Andrey Kiselev - Adobe Stock

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Bzzzzz!

June 30, 2020

Yet another surprise positive outcome from an otherwise-hostile Supreme Court. Yesterday, the Court stuck down Louisiana’s draconian anti-abortion law, due to Chief Justice Roberts siding with the reality-based justices. Roberts’s reasoning was technical, but we’ll take it. The Post reports:

“The legal doctrine of stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” Roberts wrote in concurring with the decision. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Roberts’s vote was all the more striking because he had dissented in the Texas case. He wrote that he continues to “believe that the [Texas] case was wrongly decided.” But he said the question was whether to “adhere to it in deciding the present case.”

Today, we may be in for a lot more cases which may bring the Court back into the “hostile” zone. We’ll see.


What’s the Hurry?

Mike Pence has finally copped to the crazy, extremist, loony-left idea that yeah, you should wear a face mask. What a snowflake! His boss must be spitting mad. But whatever, because the VP also went maskless to a Dallas church where a big choir of middle-aged folks, clumped close together, sang with great passion, of course without masks.

Pastor Tim Deason of Sugartown United Pentecostal Church in Louisiana shamed his parishioners who didn’t want to come to church and get infected. After literally calling out people who weren’t there by name, he says, “Why do I get up here sometimes fussing and complaining?… I’m trying to get you to Heaven.” Yes, but we didn’t realize you were trying to get us there so quickly.

I’m also not entirely convinced that this pastor is not a Muppet. Just a thought.

I remember vaguely, as a kid who did not follow sports (that’s putting it lightly, as sports was sort of my Deep State arch nemesis), I still knew who Boomer Esiason was. I think because he was in a movie once. I dunno. Anyway. His son Gunnar has been fighting cystic fibrosis his whole life, and Gunnar recently made a point of showing folks on social media that, guess what, face masks do not keep you from getting oxygen. He ads:

A huge shoutout to the infectious disease lectures our keyboard epidemiologists have been handing down to me. That’s been a fun journey through pseudoscience. Maybe I should have enrolled at the University of YouTube instead of an actual public health school.

In the American Journal of Public Health, Wendy E. Parmet and Jeremy Paul call COVID-19 the first “posttruth pandemic”:

In our posttruth world, the line between fact and opinion fades. Being “caught” in a lie no longer guarantees negative consequences, and the phrase “believing is seeing” has transformed from a psychological insight into an accepted way of life. Although the roots of this epistemic crisis are clearly visible in the antivax movement and climate change denialism, COVID-19 may be our first posttruth pandemic. …

… Even worse is the perception that there is no objective “truth” and so no need to search for it or to test claims against it. Rather, truth feels fleeting; claims are more or less persuasive based not on the accumulation of rigorous science or the credibility and expertise of the speaker but on the celebrity, political party, or intuition of speaker and listener.


Escape Idaho

So Idaho sounds like a scary place these days. Chrissy Stroop at Religion Dispatches reports on a rogue gathering of state legislators with an Ammon Bundy-led armed entourage:

It’s a somewhat impressive feat to be right of center in the already quite red and theocratically-inclined Idaho GOP. After all, in March, the state passed two bills enshrining discrimination against transgender people into law, prompting California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to add Idaho to a list of states banned by California from taxpayer-funded travel. But, representing a sort of nexus of New World Order conspiracy theories, apocalyptic Christianity, (often not overt) white supremacism, and gun-toting militia members, the legislators involved in the June 23 stunt managed to pull it off.

The mothership. It’s finally here. Take me with you.

Former CFI boss Ron Lindsay returns to the blog to rebut the idea that writing about or depicting certain traumas or struggles must be reserved for individuals or groups with direct experience:

As with some other articles of faith, there is a half-truth that appears to support this dogma. Direct personal experience can engender an intensity in one’s feelings not necessarily shared by others. After all, there’s that folk wisdom which holds “you need to walk a mile in my shoes” to get how I feel. But we need to distinguish between emotional involvement with an issue and understanding of an issue

This is weird. Did you know that in Greece, a birth certificate indicates whether or not a person was “christened”? Well, the European Court of Human Rights just said they shouldn’t do that:

Such information appearing in a public document issued by the State constitutes an interference with the right of all of the applicants not to be obliged to manifest their beliefs, which is inherent in the notion of freedom of religion and conscience as protected by Article 9 of the Convention.


Goosing Evolution

At Skeptical Inquirer, Ada McVean looks at examples of animal species whose evolution is being influenced by humans, which is happening remarkably quickly:

Because we tend to fixate on the drastic changes caused by evolution over huge timescales, it’s easy to ignore the small variations between generations that add together over time to form the big evolutionary changes we focus on. This unintentional side-lining of small adaptations can blind us to the ways in which humans are directly affecting the evolutionary processes of nature. From tuskless elephants to fish that can’t smell, animals are developing specialized adaptations to allow them to live in ecosystems that have been disrupted and altered by mankind.

I don’t have time to read this yet, but it’s going into the ol’ Pocket queue for sure: A New York Times Magazine piece about the work of physicist Angelo Bassi, who seems to ascribe to a “heresy” in physics (got my attention!!), and at one point in the article, something goes, “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!” So I’m all about it.

Fernando Tormos-Aponte, writing at Scientific American, makes a case for scientists and academics to take an activist role in the fight for racial equality beyond statements of solidarity:

Mobilization is not at odds with our educational mission. Activism fulfills a crucial pedagogical function as it enables participants to engage in the democratic process. Many of these lessons cannot be imparted within the confines of our now-empty university halls.

Now, this is a great opening sentence. Sarah Sloat at Inverse writes:

It’s easy to forget that we’re a single species within the genus Homo because everyone else is dead.

She goes on to report on why this might be so.


The Real Space Force

Boy oh boy, do I wish I could say “Why yes, I work for the Spaceguard Center and I defend the world from threats from outer space.” That’s Jay Tate’s job, watching the skies for near-Earth objects that might obliterate us. BBC reports:

A former officer in the British Army, where he specialised in missile systems, Mr Tate does not romanticise his work.

“This isn’t really science. This is defence,” he said.

“It’s surveillance rather than science, and surveillance is a military function.”

Robert Wright has a conversation with philosopher Galen Strawson, who subscribes to a kind of “panpsychism,” the idea that consciousness pervades everything, sort of like the Force or something. Here’s a snippet:

[RW:] If you’re not saying that it’s like something to be a rock, but you’re saying it’s conscious, what does it mean to say it’s conscious?

[GS:] No, I do mean that. There’s something that’s like to be…

[RW:] A rock.

[GS:] No, not the rock.

[RW:] Not the rock, but the little stuff. Yeah. What is it like? Tell us!

[GS:] Oh, it’s sort of like this: “Bzzzzz!”

That makes much more sense.


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.



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