Photo by Tony Lam Hoang (CC0 1.0)

Mindless Computation

December 20, 2018

The Catholic dioceses in Illinois are accused by the state’s attorney general of withholding the names of at least 500 priests accused of child sexual abuse. The dioceses had previously disclosed the names of only 185, which is mind-boggling to begin with.

Meanwhile, in Middletown, New York, Rev. Donald G. Timone is preaching and leading mass at St. Joseph’s Church, despite the church having paid settlements to two victims alleging that Timone had sexually abused them as kids (one of whom committed suicide). The Times reports:

…the archdiocese is essentially allowing Father Timone to continue serving as a priest because of a bureaucratic technicality — a position that seems to fly in the face of the cardinal’s pledge to aggressively handle sexual abuse accusations.

Emma Penrod at Newsweek explores the intersection of left-wing and right-wing science denial: the rejection of science-based medicine:

[A growing trend is] conservative Christians who reject modern medicine in favor of “holistic” or “natural” approaches historically associated with the political left. Medical experts report a rise in the number of patients from conservative Christian areas who are rejecting traditional medicine.The anti-vaccination movement is a case in point. The movement is well documented among liberal communities in California, Oregon and New Jersey. But evangelicals have also grown more skeptical of vaccines, health experts say. The language used in many anti-vaccination campaigns seem to be directed to the religious right…

Quartz reports on the significant reliance of “traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines” (fake medicine) in sub-Saharan Africa, with research on why it’s been so widely adopted. See if you can spot which reason isn’t there:

The researchers … found both general populations and major health subsets use complementary medicine due to its lower costs and accessibility, belief in their “natural” status, word of mouth recommendations, or because of the treatment’s association with a patient’s cultural or spiritual beliefs. Aggressive marketing drives also continue to hype herbal medicine presenting them as better options to manage diseases.

If you guessed this passage was missing some variation of “its effectiveness,” you win.

Caleb Lack at the CFI blog exposes the methods of predatory open-access journals.

At Skeptical Inquirer online, Kenny Biddle investigates an allegedly spirit-infested Zak Bagans’s The Haunted Museum in Las Vegas with other skeptics at CSICon 2018. You have to love this:

I expected to have time to view all the objects, read any descriptions posted alongside them, and to have better lighting in order to see what I was looking at. Instead, it was too dark (several guests tripped throughout the tour), and the guides actively discouraged any real examination of the featured items.

I bet they did.

Two U.S. airmen sue the Defense Department after they are booted from the Air Force for being HIV-positive. The Post reports:

Both active-duty airmen said they tested positive for HIV last year during Air Force screenings. After they started antiretroviral treatments, their doctors deemed them asymptomatic and physically fit to deploy, and their commanders backed their continued service. They intended to pursue lengthy Air Force careers after serving for more than half a decade in logistics and maintenance roles.

Deutsche Welle interviews Martin Hultman, author of a study on the ties between climate change denial and right-wing nationalism. Hultman says:

The increase of climate change denial has also contributed to the growth of right-wing nationalists, because there are some overlapping features. For example, not wanting to deal with global issues and only thinking in nationalist terms.

Another overlap is that both right-wing nationalists and climate change deniers are portraying the elites as the people who are lying. They describe the researchers and UN delegates as the elite that is against the people.

And then, I think very importantly, there is also an overlap in funding and financing which might not be as visible. But it is there.

Joseph P. Laycock at Rewire explains why a Nebraska principal banning candy canes in school for secularism is NOT HELPING:

[The principal’s] memo explained that, “Historically, the shape is a ‘J’ for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.” The memo drew the ire of the Liberty Counsel and may fuel claims of a “War on Christmas” for years to come.

Chai Feldblum is the first openly LGBTQ person on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission…or, maybe, was, as Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is blocking her reappointment because she has “radical views on marriage.” Pretty sure it’s Lee’s view on marriage that is in the minority of public opinion, sooooo…..

Hey look an alien spacecraft on Google Maps Street View. Pay no attention to the fact that it’s obviously a butterfly.

The European Court of Human Rights rules Greece in violation of anti-discrimination measures by applying Sharia law to a family inheritance dispute.

Big Think rounds up some atheist quotes that Derek Beres says will “make you question religion.” Preaching to the choir here, but I did like this Daniel Dennett quote:

Comprehension, far from being a Godlike talent from which all design must flow, is an emergent effect of systems of uncomprehending competence: natural selection on the one hand, and mindless computation on the other.

Scientific American, meanwhile, rounds up the thoughts of some super-smart folks on the topic of utopias, and includes our own Richard Dawkins:

My utopia is a world in which beliefs are based on evidence and morality is based on intelligent design—design by intelligent humans (or robots!). Neither beliefs nor morals should be based on gut feelings, or on ancient books, private revelations or priestly traditions.

Industrious Iowan atheist Justin Scott says in the Des Moines Register that the state legislature needs to solidify its policy on prayer and invocations, writing, “To honor the Constitution’s guarantee of equality, the Senate must allow atheists like me to deliver invocations, or it must do away with them altogether.”

CFI is joining with other groups to protest a part of the new prison reform legislation that sends taxpayer dollars to faith-based programs.

Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast explores the rapid radicalization that is enabled by YouTube’s algorithms, using as an example how one teenage guy went from watching Call of Duty clips to atheist videos to men’s rights videos to Holocaust denial. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t play first-person shooters.

This sounds cool: The Revealer excerpts America and Other Fictions by Ed Simon, a book which looks at the concept of “America” as a kind of post-religion faith.

The Masterpiece Cakeshop guy will just not leave unwell enough alone, now complaining that Colorado is being hostile to him because of his religion. Sure they are. Man, you have to really hate gays for Jesus to keep this up.

Quote of the Day

Atheist sage Herb Silverman praises the Post and Courier for an op-ed on astronomy myths, and argues that the paper should also stop dabbling in pseudoscience by, for example, nixing its daily horoscope:

Please be part of the solution, not the problem, by educating your readers to distinguish real science from pseudoscience and mythology. Then again, perhaps I’m a skeptic because I was born a Gemini.

* * *

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.