A Train Wreck in a Coal Mine

December 2, 2019

On a brand new Point of Inquiry, Jim Underdown talks to skeptic psychologist Chris French about the skeptic movement and its relatively new focus on conspiracy theories.

SETI’s Big Picture Science podcast does a “skeptic check” with guests including Skeptical Inquirer columnist Robert Palmer and ex-naturopath Britt Marie Hermes.

Scott Gavura at Science-Based Medicine parses the big survey on homeopathy and drug retailers that we did as part of our lawsuits against Walmart and CVS:

While most consumers trust pharmacies, very few people understand what homeopathy is and the nonsensical belief system it is built upon. Few consumers read and understand product labels well enough to identify which products are homeopathic. These generally positive views carry over to oscillococcinum, at least until people learn what the product is, and how it is made. Once consumers learn about homeopathy and products like oscillococcinum, positive perceptions deteriorate. Perceptions of efficacy and safety decline, and people are less likely to buy homeopathy once they learn what it actually is.

CBC profiles science communicator Bob McDonald, host of Quirks and Quarks and whose persona is sort of that of a Canadian Bill Nye. He has a new book, An Earthling’s Guide to Outer Space:

I have dedicated this book to young people…any young person who is curious about the world, and I find that all people are curious about the world.

Also, I learn that Canadians (or some of them) pronounce “bilingual” as “bi-ling-gyoo-ul.” Amazing.

Also amazing is what Discover magazine’s Corey Powell labels “the least spooky description of quantum reality I’ve ever seen” by physicist Chris Fuchs:

Measurement is … demoted from being something mystical to being about things as mundane as walking across a busy street: It is an action I can take that has consequences for me. The only difference between such everyday events and the happenings in a quantum optics lab is whether it’s fruitful to apply the calculus of quantum theory for making better decisions.

Over the weekend, I saw a hubbub over a Scientific American piece called “Doctors Are Not Gods” that folks said was anti-science and full of garbage, particularly attacking Jen Gunter. (Glenn Fleischman called the piece “a train wreck in a coal mine.”) Well, I go look, and guess what I find:

Editor’s note. The post that originally appeared here has been removed because we’ve determined that it doesn’t meet our editorial standards.

Back to our ugly day-to-day reality.

Ohio, gunning to be the undisputed worst state ever, considers a bill that would require doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy,” which is medically impossible. If they don’t, the doctors would be charged with a crime.

The Post reports that Trump’s guy now in charge of nuclear arms control is really excited about controlling nuclear arms in the sense of being in control of dropping them on other countries. Also:

Frank Wuco, a senior adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, came under scrutiny last year when his past comments involving the promotion of far-right conspiracy theories surfaced. Some of those included debunked claims that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States, former CIA director John Brennan converted to Islam, former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. had been a member of the Black Panthers and former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

I assume you heard this one already: Rick Perry says Trump is God’s chosen one. I hereby REVOKE your glasses, Mr. Secretary.

The woman running to challenge Rep. Ilhan Omar for her seat in Congress, Danielle Stella, has been banned from Twitter for advocating for the hanging of Omar over a thing she made up.

CNN reports on how a Catholic order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, who are supposed to specifically look to protecting kids, sheltered serial sexual abuser Father Luk Delft:

For years, the Salesians covered up Delft’s abuse, moving him from post to post, and sending him to work in some of the world’s most troubled places.

Despite the allegations he faced, and being convicted of abuse, he was allowed to maintain a high profile — even receiving the sacrament at a service presided over by Pope Francis at the Vatican this year.

Speaking of people who sexually assault children, Roy Moore says he’s nostalgic for 1965 when he was hunting for underage girls to abuse people who weren’t exactly like him had no rights.

Liberty University is setting up a think tank. Don’t start laughing yet, because wait til you hear the name: The Falkirk Center, because you see it’s founded by Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk! See? It’s portmanteau, but sadder.

The AP reports that the reauthorization for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is in a rut, as a new proposal to have the commission also focus on the use of religion to justify human rights violations, among other things, sparks bipartisan and intra-party disagreement:

The tension seeped into public view last week when one GOP-appointed commissioner, Kristina Arriaga, resigned from her post with a warning against the legislation released by GOP and Democratic senators.

Arriaga opposes the proposed new oversight requirements for commissioners, writing to The Associated Press that the bill would turn a unified commission into a “useless bureaucracy.” She also sees problems in Congress asking the commission to vet human rights infringement, predicting that it could mire their portfolio in same-sex marriage, circumcision and other politically volatile religious topics.

“Expanding the mission to include the possibility of discussing religious practices as human rights violations sounds innocuous,” Arriaga said in an interview, “but it opens up a whole theological discussion about what happens inside of religions.”

The Times profiles Jay Sekulow, who, for some reason, needs more profiles written about him. Anyway, he’s Trump’s other lawyer, but the one who comes out of the religious-right litigation onslaught machine, the battering ram slamming into the wall of separation.

According to Pew Research, 67 percent of Americans say the government isn’t doing enough to deal with climate change, and that breaks down to 90 percent of Democrats and those who lean left, versus 39 percent of Republicans/lean right. Among Republicans, women and millennials are much more concerned about climate change, each around half. Of course, women and millennial Republicans add up to about 4 or 5 people, give or take.

Iowa State Rep. Skyler Wheeler (that is a dizzying name) expressed his disapproval of the Transgender Day of Remembrance by dissing “the Rainbow Jihad.” Good lord, I would love to join a Rainbow Jihad. Sounds like something where we ride unicorns and spread joy through magic and candy.

The city of Scottsdale, Arizona wants the taxpayers to pony up $130,000 so they can fight Satan. I mean the Satanic Temple.

Some exoplanets that were once thought to be “wispy” might actually be small ringed planets. To me, they will always be “super-puffs.”

Turns out that if we suddenly lost the Moon tomorrow, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Unless of course we lost it Seveneves style.

Oh, and the climate crisis is worse than we thought, part eleventy-billion.

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