Monday, 10 August 2020

Bats - The Malevolent Designer's Laboratory?

Black fruit bats, Pteropus alecto

Genomic Basis of Bat Superpowers Revealed: Like How They Survive Deadly Viruses | | SBU News


There is a sudden surge of interest in biological circles about bats and in particular why they are the source of so many deadly viral diseases, probably as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and sciences attempt to understand it and find better treatments and a cure.

While I've been working on my next book, "The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good", a book also prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, a couple of papers were published which suggest, if we accept for a moment the Creationist intelligent [sic] design argument, that their putative designer uses bats as laboratories for developing ever more deadly viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus which causes Covid-19, MERS, rabies and ebola.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

How Self-Replicating RNA Got Made - Naturally

A hydrothermal vent on the Niua underwater volcano in the Lau Basin, southwest Pacific Ocean. The sort of place abiogenesis could have happened.
Chemical evolution in a tiny Gulf Stream - LMU Munich

I hate to say, "I told you so!", but... I told you so!

Readers of my books and blog-posts may remember how I elaborated on the ten-step process, proposed by Nick Lane and Michael Le Page in New Scientist in 2009, to explain how abiogenesis could have come about, in my blog-post Perfectly Plausible Abiogenesis, and in my popular book What Makes You So Special? From the Big Bang to You, in which I wrote:

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Modern Humans, Not Climate Change, Exterminated the Neanderthals

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal man.
Credit: Neanderthal Museum.
Neanderthals of the western Mediterranean did not become extinct because of changes in climate — University of Bologna

Scientists from the University of Bologna believe they have shown that the climate was relatively stable for the three thousand years that Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis coexisted.

This means that climate change alone would not have caused Neanderthals to become extinct, pointing the finger at moderns as the culprit - probably by having better hunting technology.

They reached this conclusion by examining stalagmites in a cave in the Murge karst plateau Apulia, Italy where Moderns and Neanderthals are known to have coexisted between 45,000 and 42,000 years ago.

Monday, 20 July 2020

What's The Point of Vine Weevils?

Vine weevil, Otiorhynchus sulcatus.
Photo: Opuntia
Source: Wikipedia
The Vine weevil, Otiorhynchus sulcatus, is an annoying garden pest that, as I know to my cost having lost a spectacular cascading orange begonia last year, can destroy a plant growing in a container almost overnight. It appears to have no other purpose but to produce more vine weevils.

The damage is done mostly by the larvae which live in the soil or container compost and eat the roots of plants. When they have finished the roots, they move into the corms and stems. Meanwhile the entire plant above ground wilts and dies.

The Vine weevil is actually a flightless beetle of the Curculionidae family. The elytra, the characteristic modified forewings that act as protective covers of most beetles, have become fused to form a protective, grooved black or dark grey shell. A population of vine weevils is always entirely female and reproduction is parthenogenic, so a single female can quickly establish a new population. No males have ever been found.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Covidiots - Mask-Burners of Boise, Idaho

Idaho Leads Way in Positivity, Boiseans Burn Masks

As health authorities in Boise, Idaho, struggle to cope with a resurgent Covid-19 epidemic, following a too-soon-too-far reopening of the economy, fruitloop Trumpanzee covidiots are doing their bit by organising face-mask burning parties and urging people to defy the order mandating their wearing in all public places, including sidewalks.

According to this report by Karen Bosstick:

Covidiots - Californian Pastor For God and Covid-19

Greg Fairrington, Destiny Christian Church. "Mandated by God to disobey lockdown"
California Pastor Vows Church Will Defy Lockdown Order

Is it really too much to expect Christians to start behaving like caring and compassionate people, willing to give a little self-sacrifice to the welfare of others or is there something deeply ingrained in their faith that tells them to be selfish at all times and never to put the needs of others above their own personal needs?

It really looks that way when you look at the reaction of Christian fundamentalist to the measure introduced to try to reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and reduce the number of people killed or made sick by the virus.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Covidiots - Louisiana Christians to Cast Spells to Cure Covid-19


John Bel Edwards, Governor of Louisiana
Three days of prayer and fasting to cure Covid-19!
Louisiana Catholic governor calls for prayer and fasting to end coronavirus

While scientists are working to find a vaccine against Covid-19 - two research programmes are already producing promising results - and better treatments for its victim, Christians in Louisiana are to do their bit - they are going to fast and cast magic spells, if Catholic governor, John Bel Edwards, gets his way.

Covidiots - Christian Fruitloops Against Altruism

DeAnna Lorraine, Fruitloop Trumpanzee Fundamentalist Christian
"Face-masks are a Marxist globalist Satanic conspiracy"
Right-Wing Conspiracy Theorist: “God Does Not Want Us Wearing Masks” | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

American Right-wing Christian fruitloop covidiots are continuing their campaign to Make America Sick Again with Covid-19, as though having the highest infection rate in the world (above 77,000 new cases per day and rising at the time of writing) was not good enough.

Not only did they promulgate the covidiot notion that the whole thing was some sort of hoax - either man-made or Satanic - to stop Christians from going to church (and paying their tithes), they then campaigned against all lockdown measures and are now campaigning against wearing a face-mask.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Tsunamis Leave Noah's Ark Myth Devastated

The North Sea, Storegga underwater landslide event run-out, associated deposit locations and core ELF001A. Location of deposits associated with Storegga slip follow data in summarized [8].
Doggerland tsunami - 2020 - News - University of Bradford.

With some 40% of Americans still believing in Noah's Ark, it's necessary, even though astonishing for the 21st Century, in an age in which information is so readily and freely available, to debunk it yet again. Fortunately, two articles published recently help to do just that.

The first concerns a paper published by a team of scientists led by Professor Vincent Gaffney of the School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, England, which presents evidence that about 8,150 years ago, three successive giant waves tore across ancient land bridge between UK and Europe, in the area now submerged beneath the North Sea - some 4,000 years before the Biblical flood is supposed to have happened.

Malevolent Design News - Toxoplasmosis Triumph

Tachyzoites of Toxoplasma gondii
Credit: Bobbi Pritt, M.D.
Source: PathologyOutlines.com
Toxoplasma at the wheel: Study reveals how a dangerous parasite controls its host cell to spread around the body | Indian University News.

Another example of the length the intelligent [sic] designer is prepared to go to to make people sick (if you believe in the intelligent design hoax).

First, a little bit about Toxoplasma gondii. According to the CDC:

Causal Agent:

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that infects most species of warm-blooded animals, including humans, and causes the disease toxoplasmosis.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

29,000 Years of Australian Aboriginal History

Mussel shells collected and dated from along the River Murray downstream of Renmark in SA’s Riverland.
29,000 years of Aboriginal history on the Murray – News

Does anyone still take the story of Noah's Ark seriously, apart from simple-minded creationists and Bible literalists?

If so, they have some explaining to do now we have yet more evidence of human activity from way before the alleged global flood which is central to the biblical story of a vengeful, genocidal god drowning nearly everything and everyone just a few thousand years ago.

A team of archaeologists from Flinders University has discovered evidence of human occupation of South Australia’s Riverland region 29,000 years ago. Their results are published in Australian Archaeology:

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Is This Why Evangelicals Support Trump?

Study links attraction to ‘tyrannical’ leaders to dysfunctional family dynamics | SF State News.

One of the great mysteries of recent years is why apparently devout American evangelical Christians supported the very unChristian Donald Trump in such large numbers.

The answer may be in the finding by San Francisco State University Assistant Professor of Management, Dayna Herbert Walker, that there is a connection between a person's childhood family environment and the types of leaders they are drawn to as grown ups. Walker and his colleagues noticed, from an analysis of data from the Fullerton Longitudinal Study that there was a correlation between those who, as adolescents reported a high level of conflict at home and those who later identified socially undesirable traits as ideal leadership qualities.

Death of an Old Fraud

Morris Cerullo
Christian fraud Morris Cerullo is ‘alive and well’ in the arms of Jesus | Barry Duke

The self-aggrandizing, avaricious old faith-healing fraud, Morris Cerullo has died - unless you believe Christian Post reporter, John Whittle, that is. He has announced that Cerullo is alive and well and living with Jesus.

Apart from a brief mention of 'some controversy' over allegations of tax evasion by filing false income reports on three consecutive years (dismissed by a district judge on a technicality because ther grand jury which indicted him had not been told that a donor’s intent is key to determining whether money given to religious ministers is subject to tax), there is no mention in Christian Post of the unethical and ruthless way way he amassed a fortune by exploiting gullible and desperate sick people.

Civilising the Uncivilised with Humanism

Sudanese women campaigning for reforms
Sudan scraps apostasy law and alcohol ban for non-Muslims - BBC News

Good news that under Sudan's new 'reforming' Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan is abolishing many of the old Islamic fundamentalist laws of the ousted former president, Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted by a coup following street protests. Sudan is now governed by a council which includes military officers who staged the coup.

What is striking is how the laws being abolished are being replaced by more humanitarian, even Humanist laws such as one might expect to find in a modernt civilised state.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Catholic Child Abuse News - Fiji's Predatory Priests

Father Peter Loy Chong, Archbishop of Suva, Fiji.
"No allegations and we have procedures..."
Historic child sex abuse in Fiji’s Catholic schools uncovered | 1 NEWS | TVNZ

New Zealand TV has uncovered another major child sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests, this time at a Catholic boys' school on the pacific island of Fiji.

One victim told TV1 News that Catholic priests would lure boys into their bedrooms with gifts of candy and oranges (a rare luxury on the island) and would then sexually assault them. Shocking though that is, it's come to be expected, where Catholic priests have power over children and unsupervised access to them.

But perhaps the worst aspect of the case is that these predatory paedophiles were sent to Fiji in the time-honoured Catholic Church method for dealing with sex-abuse scandals - move the offenders to a different, unsuspecting location and allow them to carry on with their recreational abuse of minors.

How the Malevolent Designer Beats Medical Science

H3N2 influenza virus particles, coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM). Each virus consists of a nucleocapsid (protein coat) that surrounds a core of RNA (ribonucleic acid) genetic material. Surrounding the nucleocapsid is a lipid envelope that contains the glycoprotein spikes haemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). These viruses were part of the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968-1969 that killed approximately one million worldwide. H3N2 viruses are able to infect birds and mammals as well as humans. They often cause more severe infections in the young and elderly than other flu strains and can lead to increases in hospitalisations and deaths.

Fast-Spreading Mutation Helps Common Flu Subtype Escape Immune Response - 2020 - News Releases - News - Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

News today of how creationism's malevolent designer keeps ahead of medical science by giving the common influenza virus H3N2 strain a mutation that makes it immune to human antibodies by preventing our antibodies from binding to a protein on the viral coat.

Additionally, the mutation makes the virus so good at spreading that it is now present in virtually all strains of H3N2.

The study was conducted by two researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is published open access a few days ago in the online journal PLOS Pathogens:

Southern Baptist Paedophile Convention


This collection of mug shots includes a portion of the 218 people who, since 1998, worked or volunteered in Southern Baptist churches and were convicted of or pleaded guilty to sex crimes.

Bellevue Baptist sued after volunteer coordinator sexually abuses teenager

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant organisation in the USA and has a record of child sexual abuse resembling that of an average Catholic archdioceses. Since 1998, 218 people who worked for Southern Baptist churches have either been convicted of or pleaded guilty to, paedophile sex crimes.

All too familiar is the case of 43-year-old James Hook, a paid volunteer coordinator with the crown jewel church in the SBC, Bellevue Baptist Church, who was discovered under a blanket in his car with a 15 year-old girl volunteer. He was later convicted of sexual assault and given a six-month sentence followed by 4.5 years probation. Now the girl's parents are suing the church for failure to protect their daughter.

According to this report in Memphis Commercial Appeal:

Friday, 10 July 2020

Evolution News - Fish Teeth Refute Creationism


Radotina, a primitive jawed vertebrates with teeth from 409 million years ago.
Scientists trace the origin of our teeth from the most primitive jawed fish.

Scientists have found what can only be described as the common ancestors of the teeth of both bony vertebrates and cartilaginous fish, bearing characteristics of both types - what creationists would refer to as a 'transitional' fossil, only it's not transitional between two major branches of the vertebrates, but ancestral to them.

The teeth were discovered by scientists from Uppsala University, Charles University (Czech Republic), Natural History Museum in London (UK), National Museum in Prague (Czech Republic) and the ESRF

The ESRF press release explains:

Covidiots - Rishi Sunak Waives the Rules

The chancellor served customers at a Wagamama restaurant in central London on Wednesday.
Photograph: Simon Walker/HM Treasury
About half of health care workers positive for COVID-19 by serology have no symptoms | VUMC Reporter | Vanderbilt University

The discovery by a team of researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Centre, that almost half the healthcare workers tested for Covid-19, tested positive but displayed no symptoms is evidence, if any more were needed, of the importance of wearing a face-mask in all public places.

Among 249 front-line health care workers who cared for COVID-19 patients during the first month of the pandemic in Tennessee, 8% tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies by serology testing, suggesting they had contracted COVID-19 in the first several weeks of taking care of COVID-19 patients. Among these health care workers with positive serology results, 42% reported no symptoms of a respiratory illness in the prior two months. This suggests that front-line health care workers are at high risk for COVID-19 and that many health care workers with the virus may not have typical symptoms of a respiratory infection. These results were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on July 6.

Rats! Penis Enlargement Homeopathy Fraud!

Coming up short: Journal retracts penis enlargement paper after realizing it was homeopathy – Retraction Watch.

In a nice example of the self-correcting nature of science, the editor of the International Journal of Impotence Research - a Springer Nature title - has retracted a paper despite the disagreement of all the authors, because he realised it was a homeopathy promotion with no basis in science.

The paper had slipped past the peer-review process but, when examined in detail fell far short of the standard science normally expects of medical research. It had purported to show that a drug, Impanza, manufactured by OOO NPF Materia Medica Holding, of Moscow, gave rats an enlarged penis and might therefore be useful in treating erectile dysfunction in humans. There were also claims that it increased libido and enhanced intercourse satisfaction!
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