The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Happy Friday. Here are some ways we’ll all be made sick or put in peril by the administration’s reversal of climate regulations.
Hey maybe there are more atheists in the U.S. than we thought. If a novel study from the University of Kentucky is correct, it could be that as much as a quarter of the population or more is non-believing. But that’s a pretty big “if,” and other experts are skeptical. (Interestingly, the number of Republican atheists, according to this way of surveying folks, is about zero.)
Mashal Khan, a Pakistani student who went by the name “The Humanist” online, was murdered by other students after being accused of blasphemy. Reports suggest his university may have made some official warning about his statements. This is a terrible, ugly situation, and many, many hearts are broken.
Sneaky Trump signs legislation that strips family planning funding from any clinic that provides abortion services, in a signing ceremony closed to the press.
Also sneaky: a repeal of the Johnson Amendment may be hidden in upcoming tax legislation.
Cassini will plunge into Saturn soon, and it’s making a lot of us sad, as though we’re losing a friend or a pet. In a lovely piece at The Atlantic, Marina Koren at looks at why we feel that way about a space probe:
It has ventured into dangerous territory, all alone, to seek answers about the unknown. And it appears, as NASA suggests in its closing narrative, that Cassini has accepted its mortality. Soon its work will be over, and it will no longer exist.
Speaking of Cassini, look what it found on Enceladus: traces of hydrogen likely from hydrothermal vents that could conceivably feed microbes.
When California passed its stricter vaccination requirements for kids, guess who benefited: KIDS. Who got VACCINATED. Peter Aldhous at BuzzFeed looks at what they did right and what other states are doing wrong.
Google is rolling out accuracy ratings and fact checks in some of its search results.
Michelle Luhtala and Jacquelyn Whiting at the School Library Journal say the whole to-do about “fake news” is missing the mark:
We are focusing on the wrong thing. Recognizing fake news doesn’t even qualify for Band-Aid status on the spectrum of media literacy challenges. Research is a process, and students often get through high school without learning it. They frequently approach research tasks knowing what they “want to say”—and then finding resources that support that. When they do this, they miss the point of research altogether.
Julia Belluz looks to health researcher Hilda Bastian for some guidelines on fighting fake news, with the takeaway lesson being:
Sometimes you can’t sway people with research, or compassion, or generosity. Sometimes there are high-profile misinformation peddlers who need to be held accountable. In these cases, try shame. … Naming and shaming takes strength, and fighting for facts takes time, knowledge, compassion, and patience.
Remarking on Facebook’s efforts to call out “false news,” NYT’s Damon Darlin tweets:
Facebook is giving advice on spotting fake news. How about: “Don’t go to Facebook. Go to a real news site.”
Hey, did you hear? Quantum effects may force naked singularities to clothe themselves in event horizons just like normal black holes!! I don’t know what that means.
Catherine Rampell advises progressives who are inclined to prevent speakers from getting a platform at their university to go ahead and let them speak, if only for their own “naked self-interest,” beginning with: “First, you’re giving the speakers you abhor a much bigger platform when you martyr them.”
At most big CFI events, you will find board member Brian Engler and his camera. Susan Gerbic does a deep dive with Brian and Karl Withakay on photography where they geek out about lenses and skeptic stuff.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens authorizes a new rule that allows public funds from the state’s Department of Natural Resources to go to religious schools and institutions, just as the big SCOTUS case on Missouri’s Trinity Lutheran Church is nigh.
Egyptian atheist Sherif Gaber, who has spent time in prison on blasphemy charges, has a fascinating video on “the history of religions” that is almost a spoken-word music video.
Emma Dibden at Esquire gets us all excited about Bill Nye’s new Netflix show with an interview with the Science Guy.
Mark Crislip discusses the ups and downs of dealing with patients who also see naturopaths.
Quote of the Day:
Molly Worthen explores the mindset of conservative evangelicals and their troubled relationship with facts:
Conservative evangelicals are not the only ones who think that an authority trusted by the other side is probably lying. But they believe that their own authority — the inerrant Bible — is both supernatural and scientifically sound, and this conviction gives that natural human aversion to unwelcome facts a special power on the right. This religious tradition of fact denial long predates the rise of the culture wars, social media or President Trump, but it has provoked deep conflict among evangelicals themselves. …
We all cling to our own unquestioned assumptions. But in the quest to advance knowledge and broker peaceful coexistence in a pluralistic world, the worldview based on biblical inerrancy gets tangled up in the contradiction between its claims on universalist science and insistence on an exclusive faith.
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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