Thursday, 18 December 2014

Catholic Outrage - The Law Applies To Them Too!

Bernadette Smyth. "I'm no witch, I'm a Christian".
BBC News - Bernadette Smyth: Anti-abortion protester given community service

Catholics in Northern Ireland expressed shock and disappointment that a judge at Belfast's Magistrates Court had imposed a community service and issued a restraining order on Catholic anti-abortionist campaigner, Bernadette Smyth, preventing her from harassing Dawn Purvis of a Marie Stopes clinic and going within 20 yards of the clinic.

She was also sentenced to 100 hours community service and given a five-year restraining order banning her from pestering people going to and from the clinic and was ordered to pay her victim £2000 in compensation. She had earlier been warned that she could face a custodial sentence because of her abusive behaviour and behaviour in court. She had denied the charges.

Bernadette Smyth had been in the habit of stopping people entering the clinic and demanding they tell her their reason for going there. Catholics have been waging a campaign of harassment and abuse against staff and patients of the clinic since it opened two years ago despite abortion in special circumstances being legal in Northern Ireland. The court heard that on one occasion, when Dawn Purvis had asked her to stop harassing her, she had shouted, "You ain't seen harassment yet, darling."

During the case, Ms Smyth had accused a police constable who had investigated the case of acting unprofessionally and had claimed a senior police officer had expressed this view. The judge described this as "completely and utterly unjustified" and said Ms Smyth "was slandering during the course of this case deliberately and maliciously."

Quite obviously, like many Christians, Ms Smyth felt entitled to ignore the commandment against bearing false witness, illustrating how many Christians feels free to pick and choose which of their god's laws to obey, which to ignore and which to use to try to impose their control over others. Nor do they feel constrained from behaving hypocritically.

However, Ms Smyth's solicitor boasted that, because there would be an appeal, the restraining order has "no effect in the meantime", indicating that the campaign of abuse and harassment would continue in spite of the law forbidding abuse and harassment of people going about their lawful activities. He added that the order was "a disappointment to Christians worldwide."

In common with Christians elsewhere, many Northern Ireland Catholics feel entitled to disobey laws they disagree with or which prevent them imposing their bigotry and superstitious beliefs on others, whether in the field of human rights, women's reproductive rights, what children are taught in schools, marriage laws or even what consenting adults may do in private. We also see in this case an example of how people use religion to impose their control over others but feel entitled to pick and chose which of their religion's supposedly objective and god-given laws to obey themselves.

It is perfectly clear that if they ever regain the power and authority they once had over Western society in particular, they would feel perfectly entitled to impose their Bronze Age bigotry and primitive tribal morality on the rest of us and to roll back the progress made in recent centuries in the fields of human rights in response to humanist enlightenment, moral philosophy and scientific progress. It's good to see the courts upholding the principle that even Christians have to abide by the laws of the land, despite their inflated sense of entitlement to privileges.

See also:
Anti-abortion protester Bernadette Smyth guilty of harassing Dawn Purvis
Bernadette Smyth tells court: 'I'm no witch, I'm a Christian'

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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Mad Manny Gets Another Warning!

It's not often that I have something positive to say about the people at Twitter Support these days, as it was beginning to look like they had given up even pretending to be taking abuse and harassment seriously and seemed to be selecting random responses to complaints or ignoring them altogether.

But I see they've at last taken notice of all the complaints they've been getting about the behaviour of Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled seminarian and notorious Internet stalker and abusive blogger. Manuel is currently using his @CatholicGadfly, @SCDTVS, @SacerdotusRadio and @StudiousAtheist accounts to abuse, defame and denigrate anyone who responds to his phoney piety and infantile challenges to debate (usually first made in secret without informing the victim so he can claim victory by default).

Building on the experience I had with Twitter Support concerning another unrelated abusive account which routinely posted the same scheduled abuse several times a week and which I had occasionally reported only to get a seemingly random reply including one informing me that the account had been deleted by the owner when it hadn't been, that it had been suspended when it hadn't been, that it wasn't abusive when it clearly was, and finally, that it had been suspended when it actually had been (and still is), I had been similarly reporting Manuel's routine abuse from time to time.

It was no surprise then that I received another ludicrous routine response informing me that they had investigated his @CatholicGadfly account (yet again!) and found it wasn't currently in breach of their policies on abuse and harassment:

Case# 08694399: Receiving non-violent threats - CatholicGadfly -

Thu 11/12/2014 23:08

Thank you for letting us know about your issue. We've investigated the account and the Tweets reported as abusive behavior, and have found that it's currently not violating the Twitter Rules ( Here are some resources to assist you:
If someone feels threatened, or if you believe that the content you're reporting is prohibited in your local jurisdiction, please contact your local authorities with the information you provided to us. You can direct local law enforcement to our Guidelines for Law Enforcement here:



System Reference: ref:00DA0000000K0A8.500G000000aS3aT:ref


So, feeling a little mischievous I replied to this (normally replies are ignored) with:

Would it be possible for this serial abuser to post anything at all which you deem as contravening your rules? It would appear that no amount of abuse and harassment on his part contravenes your policy against posting abuse and harassing people.

Surprise, surprise!

I actually got a two replies three minutes apart!

Case# 08694399: Receiving non-violent threats - CatholicGadfly -

Mon 15/12/2014 00:10

Thank you for letting us know about your issue. Individuals may not use Twitter for abusive purposes.

We've contacted this user and asked them to discontinue this behavior.

Please reply to this email if the behavior continues by providing examples of the most recent status links, but please allow 48 hours for their receipt and review of our message. [My emphasis]



System Reference: ref:00DA0000000K0A8.500G000000aS3aT:ref

Case# 08694399: Receiving non-violent threats - CatholicGadfly -

Mon 15/12/2014 00:13

Thank you for letting us know about your issue. The account you've reported has been suspended. If this user writes to us, we’ll explain our policies regarding this issue before they are allowed to return to the site.

This help page has instructions and additional information on protecting your profile:

Here’s some additional information on how to handle bullying:

Please let us know if we can assist you further, or if you experience problems going forward.



System Reference: ref:00DA0000000K0A8.500G000000aS3aT:ref

And blow me down if they didn't do it again a few hours later in response to another complaint. Their initial response had been the usual routine one, probably selected from a drop-down list by some bored operative with a pile of complaints to process:

Case# 07678669: Receiving non-violent threats - CatholicGadfly -

Fri 12/12/2014 20:01


We understand that you might come across content on Twitter that you dislike or you find offensive. However, Twitter is a global platform that lets us participate in broader conversations and connect with people from many corners of the world. Just like when we are interacting in a public space we may overhear conversations that are offensive, coming across inflammatory content on Twitter can be frustrating.

We've reviewed the content and while you may find it offensive, it is not in violation of our rules, so we will not be removing it from the platform. You can learn more about how to deal with abusive users here:

If someone feels personally threatened, or if you believe the content you are reporting is prohibited in your local jurisdiction, please contact your local authorities with the information you provided to us. You can point local law enforcement to our Law Enforcement Guidelines here:



System Reference: ref:00DA0000000K0A8.500G000000YLsDY:ref

That one had provoked the following reply from me:

I expect you not to be able to reply but could you please explain in simple, easy to understand words, how constantly posting abuse and lies about a named individual does not contravene your policy that members should not post abuse and harass people and should not use Twitter to harass and abuse people please?

Simple people like me might not be able to understand this without such an explanation.

Their reply is not only unexpected but interesting. It seems they DO read replies and even revise their response:

Case# 07678669: Receiving non-violent threats - CatholicGadfly -

Mon 15/12/2014 18:05

Thank you for your email. We take reports of abuse very seriously, and, based on your report, have re-investigated the account that was causing you distress.
In reviewing this account, it appears as if this user has already been suspended for violations of the Twitter Rules ( unrelated to your report.

If you still need help with this issue, please reply with links to current profiles or Tweets you’d like us to review and we'll investigate as soon as we can.



System Reference: ref:00DA0000000K0A8.500G000000YLsDY:ref

And I see that Manuel's @CatholicGadfly account was off line for two days, presumably while he was grovelling to Twitter and promising yet again not to abuse and harass people and acknowledging that he isn't above the rules he agrees to abide by when he set his account up. Knowing Manuel, this won't last and he'll almost certainly be setting up a new account to continue where 'Jeff T.Follown MD' (as he sometimes misspells it) left off and 'adjunct professor' Jeff T.Follon MD' will disappear as abruptly as he appeared without trace last July. One name to watch for is 'Jeremy Blatcher' who has already started posting Manuel-like abuse on my blogs exposing Manny as a fraud.

Since Manuel has now been officially warned about his abusive behaviour, can you let me know when he starts up again, or if and when 'Jeremy Blatcher' gets going, please?

If you ever have cause to complain about Manuel's abuse in future, and if you disagree with him you will do, it might be worth quoting the reference Case# 08694399 to help those nice people at Twitter Support.

[Update 20 December 2014]
Manuel never fails to live down to his promise. He has been hysterically denying his various accounts are his despite the irrefutable evidence that they are and even denying that he's himself, then he takes yet another hilarious pratfall by forgetting who he's pretending to be and posts this hilarious tweet, denying the evidence that Twitter has issued him with yet another warning and had suspended his account pending his acknowledgement that the rules apply even to him and a promise to behave in future - a promise he broke within hours as expected.

The idiot refers to Manny/Manuel in the first person; 'I never got any warning...' while posting with his 'Jeff T. Follon MA.' (@CatholicGadfly) account. And his edited email doesn't even relate to anything I said above, nor does it say he was never warned, as he claims. Does Manny have genuine reading and comprehension difficulties to add to his problem with basic joined-up thinking, or is he showing his usual contempt for his followers by assuming they have?

Just in case you thought Manuel de Dios Agosto might be insane enough to believe his own lies, he makes it clear here that he just has a psychopathic personality disorder and the intellect of a retard. And the late poor old Archbishop Garmendia in his dotage actually allowed him to smarm his way into seminary. No wonder the Catholic Church is embroiled in so many scandals and is still desperately trying to cover them up or disavow any responsibility for them.

Enjoy this tweet it while it lasts. He won't be around for long in this persona. A new Mad Manny Twitter account coming soon. Kudos to whoever spots it first.

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Bob Jones Uni Abusers - It's Not Just The Catholics!

Boz Tchividjian
Sex abuse report: Bob Jones University fosters culture of victim-blaming | Guardian 11 December, 2014

According to a report by GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an non-profit Christian organization headed by Billy Graham's grandson and Liberty University Law Professor, Boz Tchividjian, the Protestant Evangelical Bob Jones University was even worse than the Catholics when it came to sexual abuse of students.

Bob Jones University has seen a spectacular decline in admissions in recent years as disbelief gains ground in the USA. This may not be disconnected with their desire to clean up their act, hence the commissioning of this report, albeit the moment of panic when they sacked GRACE only to reinstate them last January.

The report catalogues systematic sexual abuse of students, actively facilitated by a policy of blaming the victims, piling guilt and shame on them and discouraging them from reporting it to the police whilst abusers were left to carry on their abuse.

It states:

The following are viewpoints from individual survey takers and their comments related to BJU teachings and practices that inhibit abuse victims from disclosing their abuse:
That a woman who was raped or sexually abused somehow brought it on herself. That it is not acceptable to talk about sexual abuse. The cause of Christ will somehow suffer if news of abuse gets out into "the world".

Abuse victims are considered "Second-rate Christians."

Women and girls are taught they must "confess" the part of sexual abuse they enjoyed, that they probably enticed the abuser.

I was abuse from the ages of 6-14 by my grandfather. When I went for counseling I was told, "Did you repent for your part in the abuse? Did your body respond favorably? If it did then you need to repent. You're bitter and care more about your pain than the salvation of your family. You should never have gone to the police because it tore your family apart and that's your fault. You love yourself more than you love God and that's why you're struggling." And on it goes.

I would like to add that the vast majority of those who reported sexual abuse of any kind were immediately disbelieved until it was proven, and many time even then, they were viewed as having suspicious motives for seeking justice.


Specifically, 47 percent of survey takers who self-identified as abuse victims stated that BJU personnel either directed them not to make a police report or discouraged them from doing so. These survey comments relate to the issue of abuse victims being discouraged from making police reports:

Victims heard, consistently, from chapel speakers and faculty/staff, that abusers should be forgiven, that they bore the sin of bitterness, and they should not report abusers.

[D]eal with your "sin;" keep knowledge within the church.

Its (sic) best not to make a big deal out of this for the good of the school.

A person in administration who knew that I was assaulted by a preacher boy stated that I would destroy this godly man's education and future if I reported his crime.

I received a slip in my P.O. [Box] to report to the stage following a specific chapel service. At that time Drs. Bob, Jr. and III told me that they were sorry such a thing happened but that now I had the choice to honor God by my response and not be selfish in sharing the experience with others and gaining inappropriate attention for the school.

Pages 33-34

At one point during their investigations BJU apparently panicked and sacked GRACE, only to re-instate them a few weeks letter after a frank exchange of views. This is lightly skirted over in the report, rating a mere mention in a single paragraph:

On January 27, 2014, Bob Jones University delivered a certified "Notice of Termination" to GRACE, which immediately and abruptly terminated the independent investigation. A few weeks later, BJU representative met with GRACE representative in Lynchburg, Virginia for the purpose of addressing the termination. after two days of candid and productive discussions, BJU retracted the termination and reinstated the contract with no changes to the original engagement agreement. During the period of termination, GRACE also received also received new complaints. After the reinstatement, GRACE conducted additional interviews with recent survey takers and completed all remaining interviews with BJU personnel. The investigation phase officially ended June 15, 2014.

Page 20

I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting. I wonder what it was that so spooked BJU and what GRACE threatened them with revealing if they didn't reinstate them. Maybe no change in the terms of the contract, but that, of course, doesn't preclude tacit 'understandings' of one sort and another.

Bob Jones, Sr.
Bob Jones University was founded in 1927 by Christian evangelist Bob Jones, and is a leading exponent of bible literalism, anti-Darwinian evolution, young-Earth creationism and it's recent under-cover pseudoscientific version, intelligent design.

It is firmly embedded in right-wing politics in the USA and elsewhere and actively promotes systematically misinforming children about science in public schools in the USA and campaigns for the teaching of biblical creationism as a science, despite the Establishment Clause, as part of the Wedge Strategy of the Discovery Institute to subvert the US Constitution for right-wing political purposes.

As a recipient of Title IX funding it is required by the Clery Act to report claims of sexual abuse. By discouraging students from going to the police it may be in breach of this act - an example of a Christian organization with an inflated sense of entitlement believing it is above the law and doesn't need to abide by agreements it made, either explicitly or implicitly, when it accepted public money.

This systematic sexual exploitation of vulnerable people in their care and its facilitation by the University's policies, is just another example of how piety is used as a cover for antisocial activities and how many people are attracted to religious ministry because of the trusted access to and power over vulnerable people that it gives them and the convenient cloak of respectability it provides. There is no conscious awareness of a benevolent, loving god watching and taking note and preparing to judge them by their actions. These people simply do not believe the superstitious nonsense they use to control others with.

They know as well as you and I that there is no god and that they will not face a final judgement. All they lack is the morality to recognise that they have no right to use other people for their own convenience. These people are psychopaths hiding their psychopathy under a cloak of phoney piety.

'via Blog this'

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Malaria Is Down - But Not Yet Out!

Scale-up in effective malaria control dramatically reduces deaths | WHO 9 December 2014:

Brilliant news that the infection and death rate from malaria has fallen worldwide and especially sharply in Africa where 90% of malaria deaths occur - and it's all down to science again.

The number of people dying from malaria has fallen dramatically since 2000 and malaria cases are also steadily declining, according to the World malaria report 2014. Between 2000 and 2013, the malaria mortality rate decreased by 47% worldwide and by 54% in the WHO African Region - where about 90% of malaria deaths occur.

New analysis across sub-Saharan Africa reveals that despite a 43% population increase, fewer people are infected or carry asymptomatic malaria infections every year: the number of people infected

Friday, 12 December 2014

Pope Francis Just Can't Hide His Misogyny

Lost in translation? 7 reasons some women wince when Pope Francis starts talking - Religion News Service

Poor old Pope Francis just can't hide his misogyny no matter how hard he tries to look like a modern liberal reformer. These seven examples of where his prejudices are showing comes from a site not normally associated with religious criticism.

The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the son of Italian immigrants, comes from a background and a clerical tradition not normally associated with its liberal progressiveness and

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Ken's Ham-Fisted Plan Scuppered

The Lost Ark: Kentucky will not grant tax incentives to Ark Encounter - Insider Louisville

Thanks to their own arrogant stupidity, the plan by the money-making loons at Answers in Genesis to subvert the US Constitution and con the State of Kentucky into using taxpayers money to help them promote their fundamentalist Christian bigotry and Bronze Age superstition, despite the 'Establishment Clause', has failed.

AiG had been planning to create an 'Ark Encounter' theme park to promote its infantile belief that the story of Noah's Ark in the Bible is a literal account of an

Sunday, 7 December 2014

How Creationists Lie To Us - Michael J. Behe

Keneth R. Miller
Edging towards Irrelevance - part 1

Professor Kenneth R Miller is an evolutionary biologist and expert in molecular biology and cell membranes. He is also a Roman Catholic who has written boks such as Finding Darwin's God trying to show that evolution is compatible with belief in the Christian god. He also profoundly disagrees with the notion of 'Intelligent Design' as promulgated by fellow Roman Catholic, Michael J. Behe and the Discovery Institute.

The Discovery Institute was set up with the aim of using the Theory of Evolution, which many Americans find distasteful because it doesn't make them feel important enough, to undermine science as a prelude to subverting the secular US Constitution and installing a fundamentalist Christian, Taliban-style Levitican theocracy in America and elsewhere. Behe is a leading light in this disinformation campaign and concentrates particularly on misrepresenting evolutionary biology.

Miller's oposition to Behe and the Discovery Institute has made him a particular target of the antisciencers who are continually demanding he apologise for disagreeing with Behe and pointing out the misrepresentations of science, glaringly bad mathematics and false conclusions in his 2007 book, The Edge of Evolution, in which Behe tries to bamboozle his readers into thinking Darwinian evolution is mathematically impossible.

Whilst I could easily take issue with Miller on the subject of the [in]compatibility of evolution and belief in a god, his response to Behe's demands for an apology is devastating to the Discovery Institute and exposes the dishonesty and deceptions Behe uses in his book, and which he continues to use despite them having been pointed out by numerous critics, just as he did with his infamous Darwin's Black Box. Remember, Behe is a professional biochemist and presents himself as an expert biologist and an expert in the field of evolutionary theory, so there can be no excuse for the basic misrepresentations and mathematical error in his book. These are not the mistakes of an ignorant simpleton but the deliberate misrepresentations of a charlatan.

Suppose you published a book making a set of very specific claims. Then, after highly critical reviews of your book are published in major scientific journals, an international research team publishes a detailed study in the Proceedings of the National Academy (PNAS)[*] on the very system that was the focus of your book. Great news? Well, maybe, except for one little problem. That research paper shows, in great detail, why the claims at the heart of your book were wrong. Do you walk away quietly, hoping no one notices?

Not if you're Michael Behe. Instead, you declare victory, tell everyone who will listen that the research actually vindicates you, and then get your friends at the Discovery Institute to demand apologies from those who had criticized your book. In the strange world of "intelligent design" (ID), that’s how things seem to work. When new scientific findings support evolution, the ID crowd tries to spin things around by pretending they actually contradict it. They've done this before, and they'll probably do it again.

*The PNAS paper referred to is Robert L. Summers. et al.; Diverse mutational pathways converge on saturable chloroquine transport via the malaria parasite’s chloroquine resistance transporter; PNAS April 29, 2014 vol. 111 no. 17 E1759-E1767 doi:10.1073/pnas.1322965111.

Michael J. Behe
The central claim of Behe's book was based on the development of chloroquine resistance in the malaria parasite, Plasmodium, which has arisen only rarely since the drug was introduced in 1947. Resistance is due to a defective cell membrane that acts as a pump to remove chloroquine from the cell so rendering it ineffective. For the defect to be effective requires several mutations to be present simultaneously.

He had estimated that the probability of a single mutation required for the 'chloroquine complexity cluster' (CCC) was 1:1020. He then took that number and used it to claim that the probability of two mutations in the 'CCC' arising were 1:(1020 x 1020) or 1:1040. By doing this for each mutation he quickly arrived at a position where the probability of the 'CCC' arising by random chance mutation would require far more cells than the entire number of cells ever produced in the history of life on Earth.

Behe thus concludes that the probability of chloroquine resistance arising by mutation is for all practical purposes impossible and then extends this principle for all other situations where multiple mutations are involved (i.e., the whole of biology) and then plays the false dichotomy fallacy of claiming the only alternative explanation is that life must have been intelligently designed - and by implication, it must have been the Christian god who did it as described in the Bronze Age myths in the Bible.

Behe also falsely claims that a single mutation would always be "strongly deleterious" so would be quickly eliminated from the gene pool, so any accumulative effects of natural selection can be disregarded.

But Behe was dead wrong about it being "strongly deleterious." In fact, it seems to have no effect on transport activity at all. A neutral mutation like this can easily propagate through a population, and field studies of the parasite confirm that is exactly what has happened. In fact, a 2003 study recommended against using the K76T mutation to test for chloroquine resistance since that same mutation was also found in 96% of patients who responded well to chloroquine. Clearly, K76T wouldn't have become so widespread if it were indeed "strongly deleterious," as Behe states it must be. This is a critical point, since Behe’s probability arguments depend on this incorrect claim.

The problem is, as Miller and other critics point out, and as the PNS paper by Summers, et al, shows, that's not how Darwinian evolution works in respect of chloroquine resistance and the claim that a single mutation would always be deleterious is blatantly false and refuted by the evidence that it is commonplace in the gene pool and has no detectable deleterious effect on cell viability. Behe must know now that this claim is false and yet he continues to rely on it when he promotes his book and presents his arguments to audiences of creationists eager to be duped. Obviously, he feels the Ninth Commandment forbidding Christians from bearing false witness either doesn't apply to him or doesn't apply when he is pushing his god on people or pursuing a political objective. Maybe it's just too far down the list to be bothered with.

What Behe is misrepresenting here, in addition to the truth about the effects of a single mutation, is the basic fundamental of neo-Darwinian evolution. It is not necessary for several mutations to occur simultaneously, so multiplying their individual probabilities together to arrive at a single probability of them all occurring simultaneously is a fallacy and misrepresents both the science and the mathematics. To calculate the probability of two mutations being present over time in the same cell it is only necessary to calculate the probability of the second mutation since the two probabilities are independent of one another and both mutations can spread through the population by genetic drift alone.

Behe's argument depends on his dupes falling for the absurd argument that, for any 'complex' of mutations to arise, all mutations must arise simultaneously in a single cell, and that this is what the TOE requires. It's a form of the infantile parody so beloved of creationist frauds that evolution theory requires an entirely new species to arise in a single instance of multiple, simultaneous mutations.

Behe is also relying on an assumption that the outcome of an evolutionary process is deterministic, i.e. that there was a plan to produce a particular outcome and that the outcome could only have happened in a particular sequence. What he is doing here is the equivalent of calculating the probability of a hand of cards being dealt by multiplying the probability of each particular card being dealt in that order and concluding that dealing a hand of cards is as near impossible as makes no difference. Of course, it's almost impossible to randomly deal a pre-determined hand of cards, but it is simplicity itself to deal any hand.

Pathways to Chloroquine resistance in Plasmodium; Summers, et al.
In fact, as the PNAS paper shows, chloroquine resistance can arise by several different routes and that each stage in any of those routes will give an increased resistance. Hence not only is it fallacious to multiply the probabilities together on the assumption that they all must occur together, it isn't even valid to assume they all have to occur in a particular order. And, not only is it fallacious to argue that any single mutation on its own will be deleterious but there is a graded improvement on which Darwinian natural selection will operate driving the system inevitably towards perfection and up the improbability gradient towards a peak in the probability landscape.

Behe obtains his probabilities by considering each mutation as an independent event, ruling out any role for cumulative selection, and requiring evolution to achieve an exact, predetermined result. Not only are each of these conditions unrealistic, but they do not apply even in the case of his chosen example. First, he overlooks the existence of chloroquine resistant strains of malaria lacking one of the mutations he claims to be essential (at position 220). This matters, because it shows that there are several mutational routes to effective drug resistance. Second, and more importantly, Behe waves away evidence suggesting that chloroquine resistance may be the result of sequential, not simultaneous, mutations.


Behe, incredibly, thinks he has determined the odds of a mutation "of the same complexity" occurring in the human line. He hasn’t. What he has actually done is to determine the odds of these two exact mutations occurring simultaneously at precisely the same position in exactly the same gene in a single individual. He then leads his unsuspecting readers to believe that this spurious calculation is a hard and fast statistical barrier to the accumulation of enough variation to drive darwinian evolution.

It would be difficult to imagine a more breathtaking abuse of statistical genetics.

In reply to his critics, Behe (and of course the dutiful PR people at the Discovery Institute) continue to claim that all the criticism of his book was focussed on the probability of a single mutation arising being 1:1020 whereas it was in fact all about the way he had misrepresented Darwinian accumulation and so used fallacious mathematics in multiplying these improbabilities together to arrive at de facto impossibility; in other words, how he had misrepresented the science and so mislead his readers. It actually matters not one jot to that argument whether Behe had plucked 1:1020, 1:1015 or 1:1010 out of thin air to arrive at his desired conclusion of practical impossibility.

The following is from a letter from the molecular biologist Joe Thornton, now at the University of Chicago, to Carl Zimmer in response the Behe's claim that his work provides "More Strong Experimental Support for a Limit to Darwinian Evolution." Behe has made a habit of misrepresenting Thornton's work:

A path to a new function that involves neutral intermediates is entirely accessible to the evolutionary processes of mutation, drift, and selection. Our work showed that these classic neodarwinian processes are entirely adequate to explain the evolution of GR's new function.

Behe erroneously equates "evolving non-deterministically" with "impossible to evolve." He supposes that if each of a set of specific evolutionary outcomes has a low probability, then none will evolve. This is like saying that, because the probability was vanishingly small that the 1996 Yankees would finish 92-70 with 871 runs scored and 787 allowed and then win the World Series in six games over Atlanta, the fact that all this occurred means it must have been willed by God.

Behe’s argument has no scientific merit. It is based on a misunderstanding of the fundamental processes of molecular evolution and a failure to appreciate the nature of probability itself. There is no scientific controversy about whether natural processes can drive the evolution of complex proteins. The work of my research group should not be misinterpreted by those who would like to pretend that there is.

The degree to which Behe and the Discovery Institute rely on the scientific (and in this case statistical) illiteracy of their target audience can be gauged from the fact that Behe's book was acclaimed throughout the creationist and Christian fundamentalist community despite being panned by the evolutionary biologist and general scientific community and despite these blatant, and transparent to anyone who understands these subjects, falsehoods, misrepresentations and downright lies.

The fact that the Discovery Institute and its cabal of pseudoscientists know they need to use these techniques on their victims is indicative of the fact that there is a hidden agenda and one which depends on consciously and deliberately misleading people about evolutionary biology in particular and about science in general. This shows that Behe and his ilk believe that science, and particularly evolutionary biology, are incompatible with belief in gods. This is probably the only thing on which we would agree.

And what seems to have been lost in all this by Behe's creationist dupes is that he is actually saying that his god deliberately gave the malaria parasite resistance to a drug used to combat it. Malaria kills or severely restricts the life of millions of people every year, most of them children. Behe has his supposedly loving and compassionate god, who supposedly created mankind as his special creation in a Universe it had created specifically for somewhere for his special creation to live, actually siding with the malaria parasite in its arms race against human science and medical progress.

In Darwin's Black Box, Behe similarly argued that the flagellum of E. coli, which helps it make humans sick and die, must have been intentionally designed by his imaginary magic friend because he couldn't think how else it arose.

Nowhere does Behe or the Discovery Institute explain how their god siding with a parasite against humans is compatible with their sacred holy book, the Bible.

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Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Message From Homo Erectus

Homo erectus made world's oldest doodle 500,000 years ago : Nature News & Comment

A fossilised etched river mussel shell, dated to between 430,000 and 540,000 years old, from Java in Indonesia is being attributed to one of our immediate ancestors, Homo erectus and so becomes the oldest known engraving, beating the previous earliest by some 300,000 years and the first to be unequivocably pre-modern. This early artist from our remote ancestry unwittingly left an important message for those with the scientific literacy to read it.

This find is highly significant, if it turns out to be what it's claimed to be, because it's the first real evidence

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Catholic Deception - Pope To Venerate The Fake of Turin

A typical ‘souvenir’ of an exposition with presiding clergy (1608), one of several made between 1578 and 1750. The Trustees of the British Museum.
The Origins of the Shroud of Turin | History Today

News that Pope Francis is to make a pilgrimage to Turin Cathedral to venerate the Shroud of Turin, despite it now being regarded only by the most die-hard supporters as anything other than a fairly crude 14th Century painting on linen made from flax which grew in the 14th Century, shows that the 'reforming' Pope, whom many people thought was going to modernise the Catholic Church and introduce a modicum of honesty into its teachings and dealings with people, is still happy to follow his predecessors and mislead the credulous and gullible with forgeries and deliberate deceptions.

The Pope's announcement came only a few days after

Monday, 1 December 2014

Look Where Manny Is Accessing The Internet From!

Manuel de Dios Agosto, the Bronx expelled seminarian, Internet stalker and habitual liar has boobed again and revealed something interesting about himself. He has shown us exactly where his emails are coming from and it's all available online from public sources so you don't even have to take my word for it; you can check for yourselves.

Twitter users will have watched in stunned amusement as Manny, with his usual Dunning-Kruger cock-sure self-confidence, via his sock puppet account @CatholicGadfly, challenged Twitter user Ellif D'Wulf to post evidence that he knew his IP address. Ellif had been pointing out that at least two of Manny's sock puppet accounts have the same IP address. Didn't he realise that Ellif doesn't make evidence-free claims? Not everyone does, Manuel! It's not normal!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Victims of Religion in Poland

30–39 year old female with a sickle placed across her neck.
PLOS ONE: Apotropaic Practices and the Undead: A Biogeochemical Assessment of Deviant Burials in Post-Medieval Poland

Ignorant superstitions are often a cause as well as an effect of religious bigotry. These can and often do provide an excuse for human rights abuses and victimisation of people who are a little bit different to the cultural norm, whether in personality, physical or mental disability or even race, skin colour or ethnic origin.

Eastern Europe, and Poland in particular, has a long history of superstitious belief in 'unclean' spirits re-entering a dead body and reanimating it. This superstition, underpinned by the religious idea of a soul or some form of magical other being who lives in our bodies and gives it 'life' is not, as some might think, a biblical or Quranic idea but one which was known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Environment, Evolution and Polar Bear Extinction

PLOS ONE: Projected Polar Bear Sea Ice Habitat in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The prospect of polar bears becoming extinct by 2075 because of the loss of the North Polar icecap is a stark warning of what we are doing to the life-support system we call Earth as we pump out more and more of our toxic waste, like bacteria polluting our culture medium. It also serves to illustrate a couple of things about how life evolves and changes over time, pushed as often as not by environmental change, not genetic change.

Chamber of Secrets Has Creationists in Denial Again

Phote credit: John Hawks
Bone bonanza: Chamber of secrets yields human remains - life - 28 November 2014 - New Scientist

One of the things which illustrates the difference between religion and science is how science continually looks for new information and adjusts its thinking accordingly, whereas religion constantly looks for excuses not to change in any way, and this includes actively ignoring, or finding ways to dismiss, new information.

Take for example the buzz of excitement in the field of palaeoanthropology at the moment at news that a team of archaeologists working in a cave system in South Africa have discovered and excavated the

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Christian Fundamentalist - No Cake for Gays!

Equality law 'conscience clause' bid - UTV Live News

You have to hand it to Christians, they are relentless in their determination to get their special privileges back and to be permitted to carry on victimising and bullying minorities. Even though they've been knocked down and defeated in every court in the UK and Europe, still they whinge and grizzle and demand changes to the law when they are found yet again to have been bullying gays and denying them the same basic human rights that they enjoy.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Rapid Darwinian Evolution In Agricultural Weeds

Wheat Field; Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Weeds and all.
Dawn of farming sparked speed-evolution in weeds - life - 19 November 2014 - New Scientist

One of my recurrent themes in my blogs about evolution is the difference between information held in the DNA and the meaning of that information as interpreted by the environment. This is something that creationist frauds traditionally ignore of course, especially when they try to fool their credulous victims with the claim that no new information can arise because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (sic), so evolution is impossible.

Not only is that nonsensical claim refuted by simple observation but evolution often doesn't need new information anyway; evolution often comes about because a change in the environment give new meaning to existing information.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Evolving Cooperation - But For Who Or What?

Bacteroides fragilis
Look after your gut bacteria; it might be your allotted purpose in life - if you subscribe to the evidence-free religious notion that you must be here for a purpose.

A couple of scientific papers in the last couple weeks have caught my attention because they demonstrate how Richard Dawkins' 'Selfish Gene' metaphor for how Darwinian evolution actually works gives, contrary to what a superficial reading of the term might suggest to those who don't understand evolution, cooperation rather than conflict.

We humans, as with all other multicellular species, are not just cooperative alliances of 'human' genes; not just cooperative alliances of prokaryotic cells and not even just cooperative alliances of eukaryotic cells

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Another Mad Day In A Bronx Cuckoo Land

I really must resist the temptation to write blogs exposing Manuel de Dios Agosto, known to Twitter users as 'Manny' or 'Sac', or other less printable terms, and get back to writing about science and exposing religion's fallacies and human rights abuses, but his latest pratfall is just too hilarious to pass over. Besides, as Oscar Wilde said, the only sensible response to temptation is to yield to it.

His latest piece of hilarity is yet another attempt to convince people he knows who I am and yet another 'exposé' on me straight from Manny's fevered imagination.

So far over the last couple of years, he has told his few readers of his various blogs that:

Gay Gene Poser For Homophobic Creationists

Cambridge Journals Online - Psychological Medicine - Genome-wide scan demonstrates significant linkage for male sexual orientation.

Strangely, a paper based on a large study of brothers and twins which supports the idea that male sexuality, including homesexuality, has a strong genetic basis, has been completely ignored by homophobic religious fundamentalist. I say strangely because these same religious extremists are almost invariably creationists of one sort or another, either Young Earth Creationist loons and frauds like Ken Ham, Ray Comfort and Michael Behe, who ignore almost all science, or Old Earth Creationists like Francis Collins and Alvin Plantinga who only ignore the inconvenient bits and bits they can't pretend aren't true.

Background: Findings from family and twin studies

Monday, 17 November 2014

Is Manny Plagiarising Your Work?

What's the real reason or Manny's insistence on apparently absurd conditions for debating him? It may not just be cowardice.

Those few people who have logged onto one of Manuel de Dios Agosto's blog sites to discover his terms and conditions for 'debating' him when he issues one of his many challenges to do the impossible and prove the Christian god doesn't exist, will have been astonished to find some apparently idiotic conditions being imposed, failure to comply with which will result in Manny claiming victory by default.

Incidentally, thanks to Wulfwitch for that link to a cached copy of one of Manny's blogs. Manny's blogs tend to be quickly edited when he's embarrassed by them, just prior to calling people liars for quoting them verbatim. Thanks too to Wulfwitch for drawing my attention through his blog to these conditions that Manny tries to impose on people who may be tempted to try to have a grown-up debate with him.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Church of England 'Has Six Years Left'

The Right Reverend Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro. Looking for a miracle.
BBC News - Bishop of Truro says Church of England has 'six years'

No. This is not an over-optimistic secularist or a cleric from a rival Christian sect spreading disinformation about Anglicanism but an Anglican bishop telling the Church of England that, basically, unless a miracle intervenes, and there have been precious few of them since we introduced universal education, the Anglican Church is about to expire.

No less an authority than the Bishop of Truro estimates that the Church has about six years left, such is the decline in attendance and income. His diocese alone

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Religion's Flexible 'Moral Absolutes'

One of the smug claims made by theists is that their religion gives them a set of moral absolutes, thus whatever they do in the name of their religion can't be immoral - and anyone who questions it is, by implication, immoral. It's fundamental to the way abusive clerics gain the confidence of their victims, for example. Who could doubt the moral fibre of someone who is working for God or Allah? Obviously, we should consult them on all matters of morality and ethics and allow them to dictate to us on such matters.

So where exactly are these moral absolutes in the holy books, and more importantly where is the evidence that these are er... moral absolutes? Shouldn't we expect a moral absolute, especially as practiced and promoted by religious clerics to be unchanging and eternal? If not, in what way is it an absolute?

Friday, 14 November 2014

How Selfish Genes Can Make Large Testes

Infanticide drives female promiscuity and big balls - life - 13 November 2014 - New Scientist

Infanticide by a dominant male is frequent in many species, having been observed in some 200 species of mammal alone. It is, of course, easily explained by gene theory of Darwinian evolution by natural selection; it is, like so much else in biology, completely nonsensical in terms of intelligent design by a benevolent designer.

It is especially common in species where a single dominant male has a harem of females but can be displaced by a new, younger male, and especially

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Comets, Science And Religion

BBC News - Probe makes historic comet landing.

In an astonishing feat of precision engineering and applied science, scientists today landed a probe on the surface of a comet 316 million miles away travelling at 40,000 mph, after a ten year journey of 4 billion miles.

There is a slight concern that the probe might not be anchored firmly to the comet as the harpoons which should have fired into the surface may not have fired. but they are now set to perform scientific experiments

Friday, 7 November 2014

Oxfam Confirms It - Manny Lied Again

Let's see Mad Manuel try to lie his way out of this one.

In a spectacular intervention, Oxfam, through their verified Twitter account, @Oxfamgb, have confirmed that all the donations I have said I made to them from the proceeds of advertising through this blog have been received. Twitter account @CatholicGadfly is, as most people will be aware, just another fake disinformation account owned by Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled Bronx Catholic seminarian, hobby troll, Internet stalker, pathological liar and serial abuser who can be read about here.

My thanks to Twitter user @Ellif_DWulfe for taking this up with Oxfam with my full cooperation and at my invitation. I gather they confirmed everything I said by email, which of course, Manuel was disputing on Twitter. Oxfam's intervention was unsolicited and must have come as a bombshell for poor little Manny.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Even Our Gut Microbes Show Our Evolution From Apes

Picture: MicrobiologyBytes
Our gut bugs evolved with us as we split from chimps - health - 04 November 2014 - New Scientist

It's long been known that the evolution of obligate parasites such as lice and fleas closely parallels the evolution of their hosts, and now it seems the same parallels can be seen in the evolution of our microbiome - the ecosystem of gut bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in us and with which we have co-evolved and become co-dependent.

Basically, the 'friendly bacteria' that live in our guts not only aid our digestion by breaking down complex polysaccharides, etc, but they also keep our gut healthy by occupying niches, so excluding 'foreign' organisms. They also keep one another's populations in check so that none normally proliferates to levels which can be harmful. One of the causes of diarrhoea which often accompanies

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Female Ants Go After Foreign Sex

Photo: Micheal Herrmann & Sara Helms Cahan
Inter-genomic sexual conflict drives antagonistic coevolution in harvester ants.

In a fascinating paper published by the Royal Society a few days ago, two researchers have shown how the opposed interests of males and females in hybridization can lead to different competing strategies. Like many species of social insects such as ants and wasps, the females mate once a year, or even sometimes only once in a lifetime.

The harvester ants of the closely related Pogonomyrmex genus mate each year after the monsoon rains and the females mate with males of not only their own species but with males of related species too. In fact, they need to mate with the males of other

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Manny Scores Another Own Goal!


I know it's unkind, but LOL!

I know! Mad Manny lying again is not news. What would be news would be Manuel telling the truth, but this one is a spectacular own goal of the sort we've come to expect of Internet stalker and habitual abuser Manuel de Dios Agosto, as he continues his desperate attempt to convince people he's not the same Manuel de Dios Agosto who was expelled from St Joseph's Seminary, New York for behaviour which, had it been made public, would have been just another of the scandals then, as now, embroiling the Catholic Church and it's abusive clerics.

His latest ploy, in his increasingly bizarre guise as Twitter user @StudiousAtheist with which he pretends to be an Atheist who has discovered that I am him and that we are both a Catholic priest from Suffolk, England (Manny fantasy land, remember!) is to claim that St Joseph's Seminary, New York, closed in 1977 - before he was born.

The Bigots Are Whinging Again!

Colin Hart, Director, Christian Institute
Poll shows voters ‘concerned’ over religious liberty threats | News | The Christian Institute

In a wonderful example of how you can rig an opinion poll to give the result you want, the Christian Institute is trying to influence UK Government policy ahead of the General Election next May. They had commissioned the ComRes polling organisation to conduct a poll in marginal constituencies on the question of religious freedom versus equality legislation.

They found that only eleven percent of voters in these constituencies believe religious freedom has increased

Saturday, 1 November 2014

What's So Great About Eternal Life?

The problem for theists of the Abrahamic varieties is that all they really have is a promise of jam tomorrow. All they really have to offer is the hope of an eternal life but you have to die first and spend your life as though its a preparation for this eternal life and for which, to qualify, you have to live to strict rules.

Needless to say, the rules are conveniently made and interpreted by the same people who sell you the promise of jam tomorrow...

Friday, 31 October 2014

Rise of Atheism Alarms Egyptian Clerics

Rise of atheism in Egypt sparks concern |

It's not just in the Western world that clerics who earn their living from people's irrational superstitions, delusions and phobias are becoming concerned over the spread of rationalism and outbreaks of logical thinking. Egyptian clerics too are concerned about the growth of Atheism.

It is estimated that there are about two million Atheists in Egypt, i.e. about 2.3% of the population of 87 million, despite the fact that Atheism is regarded as a

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Muddled Pope Tries To Face Both Ways

In one of those excruciatingly embarrassing pronouncements Popes are periodically prone to making about science, Pope Francis today announced that the Big Bang theory and Evolution are both right and that God isn't a magician with a magic wand (so far so good), then proceeded to explain how neither the Big Bang nor Evolution would be possible without a magic god to get them going, presumably by doing magic, with or without a wand.

Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the Pope announced:

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Rapid Human Evolution In South America

The Cuncaicha rock shelter, high in the Peruvian Andes
Photo: Barbara Fraser
Humans were living at extreme altitudes 1000 years earlier than thought | Science/AAAS | News

A paper published a few days ago suggests human evolution, under the right conditions, can be very rapid.

A mixed American, German and Canadian team led by Kurt Rademaker of Department of Anthropology, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA have discovered that humans lived above 4300 metres for at least part of the year, probably as seasonal hunters, in the High Andes within 2000 years of settling at Monte Verde in Chile. Monte Verde, at about 14,000 BCE is the earliest widely accepted site for human occupation in South

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Human Evolution - Sex With Neanderthals

Neanderthal DNA specialist Svante Pääbo examines the anatomically modern human femur, found near Ust'-Ishim in western Siberia.
Photograph: Bence Viola/MPI EVA
Thoroughly modern humans interbred with Neanderthals - life - 22 October 2014 - New Scientist

A little more light was shed on the fascinating human story the other day when an international team from America, Asia and Europe led by Svante Pääbo and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, published their findings from the DNA sequenced from the oldest human fossil so far. And the picture is emerging of not only several periods of interbreeding between fully modern humans and Neanderthals but that there may have been several waves of modern human migration out of Africa and into Euro-Asia, not all of which were successful in the long run.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Massive Decline in UK Religious Affiliation

Methodist Chapel, Bentlawnt, Shropshire, UK
Exclusive: New figures reveal massive decline in religious affiliation | Christian News on Christian Today

That sensational headline isn't mine, it's from Christian Today, a mainstream online magazine for Christians, and it couldn't be more apposite.

The results of a large, 20,000 person survey by 2015 British Election Study, published on the British Religion in Numbers website, make gloomy reading for people who earn their living from religion. The decline has been little short of catastrophic and however you look at them, there are few crumbs of comfort for the Christian Churches.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bronx Liar Exposed Again!

It's been a bad couple of weeks for poor little Manuel de Dios Agosto, the unemployable, expelled Catholic seminarian with attention deficit and narcissistic personality disorder from the Bronx, New York.

Not only was he confirmed conclusively by Twitter user @God___Swill to be Twitter users @CatholicGadfly, @StudiousAthiest, @SCDTVS, @SacerdotusRadio and the now suspended @Sacerdotus by the simple scientific technique of textual analysis which produced identical profiles - almost impossible to fake and so statistically significant as to have a probability of being due to chance alone which is almost indistinguishable from zero, but he's now been caught by another Twitter user forging emails in the lies he keeps posting about me.

This sad little tale goes back about a year when, for reasons which can only be guessed at, he became psychotic again,

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Slapdown For The Supine Pope

BBC News - Catholic synod: Gay rights groups 'disappointed'

Any illusions the 'reforming' Pope Francis may have been under that he is reforming the Catholic Church and bringing it into the 21st-Century by injecting a small dose of humanism into its doctrine were shattered today. The synod of bishops meeting in Rome put him firmly in his place and voted down his paragraph containing the mildest of calls to 'accept' and 'value' the contribution of homosexuals to society and replaced it with a reaffirmation of traditional homophobic Church dogma.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Creationist Abomination - Lesbian Lizards


Photograph by Alistair J. Cullum. Via Wikimedia Commons
Of course, Intelligent Design 'Theory' has nothing to do with religion or the Bible, does it, creationists! No! Intelligent design is all based on good science and has no fundamentalist religious agenda at all. Intelligent Design 'Theory' would be just the same even if all the proponents of it weren't religious fundamentalist who believe Genesis is the inerrant word of a magic creator and the best available description of reality.

Or that's what they would have their non-fundamentalist victims believe anyway.

Similarly, it's merely a coincidence that proponents of IDT are invariable against same-sex relationships and agree with the the Bible that homosexuality is a mortal sin. And it's naturally no coincidence that the god of the Christian Bible agrees with IDTists because the Bible is science and what they are dealing with is science, not religion at all... isn't it?

So, what's all this about lesbian lizards? Doesn't the creator hate homosexuality?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons from Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill, the largest Neolithic earthwork in Europe
Silbury Hill, in Wiltshire, UK, is the largest Neolithic man-made earthwork in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It was made about 4,750 years ago, would have taken about 18 million man-hours of labour or 500 men working for 15 years to construct - and nobody knows why it as built or what it was for.

It seems highly likely that religion was a factor if not the entire reason for its construction. Let's see what we can learn from it.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons From Cirencester

Three Goddesses, Roman high relief sculpture.jpg
"Three Goddesses, Roman high relief sculpture" (Corinium Museum, Cirencester) by Tony Grist - Photographer's own files. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
A little study of ancient history can teach us a lot about religions.

As I said in a previous blog, we've just had a very pleasant mini-break in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire during which we spent a few hours in the old Roman town of Cirencester, which, 2000 years ago was a thriving, bustling Romano-British community called Corinium, surrounded by and more-or-less peacefully co-existing with the indigenous Dubonnii tribe of native Britons.

These native Britons were supposedly Celtic people, though I personally find the arguments for that less than convincing (but that's another story). They, like the Romans, and like the Anglo-Saxons did later, had replaced earlier migrants to the British Isles comming possibly from Western Iberia and the Pyrenees.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

How Evolution Gave Us Fruity Beers

Cirencester, looking east down Market Place.
We've just arrived back home from a very pleasant Autumn mini-break in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, staying for a couple of nights in a hotel overlooking the Cotswold Water Park at South Cerney, near Cirencester. Cirencester, as the name ...cester implies, was an old Roman fortified town used as both a center of Romano-British culture and a garrison to maintain military dominance and political control over the native Britons. 'Castra' is Latin for 'camp', which came to mean a military garrison.

The Romans knew it as Corinium, Corinium Dobunnorum (after the local Celtic tribe the Dubonnii)


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