The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Last week, we helped spur some news coverage of the sneaky GOP scheme to undermine the Johnson Amendment through the budget process, and to do so for the benefit of churches (as no other institutions, religious or secular, are mentioned): The Associated Press did a great report on this, plus more good stuff from Newsweek and Bustle.
Trump thought this GIF of him beating up a personified CNN was cool, so he tweeted it out. That’ll show the dishonest media! CNN calls it an incitement to violence against journalists. Jerry Falwell Jr. approves! The source of this creation is a straight-up racist Reddit troll who also makes images like this.
Scott Pruitt is looking for ways to get the whole federal government into the business of climate science denial, taking his previously reported “red team-blue team” faux-debate idea and expanding it throughout government agencies. Here’s what one anonymous EPA employee told the Post:
“It’s an obvious attempt to cast doubt on climate science under the guise of a common sense-sounding process,” said one EPA employee who focuses on climate issues. “But of course, we already have a process for scrutiny of the science — the peer review process is a much more robust assessment of scientific integrity than a childish color war.”
The employee called the effort “incredibly insulting.”
Well, surely the science division of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will weigh in with some sanity. Oh wait there are literally no people there.
The Supreme Court of Texas rules that while same-sex marriage is the law of the land, same-sex married couples are not necessarily entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual couples. Infuriating.
Germany, kind of the anti-Texas these days, legalizes same-sex marriage (though, oddly enough, Chancellor Merkel voted against it).
They made a freaking hymn out of “Make America Great Again.“ Gosh I wonder what happens when blind nationalism is wrapped up in religious fervor.
The AP investigated the practices of the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) Pediatric Hospital, and it’s a horror show. Bad hygiene, the use and reuse of shoddy, dangerous products, patients brought out of anesthesia before they were ready, all so the hospital could turn a bigger profit. Example: one superbug outbreak (because of the filthiness) killed eight kids.
Pope Fluffy nudges out Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the conservative head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This comes shortly after the sex-abuse charges brought against Cardinal Pell, another hardliner. Jason Horowitz at NYT reports:
Taken together, the departure of two archconservative powerhouses at the Vatican is a serious setback to critics of Francis. They do not see him as an avuncular pastor but instead fear that he is a deft political operator in the midst of a house cleaning of conservatives.
The Scottish Social Attitudes survey finds that 58% of Scots describe themselves as having “no religion.”
Meanwhile, there is a petition drive to get Scotland’s centuries-old blasphemy law scrapped.
This is a pleasant surprise: Gov. Rick Snyder, no liberal he, vetoes a bill requiring Michigan to provide “Choose Life” anti-abortion license plates that would raise funds for anti-abortion causes.
Lindy West in the New York Times dispels the myth that criticism of speech equals censorship:
Casting the dissent of marginalized groups as a First Amendment violation is the kind of pseudo-intellectual argument that seems reasonable to people who don’t have enough skin in the game to bother paying attention. “Discourse” is good! Sunlight is the best disinfectant! … Unfortunately, as any scientist can tell you (for as long as we still have those), more often than not, sunlight makes things grow. Conflating criticism with censorship fosters a system in which all positions deserve equal consideration, no bad ideas can ever be put to rest, and lies are just as valid as the truth.
Fossils in Morocco seem to be from Homo sapiens from 300,000 years ago, the earliest ever discovered by 100,000 years.
If you’re in Moscow,
lucky you, because you might get to feast your eyes on the rib of Santa Clause. I mean Saint Nicholas, because Santa is not dead, nor has he donated a rib for people to gawk at.
East Central University in Oklahoma, a public university, was going to remove the sectarian symbols from its chapel, but now it’s not.
It looks like there may be something physiologically novel happening with acupuncture, which has nothing to do with meridians or whatever. The Verge reports:
[Researchers] found that if you do acupuncture correctly, your body releases more nitric oxide at the points where the needles are inserted. The nitric oxide increases blood flow and triggers your body to release natural anesthetics, which can create either warming or cooling sensations.
Euan Ritchie, writing in Cosmos magazine, notes that searches for cryptids and other mythical creatures can lead to discoveries about real creatures:
Even if we don’t find what we’re after, we may still benefit from what we learn along the way. I’ve often wondered how many more species might be revealed to us if scientists invested more time in carefully listening to, recording and following up on the knowledge of Indigenous, farming, and other communities who have long and intimate associations with the land and sea.
Here’s Popular Science, with one of those headlines you don’t see coming: “Stop eating your damn placentas.”
Quote of the Day:
Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic wanted to know whose laughter can be heard on the Golden Records on the two Voyager spacecraft, and it looks like she’s found out (though there is still some doubt):
I received an unexpected message from someone at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I met Ann Druyan today,” the lab’s Elizabeth Landau told me, “and she told me that the laughter on the Golden Record is Carl Sagan’s!”
… Was the laughter indeed Sagan’s? It certainly seemed plausible, but I had to be sure. Finally, I reached Sasha Sagan, the daughter of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.
“I just double checked with my mom to be absolutely sure, and yes, it is indeed my dad’s laugh!” Sagan wrote. “She said that laugh was the very first impression she ever had of my dad when she heard it upon entering Nora Ephron’s apartment [where they first met] in 1974, and included it in the Voyager sound essay because she wanted it to live on forever.” …
“It’s highly unusual, virtually unique,” [Druyan] said in an email via her daughter. “I chose it because of its exceptional lack of inhibition and because it was Carl’s.”
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