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Such Deeply Stupid Questions

November 11, 2019

At the New York Times, Eugene Linden looks at how scientists’ predictions about the severity of climate change has become more dire over time:

Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

Scholars from George Mason Univsersity and Harvard publish a study in Science purporting to show how the early Catholic Church more or less made human psychology what it is today. That does not fill one with confidence. Julie Zauzmer reports:

The researchers assert that they can trace all sorts of modern-day differences among cultures — from donating blood to strangers to paying parking tickets — to the influence of medieval Catholicism.

“The longer the duration under the church will predict greater individualism, less conformity and obedience, and more cooperation and trust with strangers. Our findings have big implications,” said Joseph Henrich, one of the researchers. … Countries exposed to Catholicism early have citizens today who exhibit qualities such as being more individualistic and independent, and being more trusting of strangers.

My boss Robyn Blumner is the guest on the latest episode of the podcast Banachek’s Brain, and our board member Richard Dawkins is the guest on Conversations with Tom, with Tom Bilyeu, where he says:

This is of course the mission of the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation, that we are out there to try to promote the real, and truth, and skeptical examination of evidence-based reality, and it’s a very, very important mission. … We are living in a time where reality is being actively distorted, and it’s very important to counteract that.

Peggy Fletcher-Stack at the Salt Lake Tribune takes a deep dive into what the law says about religious accomodation at the workplace

A progressive group is asking Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito to recuse themselves from upcoming LBTQ rights cases after it’s revealed they posed for pictures with folks from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, whose less-severe crimes include co-opting the wonderful acronym “NOM” for their evil purposes.

Melissa Hellmann at the Seattle Times looks at the impacts of artificial intelligence on religious belief:

Organized religions have long served as an outlet for humans to explore existential questions about their place in the universe, the nature of consciousness and free will. But as AI blurs the lines between the digital and physical worlds, fundamental beliefs about the essence of humanity are now called into question.

While public discourse around advanced technologies has mostly focused on changes in the workforce and surveillance, religious followers say the deeper implications of AI could be soul-shifting.

Look out, everybody. John Ellis at the Christian Post has figured out how to get atheists to accept Christ:

Say something, anything, to your atheist friends and family members. Tell them that God loves them and that you’re praying for them if that’s all the time and courage you have. Share the gospel with them. Pray for them. Pray for them some more. But say something. You have no way of knowing how the Holy Spirit might use even the smallest act of love to break a sinner’s heart and bring them to repentance and faith.

You’re next.

Journalist Aatish Taseer, son of assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer (killed for opposing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws), is stripped of his overseas Indian citizenship after writing critically of Narendra Modi.

Popular Mechanics has a listicle-gallery thing about seven weird conspiracy theories, most of which you’ll have heard of probably, except maybe the idea that Disney’s Frozen was produced specifcally to get people to accidentally google Walt Disney’s cryogenic state. I like the one about how the Moon doesn’t exist.

Tara Isabella Burton introduces us to “Weird Christian Twitter,” mostly younger Catholics who geek out about their particular orthodoxy, and are “less rightwing than they are instinctively reactionary.” Fun.

Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin wants kids to send in science-related ornaments for the state capitol’s holiday tree. It’s like he wants me to swoon over him.

Meanwhile, his colleagues in the state legislature want to pass a “National Bible Week” resolution. Blech.

Irish public schools have parents fill out forms that ask the to indicate their kids’ religion, which, as you can imagine, is problematic, considering that little kids don’t get to pick these religions (or lack thereof) for themselves. So John Hamill of the Free Thought Prophet Podcast wrote to his kid’s teacher, saying, among other things:

To determine whether or not she may be a Protestant, I decided to begin with the Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther. Since Aideen was unable to name a single one, I thought that I may be on the wrong track altogether with Christianity. …

… Broader inquiries focused initially on the Hindu pantheon. I had to explain that neither a god with blue skin and an elephant’s head called Ganesh, nor a god with a monkey’s head called Hanuman, were in fact cartoon characters. Aideen seemed incredulous that a billion people could believe in such deities. …

… At this point I was at a loss. Since there is no box to tick on the form indicating that the Department of Education shouldn’t ask such deeply stupid questions about ten year olds, I have simply declined to provide the information. I hope you understand.

State Rep. Tamara Meyer Le of New Hamsphire is correctly bothered by the problems with private religious schools, but she probably didn’t help her cause when she posted “F*** private and religious schools” on Facebook.

Great apes might share the “theory of mind” with humans, at least according to experiments in ape cognition that seems to show that they have “false belief understanding.” If only we could all be like those apes.

David Gorski writes about the struggle with the lack of absolute certainty in medicine and science in general:

We really need to teach our children that in science there is no such thing as absolute proof and that medical and scientific conclusions are supported by evidence and subject to change and revision in the face of new evidence. Then there would be less for quacks to work with when they try to persuade people that science is unreliable and their treatments provide certainty.

Rather than try and conjure Houdini, Joe Nickell wrote a poem about conjuring Houdini.

You will not be surprised to know that a gluten-free diet has no impact on autism, except maybe to annoy the autistic person.

Death doulas. This is a thing. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but then you read stuff like this, via RNS:

“I’ve read the Bible, the Quran, I work with chevra kadisha in the Jewish tradition,” said [death doula Alua] Arthur. “I help the people that just want to close the chakras after death…”

Wait for it.

“I try to keep my personal spiritual beliefs out of it,” she added.

Try harder.


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.

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