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All the Lesser Gods

September 19, 2019

Our own Richard Dawkins has been interviewed by a couple of media outlets, with his new book Outgrowing God now making waves, but they’re both paywalled so I don’t really know what’s in them. Here they are nonetheless, talking to New Scientist (rocking his intentionally-mismatched socks in the photo) and The Times.

NOT paywalled, however, is Richard’s appearance on BBC Newsnight. I can’t tell what socks he’s wearing, though.

There’s a new episode of Point of Inquiry! Kavin Senapathy talks to science journalist Angelia Saini, author of the new book Superior: The Return of Race Science. From the show description:

What does the history of race science have to do with today’s science on human variation? Why do modern scientists need to grapple with the legacy of racial definition and oppression? How does the centuries-old mythology of race impact the practice of medicine well into the 21st century?

Benjamin Radford appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Expedition Unknown last night, talkin’ chupacabras. Ben says, “Watch for dead fowl, vampire legends, and roaches. Good times!”

Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Daniel Cox at FiveThirtyEight look at the decline in religious belief among Americans and how researchers have had to conclude that a big reason for it is politics:

… when two sociologists, Michael Hout and Claude Fischer, began to look at possible explanations for why so many Americans were suddenly becoming secular … conventional reasons couldn’t explain why religious affiliation started to fall in the mid-1990s. Demographic and generational shifts also couldn’t fully account for why liberals and moderates were leaving in larger numbers than conservatives. In a paper published in 2002, they offered a new theory: Distaste for the Christian right’s involvement with politics was prompting some left-leaning Americans to walk away from religion.

Russ Dobler at Skeptical Inquirer looks at what the digital age has meant for “UFOlogy”:

If you believe media reports from the past few years, it’s not just the good sightings that are evaporating, but any at all. By 2018, reports made to the Mutual UFO Network and the National UFO Reporting Center had dropped by 55 percent in four years, a story that was picked up and spread globally.

Alex Ward at Vox talks to Annie Jacobsen, author of a book on Area 51, about what the big deal is. Jacobsen says the CIA likely found the rumors about aliens and UFOs useful as a distraction for what was really going on there, and maybe still is:

My suspicion, though, is that some of the most cutting-edge science and technology programs are being tested at Area 51 today. We won’t know about them for decades. But years from now the future technology that was being built there during the War on Terror will look quaint. Anachronistic. Outdated.

Germany’s Health Minister, Jens Spahn, decides not to follow France’s smart example, and says the country should continue to fund homeopathy. Schüttelte meinen verdammten Kopf.

At the Calveras Enterprise in California, Kevin Wychopen offers some tips on avoiding fake news, and explains what it means to be skeptical. Behold:

Being skeptical simply means doubting or being uncertain. The Skeptical Inquirer, published for over 40 years by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, has as its mission “to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.”

Erika Smith at Refinery29 offers lots of ways of explaining away claims of ghost encounters, though gives a little too much leeway to the whole “falls outside the realm of science” notion.

The Christian Science Monitor looks at the newly manufactured debate over Bible instruction in school, framed as “literature versus myth.” Amanda Tyler of the Baptist Joint Committee says, “I think it sends a problematic message that to be a full or true American one must be Christian.”

Millennium Park in Chicago has particular sections that are designated for speeches and handing out literature. This isn’t good enough for a group of Wheaton College students who want special exemptions to the rules everyone else has to follow so they evangelize for Christ all over the park. So they’re suing.

Introsucing Epiphany Space, a coworking office, like WeWork, but you know, with Bibles everywhere.

Humanists UK calls out Brunei at the UN Human Rights Council over its new law in which death by stoning is the punishment for things like blasphemy and homosexuality.

Clearwater, Florida mayor George Cretekos, a Republican (and wearer of polkadotted bowties, more power to him), breaks with party orthodoxy to call for a ban on military-style assault weapons. The last straw for him? “I’ve gone to church, I’ve prayed. My prayers aren’t working.” It’s not just you, pal.

Steven Novella critiques the rise in popularity of “healing crystals,” noting that it’s not just that they don’t work (of course), but that the crystal mining industry has victims:

Workers have to deal with dangerous mineral dust and mine collapses. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world, living in horrific conditions. This is the crystal equivalent of blood diamonds. This is all feeding an exploding crystal healing industry, worsening the situation.

Quote of the Day

Pastafarian Barrett Fletcher, strainer on head, delivers an opening invocation to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Alaska:

I’m called to invoke the power of the true inebriated creator of the universe, the drunken tolerator of all the lesser and more recent gods, and maintainer of gravity here on Earth.

May the great Flying Spaghetti Monster rouse Himself from His stupor, and let His noodly appendages ground each assembly member in their seats, reminding them of the purpose of their election to this body, and helping them to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

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.