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We Are Not Dumb (Mostly)

March 29, 2019

A new Pew survey shows that Americans’ basic science knowledge isn’t as bad as it’s often made out to be, but it’s not great, either. Interestingly, Democrats and Republicans are pretty much even in terms of scientific literacy, with liberal Democrats narrowly leading the other three categories (conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, and moderate Democrats), and moderate Democrats significantly lower than the others. Republicans overall edge out Democrats (7 out of 11 questions answered correctly on average versus 6.6, respectively).

At FiveThirtyEight, Maggie Koerth-Baker sums it up by saying, “Basically, Americans aren’t dumb.”

Attempting to avoid looking like absolute monsters, the Supreme Court flip-flops on the issue of non-Christian death row inmates getting the chaplain of their choice, as they stay the execution of Buddhist Patrick H. Murphy in Texas. The Court said Murphy can’t be executed “unless the state permits Murphy’s Buddhist spiritual adviser or another Buddhist reverend of the state’s choosing to accompany Murphy in the execution chamber during the execution.” This is exactly what they would NOT do for a Muslim death row inmate last month who they allowed to be killed without the spiritual advisor he asked for.

Oh, and one more thing, via Adam Liptak at the Times:

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have allowed the execution to proceed.

California’s legislature is considering a bill that would give state health officials the authority to revoke fraudulent medical exemptions from mandated vaccinations. Go get ’em!

The Economist looks into what fuels (and funds) the anti-vaxxer movement, noting how the pro-reality community has probably been too passive in allowing the conspiracy theorists to own the spotlight.

Today, the Other Portland (the one in Oregon) officially enacts its new law explicitly protecting atheists and other nonbelievers from discrimination. Hmm.

Responding to the unhinged yo-dawg-I-heard-you-like-Jesus prayer by State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz in Pennsylvania, another legislator, Kevin Boyle, is sponsoring a resolution calling for any House prayers to be crafted with “respect of all religious beliefs.” Nothing about respecting those without said beliefs.

The EPA’s Particulate Matter Review Panel says, you know, breathing in air pollution is probably just fine. I mean, who can really say whether coating the inside of one’s lungs with soot is bad for you?

At Skeptical Inquirer, Kylie Sturgess interviews Jo Thornley, author of the book Zealot: A Book About Cults.

Some guy who thinks REAL MEN are under threat, one Dr. Paul Nathanson, goes on Laura Ingraham’s podcast to warn us all that transgender people are conspiring to “use social engineering to create a new species,” which Ingraham translates as “part human, part animal,” and Nathanson says is “part human, part machine,” and I’m all, SIGN ME UP.

Glenn Branch at the NCSE celebrates the demise of several states’ “anti-indoctrination” bills:

For legislators who approve of the principle that public school teachers should not use their classrooms for political, ideological, and religious advocacy should recognize that evolution and climate change are scientifically uncontroversial. It is only ideologues—whether religious or political—who attempt to stigmatize evolution and climate change as controversial.

Mike Huckabee, who apparently still exists, is hopping mad that Chick-fil-A isn’t in San Antonio’s airport after being denied a spot over the company’s anti-LGBTQ activities, saying that the city is “denying them the ability to do business.” Hemant clarifies things for us:

San Antonio hasn’t banned Chick-fil-A. You know how we know that? Because, unlike Huckabee, we know how to look things up without talking out of our ass.

Learn something new every day.

The Human Rights Campaign yanks Google off its “Corporate Equality Index” over its hosting of a gay-conversion app on the Play Store. Google has now pulled the app.

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa signs into law one of those garbage “campus free speech” laws intended to allow groups to discriminate against LGBTQ folks and other marginalized groups.

The Times-News in Idaho does a puff piece on the mainstreaming of psychics and other paranormal hooey, with pretty much everything the woo-merchants being taken at face value. Lots of claims backed only by the frequent invocation of “according to [person being quoted].”

Three candidates for the St. Louis school board say creationism should be taught in public school science classes. This is the darkest timeline.

Headline of the day, from Business Insider: “Scientists can trace how humans migrated across the world through the thousands of microscopic bugs laying eggs in your face.”

Quote of the Day

Derek Lowe at Science trashes junk research that tries to bolster homeopathy. Wrap your brain around this, if you can (and you probably can’t):

Let us do a back-of-the envelope calculation. Our galaxy’s radius is roughly 52,850 light years. A spherical container the size of our galaxy, then, has a volume of 1.97 x 1014 light years, or 1.67 x 1062 cubic meters. We will fill this vessel with distilled water, and never mind where we get all 1.67 x 1065 liters needed to do so. … Avogadro-ing it out gives us about 5.6 x 1094 molecules of water therein. (Note, interestingly, that this is well over the estimate of the number of atoms – much less molecules – in the observable universe, because the observable universe consists overwhelmingly of empty space rather than matter at the density of liquid water!) Thus when we introduce one single solitary antibody molecule to our galaxy-flask and mix thoroughly, we have a dilution on the order of one part in ten to the ninety-fifth or so, rounding off.

But that’s nowhere near the concentration of many homeopathic preparations.

Told you.

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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.