A Special Kind of Nonsense

September 11, 2018

Wow, I have a lot to catch up with, huh? I was out yesterday, and there may or may not be any Heresies for the rest of the week as I head out to Ohio for the Religion Newswriters Association conference. You are warned.

It’s the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which to me feel like they happened about a year ago, while the student actors I direct at the local university were too young to know about. Most were too young to know much of anything, really, other than to complain when their diapers were full. 9/11 is transitioning from recent and unprecedented trauma to history.

At RNS, Aysha Khan looks at how even 17 years later, Muslims remain suspect to much of the American population.

Former CNN reporter Jamie McIntyre discusses his inadvertent role in 9/11 conspiracy theories, and his frustratingly difficult efforts to push back against misinformation:

It’s only now — nearly two decades after I became part of a conspiracy theory and failed in my efforts to debunk it — that I truly understand how flawed my worldview is that there is an objective reality that can be understood through rigorous, rational thinking.

Holy moly, the proportion of British young adults who identify themselves with the Church of England is a measly 2 percent! A paltry 14 percent of the population as a whole consider themselves part of the Church of England (with 8 percent Catholics and a smattering of other single-digit faiths), and 52 percent saying they have no religion (one percent down from last year).

Jason Lemieux, CFI’s public policy chief, warns us that Brett Kavanaugh is not only a bad pick for the Supreme Court, but in terms of our issues, he’s even worse than we thought:

Explaining his dissent in Priests for Life v. HHS […] Kavanaugh called contraceptives “abortion-inducing drugs,” a term that was immediately condemned by science organizations, medical associations, and reproductive rights advocacy groups.

To call contraceptives “abortion-inducing drugs” is to tell a lie.

Oh, and Kav really likes Christian prayers at public school events.

CFI’s Nick Little rails against China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur population, rounding them up into concentration camps, writing, “This is a human rights violation of stupendous proportions.” (Meanwhile, the AP reports on the persecution of Christians and the destruction of crosses and Bibles in China as well.)

And before the weekend, Nick also gave us an update on our lawsuit against CVS for consumer fraud over their sale of homeopathic fake medicine (“a special kind of nonsense”), including some explanations of our overall reasoning for choosing this particular battle.

A unanimous ruling by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals says the cross at Pensacola’s Bayview Park is unconstitutional and has to come down, but they’re not happy about it. The Pensacola News Journal reports:

Two of the judges wrote additional individual opinions arguing the ruling needed to be changed by a full hearing with all the judges who make up the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both of the judges argued the precedent set by the case American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia v. Rabun County Chamber of Commerce in 1983 was wrong, but the judges were bound to it.

I had never heard of colorpuncture before this article from Harriet Hall for Skeptical Inquirer online, and now I wish I hadn’t. It’s one of the most ridiculous fake-treatments I’ve ever heard of, and I work for the Center for Inquiry:

Colorpuncture applies various colors of light to acupoints with a small flashlight-like instrument with a colored quartz rod. The tip of the instrument touches the skin or is held a short distance above it. Seven basic colors are used: the warm colors (red, orange, and yellow) increase energy; the cool colors (green, turquoise, blue, and violet) decrease energy. Using warm and cool colors together will balance yin and yang energy flows. Treatments last 10 to 90 minutes.

Also at Skeptical Inquirer online, Kenny Biddle checks out the claims of Tim Scullion that he has amazing pictures of ghosts, and, yeah, no.

Plus! Kylie Sturgess interviews Dr. Derek Muller about his documentary on fad and celebrity-backed vitamin supplements, Vitamania.

Alex Jones’ Infowars App has been permanently banned from Apple’s App Store. Google’s Play Store for Android still has it.

Kevin Stitt, the GOP’s nominee for governor in Oklahoma, seems to not believe in vaccines.

Michael Tabb at Quartz says that while astrology may be useless for predicting events, it has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for discoveries about the world as it actually is:

Astrologers have managed to discover such connections by recording and organizing huge amounts of new information—currently, some are incorporating asteroid data—and proceeding by trial and error. It’s not scientific, but it is a model for how to find complex connections that aren’t immediately obvious.

That seems generous.

Hemant Mehta says, to my surprise, that God Friended Me is “not a bad show,” but says what motivates the whole premise is just dumb:

In short, [the main character is] an atheist because he went through something traumatic.
It’s such a common misconception of why people are atheists, there are entire books by religious writers responding to that idea, explaining why bad things happen to good people.

It makes for a great dramatic monologue in the show… but it bears no resemblance to why so many atheists today don’t believe in God.

Ralph Lewis at Psychology Today explains why we can have meaning in a meaningless universe: “The universe may not be purposeful, but humans are.”

Annie Gowen at the Post looks into the extremist religious sect accused of killing secular intellectuals, Sanatan Sanstha. They are said to use “hypnotherapy to incite its followers to kill those they consider enemies of Hinduism. Investigators uncovered a hit list of more than two dozen other writers and scholars.”

Jason Crosby, a pastor at Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, says these compulsory displays of “In God We Trust” in public buildings amounts to “religious bullying.” He is correct:

The outcome of this proposal would send a thinly veiled message that anyone who does not believe in the god [State Rep.] Reed envisions is subordinate and less than. This proposal would result in school bullying supported by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Deacon James Garcia of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in the District of Columbia calls on Cardinal Donald Wuerl to resign. “The time for cowardice and self-preservation is long past,” he says. “Victims cry out for justice and the faithful deserve shepherds who are not compromised.”

The National Academies of Science say that if we’re serious about seeking out new life and new civilizations, we’re gonna need to launch a new, powerful telescope that can take direct images of exoplanets. Loren Grush reports that there are some ideas brewing about how to accomplish such a monumental task.

Go ahead and get your 10,000 steps in, but don’t assume that it’s a magic health-number based on any science. So reports David Cox at The Guardian.

Prince Charles is anti-cyborg:

The thing I find hardest now is to cope with this extraordinary trend that somehow we must become part human, part machine, which I totally and utterly object to.

Now, while Charles is a devotee of fake medicine, I do agree with this:

…the more AI and robotics they want to introduce, the more people will rediscover the importance of the traditional crafts, the directly human things that are crafted by humans and not by machines.

[… I] always believed that living on a finite planet means we have to recognize that this puts certain constraints and limits on our human ambition in order to maintain the viability of the planet.

Quote of the Day

The Denver International Airport has been undergoing a lot of mysterious renovations and development that, given some of the already-weird art choices around the airport, have spurred a lot of conspiracy thinking. And much to their credit, they’re embracing the crazy. Our quotes of the day are its awesome new posters:


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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.