The people of Earth seem fascinated by the idea that Sylvia Browne, the late fake-psychic, maybe actually didn’t predict the coronavirus pandemic, as shockingly revealed by our own Benjamin Radford. Newsweek and UK’s Independent report on Ben’s jaw-dropping exposé, which concludes, “So we have a two-sentence prediction written in 2008 by a convicted felon with a long track record of failures.” Shocking.
Jerry Falwell the Lesser wants the world to burn, as evidenced by his repeated insistence that the coronavirus is a hoax and we’re all overreacting. When confronted on Twitter by a parent of one of Liberty University’s students over not closing the school, Falwell calls him a dummy. As Hemant says, “He must be quoting Jesus.”
From the world burning to the world flooding, we turn to Ken Ham and his Creation Museum and Ark Encounter theme-parks-of-lies. Ham refused to close them because, you see, they have a “very high standard on cleanliness.” But now he’s caved.
Rep. Devin Nunes is, of course, also not helping:
One of the things you can do, if you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out and go to a local restaurant.
NO. No. WRONG. For the love of—GAH. I mean, even Ted Cruz us telling people to stay home.
It’s not just Jim Bakker trying to make a buck (or many, many bucks) off of sham coronavirus treatments. Of course the never/always-disappointing Goop gets in on the act. New York Magazine reports:
… this being Goop, the page also highlights entries on the flu-prevention properties of elderberry chew (scientifically, there are none) and an interview with a “holistic practitioner” about what to do to prevent colds and flu. Among her recommendations: the Goop Wellness Balls in the Air vitamin regimen, which at best offers no measurable health benefit and at worst, makes the unlucky consumer smell really bad.
And there are many more snake oil peddlers, as lamented by Steven Salzberg at Forbes, who also checked to see whether the FTC’s warnings had any effect:
I can’t know for certain which of the people selling these products truly believe they have a treatment for COVID-19 and which of them are knowingly lying. But consumers should beware: false claims will continue to appear as long as there’s money to be made.
Thomas Rid at the New York Times explores how Russia can use the pandemic to make things even crazier for the United States during the presidential campaign. And there is precedent:
In the early and mid-1980s the K.G.B.’s disinformation shop repeatedly blamed the C.I.A. for spreading dengue fever in Cuba, as well as malaria in Pakistan (the operation was code-named Tarakany, “cockroaches” in Russian). The officer in charge of Tarakany later received an award from the K.G.B. chairman. The best-known and most successful infectious disease measure is the K.G.B.’s persistent campaign to portray AIDS as a biological weapon designed by the United States Army at Fort Detrick, Md., a campaign code-named Denver.
Archbishop Andrzej Dzięga of Poland says don’t worry, “Christ does not spread germs and viruses.” That’s because he’s already dead.
The AP’s Elana Schor looks at how Christian church leaders try to send a message that “elevates both faith and science”:
That goal is particularly challenging in a time of sharp political polarization, as partisan scuffles over religion’s influence on policymaking can caricature Christians as skeptical of science. For pastors across Christian denominations, however, rising public anxiety over coronavirus only reinforces the importance of believing in God while heeding the advice of public health experts. …
… [Pastor D.J.] Jenkins acknowledged that “for a lot of folks, it’s probably pretty strange to see” a Christian or other devout person “asking for divine help — and then also trusting in science and health professionals and doctors. But it’s not strange for me.”
NPR did a handy little segment on misinformation in the age of COVID-19, with Michel Martin interviewing Peter Adams of the News Literacy Project, who says:
You know, most misinformation has a strong emotional effect on us. And that can kind of override our rational minds. So if we’re intensely angry or we’re intensely fearful, that can cause us to share things more quickly with less caution and cause us to kind of short-circuit our critical thinking and not scrutinize the information that we’re seeing.
So one important step is for people to just pause, take a breath, track their emotions, realize if they’re feeling something and then take a deeper look and say – how does this person or how does – how is this piece of information sourced? Where did this claim come from? Is it linked to something that I can trace back and get to an authoritative source? Or is it mere hearsay, or is it second- or thirdhand information?
We’ve posted a well-timed CSICon video, where Troy Campbell discusses the personal side of being a skeptic, and how a skeptical orientation toward the world is about much more than showing how other folks are wrong.
Maybe we can learn something from World of Warcraft.
Denise Hruby at Undark reports on government-led efforts in Germany to curb the fraud of homeopathy, and they mention our lawsuits against Walmart and CVS. Plus, it turns out homeopathy is often administered there via “globuli,” which are “tiny white balls comprised of sugar,” and which one doctor had to extract from the ears of a kid with an ear infection:
After extracting the pus and globuli from the ear of his 4-year-old patient, [Dr. Christian] Lübbers explained to the girl’s parents that the pills contain no active agent. At best, they work through a placebo effect, which can’t cure an infection. Upon hearing this, Lübbers says, the parents abandoned their belief in homeopathy and readily accepted his prescription for antibiotics.
If you shop at Wegmans, let it be known that they are limiting the purchase of homeopathic fake medicine to two items. You can only lie to yourself twice per visit.
Astronomy professor Chris Impey explains the thinking behind a proposed browser extension which would use neural nets to filter out fake science:
My colleagues and I also plan to gamify the interface with a smart phone app that will let people compete with their friends and relatives to detect fake science. Data from the best of these participants will be used to help train the neural net.
In non-pandemic news…um…do I have any non-pandemic news? Yes. Yes I do. For example, aliens! Vice reports that the U.S. Army is refusing to release any information about its dealings with the Blink-182 guy’s UFO
LARPing research group.
All 16 of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments possessed by the Museum of the Bible are fake. And they had to admit it.
Reporters Without Borders, Blockworks, DDB Germany, and MediaMonks have collaborated on a very novel and affirming project: Storing and publishing articles banned by oppressive regimes in a virtual library inside of Minecraft. CNN reports:
“In many countries around the world, there is no free access to information. Websites are blocked, independent newspapers are banned and the press is controlled by the state,” Christian Mihr, managing director of Reporters Without Borders Germany, said in a statement.
“Young people grow up without being able to form their own opinions. By using Minecraft, the world’s most popular computer game, as a medium, we give them access to independent information,” he added.
More than 145 million players are active on the platform each month, Reporters Without Borders said in a statement, adding that the platform offers “unlimited freedom” in countries that have no press freedom.
Retired judge James Dannenberg resigned from the Supreme Court Bar, of which he has been a member since 1972, in protest. In a gut-punch of a letter to Chief Justice Roberts, he says:
The Court, under your leadership and with your votes, has wantonly flouted established precedent. Your “conservative” majority has cynically undermined basic freedoms by hypocritically weaponizing others. The ideas of free speech and religious liberty have been transmogrified to allow officially sanctioned bigotry and discrimination, as well as to elevate the grossest forms of political bribery beyond the ability of the federal government or states to rationally regulate it. …
… It is clear to me that your Court is willfully hurtling back to the cruel days of Lochner and even Plessy. The only constitutional freedoms ultimately recognized may soon be limited to those useful to wealthy, Republican, White, straight, Christian, and armed males— and the corporations they control. This is wrong. Period. This is not America.
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.