Memories of a Sea Slug

April 28, 2016

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

Yemeni atheist Omar Mohammad Bataweel is abducted by Islamic militants and shot, reportedly for his outspoken nonbelief.

Ranbir Singh Sidhu at VICE says the recent murders in Bangladesh point to a troubling “broadening of the targets,” writing, “Now it seems almost any marginal voice in Bangladesh, whether an intellectual or activist, is a potential target.” (Whoever wrote the headline for this piece must be Captain Obvious. “Bangladesh Needs to Sort Out Its Rampant Machete Attack Problem.” You think???)

CNN’s Ivan Watson, Sugam Pokharel, and Pamela Boykoff profile some of those secularists who have escaped attempts on their lives in Bangladesh. (Linked within the piece the the op-ed by me and Michael De Dora.)

You will never enjoy Shrek or Pirates of the Caribbean again. The guy who wrote them, Terry Rossio, has acquired the film rights to anti-vax conspiracy monger Andrew Wakefield‘s 2010 book. Ugh. 

Reacting to the recent conviction of parents who let their baby son die by refusing him actual medical treatment for his meningitis, Kate Lunau at Motherboard writes that everybody needs to stop treating naturopaths like they’re actual doctors:

Alternative therapies, including naturopaths’ services, are popular. It’s easy to see why: in Canada, which suffers from a longstanding doctor shortage, it can be difficult—if not impossible—to get a family doctor. Even when you do have one, that doctor is often rushed. By contrast, naturopaths sit with their patients for half an hour or longer, going over every little detail of their health. One of their most valuable services is “lifestyle counseling,” simple diet and exercise advice, that doctors often don’t have the time to do. 

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert gets 15 months in prison after the sexual abuse of several boys when he was a high school wrestling coach. Doesn’t seem like enough, does it.

Mark Zuckerberg made some structural changes to Facebook’s stock in a move to maintain control of the company for the long term, and…why would The Morning Heresy care? Because he says he wants to use his unfathomable wealth for “helping to cure all diseases by the end of this century, upgrading our education system so it’s personalized for each student, and protecting our environment from climate change.” Well, you get to it, Zuck!

David Koepsell reflects on the situation in Kuwait, where a professor may be prosecuted for blasphemy because of her remarks about secularism on TV. David says:

Words and ideas must flow freely for the ongoing dialogue among philosophies to propel us toward a more perfect social order and scientific understanding of the universe. When we begin to appeal to matters of taste, preference, or impact of the words we use in engaging in debate, we risk stifling it. 

Skeptical Inquirer has a commencement address by Elizabeth Loftus on her experiences in smashing some of our illusions about the human memory:

Through these experiences, I’ve learned firsthand that science is never dispassionate, at least not if you are studying anything that has political, emotional, or financial implications for people’s lives: child testimony, sex, the unreliability of projective tests such as the Rorschach, or, in my case, illusions of memory. I could have chosen to study memory in the sea slug—hardly anyone would get exercised about that. But I chose to study human memory, eyewitness testimony, false memories, confabulation in adults and children, and harmful therapeutic methods. And big trouble came my way. 

Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to send its Red Dragon spacecraft to Mars, like, really soon: 2018. 

Jann Bellamy elaborates on what is officially meant by “natural” when it comes to foods and other goods according to the FDA and FTC, and concludes that the word is “virtually meaningless.” 

Max Anderton at the Telegraph points out the nonsense of “detoxes,” but also lets you know that there do exist some toxins worth worrying about, like BPA in plastics.

Larry Penkava at the Courier-Tribune of Asheboro, NC has a pretty funny piece about his encounters with a Bigfoot-hunting group, which features “the Godfather of Bigfoot,” peanut butter dangling from a tree, and concerns that the Bigfoot family might read the newspaper.

Now this guy, Dr. Richard Stepp, seems to believe in all this stuff: Bigfoot, UFOs, ESP, etc. “The only thing he’d rule out for sure is astrology,” writes Jennifer Fumiko Cahill. “Sort of.” 

A woman dies having been hit by a train while searching the tracks for a mythical beast that is part human, part goat, and part sheep, and Ben Radford looks at how monster hunting isn’t always the harmless fun it can seem to be. 

Now this is harmless: a smartphone app for recording videos of UFOs. Well, I suppose the waste of storage space on your device could be considered a harm. Video files are huge, yo.

Okay, look. Yes, Miley’s tattoo looks more like Saturn than Jupiter, which is what she says it is. But you know Jupiter does have a small, faint system of rings around it, so perhaps this is just her way of showcasing an oft-forgotten feature of the big swirly world.  

Pope Fluffy’s skullcap fetches $18,000 in an auction for charity, proceeds going to the nonprofit Save a Child’s Heart. 

This is a complex and nuanced theological Twitter bot

Quote of the Day:

Secretary of State John Kerry details the department’s intentions to engage more fully with religion at an event with former Secretary of State Jim Baker, and thankfully notes (emphasis mine):

It is absolutely true the State Department is a secular institution and that, from its founding, the United States has maintained a formal separation, obviously, between church and state, and nothing that we’re doing seeks to or does cross any of those lines. This means that in our foreign policy, we don’t advocate on behalf of any particular set of religious beliefs or express a preference for one faith over another – or even for religious belief over non-belief. But this doesn’t mean that religion is irrelevant to our approach to world affairs, and particularly in this globalized, different world we are living in today. 

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