Washington: Ragnarok

September 8, 2017


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

A new survey from Baylor University shows a lot of tension between faith (and non-faith) groups in the U.S., as evangelicals widely perceive Muslims and atheists as morally inferior and even physical threats, and about half of “nones” saying conservative Christians want to limit other people’s freedoms. About a quarter of Americans see atheists as less moral and a threat to freedom (what?) and 15% say they’re a danger to people’s safety. Very, very few people seem to think that Jews are a threat to anyone, which causes one to wonder what it is the white supremacists are so afraid of there.

Relatedly, a study from Ohio University using economic games between Christians and atheists shows that when religious identities were known to participants, the atheists tended to be more generous to the Christians, and the Christians tended to be more generous to other Christians. The reason, suggested by PhD student Colleen Cogwill, is to overcome stereotypes:

In this case, atheists appear to have been motivated by negative stereotypes to behave more prosocially. Although that may seem like a net positive, the mechanisms at work here may carry some more troublesome implications. For instance, on a more speculative note, I think it is quite telling that atheists are perhaps so acutely aware of negative stereotypes about themselves that there are observable differences in their behavior as compared with Christians in even this small, low-stakes type of interaction. Arguably, they are on some level aware of a pretty serious stigma about their identity.  

Abby Ohlheiser at the Washington Post rounds up the misinformation, conspiracy theories, hoaxes, and wackadoodle claims about Hurricane Irma: It’s not a “category 6,” walkie-talkie apps will not allow you to communicate in the absence of cell or internet service, the storm isn’t going hit Houston (I mean, come on), and so on.

Big Think has a video with Richard Dawkins discussing the centrality of objective truth in science, but also that science’s advancement is sparked by intuition and imagination. It’s a cool way to look at it all.

Hey look, it’s CFI’s Ben Radford at Vulture in a video about scary clowns

The Secular Coalition for America has a great new video about its lobby day activities. CFI is a member organization of SCA, and I used to work there myself, so it’s really nice to see them looking so good 15 years in.

As Australia prepares to vote on marriage equality, a priest in Melbourne allegedly screams at parishioners that gay people should be shot. Liz Tasiopoulos, who was there, claims:

The priest was screaming at us [that same-sex marriage] was blasphemy. The comments were so hurtful I couldn’t stop crying. …  [A woman] walked out, and then we all did … As we walked, the priest said that all gays should be shot. He was yelling at us all standing in the rain. I’m so disgusted by all of this that I will never return [to] church again.

Triscuits. Salty. Crunchy. Dry. Fibrous. And also, apparently, TOTALLY NOT GENETICALLY MODIFIED. From a report by Kavin Senapathy, looks like Triscuit’s company is all over the place here:

Triscuit knows that agricultural genetic engineering is safe, and even that there is no commercially available GE wheat. “[W]hile the wheat in Triscuit crackers has always been produced without modern biotechnology (and no genetically engineered wheat is currently available for commercial use), as part of this brand renovation, we are now only using only oil and seasonings that meet ‘The Standard for the Non-GMO Project Verification program’ across all our Triscuit cracker varieties,” Mondelēz International tells me via email. Triscuit’s website explains that ingredients derived from genetically engineered crops are safe, citing a report by the National Academy of Sciences. 

In the Houston Chronicle, Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine writes of the threats posed by tropical diseases in Texas, calling for more resources and a rejection of science denial:

[Anti-vaxxers] allege vaccines cause autism – they don’t – and that scientists from the CDC are engaged in a conspiracy to damage children with vaccines – they’re not – and call for parents to be able to choose whether or not they vaccinate their kids. … [We] need to stop the self-inflicted wounds and rein in the antivaccine lobby by halting the practice of non-medical exemptions in our state.  

Churches in Texas are ticked off that they aren’t eligible for FEMA relief funds. However, Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter fake-history theme-park thing is getting a $1,825,000 tax rebate from the state of Kentucky, because of course it is.

In a post for the CFI On Campus blog, Andy Ngo laments that “freethinking doesn’t flower naturally among nonbelievers.”

This is great. Kat Eschner at Smithsonian looks at the pseudoscientific/pseudohistorical work of Albert Welles, whose 1879 work connected George Washington — genetically! — to the Norse god Odin. OMG!!! That means when Washington chopped down the cherry tree, he didn’t use an axe, he used Mjölnir! HE WAS WORTHY.

Unsurprisingly, the Sixth Court of Appeals rules that the board of commissioners for Jackson County, MI can go on starting meetings with prayers.

Do ghosts count as “monsters”? Not according to John Hodgman:

‘Monster’’ has connoted enormity and a certain savage verve since the 14th century, whereas ‘‘ghost’’ connotes a kind of sad floating around in corners. As no less an authority than Loren Coleman, director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Me., put it: ‘‘Ghosts are not monsters. ‘Monsters’ are alive and may be biological.’’ This posits the possibility that monsters can become ghosts and that the woods of the Pacific Northwest are haunted by spectral Bigfoots. 

Quote of the Day:

Some clever folks hijack a white supremacist Reddit page called “race_realism,” as Gizmodo reports:

Discussion on r/race_realism now focuses on whether or not Formula 1 is the “superior” race, if its ethical to use the blue shell in Mario Kart, and if it makes someone a “race traitor” to enjoy cycling.  


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