Scary Math

May 9, 2016


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

The New York Times’ editorial board calls out Bangladesh’s government for “fueling extremism” as it has “cracked down on freedom of expression and the press.” Glad folks are actually starting to notice.

Katherine Stewart in The Nation explores the phenomenon of secular homeschooling parents who have rejected the public education system because of the schools’ overt religiosity and religious bullying.

University of Pennsylvania economist Guido Menzio, who is Italian, is suspected of being an Islamic terrorist by his airplane seatmate who sees him jotting down some math. Menzio is then escorted off the plane and questioned by authorities. Catherine Rampell at WaPo reports (and opines):

Rising xenophobia stoked by the presidential campaign, [Menzio] suggested, may soon make things worse for people who happen to look a little other-ish. “What might prevent an epidemic of paranoia? It is hard not to recognize in this incident, the ethos of [Donald] Trump’s voting base,” he wrote. In this true parable of 2016 I see another worrisome lesson, albeit one also possibly relevant to Trump’s appeal: That in America today, the only thing more terrifying than foreigners is…math. 

Judge Roy Moore, the unabashed theocratic chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, is suspended by the Court of the Judiciary for his unlawful instructions to judges barring them from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

North Carolina has until the end of today to respond to a letter from the Justice Department saying that the recent anti-transgender “bathroom law” violates the Civil Rights Act.

London elects its first Muslim mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan

Jeffrey Tayler at Quillette bemoans what he sees as the demonization by the left of former and reform-minded Muslims like Sarah Haider and Maajid Nawaz.

Joe Nickell remembers Sir Harry Kroto:

I first met this remarkable man when we were fellow presenters at a CSI mini-conference in Tallahassee in October 2011. We had a very engaging conversation: about Buckminster Fuller (with whom I was once fascinated to spend part of an afternoon) and—among other topics—Harry’s invention of a magic trick. We must’ve acted like a couple of kids. I’ll always remember him that way. 

As some European nations make turns toward nationalism, Pope Francis berates them, asking, “What has happened to you?” and “I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.”

Whatever, Pope. China knows what’s really important: Banning livestreams of people seductively eating bananas. I suggest shorthanding this to “the bananning.”

Amy Tuteur muses on how pseudoscience has become a kind of fundamentalist religion in its own right:

It might be helpful, and more effective, to alert people to the nature of quackery as a secular religion and their faith in it as akin to religious belief. Quackery is more than just ignorance of basic scientific precepts. It reflects a world view that allows people to control their fears around health and disease and imagine themselves as destined for return to the state of wellness afforded by the original health Garden of Eden. 

The chupacabra legend is only a couple of decades old, so of course, a mythical creature needs a pseudohistory to back it up. Ben Radford explains in Skeptical Inquirer

Hemant continues to wrestle with the question of whether Jamie Raskin, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House in Maryland, is or isn’t an atheist.

Steven Salzberg takes WaPo to task for a piece promoting the benefits of acupuncture, where “there wasn’t a whit of science in it.” 

David Duke, the KKK guy, is pretty happy that Donald Trump has overcome “the Jews” in the GOP. 

A scam-by-mail huckster, many of which purported to be from a psychic, is fined $100,000

Last week, Russell Moore got my attention by saying that the U.S. is in fact NOT a Christian nation. Daniel Schultz has a theory:

Moore’s no idiot. He no doubt has demographic data in front of him that shows the SBC is going to be in real trouble if it doesn’t differentiate itself from the GOP… like, yesterday. So he’s making a tactical move by stipulating the point that America’s not a Christian nation in the way most people understand that phrase. Tha
t gives Baptists the room to disavow the fire and wrath they see coming in November. It won’t change a thing about their social positions, but that’s exactly the point. Cleanly separating their positions from electoral politics makes it easier to hold onto them, since they won’t be associated with an odious, doomed candidate. 

Wow! Dana Carvey is still alive! Oh, and he did the Church Lady thing. And I already want those 7 minutes back. 

Slender Man is getting a movie! Just like he told me he would! In my nightmares! Where he lives! And feeds off my soul! What? 

(I wonder if Slender Man is on #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan.) 

Quote of the Day:

A little rationality from former NASA astronaut Tom Jones on UFO sightings, even those by fellow space-folk:

Even from people that I respect, like a couple of very early and famous astronauts, I haven’t seen the proof that would satisfy me that there’s really something there. And I think it’s far more likely that people who see unexplained things in the sky, there’s no proof that they’re actually intelligently guided or alien spaceships of any kind. Until all these people running around with cellphones and video cameras now can really produce something that’s really grabbing, I don’t think that I should change my mind about it.

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Original image by Shutterstock, and possibly messed with by Paul

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