Tuesday, 26 May 2015

More Nastiness From the 'Intelligent Designer'

Phylogeographical analysis of the dominant multidrug-resistant H58 clade of Salmonella Typhi identifies inter- and intracontinental transmission events : Nature Genetics : Nature Publishing Group

It's an open secret that the 'Intelligent Designer', who is central to the ID hoax, is the god of the Christian Bible.

All those who invented the hoax and are perpetrating it on a gullible, uninformed public, are fundamentalist Christians determined to subvert the US Constitution prior to establishing a Taliban-style, extremist Christian Theocracy in the USA. The Discovery Institute was specifically set up with this aim in mind and even produced The Wedge strategy as an initially secret program to achieve this within five years (that was some 15 years ago).

Old Catholic Nuns Turn To Jews For Care

Aging Catholic Nuns Get Care at Jewish Nursing Home - ABC News

As the Catholic Church winds down in the USA, what to do with so many aging nuns is becoming a major problem. But have no fear, centuries of bigotry, persecution and racism can be cast aside when the need arises.

The aging nuns are being put into Jewish retirement homes to be looked after by the very people that they once taught others to despise and persecute. Fortunately, it seems that Jews are prepared to forgive their enemies and do into others what they would have others do unto them.

Monday, 25 May 2015

So You've Decided To Be An Internet Creationist

So, you've decided you are going to campaign for creationism on the Internet. This handy, print-off-and-keep, handbook contains lots of tricks and techniques you can use to win arguments against scientists and people who have read books on evolution and so understand it.

The most important thing is that you must never accept any evidence which doesn't support one of the different versions of creationism, no matter how good it is or how well it's been proven. Always tell yourself that there is no such thing as scientific proof so science can never prove what it claims. This means that your beliefs are just as good as science and science is just another faith. Obviously, because yours is the only true faith that means science is wrong.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Catholic Whinge - The Irish Were Bought

Smarting from the historic slap in the face for the Catholic Church by the people of the Republic of Ireland in last Thursday's referendum, which returned a landslide for legalising same-sex marriage, the Catholic Register has concluded that the Irish were bought.

Apparently, the reason can't be that 62% of those who voted believe homosexuals should be treated like full human beings with the same rights as other human beings, and should be free from centuries of persecution and demonization by the Catholic Church.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

More Poo For Creationists.

Bent posture improves the protective value of bird dropping masquerading by caterpillars

The thing about evolution is that it's opportunistic. If something can be done by an organism and it gives it an advantage in their particular environment at that particular time, there is every chance that it will be done.

Some time ago I wrote a series of blogs on mimicry showing how a perfectly harmless species can come to resemble a harmful one if that deters predators.

Irish Vote Is A Massive Rejection Of Catholicism

The stunning victory for the pro equality, pro same-sex marriage side in the Irish referendum is an event of huge historic significance because it represents a massive rejection of the Catholic Church in Ireland and signifies another huge penetration of Humanism into this formerly devoutly Catholic part of Europe.

Just as with Germany a few days ago, the message from Ireland for the Vatican is that Catholic Church has a choice: either it has to abandon centuries of dogma, bigotry and exclusion - in effect abandon Catholicism, or the people will abandon the Church. The Church's teaching, behaviour and attitude is no longer acceptable in a modern, civilised and above all Humanist society.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Yeast Takes The Rise Out Of Intelligent Design

Baker's Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae)
Systematic humanization of yeast genes reveals conserved functions and genetic modularity

Here is something for 'Intelligent Design' propagandists to cope with (probably by ignoring it, lying about it or abusing the scientists and people who report it).

Evolutionary biologists will tell us that the presence of the same or very similar genes in widely different organisms points to a common origin. Indeed, the fact that all living things can be arranged into a hierarchy of genetic similarity, and the fact that

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Old Dog Teaches Science New Tricks

Ancient DNA suggests dogs split from wolves 40,000 years ago - life - 21 May 2015 - New Scientist

Here we have a very nice example illustrating why science gets it mostly right most of the time in contrast to religions which, if it ever gets anything right, it gets it right by accident. This is something that people like creationists and religious fundamentalists who seek certainty in everything, above even truth, find confusing. They seem to confuse certainty with knowledge and uncertainty with not knowing.

If The Bible Is True, Why So Many Religions?

Let's assume for the moment that the Bible is true in its substantive claim that there was once a single couple from whom we are all descended and that, some time later, the population of the Earth was reduced again to a single family. This family all believed in and worshipped the 'one true god' and had even spoken to this god and witnessed his powers first hand in ways in which few people could have any doubts.

This all happened just a few thousand years ago. Although there is no common agreement about

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Faith Is No Excuse To Victimise - Official

Gareth Lee - Victim of Christianity
'Gay cake' row: Judge rules against Ashers bakery - BBC News Northern Ireland.

A Belfast Court has ruled that Christians are not exempt from Northern Ireland's equality laws and free to discriminate, as they had claimed. This ruling establishes the principle that a person's religion does not entitle them to victimise those with whom they disagree or those with a lifestyle of which they disapprove.

It is illegal in Northern Ireland, under UK (and European) Human Rights law to discriminate against a person in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of their sexuality (amongst other things).

Reader may remember me reporting on this case last November when the story first made the news. Briefly, Ashers, a bakery from County Antrim had refused to bake and decorate a cake for gay rights activist, Gareth Lee, because he had wanted the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" included in the decoration along with a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street and the logo of the Queerspace organisation. Same sex marriage is still not legal in Northern Ireland and the cake was to be part of a campaign to have it legalised.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Bible's Bad Science

One of the central claims of Christian apologetics is that the Bible contains science. Muslims make exactly the same claim of the Qur'an, of course, and like those claims, those for the Bible either don't stand up to scrutiny or are completely unremarkable because they are simple observations of natural phenomena.

I think the intention of these lists is that you don't actually check either the science or the Bible passage cited. You're just supposed to scan down the list and marvel at how all that science could have been included in the Bible if it hadn't been written by a god. Then you conclude that you're obviously right to believe in the god your parents told you was the real one and feel that nice warm glow of self-satisfaction that comes from being right all along.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Catholic Church's Exquisite Paradox

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, "Theologically unacceptable"
Top German Lay Catholic Group Pushes Communion for Civilly Divorced-Remarried and More - National Catholic Register.

The Catholic Church in Germany, as elsewhere, faces a nightmare paradox - give up being Catholic to retain members and a degree of authority, or remain Catholic and cease having any relevance to people.

The panic spreading through the Catholic Church as it crumbles under the assault of secular Humanist ideas and becomes ever less relevant to the lives of decent, ordinary people throughout the developed world, can be judged from what's going on in Germany, where the Catholic Church is teetering on the brink of collapse.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Look What Religion Can Be Used For

Rev. Austin Miles, Liar for Jesus
If you want to see an example of what religion does to people, look no further than the paranoid ravings of a Man of God, one Rev. Austin Miles.

After citing his own evidence-free earlier claim that the German Pilot who crashed his plane in the Alps killing all on board was a Muslim, he manages to connect this event to the Obama administration with:

A similar tragedy is, at this moment, playing out in America. The cockpit is the Oval Office which guides our country to its destination. Sitting at the controls is Barrack [sic] Hussein Obama who, according to many reports (which includes photos), also possesses sexual confusion regarding straight and gay. He executes insane decisions with what appears to be a deliberate scheme to nosedive our country into oblivion.

Obama is not clinically insane but has been specifically programmed by his Communist handlers along with his Muslim allies to take America over the cliff. He is not dumb but a very useful idiot for the Communist Party ( Josef Stalin's description for those who help his cause). Obama is totally controlled as an authentic Manchurian Candidate.

Friday, 15 May 2015

An 'Intelligent Design' That Really Gets Up Your Nose

Brain-eating amoebas kill by turning your body against you - health - 13 May 2015 - New Scientist

There was me thinking the 'Intelligent Designer' couldn't get any nastier when I wrote a couple of months ago about the parasitoid wasp that turns a ladybird into a zombie by injecting it with a mind-controlling virus. Now I've come across something else which surely competes with this for sheer malevolent nastiness. Of course, sheer incompetence could also explain it.

It's an amoeba which destroys the human brain, but it doesn't do it simply by eating it - that would be too simple for our malevolent 'Intelligent Designer'. It does it by making us destroy our own brain, not just because our immune system isnt fit for purpose but also because of the way our brain is fitted into our skull.

Naegleria fowleri is a species of amoeba which lives in warm, freshwater pools, normally living on a diet of local bacteria. However, should someone take a dip in one of these pools and gets water up their nose, some of the amoebas might penetrate the mucous membrane and find their way up the nerves to the brain, where they start eating brain cells.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Evolution Before Your Very Eyes!

BoxCar2D.

Here's a neat site.

It shows the genetic algorithm in action as it evolves a car 'designed' to go faster and further over a terrain of peaks and troughs designed to filter out the weakest, most unstable and least efficient.

You don't need to do anything other than watch, but you can play around with a few settings like the maximum number of wheels - try 4 or 5 - or the mutation rate.

The first generation is just random stuff, often going nowhere with maybe a few making some progress. The trick is, just like in life, that the best are favoured and hybridize so the best wheel size, axle torque, body shape etc are more likely to be in the next generation. Plus a few more random variations thrown in.

Pretty soon a few different models will evolve. They might even hybridize and produce a new supercar; or they may be incompatible and fail, just like in real life.

Anyway, especially if you don't believe in evolution, take a look. Leave it running overnight and wake up to some pretty nifty cars zipping across the landscape. Remember, everything apart from the selection process is random. The only thing that makes it non-random is selection favouring the most successful models, just like in real life.

Careful though; it can be addictive.


submit to reddit
Income from ads will be donated to charities such as moderate centre-left groups, humanist, humanitarian and wildlife protection and welfare organisations.

Evolution In Progress - The Great Ant Escape


Trap-door ant (Odontomachus brunneus)
Great escape: ant uses spring-loaded jaws to jump away from predators | Science | The Guardian.

Here is a nice example of two components of evolution: the arms race between predator and prey and co-opting a structure for a new purpose, showing the opportunist nature of evolution by descent with modification. It involves a trap-door ant and how it tries to escape from a predator, in this case an antlion.

First a little about trap-door ants and antlions:

Trap-door ants have massive jaws which they normally hold wide open as they forage around the forest floor until they come up against something which triggers the sensory hairs between the jaws, when the jaws swing forward and clamp onto the prey at an amazing 140 miles an hour - the fastest known movement of an appendage in a living creature.

Antlion lava
Credit: Johnathan Number, Wikipedia
This speed is achieved with a pair of massive muscles inside the ant's head and jaws which have a latch mechanism which prevents the jaws closing before the muscles are exerting enough pull to snap them shut at this speed. These jaws have clearly evolved for the purpose of catching, holding onto and killing prey as quickly as possible.

Antlions are the lava of a damselfly-like insect. They prey on small crawling creatures, especially ants but rather than actively hunting they make a pit of sand and hide buried in the bottom of it, waiting for something to fall in. They will even throw grains of sand at the victim to make it fall to the bottom of the pit. This behaviour probably evolved from making burrows and hiding inside to rush out and grab passing prey. A neat solution where the ground is too dry and sandy to make good borrows, so enabling antlions to exploit new areas.

In this video we can see a trap-door ant using a surprising method to escape from an antlion.

This mechanism has been known about for a long time but the question was whether it actually improved the ant's survival rate. To test this, researchers at the University of Illinois, USA, glued the jaws of trap-door ants together and compared their escape success to that of a control group with glue applied but the jaws not glued shut. They found that ants still able to use their jaws had a greatly improved escape rate.

Abstract

Animals use a variety of escape mechanisms to increase the probability of surviving predatory attacks. Antipredator defenses can be elaborate, making their evolutionary origin unclear. Trap-jaw ants are known for their rapid and powerful predatory mandible strikes, and some species have been observed to direct those strikes at the substrate, thereby launching themselves into the air away from a potential threat. This potential escape mechanism has never been examined in a natural context. We studied the use of mandible-powered jumping in Odontomachus brunneus during their interactions with a common ant predator: pit-building antlions. We observed that while trap-jaw ant workers escaped from antlion pits by running in about half of interactions, in 15% of interactions they escaped by mandible-powered jumping. To test whether escape jumps improved individual survival, we experimentally prevented workers from jumping and measured their escape rate. Workers with unrestrained mandibles escaped from antlion pits significantly more frequently than workers with restrained mandibles. Our results indicate that some trap-jaw ant species can use mandible-powered jumps to escape from common predators. These results also provide a charismatic example of evolutionary co-option, where a trait that evolved for one function (predation) has been co-opted for another (defense).


So, not the most important piece of scientific research, coming into the category of "doing silly things to animals to figure out what they're doing", in lead researcher, Fredrick Larabee's own words, but a neat example of how a pair of spring-loaded jaws have been co-opted for use as an escape mechanism in an arms race with a predator. This shows how natural selection works on whatever is to hand and, especially where an arms race between prey and predator involved so the stakes are high, can be a powerful driver of evolution.

Now, project this a long way into the future to some descendants of these ants that have maybe evolved some other mechanism for capturing and killing their prey. We could expect to see these powerful jaws with their spring mechanism retained and fully exapted for an entirely new purpose and apparently having no obvious evolutionary pathway - the sort of structure 'Intelligent Design' creationists point to as examples of 'irreducible complexity' and the subject of another book aimed at people who prefer to believe in simplistic notions like magic performed by an imaginary special friend because only that makes them feel important enough.

'via Blog this'

submit to reddit
Income from ads will be donated to charities such as moderate centre-left groups, humanist, humanitarian and wildlife protection and welfare organisations.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Another Gap Closed. No God Found

Blue Beach, N.S. The site is a trove of fossils from about 350 million years ago, when vertebrates first started emerging onto land.
Credit: Jason Anderson
It must seem to creationists that every few days their incredible shrinking little god is evicted from yet another gap and gets just a little bit smaller. It's almost the reverse of the Big Bang. I wonder if we'll hear a small 'pffut' when the little god finally disappears in it's own irrelevance.

A week or so ago, creationism's god was evicted from a gap which palaeontologists have dubbed Romer's Gap. This is (or rather was) a gap in the fossil record of the early Carboniferous era where there should have been fossils of creatures intermediate between fish and terrestrial tetrapods. Now an analysis of fossil fragments found in just one deposit from that era revealed a rich diversity of intermediate fish-tetrapod fauna sitting there right in Romer's Gap.

Abstract

The lack of fossil tetrapod bearing deposits in the earliest Carboniferous (‘Romer’s Gap’) has provoked some recent discussions regarding the proximal cause, with three explanations being offered: environmental, taphonomic, and collection failure. One of the few, and earliest, windows into this time is the locality of Blue Beach exposed in the Tournaisian deposits at Horton Bluff lying along the Avon River near Hantsport, Nova Scotia, Canada. This locality has long been known but, because the fossils were deposited in high energy settings they are almost always disarticulated, so the fauna has not been described in detail. Recent intensive collection has revealed a diverse assemblage of material, including for the first time associated elements, which permits an evaluation of the faunal constituents at the locality. Although not diagnosable to a fine taxonomic level, sufficient apomorphies are present to identify representatives from numerous clades known from more complete specimens elsewhere. The evidence suggests a diverse fauna was present, including whatcheeriids and embolomeres. A single humerus previously had been attributed to a colosteid, but there is some uncertainty with this identification. Additional elements suggest the presence of taxa otherwise only known from the late Devonian. Depositional biases at the locality favor tetrapod fossils from larger individuals, but indirect evidence from trackways and tantalizing isolated bones evidences the presence of small taxa that remain to be discovered. The fossils from Blue Beach demonstrate that when windows into the fauna of ‘Romer’s Gap’ are found a rich diversity of tetrapods will be shown to be present, contra arguments that suggested this hiatus in the fossil record was due to extrinsic factors such as atmospheric oxygen levels. They also show that the early tetrapod fauna is not easily divisible into Devonian and Carboniferous faunas, suggesting that some tetrapods passed through the end Devonian extinction event unaffected.



Acanthostega.
The fragments found at Blue Beach were too small to be assigned to particular species.
Not only were the many fragments undoubtedly those of limbed animals, having a limb skeletal plan similar to all tetrapods with a single femur and two lower limb bones but they were intermediate between finned fish and terrestrial tetrapods in having a variable number of fingers and toes. The basic tetrapod plan of five digits maximum had yet to evolve.

Romer's Gap, named after the U.S. paleontologist Al Romer who first wrote about it, was a period of about 15-30 million years following the end of the Devonian era characterised by primitive forests of giant tree ferns and a highly diversified fish fauna, and the appearance of forests with flowering plants, more modern aquatic fauna and a diversified terrestrial fauna. Several hypotheses had been put forward to explain it, including low oxygen levels which couldn't support terrestrial vertebrates, differences in geochemistry which didn't support fossilisation and a mass extinction at the end of the Devonian.

They were present much earlier than we gave them credit for. This gap itself isn't really a thing,it's just the result of a poor fossil record and the difficulty of finding rocks from this particular time. It also means that Romer's gap may be a misinterpretation of the fossil data.

Jason Anderson,
associate professor of veterinary anatomy,
University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
There has been some geological support for the low oxygen theory and for a mass extinction at the end of the Devonian period, following which a low marine vertebrate diversity might have delayed the evolution of terrestrial vertebrates. However, this discovery suggests the gap may be more apparent than real and is merely due to lack of finds from the period. The authors point out that a rich diversity of terrestrial tetrapods early in the period points to an earlier evolutionary radiation.

Normally, creationism makes a great deal of these gaps in the fossil record and supposed missing transitional forms, claiming that Darwinian evolutionary theory requires all the intermediates and no gaps in the record, otherwise the entire theory disintegrates. This claim is, of course, nonsense, since the TOE is not a theory about fossils but about how change occurs over time.

Nothing in the theory requires a comprehensive record and it only requires a little thought to realise that, with fossilisation being such an unusual and highly unlikely event for most species, the occurrence of a perfect series for every species is so hugely unlikely it could only be explained by design. In other words, a completely gapless fossil record would not be evidence for undirected, unintelligent natural evolution but for just the opposite. The lack of all these perfect series is actually evidence against creationism and for an entirely natural process.

But still, few creationists give much thought to things like that and like to believe that gaps like Romer's Gap somehow supports them, so it's always fun to watch them ignore it when science closes just such a gap, as it did with this find. It seems to be a difficult concept for creationists to grasp that science is essentially about discovery. If there were no gaps there would be nothing to discover. Significantly, of the myriad gaps closed by science, especially in the last few hundred years, not one single god has ever been found in any. Science only started to make real progress when it began to question whether there really was a god in every gap and went looking.


submit to reddit
Income from ads will be donated to charities such as moderate centre-left groups, humanist, humanitarian and wildlife protection and welfare organisations.

Chick Embryos Reverted to Dinosaur Features

By blocking two genes that are activated when chicken embryos grow their beaks, U.S. researchers caused their jaws to 'revert' to a velociraptor-like or reptile-like snout.
Credit: Bhart-Anjan Bhullar/Yale University.
Dinosaur-like snouts grown on chicken embryos - Technology & Science - CBC News

It's more bad news for the Creationism and the Intelligent Design industry, and this one is going to take a lot of explaining away.

Scientists have shown that inhibiting a couple of genes responsible for facial development in domestic hen embryos, causes the chick to grow a dinosaur face instead of a bird face. The authors also suggest their method could be used to investigate the mechanism of other major transitions in vertebrate history.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Another Of Those 'Non-Existent' Missing Links Found


Hydrothermal vent field along the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge
Credit: Centre for Geobiology (University of Bergen, Norway) by R.B. Pedersen.
Missing link in the evolution of complex cells discovered

It must be puzzling and disconcerting for creationists the way a new scientific discovery never seems to support creationism and always seems to support science. Not that this will affect creationist superstition, of course, but there is a very simple explanation for this: science is based on evidence and so is demonstrably true; creationism is a superstition with no supporting evidence and so is not demonstrably true.

It's entirely predictable therefore that evidence will always support science and never supports

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Evolution for Brainy People

Gene that makes human brain unique identified by scientists | Science | The Guardian

A friend on Facebook has just drawn my attention to this scientific discovery from last February. I can't think how I missed it with such a catchy title to the paper (Human-specific gene ARHGAP11B promotes basal progenitor amplification and neocortex expansion). Hmm...

It appears then that a single gene might be responsible the the most profound difference between us and the other apes and between us and our immediate hominid ancestors.

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Web Analytics