Not a Stunning Image

February 14, 2020

A few days ago, the temperature in Antarctica was a pleasant 70 degrees. Good lord. It’s probably the hottest temperature ever recorded there. The Post reports:

The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming parts of the world. Most of the glaciers in that region are retreating rapidly. According to a 2018 study, ice-shelf collapse and the speedup of glacier movement into the sea at the Antarctic Peninsula caused an increase of 25 billion metric tons of ice loss per year from the region between 1992 and 2017.

So maybe one way to curb climate change disaster is to not have so many kids? Actually, not really. Sigal Samuel at Vox explains:

As more governments enact policies to protect the climate — like imposing carbon prices and including sectors like road transportation and home heating in carbon markets — they’ll mitigate the direct impact your children and grandchildren will have on the climate. …

… When considering the lifestyle changes we can make to help the climate, we typically think about things like flying less, driving less, and eating less meat. And to be clear, those are all great things to do. But there’s another great action that tends to get less play in these conversations: donating to effective climate charities.

Or, you know, groups that fight to advance science-based policies that improve life for everyone. Just a thought.

The Post‘s editorial board backs a proposal by a coalition of corporations, advocacy organizations, and politicians to address climate change:

[The plan] is more ambitious and effective in carbon reduction than Mr. Obama’s energy plan or the Paris accord; doesn’t increase the deficit by so much as a dime; leaves most Americans financially better off; encourages innovation; and provides an incentive for other emitters, including China and India, to act. How is that possible? The plan would levy a steadily rising tax on carbon (oil, gas, coal) to cut U.S. carbon emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2035. … The plan would [also] impose a fee on imports from countries without comparable plans.

Tomorrow, a mile-wide asteroid will hurtle toward Earth at 34,000 miles per hour. It’ll be 3.6 million miles away from us, though, so it’s not clear why this is making news. But I guess that’s close enough to qualify as “potentially hazardous.”

A bunch of countries have apparently signed on with the U.S. for an International Religious Freedom Alliance. If it were almost any other administration, this would sound great. But here we are. This part of the announcement actually does sound great, emphasis mine:

The Alliance is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, dedicated to working for the right of every man and woman to believe in whatever they wish, to change faith, or hold no faith if their conscience dictates.

I have to assume that Mike Pompeo didn’t personally vet this statement.

And before you feel too good about anything, here’s Vox explaining how belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ is a driving force behind U.S. foreign policy.

The UK’s Professional Standards Authority is telling homeopaths where to stick it. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. They are, however, telling the fake-medicine peddlers to stop claiming that homeopathy can treat autism or that it can replace vaccines.

Nicholas Meriwether, a professor at Shawnee State University and an evangelical, was disciplined when he refused to address a transgender student by her chosen pronouns and honorifics. Then Meriwether sued, claiming his religious liberties were violated. The judge was unimpressed. Metro Weekly reports:

“The Court concludes that Meriwether failed to state a claim for violation of his rights under the United States Constitution,” Dlott wrote in her ruling. “His speech — the manner by which he addressed a transgender student — was not protected under the First Amendment. Further, he did not plead facts sufficient to state a claim for a violation of his right to free exercise of religion, for a departure from religious neutrality under Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, or for a violation of his rights to due process or equal protection.”

The Iowa legislature is considering a bill that requires schools to post signage with—not “In God We Trust”—the preamble of the Constitution! Wow! Great! Oh, wait. They just want these words: “endowed by their Creator.”

The Chattanooga Times Free Press gets an allegedly oil-secreting Bible promoted by a ministry in Georgia chemically analyzed. Miraculous!

The tests found [Bible owner Jerry] Pearce’s oil is petroleum-derived and the results “strongly suggest that the oil sample is mineral oil,” according to the analysis. The second test, comparing the chemical composition of Pearce’s oil to the product sold at Tractor Supply, found a nearly exact match.

Pearce said the managers at Tractor Supply are lying. He and Taylor repeated they do not have to defend their work, something they said in November.

“Everything we do is in the light,” Taylor said. “I don’t know how we could defend it other than it just comes up out of the Bible.” …

… Online, people remain polarized about the ministry, with some calling it a hoax and others praising the results they got from using the oil. The ministry began in 2016 in the week after President Donald Trump’s inauguration when Pearce and Taylor had powerful religious experiences and oil began coming from the Bible, they said.

Last week, the U.S. Air Force issued new guidelines allowing servicemembers to request waivers so they can don religious apparel, beards, and the like as required by their religions. Aysha Khan reports:

The updated policy allows airmen who receive accommodations to wear beards of any length rolled or tied to a maximum of 2 inches below the chin. Turbans and hijabs must be made of a “subdued material in a color that closely resembles the assigned uniform,” and designs other than a camouflage pattern are prohibited, the policy states.

It’s Valentine’s Day, if you care, and that means a bump in business for psychics who pretend to connect clients with their dead lovers.

The journal Secularism & Nonreligion has a paper by Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme and Joel Thiessen on millennials and organized secularist groups, in real life and online:

… for some nonbelievers, notably those coming from a more religious upbringing and who experience discrimination as young adults due to their nonreligious views, these organized and digital nonbelief activities are an important and regular part of life. … The appeal of these organized and digital nonbelief activities for newly disaffiliated individuals may also be why our study observed interest for these groups among some believers, who may be considering leaving their religion.

Astronomers have detected something called fast radio bursts (FRBs) coming from outside our galaxy, and they come every 16.35 days. IS IT ALIENS? YES! Wait, no. Probably not. Sorry. Vox reports:

The authors say FRBs could be generated if giant radio pulses from an energetic neutron star are eclipsed by a companion object. They also note that periodicity could arise from the rotation of a star, but that’s a tricky hypothesis: Previously observed sources have had way shorter periodicities (a few hours, not a couple of weeks) and way less strength (we’re talking nine orders of magnitude less) than FRBs have.

In short, the authors don’t know what’s causing FRBs. But aliens are not on their list of possibilities.

There is a documentary about a taxidermist who is making a life-size Bigfoot. I don’t know why this needed to happen.

The great Carolyn Porco tells the story of the “Pale Blue Dot” image of the Earth for Scientific American:

The Pale Blue Dot image of Earth is not a stunning image. But that didn’t matter in the end, because it was the way that Carl [Sagan] romanced it, turning it into an allegory on the human condition, that has ever since made the phrase “Pale Blue Dot” and the image itself synonymous with an inspirational call to planetary brotherhood and protection of Earth.

Samantha Bee goes after Prager U, the fake university full of right-wing crap. Enjoy:

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.