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Anticipation of a Bad Smell

March 12, 2019

The Trump administration is looking to hack and slash away at science and dump funds into voucher schemes in its 2020 budget request, and we’re not okay with that:

“Crippling the country’s ability to conduct scientific research is always a bad idea, but these cuts at this time in our history show an astounding lack of attention and concern to the scientific challenges of our time,” said Jason Lemieux, the Center for Inquiry’s Director of Government Affairs. “Communities are scrambling to deal with outbreaks of infectious diseases that were once thought eradicated. The impacts of climate change are reverberating across the country and the planet in the form of extreme weather, drought, and uncontainable forest fires.”

The Freethought Trail continues to grow, and soon it will CONSUME ALL THE WORLD that’s not true. Here’s what’s true: There are now 123 sites with more coverage of the antislavery movement.

Harry Bruinius at the Christian Science Monitor explores how the atheists and humanists of today feel “a deeply felt impulse to participate in communities that mark the rhythms of life and death, and work to build moral character and a better world”:

“Do I believe in a personal God? No,” says Robert Strock, a therapist and counselor who heads The Global Bridge Foundation, a humanitarian group in Santa Monica, California. “Do I feel like humanistic spirituality is including people that do? Absolutely, yes. I feel like I’d be a bigot if I didn’t.”

At RNS, Bart Worden of the American Ethical Union looks at why the proportion of “nones” in the U.S. population is so out of whack with the number of nones in Congress:

Atheists — ironically, given the state of civil discourse in our current Congress — have a reputation for inciting fierce debate. They are seen as killjoys who press towns and villages to take down nativity scenes and make demands about prayer in schools. Not content simply to aggravate those who cherish religious traditions, the perception goes, they actually poke fun at people’s religious beliefs.

This perception results in anger toward nonbelievers of all varieties and a tendency to paint all who do not profess traditional theistic beliefs with the same brush.

For whatever it’s worth, humanist marriages in Scotland are the least likely to end in divorce. By far, actually.

At the Florida Phoenix, Diane Rado reports on proposed voucher schemes in the state that are backed by the Catholic Church but not so much everyone else:

…at a Senate Education Committee meeting last week, the Rev. Russell L. Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, raised several concerns about the new voucher proposal.

“We believe there should be one standard of accountability for publicly-funded education,” Meyer said, because not all private schools meet the same rigorous building codes as public schools and, “certified teachers should be required wherever public education funds are spent,” among other issues.

Also in Florida, which really doesn’t need a nickname other than just “The Florida State,” the bill to require that public schools offer Bible classes just passed an education subcommittee by a huge margin. Great, great, great.

Oh boy. The guy responsible for the CIA trying to kill goats with mind powers says the reason we haven’t figured out psychic-murdering abilities is because we’re wrong about physics. And he’s getting a documentary to expound upon this brilliant insight that he alone can comprehend.

Speaking of dubious documentaries, YouTube made some noise about making sure viewers know when they’re being fed misinformation and bunk conspiracy theories, and then has YouTubeBro Logan Paul’s “documentary” promoting flat-Eartherism. Julia Alexander at The Verge says:

The recommendation problem is something that YouTube is well aware of, and one that executives have reiterated they want to fix. But without acknowledging the role top creators play in the continued exposure of bad actors, it’s a problem that YouTube doesn’t seem likely to fix.

Physician Robert Pearl at Forbes has recommendations for digital platforms to better police and filter out medical pseudoscience.

LiveScience asks whether we can learn new things while we sleep, and the answer seems to be soooooooort ooooooof maaaayyyybe:

Multiple studies have found that a basic form of learning, called conditioning, can happen during sleep. In a 2012 study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, for example, Israeli researchers found that people can learn to associate sounds with odors during sleep. The scientists played a tone to sleeping study participants while unleashing a nasty spoiled-fish smell. Once awake, upon hearing the tone, the people held their breath in anticipation of a bad smell.

Be on the lookout for GOP-funded websites disguised to look like legitimate local news outlets in order to spread propaganda, such as the recently-created Tennessee Star. Snopes reports:

… this story is about more than just the Tennessee Star. [Right-wing operatives] Leahy, Botteri, and Gill have been expanding their version of journalism to other battleground states in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. They are, they say, co-founders of a new, Delaware-registered company, Star News Digital Media, Inc., whose explicit strategy is to target battleground states with conservative news. So far, Leahy, Gill, and Botteri have added The Ohio Star and The Minnesota Sun to their network of purportedly local newspapers. These papers are effective carbon copies of the Tennessee Star.

If someone tells you to eat a bear-shaped vitamin because it will improve your hair health, be, you know, skeptical.

Jamie T. Aten at Psychology Today looks at why Trump’s Bible signing in Alabama was such a big deal to so many people; salience:

Many Christians view the Bible as a sacred and holy text that should be treated with reverence. As I shared with the Washington Post, the act of autographing the Bible would have been seen as blasphemous among many of the faith communities in which I grew up. On the other hand, several prominent pastors have described the act as one of encouragement and as something that shouldn’t be newsworthy.

For others, it’s not the meaning they give the Bible, but rather the meaning they give to President Trump’s actions that raises alarms. The image of the President of the United States signing Bibles in a place of worship is perceived by some as a thinning separation of church and state.

D.W. Pasulka at VICE looks at how the reverence for A.I. and belief in extraterrestrial intelligence among the wealthy intellectual classes, such as in Silicon Valley, is rather religious in nature:

So where does this respect and admiration of nonhuman intelligence leave us? With a new type of religiosity and spirituality that embodies technology, the future, and the potential of almost unimaginable infrastructures in space and on earth. It also leaves us with a new form of religion that is not based on faith alone, but on the possible realism of its truth claims.

NYT profiles Elizabeth Hargrave, a bird enthusiast who developed the board game “Wingspan,” which is described as “a game with scientific integrity” that has sold 44,000 copies already.

The Pope meets with the leaders of the LDS Church, and I can’t help but assume that was one awkward conversation.

Quote of the Day

Gizmodo checks in with a lot of experts to ask “why do people believe in pseudoscience?” and Heresy readers will recognize many of the folks providing answers. Here’s a piece of what memory expert Julia Shaw had to say:

When we struggle to understand something, particularly in an area where we feel we have some basic knowledge, we may assume that the others are wrong or dangerous (like assuming that GMOs are inherently bad).

We need to be careful not to assume that pseudoscientific thinking is limited to people who are not well educated or who are not intelligent, instead realizing that almost all of us have at least a few of these beliefs and trying to actively rid ourselves of them whenever we can.

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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.