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Not Wanting to Be Tricked

May 7, 2019

Erika Ryan at CNN looks at the effort to enact this key part of the religious right’s “Project Blitz” playbook: Bible “literacy” classes (One thing I am sure the religious right is absolutely not concerned about is literacy):

While advocates for such classes believe students ought to be able to learn about the Bible’s influence on world history, culture and language, opponents tout separation of church and state and their concerns that teachers might possibly stray into proselytizing.

“Might”? Pfft.

Ways in which we are screwed, example eleventy-billion: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (who thinks God might have picked Trump to save Israel) says the melting of sea ice in the Arctic will be awesome:

The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore. … Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals.

Example eleventy-billion-and-one: Humans are responsible for placing one million species on the verge of extinction, according to a UN report. One million??? I knew we could do it! #yougottabelieve! The Post reports:

Nature’s current rate of decline is unparalleled, and the accelerating rate of extinctions “means grave impacts on people around the world are now likely,” it says.

In a prepared statement, Robert Watson, a British chemist who served as the panel’s chairman, said the decline in biodiversity is eroding “the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

So, so screwed.

President Trump, or, more likely, some staffer he’s never met, puts out a “Presidential Message on Ramadan.” Chances are Trump thinks a Ramadan is a kind of dinosaur. Anyway, “the president” says:

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, recite passages from the Quran, and perform benevolent acts of charity and good will toward others. By doing so, they develop a renewed sense of purpose in their own spiritual journey, deepening their appreciation for God’s grace and mercy. … Melania joins me in sending our best wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world for a blessed month of celebration.

To which I imagine Muslims would respond, “You do?”

Aysha Khan at RNS looks at a report showing how between 2014 and 2016, $125 million was funneled to anti-Muslim hate groups, and that there is a stockpile of about $1.5 billion among anti-Muslim groups.

The Washington Post has a major piece on how Iran is using religion as a means of dominating Iraq:

Iran’s initiative to expand its religious influence complements its increasing efforts to project political, military and economic power in Iraq, where Washington and Tehran are competing for clout. … Allies of Iran, including former militiamen, have an influential role in Iraq’s parliament. Iranian officials routinely mediate disputes among political and military factions. Many local media outlets depend on Iranian largesse. Iranian imports — as varied as cosmetics, eggs and steel — are flooding local markets. And Iranian energy supplies help keep the lights on in Iraqi cities.

In Najaf, it’s almost impossible to miss Iran’s presence.

Paula White apparently rid the White House of demons on the National Day of Prayer. Looks the same to me.

Oh hey, people on Facebook are posting videos of burning wood in order to propagate some kind of conspiracy theory about the Notre Dame fire. Poynter reports:

Since the oaks beams wouldn’t burn, both Facebook and YouTube users claimed that the cathedral’s destruction could not possibly have been an accident — it had to be a criminal act.

It wasn’t, both the Agence France-Presse and Le Monde’s Les Décodeurs have reported. But that hasn’t stopped the user-generated videos from getting massive reach on Facebook — more than 200 times more likes, shares and comments than the two fact checks combined.

This is interesting. Lee McIntyre of Boston University has a new book called The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science From Denial, Fraud and Pseudoscience, and the title is a clear contrast with the scientific method. Harriet Hall, reviewing the book, helps explain:

There’s no such thing as “the scientific method.” The simplistic “observe, hypothesize, predict, test, analyze and revise” model does not describe how most scientific discoveries are actually made. … Specific methodology is less important than the values of honesty and openness. Individuals must be willing to critique their own ideas, but criticism is also a communal and institutional self-correcting enterprise. We try to find failure. Science can never be purely objective; it is value-laden.

At AlterNet, Steve Williams talks about what he’s learned since becoming an out-and-open atheist four years ago, such as the realization that many people don’t actually know what atheism is and boy oh boy isn’t that conversation fun.

Case in point: Polk County, Florida commissioner Bill Braswell says of atheist invocations:

I’ve never heard an atheist give an invocation before so it should be interesting. As long as there isn’t any pigs blood or a goat’s head, I think we’ll be OK.

If I lived in Polk County right now, I’d move.

Happily, three anti-science education bills in Florida’s legislature have fizzled.

Ezra Marcus and James D. Walsh at The Cut tell the legitimately creepy story of how this dude Larry Ray more or less moved onto the Sarah Lawrence campus with his daughter and lured a bunch of students into a cult. Even worse, he sullied the original Cosmos series by using it as part of his trap:

He could also be charming. He was a good listener and engaged the group on heady concepts like truth and justice. “He did all of our cleaning and definitely took on the dad role in the house in a big way,” says [one of the students]. He screened Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in the common room, where the students watched from pillows on the floor, and followed it with an impromptu lecture on the nature of the universe.

The National Center for Science Education is helping teachers communicate climate change to students, with an emphasis on addressing misinformation head-on. Communications researcher John Cook says, “Not wanting to be tricked is a fairly bipartisan feeling.” One would think.

Hemant Mehta is launching a new podcast project, a history of the Pledge of Allegiance. Sounds fascinating.

In Norway, which has its own national church, more couples got married in a civil ceremony than in a church ceremony in 2018.

Reuters journalists U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo have been released after spending over a year in a Myanmar prison for their work to investigate the country’s massacre of Rohingya Muslims. The two were awarded the Pulitzer last month for their work.

When you think about who to thank for measles, yes, thank anti-vaxxers, but also thank Christopher Columbus. In between hacking coughs, of course.

CFI Western New York looks back an April of witches and trees. The way I just put that, it sounds like a production of Macbeth.

Humans have a special region of the brain just for recognizing Pokémon. I’m pretty sure I read this wrong.

Quote of the Day

In The Washington Post‘s piece on how Trump and his allies have tried to muddy the truth of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville white supremacists’ rally, the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt has some good zingers:

[Greenblatt] said Trump’s continued reticence to confront white supremacists “is not a dog whistle picked up by the alt-right — it’s a bullhorn the whole country can hear.”

… “It has emboldened extremists,” Greenblatt said of Trump’s ambivalent posturing. “How do we know this? Because they say so. It’s spurred this new, nativistic nationalism that’s playing out on college campuses and social media and now cities across the country.”

… “These aren’t outliers on a scatter plot,” Greenblatt said. “These are data points on a trend line.”

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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.