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Humanity in Retrograde

March 15, 2019

You know what happened. In Christchurch, New Zealand, at least 49 people have been murdered in a terrorist attack on two mosques. At least 48 additional people have been hospitalized for gunshot wounds. Several people are implicated with having roles in the attack, but the most attention is being focused on one man who apparently livestreamed the shootings he was carrying out, railing against Muslims and immigrants, making absurd claims about “white genocide” conspiracies, lionizing Charleston mass killer Dylan Roof, and echoing the propaganda promoted by the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said:

This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. … Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand. They may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetrated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.

In a non-Heresy blog post, I recounted my experience being trapped in a room for eight ours with anti-vaxxers for a hearing on a Maine bill to end non-religious vaccine exemptions. One, um, “highlight”:

As I walked out of the room after speaking, a man who looked to be a bit younger than me held the door, and pursued me down the hall, red in the cheeks and speak-shouting to me, “I want you to know that I thought your speech was pretty bad. Your opinions are bad.”

Our lawyer-in-chief Nick Little discusses the myth of parental ownership of kids and the misapplication of “religious liberty” claims in the vaccine debate, and also makes allusions to crap sandwiches.

A bill in the New York State Legislature would allow kids 14 and older to decide for themselves to get vaccinated if their anti-vax parents won’t let them.

The Onion brings some raw true-science facts to the vaccine debate, pointing out that Abe Lincoln never got vaccinated, and hey, he became president! Checkmate, science-shills!

CFI Kenya, which runs the Humanist Orphans Project, announces its new Albino Rescue Project, which has been helped by the Brighter Brains Institute.

Benjamin Radford is once again called upon by Rolling Stone to clear things up about a hoax or conspiracy theory. This time it’s about something called “Catnip Cocktail” and the wild speculation about the crazy things people are alleged to be doing under its influence.

We’d like you to voice your support for a bill in the U.S. Congress, the Scientific Integrity Act:

Science-based policy improves our world. It often saves lives. It’s critical that the way science is conducted, reviewed, communicated to the public, and incorporated into policymaking be transparent, and free from improper influence. Inquiry must be free. Facts and evidence matter.

Coles County, Illinois seems conflicted over the issue of prayer at county board meetings. Says one pastor, “The separation of church and state as I said is a communist idea. The idea that we would separate God from our government is obnoxiously insane.” So things seem to be going well there.

The pro-LGBTQ rights Equality Act enjoys broad, overwhelming support across the board, except with two of the guys who matter most to its passage: Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.

I have in my Kindle library theoretical physicist Carlo Rivelli’s book Reality is Not What it Seems, and given this summary of one of his talks by Brian Gallagher at Nautilus, I’m definitely going to have to get to it soon:

“In spacetime, the past is whatever is inside our past light-cone,” Rovelli said, gesturing with his hands the shape of an upside down cone. “So it’s whatever can affect us. The future is this opposite thing,” he went on, now gesturing an upright cone. “So in between the past and the future, there isn’t just a single line—there’s a huge amount of time.” Rovelli asked an audience member to imagine that he lived in Andromeda, which is two and a half million light years away. “A million years of your life would be neither past nor future for me. So the present is not thin; it’s horrendously thick.”

Mark Hay at Men’s Health explores whether there are any brain-health benefits for belief in a higher power, and the science seems decidedly unclear:

Nothing about the science of faith’s effects on us is clear cut at this point, really. It is just interesting evidence—and something to be aware of and ready to cope with if one does begin to lose faith in a higher power, finds nothing to replace it with, and starts to experience life changes.

Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis at the Washington Post profile many of the kids who are skipping school to take part in the worldwide protests on climate change.

Another New Zealand story: The country’s climate minister, James Shaw, was punched in the face by a man shouting about the United Nations. Yep, this is what people do now.

The Missouri House votes in favor of teaching the Bible in public schools, and not, of course, the text of any other belief system. Yep yep yep.

Karen Zraick at the New York Times seems to be sincere in trying to put astrological belief in nonsense about “Mercury in retrograde” in its scientific context, but I think just winds up doing astrology a big favor by giving it the patina of legitimacy.

Perhaps other than, say, The Daily Caller, there may be no outlet more eagerly credulous than Bustle. Here, their writer takes a course on becoming a psychic and literally says she is now convinced that “psychics are real.” Just tape a “con me” sign to your back, why don’t you?

Quote of the Day

Is seeking to reach the last digit of pi (for which we know 31 trillion so far) like trying to get to the Moon in Kennedyesque fashion? Oliver Roeder at FiveThirtyEight says:

The moon is not infinitely far away; we can actually get there. Maybe this famous quote about chess is more apt: “Life is not long enough for chess — but that is the fault of life, not of chess.”

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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.