Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Evolution News - Explaining Mammalian Forelimbs

Photographs of the upper arm bones from seven kinds of early mammal relatives. The three bones on the left are from an early group called pelycosaurs, and the bones are all roughly the same shape. The four bones on the right are from therapsids, the group that includes today's mammals, and they show the greater variety of shapes and sizes that characterize therapsid limbs. The black scale bars represent 2cm.
Credit: (c) Jacqueline Lungmus, Field Museum
Mammals’ unique arms started evolving before the dinosaurs existed | Field Museum

Creationists and evolution deniers have been predicting the imminent demise of the Theory of Evolution almost since the day Darwin and Wallace presented their idea to the Linnean Society in 1858.

The latest claim, repeated forlornly every day by creationists like a prayer or a protective mantra, is that the notion of 'Intelligent (sic) Design' will soon replace the ToE as the accepted scientific explanation for biodiversity, so becoming the only established body of science to be replaced by magic. Imagine, a 'scientific' explanation that includes magic and an unproven notional entity that no-one can explain, doing things that no-one has ever witnessed it doing by a process that remains a mystery.

The fact that ID has been refuted comprehensively and dismissed by serious biologists, and declared in a court of law to be creationism in disguise, with the intention of deceiving people, is lost on creationists, apparently.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Pell Gets Six Years

Caption
George Pell sentenced for child sex abuse - Live Coverage Catholic church news Melbourne

Cardinal George Pell, former number three in the Vatican as its financial controller, brought in by Pope Francis to sort out the Vatican's byzantine finances, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for sexual abuse of children. He will serve a minimum of three years and eight months before being eligible for parole.

Pell is by far the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted in a criminal court of the sexual abuse of minors. At the age of 77 and with health issues, it is quite possible that he may never leave prison alive.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Competing Contrition

The Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford, CT
Catholic Archbishop, on His Hands and Knees, Begged for Forgiveness Over Abuse - The New York Times

As Catholic bishops panic to release lists of abusive priests to avoid accusations of coverup, following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, there appears to be a competition developing over who can show himself to be the most contrite.

The archbishop of Hartford, CT, The Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair, for example, held a special Mass of Reparations and went down on his hands and knees, even laying prostrate before the altar, and begged the congregation for forgiveness.

He had earlier released the names of 48 priests accused of sexual abuses; five of them from the same small church, St George's, in the small coastal town of Guilford where the special Mass was held.

He went one better than Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, who only expressed his "genuine sorrow and regret to the victims who put their trust in a member of the church only to have that trust so profoundly betrayed."

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Christian Corruption News - Fleecing the Flock

Terry Waye and Brenda Millender
Virginia pastor gets 8 years for $2 million fraud scheme | Fox 5

What's the point of having a flock if you don't fleece them? The sentencing of a Virginia pastor to eight years in prison a few days ago illustrates this principle very nicely.

Christian pastor, Terry Wayne Millender and his wife Brenda, who together ran the Victorious Life Church in Virginia, USA, had been convicted by an Alexandria jury of fleecing their flock of $2 million. They faced up to 20 years in prison.

Terry Milender was convicted in December 2017 of 31 charges including wire fraud, money laundering, false-tax-return filing and obstruction; Brenda was convicted of 7. In a wonderful example of the fine Christian principle of a wife standing by her husband through thick and thin, Brenda's lawyers tried to distance her from his crimes, expressing pleasure that the jury has recognised her lesser role in the affair and implying that she had played little part in her husband's scam.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Another Day, Another Cardinal

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin
French Cardinal, Convicted of Ignoring Child Sex Abuse, Will Resign from Church | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

The French Catholic cardinal recently convicted of failing to report a serial paedophile priest to the police, has decided to offer his resignation to the Pope.

Had Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon and France's most senior Catholic cleric, not been convicted in a civil court, it is unlikely that anything would have been done. In essence, he is resigning for embarrassing the church, not for failing to protect the victims of one of his priests.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Christian Abuse News - How Piety Provides Excuses

Matthew Lane Durham
Christian missionary, paedophile and multiple rapist
Oklahoma Missionary Sentenced to 40 Years for Raping Nairobi Children, Underscoring the Harm Done by Some Foreigners in Africa

The account of how Matthew Lane Durham, then 19, from Oklahoma, raped four African children in an orphanage in Kenya whilst working as a Christian missionary, is an illustration of how piety can be used as a cover for socially unacceptable activity, just as we see it used by Catholic priests and priests and pastors of other denominations.

According to this report from CNN, Matthew Lane Durham, 21, was sentenced to four decades in prison by Judge David L. Russell on four counts of "engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places". According to court documents, in the course of just 33 days, Durham "raped three girls -- ages 5, 9 and 15 -- at least eight times. During that same time period, he sexually molested a 12-year-old boy twice." Durham had volunteered for the Oklahoma-based charity which runs the Upendo Children's Home in Nairobi. The charity recruits volunteers from the Oklahoma Christian community.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Unintelligent Design News - Zebras Winning The Arms Race

Grant's Zebra, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
© Muhammad Mahdi Karim
Published under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Source: Wikipedia
Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? Scientists Camouflaged Horses to Find Out - The New York Times

News this week that scientists believe they have explained the reason zebras look like they're living barcodes, is another major embarrassment for 'Intelligent Design' hoaxers.

It is also yet another casual vindication of the Theory of Evolution, done simply by revealing the truth. It's perhaps worth reiterating at this point that scientists don't set out to disprove creationism and confirm evolution - there would be absolutely no point in doing that yet again. They refute creationism and confirm the science simply by discovering the facts.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Let The Blaming Begin

Pope Francis. "It's Satan's fault!"
Photo credit: Alessandra Tarantino/AP
Pope Calls Critics of the Catholic Church 'Friends of the Devil'

Speaking on the eve of the crisis meeting in the Vatican, called to decide what to do about the tsunami of complaints about predatory paedophile priests, the Pope has set the tone by reiterating what he said toward the end of last year. It's Satan's fault. The critics bringing the problem to the attention of the public are working for the Devil.

So, the solution is simple. Shame those who spill the beans! God is best served by covering up the problem.

Brexit Lies

Remember that promise of what we could do as a nation with all that money we would save if we left the EU? All those billions (or was it trillions) of pounds being wasted on Brussels Bureaucrats and needless regulations? Such a massive drain on our resources!

Remember the big red battle bus with its promise of £350 million a week extra for the NHS all from the Brexit Bonus we would save?

How different the facts are!

I got my tax summary for last year today. Here is how my tax, as a pensioner with an NHS former manager's pension, plus a state pension, plus a small income from my books sales, was spent. It contains an interesting breakdown of what my personal contribution to UK Government tax revenue was spent on so I can see exactly how much it costs me personally to be a citizen of the European Union, with all the privileges that gives me.

I've converted it to percentages of total contribution below, so this should represent the proportion of their tax paid by the average taxpayer that is spent on different things.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Only 300 Child-Abusers in Texas

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
"Sincere appology"
Catholic Church in Texas Names Nearly 300 Priests Accused of Sex Abuse - The New York Times

These almost daily tallies of the latest number of predatory paedophile Catholic priests in one American diocese after another is difficult to keep up with.

Almost unnoticed a few weeks ago, the fifteen Catholic diocese in the state of Texas collectively published a list of 300 priests against whom credible accusation of the sexual abuse of children have been made. It barely raised an eyebrow at the time, so inured have we become to the idea of Catholic priests being predatory paedophiles who casually abuse their power and privilege for their own gratification.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Catholic Abuse News - One Priest; 50 More Abused Children

Rev. Kenneth Bernard (Pius) Hendricks
Photo credit: NCRPO
Priest arrested anew for abusing 50 more victims, mostly altar boys | Inquirer.net

While excitement is centred on the American Catholic diocese currently scurrying to reveal lists of paedophile priests before formal criminal investigations begin, to see if any can top the record numbers of Los Angeles, Boston and Brooklyn, the events in the Philippines are going almost unnoticed.

As readers of this blog may recall, last December an American Catholic priest, a missionary working for the archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio by the name of Rev. Kenneth Bernard (Pius) Hendricks, was arrested and charged with the sexual abuse of two boys and was facing extradition to Ohio, USA, where he is also under investigation for similar crimes in the state. He had been arrested on a warrant issued by the United States District Court for Ohio on November 11, 2018 for "engaging in illicit sex with a minor in a foreign country."

Catholic Abuse News - 100 Brooklyn Paedophile Priests Named


Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. "Truly sorry"
More Than 100 Priests Accused of Sex Abuse Are Named by Brooklyn Catholic Diocese - The New York Times

Something is causing deep concern to the Catholic hierarchy in the New York diocese of Brooklyn. They are desperately trying to distance themselves from the former routine procedure of cover-up and ignore and even facilitate, the treatment of vulnerable children as the sex toys of choice for Catholic priests.

As the investigations following the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into the sexual abuses of children by Catholic priests and the ensuing cover-ups, gathers pace, the New York diocese of Brooklyn, which covers the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, has released the names of more than 100 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Christian Insist on Her Right To Deny Rights to Others

Christian-Owned Tax Service in Indiana Won’t File Lesbian Couple’s Joint Return | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

The latest example of a Christian demanding the right of decide what rights others should have comes to us from Russiaville, Indiana, USA, where Christians discriminating against victims of their choice is perfectly legal.

The Christian in question is Nancy Fivecoate, of Carter Tax Service with whom Bailey Brazzel had always had good, professional relations, having used her services for a number of years.

However, when Bailey and her newly married partner, Samantha requested help filing their joint tax return for the first time since getting married in July, Fivecoate refused, using her Christian faith as an excuse. In her words:

Thursday, 14 February 2019

A Small Fish Refutes Religious Dogma

Blue streaked cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus)
Mirror test in Japanese study suggests self-awareness in fish, raising questions about animal intelligence | The Japan Times

It's been a long time now since we began to realise that humans are not the only intelligent species. Astonishingly though, we still find creationists and even sane mainstream Christians citing the 'uniqueness' of human intelligence and consciousness as evidence that humans were specially created, separate from other animals, so can't possibly share a common ancestor with them.

First, we discovered that chimpanzees could recognise themselves in a mirror, and Jane Goodall famously saw then fashioning tools from sticks. Hardly surprising given that they are our nearest evolutionary relatives. Over the years, more and more animals have been added to the list of intelligent, even tool-making species. The list now includes dolphins, elephants, different crow species, pigeons even ants, and manta rays have displayed unusual behaviour in front of mirrors.

Dolphins will even have sex in front of a mirror apparently for the fun of watching themselves do it, so there is no doubt that they recognise themselves and their partners.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Evolution Confirmed Without Even Trying Again


The human (left) and chimpanzee (right) brain organoids contain multiple types of neural stem cells (red and green) and mature brain cells (magenta and cyan), mimicking the development of real human and chimpanzee brains. (Scale bar 100 micrometers).

Credit: Pollen and Kriegstein Labs / UCSF
Chimpanzee 'mini-brains' hint at secrets of human evolution

Here's another one of those examples of where scientists don't set out to prove evolution and refute creationism, but they do anyway, quite incidentally, just by showing the facts.

They do it because the facts support evolution and so refute creation and any other wack-a-doodle rival notions about the diversity of living organisms from common origins. In this case, researchers were trying to explain what happened in human evolution that led to the increase in our brain size. This increase led to the evolution of the ability to learn and reason, to communicate and use language, and eventually to evolve group ethics and social systems. The rest is history, as they say.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Texas Abusers Named

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo,
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Hundreds of accused abusers named by Catholic leaders in Texas | NBC News via Associate Press.

According to Associated Press, the Catholic Church has released the names of 286 Catholic priests who have credibly been accused of the sexual abuse of children in Texas since 1950. Of these 286, 172 have since died.

This is the largest US state-based cohort of abusers since the 300 predatory priests named by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report last August, although this Pennsylvania tally is likely to be dwarfed by Illinois where the attorney general reported last month that at least 500 Catholic clergy has sexually abused children.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Pope Admits Clerical Abuse of Nuns

Pope admits clerical abuse of nuns including sexual slavery - BBC News

The Pope has at last admitted what has long been known - that in addition to children and vulnerable adults, priests often use nuns for sexual gratification. In fact, of course, to a sexually abusive cleric, nuns are merely a sub-group of vulnerable people.

This admission was made to reporters during the Pope's recent visit to the Middle East when he admitted the Catholic Church has a general problem having its roots in 'seeing women as second class' - which of course fully accords with the treatment of women in the Bible and something taken for granted by the Christian church for centuries, until very recently.

The Catholic Women's section in L'Osservatore Romao (Women and Church) is even alleging that nuns have been forced to have abortions

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Evolution in Progress - Eurasian Blackcap

Male Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla
It's nice to be able to report on a recently-observed example of behavioural change in one of Britain's more tuneful warblers - the Eurasian blackcap - brought about by human activity.

When I was young, a popular ornithology trivia question was, what is the only resident British warbler? 'Resident' meaning non-migratory and remaining in Britain all year round.
The answer, found after hours of searching though my bird books, was the Dartford warbler, a very pretty little warbler found in southern England and believed to then be the only warbler to over-winter here.

That's now changed. As I witnessed last winter with one regularly coming to feed in our garden, and again a few days ago when I saw and heard one singing in a tree in my sister-in-law's garden, an increasing number of Blackcaps are now resident in Britain throughout winter, at least in Oxfordshire. There have also been numerous reports from other parts of the UK. This has led scientists to speculate that this could be the beginning of a speciation as the two populations become reproductively isolated.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Covington Cases


Nick Sandmann and other Trump-supporting Covington Catholic High School students taunt and abuse an Elder of the Omaha Nation
The Diocese Of Covington, Kentucky Paid $120M To Settle Priest Sex Abuse Claims | The Intellectualist.

With the controversy over privileged white students from a private Catholic school in Covington, Kentucky, USA, donning MAGA hats and taunting Native Americans with racists abuse at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, it's worth taking a look at the moral values of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Covington that is teaching them.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Christian Subversion Update - Mississippi Missionary Baptists


State Rep. Credell Calhoun, D-Jackson, introduced House Bill 427, which would violate the Establishment Clause.
Photo credit: Mississippi House of Representatives
Mississippi May Mandate Ten Commandments and Pledges to State, U.S. Flags in Schools | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

American Christian fundamentalists are continuing their campaign to subvert the US Constitution, apparently in the belief that the Establishment Clause either doesn't or shouldn't apply to them. This time a concerted effort is being made in Mississippi to make the teaching of Christian dogma compulsory in public schools, to have Mississippi taxpayers pay for it and to impose fines for complying with the Constitution and Supreme Court Rulings forbidding it.

As the Jackson Free Press reports:
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