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Universal Cosmic Something

March 8, 2019

A new Point of Inquiry episode has been injected into the veins of your podcatcher and will inoculate your brain from ignorance. I may be overstating things somewhat, but only somewhat, because Kavin Senapathy brings us New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer and Vaccinator Supreme Paul Offit, both straight from CSICon Las Vegas.

For his “Ask the Atheist” column, Jim Underdown explains what’s wrong with the Bladensburg Cross:

You can pretend that crosses don’t mean Christianity, just like you can pretend that a swastika will only be seen as a Hindu sun sign (which it is), but don’t be surprised if the Goldbergs next door get upset if you hang one on your porch. Individuals get cross tattoos, wear cross jewelry, and make the sign of the cross at the free-throw line because they are Christians displaying their Christianity. That’s no different from showing people you root for a team or drink Diet Coke. We express our tribal loyalties all the time, and that’s ok. If you want to make yourself miserable rooting for the Cleveland Browns, knock yourself out.

But when institutions – especially the U.S. government—plaster symbols all over the place, they are saying something more. They’re saying this is our turf.

After Zuckerberg, out of nowhere, announced that Facebook was going to change everything about itself, it also announced that it would ban ads promoting anti-vaccine misinformation.

At the start of Lent, Pope Francis tells Catholics to free themselves from the “clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness” before returning to work as the head of the most ostentatiously opulent global organization the world has ever known.

Speaking of the snares of selfishness, in France, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin is resigning after being convicted of failing to report the sexual abuse of kids by a priest.

Congratulations to everybody in Utah. Fornication, sex outside marriage, will soon be legal. That’s right, it’s a crime right now.

Also in Utah, Robert Gehrke at the Salt Lake Tribune unloads on Utah legislators who fought to legitimize gay-conversion therapy, killing a bill that would have banned it:

It is pure voodoo. …

… Lisonbee [the legislator who sought to legitimize the therapy] should be reminded that she helped ensure that more Utah children can be subjected to this kind of mistreatment the next time a conversion therapy victim takes his or her own life — which the research shows is likely to happen. Quite an accomplishment.

Retired Marine Corps general John Allen and international relations professor David Victor condemn Trump’s anti-climate-science panel idea, saying that he’s only going to make it harder to get ever-more accurate predictions of global warming’s impacts.

At Skeptical Inquirer online, Rob Palmer interviews skeptic mentalist Mark Edward about his life and times, with a focus on his autobiography Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium.

New York state law says private religious schools must offer an education that is “substantially equivalent” to that of public schools, so of course the religious schools are suing.

James Croft doesn’t want to be an angry atheist, but a public school district event for St. Louis area clergy (which includes him as clergy for the St. Louis Ethical Society) made him pretty damned angry:

The whole event – an event funded by the City of St. Louis, held in St. Louis Public Schools headquarters, hosted by the Superintendent – began and ended with the collective expression of Christian faith. This is not OK.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn suddenly decides that the states should not be the sole arbiters as to whether religion and government should be separate. Now he says that “under current doctrine” states can’t establish state religions. Just under current doctrine, though.

KREM in Washington state reports on large footprints in the snow that are clearly Bigfoot’s and not someone with snowshoes or boots. Good job wasting your time and resources on this, KREM.

A baby’s head phrenology model can be yours for just a few hundred dollars and your dignity.

Gwyneth Paltrow is interested in psychedelics, because of course she is! And she sounds like she knows what she’s talking about:

I mean there’s undeniably some link between being in that state and being connected to some other universal cosmic something.

It’s like she’s not even trying anymore.

Apparently the Trump Space Force has no intention of fighting aliens. Kyle Mizokami at Jalopnik quite rightly asks, well then who the hell will?

Quote of the Day

A letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by one Ron Jones throws necessarily cold water on belief in alien visitation:

… the likelihood of visitors from another planet defies mathematical probabilities.

Others suggest that if we do have such visitors they are likely more advanced than we are just to have made it here. They would walk upright. They would have a thumb in order to have developed and used tools. Probably have eyes looking forward rather than sideways to have escaped predators. They would also be meat eaters in order to have ingested enough protein for a brain to develop to such intelligence. Eating vegetation alone they would have spent too much time hunting for enough protein to have developed such intelligence to be here. …

… It’s a humorous proposition, and one has to agree that in spite of such overpowering numbers, we Earthlings must find a way to get along with each other more than looking for rescue from outer space.

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