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The Pope vs. The Donald + Other Conservatives

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The Pope vs. The Donald + Other Conservatives

Many news outlets report that Catholics are "clearly jazzed" about the Pope's visit and recent polling from Pew Research Center finds that nine in 10 U.S. Catholics have a favorable view of him. He's even popular among other religious groups and even atheists. But not everyone is thrilled about Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. While many eagerly await his address to the UN General Assembly in New York and his speech in front of Congress, some are less than enthused with the holy leader. When asked at a rally last night if he plans to meet with the Pope when he visits, Donald Trump had this to say: "Well, the Pope believes in global warming, you do know that.”

It's no surprise that the Donald isn't ecstatic about the pontiff's first-ever visit to the U.S. Last month, the real-estate-mogul-turned-presidential-candidate told CNN he would "scare the Pope” in response to his critique of the free market by telling him "ISIS wants to get you." Trump has been a vocal climate denier for years, calling global warming a "hoax" and a concept "created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

When asked about his views on climate change yesterday by MSNBC, Trump said“I consider climate change to be not one of our big problems. I consider it to be not a big problem at all. I think it’s weather. I think it’s weather changes. It could be some man-made something, but you know, if you look at China, they’re doing nothing about it. Other countries, they’re doing nothing about it. It’s a big planet.”

His statement echoes the remarks of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who all reluctantly addressed the issue at the second GOP presidential primary debate on Wednesday night.

“We’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government we’re under wants us to do,” said Rubio. And Christie added, “We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow, us, by ourselves are going to fix the climate.” Walker chimed in that the Obama administration's policies aimed at addressing carbon pollution would kill manufacturing jobs in his state and elsewhere in the U.S.

And the GOP presidential candidates aren't alone. Ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia, the Independence Hall Foundation and conservative think tank The Heartland Institute hosted a Constitution Day press conference yesterday challenging the Pope’s views on "global warming and the nature of capitalism."

The Independence Hall Foundation is a nonprofit that seeks to "promote the values embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights." In 2012, The Economist called The Heartland Institute "the world's most prominent think tank supporting skepticism about man-made climate change."

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"We seek to bring awareness to the American community-at-large, and Catholics in particular, that the teachings of Pope Francis, outside the spiritual realm, need to be questioned and debated before gaining acceptance," said the groups in a statement. "The Pope is the spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church.  He is not a temporal leader, scientist or  economist—and certainly not infallible regarding issues relating to science and the economy."

In April, the Heartland Institute sent a delegation to the Vatican as a “prebuttal” to the Vatican’s “Climate Summit.” They urged the Pope to realize that "humans are not causing a climate crisis on God’s green Earth."

"What is environmentalism but nature worship?" said Gene Koprowski, marketing director of the Heartland Institute, told Philly News. Participants at the rally yesterday called Pope Francis' encyclical "paganism," "anti-American and dangerous" and "unholy lies."

"The Pope does seem to be enamored with solutions that are not pro-American in the slightest," said Dom Giordano, a radio talk-show host. It's not shocking that the Pope has drawn criticism from conservatives in recent months. He has taken a more liberal stance on a number of hot button issues, including same-sex marriage and abortion. But his strongest stance may just be on the need to act on climate change and reform our modern capitalist system. In recent months, he has blamed blamed modern materialism for turning the planet into "an immense pile of filth" and called on the rich and powerful to "care" for the Earth. He even went so far as to say that acting on climate change is "essential to faith."

As for the Pope's visit to Congress—which will be the first time ever that a Pope addresses the U.S. Congress—feelings are somewhat mixed among conservatives. Yesterday, 11 Republicans called for climate action ahead of Pope Francis’ visit, introducing a resolution that put the climate challenge in the broader context of conservation, stewardship, innovation and conservatism.

But at least one conservative will be skipping the Pope's speech. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) told The Hill Francis' calls to combat the effects of climate change remind him of a "leftist politician." Gosar, a Catholic, was initially very excited to hear that the Pope would be speaking to Congress. But when he heard media reports that the Pope would focus on climate change during his report, he balked.

"If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line. If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly. But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one," Gosar wrote in an op-ed for Townhall.com.

While The Hill reports that lawmakers have promised "Congress will be on its very best behavior" during the Pope's visit, Gosar is staging a "public boycott" of the papal speech. "If the Pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time," Gosar wrote. "But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous."

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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