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It Starts to Feel True

October 2, 2020

Yes, yes, we’ll get to the Big Thing is a second. First! On the next Skeptical Inquirer Presents on October 8, Sasha Sagan will talk about how nonbelievers can find meaning in the cosmos. Sign up now.

Okay, now the Big Thing.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19. Trump’s doctor says the two “are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.” I have no idea what happens now. Vice President Pence has tested negative.

Nature: Researchers estimate that “in a worst-case scenario, one group of modellers suggests that the number of deaths could exceed 3 million people by January.”

Membership in anti-mask Facebook groups has grown 1800 percent since the beginning of August. Criminy.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on the presidential “debate”: “I was disappointed that the prevention for a deadly disease was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts. … In this hyper-partisan year, there are some who would like us to move more quickly and others who argue for delay. Neither of those options are acceptable to me.”

NYT: “…the policy of unobstructed travel was never based on hard science. It was a political decision, recast as health advice, which emerged after a plague outbreak in India in the 1990s. By the time Covid-19 surfaced, it had become an article of faith.”

This is probably a perspective we should investigate more often: First Draft chronicles the first six months of the pandemic through the lens of fact-checkers.

Remember folks getting excited about finding Neanderthal genes in their 23-and-Me’s? AP: “Scientists say genes that some people have inherited from their Neanderthal ancestors may increase their likelihood of suffering severe forms of COVID-19.”

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

Sarah Posner at the Post on why Trump’s evangelical base will never waver, even if Trump calls them suckers: “He also knows they believe that someone in a position of authority is placed there by God and therefore untouchable.”

Likewise, Paul Elie at the New Yorker says of conservative Catholics: “In supporting Trump and Barr, they also are squarely in the tradition of arch-conservative Catholicism as a force of resistance to democratic governance … They share a contempt for liberalism and a corresponding belief in public order as the basis for civil society.”

In 2006, Amy Coney Barrett signed onto a letter demanding “an end to the barbaric legacy of Roe v. Wade.” USA Today: “The appearance of Barrett’s name next to a call to overturn Roe v. Wade is likely to increase scrutiny of her nomination.”

Trump is doing surprisingly well with Muslim Americans, relatively, according to a survey: 30 percent support compared to 16 the previous year.

Jeffrey Guhin at Slate says secularists need to take a lesson from the religious right about how to gain power:

It’s in those moments of just being with people who believe like you that your moral universe starts to feel true. That’s what secularists need too. As a secular sociologist, I would disagree with the religious right that the source of their moral energy is God. I think the source of their moral energy is these ongoing interactions that affirm their commitments, thanks to other smart, kind people who also believe this stuff. If you see your sensible friend still has hope, then you might as well get up and try again too.

Benjamin Radford exposes an exercise in “pseudo-skepticism,” an SF Weekly article purporting to show how to tell a “real” psychic from a fraud. That ought to be a very, vert short article, but, alas.

How’s this for an unholy alliance: The far-right Alliance Defending Freedom is on the same side as the American Humanist Association, Americans United, and the ACLU to support the free speech rights of a campus evangelist. AHA: “Now is the time to instill confidence in an anxious America and celebrate a constitutional heritage strong enough to unite the likes of the AHA and ADF.”

FFRF is challenging Alabama’s voter registration form which requires voters to sign on to “so help me God” without a secular alternative.

Reuters: Not everyone in Nigeria, including religious leaders, is happy about the recent blasphemy convictions.

The Satanic Temple gets all of its pro-abortion rights billboard designs rejected by the advertising company, so they’re suing.

Hemant Mehta excerpts historian Adam Laats’ new book Creationism USA: Bridging the Impasse on Teaching Evolution.

Astronauts are getting a potty upgrade: “When the astronauts have to go, we want to allow them to boldly go.”

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.