Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Pygmy Puzzle for Creationists

Baka Pygmies of Gabon
Growth pattern from birth to adulthood in African pygmies of known age : Nature Communications : Nature Publishing Group

How do African Pygmies make the 'Intelligent (sic) Designer' look like an incompetent amnesiac?

Imagine you're a designer and you design something that's fit for purpose and does the job perfectly, why would you start again and design something else to do exactly the same job? Well, maybe if you're a chronic amnesiac and can't remember from one day to the next what you've designed, you'd maybe have an excuse, but you're hardly likely to be much of a designer and certainly not what people would regard as an intelligent one.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Why Is the 'Intelligent Designer' Siding With Bacteria?


Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Source: New Scientist
Image Credit: Juergen Berger/Science Photo Library
Fitness cost of antibiotic susceptibility during bacterial infection - Science Translation Medicine

You know, if you buy into the Intelligent Design hoax, it's becoming harder and harder not to conclude that the Intelligent Designer created Earth for bacteria and that higher life is simply somewhere for bacteria to live and something for them to live off.

We are used to seeing bacteria evolving resistance to the antibiotics human science creates to help us win the struggle against the bacteria that seem to randomly make us sick and even kill us, striking the pious and impious; the sinners and the saintly alike and in equal measure, as though whatever is designing and redesigning them is on the side of the bacteria.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Sudden Climate Change 6000 Years Ago!

Akkadian Empire
Abrupt climate change may have rocked the cradle of civilization: Effects of climate on human societies -- ScienceDaily

This discovery could be really exciting news for bible literalists, who are obliged to believe highly unlikely tales with no evidence whatsoever. For example, one tale which seems to be precious to them is the story of how their magic invisible friend once drowned everything in a global flood. Apart from feeling smug about the fact that this monstrous genocide didn't involve them, it's hard to see why they find this story so compelling, but that's another matter.

Imagine then, if some of those scientists that creationists so despise because they keep finding out inconvenient things, actually came up with evidence

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Now! A Four-Legged Transitional Lizard Snake!

Four-legged snake, Tetrapodophis amplectus
Source: Science Daily.
Image credit: University of Portsmouth.
A four-legged snake from the Early Cretaceous of Gondwana | Science.

I'm getting a bit tired of all these transitional fossils. It's getting so you can't pick up a decent biology or palaeontology journal without another team of researchers having found yet more of them. It's also getting so you can't turn to any creationist website, blog or Facebook group without seeing creationists flatly denying that they exist and refusing to look at the contradictory evidence.

I'm now seriously thinking of starting a new blog called No Transitional Fossils. The problem is I'm not sure I'd have time to write about them all and still have time for this one.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Who Really Wrote The Qur'an, and Why?

The Qur'an fragments from the Mingana Collection, Birmingham University Library, UK
'Oldest' Koran fragments found in Birmingham University - BBC News

Who wrote the Qur'an?
  1. God.
  2. Muhammad.
  3. Nobody knows.

A basic Islamic apologetic is the claim that God wrote the Qur'an by guiding Muhammad's hand and the 'proof' of this is that an illiterate camel trader would have been incapable of writing it and such perfection

Monday, 20 July 2015

Building Blocks of Life Can Form In a Puddle

Ester-Mediated Amide Bond Formation Driven by Wet–Dry Cycles: A Possible Path to Polypeptides on the Prebiotic Earth - Forsythe - 2015 - Angewandte Chemie International Edition - Wiley Online Library

How will the Creation Industry handle this one?

Abstract
Although it is generally accepted that amino acids were present on the prebiotic Earth, the mechanism by which α-amino acids were condensed into polypeptides before the emergence of enzymes remains unsolved. Here, we demonstrate a prebiotically plausible mechanism for peptide (amide) bond formation that is enabled by α-hydroxy

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Winged Transitional Dinosaur Puts Creationists in a Flap

An artist’s impression of Zhenyuanlong suni.

Image credit: Chuang Zhao.
A large, short-armed, winged dromaeosaurid (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Early Cretaceous of China and its implications for feather evolution : Scientific Reports

Another bad week for creationism as yet more of those 'non-existent' transitional fossils are found. This time, yet another of those feathered dinosaur fossils showing the evolution of birds from velociraptor dinosaurs that creationism is required to pretend didn't happen because it proves the biblical/qur'anic creation myth is laughably naive and based on ignorant guesses.

This one was found, like so many of these recent discoveries, was found in the Liaoning Province in northeastern China:

Friday, 17 July 2015

Unintelligent Design - Rapid Evolution No Guarantee of Success

Evidence for a Mid-Jurassic Adaptive Radiation in Mammals | Current Biology.

A large-scale assessment of skeletal and dental changes in Mesozoic mammals by a team from Oxford University, UK and Macquarie University, Australia has shown that mammal evolution during that period was up to ten times faster in the Middle Jurassic (200-145 million years ago) than it was at the end of it.

Highlights

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

So Farewell Then 'Pillars of Creation'


A higher-resolution HST image of the Pillars of Creation, taken in 2014 as a tribute to the original photograph
Slightly sad news today that the iconic 'Pillars of Creation' are no more, blown away in a massive supernova explosion in the star nursery, the Eagle Nebula.

The 'Pillars of Creation', a formation of gas and dust first photographed in 1995 by the Hubble space telescope quickly became one of the top ten deep space images. They were so named because they are (or were) the early stages of star formation, being condensing gas and dust clouds which would normally collapse to form stars. The taller pillar is a mere five light-years tall.

The Eagle Nebula is 7,000 light-years from Earth which means that the image we see was as it was 7,000 years ago - a bit of a problem for creationists who like to imagine the Universe is only 6,000 years old.

This was discovered by a team from l'Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, Orsay, France who used an infrared image of the region taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope, which revealed a hitherto unseen cloud of hot gas advancing on the pillars. They presented their findings last Thursday to a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington, USA.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Creationism - Ignoring the Elephant

First comprehensive analysis of the woolly mammoth genome completed -- ScienceDaily

Creationism is largely about ignoring evidence. In fact, it depends almost entirely on pretending the evidence either isn't there or means something else, whilst simultaneously pretending there is a lot of evidence supporting creationism - if only it could be found and didn't need to be misrepresented.

Take, for example the known evolution of the

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Creationism's 'Goldilocks' Fairy Tale Debunked

Artist's impression of gas and dust - the raw materials for making planets - swirl around a young star. The planets in our solar system formed from a similar disk of gas and dust captured by our sun.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
Bricks to build an Earth found in every planetary system | Royal Astronomical Society.

Contrary to the creationist fantasy that there is something special about Earth which makes it the only place in the Universe where intelligent life could live, and where everything is 'just right' for humans, a paper presented to the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales last Wednesday by Prof Brad Gibson, of the University of Hull, showed how Earth-like planets are very probably the norm in solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy.

Minerals made from building blocks of carbon, oxygen, magnesium, and silicon are thought to control the landscape of rocky planets that form in solar systems around Sun-like stars. A subtle difference in

Another Intermediate Fossil - Dinosaur Ancestor


Wendiceratops pinhornensis, artists reconstruction
Photo credit: Danielle Dufault

PLOS ONE: Cranial Anatomy of Wendiceratops pinhornensis gen. et sp. nov., a Centrosaurine Ceratopsid (Dinosauria: Ornithischia) from the Oldman Formation (Campanian), Alberta, Canada, and the Evolution of Ceratopsid Nasal Ornamentation | PLOS ONE.

Like I said in a previous blog, these intermediate fossils, which creationists stoically maintain don't exist because they illustrate something they are desperately trying to convince themselves doesn't happen, are so common one could almost dedicate a weekly blog to listing the new ones.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Mistletoe Shoots Creationism in its Achilles Heel

Mistletoe species lacks genes found in all other complex organisms -- ScienceDaily

Creationism and the Intelligent Design hoax require a simple narrative to appeal to simple people who know little of science, have no intention of learning any and who believe their ignorant intuition is the best available measure of reality.

For the creation industry, this narrative includes the simplistic notion that the scientific theory of evolution states that all evolution involves increasing complexity brought about by mutation in functional genes.

Integrity - The Difference Between Science & Religion

Dong-Pyou Han, faked results.
Photo credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP
Scientist behind fake HIV breakthrough sentenced to prison after spiking results | Society | The Guardian

News that Dong-Pyou Han, a former scientist working at ISU, has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for making a fraudulent misstatement so obtaining millions of dollars of government funding, should be a matter of pride for the scientific community because it shows how scientific fraud is exposed by the scientific method. In the long run, results which are not reproducible by other teams and which begin to stand out as outliers, come under closer and closer scrutiny and will eventually be discarded.

Friday, 3 July 2015

What a Shocker! Another Creationist is Lying Again!

When you don't have any evidence but you have a sacred dogma to not only defend at all costs but which you're desperate to get other people to believe too, in the belief that the more people who believe it the more true it will become, what else is there for creationists but to lie?

I came across this exchange on Twitter today. It's a claim that is currently doing the rounds on creationists sites and something I was challenged with on Facebook about a week ago. The claim is that scientists have isolated soft tissue from dinosaur 'bones' which has been carbon-dated to not more than four thousand years old, in a fossil which was believed to be 65 million years old.

When faced with this on Facebook, my reply was that if the recovered 'soft tissue' had been carbon-dated to four thousand years old then that would be evidence that sample had been contaminated. My proponent promptly disappeared and has not been seen since. It turns out he had been repeating a lie, knowingly or unknowingly anyway. Maybe he realised he'd been duped and ran in embarrassment.

We can see from the Twitter exchange that @crevinfo is quite confident. The sample contains C14 and so proves the sample is no more than 4 thousand years old. He/she even links to a creationist website which repeats the claim and where creationists are jubilantly congratulating themselves on have disproved evolution and proved dinosaurs were killed off in the biblical flood, et, etc.

Obviously none of them have bothered to check the original paper, even though @crevinfo smugly provides a link to it.

There is no mention whatsoever of carbon-dating, C14 or a 4000 year age anywhere in the paper. The claim is a lie.

No ifs or buts.

The claim that this sample contains C14 is a lie.

There is not even the excuse that the paper is behind a paywall, so the facts couldn't be checked. This paper, published in Nature Communications, is open access, freely reproducible under Creative Commons Licence.

It can be read in full here: Fibres and cellular structures preserved in 75-million–year-old dinosaur specimens. Note, it doesn't even claim the dinosaur fossil was 65 million years old, as @crevinfo states, but 75 million years. Had @crevinfo even read the title of the paper he could have seen that for himself. Not only has he almost certainly not checked his source to ensure the accuracy of his claim, he almost certainly hasn't even read it.

So, what's behind this lie? Are all these creationists rushing online to deliberately lie to us, or have they been duped once again by creationist pseudo-scientists and people who run creationist disinformation sites? Creationists are noticeably reticent to read a proper scientific paper so they can usually be relied on never to check the facts. Being keen to have a scientific basis for their infantile magical beliefs (as though that were even remotely possible) they are the easy dupes of anyone unscrupulous enough to swallow these lies and constant drip of disinformation. No doubt we will still have creationists making this same claim in five years time and never one of them will have checked.

The ease with which these unfortunate people can be duped is why they are creationists in the first place of course; the entire belief is a hoax founded not on good scientific data but on carefully selected disinformation and misrepresentations in pursuit of a political agenda. There is absolutely no interest in truth; the entire purpose of creationism is to maintain a market in creationist literature for those who require confirmation for their bias and for whom maintaining a sacred conclusion is paramount, even at the expense of intellectual honesty and personal integrity.

Creationism is seen as a shortcut to credibility, avoiding any need to learn science or bother with fact checking, logical thinking and deductive reasoning. God did it! and any science which disagrees must be wrong. Any science which can be misrepresented as supporting creationism however, is absolutely conclusive proof! And no self-respecting creationist is going to risk spoiling a brilliant scientific proof like that by checking it; just in case it's not.

In fact, this paper is moderately interesting. I actually started to write a blog about it the day it was published then decided there wasn't enough new material. What the authors believe they have found is not 'soft tissue and dinosaur blood' (another creationist lie) but what looks very much like collagen and possibly remnants of red blood cells which have been retained inside fossilized dinosaur bone. The evidence for collagen is the appearance of banding, characteristic of fibrous structural proteins and due to the tertiary structure, and mass-spectroscopy analysis suggesting the presence of amino acids.

Abstract
Exceptionally preserved organic remains are known throughout the vertebrate fossil record, and recently, evidence has emerged that such soft tissue might contain original components. We examined samples from eight Cretaceous dinosaur bones using nano-analytical techniques; the bones are not exceptionally preserved and show no external indication of soft tissue. In one sample, we observe structures consistent with endogenous collagen fibre remains displaying ~67 nm banding, indicating the possible preservation of the original quaternary structure. Using ToF-SIMS, we identify amino-acid fragments typical of collagen fibrils. Furthermore, we observe structures consistent with putative erythrocyte remains that exhibit mass spectra similar to emu whole blood. Using advanced material characterization approaches, we find that these putative biological structures can be well preserved over geological timescales, and their preservation is more common than previously thought. The preservation of protein over geological timescales offers the opportunity to investigate relationships, physiology and behaviour of long extinct animals.*

(a) Amorphous carbon-rich material (red) surrounded by dense material (green). Scale bar, 5 μm. (b) Erythrocyte-like structures composed of carbon surrounded by cement. Scale bar, 1 μm. For comparison, fixed blood from an emu (Dromaius) is shown in Supplementary Fig. 2c, d. Fibrous structures. Scale bar, 5 μm in (c) and 1 μm in (d).*

There is absolutely nothing in the paper to suggest that these samples are evidence that the fossil is a mere four thousand years old. The interesting thing from a scientific point of view is that it suggests there may be special conditions in which these structural proteins may be retained, even in a mineralised form, for much longer than was generally assumed.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

What Was Creationism's God Doing For Eight Billion Years?

Kepler-186f, first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a star in the habitable zone (artist's impression)
Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech
Even stars older than 11 billion years have Earth-like planets: Precise ages of largest number of stars hosting planets ever measured -- ScienceDaily

A paper published a few days ago in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of researchers from the Stellar Astrophysics Centre at Aarhus University, Denmark have shown what they believe is evidence of Earth-sized planets orbiting 33 stars in the Milky Way galaxy that are about 11 billion years old. In other words, these planets were formed at least 8 billion years before Earth in a Universe that appears to have had the right conditions for creating these planetary systems right here in our own galaxy.

What Idiot Designed a Worm That Injects Sperm Into Its Own Head?

Macrostomum hystrix
Hypodermic self-insemination as a reproductive assurance strategy | Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences

You really have to laugh at creationism's 'Intelligent (sic) Designer' when you see the idiot stuff it supposedly designs.

Take this hermaphroditic flatworm that uses its penis as a hypodermic syringe to inject sperm into it's own head, for example! What sort of idiot would come up with a solution like that to the occasional problem of not finding another flatworm of the same species to exchange sperm with?

But it gets worse! The sperm then have to swim all the way down the length of the flatworm's body to get to the eggs in the tail, so they can fertilise them and produce what are, in effect clones of their parent.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Unlike Fundamentalists, Chimps Can Tell Right From Wrong.

Chimpanzees’ Bystander Reactions to Infanticide | Human Nature

Unlike fundamentalist Christians, who proudly boast that they have to use their holy book to understand what's right and what's wrong, and so bizarrely claim to be more moral than people who don't need a handbook, it seems even chimpanzees understand the difference, either instinctively or through culturally-inherited memes. Ironically, this indicates that this ability may even have been present in the last common ancestor shared by chimpanzees and humans.

This was the conclusion of a team from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who allowed chimpanzees to

Catholic Church Just Doesn't Get It!

Anthony Colin Fisher, Archbishop of Sydney. Inconceivable tht he would not have approved the letter.
Catholic church writes to companies that support same-sex marriage | World news | The Guardian

The Catholic Church really doesn't get it.

It's not just the paedophile priests and nuns, abuse of vulnerable adults, financial corruption, support for autocratic right-wing dictatorships, the sale of 'confiscated' children, the systematic, sometimes brutal, cover-ups, the habitual avoidance of responsibilities for their crimes and casual hypocrisy of the church and it's clerics, bad though they are, that are causing people to vote with their feet and stay away from church.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Cardinal Brady Admits Official Abuse Coverup

Cardinal Seán Brady. Intimidated victims to keep abuses secret.
Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry: Cardinal Seán Brady admits 'shroud of secrecy' over Church sex abuse inquiry - BBC News

Cardinal Seán Brady, former head of the Catholic Church in all Ireland, has admitted the official church enquiry into the sexual abuse of young boys by Catholic priest, Fr Brendan Smyth, was conducted under a cloak of secrecy designed not to reveal the truth and protect and compensate the victims, but to protect the abuser and the church against scandal.

For his part in this coverup, Cardinal Brady, who has never been officially sanctioned by even so much as being stripped of his title, was allowed to retire on a full pension at the normal retiring age for a priest, after spending a year on fully-paid gardening leave whilst an underling did his work for him.

Brady made this admission to the Northern Ireland Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry and admitted that the questioning of a 14 year-old victim was intimidatory, intrusive and

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