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April 7, 2020

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 centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.


On the other side of the planet, Australia let a monster go free. The Post reports:

Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic priest convicted of pedophilia, was declared not guilty by Australia’s highest court and released from prison Tuesday, ending a case that triggered rancorous divisions in the church and beyond.

In another genuinely useful piece on how to think about the coronavirus era, CFI’s Ben Radford looks between the extremes of under- and over-reactions:

People can take prudent precautions and still reasonably think or suspect that at least some of what’s going on in the world is an overreaction or underreaction. Policing other people’s opinions or shaming them because they’re taking the situation more (or less) seriously than we are is unhelpful. It’s like the classic George Carlin joke: “Anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.”

Instead of seeing others as idiots and maniacs, panicky ninnies and oblivious fools, perhaps we can recognize that everyone is different. Some people are in poorer health than others; some people listen to misinformation more than others; and so on. People who were mocked online for wearing masks in public may be following their doctor’s orders; they may be sick or immunocompromised or have some other health issue that’s not apparent in the milliseconds we spend judging the situation before commenting. Or they may be ahead of the curve, with changing medical advice. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them as we’d like to be treated?

What. Is. With. Trump. And. This. Hydroxychloroquine?!?! Well, there’s the financial stake he has in one of the drug’s manufacturers. The best explanation of the White House obsession with the drug (apart from the money) comes from James Hamblin at The Atlantic:

Outside of a proper testing process and clear messaging, it could cost lives. Addressing a world in a collective state of despair, Trump offers exaggerated hope and endangers people as he rambles.

On Saturday, Trump suggested research exists that shows people with lupus don’t get the coronavirus, implying that their use of hydroxychloroquine protects them. “There’s a rumor out there that because it takes care of lupus very effectively, as I understand it, and it’s a, you know, a drug that’s used for lupus,” he said, “so there’s a study out there that says people that have lupus haven’t been catching this virus. Maybe it’s true; maybe it’s not.”

There is no such study.

And there’s also (and I have to take a deep breath as I type this) Doctor-freaking-Oz.

That’s it, I’m bringing back the table flip emoticon.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

That helps.

I love this opening sentence from a Business Insider piece:

The UK has rejected an offer from President Trump to help with his coronavirus treatment.

No! No, really! We’re fine! We’ve got this! No need, no need! Wouldn’t want to trouble you!

A tiger got sick from COVID-19. No, really.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo is reportedly doing “slightly better” as he fights off the coronavirus. The frustrating part, as reported by the New York Post:

To help with managing the illness, Cristina [Cuomo], a magazine editor, enlisted the help of Dr. Linda Lancaster, who specializes in alternative medicine, such as the practice of Ayurveda.

“Since this particular virus has no proven remedy… she assigned oxygenated herbs, natural remedies and homeopathics to boost Chris’ immune system for the battle ahead,” Cristina wrote.

When Chris Cuomo gets through this, it’ll be because he and his family are all built like aircraft carriers, not because of fake medicine. But that’s not the story we’ll hear.

Harriet Hall at Science-Based Medicine looks at all the ways traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t help with COVID-19.

Dr. Drew says he’s sorry about the wrong things he said about the coronavirus. I don’t know if he’s sorry about using the non-word “copywrite.”

Jonathan Stea, writing at Psychology Today, confronts the trope that “science doesn’t have all the answers”:

Very typically, when you hear that phrase, you can place a safe bet that it is likely being used not only as an abused trope but also as a way to forward an argument to push a pseudoscientific agenda. …

… While it is true—and the point—that medical science is constantly evolving and that gaps will indeed be filled, the fallacy is often used to promote alternative approaches to health that are clearly and scientifically baseless, such as homeopathy and energy healing.

The Small Business Administration says that churches and other faith-based organizations qualify for the low-interest loans that will help pay salaries, yes, including for clergy. We’re party to a letter, along with a bunch of other freethought orgs, urging the SBA to keep things in check:

… if you should make loans available to all nonprofits, including places of worship and religious nonprofits engaged in inherently religious activities, then it is essential that the regulations and guidance issued to implement the loan forgiveness program, pursuant to § 1106 of the CARES Act, do not result in direct government funding of inherently religious activities.

Jon-Patrick Allem at The Conversation watches as social media use surges during the pandemic (that’s just what we need, more tweets) and explains why some things get shared, regardless of their veracity:

My team’s research suggests that people’s motivations for sharing might also be part of the problem. We have found that Twitter users tend to retweet to show approval, argue, gain attention and entertain. Truthfulness of a post or accuracy of a claim was not an identified motivation for retweeting. That means people might be paying more attention to whether a tweet is popular or exciting than whether its message is true.

I like this part. Allem says sharing stuff to express disapproval isn’t nearly as useful as sharing stuff you want to encourage. You know, be the change, etc.:

Posting, forwarding or lamenting over captured moments of people ignoring social distancing measures is not the most effective way to curb these behaviors. The reason is that the underlying message one could walk away with is that people are still being social. This impression could lead people to continue being social, negating the intended effect of such social policing. …

… Instead, social media users attempting to reduce such conduct should focus attention on approved behavior. This could materialize with posts of people from home abiding by social distancing measures without mentioning others who are ignoring them.

Michelle Goldberg shows how red states are using the virus as an excuse to ban abortions:

While America’s attention has been consumed by the coronavirus crisis, politicians who have long wanted to do away with abortion rights have seized their chance. Since the pandemic began, governors in several red states have tried to use it as an excuse to ban abortion, lumping pregnancy termination in with elective procedures like cataract surgery and joint replacements that need to be postponed to save precious medical equipment. Abortion, perhaps needless to say, can’t simply be put off until this catastrophe is over, but as of this writing, a court has allowed the ban in Texas to go into effect.

Stay far, far away from Idaho. Which, I guess, if you’re not actually in Idaho, is pretty easy. NONETHELESS. The New York Times reports on a [don’t laugh don’t laugh don’t laugh] “liberty rebellion” among far-right folks (politicians included) that insist on big gatherings in defiance of social distancing rules and, well, reality:

[Ammon] Bundy said in an interview that a group in the Boise area was looking for a venue to host an Easter service this coming weekend with a potential crowd of 1,000 people. Mr. Bundy said a man in Twin Falls hoped to host communion in a park. And Mr. Bundy himself is now leading regular meetings with dozens of people to assess how to fight back against what he calls government overreach, including with a physical presence if necessary.

“I will be there, and I will bring as many people as I can,” he told those who attended the meeting he convened on March 26, a day after the statewide stay-at-home order went into effect.

Chrissy Stroop shows why missionaries need to socially distance, big-time:

The activities of groups like Ethnos360 represent a direct ethnocidal and genocidal threat to uncontacted Indigenous peoples. Conversion efforts can destroy the cultures of Indigenous peoples even if their populations are not physically decimated, and isolated peoples are also highly susceptible to diseases to which missionaries have immunity even in the best of times. To carry out missionary efforts to contact such peoples now is all the more reprehensible given that the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in Brazil.

Here’s an Easter special for you: Weeked at Jesus’s, in which “Jesus’s disciples cart around his dead body to get people to believe he rose from the dead so they can start a new religion.”

My dear readers, I offer to you an education in anecdote versus data in the coronavirus era, as presented by Steak-umm:

we’re a frozen meat brand posting ads inevitably made to misdirect people and generate sales, so this is peak irony, but hey we live in a society so please make informed decisions to the best of your ability and don’t let anecdotes dictate your worldview ok

steak-umm bless …

And:

i just see a lot of nonsense on the timeline every day and know it can be hard for individuals to voice this type of stuff and for some reason people are more inclined to listen when it’s coming from a brand rather than a person which is pretty unfortunate

I think I know what species is poised to take over after the virus wipes us out. Meet the siphonophore. Or, rather, don’t:

Resembling a long piece of string, siphonophores—a group of creatures related to jellyfish and corals—may look like one organism, but they are actually made up of many thousands of individual, specialized clones that come together to form a single entity. …

… “This animal is a kind of jelly, called a siphonophore. It’s made of millions of interconnected clones, like if the Borg and the Clone Wars had a baby together. There are about a dozen different jobs a clone can do in the colony, and each clone is specialized to a particular task,” Rebecca Helm, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville who saw the SCI video, wrote in a Twitter thread.

Resistance is futile.


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.



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