A Stygian Silence Lurks

November 19, 2018

The Economist looks at what might transpire in Greece with the newly-proposed constitutional changes ostensibly separating the (orthodox) church from state:

Even if the mildly secularising amendments [. . .] go through, the constitution would still begin with the sonorous words, “In the name of the Holy, Consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity…” [. . . ] Nor would the amendments change the provision that the purposes of state education in Greece must include “the development of national and religious consciousness”. In practice this means celebrating both the glories of ancient Greece and the subtleties of Greek Orthodox teaching.

Stuart Vyse profiles artist Janyce Boynton, an opponent of facilitated communication (FC) for people with severe autism:

Janyce Boynton [. . .] was a victim of FC pseudoscience over twenty years ago, has come full circle from believer to skeptic and from a user of FC to a dedicated advocate for abolishing it. Her perspective is completely unique. No one else has taken her unusual journey. But she has emerged as an important figure in the cause for science and reason in the field of autism treatment.

For women seeking contraceptives when working for employers who have religiously-exempted themselves from the contraceptive mandate, Trump says they can just go to a family planning clinic. Because the administration is so friendly to them.

Fordham University’s Charles Camosy writes in opposition to physician-assisted suicide at Religion News Service (CFI supports this right), declaring, “Physicians are not Burger King cashiers from whom you ‘have it your way.'” Not helping your argument, dude.

Eli Saslow at the Post profiles Christopher Blair, proprietor of a website that supplies social media conspiracy theorists and hardline right-wingers with all the fake news they can eat (and believe), as well as one woman who buys into Blair’s stuff:

“I’m not a conspiracy-theory-type person, but . . .” she wrote, before sharing a link to an unsourced story suggesting that Democratic donor George Soros had been a committed Nazi, or that a Parkland shooting survivor was actually a paid actor.

At The Atlantic, Uri Friedman looks at the evangelically-saturated approach to foreign policy practiced by Mike Pence, in contrast to the more-or-less value-less approach of his boss.

The Texas State Board of Education, which operates within a warp in space-time that nothing can escape, not even light, decides that Moses’s alleged role in influencing the U.S.’s founding documents must remain in school curricula. But that Hillary Clinton’s existence may also be acknowledged.

This American Life does an episode on the deeply unsettling “interviews” about sexuality endured by Mormon women.

Pro tip for practitioners of fake medicine: Don’t publicly challenge actual doctors to check your work.

Joe Phalon at USA Today looks back on the Jonestown Massacre, the horrifying cult mass suicide that spawned the term “drinking the Kool-Aid.” (If you’ve never heard the audio recordings of these people’s last moments, don’t. I wish I hadn’t.)

The placebo effect may have a genetic component, which, if true, would be crazy. Gary Greenberg at NYT reports:

What if, [molecular biologist Kathryn] Hall wonders, a treatment fails to work not because the drug and the individual are biochemically incompatible, but rather because in some people the drug interferes with the placebo response, which if properly used might reduce disease? Or conversely, what if the placebo response is, in people with a different variant, working against drug treatments, which would mean that a change in the psychosocial context could make the drug more effective? Everyone may respond to the clinical setting, but there is no reason to think that the response is always positive. According to Hall’s new way of thinking, the placebo effect is not just some constant to be subtracted from the drug effect but an intrinsic part of a complex interaction among genes, drugs and mind. And if she’s right, then one of the cornerstones of modern medicine — the placebo-controlled clinical trial — is deeply flawed.

Ragnarok (the cataclysm of Norse mythology, not the Thor movie) may have an astronomical explanation. Or a few of them. In the end it doesn’t matter, because Asgard is not a place. It’s a people.

Kenny Biddle investigates whether news reports referencing a psychic detective’s alleged success in finding a murder victim’s remains were even close to the mark:

The details of this story seem to change with each version; an unidentified psychic pointed to the exact location, an (unidentified) psychic and a person (also unidentified) told them the remains were “somewhere” in the basement some time ago, and finally we have ground-penetrating radar—rather than a psychic—locating a disturbance. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the story evolved to include a more supernatural feel.

Speaking of cataclysms, QAnon believers are still waiting for their swamp-draining apocalypse within the deep state, and it just won’t show up.

Kinesiology tape still doesn’t work.

Ricky Gervais tells Stephen Colbert he’s not worried about being dead:

Well, I don’t care about being dead! Because I won’t know about it. That is the best thing about being dead. You don’t know about it. It’s like being stupid; it’s only painful for others. …

… I think people on Twitter, they know I’m an atheist, and they say things like, “Oh, what’s it like after you die?” And I go, “What was it like for 13.5 billion years before you were born?” It’s probably like that. I think we’re like tourists, right? We didn’t exist for 13.5 billion years, then we’ve got, like, 80-90 years, if we’re lucky, and then we go back to never existing again. So you gotta make the most of it. It’s amazing, life. It’s brilliant. There’s so much to live for!

Sorry, I’m still petrified by my terror about nonexistence.

Quote of the Day

Norm Macdonald, who theorizes that Germans love David Hasselhoff, gets weirdly grim:

The Enlightenment turned us away from truth and toward a darkling weakening horizon, sad and grey to see. The afterglow of Christianity is near gone now, and a stygian silence lurks in wait.

Perhaps by “stygian silence” he means a break between sets for the band Styx. (They’ll do “Come Sail Away” at the encore, Norm. Don’t worry. Thought that they were angels.)

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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.