Did you know that the paranormal-investigating Independent Investigations Group is now the CFI Investigations Group? Did you know they offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove under testing conditions that they have paranormal or supernatural powers? Did you know that the prize has been bumped up to $250,000? It’s possible you didn’t know any of that, especially if you aren’t psychic. Well it’s all TRUE:
“We’ve been waiting for twenty years now for someone to come along and blow our minds, and while many have tried, no one has proven they can actually do what they say they can do,” said James Underdown, CFIIG founder and Executive Director of Center for Inquiry West in Los Angeles. “Maybe all the real superpowered folks were just waiting for us to raise the stakes. Hopefully a quarter million bucks will do it.”
And speaking of Jim, he’s got a new episode of Point of Inquiry in which he and former Scientologist Tory Christman take a tour through the Church of Scientology’s real estate in Hollywood.
Arizona has emerged as an epicenter of the early summer coronavirus crisis as the outbreak has expanded, flaring across new parts of the country and, notably, infecting more young people.
Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is recording as many as 2,000 cases a day, “eclipsing the New York City boroughs even on their worst days,” warned a Wednesday brief by disease trackers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which observed, “Arizona has lost control of the epidemic.”
According to a study of misinformation about the virus, Sean Hannity has a lot of blood on his hands:
… infection and mortality rates are higher in places where one pundit who initially downplayed the severity of the pandemic — Fox News’s Sean Hannity — reaches the largest audiences.
“We are receiving an incredible number of studies and solid data showing that consuming far-right media and social media content was strongly associated with low concern about the virus at the onset of the pandemic,” said Irene Pasquetto, chief editor of the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, which published one of the studies.
… they found that people who got most of their information from mainstream print and broadcast outlets tended to have an accurate assessment of the severity of the pandemic and their risks of infection. But those who relied on conservative sources, such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories or unfounded rumors…
Andy Larsen at the Salt Lake Tribune says that given the easy proliferation of dangerous misinformation, health experts and institutions kind of blew it with their hedging on mask wearing early in the pandemic:
… the leaders in our medical community went wishy-washy. On Feb. 29, the U.S. surgeon general begged people not to buy masks, saying they were “not effective in preventing general public from catching #coronavirus.” On March 8, Dr. Anthony Fauci went on “60 Minutes” and said “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask.”
That means that the curmudgeonly group of reluctant mask wearers had a lot to hang their hat on: the literal words of the nation’s top health officials from three months ago. Given the inconvenience, that doubt is enough to keep them from wearing a mask most of the time in businesses. …
… Yes, the anti-science crowd is still primarily to blame on both fronts, and they should be roundly criticized. It is unforgivable to dismiss science to that extent in 2020. But mistakes have been made by our leaders, too, in the way they’ve communicated with the public about what we know and when.
Well who needs masks when you have televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s MAGIC SHIELD:
I’m not the sick trying to get healed. I’m the healed and the devil’s trying to give me the flu.
Well, I don’t take it! I have my shield up, thank you very much. Glory to God. Lord. You couldn’t give me that flu if you tried.
Easy not to get infected when no one wants to get near you to begin with.
At Religion Dispatches, parenting author and podcaster Cindy Wang Brandt worries over the evangelical strategy to essentially out-populate everyone else with their indoctrinated kids:
As humans we’re molded by our environment. To deny this would be to ignore evidence from the scientists who study human behavior. Children are deeply impacted by the teachings they receive and the culture which shapes them. Those of us who grew up to be adults who questioned the assumptions of our childhood have done so at great mental anguish and we’ve paid a significant social cost.
A new Pew report shows that 72 percent of Americans think homosexuality should be accepted by society, which is still too low, but a good sign, and a 14-point jump in just ten years. Sweden and the Netherlands have acceptance levels in the 90s, Russia is at a middling 14 percent, and countries like Nigeria and Indonesia are in single digits.
Oh, and yeah, the nones are doing just fine on this issue:
… those who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious “nones,” (that is, those who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular”) tend to be more accepting of homosexuality. Though the opinions of religiously unaffiliated people can vary widely, in virtually every country surveyed with a sufficient number of unaffiliated respondents, “nones” are more accepting of homosexuality than the affiliated.
Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest, writes at RNS that conservative Christians should just accept that they’ve lost the culture war against LGBTQ folks:
Instead of seeking a compromise, religious conservatives bet all their credibility on the Republican Party and President Donald Trump, who promised to appoint judges who would roll back the expansion of gay rights. This has been a costly bet that has alienated millions of young people from Christianity. It is a bet that failed.
And here’s the really, really, really important part:
Church leaders have a hard time acknowledging defeat. Since they think they are fighting God’s battle, the thought of surrender is inconceivable. But surrender here does not mean abandoning church teaching, it means abandoning attempts to use the state to impose church teaching on people.
A Christian nationalist running for the Michigan State House, Robert Regan, has failed to win over one very important constituent: his daughter. Stephanie tweets:
if you’re in michigan and 18+ pls for the love of god do not vote for my dad for state rep. tell everyone
A bill to expand Florida’s existing voucher scheme has been signed into law, which will of course force taxpayers to fund religious schools.
Another sign of changing times: In 2019, There were more humanist weddings in Scotland than Christian weddings, 23 percent to 22 percent. Good thing there’s a super-cool organization in the U.S. that’s training and certifying Secular Celebrants, and even fighting state by state for the right to be married by one of them.
Holes in Space
This blew astronomers’ minds: They think they saw two black holes slamming into each other. “If confirmed,” writes Marina Koren The Atlantic, “the discovery would mark the first time that astronomers have captured light produced by the joining of the darkest objects in the universe.”
NASA wants you to design a new space toilet. After reading Scott Kelly’s book about his year on the International Space Station, let me tell you, NASA needs a new space toilet.
We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at centerforinquiry.org/coronavirus.
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.