The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.
Holy freaking crap: Pigeons can READ:
After narrowing down to the four brightest birds out of 18, over eight months of training, the advanced-class pigeons were taught to distinguish four-letter words from non-words. They were even able to tell the difference between correctly spelled words and those with transposed characters, like “very” and “vrey,” or words with different letters included to make them completely misspelled. In these instances, “the pigeons’ performance is actually more comparable to that of literate humans than baboons’ performance,” the study authors write. By the end of the experiment, the pigeons learned to discriminate between 26 and 58 words. Hopefully none of them include “world” or “domination.”
The suspect in the Manhattan and New Jersey bombings, Ahmad Khan Rahami, is said to have undergone a religious change in recent years following a long visit to Afghanistan:
When he returned, some patrons [of his restaurant] noticed a certain transformation. He grew a beard and exchanged his typical wardrobe of T-shirts and sweatpants for traditional Muslim robes. He began to pray in the back of the store. His previous genial bearing turned more stern.
Climate change is going to be the cause of a lot of human migration, and we have a lot to do to figure out how to deal with it all. That’s one of the themes of the latest episode of Point of Inquiry, where Josh Zepps talks to geographer Barry Vann about the coming population shifts.
(And Phil Plait reminds us that yes, climate change does affect the weather.)
Andy Greenberg at Wired reports on Google’s Jigsaw project, which aims to solve “the free-speech paradox” of curtailing online abuse, cutting off violent extremist recruitment, as well as stopping attempts to stifle free expression.
Oklahoma voters will soon be deciding on State Question 790, which would remove language from the state constitution that bars state funding of religion. You know who’s not happy about this? Clergy:
“Any time money begins to flow from the coffers of the state, there are strings attached to that money,” said [Mitch] Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman. “I don’t think churches have thought through the dynamics of this state question.”
Donald Trump: The candidate who will stand up to the menace of free expression.
Something called Media Bias/Fact Check purports to measure the degree of partisan or ideological slant from a given news source. Well CFI is listed there, much to our surprise, and much to MY surprise, we are considered to be “Least Biased.” Wow! I thought for sure we’d be pretty biased in favor of things like facts, data, and reason.
David Sherfinski at Washington Times looks at the rise of the nontheist voting bloc and nontheist candidates.
Billy Graham (or whoever it is that writes under his name these days) says to pray for your atheist friend and ask “God to convict him of his sin and pride.” How sweet.
Kyle Campbell, a senior at the University of Alabama, makes the case for disinviting alt-right showhorse Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking. Not because he disagrees with his speech (though he does), but because he’s detrimental to the very purpose of a university:
Though I am a progressive, I would never call for the disinviting of a conservative economist or politician or professor. … But universities exist primarily to educate, and nothing about Milo’s writings are educational. Inviting a sixth grader to make “your mom” and “women belong in the kitchen” jokes would be equally valuable to our academic community. We don’t allow our professors to teach homeopathy or astrology in the name of “free speech,” because it is the role of an institution of higher learning to ensure students graduate with a worldview compatible with reality. Milo’s pseudoscientific views on race and gender are historically even more dangerous than the anti-vaccine movement is today … Milo exercises his First Amendment rights the way mass shooters exercise their Second Amendment rights, with a blatant disregard for the well being of those around him.
CFI–L.A.’s Jim Underdown is the guest on the Geeks & Ghosts podcast.
The “Amazing” Atheist, TJ Kirk, says go vote for Trump. Hemant Mehta literally can’t even:
Kirk doesn’t care about whether Trump is elected. His life and his well-being have little riding on the decision. If the world burns, his bubble won’t be affected. For the rest of us, though, this isn’t a game. … If you want to make a case for Trump, then make a real case. Show us that you understand the issues and prove that his ideas — whic
h rarely go into detail and which are widely derided — make more sense than hers. Tell us why science and civil rights and critical thinking and reason mean nothing to you as an atheist.
Father Gabriele Amorth, performer of over 70,000 exorcisms, is dead at 91. 70,000??? At some point, you’re just phoning it in, right?
Quote of the Day
I assume that by now you know about Donald Trump Jr.’s tweet comparing terrorists-hiding-among-Syrian-refugees to a poisoned Skittle. BBC reminds us that while we have a 1 in 3408 chance of choking on our food (including Skittles), we have a 1 in 3,640,000,000 chance of being killed by a refugee terrorist. Skittles itself (actually Denise Young, a spokesperson for Wrigley) released a response to the whole kerfuffle:
Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.
“Refugees are people.” We agree. But maybe now that it’s been said by a candy, we’ll listen.
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