Unkind Bars

May 4, 2018

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

We put out a statement yesterday on Trump’s new faith-based initiative executive order, pointing out how it screws over LGBTQ Americans and the nonreligious. Emma Green at The Atlantic shows how Trump’s version of an Obama-era idea comes in a “radically different context.”

CSICon 2018 needs your brain, as long as your brain emits something in the form of a paper and presentation on skepticism for CSICon’s Sunday Morning Papers session!

Susan Gerbic, who can never stop never stopping, interviews skeptic photography expert Kenny Biddle for her ongoing project to interview all CSICon speakers for eternity. (Biddle is coming to CSICon 2018.)  

Wow, this is really something: about 300 leading intellectuals in France (including former president Sarkozy) ask Muslims to “revise” the Quran, or at least reinterpret it, to essentially strike down its more violent verses. I’m sure that will go over well.

Remember how Paul Ryan forced the resignation of the House Chaplain, Pat Conroy? Well, Conroy was all, man, forget this! And now he has his job back. Ironically, by January, Conroy will still be employed in the U.S. Congress, and Paul Ryan will not.

Tom Philip at Inverse says L-Theanine powder is great, and that he is not Alex Jones, and “even if this is complete pseudoscience placebo bunk, it’s changed my morning routine in ways I never thought possible.” 

Alison Gilchrist at Scientific American says that hunting for nonexistent creatures like Bigfoot at the Loch Ness Monster can accidentally turn into real science. Sometimes. Let’s not overstate it.

The Deseret News editorial board, praising a speech by Mormon elder D. Todd Christofferson, makes a case that religious freedom is of equal importance to the religious and nonreligious alike…which is true:

The believer and the nonbeliever have a vested interest in preserving these rights. The atheist and agnostic, as well as the devout, must actively engage to preserve and protect the rights of belief and conscience. This should happen not just in synagogues, mosques and churches, but in the public square and the place of business. If citizens aren’t able to bring their whole, authentic self to work and to the community, those first freedoms are lost to everyone. 

They don’t mention any cakeshops or Kentucky clerks, but I sense support of their perceived right-to-discriminate in between these lines, but I may just be cynical.

Boy Scouts of America launches a “scout me in!” campaign to encourage girls to join the Cub Scouts, and changes the name of its scouting program for older kids to “Scouts BSA” to make it clear that girls are welcome. Still not welcome? Atheists.

For a Destroyer of Worlds, Scott Pruitt sure likes globetrotting…on the dime of rich benefactors with really specific agendas, according to the Post.

Amnesty International condemns Indonesia’s hate-speech conviction of Alnoldy Bahari, who wrote a spiritual book The Book of Magic: An Ancient Secret, and was charged when he wrote a Facebook post calling those who have not “seen” God “fake” Muslims.

Oklahoma and Kansas, two states who really seem to hate the moral arc’s particular bend, want to make sure adoption agencies can keep the kids who need loving families from being adopted by the scary gays

Religion News Service names Paul O’Donnell, formerly of Beliefnet (shrug), as its interim managing editor (shrug shrug).

A cluster of UFOs is seen in the skies over Middlesbrough in the UK. I’m skeptical that it’s aliens, but I am convinced of the UK part, because one witness said, “Whilst walking home from a friend’s house…” See that? “Whilst”? No American talks like that. 

U.S. Customs sees Hobby Lobby with ancient artifacts from Iraq, shouts ‘GIMME THOSE’ as it swipes them away, and returns them to their rightful owners

AI researchers are miffed at the journal Nature for putting its machine-intelligence work behind a paywall.

Quote of the Day

So it has come to this, when the reality-based community finds itself standing alongside one of George W. Bush’s speechwriters (part of the team that was to create its own reality, if you remember). And it’s all about GMOs. Here’s Michael Gerson:

In keeping with our era of ideological boycotts, I will no longer be purchasing Kind bars. Or Barilla pasta. Or Triscuit crackers. Or Del Monte diced tomatoes. Or Nutro dog food. … The companies that produce these brands are guilty of crimes against rationality. All advertise on their packaging, in one way or another, that they don’t contain GMOs — genetically modified organisms. 

Oh, and this bit is amazing on several levels:

The anti-GMO movement is best described as a religious belief. Such beliefs have their uses. Theology can determine the values we bring to the world, but it can’t be allowed to dictate our facts. … On left and right, our theologies need to be tethered to empiricism. Our deepest beliefs should help navigate reality, not determine it.

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