A Real Caricature
December 3, 2018


As you know, former president George H.W. Bush died this past Friday. Hemant Mehta takes the opportunity to evaluate the claim of the late Rob Sherman that Bush had said that atheists should not be considered U.S. citizens. It is as iffy now as it ever was. Mark Silk, meanwhile, looks at how Bush had …

A Massive Airburst and a Bubbling Brine
November 30, 2018


This surprised me a little: According to a new study, people who pray after disasters and tragic events are less likely to actually do something substantive to help. I think I hoped that as much as we know prayers don’t fix anything, that at least they put someone in a generous state of mind. I …

A Petty Clique
November 29, 2018


Neil DeGrasse Tyson takes over Stephen Colbert’s show to interview Colbert himself, and they get into stuff like philosophy, Hobbits, Catholicism, and the fear that A.I. won’t take over. The Catholic Church in Pennsylvania is just getting started with its troubles: A former priest and bishops from the Scranton Diocese are being sued over sexual …

The Residents Gasped and Groaned
November 28, 2018


Sorry for the absence yesterday, but the flu done got me. It’s still gottin’ me, actually, but I care too damn much. NASA’s InSight spacecraft lands safely on Mars. On December 5, Richard A. Conn will talk to Brenda Vongova at Shakespeare & Co in NYC about his new book, The Earthbound Parent, on encouraging parents to “help stop …

Disingenuous Calculations
November 26, 2018


It’s a long one today, folks. Post-holiday and whatnot. Without religion, the trope goes, how could one possibly find meaning? Well, apparently most Americans are already well beyond all that. Yonat Shimron at Religion News Service reports on a Pew Research survey: …nearly 70 percent of Americans mention their family as a source of meaning …

It’s Almost Like You’re Imagining It
November 20, 2018


This is something. Commercial artist Joe Reginella mounted an enormous hoax in New York City by making a fake monument memorializing an alien encounter by a tugboat crew that he made up. He also made a website, pamphlet, and a documentary about it. Why? “I made it as a social experiment, to enjoy that moment when …

A Stygian Silence Lurks
November 19, 2018


The Economist looks at what might transpire in Greece with the newly-proposed constitutional changes ostensibly separating the (orthodox) church from state: Even if the mildly secularising amendments [. . .] go through, the constitution would still begin with the sonorous words, “In the name of the Holy, Consubstantial and Indivisible Trinity…” [. . . ] …

Ontological Confusions
November 15, 2018


The Spanish government announces a plan to fight fake medicine like homeopathy and to get alt-med nonsense out of health centers and universities. El País reports: “Public and private establishments that include pseudo-therapies will not be able to call themselves health centers,” explained Health Minister Maria Luisa Carcedo … “Their presence in these spaces gives the …

Quack Like Evangelicals
November 14, 2018


The New York Times publishes an editorial calling for the repeal of blasphemy laws: Sacrilege is painful to religious believers everywhere. But broad and subjective legal proscriptions not only contradict the fundamental right to freedom of expression; they also open the door to persecution of minority faiths, as in Ms. Bibi’s case, or of political …

A Critical Mass of Physicists
November 13, 2018


I’m not a fan of the angle taken by this article in Crux about religious liberty, where the bias is immediately obvious by the reporter’s characterization of “the quiet removal of crosses from the public arena” as “subtle persecution.” However, the subject of the article is worth considering: Treating religious freedom as a “luxury good,” …