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Graceless and Joyless

July 13, 2020

You already knew this was happening, but we made it official anyway: CSICon 2020 is cancelled due to the pandemic. The good news is that we have plans for a) an even better CSICon 2021, and b) a series of online talks starting later this month: “Skeptical Inquirer Presents.”

Just as Benjamin Radford had posted about being skeptical of reports of “COVID parties,” there was a report of someone dying after attending a COVID party. Except it’s probably not what it was. Ben follows up: “It’s an anonymous third-hand story with nary a verifiable name or claim to be found.” Oh, well, if you’re going to be that way about it.


This is fascinating. Fast Company reports on a study showing that a way to get people to share less misinformation online is for social media platforms to provide “accuracy nudges,” little prompts that prime the user to be ever-more-slightly skeptical.

About one sixth of the members of the Mississippi legislature, as well as the lieutenant governor, have tested positive for COVID-19 after refusing to wear masks.

Nasal swab tests for COVID-19 are not, in fact, “implanting something” for nefarious purposes or otherwise. A metal piece inside a surgical mask is not a 5G antenna.

The AP rounds up instances of churches becoming COVID-19 hot spots: “From the earliest phases of the pandemic, and continuing to this day, some worship services and other religious activities have been identified as sources of local outbreaks.”

Science advocate Anne Borden King says she posted about her cancer diagnosis on Facebook, and now all she sees are snake oil ads. She writes in the Times: “Interestingly, I haven’t seen any legitimate cancer care ads in my newsfeed, just pseudoscience.”

Jesse Walker at Reason looks at how right-wing conspiracy theories develop out of things meant originally as jokes or satire (but also from the far right): “We’d have much more resilient readers if people would get in the habit of asking themselves, Is this a joke?

The FTC has ordered the marketer of the supplement Thrive to stop making claims that it can treat or prevent COVID-19 and cancer.


The Christian Post says FFRF has “admitted” to getting a PPP loan (that’s a lot of acronym-ing) after criticizing churches getting those loans. Yes, they “admitted” it because it’s public knowledge and they, like CFI, are not churches.

Connor P. Williams at the Post shows how Betsy DeVos is taking advantage of the COVID-19 chaos to push ahead with gutting public education to divert funds to private (mostly religious) schools.

Rev. Dale Witherington, the State Director of the Minnesota arm of Project Blitz, agreed with a Facebook post comment calling for the hanging of Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The UK’s Commission for Countering Extremism says far-right groups are encouraging folks to deliberately infect Jewish communities with COVID-19.

Peter Wehner at The Atlantic says that evangelicals’ unwavering devotion to Trump has shown them to be “graceless and joyless, seized by fear, hypocritical, censorious, and filled with grievances,” and as one pastor told him, solidified the stereotype that they are “cruel, ignorant, greedy, and hypocritical.”


Sudan looks to be making some positive reforms, quashing the apostasy law, banning female genital mutilation, giving women more autonomy, and more.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially decrees that the Hagia Sophia museum will be converted into a mosque. It was originally a Christian cathedral, then the Ottoman empire happened and it was a mosque, and then in 1934 it became a museum. Now it’s a mosque again.

Christian aid groups, World Relief and Open Doors USA, release a report showing that Trump’s hostility toward refugees has led to a 90 percent drop in the number of persecuted Christians being resettled from 2015.


CNN’s Brian Stelter declares the president’s nonsense claims about, well, almost everything, to show that America is in a “truth emergency.” No kidding.

The band Nightwish posts video of Richard Dawkins going on stage with them for their live “The Greatest Show On Earth” performance from 2015 after getting a crab species named after them, Tanidromites nightwishorum.


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.


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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