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Backwater of the Galaxy

September 9, 2019

Uh oh. A group of studies suggests that a politcal candidate risks losing support just by being associated with atheists, whether or not they are nonbelievers themselves. Study author Andrew Franks tells PsyPost:

I do not want people to think that this is a reason to avoid being associated with marginalized groups, however. Rather, I want people to recognize that bias against groups such as gays, atheists, and racial minorities is so powerful among a substantial portion of the population that it can extend to friends and supporters who are not members of such groups, and I would like that realization to increase the urgency of fighting against these detrimental biases.

Relatedly, religion scholar Stephen Prothero tells Kelsey Dallas that the DNC’s recent embrace of “nones” was maybe a bad idea in terms of raw politics:

As it stands, the resolution could alienate religious voters, especially those who were already nervous about the Democratic Party’s relationship to religion, he added, noting that the DNC has struggled with accusations of being anti-God since the rise of the Religious Right in the late 1970s.

“One of the reasons for the success of the Republican Party in my adult lifetime … is because they were able to position themselves as Christians and position Democrats as godless,” Prothero said.

I dunno, I kind of think that any religious voter turned off by the acceptance of the nonreligious probably isn’t going to vote for a Democrat for any reason anyway.

Pete Buttigieg seems to be getting a bit better about including us heathens in his god-talk, telling Stephen Colbert:

Well, I think Democrats have been a little allergic to talking about faith, and it’s largely for a very good reason, which is that we passionately believe that when you’re running for office, or when you’re in office, you have an obligation to treat people of any religion and people of no religion equally. It’s a basic American principle.

A group of cities and states are looking to overturn or at least pause Trump’s “conscience rule” that lets health care providers deny services based on religious convictions, citing what they say is inflated evidence for the need for such a rule.

Drew Brees, who I am told is a professional American football player, did an ad for Focus on the Family, and he’s shocked that anyone would think that this means he’s anti-gay:

I do not support any groups that discriminate or that have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality. So, hopefully that will set the record straight and we can all move on, because that’s not what I stand for.

No, you’ll need to do a lot better than that.

Beto O’Rourke, I assume while violently gesticulating, calls on social media platforms to do a lot more to counter misinformation. This was spurred by a false conspiracy theory tying Beto to the Odessa shooter.

RNS reports that the Secular Student Alliance is seeing growth in the number of affiliated campus groups:

Along with Fordham University’s chapter, within the past two years, SSA chapters have been started at Gonzaga University, California Lutheran University, St. John’s School, Trinity University, Southern Methodist University, Nazareth College, Bethel College, Temple University and Wesleyan University.

Former bishop and current mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, wanted to ban a book fair’s sale of Avengers: Children’s Crusade because it has two gay dudes kissing in it. The backlash was huge and rather satisfying. (I just finished the whole Jonathan Hickman Avengers run, but you better believe I’m getting to this soon.)

Physician Lucy McBride writes in the Post about how patients are getting confused and bamboozled by alt-med:

In an effort to be healthy, patients can easily become ensnared in the potential dangers of alternative medicine or homeopathy. … since more than 40 percent of patients do not tell their doctors about their use of complementary or alternative medicine (including 25 percent who take supplements and/or herbs), physicians can be bewildered when trying to pin down a root cause for a patient’s complaints. Indeed, these patients are not easily diagnosed after a single lab test — and they are not easily fixed with a supplement.

Speaking of which, India’s Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Choubey says cow urine can cure cancer. There’s a “got milk?” joke in there somewhere but it’s too early and I didn’t get enough sleep.

The Washington Post looks at how Justice Gorsuch has given the religious right everything it wanted:

…he has established himself as one of the court’s most conservative justices and a reliable vote for Trump initiatives that have reached the Supreme Court — the travel ban on those from mostly-Muslim countries, adding a citizenship question to the census form and allowing a ban on transgender service members in the military to go into effect. He has shown a willingness to overturn precedent and an impatience with more reticent colleagues.

More than anything, he has displayed a supreme confidence that his originalist approach to the law is the most disciplined and principled way to go about his job as a justice.

A study in The Astronomical Journal suggests that the galaxy could be filled with civilizations that have visited Earth or each other, but we don’t know about it because these civs are waiting for stars and planetary orbits to bring everybody close enough together to make it feasible. Business Insider reports:

Stars (and the planets around them) orbit the center of the galaxy on different paths at different speeds. As they do, they occasionally pass each other, Carroll-Nellenback pointed out. So aliens could be waiting for their next destination to come closer to them, his study says. …

If civilizations arise in star systems far away from the others (like our own, which is in the backwaters of the galaxy), they could make the trip shorter by waiting until their orbital path brings them closer to a habitable star system, the study says. Then once settled in that new system, the aliens could wait again for an optimal travel distance to make another hop, and so on.

India’s lunar lander, Vikram, was lost as it approached the Moon, likely having crashed. I feel so bad for everyone involved and I hope they try again. They still have the orbiter portion of the Chandrayaan-2 mission functioning.

The Daily Beast reports that archaeologists may have found the town where Jesus was supposed to have shown up after he died, the town of Emmaus near Jerusalem. In an article at the UK’s Express which regurgitates the content of the Beast article, they give it the headline “Jesus Christ Bombshell,” which I have decided is now the name of the sequel to Jesus Christ Superstar.

Sean Carroll, writing at the Times, says physicists need to cut the crap, as it were, and start giving a damn about how and why quantum mechanics works the way it does:

Few modern physics departments have researchers working to understand the foundations of quantum theory. On the contrary, students who demonstrate an interest in the topic are gently but firmly — maybe not so gently — steered away, sometimes with an admonishment to “Shut up and calculate!” Professors who become interested might see their grant money drying up, as their colleagues bemoan that they have lost interest in serious work.

Hey you want to hear music that people made thinking that it was good for plants to listen to? You know, plants, with no ears or brains or anything like that? Yeah. And of course it’s called Plantasia. I’m sorry.

Katie Heaney at The Cut says the Loch Ness Monster is actually a lesbian separatist:

Lesbian separatism is a political movement within feminist separatism which explicitly rejects participation in the social institution of heterosexuality. Apparently one of her kind, the Loch Ness monster refuses to cohabitate, mate, or reproduce with a male monster. Lesbian separatists sometimes form their own safe communal living spaces outside traditional, heteropatriarchal living structures. The Loch Ness monster stays hidden within her own Loch for presumably similar reasons. In an attempt to escape the male gaze, she makes herself unavailable for all but the grainiest of photographs.

ThinkProgress gets scrapped by the Center for American Progress, and that just sucks. I tip my hat to everybody at TP for a job well done.

Quote of the Day

I tend to find Jonathan Franzen’s essays rather insufferable and curmudgeonly (maybe because I feel like he’s on my turf?) but his controversial New Yorker piece on accepting the coming climate catastrophe was, I think, very refreshing and exactly where I’m at. He says:

All-out war on climate change made sense only as long as it was winnable. Once you accept that we’ve lost it, other kinds of action take on greater meaning. Preparing for fires and floods and refugees is a directly pertinent example. But the impending catastrophe heightens the urgency of almost any world-improving action. In times of increasing chaos, people seek protection in tribalism and armed force, rather than in the rule of law, and our best defense against this kind of dystopia is to maintain functioning democracies, functioning legal systems, functioning communities. In this respect, any movement toward a more just and civil society can now be considered a meaningful climate action. Securing fair elections is a climate action. Combatting extreme wealth inequality is a climate action. Shutting down the hate machines on social media is a climate action. Instituting humane immigration policy, advocating for racial and gender equality, promoting respect for laws and their enforcement, supporting a free and independent press, ridding the country of assault weapons—these are all meaningful climate actions. To survive rising temperatures, every system, whether of the natural world or of the human world, will need to be as strong and healthy as we can make it.

It seems a lot of scientists got really pissed off at him. Business Insider reports:

“It’s hard to imagine major outlets publishing essays declaring efforts to reduce poverty hopeless,” Climate Central editor John Upton wrote on Twitter, “Or telling cancer patients to just give up. Yet this Climate Doomist trope flourishes — penned, best I can tell, exclusively by older, comfy white men.”

I don’t think that’s at all where Franzen is, he’s not saying give up but rather be realistic about what we can accomplish, but you read it yourself and see what you think.

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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.