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The Monkey Part

September 23, 2019

2 million people responded to the original Storm Area 51 posting. Authorities in the area feared about 30,000 would actually show up and utterly overwhelm the tiny Nevada communities. In the end, about 3000 people came and not a whole lot happened, which is the best possible outcome, really. The Post reports:

As of Friday afternoon, at least two people had been arrested since the first revelers started to arrive Thursday night, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry D. Lee told The Washington Post. One person was arrested for public indecency after urinating on a gate, and another was booked after an alcohol-related arrest turned up an outstanding warrant. Lee said a few more people were taken into custody for trespassing and released, and one person was injured in a rollover accident.

No one stormed Area 51, though some ruffians looked like they might. They dispersed. So everything turned out fine. Oh wait:

Instead of being scooped up by a UFO Friday night on the Extraterrestrial Highway, one unlucky cow was hit and killed by a car in a part of the desert that, during any normal weekend, is practically empty.

A car on state Route 375, also called the Extraterrestrial Highway, between Rachel and Hiko crashed into a cow Friday night, according to a tweet from the Nevada Highway Patrol.

No human injuries were reported. The cow, though, is dead, an NHP spokesman said Saturday.

Bastards.

At The Atlantic, Olga Khaza recounts her education, or lack thereof, in the origins of humans, and looks at how her experience is hardly unique:

Some of these teachers might even introduce evolutionary ideas such as natural selection and microevolution. But they skip the part we skipped—the monkey part. The reason is perhaps unsurprising: Creationists “are not invested in whether evolution affects the sizes and shapes of the beaks of finches in the Galápagos,” says Glenn Branch, the deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, which supports teaching evolution in schools. “They are worried about whether people were created in the image of God himself.”

Y’all know that CSICon is almost here, right? And you need to get registered? Cool. Cool. Celestia Ward wants to help you out for when you get here, and has some tips for a Skeptic in the Big City.

Pakistani human rights activist Gulalai Ismail, accused of blasphemy and treason, has successfully escaped to the U.S.

Reps. Susan Wild and Sean Casten, neither of whom are avowed atheists, are the newest members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus.

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont says he’s going to end religious exemptions for vaccinations. I have a feeling that will be harder to pull off in Connecticut than some other states, but boy I hope he can.

Case in point: The LA Times does a deep behind-the-scenes look at California’s tumultuous political debate over what eventually became its vaccine law. And meanwhile, anti-vaxxer petitioners in Maine have managed to get enough signatures to get the overturn of that state’s recent vaccine law put on the ballot, and it looks like the whole operation stinks. The Beacon reports:

“We were going into the Old Navy store in Freeport and we’re stopped by a man and asked if we were registered voters in Maine. We said yes and he asked if we would sign a petition to get mandatory vaccines on the ballot. My mom said she was for vaccines and asked if it was ‘hiding’ something else and he said no, just about mandatory vaccines,” explained Melissa Sage, who works in pediatric care. “I said I thought the governor already signed that, and so took the petition and when I read it I realized it was to reverse the mandatory vaccines.” …

… “These signature collectors lied to my face every time I spoke to them, falsely claiming the People’s Veto would bring back the medical exemption – which was not removed by the Maine Legislature,” tweeted University of Maine Political Science professor and Bangor Daily News columnist Amy Fried, who said she encountered petition gatherers multiple times on campus.

Hunter (no last name?) at DailyKos has had it (as have I) with the whole anti-vaxxer trope of comparing themselves to civil rights activists:

A group of mostly white, mostly well-off people marching through government hallways singing, “We Shall Overcome” in an effort to reintroduce polio is a bit too on the nose, in the America of 2019. There is indeed a right in this nation to harm your own children based on made-up conspiracy theories forwarded on by people who actually want to sell you bottles of, say, homeopathic paprika. Sure. But California Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove of Los Angeles, a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, was not keen on people using that particular comparison to exercise it.

“This is a misappropriation of a movement that really is not over and proves to be challenging to overcome,” Politico quoted her as saying. “The whole conversation around vaccinations is actually one about privilege and opportunity.” …

… But don’t come at the rest of us with “We Shall Overcome” because you believe being able to spread smallpox if you damn well want to is a new civil right. This year has been too long and the news too grave for the rest of us to put up with that noise.

Kelsey Dallas at Deseret News rounds up eight religion-related Supreme Court cases coming up, all of which I assume will be decided badly.

The seas are boiling, and Jeff Sparrow at The Guardian says it’s not enough to call what’s happening an “extinction event,” but rather an “extermination,” because we know exactly what we’re doing.

Jeff Bezos says he’s going to have Amazon comply with the Paris climate agreement and go carbon-neutral by 2040.

David Gorski explores the utility of placebo research when its results are so often co-opted by quacks.

Madison Magazine profiles former cops who are now “ghost hunters,” and quotes Skeptical Inquirer and Ben Radford on the tech they use. Ben says:

The supposed links between ghosts and electromagnetic fields, low temperatures, radiation, odd photographic images and so on are based on nothing more than guesses, unproven theories and wild conjecture. If a device could reliably determine the presence or absence of ghosts, then by definition ghosts would be proven to exist.”

Duke University and the University of North Carolina could lose some federal funding because their program on greater understanding of the Middle East is too neutral on Islam and insuficiently reverential of Christianity (and Judaism because Israel).

Trump and Sen. Joe Manchin were apparently excited about West Virginia’s Mothman Festival. Insider checks in with our own Joe Nickell about why people think this thing actually exists. (Red-eye effect, hoaxes, and owls.)

George Takei’s website has an article up that is weirdly belittling of atheists, asserting in the opening, “Atheism generally comes about from people who have completely and totally lost their faith, either via a traumatic life event or from some other disillusionment.” Oh, does it now, Doctor Mindreader? “Not to say that atheists are bad people.” Ugh.

Apparently people would like to be locked up in here with Hermann Rorschach. Adam Rosenberg at Mashable gushes:

Wikipedia tells me that the Rorschach test was labeled as pseudoscience in 2001 (among other times). Clearly, the authors of that article never saw a photo of this man. How could anyone say a face that hot is full of shit?

Quote of the Day

PixelatedBoat on Twitter:

My relationship with Big wasn’t the only thing I blew up that day. At the Trinity test site I detonated the first plutonium bomb, unleashing a 22 kiloton blast. Had I become Death, destroyer of worlds? Meanwhile uptown, Samantha had her hands full with her own “Manhattan project”


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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