Alexander Raths / Adobe Stock

Drawers Full of Unbent Silverware

March 19, 2019

It’s release day for The Four Horsemen book, the transcript of the 2007 conversation between Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris, with new essays by the surviving participants and a foreword by Stephen Fry. Proceeds benefit the Center for Inquiry, so buy many, many copies.

The State Department inexplicably barred media outlets from a press briefing to which only “faith-based media” were invited. CNN reports:

Despite repeated inquires and complaints from members of the press corps who are based at the department, the State Department on Monday night said they would not be providing a transcript of the call, a list of faith-based media outlets who were allowed to participate or the criteria to be invited.

Officials would not answer questions about whether a range of faiths was included.

A shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands kills three and injures five, spurring Dutch authorities to keep people indoors and evacuate mosques for fear of a second Christchurch-type attack. The shooter was arrested, and it seems that his demons were personal rather than political, at least so far.

At Skeptical Inquirer, Stuart Vyse tries to suss out whether conservatives or liberals are “more biased” in the media, and then wisely questions the whole enterprise:

Rather than focusing on the contentious and fraught issue of political bias, it might be more useful to highlight people’s relative allegiance to facts.

The Supreme Court lets stand (for now) a ruling against a Hawaii bed and breakfast owner who really wanted to discriminate against the gays because Jesus, but don’t be too quick to take it as a sign of the sudden enlightenment of the Court, as there seem to be some legal nuances here that might have made it a little too muddy for the Court to take up.

Jamila Rizvi at New Zealand’s Stuff praises Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her grace in handling the aftermath of the shooting:

Authenticity and compassion go beyond gender, or race, or religion, or next week’s polling numbers. Authenticity is an atheist leader donning hijab without thinking about the “optics”, but simply because it’s the right and respectful thing to do. Compassion is setting aside the rhetoric of retribution and standing alongside those who are navigating the muddy waters of shock and grief.

Vladimir Putin signs into law two Internet censorship bills: One banning “fake news” (which will be judged by him I assume) and another that makes it illegal to insult public officials. Trump must be so jealous.

I think it was inappropriate for Trump to be signing Bibles when he was in Alabama. You know who else thinks so? Most Americans. Most Christians, in fact.

Pew Research tracks various religious groups’ opinions of Trump, and very little seems to have changed from a couple of years ago. He’s lost a couple of points with just about every group (other than non-white Catholics, where he jumped from 13 percent approval to 26, which I do NOT understand). As you undoubtedly already know, his biggest supporters are white evangelical Protestants with 69 percent approving. That’s down, however, from 78 in 2017. Trump’s lost 4 points with “nones,” from 24 to 20.

African American millennials are abandoning Protestant churches at a higher rate than white millennials. A large plurality of the African Americans in the Lifeway survey who left church say it had to do with moving away from home for college, and only a small number say it had anything to do with nonbelief.

Unable to get the Iowa legislature to stop with the opening prayers, atheists in the state opt to just keep showing up to offer their own invocations.

Theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser wins the Templeton Prize, and you can see why the intelligent-design-loving foundation liked him so much. Some quotes:

Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method. … Science does not kill God. …It’s extremely arrogant from scientists to come down from the ivory towers and make these declarations [about God’s non-existence] without understanding the social importance of belief systems.

Wired reports on the efforts of the startup Canopy which seeks to avoid pseudoscience and conspiracy theory rabbit holes on platforms like YouTube and Facebook by creating “ethical recommendation systems.”

For just under $10,000 you can benefit from Politico‘s utter lack of expertise or even basic understanding of GMOs.

Julia Belluz explains how recent measles outbreaks occur in “tight-knit, traditional communities,” such as those that primarily speak a language other than English:

In Washington, the virus has predominantly hit Russian-speaking groups hailing mainly from Ukraine and Russia, according to a source close to the matter. These groups have the lowest rate of vaccination of any population in Washington, the state’s most recent data shows. …

… While the reasons for vaccine skepticism may be different in each of these communities, the groups themselves have a lot in common. They’re cohesive and conservative. They appear to trust each other more than outsiders. They also speak the same languages and read or watch the same news.

Maine has mumps, and so does Temple University. Thanks, anti-vaxxers!

An unvaccinated high school student in Kentucky sues to be let back into school extracurricular activities, saying it violates his religious liberty because of all the aborted fetuses in the vaccine, which of course is not actually a thing.

Now this just sucks. Drag Queen Story Hour has been a huge (manufactured) controversy, targeted by right wing outfits to make people scared of transgender folks and invoking the demon that is “secular humanism.” In the most not-helping-est of all not-helpings, it turns out that one of the storytelling drag queens is a registered child sex offender. The Houston Public Library said, “We failed to complete a background check as required by our own guidelines.” YOU THINK?

I intentionally waited to share this news here, because I knew it was only a matter of days before someone debunked it. So, here it is: Scientists did not, in fact, reverse time with a quantum computer.

The last sentence in this Bloomberg article on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop tells you all you need to know about the success of her pseudoscience empire. Riley Griffin reports from Goop’s New York City conference where women lined up at a stand to get B-12 injections for “mental clarity.” Here’s one woman getting the injection:

Walking away from the stand, she turned to her friend and laughed. “What did I just get?”

Mental clarity.

There are some really baffling headlines today, the kinds of things that when they cross my field of view my eyes get all googly like Cookie Monster’s. For example:

  • Christian Post: “UFO sighting tourist destination becomes ‘sanctuary city for the unborn.'” Come for the aliens, stay for the moralizing and grandstanding.
  • Irish Times: “Uri Geller says England will win World Cup with his help.” Does the rugby team have drawers full of unbent silverware they can’t get off their minds?
  • Discover: “Are Atheists Genetically Damaged?” The answer in the actual article is “no.”

Quote of the Day

You didn’t know it, but a meteor exploded in Earth’s atmosphere on December 18, 2018 with the power of 10 Hiroshima atomic bombs. No big deal, apparently. Props to CNN’s AJ Willingham for this A+ copy:

…you likely didn’t know about it until now, because scientists only just noticed it. That’s because the area where the fireball exploded, over the Bering Sea, is extremely remote.
NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer Lindley Johnson told the BBC such a powerful meteor event only happens a few times every 100 years. (As a side note, “Planetary Defense Officer” is probably as close to a real-life “Avengers” title as you’re gonna get.)

* * *

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.