Do Electrons Dream of Sheepish Androids?

August 15, 2017

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

We thought it might be helpful to take a moment to think about what our underlying philosophical principles can offer us in a time when grotesque, atavistic hyper-racism is sucking up so much national oxygen. We put out a kind of informational release, looking back on some of the foundational writings of modern secular humanism, and of CFI’s founder Paul Kurtz in particular. For example, discussing the second Humanist Manifesto from 1973, we say:

The first manifesto came about before the Second World War and the Third Reich. So the opening paragraph of the second manifesto illustrates that the ideologies behind the recent white supremacist convulsions are one of the key motivating factors for this second manifesto. “Nazism has shown the depths of brutality of which humanity is capable,” write Kurtz and Wilson, also explaining that several destructive phenomena including “the continuance of unyielding racism” present major challenges for humanism to address and overcome. “In various societies,” they write, “the demands of women and minority groups for equal rights effectively challenge our generation.” Humanist Manifesto II accepts this challenge in order to bring about a better world for all of humanity.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of freaking Germany, understands that when there are Nazis doing Nazi thingsyou condemn the Nazis:

It is racist, far-right violence and clear, forceful action must be taken against it, regardless of where in the world it happens. … Before we point our fingers at others, we [in Germany] need to take care of that which is happening at home. Of course that country [the United States] is torn, but what needs to be condemned is any form of violence, especially any forms of extreme or aggressive violence.

Trump himself finally allowed himself to go in front of a camera to call out the bad guys, but not before touting some vague self-congratulations for economic developments. He then finally said, or shall I say read, in a tone befitting a 4-year-old having to tell their sibling they’re sorry for hitting them:

Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.

Haberman and Thrush say that Steve Bannon is in a kind of “internal exile” at the White House. But this part of the article makes me think Bannon is safe:

Mr. Bannon’s ability to hang on as Mr. Trump’s in-house populist is in part because of his connections to a handful of ultrarich political patrons, including Sheldon G. Adelson, the pro-Israel casino magnate who is based in Las Vegas. He is especially close to the reclusive conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, who is a frequent sounding board for Mr. Bannon.

The Holocaust Memorial in Boston was vandalized yesterday when a 17-year-old man-boy threw a rock at a glass panel and shattered it to bits. The kid-dude is under arrest.

Hotels in Washington, DC, meanwhile, kept refusing to allow white supremacist Richard Spencer from holding a press conference at their establishments, so Spencer had to do it at his apartment. And if it wasn’t clear why he needed to be shunned, his boast that “we could have killed [the counter-protesters] with our bare hands” should drive the point home.

After getting the boot from GoDaddy, neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer is then rejected for domain registration by Google. And then by their host server Scaleway. And chat service Discord bans all Nazi activity.

On the flip side, the Trump administration is demanding to know the identities of all the people who have visited the anti-Trump website Well now I have too. Hi, Donald!

So, like, hey. Um, why are people racist anyway? At WaPo, William Wan and Sarah Kaplan take on the difficult task of answering this question:

White supremacist groups promote a “siege mentality” among their followers, [NYU’s Eric] Knowles said — rhetoric that aims to lend legitimacy to people’s racial and ethnic fears. He pointed to the slogans shouted by participants in the Charlottesville rally: “You will not replace us” and “White Lives Matter.” “I think that one thing that these violent ideologies are communicating to people, and people are receptive to, especially people who are struggling, is that whites are actually the ones who are being discriminated against in society,” Knowles said.

Hey, it’s not all about Nazis. In a web exclusive for Free Inquiry, Gregory Paul dispels some myths about total solar eclipses, which, devoid of any supernatural significance, are even more illusory than that:

Unlike the Moon, the Sun does not actually have a surface. It’s just a gradually increasingly dense concentration of gas with no sudden increase in density. What we perceive as the surface is just the bottom of the zone of transparency, the photosphere being where the gaseous density is just low enough to render the photons that have been very gradually working their way outward finally free to zip away unhindered at the
speed of light. So a total eclipse is really an illusion of a gas and light—we’re being gas-lighted folks.

The latest season of our web video series Reasonable Talk concludes with James Randi’s conversation with Ken Frazier at CSICon 2016.

Philip Goff at Oxford University Press’s blog explores the question as to whether consciousness is intrinsic to matter itself, down to the subatomic level. Another way to put it: Do electrons dream of sheepish androids?

Roy “Ten Commandments or Bust” Moore may very well become the GOP nominee for the Alabama U.S. Senate seat. The special election primary is today, but will almost certainly go to a runoff.

Abby Lynes of the Spokesman-Review takes a thoughtful look at why belief in Bigfoot seems to mean so much to so many people:

[Finding Bigfoot‘s Cliff] Barackman sees Bigfoots as creatures that could dethrone humans, in a way, by bringing us down from the special evolutionary pedestal on which we’ve placed ourselves. The discovery of a Bigfoot might mean characteristics that we thought were specific to humans, like bipedalism or the ability to create and use tools, might not be exclusively demonstrated within our species, he said. “I think it’s our precarious position on this heap that’s got us in trouble,” he said.

This whitish smudge on a grainy black-and-white video is obviously a ghost.

Quote of the Day:

In perhaps the strangest passage from a press release I have ever read (and I’ve written some doozies myself), a group explains its anti-eclipse position:

Kentuckians for Coal is an ad-hoc coalition of miners, union officials, family members and coal users created to defend the Kentucky coal industry against encroachment from renewable energy industries and from economic development initiatives aimed at lessening America’s dependence on coal. Kentuckians for Coal stands against the eclipse and those who worship it. … The protesters chose the New Era office location because the newspaper and other fake-news media have been over-hyping the eclipse because of its potential to boost local economic development, while ignoring the importance of the coal industry.


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