Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Lake Monster?

April 11, 2017

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

I’m back. 

The San Jose Mercury News quotes CFI’s Michael De Dora in an editorial telling Facebook and Twitter to “stand strong” against Pakistan’s pressure to reveal the private information of those deemed to have posted “blasphemous” content. Michael takes Pakistan to task in a new essay as well.

Hemant Mehta interviews Bangladeshi atheist blogger Arnab Goswami, who escaped peril thanks to CFI’s Secular Rescue program. Goswami says:

I heard from the security guard of my building that, once, some people came with my picture asking whether I live there or not. Actually I am still getting threats from people even after coming to Germany. Last week when I criticized the Qur’an on my Facebook page, there were around 600 comments. All but two of them wanted to kill me and rape my mother. They also tried to hack into my Facebook page. They failed there but managed to hack into my personal website. (It’s fine now.) 

Three people were killed at a school shooting in San Bernardino – the shooter, his wife, and a student. David McAfee wonders why the fact that the shooter was a Christian pastor is being underreported.

There’s a crowdfunding campaign to help out Shaheen, a gay man from Afghanistan who barely escaped being stoned to death by his own uncle, and is now in hiding. 

Oh dear. Julia Belluz at Vox endures the health advice of Alex Jones and Infowars:

Infowars makes Dr. Oz and the Food Babe seem benevolent. The show goes so much further than simply misleading people about their personal health choices and a range of other subjects. Jones and Infowars are part of a political movement aimed at undermining and delegitimizing the institutions that are fundamental to democracy — especially science. They also have connections that run all the way up to the White House. 

James Hansen, the atmospheric scientist who was among the first to communicate the threat of global warming, says the Clean Power Plan that Trump just blew up wasn’t much good anyway, and favors putting a price on carbon, a very Republican plan. 

There are other Republicans trying to do something about climate change! I know! It’s crazy! Alessandra Potenza at The Verge profiles these ideological outliers.

All this dismal reporting on climate change can make people feel pretty crappy, and that constantly-crappy feeling can lead to exhaustion. That exhaustion, says New Scientisthelps the deniers.

Here’s a thing to look out for. Ben Radford warns that by playing on our fears, “Russia Today [RT] News is intentionally misleading the American public into unjustified outrage and distrust.”  

In Skeptical Inquirer, Carrie Poppy shows that not only are conspiracy beliefs pretty rampant, many of us even believe in conspiracies that aren’t even conspiracies

Also in SI, a quartet of scholars wrestles with how to keep the public involved in issues relating to science while maintaining science’s integrity:

It is important to show that the public can participate in scientific debate, because otherwise denialist activities might acquire a sheen of legitimacy as the only avenues open to the public to question scientific findings. 

Also too as well in SI, Stephen Hupp, Amanda Stary, and Jeremy Jewell present their research on belief in the myths about childhood psychology.

Reasonable Talk, our video series of CFI events, presents “Secular Women in Other Movements,” a panel discussion with Diane Burkholder, Hypatia Alexander, Kaberi Kar Gupta, Kayley Whalen, and our own Stef McGraw.

Margaret Renkl at NYT on Southern Christians:

Tribal bonds have always been a challenge for our species. What’s new is how baldly the 2016 election exposed the collision between basic Christian values and Republican Party loyalty. By any conceivable definition, the sitting president of the United States is the utter antithesis of Christian values — a misogynist who disdains refugees, persecutes immigrants, condones torture and is energetically working to dismantle the safety net that protects our most vulnerable neighbors. Watching Christians put him in the White House has completely broken my heart. 

Pervez Hoodbhoy at Pakistan’s Dawn sees American tribalism as a renunciation of its founding Enlightenment values:

When crises threaten, people everywhere tend to retreat into their comfort zones. Resurgent tribalism, aggressive nationalism, and religious fundamentalism become more attractive. But these can only provi
de solace, not solutions. 

Emma Green interviews Phil Gorski, who has a new book about American “civil religion,” and how it may be the thing that can revive the governing center in American politics.  

Maldivian model Raudha Athif was found dead in Bangladesh last month, reportedly a suicide, but her family believes she was killed by Islamic militants.

The more intelligent cephalopods like squids and octopuses do this crazy thing with their RNA that I have to admit I don’t really understand, but it looks like they are able to edit their genes on a scale not seen in just about any other creatures, including lower cephalopods, and it likely has something to do with their complex nervous systems.

Thanks to about 60,000 volunteers, about four years’ worth of scientific analysis of images from the SkyMapper telescope was done in about three days, resulting in four serious candidates for the hypothetical Planet Nine

No “crucifixion experience” for folks in Manchester, as a dramatization of Jesus’s death is canceled due to “blasphemy concerns.” 

The State Department releases a brief statement of concern about reports of LGBTQ people being detained in Chechnya. 

Russia also bans the image of rainbow-clown-face Putin. You know, this one: 


At the New York Review of BooksGary Wills reviews The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America, and does so in the context of the rise of Trump. 

Amid all the tumult over Brexit, some folks are finally beginning to consider the implications for the Loch Ness Monster

Quote of the Day:

Craig A. Foster says that skepticism must be approached in a nonpartisan fashion, criticizing claims rather than claimants:

Mahatma Gandhi used the Sanskrit word Satyagraha to describe the soul of his political opposition. The word is difficult to translate, but in being so, it might describe Gandhi’s morally enlightening perspective better than any English term. Satyagraha means something like politely and insistently holding on to the truth. Satyagraha is the best course of action for the skeptical community. The skeptical community is founded on the pursuit of truth, a truth that changes as the evidence dictates. In this emotionally charged political zeitgeist, the skeptical community needs to remember its goal of promoting science and reason across all parts of the political spectrum. The skeptical community will achieve that goal most effectively not with brazen, negative characterizations of those who disagree but rather with polite insistence.

* * * 

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.

Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry

Got a tip for the Heresy? Send it to press(at)centerforinquiry.net!

News items that mention political​ candidates are for informational purposes only and under no circumstances are to be interpreted as statements of endorsement or opposition to any political candidate. CFI is a nonpartisan nonprofit.


The Morning Heresy: “I actually read it.” – Hemant Mehta