Insufficiently Terrified

June 12, 2017

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

Laurie Goodstein at NYT has a big feature on the religious left: newly galvanized by opposition to Trump, but tied to a party that is largely secular. Sojourners founder Rev. Jim Wallis tells her:

The fact that one party has strategically used and abused religion, while the other has had a habitually allergic and negative response to religion per se, puts our side in a more difficult position in regard to political influence. … Most progressive religious leaders I talk to, almost all of them, feel dissed by the left. The left is really controlled by a lot of secular fundamentalists.

Hey, is he talking about us?? And, like, we control something??

The Telegraph notes that at his appearance at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Richard Dawkins explained his support for religious education:

I think that it is an important part of our culture to know about the Bible after all so much of English literature has allusions to the Bible, if you look up the Oxford English Dictionary you find something like the same number of quotations from the Bible as from Shakespeare. It’s an important part of our history. So much of European history is dominated by disputes against rival religions and you can’t understand history unless you know about the history of the Christian religion and the Crusades and so on. 

Megyn Kelly decides that the right person to put in the spotlight for her next big NBC interview is Alex Jones of Infowars. I know we’re supposed to reserve judgment, but it’s not as though Kelly has been a champion for reason in the past just because Donald Trump doesn’t like her.

A New York state appeals court rules unanimously that chimpanzees are not legal persons.

Self-proclaimed “prophet of God” Lee Kaplan is convicted on 17 counts of sexually abusing children, and even marrying some of them. I know, who would think a prophet of God could do such a thing, but, I tell ya, it’s almost as though they use the whole “prophet” thing as an excuse to do terrible things. I know, I know, that sounds nuts.  

San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, who said poverty was the result of not believing in God, just lost her primary for reelection. Oops. Guess she didn’t believe hard enough. 

I am just finding out about this, that skeptic writer Crispian Jago is suffering from renal cancer and his prospects are not good. In the midst of this, he’s documenting his experience in “chapters” on his blog, and has just written a chapter in the style of a children’s book to discuss the various pseudoscientific remedies that have been proffered to him.

David Gorski looks at a study showing the social costs of being an anti-vaxxer parent, and considers how (or whether) this social pressure can be used to encourage vaccinations.

K. Anis Ahmed at NYT looks at the tussle over the Lady Justice statue in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which had been taken down due to the complaints of hardline Islamists, and then put back up — but kind of out of sight — after it got embarrassing. Ahmed calls it a kind of “proper compromise,” saying, “I am an arch-secularist myself, but I don’t agree with my peers who will broker no compromise with Islamists or even devout Muslims.”

Anna Stubblefield, formerly the chair of philosophy at Rutgers, had been convicted of the rape of a man incapacitated by cerebral palsy — a man she claimed she was communicating with via “facilitated communication” (which is bogus nonsense pseudoscience), and thereby got “consent.” But now a judge has overturned her conviction, setting up a retrial by jury in which facilitated communication will be defended.

Rick Scott signs into law Florida’s awful “religious liberty” bill, SB 436. Kristen Clark at the Tampa Bay Times reports:

The religious liberties bill was … highly controversial due to provisions the Senate insisted on, which would require public schools to let students lead prayers during the school day and at school-sanctioned events, such as assemblies. … Religious expression is already protected by the state and U.S. constitutions, and critics of the law worried it crosses a line that violates the separation of church and state. Some opponents also said during legislative hearings that they worried it could lead to students and teachers being ostracized, intimidated or discriminated against if they’re of non-Christian faiths or non-religious.

Alex Nabaum at The New Republic calls out the left for being just as conspiracy theory-minded as the right, which I think is a stretch, but I’m biased. “As it turns out,” he says, “the left wasn’t smarter than the right; it simply wasn’t terrified enough.”  

Over the weekend, super-manly white dudes, bedecked in American flags, and toting rifles (because America) clumped together in cities across Real America™ to protect us all from Sharia law. I feel safer already.

Trump has nominated Jeffrey Bossert Clark to be the new assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department. The problem, as you can probably guess, is that he’s made a career of defending polluters and denialists.

A billboard near the Philadelphia Airport encourages onlookers to “RESEARCH FLAT EARTH.” I agree. I think everyone should give The Flat Earth a chance. It’s a rich and satisfying album, but it does take a few listens to get fully tuned to it. 

The New York Times has a major VR feature on Antarctica, so you can witness the continent melt away in 360 degrees.

Quote of the Day:

Now here’s a prophecy. A short clipping from the Rodney & Otamatea Times (New Zealand) from August 14, 1912 (Snopes says it checks out):


The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year. When this is burned, uniting with oxygen, it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly. This tends to make the air a more effective blanket for the earth and to raise its temperature. The effect may be considerable in a few centuries. 

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