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Shaking the Heavenlies

July 11, 2019

It’s like a skeptic-superhero crossover event, a team-up to stop pseudoscience from destroying the multiverse…or, at least to stop people from being ripped off in this universe. CFI’s legal efforts against Walmart and CVS over their sale and marketing of homeopathic fake medicine are getting a big boost in resources and brainpower from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and Todd Stiefel himself:

“Consumers need to know what Walmart and CVS already know: homeopathic products are fake medicine. These pharmacies continue to place them on shelves labeled for cold and flu or other disease treatments, even though they know it is not possible for homeopathic products to do anything other than waste consumers’ money,” said Stiefel. “I am proud to support the creative legal strategies CFI is implementing to make sure consumers are not misled.”

Did you know that the guy who came up with homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, has a monument dedicated to him in Washington, DC? I didn’t, and that’s just BONKERS. Stuart Vyse at Skeptical Inquirer wonders what ought to be done with such tributes to what we now know to be nonsense:

…perhaps someday homeopathy will be seen as an interesting historical curiosity. Perhaps future visitors to the Hahnemann monument in Washington, D.C., will pay tribute to an antique theory that helped defeat the dangerous medical practices of the nineteenth century but is now no longer accepted.

First France, and now hopefully Germany: the head of Germany’s National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians says it’s time to end the reimbursements for homeopathic junk.

Vanessa Martinez at the Irish Times warns about the false promises and risks of alternative medicines:

Although it is true that reiki is risk-free, this is not necessarily true for the rest: adverse effects have indeed been reported for chiropractic manipulation, aromatherapy, homeopathy and acupuncture, some of them serious. If you are tempted to believe that natural is equivalent to harmless you only need to think of cyanide, tsunamis or hungry lions, all perfectly natural, none of them harmless.

This seems like a big deal: the British Social Attitudes survey shows that a paltry 1 percent of Britons between 18 and 24 identify as members of the Church of England, and only a third of those over 75 years old identify as such. 52 percent of Britons are unaffiliated, and only 38 percent identify as Christians at all. There’s more! Harriet Sherwood at The Guardian reports:

Non-religious parents successfully transmit their lack of faith to their children, but two religious parents have only a 50/50 chance of passing on their faith, the report says.

The non-religious are increasingly atheist. One in four members of the public stated: “I do not believe in God,” compared with one in 10 in 1998. The figures challenge theories that people are “believing but not belonging” – in other words, that faith has become private rather than institutional – the report says.

The proportion of people who say they are “very or extremely non-religious” has more than doubled, from 14% to 33% in the past two decades.

There’s a brand new Point of Inquiry episode, in which Kavin Senapathy talks to health and nutrition experts Tia Rains and Mary Lee Chin on the science and myths surrounding MSG.

Ready to feel gross? Today the White House will host a “social media summit” in which a hodgepodge of representatives from hard-right, conspiracy-mongering, soft-on-Nazis outlets and platforms, along with some individuals who make pro-Trump memes, will gather with the president to complain about how silenced they are.

Speaking of which, right-wing conspiracy theorist Chris McDonald says Trump’s July 4th speech was so powerful that “something shifted in the spirit realm.” Oh yes:

Our president shook the heavenlies with that speech. Something shifted over D.C. and two earthquakes, a flood now in D.C., and this Epstein thing; something is astir in the heavenlies over this nation right now.

“The heavenlies”? Ever notice that McDonald and Gollum are never in the same place at the same time? HMM?

Jack Jenkins has a very interesting interview with religious history professor L. Benjamin Rolsky, author of The Rise and Fall of the Religious Left: Politics, Television, and Popular Culture in the 1970s and Beyond. Jenkins asks about whether the modern religious left is more diverse than it was in the 1970s:

That’s where I get constructive and critical: The left likes to think of itself as more representative, as more diverse, but then you actually burrow down, you actually see a lot of white people. So I don’t actually know. This cosmopolitan, spiritual-but-not-religious sensibility is very affluent. [Television creator Norman] Lear is extremely rich. I think in some capacity that’s part of the analysis that has to be discussed a little bit more, the level of affluence.

Geneticist David McConnell of the Humanist Association of Ireland writes that it’s time to give up the notion that religion is science’s buddy:

When science accelerated in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was largely in northern Europe, where churches had somewhat less power to control the way people thought.

So let’s not fool ourselves. I wish religion had been an ally of science – usually it was an opponent, and in most of the world it still is. Darwin knew his theory of evolution would provoke religious reactions and these still continue. The United States has a high level of religious fundamentalism (about 35 per cent) and ranks 33rd in the list of 34 OECD countries for acceptance of the theory of evolution. … Yes, science needs allies but it would be better to choose those who understand and accept the main discoveries and theories, and share those values that are at the root of humanism.

Pope Francis believes that the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a Catholic televangelist active in the 1950s to 1970s, is responsible for a miracle that saved the life of a newborn on the verge of death. Sheen himself was long dead at the time he allegedly performed this miracle.

Maybe Francis is cracking from the stress. Heavy is the head that wears the little pope-cap.

Here we go: Robert F. Kennedy Jr is representing a family in court challenging New York’s law ending religious vaccine exemptions. This freaking guy.

A Russian Orthodox Church committee on ecclesiastical law says, hey, maybe we shouldn’t be blessing nuclear missiles. Not a good look, you know?

The Jesus-as-superhero comic book that DC nixed, Second Coming, is having its second coming, as issue #1 is released by AHOY Comics. I’m totally picking it up.

Hashtag-schadenfreude: Instagrammers love to have pictures of themselves taken with this really blue lake in Siberia. Allyson Chiu at the Post reports:

It’s a man-made dumping area for waste from a nearby power plant — and its striking color is due to dissolved calcium salts and other metal oxides, which can be harmful if they come into contact with people.

That might affect your yoga poses.

Quote of the Day

At National Geographic, Ann Druyan writes a letter to the two Voyager spacecrafts, reflecting on her work on the “golden record” with her late husband, Carl Sagan:

I and everyone I know will be dust for more than fifty thousand years before you near another star (unless some spacefarer should flag you down). But even if you are never claimed, you two have already taught us many things. Your dispatches from the outer solar system revealed new moons, geysers, volcanoes, sub-surface oceans, hurricanes of a ferocity that would fracture even our extended scale of categories, and even the very shape of our solar system as it moves through the Milky Way galaxy. …

… For me you are more than machine. You are also an apt metaphor for Carl. In him, as in you, our science and humanity were united without conflict. Wonder and skepticism, imagination and rigor, ambition and inclusion, passion and reason, audacity and humility, precision and tenderness—none ever at the cost of the other—all combined to make him, what he was, and you, what you are.

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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.