The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Quick housekeeping note: I, your Morning…Heretecist(?) will be on vacation starting tomorrow, and all through next week. And let’s be honest, considering the news environment, I’m kind of giving you a vacation too. Enjoy your increased sanity while I’m away. It won’t last!
On to the news. Of which there was a lot yesterday. First, almost out of nowhere, President Trump declared that transgender Americans would no longer be allowed to serve the military “in any capacity.” Which is outrageous, offensive, heartless, and pointless. Our boss Robyn Blumner said in our statement, ““Trump is singling out transgender Americans, a long-maligned group that is just now making significant gains toward equal treatment, to reward his supporters in the religious right who wish to stand against that progress.”
Now, you see, I have a fancy degree in political management from an unjustifiably expensive university (student loan debt is becoming sentient, send help), so I think I see what’s going on here. It’s almost as though the transgender ban and this “we believe in God” Twitter-grenade ARE CONNECTED, meant to rally his most atavistic supporters to his side.
To prove me right, David Remnick of The New Yorker, who is really good at eloquently expressing the despair of the Trump era, laments Trump’s “retrograde cruelty” (wish I’d thought of that), and lays bare the motivations for the ban (this was before the BELIEVE IN GOD tweet, but it still applies):
Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from the military is pure politics, cheap and cruel politics, a naked attempt to divert attention from his woes, to hold on to support from his base—a base that he believes will cheer his latest attempt to do battle with the secular-humanist coastal élites who are so obsessed with identity politics.
We’re not done! Trump is set to appoint a new ambassador at large for international religious freedom, replacing Rabbi David Saperstein, who we loved. So just guess, who would be the most hilariously bad choice for this post You’re right! It’s Sam Brownback.
Worn out yet? Admit it, you’re ready for me to go away for a week.
Okay, better news: A new Richard Dawkins event has been scheduled for the Berkeley area after KPFA unceremoniously cancelled on him. Check out Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA on the original date, August 9.
Some great pieces from the latest Free Inquiry have been made available free online. Robyn has an op-ed on the big advances in understanding the biological and psychological underpinnings of religious belief, and Sarah Haider spells out the problems with progressives’ unwillingness to criticize destructive ideas within Islamic practices.
Kimberly Winston has a cool article on the substantial Mormon presence in science fiction, in terms of creators, characters, and theological references.
The blogger Neuroskeptic sets up a “sting” in which fake scientific papers about midichlorians (the thing that indicates Force powers in Star Wars prequels) are submitted to for-profit journals and, yes, accepted for publication.
How’s this for an awe-inspiring lede? Thanks to computer simulations, we learn that “nearly half of the atoms that make up our bodies may have formed beyond the Milky Way and travelled to the solar system on intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars.” Nice.
And! And! Dig this: Breakthrough Starshot, the interstellar exploratory initiative funded by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, successfully launching a spacecraft with a tiny payload with big dreams. Lee Billings at Scientific American reports:
Breakthrough Starshot sent not one but six satellites into low-Earth orbit, riding as supplementary payloads on an Indian rocket … These six satellites are comparatively dainty, but punch far above their weight. Called “Sprites,” each is a 4-gram flake of circuit-board just 3.5 centimeters on a side, packing solar panels, computers, sensors and communications equipment into an area equal to a U.S. postage stamp. … [F]uture iterations of Sprites could become Breakthrough’s hoped-for “StarChips”—spacecraft integrated with gossamer-thin, meter-wide “lightsails” that would travel at 20 percent the speed of light to Alpha Centauri or other nearby stars, propelled by high-powered pulses of photons from a gargantuan ground-based laser array.
Nice headline writing, VICE: “Guy Killed by Alien in ‘Alien’ Now Believes He’s Seen Real Aliens”
“Orac” explains how small changes in vaccine uptake, up or down, can dramatically effect infection rates.
Sunnivie Brydum explains
how these “religious liberty” cases like Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission are really about skirting anti-discrimination laws.
Quote of the Day:
Syrian civilians escaping ISIS celebrate their freedom by burning burqas and shaving beards. From The Independent:
One woman cried: “Give me a lighter, I’m going to burn this. May these clothes they forced us to wear be damned!” … A man told a barber to shave off the long beard he was forced to grow under Isis rule, saying: “Cut it all off just to spite them.”
Okay, I’m outta here. Have a nice week. And remember, as Galvatron reminded Hot Rod, inside the bowels of a planet-eating super-robot, “We all must die sometime.”
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