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Unfortunate Regressions

October 1, 2019

Oh boy, the Supreme Court gets back to business today. I wonder what holes they will blow in the wall between church and state this time.

As The Joker is about to hit theaters, Benjamin Radford explores whether there is any merit to the increased security measures over fears of Aurora-like violence:

Whether the credible threat to the Joker film materializes remains to be seen, but it’s not surprising that authorities would take it seriously. Any other time reports of threatening clowns would likely have been ignored or dismissed, but these copycat clown incidents came at a time when very real terroristic threats and school shootings are in the news. Parents can take comfort that no clowns are actually trying to abduct or harm kids—not a single credible report has surfaced of any child being hurt or even touched by a threatening clown, nor have any Joker figures killed anyone.

Kenny Biddle at Skeptical Inquirer tests out some paranormal detection tech, which he says is “the equivalent of tossing a bunch of lawn darts into the air and hoping one will land in the target circle that isn’t anywhere to be found.” One of the sellers of this crap that Kenny mentions in the piece, Jeromy Jones, wrote in to CFI to call Kenny a moron, so this is the class of person we’re dealing with here.

Ian Millhiser, now at Vox since ThinkProgress got the kibosh, explains what’s up with the Trump Justice Department’s decision to swoop in to the Indiana Catholic school case and help ensure their right to discriminate:

The Trump administration’s decision to weigh in on this case is surprising because Payne-Elliott filed his suit in an Indiana trial court — i.e. not in a federal court — and the case would have to run the full gauntlet of appeals in Indiana’s court system before it could even be considered by the Supreme Court. It’s unclear how the Justice Department even became aware of this lawsuit, although it’s possible that they were lobbied to weigh in on this case by conservative religious groups or by the Catholic Church itself. …

… According to the Trump administration, allowing this suit to proceed would violate the archdiocese’s right to “expressive association” — a First Amendment claim that allows certain organizations to decide who they wish to associate with.

That claim is potentially quite radical, and it could lead to many employers gaining a broad new right to ignore anti-discrimination laws. Because expressive association is a constitutional claim, a Supreme Court decision expanding that doctrine could trump anti-discrimination suits brought under any federal or state statute — including the federal ban on race and sex discrimination.

In Skeptical Inquirer, CFI legal maestro Nick Little lays out the reasoning for using litigation to combat pseudoscience, as in our lawsuits against Walmart and CVS:

The government requirements for homeopathy are laughably low, and where the homeopathic manufacturers failed to follow them, the government failed to act. The individual harm to most consumers of homeopathy, even if they could be convinced of the worthlessness of the product they bought, is so low that motivating them to join a lawsuit would be almost impossible. For years, this seemed insurmountable.

Washington, D.C., Consumer Protection law, however, came to the rescue. Under District of Columbia law, consumers have an enforceable right to truthful information about products sold to them. And, most important, court decisions applying that law have made clear that it is not just the consumer that can sue; organizations such as CFI can act on behalf of the general public and bring suit to challenge breaches of this right.

At the CFI blog, Jamie Hale explains why exercise is good for your brain, and look, I don’t need to feel any guiltier than I already do. But okay, maybe I should do a little jog before I write the Heresy each morning. Maybe there’d be fewer typos. Ahem:

Research indicates that anaerobic exercise can also be beneficial to the brain. In one study, learning performance was tested directly after a single bout of high impact anaerobic sprints (two three-minute sprints separated by a two-minute rest), low impact aerobic running (forty minutes), or a period of rest, in twenty-seven healthy participants (fifteen minutes). The primary findings showed that the high impact group improved significantly on measures of learning performance, while the other groups did not demonstrate increased learning.

Pope Francis met with Jesuit priest James Martin at the Vatican, in a discussion which Martin says focused on “ministry to LGBT Catholics, which [Francis] was happy to talk about.” I wonder what Francis would say about Catholic schools firing gay teachers. Bet that teacher is going to be hard to “minister to” now.

The pope also had a warning for Silicon Valley types:

If mankind’s so-called technological progress were to become an enemy of the common good, this would lead to an unfortunate regression to a form of barbarism dictated by the law of the strongest.

Not that he’d know anything about that.

Chiropractor-naturopath-acupunturists are bamboozling veterans. NBC Los Angeles reports:

“They tell me they’re going to put me through treatment to cure me,” [Carlos Dominguez] said.

The disabled veteran says he was drawn to Superior Health Centers by an invitation offering a free dinner and the promise of stem cell treatments. …

… Dominguez said Superior Health bombarded him with paperwork — he showed us the documents and pointed out more than a dozen places he had to initial and sign.

“They keep shoving one after another after another. They don’t even give you a chance to stop and you know, get your thoughts straight.”

When it was all said and done, Dominguez had signed up for 2 1/2 months treatment at a cost of $15,602.

NASA chief scientist Jim Green says our earthling brains aren’t ready to process the discovery of life on Mars:

It will be revolutionary. It will start a whole new line of thinking. I don’t think we’re prepared for the results. We’re not.

American Atheists’ suit against Arkansas state legislator Jason Rapert, filed for blocking atheists comments on his official social media pages, is going ahead despite Rapert’s attempt to get the case dismissed.

The county board of Collierville, Tennessee unanimously votes to give $15,000 to a Bible museum. Hey, you can’t do that!

I am SUPER EXCITED about this War of the Worlds adaptation coming from the BBC.

Oh, National Geographic. How far you have fallen.

Quote of the Day

Jen Kim at Psychology Today looks at the tools of con artists, including psychics and astrologers and the like, and shows how we are all susceptible:

Imagine a series of terrible things happen to you—at some point, you’re going to start to believe that the common denominator in all of these experiences is you. It’s no surprise that you start feeling like it’s your fault. Or that you are probably craving ways to feel validated or good about yourself. … This makes me think that the rest of us aren’t special or smarter. Rather, we might all just be a few bad days from getting conned too.

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.