The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
In a special editor’s column for Skeptical Inquirer, Kendrick Frazier takes a step back to consider all the issues, subjects, and fields of study that the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the wider skeptic community cover, and why we go to such efforts:
Our quest seeks to understand not only the external world of nature out there but our own selves, what makes us human—wonderful and creative, flawed and exasperating. If we were an academic unit—say the [insert university of your choice] Institute of Science & Skepticism—we would have faculty from virtually every academic department including the schools of medicine, engineering, and law. But we aren’t just an academic enterprise. We incorporate nonacademic traditions such as magicians’ specialized knowledge of deception, investigative journalists’ tools for getting at the truth, science communicators’ skills in explaining complex scientific ideas, and skeptical investigators’ blending of all these skills. We do all this in the quest to find out what is true and not true about the real world—including ourselves. And then we present those insights to the public in an appealing, understandable way.
What could be more important? Especially at this troubled time in our political and cultural history.
You ain’t kiddin’.
The Hubble Space Telescope, which is the gift that keeps on giving, spots the farthest star yet known by a huge margin: Dubbed Icarus (which is ironic because Icarus flew too close to the Sun, and this Icarus is about as far away from our Sun as it could possibly be), this former blue supergiant (it’s died by now) is 9 billion light-years from Earth.
“I think there is no religion in human society that is above the state.” This is the position of the Chinese government on whether the Vatican can have control over the Catholic Church in China. (Translation: “No.”) The two states have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1951.
In Indonesia, Muslims celebrated Easter along with Christians in a show of unity and in defiance of religious extremism.
I have never heard of the white supremacist “creativity movement,” but I’m really bothered that they are trying to co-opt that word, and a federal court just ruled that it can’t be counted as a “religion”:
Creativity lacks an ultimate belief system that addresses philosophical and existential issues such as the nature of man, whether there is life after death, what role man plays in the universe, and the like.
In the aftermath of a mass shooting or other outrageous act of violence, a public debate usually begins over whether such an act should be considered an act of “terrorism.” Benjamin Radford tries to parse out what is really meant by the question “Why aren’t they calling it terrorism,” as the “they” in question is not so easily identified.
I have been alerted to the existence of a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign for a group called Free Hearts, Free Minds, “dedicated to helping individuals who have left Islam yet are living in Islamic countries,” with services that include life coaching and even a dating site.
Married for 73 years, George and Shirley Brickenden decided to end their lives together under the auspices of Canada’s legalization of doctor-assisted suicide. The story by Kelly Grant in The Globe and Mail is both beautiful and sad:
Mr. and Mrs. Brickenden, dressed in caftans, drank champagne and nibbled on a last supper of hors d’oeuvre of lobster, salmon and filet.
Shortly before 7 p.m., Mrs. Brickenden turned to her husband. “Are you ready?”
“Ready when you are,” he replied.
They walked into their bedroom and lay down together, holding hands. The two doctors, one for each patient, inserted intravenous lines into their arms. …
… “They smiled, they looked at each other,” [their daughter] Pamela said. Then Mr. Brickenden looked at his children, standing at the end of the bed.
“I love you all,” he said.
Scott Pruitt’s EPA thinks that emissions standards for cars are too onerous. Of course it does. And it looks like Scott has a sweet little condo deal in DC perhaps provided by an energy company his world-destroying has benefited.
At Science-Based Medicine, Harriet Hall reviews the book Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science by Allison B. Kaufman and James C. Kaufman.
Ray Comfort picks up your banana-mockery and wears it as a badge of honor. And as a man who really knows how to drag things out, he’s made a movie out of his banana-humiliation called The Fool. Mr. Comfort, you are self-aggrandizing MACHINE, perhaps only challenged by our current president.
This Twitter thread is almost a year old, but it just popped up in my feed and it’s pretty interesting. Christopher Stroop looks at the ways authoritarian regimes and religious institutions overlap and use many of the same tactics to create their own versions of “truth” that delegitimizes opposing sources of information.
Quote of the Day
David Gorski takes The Nation to task for publishing a scaremongering story on the connection between cell phone radiation and cancer. And what is the nature of that connection?
We do know from science … that cell phone radiation not only does not cause the health effects attributed to it but almost certainly cannot cause those health effects because the energy carried by radio waves is too low to do what is claimed. It’s basic physics. For instance, I like to say that, although a link between cell phone radiation and cancer is not homeopathy-level implausible, it is incredibly implausible, simply because most of mechanisms of carcinogenesis we know involve as an inciting event the breaking of chemical bonds in DNA to cause mutations, and even the mechanisms we’re coming to understand that might require chemical bond breakage as an inciting event are incredibly unlikely to be impacted by such low energy waves.
Besides, everyone knows that it’s the stress you get from Twitter that will really kill you.
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