Presumably Alienable


July 26, 2020

Presumably Alienable

So much conspiracy theory stuff today. Dana Milbank at the Post decries “The Great American Crackup,” and consults conspiracy theory expert Joseph Uscinski, who is our first speaker for Skeptical Inquirer Presents next week!

Anna Merlan at Vice: “Conspiracy communities that have previously only brushed past each other like schools of fish borne along on different currents are suddenly, abruptly, swimming in the same direction.” She calls it the conspiracy singularity.

David Rohde at The New Yorker compares the weaponization of conspiracy theories during the war in Bosnia to COVID-19 misinformation. It’s not good!

I had told myself that, if a national calamity befell the United States, its leaders and institutions would rise to the challenge. Instead, today, more than a hundred and thirty thousand Americans are dead of the coronavirus—a toll larger, in fact, than the hundred thousand who perished in the war in Bosnia. … It is the United States where the virus is spreading unchecked, owing, in part, to the nation’s lack of leadership and consensus. It is this country that is experiencing calamity.

Wearing a face mask, you’ll be interested to know, is a “Satanic ritual.” Spokane protesters said so. They also say, “The vaccine is coming with a chip. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I’m a realist.”

Google says it will do more banning of COVID-19 conspiracy theory ads. We’ll see.

John Oliver did a thing on conspiracy theories! You are authorized to stop working and watch.


Molly Roberts at the Post on the character assassination of Anthony Fauci by the White House: “We the people have put our faith in Fauci for nearly 40 years, even as trust itself has become almost obsolete.”

Texas is cooking its COVID-19 books. They’ve never been great with books. Texas’s governor is telling people they have to wear masks, which is good, unless you’re in a church or a religious school. So never mind.

This shows the underlying cruelty of the antivaxxer movement: The efforts they go to convince the Black community they’re being targeted by vaccine conspiracies.

How do we know the coronavirus wasn’t made in a lab? I would show evidence of “an existing viral sequence as the backbone for the new virus,” and it doesn’t.

Steven Salzberg on why we should feel confident in a COVID-19 vaccine, should one emerge: “Vaccines work, and our methods for testing them are rigorous and thorough.”

Mike Murphy at the Idaho State Journal writes about UFOs, but it’s not really about UFOs. It’s an “I see what you did there” kind of thing.

Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson at The Atlantic explain the plague of cognitive dissonance during the pandemic: “The challenge is to find a way to live with uncertainty, make the most informed decisions we can, and modify them when the scientific evidence dictates.”


Elisa Massimino and Alexandra Schmitt at the Post say Pompeo’s “unalienable rights” commission endorses “a sort of human rights cafeteria plan, in which ‘property rights and religious liberty’ are the truly unalienable rights, while others are ad hoc (and therefore, presumably, alienable).”

The Congressional Freethought Caucus denounces the commission’s report for “downgrading political and civil rights and promoting a muddled and airily abstract interpretation of religious freedom”:

In short, at a moment when authoritarianism, racism and anti-scientific magical thinking are on the march, there is not much in here to make the dictators, despots, kleptocrats, racists, anti-Semites and strongmen of the world quiver in any way.

Daniel W. Drezner grades the commission’s report with a C+, asking, “Why the special emphasis on property rights and religious freedom?” Well, we know why.


“Excited delirium” is a pseudoscientific concept, but it’s being used by some in law enforcement as an excuse to beat people up.

The Vatican tells churches to report cases of sexual abuse to local civil authorities. But it’s more like a polite suggestion than a command. You know, if they’re not busy.

The testimony of a chaplain in the Australian Defence Force really makes it seem like religion is more or less unnecessary in the chaplaincy: “There is little in a theological degree that prepares a chaplain for the practical pastoral and mental health related issues.”

Susan Gerbic gets a psychic reading and records all three hours of it.

NASA did not add the 13th sign to the Zodiac, Ophiuchus. Like, why would they? Also, NASA has a Tumblr. I get it, budgets are tight.


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.

July 20, 2020

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