Sunday, 28 September 2014

Creationists Floundering In The Waters Of The Deep

Half of Earth's water formed before the sun was born | Science/AAAS | News

No one could honestly accuse creationists of not being hypocrites.

Take, for example, their response to this tentative evidence that most, if not all, the water on Earth was formed in interstellar dust before the sun coalesced and then exploded to form an accretion disk from which the planets formed and contrast that sudden enthusiasm for science, no matter how tenuously it supports them, to their cavalier dismissal of all the science which refutes their infantile claims:

Wonderful.. This finding again confirmed the Word of God.. Always, Science will be aligned with the truths of Bible.




TRUE SCIENCE CONFIRMS THE WORD OF GOD

The Story of Creation

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was barren, with no form of life; it was under a roaring ocean covered with darkness. But the Spirit of God was moving over the water.



The Second Day, God Divided the waters

6 God said, “I command a dome to separate the water above it from the water below it.”7 And that’s what happened. God made the dome 8 and named it “Sky.” Evening came and then morning—that was the second day.



The Fourth Day, God created the Sun and the Moon

14 God
said, “I command lights to appear in the sky and to separate day from night and to show the time for seasons, special days, and years. 15 I command them to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened. 16 God made two powerful lights, the brighter one to rule the day and the other[e] to rule the night. He also made the stars. 17 Then God put these lights in the sky to shine on the earth, 18 to rule day and night, and to separate light from darkness. God looked at what he had done, and it was good. 19 Evening came and then morning—that was the fourth day.


The account in Genesis this science is claimed to have confirmed is of course:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

[...]

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:1-10

Bronze-Age Firmament
The only problem is the science makes no mention whatsoever of deep water or water which could in any sense of the word be said to have a 'face'. Nor is there anything about a thing called a 'firmament' - a word which apparently derives from the Hebrew word for 'beaten out', as in a metal dish or bowl, so probably meant a dome (any idea how a dome could be fitted over a sphere to keep the water out? Me neither!)

So, what does the science actually say?

Abstract
Identifying the source of Earth’s water is central to understanding the origins of life-fostering environments and to assessing the prevalence of such environments in space. Water throughout the solar system exhibits deuterium-to-hydrogen enrichments, a fossil relic of low-temperature, ion-derived chemistry within either (i) the parent molecular cloud or (ii) the solar nebula protoplanetary disk. Using a comprehensive treatment of disk ionization, we find that ion-driven deuterium pathways are inefficient, which curtails the disk’s deuterated water formation and its viability as the sole source for the solar system’s water. This finding implies that, if the solar system’s formation was typical, abundant interstellar ices are available to all nascent planetary systems.


In other words, about the only honest claim creationists can make is that their superstition got the sequence approximately right in that water pre-existed Earth. Now all they need is scientific evidence that the sun and moon were created after Earth and are lamps hanging from a dome over the Earth which is keeping all this water out. I wonder why they never accept the science in that respect, or the science which refutes the creation of humans fully evolved and before other animals, or the existence of green plants before there was sunlight. Is science only 'conclusive proof' when it agrees with them, maybe?

Talk about cherry-picking which straws to cling to.

But maybe we should let them have this moment of glee. It must be nice for them to have found a rare instance of science confirming something no matter how tenuously. Even the ignorant guesses of Bronze-Age hill farmers can be right by accident and it must be so galling having so much of the science of the last couple of centuries refuting one superstitious claim after another so that even they, or at least the educated ones, have to explain their former cast-iron certainties away as metaphors or allegories.

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Friday, 26 September 2014

Christians For Child Slavery

Fundamentalist Mormons harvest the community garden along with their children at the Rockland Ranch community outside Moab, Utah, November 3, 2012.
Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters
You Won't Believe How Church Leaders Are Justfying Child Labor - Ranting of a New Yorker

The Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous breakaway sect of the Mormons, is exploiting a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court to avoid answering questions about its alleged use of child slave labour on a church-owned farm. The allegation is that church leaders ordered the closure of its schools so that the children could work on the farm for up to eight hours a day, without pay, to get the pecan nut harvest in. This matter has been under investigation by the US Department of Labor since 2012.

Now church member Vergel Steed, who had been

All Fossils Are Transitional Fossils

One aspect of evolution which creationists either feign ignorance of or have been fooled by creationist pseudoscience frauds about, is how exactly one species 'transitions' into another over time, according to the scientific theory of Darwinian evolution. The same feigned or genuine misunderstanding can be seen in creationist circles concerning the evolution of an entire phylum or class from an earlier one.

In fact, spend a few minutes perusing any social media which deals with creationism vs evolution and you will quickly discover that creationists seem to hold three different understandings of the process simultaneously, all of them wrong. This probably comes from a need to dismiss evolution without giving those reasons too much consideration so three different reasons are better than one. Those three laughably infantile views seem to be:
  1. Evolution says that one species suddenly changes into another either by the parent

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Conviction Christians - Dinesh d'Souza

"Dinesh D'Souza" by DineshDSouza1961 - FreeCapitalismNow.com Event in Chicago. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Don't worry if you live outside the USA and have never heard of Dinesh d'Souza. His brand of fanatical right-wing extremist Christianity, obsessive opposition to Barack Obama and hysterical criticism and loathing of 'New Atheism' is completely irrelevant over here and readily recognised as the mark of a swivel-eyed loon with an agenda. In the USA, however, d'Souza has been an influential figure in increasingly right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, Republican politics.

He was a one-time adviser to Ronald Reagan, and is an influential political commentator, filmmaker, author and Christian apologist, and is affiliated to various right-wing and fundamentalist Christian organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the right-wing political journal, Policy Review. He was president of The King's College, a New York Christian School from 2010-2012, and has also written two Christian apologetics - What's So Great About Christianity (2002) and Life After Death: The Evidence (2007).

In 2007, d'Souza excelled himself with a book entitled The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11 in which he attempted to blame the 'American Left' (i.e., anyone who isn't on the extreme right) for 9/11, arguing that Muslims don't hate America (i.e. the real, right-wing, America) but instead hate the 'moral licentiousness' (i.e., sexual freedom and women's rights) of the American liberal left. In effect, he was arguing that those who attacked America on 9/11 were on the same side of the political fence as d'Souza and his conservative allies and the best way to deter similar attacks in the future is for Americans to become more like the Muslim fundamentalists of Al Qaeda.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Loon At The Top

Jim Wells, DUP, Minister of Health for Northern Ireland
Jim Wells becomes new health minister (for Northern Ireland)

First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Peter Robinson, reshuffled his government today and appointed Jim Wells to the post of Minister for Health - in charge of Northern Ireland's devolved National Health Service.

Jim's qualifications for this post, in charge of the highest-spending department in Northern Ireland's government, and probably the one most dependant on up-to-date science and technology, especially biological science, are a degree in geography and a diploma in town planning.

He is also a fundamentalist Protestant loon who believes the Bible is the best available description of the Universe, that Earth is 6000 years old and humans and all other life on Earth were created by magic.

Science Got It Wrong - And So Made Progress

Ripples from dawn of creation vanish in a puff of dust - physics-math - 22 September 2014 - New Scientist

Okay, so scientists got one wrong.

They thought they had found solid evidence of the ripples in the background microwave radiation predicted by the inflation model of the Big Bang and so confirmed the inflation hypothesis. Now it seems the result could have been due to cosmic dust.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Recent Human Evolution in Quebec

Evidence for evolution in response to natural selection in a contemporary human population.

Scientists from Canada and the UK have recently discovered compelling evidence for an example of local rapid human evolution in an isolated community in Quebec, Canada, between 1800 and 1940, when the age at first birth for women fell from 26 to 22 years old in Ile aux Coudres, a small island community of French Canadians in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 80 Km Northeast of Quebec City.

Creationists will no doubt take comfort from the fact that the paper mentions the term 'microevolution' which has been misrepresented to their victims by creationist pseudo-science frauds as materially

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Dutch Catholic Church Goes Into Meltdown

PHOTO: REUTERS/MAX ROSSI
Dutch bishops give Pope Francis a bleak picture of Catholic Church in decline | FaithWorld

Along with most European countries, Christian Church membership has fallen sharply in Holland with about two thirds of Catholic churches expected to be closed and sold off to be converted into apartments, shops, bars or warehouses, as Catholic Bishops told Pope Francis last November. Although officially blamed on 'drastic secularization' of society the Pope was left in no doubt that the world-wide sexual abuse of minors by predatory paedophile priests was a major cause of this haemorrhage of members and drastic decline in church attendance.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Only Real Gods Agree With William Lane Craig

If ISIS’s God Were Real, Would I Be Obliged to Follow Him?

Confused Christians can now sleep soundly in their beds because William Lane Craig has revised his special Divine Command Theory (DCT). DCT says that morality is doing exactly what God commands without regard to the effects it might have on other people because God knows best and can take life if and when he wishes. All you have to do is obey God's command and whatever you do will be moral.

William Lane Craig devised this theory to justify the genocidal murder of the Canaanites in the Bible and so elevated genocide to the level of a moral crusade, provided God told you to do it. He formulated this

Friday, 19 September 2014

Babies' Cries Show Common Descent For Mammals

Primal pull of a baby crying reaches across species - life - 18 September 2014 - New Scientist

It used to be axiomatic that only humans had 'human' emotions and experienced the finer feelings of love, compassion and empathy or could consciously act altruistically from some higher motive or knowledge of right from wrong. This was assumed to set us above the 'brute' animals and, by one of those glorious pieces of circular reason characteristic of religions, was because we had been created as a higher life-form to the rest of creation - and of course the 'fact' that we had these higher emotions was evidence that we had been specially created and placed above the

Creating Life By Chance Alone

Darwin's "warm little pond"
Chances of first life improved by weighted dice - life - 18 September 2014 - New Scientist

"How did life first arise on Earth?" is one of those questions like "What caused the Big Bang?" that creationists and religious apologists love because science either doesn't yet have an answer, or the real answer seems counter-intuitive and thus can be dismissed in front of an audience conditioned to assume that the Universe and everything in it - apart from their assumed god - should be easy to understand and makes intuitive sense even with little or no knowledge of the subject. The answer that the BB was a quantum event and so did not necessarily

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Europeans Are All A Bit Native American

Archetypal European hunter-gatherer
DNA study reveals third group of ancient ancestors of modern Europeans | Science | theguardian.com

It has long been recognised that modern Europeans are descended from an initial migration of hunter-gatherer people who replaced H. neanderthalensis about 40,000 years ago. This lifestyle was then replaced by a farming-based culture which spread out from the Middle-East about 8,000 years ago, probably via Anatolia and the Balkans.

It had been assumed that this was a cultural change as neighbouring people recognised the superiority of agriculture and adopted the techniques and technology of their neighbours. Now techniques of DNA recovery from ancient remains are enabling scientists to build a much more complete picture, showing, for example, that this second wave was a real wave of genetically distinct peoples rather than a spread of cultures as had previously been assumed based on archaeological evidence alone.

Unintelligent Design - Compensating For Evolution's Blunders

Hacked photosynthesis could boost crop yields : Nature News & Comment

You see, one of the pieces of crap design that life on Earth has had to put up with since the evolution of photosynthesis, is one of the most abundant proteins on Earth. It's an essential component of all green plants, an enzyme known chemically as ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase or RuBisCo for short. I blogged about this inefficient enzyme some months ago in an article about the very many examples of unintelligent design to be found in nature. I pointed out then that the reason rubisco is so abundant is because it is so inefficient:

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Why Modern Forests Evolved

Plant Ecological Strategies Shift Across the Cretaceous–Paleogene Boundary | PLOS Biology, September 16, 2014

The thing about science is that it all fits together to form a large picture, so it's always rewarding when one little piece of evidence is found which confirms another piece, or, if not exactly confirms it, certainly goes a long way towards supporting it. Take for example, the evidence from the fossil record that the

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Something Is Bugging Creationism.

Evolution doesn't read any rules and feels no obligation to conform to any norms, so we should expect the unexpected. If we didn't get the occasional surprise it would start to look just a little too predictable. If things were as the creationist loons and frauds like to claim, we would expect an intelligent, perfect designer, to at least show bit of consistency.

After all what perfection is there in randomness and how does no pattern at all look like design according to a plan? No doubt though the frauds will fall back on the traditional woo-woo excuse of ineffability and mystery and beyond human comprehension which renders their crackpot notion redundant as a predictive

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Scotland And The United Kingdom

This Thursday's Scottish referendum on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom is a pivotal moment, not only in the history of Scotland but in the history of the United Kingdom. It's worth passing briefly over the history of Scotland and its considerable part in the history of the British Isles.

A great deal is made by the pro-independence movement of Scotland's 'distinct identity' with very little analysis of the truth of the claim. For example, industrial Glasgow, Aberdeen or Dundee probably have far more in common culturally with Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham or Southampton than they do with Wester Ross,

Friday, 12 September 2014

Neanderthal Extermination Mapped in Detail.

Neanderthal demise traced in unprecedented detail - life - 20 August 2014 - New Scientist

The story of the demise of the Neanderthals and their replacement by modern Homo sapiens in Europe became a little more clear a couple of weeks ago but the clarifying picture is beginning to look bad for us moderns humans.

It's beginning to look like we were one of the first invasive species; one which was not just a disinterested observer of the demise of our cousin

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Atheism Increasing In Line With Intelligence

Brain drain: Are we evolving stupidity? - life - 20 August 2014 - New Scientist

An article by Bob Holmes in New Scientist this week reports that there appears to be a slight reversal in recent years of a trend in IQ scores which had been almost invariably upwards since records began to be collected in the 1950s.

The primary data comes from a standard IQ test given to 18 year-old Danish males as part of their conscription into military service. With the exception of a brief downward trend in the late 1970s, the reported IQ scores increased sharply until about 1995, then plateaued and now appear to have gone into reverse.

This sharply upward trend has been seen in every country where living standards and nutrition have improved, as they did in most of post-war Europe from the 1950s onwards. This change is known as the

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Creationism, Amber And Mitey Ants.

Ant with mite on its head, in amber.

Photo: Jason Dunlop/Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
Mite and ant locked together in amber - Nature | News.

You don't have to go scrabbling around in gravel beds, old quarries or Jurassic Coast beaches like Lyme Regis to find fossils. You can find them in old museums or they can simply arrive in the post as this one did. It was sent to Jason Dunlop, an arachnologist at the Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science in Berlin, Germany, by a serious collector of fossil spiders who buys quantities of amber and searches through them.

This Baltic Amber is 44-49 million years old (fairly young by geological standards) and contains a rare example of of a fossilised mite and the first of this particular species (Myrmozercon sp.). Significantly, this is also the earliest example of a mite being found attached to its host, in this case the ant Ctenobethylus goepperti, a social

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

How Transitional Fish May Have Learned To Walk

Polypterus senegalus
How fish can learn to walk : Nature News & Comment

A fascinating piece of research published a few days ago shed some light on how transitional fish/amphibians may have learned to walk on land as they moved from an aquatic to a terrestrial existence.

The researchers from the University of Ottawa, Canada, led by Emily Standen, took juvenile bichir (Polypterus senegalus) - a freshwater fish from Africa which has a primitive lung as well as gills and so can live on land - and raised them on land for eight months. The control group was raised in water as normal.

The land-raised bichir showed not only a noticeably more sophisticated style of walking but there were

Abuse-Aware Cardinal Brady Retires On Full Pension

Irish Cardinal Sean Baptist Brady arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican, March 6, 2013.

Photo: REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope accepts resignation of head of scandal-plagued Irish church - Reuters.

In a demonstration of his determination to clean up the Catholic Church and show the world his remorse for the decades of institutional child abuse and systematic cover-up by senior clerics, Pope Francis has allowed Cardinal Sean Brady, "Primate of All Ireland", to retire quietly at the normal age of 75 when Cardinals are expected to retire, or at least to formally offer their resignation, anyway.

To save the poor man embarrassment by being sacked, he had been effectively on gardening leave for the past year while his duties as Bishop of Armagh had been undertaken by the specially appointed "coadjutor", Monsignor Eamonn Martin, who will now formally take up Brady's old job.

Cardinal Brady became notorious in 2012 when a BBC documentary revealed that he had known about, but had failed to warn parents, of the child-abusing priest, Father Brendan Smyth, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 75 charges of indecent and sexual abuse of boys and girls over a period of more than 30 years. Brady always claimed the documentary was misleading, but apologised for his part in the scandal.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Malignant Melanoma - Another Gift From The Intelligent Designer?

We've just spent a glorious week in the South of France on the Côte d'Azur where the sun beats down from an azure sky on the more or less sun-tanned or sun-burned bodies, prostrate on the beaches wearing next to nothing and exposing skin normally hidden where the sun don't shine - and most of them European from further north.

You see, pale skin is generally recognised as an adaptive feature in Euro-Asian peoples because darker skin, which evolved in Africa, filtered out too much sun to make enough vitamin D - which is made in the skin in response to sunlight and we don't normally get enough in our diets.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Wandering Stones - A Lesson for Creationists

'Wandering stones' of Death Valley explained : Nature News & Comment

The 'mystery' of the 'Wandering Stones' of Death Valley, California has been definitively solved by, surprise! surprise!, science - and there is a subtle but crushing lesson for creationists and other magical thinkers in the mystery. Actually, the stones aren't in Death Valley but in Racetrack Playa in a valley in nearby mountains. The mystery was how they move across the flat dried-up lakebed, apparently without any assistance.

The answer had been proposed earlier but observation - the basis of all good science - has finally proved that thin ice sheets form when the normally dry ancient lakebed floods to a depth of a few centimeters and then freezes

Yawning Wolves Show Empathy

Yawning Spreads Like a Plague in Wolves | Science | Smithsonian

More evidence emerged this week that the ability to empathise with members of the same species, and even, in some cases, across species, is not unique to humans but is also present in non-humans. A paper published today in PLOS One by a team of researchers from Tokyo University showed that yawning is contagious in wolves (Canis lupus).

Yawning is generally regarded as an empathetic response when it is copied. It is very difficult for

Thursday, 28 August 2014

How Creationists Lie To Us - Age Of The Sun

Spot the liar.

Dr Paul D. Ackerman, Creationist:

Around the turn of the century, the famous scientist Lord Kelvin created difficulties for evolutionists by presenting a number of powerful arguments against the long ages needed by their theory. In a widely heralded debate with the famous evolutionist Thomas Huxley, Lord Kelvin tore the evolutionists' position to shreds with simple and straightforward physical arguments that the earth and solar system were not old enough for life to have arisen by Darwin's proposed evolutionary process. Among Lord Kelvin's arguments on the age issue was the time factor for the sun's survival based upon Helmholtz's accepted model of gravitational collapse. Lord Kelvin had the theory of evolution on the ropes and had seemingly dealt the knockout blow.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Pests and Creationism

The German Cockroach, Blatella germanica. (Image: Alex Wild/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis)
Meet the lodgers: Wildlife in the great indoors - life - 24 August 2014 - New Scientist

The german cockroach, Blatella germanica, lives almost everywhere that humans live. It lives in our homes, our hospitals and hotels, in our shops and factories and sewers and offices. In fact it lives in practically any buildings built by humans and especially heated ones with food in. But it is completely unknown in the wild and quickly dies if stranded outdoors. (It's probably all too obvious already what question I'll be asking creationists at the end of this blog.)

Quite when and where it took up with humans and evolved its complete dependence on us is unknown but is believed to have been somewhere in Africa, probably before we were modern humans. Its ancestors might well have lived in caves like several other species of cockroach.

B. germanica has shown itself to be capable of rapidly evolving. In the 1980's the control method of choice was to use sugars laced with insecticides then, in the 1990s, this stopped being effective. Cockroaches had not, as might seem probable, evolved a resistance to, or tolerance of, insecticides; they had evolved

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Vatican Still Avoiding Responsibility For Abusive Priests

Top Vatican figure in row over child abuse comments.

A senior Vatican Official astounded the Australian victims of peodophile priests by telling the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that the Catholic Church had no more legal responsibility for the actions of its priests than a truck firm has for the actions of its truck drivers.

Cardinal Pell, a former archbishop of both Melbourne and Sydney, was personally appointed to a top job in the Vatican, as head of the finance ministry, by Pope Francis

Monday, 25 August 2014

Unintelligently Designed Hummingbirds

Blue-tailed-Emerald, Chlorostilbon mellisugus. Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen
Evolution of sweet taste perception in hummingbirds by transformation of the ancestral umami receptor

Hummingbirds are unique amongst birds in living off nectar and being able to detect sweetness. Typically, hummingbirds only feed from flowers with nectar containing more than 10% sugars. The way this evolved illustrates a couple of basic principle of diversification by evolution and the lack of a directing intelligence or plan behind it. Something else for creationists to misrepresent, lie about or ignore but never, under any circumstances, face up to.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Chimp Eyes Show Evolution of Ethics

Chimps show empathy by mimicking pupil size - life - 22 August 2014 - New Scientist

More evidence guaranteed to trigger the avoidance reflex in creationists was published in PLOS ONE this week. It shows two things which any creation pseudo-scientist worthy of the name will need to misrepresent, lie about or ignore altogether. It shows evidence that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor and that chimpanzees too have empathetic ability - the basis of a ethics and the ability to make ethical decisions. In other words, chimpanzees have morality and they,

More Manny Insanity

As regular readers will know, some two years ago I posted a challenge to a Twitter user then using the account name @Sacerdotus who had been posing as a Catholic priest in training and claiming multiple university degrees in philosophy, physics, theology, psychology - in fact almost anything you cared to mention. He had been claiming to have irrefutable, scientific proof that the Christian god existed and that no other go did, and challenging people to debate him.

After one hilarious day during which, in the small hours of the morning in the UK, he posted dozens of challenges to me, one every few seconds and then declared victory claiming I had ignored him, I decided to call his bluff and challenged him to a formal, neutral and independently

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Pygmies - Another Big Problem for Creationists

Baka pygmies, West Africa
African pygmies evolved their short stature twice - health - 18 August 2014 - New Scientist

A paper published in PNAS last month is interesting for what it tells us of human evolution and of evolution in general, and it raises a major question for creationist loons to carefully avoid.

Significance

Tropical rainforest hunter-gatherer populations worldwide share the pygmy phenotype, or small human body size. The evolutionary history of this phenotype is largely unknown. Here we studied DNA from the Batwa, a rainforest hunter-gatherer population from east central Africa, to identify regions of the Batwa genome that underlie the pygmy phenotype. We then performed population genomic analyses to study the evolution of these regions, including comparisons with the Baka, a west central African rainforest hunter-gatherer population. We conclude that the pygmy phenotype likely arose due to positive natural selection and that it arose possibly

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Scientists At War!

Homo floresiensis
Scientists at war over claim that Flores hobbit man is modern human with Down's syndrome | Science | The Observer

This slightly alarming headline from the Observer leads neatly into a comparison between how scientists wage 'war' what's going on in the Middle East at the moment where theists are waging war - and happily killing one another and innocent civilians including women, children and other non-combatants as a matter of routine.

Another contrast of course is that, whereas the scientists' 'war' will undoubtedly end in agreement with almost

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Abiogenesis - The Day of Reckoning For Creationists is Nigh

Meet your maker: Homing in on the ancestor of all life - life - 12 August 2014 - New Scientist

Creationist pseudo-scientists have a problem, and not the obvious one of more and more people seeing through their deceptions, working out why they are necessary and realising a rational, scientific explanation is preferable to a magical one which requires lies and misinformation to promote it. The problem they have is, like the problem of the virtual certainty that at some point in the near future, scientists will find evidence of life on another planet, probably in another planetary system, the problem of one of their fundamental arguments being shown to be without any foundation.

I'm talking about the fact that science is getting closer

Religious Intolerance

Someone posted a question in our Why Atheism? Facebook group the other day asking which religion was the worst, especially in the context of the Middle East where the three Abrahamic religions are currently slugging it out for control of Iraq, Syria and Palestine, and in Africa where Muslims and Christians are also fighting and killing for their religions.

Looking at the history of Europe and the Middle East particularly, and later the history of European colonialism, it's probably true to say that, until 1948 the one Abrahamic religion that had generally been on the receiving end of persecution and atrocity and yet had no history of retaliation or counter atrocity was Judaism.

In fact, the contribution of Jews to European and Middle Eastern philosophy, art, politics, science, medicine,

Friday, 15 August 2014

Unintelligently Designed Fractal Ediacarans

A paper published recently in PNAS, showing how the earliest forms of multicellular life probably evolved and diversified according to a few simple mathematical rules, raises an important question for creationists which we can confidently expect them to ignore completely.

This early evolution occurred at a time when there would have been little or no cell specialisation and, perhaps more importantly, when there would have been no predators and the only competition would have been for limited resources in terms of dissolved nutrients. Quite simply, the organism which absorbed more nutrients would have produced more copies of itself.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Human Evolution - Completing the Picture

Neanderthal family (artists impression) Photograph: Nikola Solic/Reuters
To me, watching a science grow and develop is what makes it more like an adventure than a dull, academic subject. Discoveries are made and fed into the mix; ideas and opinions are contributed by people who are experts in the field; old ideas are revised, reviewed and discarded if necessary and eventually a new consensus emerges which is, in the long run, a little closer to the truth. All the while the picture grows in clarity, sometime becoming more complex that we thought and sometimes simpler.

How unlike religion where the entire effort is devoted to excusing yet again that which is nothing more than evidence-free dogma, finding new and ever-more creative workarounds for the fact of no evidence, and inventing new ways to bamboozle a diminishing following into believing that, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and despite the enormous gains of science and its contribution to human welfare since the enlightenment, their Bronze-Age belief in magic is the best explanation of reality.

A couple interesting articles in this week's New Scientist illustrate how our knowledge of human evolution keeps being added to and our understanding of is revised and refined accordingly.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Silly Bible - Lot of Nonsense

Albrecht Dürer Lot Fleeing with his Daughters from Sodom (1498)
The biblical story of Lot is another strange tale with no obvious reason for being in the Bible, at least so far as morality tales go. In fact, it shows the god of the Hebrews in a very poor light, overly obsessed with what humans do with their genitalia but having a low regard for women and no problem at all with incest. It also portrays it as far from omniscient, unsure of what justice means and easily persuaded by a mere human but then capriciously changing its mind and killing innocent people anyway simply for being there at the time.

We also see how the person writing it had difficulty holding a thought across more than a couple of paragraphs.

I have already written about the nonsensical account of God telling Abram that he was going to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abram bargaining God down from fifty to ten as the number of righteous people to be found in the cities to prevent him killing everyone, innocent or guilty.

There doesn't seem to have been any such attempt to find ten righteous men though and God sets about killing everyone anyway. To accomplish this he sends two angels to the city and they end up at Lot's house, where a mob comprising all the men of the city gather outside demanding to be allowed in to bugger the angels.

Monday, 4 August 2014

More Bible Blunders

Some time ago I wrote about Thomas Paine's debunking of the notion that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, as though supposedly writing about his own death and burial in a secret place wasn't enough. Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason, written in 1794 showed that the Bible refuted that argument itself. First we are told in Genesis that:

And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.

Genesis 14:14

Then later on we discover that it wasn't actually called 'Dan' until much later; before then it was called 'Laish'.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Parasites and Creationists

Heligmosomoides polygyrus
Photo: Janice Murray & Maizels Laboratory/University of Edinburgh
I've commented before on how parasites are a problem for creationists and, apart from their understandable shyness at discussing parasitism, this probably explains why creationist loons who misrepresent science and misinform scientifically illiterate people for a living never seem to discuss parasites or explain how they fit into an intelligent design model, especially one in which the supposed intelligent designer is omnibenevolent and created everything just for humans.

For example, the leading Discovery Institute (aka Liars For Power and Money, Inc.) propagandist for ID, Michael Behe, avoids completely any reference to the fact that his 'intelligently designed' E. coli flagellum appears to have only one purpose - helping E. coli make us sick.

With their evident discomfort in mind then, it gives me great pleasure to invite creationists to comment on an article and two papers published recently in Science concerning how infection by a parasitic worm (helminth) can appear to aid other parasites by helping them overcome the body's natural immune responses. In particular, I would like them to explain how this phenomenon is better explained by their intelligent-design-by-an-omnibenevolent-designer-who-did-it-all-for-humans model than it is by Darwinian evolution by Natural Selection.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The Incredible Shrinking Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs shrank for 50 million years to become birds - life - 31 July 2014 - New Scientist

I was surprised and more than a little disappointed to to see the angle taken in the above article. It looks almost designed to supply a handy quote for quote-mining creationist pseudo-scientists to mislead their credulous victims with.

"No other dinosaur group has undergone such a long and extended period of miniaturisation," says Mike Lee of the South Australian Museum in Adelaide. "Statistically this trend was far stronger than by chance, analogous to flipping a coin a dozen times and getting all heads."

[...]

The analysis reveals that the ancestors of birds shrank without interruption. "What was impressive was the consistency of the size change along the dinosaur-to-bird transition, with every descendant smaller than its ancestor," says Lee.

It's not till we get to the final sentence in that last paragraph that we discover there is a simple and obvious answer and one moreover which illustrates how Natural Selection makes evolution non-random.

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