Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Ostrich Eggs Cracking Creationism

3.8-million-year-old ostrich eggshell fragments from Laetoli, Tanzania.
Image credit: Terry Harrison.
Source: Sci News
Protein sequences bound to mineral surfaces persist into deep time | eLife

An open access paper published yesterday shows something which should be frightening the wits out of creationists frauds, even if their willing dupes won't understand or accept the significance of it. An international team of researchers has shown the proteins can persist in the fossil record for at least 3.8 million years - some 50 times longer than DNA.

The protein was found bound to the fossilised fragments of ostrich eggshells. The finding open up the possibility of detailed analysis of human evolution where DNA has not survived.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Doing Science With Elephants

Straight-tusked elephants (models)
Source: Wikipedia
Elephant history rewritten by ancient genomes : Nature News & Comment

How can elephant DNA teach us about why science works and creationism doesn't?

Creationists, with their simplistic black vs. white view of the world, often pour scorn and derision on science for changing its collective mind so frequently. This comes of course from a mindset which values 'certainty', no matter how illusory, more highly than truth. Truth is sacrificed in the search for the cosy comfort of 'certainty'.

But science doesn't look for certainty. Science simply tries to get as close to the truth as possible and a truth which can be demonstrated. The analogy is of a car being driven to a destination. Every movement on that journey is a sign of progress, not a sign of failure. Constant change of position is the method of progress. Science has to change its collective mind to make progress. Religions fail to make progress because they can't change their collective minds without abandoning their religion. With religions, the dogma is everything.

So what has this to do with elephant DNA?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Christians 'Cleanse the Streets' After Gay Pride March

The Freethinker - The voice of atheism since 1881 » In Belgrade, priests ‘cleanse’ the streets after Pride event

In an orgy of gratuitous anti-gay hate and abuse, Serbian Orthodox Christians, incensed at a gay pride parade in the Serbian capita, Belgrade, held a rally and march to ritually cleanse the streets of 'homosexual contamination'. The parade had been heavily protected by police preventing Orthodox and far-right nationalist extremists violently breaking it up as earlier years.

Amongst the expressions of Christian 'love' was a banner showing a homosexual being pushed into Hellfire by a Christian with a cross. The love of Jesus

Mexican Priests Still Raping Children

"I personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [some priests] have done for having sexually abused children. We will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed".
Catholic Church ACQUITS Mexican priest who admitted to raping 30 young girls | Daily Mail Online

In an extraordinary move, and one which flies in the face of official Vatican pronouncements on the subject of child-abusing Catholic priests, the Archdiocese of Mexico has formally acquitted an HIV carrying priest of any wrongdoing even though he admitted having sex with about 30 girls aged between 5 and 10 over many years.

The assaults were committed on indigenous girls in the southern province of Oaxaca which has a predominantly indigenous population and where the influence of the Catholic Church is very powerful, especially amongst the indigenous people. No criminal charges have yet been brought against the priest, José Ataulfo Garcia, despite his admission, almost certainly due to the Church's political influence in Mexico.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Americans Losing Faith

The factors driving the growth of religious ‘nones’ in the U.S. | Pew Research Center

In another attempt to understand the recent rapid growth in the 'nones' - those who don't self-identify with any religion - the Pew Research Centre took another look at the data to identify the factors driving this rejection of organised religion:

The share of Americans who do not identify with a religious group is surely growing: While nationwide surveys in the 1970s and ’80s found that fewer than one-in-ten U.S. adults said they had no religious affiliation, fully 23% now describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.”

But there are differing ideas about the factors driving this trend – and its implications for society. While it appears the U.S. is becoming less religious, some contend that’s not necessarily the case. Instead, they say, the growth of the “nones” may simply indicate that people who are not religious are becoming more forthright and willing to say they have no religious affiliation, perhaps because being a “none” has become more socially acceptable.

Clearly this topic is exercising the minds of a lot of worried people. Although this study is a relatively superficial treatment of the phenomenon, analysing only a few factors such as age, former religion and strength of former religious commitment rather than any underlying cause of change in opinion, it shows a number of interesting and related trends. An earlier Pew Centre FactTank report had shown some of the reasons people give for rejecting religion, including a better understanding of science, but it would have been good to see some analysis of lifestyle changes such as ready access to information and exposure to the behaviour, ignorance and downright stupidity underpinning religious fundamentalism.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Death of a Modern Exorcist

Fr. Gabriele Amorth. 70,000 exorcisms.
World Famous Exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth Dies at 91 |Blogs | NCRegister.com

The thing about the modern Catholic Church is its modernity and the way it has enthusiastically embraced science and abandoned those old, mediaeval, unscientific superstitions like a flat Earth, six-day creation and the inferior status of the black, brown, yellow and red-skinned races.

They've even turned their back on the notion which lead to the persecution of women as witches - a world in which evil spirits could enter and take over human... er... except they haven't.

No, really!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Caving for Creationists

A waterscorpion (Nepa sp.) attacks its crustacean prey.
Photo credit: Patrick Landmann/SPL
BBC - Earth - The bizarre beasts living in Romania's poison cave

News that a cave near the Black Sea in Romania which has been isolated from the outside world for 5.5 million years has multiple examples of unique and strange creatures living it it, comes as no surprise at all to evolutionary biologists.

In fact, provided that there is a source of energy so living things can continue to live, this is exactly what we would expect of an evolutionary process.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Another Big Problem For Creationists

Multi-locus Analyses Reveal Four Giraffe Species Instead of One: Current Biology

If only they were little less disingenuous and arrogantly certain, you could almost feel sorry for creationists. Just when they're settling down to feel smugly self-satisfied that they've invented a workaround for all the evidence that evolution fully explains biodiversity without involving their imaginary friend science comes up with another paper that illustrates the disingenuous fraud of this workaround. Their workaround was to deliberately misrepresent the terms 'macroevolution' and 'microevolution' as they are used by science.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Shi'a And Sunni - As Different as Chalk And Chalk

'Iranians are not Muslims', says Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti | The Independent

With the two major Middle Eastern Islamic powers, one, Iran being 95% Shi'a and the other, Saudi Arabia being 90% Sunni, indulging in a bitter war of words, it is worth looking at the history of the religious differences between these two branches of Islam.

The origin of this schism goes right back to the events following the death of Muhammad in Medina, Saudi Arabia in 632 CE. Muhammad himself had no male descendants, brothers or nephews so there was no clear line of succession and no rules of succession to be found in the Qur'an or Hadiths.

The early Muslim leadership, still centred on Medina, formed three different groupings; the first being the close associates of Muhammad who had made the hijra (the journey from Mecca into exile in Medina) with him; the later converts from amongst the leading families in Medina and the later still converts from Mecca. Whilst the first group regarded themselves as the natural successors to Muhammad and regarded the other two with suspicion as Johnny-come-latelies who had failed to support Muhammad in the early days.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Irish Catholics Lying For Jesus

Irish doctors respond to the advice given in controversial abortion clinic video

An undercover pair of reporters for the Irish edition of the Times has exposed the systematic lies being told to vulnerable pregnant women seeking safe, confidential and accurate abortion advice.

The Women's Centre, Berkeley Street, Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland, which poses as an independent advice centre but which is in reality a front for a Catholic anti-abortion group, was visited by the two reporters, Ellen Coyne and Catherine Sanz, pretending to be pregnant. They used concealed cameras to filmed the session. The report regretably sits behind a paywall so this blog post draws on other sites which report on its contents.

They were told:
Taken from the Abortionadvice.ie website.
  • The ovaries and breasts are connected so when a pregnancy is terminated, it can cause breast cancer.
  • An abortion can harm a woman's reproductive system.
  • Women who have had abortions may go on to abuse their other children.
  • The abortion pill can't be used after the 6th week of pregnancy.
  • Abortions often lead to the death of the woman having the abortion.
  • UK abortion clinics can give you infections so only the group's centres should be used.
All of these are wrong or grossly misleading. As doctors from Doctors For Choice, an Irish organisation that campaigns for reform of Irish abortion laws, pointed out:

The videoed "information" given to a young woman who presented herself as pregnant to a Dublin "advice" clinic is entirely untrue and dangerous. International medical guidelines state that the abortion pill can be prescribed up to at least 9 weeks in pregnancy. Furthermore there is no reputable published research and no medical evidence for an increased risk of breast cancer or psychological sequelae from abortion, when compared to women who have completed pregnancies. To suggest that women who have had abortions are more likely to perpetrate child abuse is to heap insult on top of the stigma already imposed on the more than 100,000 women who have been forced to leave Ireland to access safe legal abortion services.

Irish women deserve access to safe, legal abortion, regulated as are other medical services. They deserve evidence-based, unbiased information provided in a setting where basic first principles regarding counselling apply - where there is no agenda regarding the decisions they reach and the advice is non-directive.

Berkeley Street, Dublin, 2014
Abortions are illegal under the Irish Constitution unless as the result of medical intervention to save the life of the mother. Although there is a constitutional right to obtain information about abortion services in other jurisdictions, abortion advice centres such as this are completely unregulated, so luring unsuspecting, vulnerable women into them to be fed lies, misinformation and propaganda is perfectly legal in the Republic of Ireland. They are not regulated by medical or other professional ethical standards.

Prior to disguising itself as an independent advice center, this militant pro-life group set up shop adjacent to a family planning clinic in Berkeley Street and harangued women using the service with unwanted 'advice'. They now seem to have decided to be a little more subtle which means pretending not to be an overtly Catholic front organisation.

Although the Bible does not explicitly forbid the telling of lies and the ninth Commandment only forbids bearing false witness against a neighbour, this is generally held to be a general prohibition on telling lies. This Catholic group however seems to feel exempt from this fundamental piece of Christian 'morality'. Presumably, they would expect Jesus to tell lies too if the truth wasn't what he wanted it to be or what he wanted people to hear.

'via Blog this'

Monday, 5 September 2016

Look What Christianity Is Used For!

Pastor Idowu Olupinla, founder of Cherubim and Seraphim Church
Pastor arrested for operating underage prostitution cartel inside church - Premium Times Nigeria.

Satan used children against me – Pastor found with 13 girls in sex harem.

Following on from the canonization yesterday of the sadistic Albanian nun and friend of poverty, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (aka Mother Teresa) showing how Catholic Church leaders exploit the gullible credulity of their followers for their own nefarious purposes, come two news items from Nigeria showing how the same tendency to abuse power for personal gain is not restricted to the bigger and more organised churches.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Mother Teresa's Second Miraculous Miracle.

Falsehoods & Fairy Tales: Whatever It Takes To Make A Saint Out Of Mother Teresa

As 'Honest' Pope Frankie prepares to elevate the sadistic nun, Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu (aka Mother Teresa) to the Catholic sainthood it is worth looking at the second 'miracle' that is being attributed to her and used as the pretext for this bizarre Medieval ceremony.

The details of the alleged 'miracle' have been kept under wraps for reasons which will become understandable and have only recently been made public. Even the identity of the alleged subject was kept secret until he came forward recently to claim the fame and fortune which will undoubtedly accrue to him in the superstition parts of the world.

Friday, 2 September 2016

How We Know Science Works

Babylonian cuneiform containing the trapezoid formula
Credit: M. Ossendrjver/British Museum
Ancient Babylonian astronomers calculated Jupiter’s position from the area under a time-velocity graph | Science

The great thing about science is that it works.

It works because it is firmly rooted in reality and so is reproducible and repeatable. This means that no matter who is doing it or when, or what the cultural setting is, done properly, the result should be the same.

The same can be said of mathematics, of course. It doesn't matter how many times you do the maths, who does it or when, the answer will be the same providing the maths is done correctly.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Abiogenesis May Have Been Easier Than We Thought

The stromatolites in figure a are from Greenland; those in c and d are younger stromatolites from Western Australia. Figure b shows the layers created by microbes as they formed the Greenland stromatolites (blue lines). ‘Stroms’ are several overlapping stromatolites.
Source: Guardian
Photograph: Nature
Rapid emergence of life shown by discovery of 3,700-million-year-old microbial structures | Nature | Letters.

How quickly did life 'take off' on Earth?

The answer to this question is probably relevant to the likelihood that life will be found on other suitable planets too because it it happened quickly on Earth this suggests the process was not the vastly unlikely event that creationists try to present it as but a process (or processes) that can happen in just a few hundred million years if not even more quickly.

Yes, I know that a few hundred million years is not a short time but, compared to the 4.5 billion years or so that Earth has been around, it is during Earth's early childhood. It also suggests that Earth was not the hot, inhospitable, volcano-strewn and desiccated ball of rock that it was once thought to be but that it settled down quite quickly to be closer to what we have today (sans life, initially, of course). It also brings the early Mars within the timescale over which life could have arisen there at a time when Mars was thought to have been suitable, complete with liquid water, atmosphere, etc.

The discover of these stromatolites in Greenland rock pushes the earliest age at which cellular life was known to exist on Earth with a fair degree of certainty back to 3.7 billion years ago from the previous earliest known evidence dated at 3.48 billion years old found in Australian rocks.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Devilishly Rapid Evolution!

Rapid evolutionary response to a transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils : Nature Communications : Nature Research

Readers may remember a post from last December about the sad decline of Tasmanian devils due to a highly contagious and almost invariaby fatal facial cancer that was devastating their already low numbers. Now, however there is some slightly better news - the devils are rapidly evolving under this intense selection pressure to become resistant to this cancer.

Evolution Planting Life on Land

A 410-million-year-old soil shows extensive rhizome traces of Drepanophycus, an early vascular plant related to modern club mosses.
Photo credit: Jinzhuang Xue, Peking University
Belowground rhizomes in paleosols: The hidden half of an Early Devonian vascular plant

Evolution and ecology are one and the same really because ecology is all about how species adapt and interrelate to form a complete system of interdependent organisms. Without evolution none of the interdependent organism could fit into their particular niche and compete with other organisms for resources. So, evolution created ecosystems and ecosystems drive evolution.

But in the early days of life on Earth, before life emerged from the oceans where it had first evolved and diversified, there was no ecosystem as such on land, so how did the first emerging life manage to eke out an existence and what reason did it have to go there in the first place?

Now scientists believe they may have found how an early plant, related to the club mosses, may have created its own ecosystem by interaction between its rhizomes and silt-laden floods. Rhizomes are

A Transitional Pterodactyl!

Cranial endocast and comparison of brain anatomy in pterosaurs.
(A, B), Volume-rendered CT-based reconstruction of the braincase of the holotype of Allkaruen koi, in dorsal (A) and left lateral (B) views (the bone is rendered semitransparent to show the cranial endocast and the inner ear). (C–H), schematic drawings of brain anatomy in Rhamphorhynchus (C, F), Allkaruen (D, G), and Anhanguera (E, H) in dorsal (C–E) and lateral (F–H) views. Colors (C–H) indicate equivalent brain regions (blue, cerebrum; green, optic lobe; yellow, cerebellum; red, floccular process of cerebellum; pink, semicircular canals). The horizontal black line shows the relationship between the dorsal expansion of the anterior semicircular canal and the forebrain. Abbreviations: asc, anterior semicircular canal; cer, cerebral hemisphere; de, dorsal expansion; f, frontal; floc, floccular process of cerebellum; lab, labyrinth of inner ear; lsc, lateral semicircular canal; lag, lagena; ob, olfactory bulb; oc, occipital condyle; ol, optic lobe; pbt, basipterygoid process; pit, pituitary body; psc, posterior semicircular canal; sc, sagittal crest. Roman numerals indicate cranial nerves. Brain anatomy of Rhamphorhynchus and Anhanguera modified from Witmer et al. (2003). Scale bars are 10 mm.
A Jurassic pterosaur from Patagonia and the origin of the pterodactyloid neurocranium [PeerJ]

It's always rewarding to watch creationists try to cope with something they claim shouldn't be there when it quite clearly is there and can be seen to be there. One thing they can't do however is admit reality because reality is the one thing that undermines their evidence-free and reality-denying dogma.

There shouldn't be any transitional fossils because transitional fossils show evolution so, so the 'reasoning' seems to go, all those transitional fossils can't be there because evolution doesn't happen. So, this latest discovery of a transitional fossil between two different orders of aerial reptile will need to be explained away somehow.

News of the discovery was published in a press release by the online journal PeerJ:

Scientists today announced the discovery of a new species of pterosaur from the Patagonia region of South America. The cranial remains were in an excellent state of preservation and belonged to a new species of pterosaur from the Early Jurassic. The researchers have named this new species ‘ Allkauren koi’ from the native Tehuelche word ‘all’ for ‘brain’, and ‘karuen’ for ‘ancient’.

Monday, 29 August 2016

"Lucy's" Fall Reconstructed

Lucy's fall
Perimortem fractures in Lucy suggest mortality from fall out of tall tree | Nature.

About 3 million years ago a creature midway between a chimpanzee-like ape and a human being fell out of a tree and died of her injuries.

This creature was the best known of some 300 specimens of a species now known to science as Australopithecus afarensis, a species which is one of the candidates for being the direct ancestor of the Homo genus. She is known to the worlds as 'Lucy'.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Americans Leaving Religion Because of Science

Why some Americans left religion behind | Pew Research Center

New figures released by the Pew Research Center have revealed something interesting going on in the American religious profile and they make dismal reading for those trying to cling to the belief that religion shows little real sign of a major decline in the USA comparable to that in Europe and elsewhere.

They suggest the traditional American attachment to religion, which has made America such an outlier in the general distribution of religious belief and how it has changed over time, may be waning and even on the point of a major shift. It appears to be heading in the same direction that has seen a massive rejection of religion in the rest of the developed world.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Kamikaze Confirmation

Kamikaze (divine wind), Issho Yada
How a typhoon sank Kublai Khan | Science | The Guardian:

Why do so many Americans believe in the Judeo-Christian god compared to most Western European countries?

Although religious affiliation and belief in any god are both falling in the USA according to recent research, America still lags about a generation behind Western Europe in its rejection of religion. Percentage figures of 80% plus for belief in god and in the upper 60s for the importance of religion in their lives are typically returned for US surveys while the equivalent in UK, France, Holland and even formerly staunchly Catholic Ireland and Spain are typically under 50% and 30% respectively.


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