Macabre Clockwork

June 13, 2016


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

“Oh, no, not again,” can quickly turn to “here we go again” in a time when mass shootings are becoming a kind of macabre clockwork. But then you have something like Orlando, and it’s the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. And then you remember what made each previous shooting distinct, the motivations of the killers, the background of the victims, the symbolism of the location, the particularities of the moment-by-moment horrors. And then you remember that each victim was a whole human being, whose death reverberates through families and communities and survivors, embedding pain, grief, fear, and anger into countless hearts. And it’s not “here we go again” anymore. 

An FDA rule from 1985 is prohibiting gay men from donating blood for Orlando survivors, which must be absolutely maddening. Hemant posts a useful list of things you can do to help.

Trump delivers an “I told you so” regarding his “plan” to ban all Muslims. The killer was born in the U.S. but whatever.

Meanwhile, GOP Senator David Perdue publicly prays for President Obama to die, except his press people say that’s totally not what he meant. 

Okay, here’s something happier: CFI has new summer interns, and I met them at the Reason Rally, and they’re super-great. Meet Samreena Farooqui and London Sneden! 

3000 people have been arrested in Bangladesh [EDIT: or, holy crap, is it more like 8500??] as part of a massive series of raids addressing the ongoing murders of secularists and progressives. Politics surround the initiative, however, as the Prime Minister suggests political opponents are partly responsible, and the opposition party calling it an excuse for the ruling party to round them up.

This blew my mind: Adam Frank writes at NYT that given what we now know about how many stars there are in the galaxy, and how many of those stars have planets, and how many of those planets are in the “habitable zones” of their stars, well, that’s a lot more of Drake’s Equation filled in, which leads to a startling conclusion:

In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history. In other words, given what we now know about the number and orbital positions of the galaxy’s planets, the degree of pessimism required to doubt the existence, at some point in time, of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization borders on the irrational. 

I had a little tantrum on my own blog about Jill Stein, the likely presidential nominee of the Green Party, who last month answered a question about vaccines and homeopathy on Reddit, and erected an astounding Wall of Pander to the anti-vax/pro-alt-med crowd. 

Simon Davis at VICE reports on the push to get us all to eat insects so we can save the world. Me: “Sorry, world.”

Yet another conspiracy theory that will likely plague the election: Google is accused of cooking its search algorithm to be favorable to Hillary Clinton. Which it isn’t. 

A court ruling in Oregon now allows folks to claim “nonbinary” as their legal gender

Oh hey don’t forget to catch up on the last few weeks of CFI activity with the latest Cause & Effect

We have a couple new pieces from Stuart Vyse: At the CSI site, he looks at how people like to assign mysterious intention, “fate,” to things that happen to us. And at Medium, he offers thoughts on the Reason Rally and its assembled “weirdos,” writing, “Often it is the iconoclast, the weirdo, the person who is not a slave to fashion, who is willing to stand up and say what needs to be said.”

The EU gets Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others to sign on to an initiative to quell “hate speech,” which really seems like a briar patch to me. 

Witches around the world combine their powers to put a curse on Stanford rapist Brock Turner. 
Bill Maher to the Reason Rally: “We are winning, just slowly and not yet.” 
I don’t see how that rock on Mars could possibly be anything other than a sasquatch skull.  

Quote of the Day:

In a commencement address to the California Institute of Technology published in The New Yorker, Atul Gawande steels the graduates for the ant
i-science backlash they will face

To defend those beliefs, few dismiss the authority of science. They dismiss the authority of the scientific community. People don’t argue back by claiming divine authority anymore. They argue back by claiming to have the truer scientific authority. It can make matters incredibly confusing. You have to be able to recognize the difference between claims of science and those of pseudoscience.

… Seen up close, the scientific community—with its muddled peer-review process, badly written journal articles, subtly contemptuous letters to the editor, overtly contemptuous subreddit threads, and pompous pronouncements of the academy— looks like a rickety vehicle for getting to truth. Yet the hive mind swarms ever forward. It now advances knowledge in almost every realm of existence—even the humanities, where neuroscience and computerization are shaping understanding of everything from free will to how art and literature have evolved over time. 


* * *

Image by redrockstock at

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry 

Got a tip for the Heresy? Send it to press(at)! 

News items that mention political​ candidates are for informational purposes only and under no circumstances are to be interpreted as statements of endorsement or opposition to any political candidate. CFI is a nonpartisan nonprofit.  

The Morning Heresy: “I actually read it.” – Hemant Mehta