Meat Sheets

April 9, 2020

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

Even during a pandemic, we still have to fight stupid lawsuits where religious groups insist that supernatural beliefs exempt them from the law. The fight over religious exemptions to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act has been ping-ponging back and forth for ages, and the latest battle is in the Supreme Court, and you better belief we amicus’d the hell out of our brief. Our statement yesterday:

The Center for Inquiry (CFI), which advocates for reason, science, and secular principles, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the cases of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania. These cases represent the latest incarnation of the fight over exemptions to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), under which employees are required to receive coverage for all FDA-approved methods of contraception without co-payments.

“The federal government has bent over backwards to acquiesce to the demands of religious groups that refuse to accept that not everyone shares their medieval views about contraception, and there is no reason to take these accommodations to this absurd extreme,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “It’s simply pandering to religious groups to suggest that telling the government they want an exemption itself violates their religious rights.”

And the mic drop:

“There’s a reason that’s never been held as a substantial burden before,” said Little. “Because it’s not.”

It’s a good time to be an evil, predatory member of the clergy I guess. Australia let of Cardinal Pell, and what the heck, California is letting off Mexican megachurch leader Naasón Joaquín García of La Luz del Mundo, charged with multiple rapes of children and other related crimes. The AP reports:

The appeals court ruling states that the Los Angeles County Superior Court must dismiss the 29 counts of felony charges that range from human trafficking and production of child pornography to forcible rape of a minor.

The appeals court ruled that because García’s preliminary hearing was not held in a timely manner and he did not waive his right to one, the complaint filed against him must be dismissed. …

… In February, a Southern California woman filed a federal lawsuit against the church and García. In it, she said García, 50, and his father sexually abused her for 18 years starting when she was 12, manipulating Bible passages to convince her the mistreatment actually was a gift from God.

A dude in Arkansas blew up statues at a Buddhist temple. The Democrat-Gazette reports:

[Shawn Michael] Israel told authorities that he was commanded by scripture to destroy the statue, which he referred to as a “false idol.” He said multiple times that he was only following the Ten Commandments and did what God told him to do through scripture. Israel had a Bible with him when officers arrested him.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled hell.

Max Fisher at the New York Times tries to make sense of the tsunami of conspiracy theories surrounding the coronavirus:

The belief that one is privy to forbidden knowledge offers feelings of certainty and control amid a crisis that has turned the world upside down. And sharing that “knowledge” may give people something that is hard to come by after weeks of lockdowns and death: a sense of agency. …

Rumors and patently unbelievable claims are spread by everyday people whose critical faculties have simply been overwhelmed, psychologists say, by feelings of confusion and helplessness.

But many false claims are also being promoted by governments looking to hide their failures, partisan actors seeking political benefit, run-of-the-mill scammers and, in the United States, a president who has pushed unproven cures and blame-deflecting falsehoods.

The conspiracy theories all carry a common message: The only protection comes from possessing the secret truths that “they” don’t want you to hear.

John Charpentier at Undark looks at the roots of modern medical denialism in the 19th-century forefather of “natural” snake oil, Samuel Thomson:

The parallels between our “post-truth” era and the age in which Thomsonian medicine prospered are striking. Though rural Americans were highly literate by the standards of the time, they had quickly come to associate intellectualism with the hated urban ruling class. “The Thomsonians,” the sociologist Paul Starr has written, “viewed knowledge as an element in class conflict.” In other words, Americans then, as today, were deeply distrustful of an ostensibly egalitarian government led by learned patricians — or at least by those who looked and spoke the part. The simplicity of Thomson’s system and his elaborate pantomime of socioeconomic solidarity were thus vital elements of his commercial success.

Jann Bellamy rounds up some of the sketchy efforts by naturopaths and other pseudo-medicine types to insert themselves into the coronavirus maelstrom, making bad recommendations and pretending to be real doctors:

In another bit of pretentious self-promotion, the [American Association of Naturopathic Physicians] issued a press release encouraging “all government officials coordinating the national response” to COVID-19 to use naturopathic doctors “in changing the trajectory of this public health crisis”. (In a similar bid to exploit the crisis, the California Naturopathic Doctors Association is lobbying for an emergency scope of practice expansion.) …

… In its pitch, the AANP also makes the demonstrably false claim that “NDs are trained comparably to conventional doctors to diagnose and triage according to presenting symptoms . . .”

Health Canada is racing to crack down on a slew of companies hawking pseudoscientific COVID-19 treatments. CBC reports:

“I like the fact that they’re going after the range, because we’re seeing misinformation and inappropriate marketing absolutely everywhere,” University of Alberta professor or health law and policy and pseudoscience critic Tim Caulfield said Tuesday.

“The mere fact that there’s all these claims out there shows how desperate people are for answers. But it also shows the ability — which is kind of depressing — of people to exploit the situation to sell unproven products.”

At Skeptical Inquirer, Russ Dobler gives us a view into everyday people’s arguments and misunderstandings around coronavirus news and information, and shows one of the many reasons I avoid Facebook at all costs.

CFI’s Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science gets a nod from The Times in the UK. In a roundup of books for kids stuck at home, they recommend Darwin’s Rival: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Search for Evolution by Christiane Dorion, and also recommend TIES’ recent webinar with the author.

The holy choir of those who think getting together to pray is more important than keeping people from dying painfully from an infectious disease is growing. It includes the legislature of Kansas, who just rejected the Democratic governor’s order limiting religious assemblies to 10 people for the week of Passover and Easter, and the editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Hey journalists, you think you can just “report” on the “things” that Jerry Falwell Jr. “does” with this “school”? Joke’s on you, globalist cucks, because he’s gonna sue you for, you know, writing things that, you know, happened! TPM reports:

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., announced Wednesday that he is pursuing criminal charges against a New York Times freelancer and ProPublica for trespassing on campus while covering COVID-19. …

… “We’ve heard nothing about this, and we’ve not heard from the University or from the authorities in Virginia on this at all,” [ProPublica] said. “As the story indicates, there was reporting there on obviously the most important news story of many years.” …

… Falwell also promised coming “civil action” on defamation charges against New York Times reporter Elizabeth Williamson and NBC, along with two of its reporters, Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins. He said that he attempted to get a warrant for Williamson as well, but that the magistrate said there was not enough evidence.

Ali Pattillo at Inverse does an explainer—one that should never have to exist—on the conspiracy theory about 5G wireless and the coronavirus:

The upswell of 5G-coronavirus fears was fueled by a misleading viral YouTube video published on March 12, 2020, featuring a doctor on disciplinary probation named Thomas Cowan. In the video, uploaded by the anti-vaccination group Parents for Healthcare Rights, Cowan links 5G networks to the virus, claiming urban areas hardest hit by Covid-19 also experienced a rollout of 5G technology. This video was debunked, but not before American singer Keri Hilson shared it with 2.3 million followers. Come on, Keri. (The tweet has also been deleted.)

Other videos where Dr. Cowan links 5G to coronavirus have been uploaded and remain on YouTube, despite YouTube’s announcement on Sunday that it would remove false 5G-coronavirus theories.

The CDC seems to be backing off a bit from its tentative embrace of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. CNN reports:

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed from its website guidelines for doctors on how to prescribe two antimalarial drugs that President Donald Trump has touted as potential treatments for the novel coronavirus. … The updated CDC guidance, published Tuesday, is shorter and no longer gives dosage information about the drugs.

I do not know who Diamond and Silk are, but they apparently love President Trump and, I guess, death. Twitter temporarily locked their account when they started spreading some really, really terrible advice. Politico reports:

The duo, whose legal names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, claimed in a tweet Wednesday afternoon that individuals will get sicker if they stay inside amid the pandemic, a statement directly at odds with the advice of public health experts who have called for millions of Americans to self-isolate.

“The only way we can become immune to the environment; we must be out in the environment. Quarantining people inside of their houses for extended periods will make people sick!” the pair tweeted from their official account, which boasts 1.4 million followers.

Remember how BuzzFeed News was all, Hey, Telegraph, why you delivering dangerous Chinese misinformation about the virus? Well now they’ve stopped, as the Telegraph seems to no longer be running the “advertorials” from People’s Daily Online and they’ve removed their China Daily’s China Watch feature.

Steak-umm is still at it, trying to save us (and even getting covered by the Wall Street Journal):

people think it’s bizarre, ironic, and funny when a frozen meat company points out the importance of critical thinking, but chances are the same message would never “go viral” if it was from a person. our society values entertainment over truth and that’s a huge problem …

… when the chips are down we turn to cryogenically molded meat sheets

Quartz‘s “Daily Obsession Email,” which looks like a Tumblr page from 2006 but whatever, celebrates the Golden Record of the Voyager spacecraft.

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.