A Problem to Be Managed

July 14, 2017

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

There’s a really interesting piece by Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times about how Johnson & Johnson is being sued over an alleged link between their talcum powder and ovarian cancer. The science doesn’t seem to fully support this claim, but J&J may get slammed anyway, in part because of the “David and Goliath” dynamic and the notion that J&J “must be guilty of something.” 

In the Vatican-approved Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica, Rev. Antonio Spadaro condemns the division and hatred sown by many American Catholics who have allied themselves politically with evangelical fundamentalists, accusing them of fostering a “theocratic type of state” and a “xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.” Well…yeah! He’s right!

Speaking of Catholics, the Senate version of Trumpcare is declared “unacceptable” by the Legion of Doom itself, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Marina Koren at The Atlantic interviews Sarah Scoles, author of the new book about SETI visionary (and CSI fellow) Jill Tarter. Koren says Tarter “sounds like a badass,” which she is.

Jeff Sessions’ remarks to the ultra-right Alliance Defending Freedom are made public, and he makes unsurprising, but still very troubling, promises:

We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. … Under this administration, religious Americans will be treated neither as an afterthought nor as a problem to be managed. The federal government will actively find ways to accommodate people of all faiths. 

Sunnivie Brydum at Religion Dispatches notes:

He makes no mention of the growing numbers of Americans who don’t subscribe to any faith, and in fact, in the entirety of his speech, never explicitly mentions any of the other constitutional rights guaranteed to Americans, or even those articulated in the First Amendment. That’s a telling omission in a speech that effectively lays out the federal Department of Justice’s priorities. 

Also today in Things Theocrats Want to Hear, Trump told Pat Robertson that “I’ve gotten rid of the Johnson Amendment,” which he hasn’t, but is trying to. Oh, and, “that’s a great thing for Christianity, believe me — a great, great thing.” Noted.

At The Nation, Elizabeth Bruenig discusses histories of Martin Luther, “a perplexing historical figure,” marking 500 years since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. 

In Michigan, laws are enacted to outlaw and prevent female genital mutilation. HB 4636 says:

It is not a defense to prosecution under this section that the person on whom the operation is performed, or any other person, believes that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual, or that the person on whom the operation is performed, or that person’s parent or guardian, consented to the operation. 

As prevalent as belief in creationism still is, Tom Krattenmaker notes that it’s lower than ever, and says the reason is largely because of Christians’ willingness to reconcile faith and science.

A ring of smoke seen in Yorkshire, England is clearly not of this world, says this guy when he saw something similar at Disneyland:

“Ring UFOs are super rare, but they have been seen,” [says UFO blogger Scott C Waring.] “It causes the family to worry about an alien invasion.”

Silly. Isn’t it obvious that it’s the ribbon of the Nexus, in which Captain James T. Kirk met his end? Alien invasion. Pfft.

Looks like all the ridicule has gotten under the skin of Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goopsters, who have mounted a defense of their jade eggs. Brian Resnick at Vox picks it apart. Their argument, I mean, not the egg. 

The “Do No Harm Act” has been reintroduced in Congress, meant to de-weaponize the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Satanic Temple will have a temporary veterans’ memorial installed in a Minnesota park as part of an agreement for a “free speech zone,” and Christian groups plan to protest.

Despite anti-vax misinformation, the HPV vaccine is causing infection rates to plummet. Peter Lipson at Forbes says:

There is little debate among doctors about the benefits of the shot. Doctors reading the anti-vaccination propaganda quickly find themselves falling down the rabbit hole into a Wonderland of religious puritanism, alternative medicine sales pitches and conspiracy theories.  

35 people have died in Europe this year from the measles, a whopping 31 of which were in Romania. The WHO’s Europe director says:

We are very concerned that although a safe, effective and affordable vaccine is available, measles remains a leading cause of death among children worldwide, and unfortunately Europe is not spared. I urge all endemic countries to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunisation coverage. 

Apparently we’re now going to hear about sightings of “Normie,” the Loch Ness Monster of Lake Norman in North Carolina.

Sure, an asteroid impact would wipe out humanity and probably most animal life. But don’t worry, the new civilization of tardigrades will rise up to remember us. 

Quote of the Day:

In a Denver Post op-ed, Craig Foster, a U.S. Air Force Academy psychology professor, shouts out CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and says that belief in the flat Earth has a bright side…though we don’t know if the bright side is the side of the planet-disc people live on.

Flat-Earth theory continues to provide a learning opportunity that could help the United States stem the rising tide of its pseudoscientific ways. … Maybe in a year I will write in response to a sizable flat-Earth convention in Denver. Fine by me. I am not really worried about the flat Earth. I am worried about an old Earth becoming an unvaccinated hothouse Earth. We can maintain a healthy Earth by recognizing that flat Earthers are not alone in promoting scientifically untenable ideas. Susceptibility to pseudoscience is a human characteristic.  

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