Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Moral Self-Licensing - Catholic Extremists Steal From the Vatican

Members of Amazon indigenous populations walk during a Via Crucis procession from St. Angelo Castle to the Vatican, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Pope Francis is holding a three-week meeting on preserving the rainforest and ministering to its native people as he fended off attacks from conservatives who are opposed to his ecological agenda.
Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Thieves steal Amazon fertility statues as synod nears end

A neat illustration of the hypocrisy inherent in religious fanaticism, where 'faith' and piety are used to excuse moral self-licensed exemptions from the standards they would impose on the rest of us, was on display in Rome a few days ago.

Catholic vandals, attending the Vatican for a synod on preserving the Amazon Rainforest and ministering to the indigenous population there, called by Pope Francis, ignored the 8th Commandment, stole religious fertility symbols known as the Pachamama idols, and threw them in the River Tiber. The statues, symbolic representations of a pregnant women, had been paraded to the Vatican from St. Angelo Castle and presented to Pope Paul as symbols of fertility and life.

The synod had already attracted vociferous opposition from anti-science, climate change deniers and the display of 'heretical' religious artifacts, 'polluting' St Peter', was a step too far. To these Catholic extremists, the indigenous people of the Amazon are to be treated as worthless, their sacred objects and religion as Satanic to be destroyed, and their habitat open to exploitation and destruction.

Basic Logic for Creationists - Lesson From Pompeii

As a service to creationists, I decided to provide a little explanation, by way of an example, of how deductive logic works.

No doubt, inspired by Ken Ham's stock method for dismissing historical evidence as an explanation for the present, by dismissing anything that hasn't been directly witnessed by the person advancing it with, "Were you there?", one creationist recently made the astonishing claim on Twitter in the tweet below.

"Timothy", known variously as "Dim Tim", "Dimmy" and "Tiny Tim" uses multiple accounts to try to advance creationism, usually making himself a laughing stock in the process. He appears to be a prime example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, being incapable of ever admitting that he could be wrong, no matter how blatantly he is so.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Triple Trouble for 'Intelligent' Design Creationists

Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Resistance to last resort drug arose in patient over 3 weeks -- ScienceDaily

Any truly intelligent designer knows exactly what the results of his or her design will be. A designer who simply blunders along making random changes without any idea what these changes will mean, could not conceivably be called 'intelligent' within the commonly-understood meaning of the word. Stupid would be the more correct term.

A designer who designs something to do harm to people could not possibly be called loving.

So, what are we to make of the news that resistance to antibiotics of last resort has been observed to arise in the bacterium, Pseudomonas aeruginosa?

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Hurry For a Good Deal on My Books

Sadly, Amazon are ending the Kindle MatchBook program on 31st October this year.

Under this scheme, customers who have already bought a book through Amazon, could also buy a Kindle ebook version at a special low price, if the author had enrolled in the program.

So, if you want to take advantage of this program and get a reduced-price Kindle version of any of my books, you need to either already own it or order it before 31st October! You do not even need to own a Kindle device as free Kindle readers as available for PCs and Android smartphones.

A list of my books can be found here. The current best sellers are listed below.

Another announcement by Amazon that might affect readers of this blog is that Amazon are also discontinuing their support for blog subscriptions on Kindle. Under this scheme, Kindle owners could, for a small subscription (in the case of my blog, £0.99 per month) receive copies of a blog on their Kindle soon after publication.

If you're wondering why my blog has gone, sadly, that's the reason.

Meanwhile, of course, you can still get copies of my books for your Kindle, and, if you already own a paperback version, you can do so at a very low price!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Silly Bible - History The Authors Got Wrong

The Bible is not only full of bad science - which is at least understandable given that the earliest parts of it were based on myths and legends from, as Christopher Hitchens put it, the fearful infancy of our species - but it is full of very bad history too.

Much of the 'history' is a retrospective attempt to give legitimacy to land claims or to give credence to the claim to power and authority of dubious regimes, or supremacy over neighbours, of course. Giving this spurious credence to despots and insecure rulers of one form or another has frequently been the role of 'historians' and 'genealogists' throughout history, no less in Canaan and the Levant, than in more recent times and places.

The problem is, much of this 'history' was written by people who knew little or nothing of actual history, so they made what can only be described as wonderfully anachronistic schoolboy howlers. Not that they expected their readers (or mostly listeners) to realise this of course. They would have been equally ignorant of real history.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Evolution News - Cambrian 'Explosion' Blows up in Creationists' Face

Yilingia spiciformis and the track it left as it moved.
Credit: Z. Chen et al./Nature
Ancient worm fossil rolls back origins of animal life.

It's another of those bad days for creationism, like most days in biology research, in fact.

This time, one of their favourite misrepresentations - the so-called Cambrian Explosion - just got a lot harder to misrepresent. Fossil evidence has been found of a much earlier complex multicellular, worm-like organism.

This gives the lie to any claims that the Cambrian biota appeared suddenly without ancestry, as though some celestial designer arrived on Earth one day and plonked a whole lot of different, fully formed species, in the sea.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Christian Gay Conversion Therapy Leader Converts - To Honesty

McKrae Game
“I was a religious zealot that hurt people. Why would I want that to continue?”
Conversion therapy leader for 2 decades, McKrae Game disavows movement he helped fuel | News | postandcourier.com

McKrae Game was a leading exponent of the 'gay cure' or 'conversion therapy' that feeds off the guilt Christianity inflicts on homosexuals. He founded Truth Ministries, later rebranded as Hope for Wholeness, a faith-based conversion therapy program in South Carolina.

But now he has had his own conversion - to honesty. He has come out as gay and is campaigning to undo some of the harm he and his fellow 'gay cure' parasites did to people.

For two decades he preached that homosexuality would send gays to Hell and that they could be saved by his Conversion Therapy course. As stark an example of how Christianity, In Hitch's words, declares you ill and commands you to be well - and sells you the 'cure' - as you could wish for.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Evolution News - Another Piece of the Jigsaw

Facial reconstruction of A. anamensis by John Gurche
© Matt Crow, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
A new fossil cranium reveals the face of Lucy's ancestor | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

What is probably the most important hominin fossil since 'Lucy' was announced by the Max Planck Institute a few days ago. Like all significant scientific discoveries, it means a revision of our understanding is now needed to accommodate this new information.

Sadly for creationists, it doesn't mean that our understanding of human evolution was fundamentally wrong, but that it was incomplete. We now know a little more and so have a better understanding of the exact path our evolution from pre-hominin ancestors took.

Regrettably, the paper in Nature by Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and their colleagues sits behind an expensive paywall. However, we have the detailed press release from Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.

It really is time that major papers of this importance are published open access.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Pell Conviction Stands

Cardinal George Pell. Outside court, wearing prison cloths and clerical collar
Cardinal George Pell loses appeal against sexual abuse convictions - BBC News

Cardinal Pell, former archbishop of Melbourne, Australia, formerly number three in the Vatican and the personal choice of Pope Francis to sort out the rapant financial corruption at the heart of the Catholic Church, has lost his appeal against conviction for child sexual abuse. Pell now becomes the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child abuse offences.

By a majority of two to one, the Australian appeal court judges upheld the conviction last December and dismissed the claim that the chief witness - one of the two whom Pell had sexually abused as a child - was unreliable and therefore there was insufficient evidence on which to convict.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Big Bat Cave Bother For Creationists

Gomantong Cave, Borneo, Malaysia
Photo: Donald McFarlane

Deep inside a massive limestone cave in Borneo, there is a mound of bird and bat droppings, produced by a constant 'rain' of fresh excrement from the bats and birds that occupy the ceiling of the cave, some 60 metres above.

This is not a place for the squeamish, and probably not a nice place for creationists desperate to believe Earth is just a few thousand years old.

In places, this mound can be 10 to 12 metres high. So massive it it that is sustains a whole ecosystem of cockroaches, microorganisms and other creatures that depend entirely on the fresh guano.

Monday, 5 August 2019

40% of Americans Believe in Creationism!

40% of Americans Believe in Creationism.

As though having elected Donald Trump as president wasn't bad enough for America's reputation, we now learn that four out of every ten Americans still believe that a god created modern humans exactly as they are today.

However, hidden in these abysmal figure is evidence that this sorry state of affairs is changing. Believe it or not 40% is close to the historical low for this figure since Gallup began polling on this issue in 1982. Although there is a statistically insignificant rise of 2 percentage point in the last year, this is the third year in a row that the figure has been at or below 42%; a figure only once before bettered with 40% in 2010. Prior to 2008, figures in the upper 40s were the norm.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Refuting Intelligent Design Creationism

Lee Thomas Wimberley, MD. CDesign Proponentsist
On the Emergence of Life | Lee T. Wimberley, MD.

First a little background.

Apparently, Lee Thomas Wimberly, MD, is highly regarded in creationist circles in the social media, though not in scientific circles, where he appears to be a complete unknown. He has written what he believes is a critique of evolution and what he calls 'evolutionists'.

He has a medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine and works as an internist associated with several hospitals in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. He appears to have no background in biological research or scientific research of any kind. He is an 'intelligent design' advocate, in other words, he is a creationist. As his record in the social media shows, he is a Bible-literalist Young Earth Creationist who believes in Noah's Ark, and a 6000 year-old Earth.

Having asked on Twitter why evolution can't explain the origin of life, as though demanding a scientific explanation for one thing - evolution - explain another - abiogenesis - is some sort of rebuttal of the ToE, and having conspicuously ignored the proffered ten-step process by which abiogenesis could very plausibly have happened, Wimberly challenged me to read and comment on his blog.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Why Americans Are Losing Confidence In Religion

Why Are Americans Losing Confidence in Organized Religion?

Following on from their poll finding that American confidence in organised religion is continuing to decline, an article by Gallup's Frank Newport analysed the reasons for this decline in greater details.

As I reported a few weeks ago, from being the most respected of American institutions in 1974, with 68% of Americans having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it, this figure has now sunk to just 36% in 2019.

Monday, 22 July 2019

New Light on Cichlid Evolution in Africa

Just a few of the Lake Victoria Cichlids
New light on cichlid evolution in Africa - LMU Munich.

Cichlids are a ubiquitous group of freshwater fish in the tropics and are notable for the wide range of morphologies and patterns of behaviour that have adapted them to exploit a wide range of freshwater habitats. There are some 1100 different African species alone, most of them belonging to the Haplotilapiini group.

Now a collaborative research project carried out under the auspices of the GeoBio-Center at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany (LMU), has helped shed light on the origins and causes of this central paradigm in evolutionary biology.

The most notable example of this diversification is in the Great Lakes, Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria, and others, in the East African Rift Valley where we can date the beginnings of this radiation with a fair degree of accuracy because several of these lakes are know to have dried up at particular geological times. This effectively zeros the local evolutionary process at the point where the lakes fill again.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Declining Religion in UK

Religion Identity, behaviour and belief over two decades | British Social Attitudes 36 - Religion.

'Christian', as a self-identifier of religious belief, fell below 40% for the first time in 2018 in the UK, while 'non-religious' oustripped all the others combined at 52%.

Coincidentally, the UK voted to leave the EU by exactly the same percentage of those who voted as those who now state they have no religion. On the basis of that margin, the UK is now going through the most fundamental change in its constitution since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

The constitutional change as a result of 52% of people having no religion has been conspicuous by its absence. In Theresa May's words, nothing has changed. In this instance though, that statement is true.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

The End of Christian Fascism in Greece?

Greek fascist 'Golden Dawn' flag
Greece election results: Landslide for centre-right New Democracy after Syriza concedes defeat | The Independent

Hidden in the result of the recent Greek general election a few days ago was a welcome result which went almost unnoticed by the mainstream news media; the extreme right-wing, Orthodox Christian-supported and openly fascist party, 'Golden Dawn' was totally wiped out, losing all its MPs.

Golden Dawn had previously been Greece's third largest party but under the Greek proportional electoral system, having failed to reach the 3% threshold, it did not qualify to have even one MP.

According to this report, the Greek Orthodox Church, which unlike Catholicism, does not have a rigid hierarchical structure but has devolved regional autonomy, is at least ambivalent towards Gold Dawn's openly fascist, ultra-nationalist policies and violent tactics. While some bishops have been critical other have been lukewarm or even openly supportive of Golden Dawn.

U.S. Confidence in Religion Falls Again

U.S. Confidence in Organized Religion Remains Low | Gallup.

The confidence of Americans in organized religion has fallen by a further two percentage points in the last year and now stands at another historic low of just 36% having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it.

Historical lows have been recorded in each successive year for the last 5 years and there has only been one brief respite in an otherwise inexorable decline since 2010. In 1975, soon after Gallup began polling the same question about a number of American institutions, organized religion has fallen from the most trusted at 68% (a position it held until 1985) to sixth place.

Over the same period, those expressing very little of no confidence in organized religion has risen from 11% to 27%.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Pope's Envoy To France

Archbishop Luigi Ventura, papal nuncio to France
Credit: Rémy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images
Vatican lifts diplomatic immunity for envoy facing assault claims | World news | The Guardian

On January 17 this year, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, gave a new year’s address to diplomats, religious leaders and civil society figures in the city hall. Also invited was 74-year-old Archbishop Luigi Ventura, papal nuncio to France, the equivalent of an ambassador for the Vatican City state and the personal representative of Pope Francis. He has held the post since 2009.

While there he allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted a member of the city staff, by groping his bottom, once in full view of witnesses. The attention was unwanted, uninvited and unwelcome.

The employee reported the matter to his employers who, on 24 January, reported the matter to the police as a sexual assault, and an investigation was launched. After these allegations emerged, a second man alleged that Ventura had molested him in Canada. Christian Vachon alleged Ventura touched his buttocks at least twice during a banquet held at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, near Quebec.

However, as an accredited diplomat, Ventura was immune from prosecution, as is every other diplomat under the 1961 Vienna Convention, unless diplomatic immunity is withdrawn by the diplomat's own country - in this case, the Vatican City.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Catholic Abuse News - German Congregation Walkout

Rev. Ulrich Zurkuhlen
"I have never experienced anything like this in the 54 years of my life as a priest."
German Catholics Storm Out Of Sermon Urging Forgiveness For Predator Priests | HuffPost UK

Once upon a time, the members of a Christian congregation were nothing if not derential. Not so now though if Münster in Germany is anything to go by.

A congregation would once sit, sometimes for hours, enduring the lectures priests delivered from their pulpit. They would nod piously but silently in agreement, as the sacred words of wisdom poured forth upon the assembled godly, enlightening them, reinforcing their sense of unworthiness and their need to come back again next week to endure another lecture, hand over money and beg for forgiveness.

They would even shake hands with the priest as they left, congratulating him on another wonderful sermon - whilst scarcely remembering a word of it.

Not so today, as events in the German city of Münster showed. Gone is deference to the moral authority of the church and it's priests. Sickened by daily stories of hypocrisy and moral depravity of priests, and in this case Catholic priests, the congregation in the Holy Spirit Church answered back, loudly and angrily. Eventually half the choir walked out followed by about 70 of the congregation and held an impromptu protest meeting outside.

Monday, 8 July 2019

How Christians Lie to Us - Gay 'Conversion' Fraud

Science Journal Retracts Paper That Said Gay Conversion Therapy Works | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

Last August, an American Christian rights pressure group, Liberty Counsel, issued a press release in which they claimed:

A recent study, Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction, confirms the overwhelming effectiveness of people receiving counseling to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.

In this study, more than two-thirds of those who participated in group therapy or received professional help had significant heterosexual shifts in sexual attraction, sexual identity, and behavior, and moderate-to-marked decreases in suicidality, depression, substance abuse, and increases in social functioning and self-esteem. The study’s effectiveness rates for counseling people with unwanted same-sex attraction were comparable to the effectiveness rates of psychotherapy in general for any unwanted issue.


This current research also strongly refutes claims the American Psychological Association [APA] and other organizations have made aimed at discouraging counsel to change unwanted same-sex attractions, behavior, and identity.
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