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Just Making Stuff Up

August 20, 2020

On a new episode of the Point of Inquiry podcast, Leighann Lord talks to Erin Louis, “The Brazen Atheist,” on critical thinking, media literacy, and a fostering a skeptical mindset.


Last night’s edition of the Democrats’ quasi-convention finally gave airtime to the climate crisis, with the words “existential threat” employed liberally, which I appreciated.

President Obama, among many other weighty and sobering things, said that a president must understand that “our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up.

Sarah Levin highlights the increasingly pro-secular character of the Democratic Party’s 2020 platform, which says, “Democrats believe that freedom of religion and the right to believe — or not to believe — are fundamental human rights.”

Ann Druyan said at the Secular Democrats’ event earlier this week, “Science and democracy are inextricably linked, because each of them is an error-correcting mechanism.” All the more poignant given the administration’s zealous opposition to science, democracy, and error-correcting.


The Trump administration will deny coronavirus researchers at EcoHealth Alliance any funding unless it hands over materials to help bolster the conspiracy theory that the Wuhan Institute of Virology set the virus loose.

Also: The administration doesn’t want the FDA to do any pesky “testing” or “approving” of COVID-19 tests from commercial laboratories.

Francis Collins’ BioLogos organization spearheads a joint statement from 2500 evangelicals in support of science during the pandemic.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he wants a COVID-19 vaccine to be “as mandatory as you can make it,” and then quickly backtracks after antivaxxers and 5G conspiracy theorists protest.


A paper in the journal Secularism & Nonreligion tries to suss out what social factors combine to allow a society to transition from religious belief to post-supernatural secularism.

RNS profiles Mashal Naseem, daughter of Tahir Ahmad Naseem, the American murdered in a Pakistan courtroom during his trial for blasphemy: “Now she is fighting for the U.S. government to deliver justice for her father, whether by extraditing his confessed killer to the U.S for trial or issuing a forceful call for Pakistan to undo its blasphemy laws.”

The LA Review of Books has an interview with Dorion Sagan, son of Carl Sagan and Lynn Margulis, about his work on Gaia theory: “The genesis of the Gaia idea is the recognition that the biosphere is a thermodynamic system, and our Earthly atmosphere is out of chemical equilibrium.”


Once he merely winked at them, now he bearhugs, as Trump boosts QAnon from the White House podium. “I’ve heard these are people that love our country.”

New York Magazine “polled” 100 self-proclaimed psychics because, I don’t know, they are desperate to waste everyone’s time. You’ll be shocked to know that 58 percent say they have become more powerful during the pandemic, and 53 percent say Biden will win the election.

Rolling Stone has a big feature by Stephen Roderick on American UFO culture, and things get weird fast.


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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