Photo by Gage Skidmore - CC-BY-SA-2.0

Hemsworth Heathenry

January 8, 2019

A study in The Lancet (still kicking themselves over Wakefield, I bet) shows that crowdfunding campaigns have raised almost $1.5 million for homeopathics and other fake treatments for cancer. Timothy Caulfield (author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?) says:

It really is a [worst-case] scenario. These are often desperate people leveraging the good will of others to raise money for something that doesn’t work, which, in turn, helps to support a harmful industry based on pseudoscience.

18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who fled the threat of death at the hands of her family after her renunciation of Islam, avoids being hauled back to Saudi Arabia and is now having her case dealt with in Thailand by government officials and international rights groups.

Foreign Policy marks 30 years since the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and 4 years since the Charlie Hebdo massacre with a look at the sorry state of free expression in the face of blasphemy restrictions:

In countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt, dozens of people convicted of blasphemy languish in prison, many simply for belonging to religious minorities, professing unorthodox religious opinions, or advocating secularism. But running afoul of the law may not always be the worst consequence of violating blasphemy norms. Several of the countries that punish blasphemy also experience vehement mob violence aimed at religious dissenters.

At Forbes, human rights activist Ewelina U. Ochab lays out some of the many, many, many reasons blasphemy laws are awful:

Blasphemy laws have always been problematic as they rely on the notion of causing offence, which is subjective and vague. … Both outrage and insult are inexact concepts which create legal uncertainty and encourage an unhelpful degree of subjectivity. … [W]hat is also glaring is that despite the fact that blasphemy laws tend to apply to all religions, they are being disproportionally used against religious minorities in states where such laws exist

Oh hey turns out that the guy who converted people like Newt Gingrich and Sam Brownback to Catholicism, Rev. C. John McCloskey, needed the spooky Opus Dei outfit to shell out a million bucks to settle a sexual misconduct suit in 2005.

The good news is that it is untrue that one third of Americans don’t think the Holocaust happened. The bad news, as we learn from Ben Radford, is that news outlets don’t mind misleading you about that, at least long enough to click their headline:

[The survey] question didn’t ask respondents what they “believe.” People were asked to estimate, or put a number on, how many Jews they thought were killed. The exact wording is “Approximately how many Jews were killed during the Holocaust?” … A closer look reveals that among American adults, the vast majority, 49%, gave the correct answer of 6 million. Six percent actually overestimated the number of Jews killed by over a factor of three (at 20 million). Note that the second-highest response, Not Sure, at 13%, means just that: they’re not sure how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Alan Dershowitz knows who the real Holocaust deniers are: People who analogize Trump with Hitler:

Anybody who compares Trump or anybody else to Hitler essentially is a Holocaust denier, because what they’re saying [is] well, there were no gas chambers, there was no Auschwitz, there was no plan to kill six million Jews.

Taylor Stevens at the Salt Lake Tribune looks at the catch-22 facing hate-crime legislation in Utah, where naming specifically targeted groups (LGBTQ folks) dooms a bill’s prospects, but keeping things vague means the law has no teeth.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom puts out a set of guidelines on the state registration of religions. Why would one want such a thing? “Registration laws govern the acquisition of legal personality, which means that entities are capable of holding legal rights and obligations within a legal system.”

Last year India’s Suipreme Court said that women, once banned, must be allowed to enter the Sabarimala shrine. So now women are trying to enter, and still must go to extraordinary lengths. Supriya Nair at NYT writes:

On New Year’s Day, millions of women, led by Kerala’s Communist government, formed a human chain that stretched over 620 kilometers (385 miles) from the northernmost tip of the state, to the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, in the south. Hours later, two women, aided by police officers, stepped into the Sabarimala shrine.

You know it’s time to take something seriously when it’s prefaced by “I’m not a nut.” No, this was not said by the actually-a-legume peanut, but by one of the human witnesses to an alleged UFO in the shape of a “beautiful red sphere” in South Carolina.

Mental Floss rounds up 12 everyday things that science still hasn’t fully explained, such as why we cry, why Tylenol works (if it works, amirite), and how air turbulence happens.

Do you worship Norse gods? (Chris Hemsworth, though totally worthy, doesn’t count.) Then maybe you want to serve on Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, where “heathenry” is officially recognized and practiced by a small group of sailors.

Thanks to data from NASA’s late Kepler telescope, astronomers announce the discovery of a planet in the Taurus constellation called K2-288Bb (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty) whose orbit is within its star’s habitable zone.

Quote of the Day

Enjoy the sublimity of the clop-clop-clop of these bricks and then the WILD SORCERY that follows.

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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.