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An Unstable Foundation

August 3, 2020

Even the authors of this study suggest you take it with a grain of salt, but nonetheless: research in Social Psychological and Personality Science shows conservative political ideology correlated to an inability to distinguish real from fake headlines about COVID-19. “Our responses to the threat are strikingly different depending on our political beliefs.” As Joe Uscinski told us on Skeptical Inquirer Presents, we get our cues from political elites.

MIT’s Ethan Zuckerman tells the Post: “We’re seeing the Trump campaign tack closely to an almost explicitly QAnon narrative.” Not comforting.

Michael McGowan: COVID-19 gives conspiracy theorists of all kinds a common home. (And I think I’m digging the term “mask refuseniks” in lieu of anti-maskers, but I need to think about it.)

17,000 refuseniks, anti-vaxxers, and right-wing extremists marched in Berlin on Saturday to protest, I dunno, being virus-free. “The mask is the Nazi Jewish star of the unvaccinated,” said one sign.

Refusenik (I’m still trying it out, see?) Neil Clark says, “If masks were necessary for our survival as a species we would have evolved one by now. We haven’t.” Yeah! And we would have evolved penicillin too! And, like, shoes!

Emo Philips: “it’s silly to believe an illness can stem from having sex with a demon, but just to be safe I’m giving it up anyway”

Yascha Mounk at The Atlantic: There won’t be enough anti-vaxxers refusing the COVID-19 to matter. If anything, there’ll be fights over who gets it first.

Steven Salzberg on the COVID-19 vaccines being tested: “So why not start administering millions of doses right now? We should.”

Google is tightening its regulations for ads that that link to or spread misinformation, particularly in regard to leaked political material or organizations concealing their identities.

James Loeffler looks at the “unstable foundation” of the idea that American is “Judeo-Christian,” which of course “excluded not only Muslims, Native Americans, and other non-Western religious communities, but also atheists and secularists of all persuasions.”

Julie Ingersoll: Trump’s insistence on full school reopenings is about punishing public schools and benefiting religious private schools.

Roy Moore is suing Sacha Baron Cohen for defamation over a fake pedophile-detection device that Cohen used on Moore on TV a couple years ago. Um.

A GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from New Hampshire says Chinese students shouldn’t be allowed to study science in the United States. “You’re welcome to study here, but you must study economics, the American constitution, freedom.” You know, those sought-after PhDs in “freedom.”

Rep. Karen Bass, on the shortlist to be Joe Biden’s running-make, praised the Church of Scientology for its work on “human rights” and other things at a ribbon-cutting in 2010. Hemant Mehta says we should avoid knee-jerk reactions to this, but uuuuuuughhhhhh my knees are restless here. As Hemant says, “How do you not know about Scientology?

Insider rounds up some of the pseudoscience in Zac Efron’s new Netflix show. (I barely know who this guy is, but that’s because I’m old.)

SETI’s Seth Shostak, a fellow of CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, writes about how there’s very little of actual extraterrestrial interest in the whole Navy-UFO-reports thing. But he does get one thing spectacularly wrong, which I point out with all due respect:

Do you honestly think “Star Trek’s” Captain Jean-Luc Picard would ever spend time checking out piles of slingshots or pikes on some primitive planet when he has phasers back on the USS Enterprise?

YES! Picard is like “what if we put an archaeologist in charge of the greatest starship of all time.” Now, he wouldn’t be all, “Commander Data, threat analysis of those slingshots,” but he WOULD be all, “Commander Data, let’s beam over to research and analyze those slingshots, and give me a report on how we can safely retrieve samples without damaging the artifacts. I’ll lead the away team!”

Holman Jenkins at WSJ arches his editorial eyebrow at the New York Times for its UFO reporting, and I sympathise. “Humans are both a lying and a self-deluding species.” Ain’t it the truth.

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at

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.