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A Private Club for Cyclones

December 13, 2019

Paul Krugman looks on in horror at the Republican Party’s role in climate catastrophe:

… the terrifying political news and the terrifying climate news are closely related.

Why, after all, has the world failed to take action on climate, and why is it still failing to act even as the danger gets ever more obvious? … one factor stands out above all others: the fanatical opposition of America’s Republicans, who are the world’s only major climate-denialist party. Because of this opposition, the United States hasn’t just failed to provide the kind of leadership that would have been essential to global action, it has become a force against action. …

… Long before the cries of “fake news,” Republicans were refusing to accept science that contradicted their prejudices. Long before Republicans began attributing every negative development to the machinations of the “deep state,” they were insisting that global warming was a gigantic hoax perpetrated by a vast global cabal of corrupt scientists.

And long before Trump began weaponizing the power of the presidency for political gain, Republicans were using their political power to harass climate scientists and, where possible, criminalize the practice of science itself.

Pew Research has a new study on how different religious groups do their living arrangements. For example, Muslims tend to have the most populated households, averaging 6.4 folks per home, while Jews and Nones are at the lower end with 3.7 each. The least likely groups to live in two-parent families are Nones and Buddhists.

India has passed its huge Muslims-go-away bill. Sigal Samuel at Vox explains how this gets worse really fast:

Those in [state of] Assam whose names do not appear on the [National Register of Citizens] have been told the burden of proof is on them to prove that they are citizens. But many rural residents don’t have birth certificates or other papers, and even among those who do, many can’t read them; a quarter of the population in Assam state is illiterate.

Residents do get the chance to appeal to a Foreigners’ Tribunal and, if it rejects their claims to citizenship, to the High Court of Assam or even the Supreme Court. But if all that fails, they can be sent to one of 10 mass detention camps the government plans to build, complete with boundary walls and watchtowers.

The first camp, currently under construction, is the size of seven football fields. Even nursing mothers and children will be held there. … And it’s not clear where the newly stateless people would go. Neighboring Bangladesh has already said it won’t take them. All this has induced such intense anxiety that some Muslims are committing suicide.

Joseph D. McInerney, former president of the National Association of Biology Teachers, writes to the New York Times to respond to Karen Armstrong’s contention that atheists view the Bible as “a pack of lies”:

As an atheist who dealt repeatedly with creationists as they attempted to force their myth into the science curriculum, I can attest that I have never viewed Genesis as “a pack of lies.” Rather, I view it as ancient fiction.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a lie as “a false statement made with intent to deceive.” Those who constructed the Genesis account of creation could not have known that their story was false by the scientific standards we now hold. Modern religious zealots who still promulgate scriptural creation myths as true when they know better are, however, a different matter. They, indeed, are guilty of lying.

Emma Green at The Atlantic profiles the Society of St. Pius X, a group of conservative Catholics who are living out a version of “the Benedict Option” by forming their own little community away from secular modernity, a “cultural secession”:

… as much as SSPX may still think of itself as raising children to be warriors in the faith, the metaphor is no longer a good fit. What the Society has built in St. Marys is more like a haven for those retreating from the culture wars than a training ground for battle. Safe behind its walls, parishioners can seem uninterested in the moral failings of the outside world and untroubled by the country’s political turmoil.

Quebec Premier François Legault apparently told California Governor Gavin Newsom that “all French-Canadians are Catholic.” Andy Riga at the Montreal Gazette begs to differ:

… one-quarter of French-speaking Canadians define themselves as atheists, according to a Léger Marketing poll conducted in May for the Association for Canadian Studies.

Sixty-three per cent of those surveyed by Léger said Catholic, three per cent Protestant and one per cent Muslim. The rest identified with other religions or preferred not to say. …

… Even among those who call themselves Catholic, many are only “nominally Catholic,” Jedwab said. “They identify as Catholic and they construe that as being cultural rather than religious.”

New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says the shooting attack in Jersey City was “fueled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs.” The AP reports:

Grewal said the attackers … had expressed interest in a fringe religious group called the Black Hebrew Israelites. But he said there was no evidence that they were members, and he said the two were believed to have acted alone.

Stuart Vyse approves of Taylor Swift’s positive association with the number 13:

There is a distinct difference between the positive, luck-enhancing superstitions and the negative or taboo superstitions. Although they have no magical force, luck-enhancing superstitions make us feel better, not worse. They provide an illusion of control, and, in situations where there is actual skill involved (such as performing in front of thousands of fans), they may help us do better.

Two unvaccinated students at the University of Arkansas asked a court to block a health department directive that barred them from coming to school during a mumps outbreak. The judge said no.

In New Jersey, anti-vaxxers went to protest a bill removing religious exemptions…and went to the wrong hearing.

Jade Wu at Scientific American looks at whether ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is a pseudoscience, and the answer seems to be we’re not sure but maybe not:

One 2018 study recorded participants’ physiological responses while watching ASMR videos. There was a clear difference between those who self-identified as experiencing ASMR and those who did not: The ASMR group experienced reduced heart rates and increased skin conductance, which basically means a tiny increase in sweating. This was a very interesting pattern of findings, because it showed that the ASMR experience was both calming (shown by the reduced heart rate) and arousing (shown by the increased skin conductance). This makes ASMR a different experience from simple relaxation, but also different from the excitement of sexual arousal or the chills that happen when you hear a really good song.

NASA’s Juno probe has discovered giant cyclones at Jupiter’s south pole. JPL says:

With each flyby, the data reinforced the idea that five windstorms were swirling in a pentagonal pattern around a central storm at the south pole and that the system seemed stable. None of the six storms showed signs of yielding to allow other cyclones to join in.

“It almost appeared like the polar cyclones were part of a private club that seemed to resist new members,” said Bolton.

Then, during Juno’s 22nd science pass, a new, smaller cyclone churned to life and joined the fray.

Archaeologists discover what is being called the earliest human artwork that depicts a story, painted on a cave wall in Indonesia. The Post writes, “The scene, in the scientists’ interpretation, shows supernatural people hunting wild animals.” It’s the first superhero comic! I can’t wait for the reboot and MCU crossover!

I can’t watch this, but I’m amazed that it’s a thing that can happen: An octopus caught a bald eagle, and some dudes rescued the eagle, and felt a little weird about it. Now you just made the octopuses mad, and now they will be coming for us.


Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.