply with policies on archiving data in a major study on climate change (which has been independently verified anyway), which has science deniers like House Science chairman Lamarr Smith slavering over the chance to impugn more climate science and scientists:

“Were all of NOAA’s internal procedures followed? Answer: We don’t know,” said David Titley, a meteorologist from Pennsylvania State University who was not involved with the 2015 paper, in an email to The Washington Post. “It’s really not that interesting, and there are established processes and procedures, internal and external to NOAA, to address those allegations.” But, he said, “Is the science bad? Answer: No.” 

Meanwhile, a chunk of Antarctica is literally breaking off. Seriously. And not in, like, 50 or 100 years. Like, soon. NYT reports: “Since December, the crack has grown by the length of about five football fields each day. … Once the crack reaches all the way across the ice shelf, the break will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded.” 

A handful of former EPA officials are denouncing Scott Pruitt as the nominee to head the agency. And by a handful I mean 491.

Two new videos to share with you. One is from a CFI–Portland event with Dave Rubin, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Peter Boghossian on their shared frustration with political correctness and what they say are limits on free speech imposed by liberals. Another is from Melanie Brewster, who’s been part of a number of CFI events, presenting “Why is Psychology Silent on Atheism?” at Skepticon.

Barbara Demick at the LA Times writes on the grim and frustrating contrast between conspiracy theories about terror attacks that never happened (or did and were falsely said to go unreported) and the grotesque insistence that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. 

“Maybe it has nothing to do with Donald Trump, but somehow these hate creeps have been less shy about their beliefs,” said Noah’s father, Lenny Pozner, an information technology specialist. “They’ve been emboldened.” 

This should make you deeply uneasy. Jason Horowitz at NYT reports that conservative higher-ups at the Vatican, those less fluffy than Pope Fluffy, have found an ally in fellow Catholic Steve Bannon, aka Bannondorf, aka the Anti-Fluffy.

Leigh E. Schmidt, who’s written for CFI magazines before, takes to Religion News Service to look at the history of Americans’ mistrust of nonbelievers. “The proposition that the ungodly are not up to the demands of virtuous citizenship has been an abiding concern, a commonplace of American political discourse from the founding.”

Trump says the media didn’t cover a slew of terrorist attacks, and NYT shows its work

Steven Novella notes the Russian Academy of Sciences’ utter rejection of homeopathy as pseudoscience, and says the AAAS and the National Academy of Sciences could learn from the Russians’ example by establishing something akin to their “Commission Against Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research.”

Garrison Keillor isn’t sure Trump has a soul: “I’d like to believe that he does have one and that we just haven’t seen it yet.” I mean, nobody actually does, but whatever. 

The governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (aka Ahok) is remarkably cool-headed about his trial for blasphemy. “I’m happy that history chose me for this position,” he says. “You couldn’t buy it.”

If you were looking to become an Illinois Secular Celebrant (which you can do now thanks to a certain “center” for “inquiry”), the date for training has changed to April 29 so as not to overlap with the March for Science. 

Barney Frank offers some common sense advice for contacting lawmakers so as not to waste your efforts.  

I’ve never heard of this outlet What Culture, but they have a listicle of “8 Ways Companies Use Pseudoscience To Sell You Stuff, so imma give ’em a chance. 

On their letters page, the Austin American-Statesman features a picture of Clare Wuellner, former director of CFI–Austin, at a recent event. 

At, Kylie Sturgess interviews Caroline Williams, author of Override: My Quest to Go Beyond Brain Training and Take Control of My Mind.

Floating therapy. I’m sure it’s very nice.  

Morocco’s High Religious Committee says, hey, let’s not kill apostates. Progress! 

FINALLY, that guy from that band Blink 182 that you may or may not even remember is going to put out a book on UFOs. FINALLY. 

Quote of the Day:

Our own Tom Flynn comments on the recent GetReligion post which questions the journalistic shortcut of referring to atheists as a “religious group”:

As executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, I would argue strongly against labeling atheists — or secular humanists — as a “religious group.” The fact is that many atheists and humanists don’t merely lack a belief in a god; they go further and consider religion illegitimate as a category. I’m one of them. I don’t have a religion, and I’m proud not to have a religion. Secular humanism is what I do instead of religion, and in the context of my rejection of all religions and of religion generally. Fortunately, journalists have an easy solution. The British have coined a handy term that encompasses atheists, humanists, and religion believers: “life stance.” Atheism is a nonreligious life stance; Episcopalianism (to choose one at random) is a religious life stance. They’re all life stances. My suggestion for journalists who want to discuss religious and nonreligious people as a group in the context of their world views, religious or otherwise, would be to call them “life stance groups.” I suppose you could call them “world view groups” also, but I think the British term “life stance” better captures the quality that makes cosmic outlooks, religious or otherwise, distinct from, say, political or ideological worldviews. It makes perfect sense to write that atheists and Baptists are two of the country’s life stance groups, and it avoids confusion over whether the writer has accidentally implied that atheists are religious. 

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