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Sideways Rain

February 25, 2020

I totally missed this Max Boot piece from the Washington Post last week in which Bill Barr is excoriated for his mind-bogglingly wrong view that secularism leads to social collapse. Boot says:

Barr’s simplistic idea that the country is better off if it is more religious is based on faith, not evidence. … Fundamentalists may be unhappy that religious observance has declined over the decades, but the data shows that, by most measurements, life has gotten much better for most people. There is little evidence that a decline in religiosity leads to a decline in society — or that high levels of religiosity strengthen society. (Remember, Rome fell after it converted to Christianity.) If anything, the evidence suggests that too much religion is bad for a country.

Someone tell the Supreme Court, as they are poised to weigh in on whether a religious foster care agency can discriminate against same-sex parents because Jesus. I have a feeling that the Court will decide in favor of “because Jesus.”

Or tell the folks of the Arizona State Senate, who tried to prevent State Sen. Juan Mendez from delivering his scheduled invocation on Secular Day, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, for which 100 people showed up. He did get to speak, but only when he raised a “point of privilege.”

Ugh, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is overturning lower courts and allowing the Trump administration to ban clinics that get any taxpayer funding from making referrals to abortion services or sharing office space with abortion providers. The AMA said:

“This government overreach and interference demands that physicians violate their ethical obligations – prohibiting open, frank conversations with patients about all their health care options – if they want to continue treating patients under the Title X program,” it said in a written statement. “It is unconscionable that the government is telling physicians that they can treat this underserved population only if they promise not to discuss or make referrals for all treatment options.”

I thought the persecution of Christians was more or less the only foreign policy concern of the Trump administration, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the denial of asylum for a Chinese woman who is afraid of being persecuted back home for her practice of Christianity. The case is Wang v. Barr. So I guess Bill Barr only wants certain kinds of Christians.

David MacMillan at the Cincinnati Enquirer rails against Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter tourist trap, and how it has drained Williamstown, Kentucky:

As a science advocate, I take strong issue with the nonscience Ham peddles to families and students. His parody of the scientific method does real harm, bleeding inexorably into education and public policy. The wholehearted embrace of “alternative facts” and the rejection of plain evidence are making our society more and more polarized. Yet Ham’s treatment of Williamstown is a reminder that these sorts of cult-like organizations have impacts that go much farther than the foolish ideas they promote.

Karl Bode at Vice takes the Post to task for inflating the authority of the Heartland Institute, the right-wing outfit that churns out excuses for things like denial of climate change, and is promoting Bizarro-Greta Naomi Seibt:

The Washington Post not only gives Heartland and Seibt a mainstream platform to spout climate science denialism, the paper parrots terms like “climate skeptics,” lending unearned legitimacy to a position the vast majority of global scientists say isn’t just false, but existentially dangerous. …

… The hour is getting late, and we no longer have the luxury of journalists who can’t identify and avoid obvious misinformation. At the very least, journalists have a responsibility to avoid amplifying bad faith nonsense spread by corporations looking to pollute the public discourse.

New CSICon video! And it’s Joe Schwarz. We love Joe Schwarz. Here, he talks about how the media gets chemistry really, really wrong. And he talks about beaver butts.

Mike Hughes, the flat-earther who died in a homemade rocket crash, apparently wasn’t looking to prove anything about the flatness of the planet with this particular stunt. Instead, it was part of a Science Channel show on “homemade astronauts.” That’s its own red flag right there.

In case you needed more reasons to believe that Earth is spherical, Matthew Cappucci at the Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang offers some weather-based reasons, such as how gravity would cause the atmosphere to crush you, rain would fall sideways, and a total lack of hurricanes.

The folks in charge of assigning observing time with the James Webb Space Telescope are experimenting with anonymizing proposals from researchers in order to mitigate a big bias toward submissions by men. Here’s what happened with one such experiment in 2018, via Scientific American:

According to a report from the committee, scientists submitted nearly 500 proposals that cycle, more than 10 times the number that Hubble had time to gather observations for. Of those proposals, 28% were led by female scientists; of the 40 successful proposals, 12 were led by female scientists. That put female scientists at an 8.7% rate of success and male scientists at 8%, about the same; the year before, without fully anonymous proposals, those numbers were 13% and 24%. “It would be premature to draw broad conclusions, but the results are encouraging” that the anonymous method worked, the statement concluded.

Dan Evon at Snopes deals with the weird claim that a map of U.S. cave systems lines up perfectly with a map showing U.S. missing persons. To be brief, the map of missing persons only shows “mysterious” disappearances, like those who get lost in the woods, not those who disappear from cities or what have you, and the cave system map is, you know, where caves are, like, in nature.

There’s more! Evon sites Skeptical Inquirer for Kyle Polich’s 2017 investigation into claims about mysterious disappearances by David Paulides for his Missing411 books. Snopes quotes Polich:

I was finding these cases to be fairly mundane until I arrived at the hiker’s disappearance. Following a deadpan factual reporting of the details, Paulides quotes a local person saying cryptically that “according to local legend, beings called Lemurians lived underneath Mount Shasta . . . maybe the Lemurians got Carl.” …

… I can only presume Paulides is open to the possibility that some nefarious Batman villain is at work in this area.

Well, where does Batman live? IN A CAVE, KYLE. IN A CAVE.

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.