wernerimages / Adobe Stock

Pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead

June 24, 2019

This is how we get to Gilead, folks. End the Republic Part One: The Briarwood Presbyterian megachurch in Alabama is going to form its own police force with the blessing of the state. That’s not even an exaggeration. The new law says they can “appoint and employ one or more suitable persons to act as police officers to protect the property of the school or academy.”

End of the Republic Part Two: Republicans in the Oregon legislature run away from the statehouse in order to deny a quorum for a vote on climate change legislation, and get right-wing paramilitary groups to threaten violence if the Republicans are made to come back. Militias planned a “Rally to Take the Capitol,” which caused the police to close the Capitol for fear of, well, militias taking the Capitol.

Jennifer Beahan, head of CFI Michigan, testified before the Michigan legislature last week in opposition to an acupuncture licensure bill, and heck yes, we have the video.

BBC News has a short video piece on how vaccines have become, well, unfashionable in Italy, as anti-vaxx attitudes spread. (Note that the Italians say “fake news” in English.)

At Skeptical Inquirer, Kavin Senapathy looks at the bad science and social pressure put on moms over breastfeeding with that three-word adage, “breast is best” (and she’ll discuss more at CSICon in October):

Ultimately, for me at least, the issue of bodily autonomy trumps the science on infant feeding. Even if higher breastfeeding rates did have a measurable positive causal effect on children (they don’t), it’s up to those with breasts to decide what to do with them.

Mars sort of burped. And where there’s burps, there’s life. This is not entirely accurate. Kenneth Chang at NYT reports:

In a measurement taken on Wednesday, NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered startlingly high amounts of methane in the Martian air, a gas that on Earth is usually produced by living things. The data arrived back on Earth on Thursday, and by Friday, scientists working on the mission were excitedly discussing the news, which has not yet been announced by NASA.

The Washington Post reports that smartphones are causing people to grow horns. WAIT, WHAT?

New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls — bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion.

The result is a hook or hornlike feature jutting out from the skull, just above the neck.

Beth Mole at Ars Technica blows this the hell up, and the Post does not come out of this looking good, horns or no horns (emphasis mine):

…the study [cited by the Post] makes no mention of horns and does not include any data whatsoever on mobile device usage by its participants who, according to the Post, are growing alleged horns. Also troubling is that the study authors don’t report much of the data, and some of the results blatantly conflict with each other.

Last, it appears that the study’s lead author—David Shahar, a chiropractor and biomechanics researcher at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland—has a financial incentive to convince people that their modern lifestyles are deforming their skeletons; Shahar goes by the name Dr. Posture online and has developed devices and techniques to prevent such posture problems.

Kaveh Waddell at Axios highlights some of the products in the growing category of “brain wearables,” devices that promise to ease stress, make you smarter, make you more productive, and whatnot, though I don’t think they do anything about phone-horns:

Many companies are imbuing products with an air of medical legitimacy without pointing to serious research. A common pattern: Companies say their products are based on technology that has been shown to be beneficial in some way — but provide no research on their products.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who thinks Trump might be sent from God, tells Pakistan to cool it with the “abuse of blasphemy laws.” Referring to the dozens still imprisoned over blasphemy, he said, “We continue to call for their release and encourage the government to appoint an envoy to address religious freedom concerns.”

King’s College Chapel kicks out a father and his 9-year-old autistic son from an evensong service when the kid gets too noisy (he really likes music and can’t help but shout when it moves him). The father, Paul Rimmer, wrote a letter to the dean of King’s College:

As a Christian, I believe that worship is primarily intended to glorify God, and may have misinterpreted your Evensong as an actual worship service, at which my son’s expressions must surely be pleasing to God, the experience of other worshipers being secondary.

The dean apologized.

The Catholic medical journal Linacre Quarterly retracts a paper it published in 2018 purporting to show the effectiveness of gay-conversion therapy. They write in a notice:

The journal is retracting the article based on unresolved statistical differences. Specifically, after receiving questions about the article, the editor determined that a statistical review of the paper, which was recommended during peer review, had not been conducted. … The Editor considered this information and the authors’ response and concluded that in spite of this additional information, the original review still required retraction of the paper.

Steven Salzberg wonders what the hell the journal Science is doing by giving so much space to this idea that the length of your fingers says something about your sexual orientation or whatever.

Jim Bakker says Christians will “suddenly die” if Trump loses in 2020, which is probably true, as Hemant explains:

He’s technically right. They will perish. Eventually. But the cause is far more likely to be climate change or old age than a genocidal threat from vegans who want to destroy the NRA.

A giant squid has finally been caught on video, and I’m not even going to watch because I’m so freaked out.

After some angry Christians petitioned Netflix to cancel Good Omens, which is actually on Amazon, Netflix tweeted, “OK we promise not to make any more.” Then Amazon promised to cancel Stranger Things, which is of course on Netflix.

Quote of the Day

From another BBC video, atheists in Lebanon talk about their experiences in a country “where your faith defines you from birth.” One ex-Muslim describes the role the “Danish cartoons” played in his atheism:

I started doubting Islam after I participated in the protest against the Danish embassy; that was demonstrating against the cartoons. And it never made sense to me—why would just drawing a cartoon would unleash such hate and anger.

* * *

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.