Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Christian Fundamentalist - No Cake for Gays!


© UTV
Equality law 'conscience clause' bid - UTV Live News

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

This particular example comes from Northern Ireland, from a DUP MLA, Paul Givan.

Paul Givan DUP.jpg
Paul Givan, MLA
Givan was reacting to news that Asher's Bakers had been threatened by the Equality and Human Rights Commission with prosecution for their refusal to bake and decorate a cake for a gay rights activist with a slogan supporting gay marriage. Asher's had declined to make the cake because it went against their Christian belief about marriage.

Givan is now calling for legislation to insert a 'conscience clause' into equalities legislation which would, in effect, exempt anyone from the legal obligation to treat people equally in the provision of goods and services if they could claim it went against their 'conscience' to do so. A bullies' and bigots charter in effect.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission is the statutory body charged by the UK Parliament with challenging discrimination and promoting human rights throughout the UK, of which Northern Ireland is a part. They gave Asher's the option of paying compensation to avoid going to court.

Paul Jonathan Givan is a creationist who, when a member of Lisburn City Council tried to get creationism taught as science in Lisburn's schools. He is on the board of governors of two primary schools. Earlier this year a formal complaint was made against him when, as Chair of Stormont's Justice Committee, he is alleged to have abused a prostitute invited to give evidence to the committee on proposed changes to legislation. He asked her how much she charged and accused her of discriminating against disabled people by not offering them a discount.

Fundamentalist Protestant Christians in Northern Ireland who, until recently, had their own theocracy in the form of, in Sir Edward Carson's words, a 'Protestant state for a Protestant People', run by senior Presbyterian clerics through the Masonic Orange Orders, feel aggrieved enough about having to treat Catholics as normal human beings without having to extend the same courtesy to homosexuals and so feel distinctly underprivileged.

The degree to which Christians in Northern Ireland are losing their power and privileges can be gauged from the fact that Givan's fellow creationist fundamentalist Protestant MLA colleague, Jim Wells, who, like Givan, has no background is science but never-the-less feels qualified to dismiss an entire body of it, was recently appointed to head up the province's highest spending public body, the devolved National Health Service.

But of course the fact that they run practically everything of any importance in the province is nothing compared to the loss of their right to bully and victimise the minorities of their choice. Clearly, the equalities legislation needs correcting. It's giving too much equality and not enough privilege.

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Rapid Darwinian Evolution In Agricultural Weeds

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

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

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

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Evolving Cooperation - But For Who Or What?

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

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

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

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Another Mad Day In A Bronx Cuckoo Land

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

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

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

Gay Gene Poser For Homophobic Creationists

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

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

Abstract
Background: Findings from family and twin studies

Monday, 17 November 2014

Is Manny Plagiarising Your Work?

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

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

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

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Church of England 'Has Six Years Left'

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

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

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

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Religion's Flexible 'Moral Absolutes'

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

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

Friday, 14 November 2014

How Selfish Genes Can Make Large Testes

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

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

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

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Comets, Science And Religion

BBC News - Probe makes historic comet landing.

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

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

Friday, 7 November 2014

Oxfam Confirms It - Manny Lied Again

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

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

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

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Even Our Gut Microbes Show Our Evolution From Apes

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

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

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

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Female Ants Go After Foreign Sex

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

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

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

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Manny Scores Another Own Goal!

LOL!

I know it's unkind, but LOL!

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

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

The Bigots Are Whinging Again!

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

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

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

Saturday, 1 November 2014

What's So Great About Eternal Life?

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

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

Friday, 31 October 2014

Rise of Atheism Alarms Egyptian Clerics

Rise of atheism in Egypt sparks concern | GulfNews.com

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

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

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Muddled Pope Tries To Face Both Ways

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

Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the Pope announced:

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Rapid Human Evolution In South America


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

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

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

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Human Evolution - Sex With Neanderthals


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

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

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Massive Decline in UK Religious Affiliation

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

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

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

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bronx Liar Exposed Again!

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Slapdown For The Supine Pope

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

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

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Creationist Abomination - Lesbian Lizards

Cnemidophorus-ThreeSpecies.jpg

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons from Silbury Hill

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

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

Monday, 13 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons From Cirencester

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

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

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

Sunday, 12 October 2014

How Evolution Gave Us Fruity Beers

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

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

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Manny Busted - Again!

You just can't beat science.

You can almost feel sorry for Fruit Loop, Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled Bronx Catholic trainee priest, narcissist and full-time Internet stalker, abuser and psychopathic fantasist whose personality disorder compels him to seek center stage, only to take another pratfall to the great enjoyment of onlookers. Manny rarely disappoints as he continues to live down to his promise.

Ever since we outed him under his then main persona, Sacerdotus, who, under a variety of usernames had been stalking and abusing people on Twitter with explicit threats of sexual violence amongst other things from the safety of his room in his mother's

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How Evolution Works - Sickle Cell Disease And Malaria

Plasmodium.jpg
Malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in human blood.
For about 100,000 years, humans have had to live with a particularly nasty parasite and one that was given a boost about 10,000 years ago when humans began to settle down to a urban, agricultural existence, rather than a nomadic hunter-gatherer one. With settlements came the need for a regular water supply even in times of drought and for irrigation of crops, meaning we lived close to areas of standing water - ideal breeding places for mosquitoes. And mosquitoes are the key to the spread of the parasite in question - malaria.

A month or so ago we were in the south of France, being eaten alive every night by mosquitoes. Fortunately, apart from the infernal itching and red blotches, we suffered little real harm because Europe is now malaria-free, but in Africa, India, Southeast Asia and South America, hundreds of millions of humans get malaria every year by being bitten by mosquitoes carrying one or other of the four species of Plasmodium parasites. About a million children die from malaria every year.

Monday, 6 October 2014

It's All Someone Else's Fault - Vatican

Vatican accuses U.N. panel of sowing confusion

If you're expecting radical reforms in the Catholic Church, especially in its attitude to predatory paedophile priests and nuns, don't hold your breath.

In stark contrast to Pope Francis' protestations of regret and promises of reform with no measure spared to root out corruption and coverups and bring the abusers to justice, the reality is hand-washing that would do credit to Pontius Pilate, weedling excuses that would make a rogue market trader blush, and ducking down behind obscure, strict legalistic interpretations of International Law. Anything in fact

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Another Creationist Lie Refuted By Science

Early bioenergetic evolution

Here's another one of those scientific papers that creation pseudoscience frauds must dread because it deals with another of their mysterious 'beginnings', abiogenesis.

Beginnings are such things as the Big Bang, the origins of morality and abiogenesis, or, as creationists like to call it, life from no-life. These are where they can fool those ignorant of science that the beginning must have had a magic cause because there couldn't have been something before it so, to the scientifically illiterate (i.e. creationists), it looks like getting

Friday, 3 October 2014

Frankly Bonkers Francis

Bernhard Plockhorst - Schutzengel.jpg
Guardian Angel; Bernhard Plockhorst (1825–1907)
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
I believe in angels, says Pope Francis – and they help you make right decisions | World news | The Guardian

Good news for angels!

Pope Francis has decreed that they now exist again and, according to Catholic dogma, because the Pope once infallibly declared himself to be infallible, this means that, even if they didn't exist before, they do now, just as we know that barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) became fish that hatch out of barnacles in the Middle Ages and have now turned back into perfectly respectable geese, because the Pope said so.

Likewise, limbo existed as somewhere for the souls of dead babies to go to until it was abolished by papal decree by Pope Benedict XVI in April 2007. Apparently, the souls of dead babies can now go straight to heaven despite being sinners who have never been saved by 'accepting Jesus'. Before the 12th-Century dead babies when straight to Hell to teach them a lesson for being born sinners, according to Augustine of Hippo. After that, because that didn't seem very fair, the Pope had decreed limbo into existence as a sort of half-way house.

Now, despite his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI having come out against the existence of angels,

Another Of Those 'Absent' Transitional Forms!

Protoclaviger trichodens in Cambay amber
Parker and Grimaldi, Specialized Myrmecophily at the Ecological Dawn of Modern Ants, Current Biology (2014)
Specialized Myrmecophily at the Ecological Dawn of Modern Ants

A very nice example of one of those transitional forms from the fossil record - the very thing that, despite their abundance as I pointed out recently, creationist frauds keep assuring their victims have never been found - was published yesterday in Current Biology by paleoentomologist David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History and entomologist Joseph Parker of Columbia University.

This one is a myrmecophile (literally, ant-loving) beetle

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Religiously Bigotted

Amir-Aslani, 37.
Hanged for making "innovations in the religion", "spreading corruption on earth" and "insulting prophet Jonah"
Three news items in the last few days neatly illustrate the bigoted and disingenuous nature of religion, and it doesn't even need to be a particularly fundamentalist form of religion either, though that undoubtedly helps.

The first is from the Guardian and concerns the execution of an Iranian Muslim psychotherapist for heracy. In addition to his psychotherapy sessions, Amir-Aslani also held Qur'an-reading sessions in his own home during which he suggested there may be other ways to interpret the Qur'an other than the official one (i.e the one authorised by the Iranian Muslim clergy).

His crime was to suggest that the Quranic version of

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Crabby Tenants Cooperate Naturally

Trepezia flavopunctata. The largest species of guard crab.

Photo: Seabird McKeon
Crabby Tenants Defend Corals From Marauding Predators | Science | Smithsonian

A stunning example of mutualism - the sort of cooperation which 'selfish gene' theory predicts - was published recently by Smithsonian.com - the online science magazine of the Smithsonian Insitute.

It shows how a complex ecosystem like a coral reef has evolved a defensive system of guard crabs which receive shelter in crevices in the coral and nutrients in return for vigorously defending the living coral polyps from attack by predatory molluscs and starfish. Its not just the presence of the crabs themselves which is important but the presence of several different types, each with a particular role.

While the relationship between coral and crab has been known for a while, researchers have now found

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:

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

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.

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