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The Aura of Edginess

January 16, 2020

Good morning! Let’s feel bad. New Jersey’s legislature gave into anti-vaxxer pressure and scuttled a bill to end religious exemptions. (They say they’ll try again.)

Gallup releases dispiriting numbers about the public acceptance of vaccines, as reported by Gizmodo:

Only 84 percent of people agreed that childhood vaccination was extremely or very important, the poll found. That percentage is unchanged from a similar Gallup poll conducted in 2015, but it continues a slide from the 94 percent of people who said the same in a 2001 Gallup poll. What’s more, while 85 percent of people with children under 18 said vaccines were crucial in 2015, only 77 percent said so in 2019.

Rejoice! For we have video of Jen Gunter’s presentation at 2019’s CSICon on “Wellness, Women, and the Religion of Pseudoscience.”

Michael Schulson at The Wire looks at why it is that when we strike down Goop it only becomes more powerful than we can possibly imagine:

… the cycle may sound familiar to observers of the 21st century digital media landscape: a celebrity (in this case, Paltrow) makes a statement. In interviews and on social media, experts clamour to explain why that statement is misleading, false, or dangerous. Instead of apologising, the celebrity rebukes the critics and doubles down on the claim – and in return receives a publicity boost, as well the aura of edginess that comes from controversy.

Jonathan Stea at Psychology Today looks at research into what traits predict for belief in alternative medicine, and you won’t be surprised to know that belief in the paranormal and “intuitive thinking” are among them:

The findings suggest that there are particular psychological variables that can predict belief and possible utilization of CAM practices. Further, the researchers note a very astute point: that CAM practices are often promoted and marketed in a manner that is appealing to a non-rational, intuitive style of thinking, using oversimplified explanations of problems and solutions, familiar and concrete concepts, and with reference to personal experience, anecdotal evidence, and testimonials.

Rachel Anderson at WZVN looks into the use of elderberry syrup to prevent the flu, which is obviously boneheaded and you shouldn’t do.

At The Daily Beast, Alaina Demopoulos digs into the pseudoscience of Enneagrams for evaluating one’s personality:

Few things can unite the religious right and Marianne Williamson supporters like the Enneagram does, probably because regardless of politics, people just like talking about themselves.

Aysha Khan at RNS reports on how Muslim women are dealing with sexual abuse by religious leaders, as well as the debate about framing it as “spiritual abuse”:

That includes physical abuse, fraud and embezzlement and initiation of secret, temporary or child marriages and also hints at the damage such abuse can inflict on a victim’s own relationship with their faith.

Zahra Ayubi, a Dartmouth professor researching gender and Islamic ethics, cautioned that use of the phrase “spiritual abuse” as a euphemistic catch-all term may minimize the damage of sexual violence and confuse the vulnerable communities it aims to protect.

Others see it as a critical strategic move.

“Calling it spiritual in order to get people to talk about it can also be a very intentional strategy,” [Prof. Juliane] Hammer observed. “If they walk in and say, ‘I want to talk about sexual abuse by religious authority figures,’ people want to shut down the conversation. So advocates are looking at where the community is and what will allow them to talk about it.”

Omar Suleiman says Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to reject refugees is based in anti-Islamic hate, which, you know, is pretty clear. He says it “endangers Muslims by portraying them as foreign threats”:

We cannot ignore the fact that when Trump initiated his Muslim ban, 28-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette walked into a mosque in Quebec and murdered six worshippers in cold blood. His stated reason for doing so was to deter Syrian refugees who had been rejected by the United States from coming to Canada.

That single act of terror cost more lives than terrorist attacks in this country by a Syrian refugee, which of course come to a grand total of zero.

Bustle reports on the struggles of Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer, the couple who won an anti-discrimination lawsuit against a cake baker in Oregon, and has faced abuse and harassment ever since…and now the Supreme Court wants their case dug up and reviewed again.

Dave Roos at History.com looks back at an event from the 1950s that he says first got the UK military to take UFOs seriously:

[Royal Air Force] crew on the ground spotted a silvery, circular object traveling several thousand feet above the Meteor, but on its same trajectory. … At first, [Lt.] Kilburn thought it was a parachute or engine cowling that had broken loose from the jet.

Then the object stopped suddenly in mid-air, rotated on its own axis and zipped off at incredible speeds over the horizon.

“The acceleration was in excess of that of a shooting star,” reported Kilburn. “I have never seen such a phenomenon before. The movements of the object were not identifiable with anything I have seen in the air.”

Pope Francis appoints Francesca Di Giovanni to be the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, the first woman in the job.

Missouri State Rep. Ben Baker wants to put librarians in jail for lending evil books, and degrees of evil would be determined by a parental library review board. Hemant says, “Rather than calling for book-burning, he’s just trying to find a loophole that allows Christian bigots to block kids from learning more about topics he doesn’t like.”

Phosphorus, which is necessary to form DNA, came from spaaaaaaaaaaaaace probably!


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