Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Few Words From The Big Book Of Love

A quick word/phrase count using my searchable KJV Bible on my Kindle:

In order of occurrence:

Brain (0)
Intelligent/Intelligence (0)
Logic (0)
Rational (0)
Conscious (0)
Ethic(s)/Ethical (0)
Thoughtful (0)
Hopeful (0)
Equality (0)
Democracy (0)
Vote (0)
Jury (0)
Rights (0)
Racism (0)
Slavery (0)
Freed (2)
Freedom (2)
Abuse(d) (3)
Trial (6)
Liberty (27)
Happy/happiness (28)
Edge of the sword (28)
Conscience (32)
Care/carest/careth (38)
Tremble (54)
Pleasant (58)
Smitten (63)
Kindness (78)
Captive(s) (100)
Hate/Hated/Hatest (100+)
Fear (100+)
Obey (118)
Captivity (122)
Smite (139)
Slay (151)
Slain (181)
Afraid (191)
Slew (194)
Smote (229)
Destroy(ed) (461)
Command (902)

Some of those latter words really whizzed up the count. Unfortunately, my Kindle only counts up to 100, otherwise we could be seeing some really impressive numbers on those latter words.

I'm saying nothing, of course...

[Later Note: I am indebted to Plasma Engineer for supplying some of these numbers. See his comment below]


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What Is Life?

We all talk as though we understand what 'life' is.

We all use words like 'alive', 'living', 'lively', 'life' without any real thought as to their meaning.  We all know what we mean when we talk about a new life, don't we?  We mean a new instance of life; a new example of it, as though some new 'life' has entered the universe.

So what is this stuff called life?

Let's see if we can define 'living' as it applies to 'non-living' things:

Living things grow and repair. Well, yes, to an extent. But single-celled organisms don't repair in the sense that a human can grow some new skin to heal a wound, or can grow new bone to repair a fracture. They may be able to repair some damaged membranes but growth is limited to splitting into two smaller versions and then growing to full size to repeat the cycle.

Living things reproduce. Certainly some do but many don't, yet are none-the-less alive. Yes, their body cells may be reproducing as part of growth and repair but reproduction of new individuals is only a function carried out by SOME living individual, which are no less living for not reproducing.

Living things breathe. Depends on what you mean by 'breathe'. Very few organisms actually shift air in and out of lungs like mammals do. If you mean they have a process of respiration - that is, they take in oxygen and use it for metabolic processes and give off carbon dioxide as a waste product, then many 'living' things certainly do that, yet not all. Anaerobic organisms, like many bacteria do not use oxygen; in fact it's toxic to them. But yes, in the very general sense of exchanging chemicals with their surroundings, respiration can be said to be a characteristic of living things.

Living things move. Many do; many don't. A sedentary organism is no less alive for not moving.

Living things metabolise. Yes. All living things have chemical processes going on inside them. These processes essentially overcome the tendency towards disorder. We call disorder 'entropy'. This has a tendency to increase and can only be reduced locally by increasing it elsewhere. An organism is essentially an entropy reduction machine, using an energy source (an increase in entropy) to reduce local entropy (metabolism).

So, we can say that 'life' is entropy reduction at it's very basic level, can't we?

What then of the idea of 'new life'?

Let's look briefly at how a new multicellular individual, like a mammalian baby, get's made:

Special cells called eggs, or ova, are produced by the female from organs called ovaries. Males produce other special cells called sperm cells from organs called testes.  Inside the female's body (in a mammal) a sperm cell enters the ova and fertilises it, so a new cell, made from both the male and the female, is produced and a new individual begins to develop from it.

Yet both the ova and the sperm were alive during all stages in this process. No 'new' life was created at all. All that happened was, the existing 'life' continued. In other words, the metabolism continued; the entropy reduction machine continued to overcome the tendency of entropy to increase locally.

There was no new life; only a new entropy reduction machine.

So what is life? Life is the local reduction of entropy using the energy released by an increase in it elsewhere. We call this 'metabolism'. Life is what we call the biochemical reactions inside living things. There is no special ingredient which makes the chemicals inside a living organism different in some way to other chemicals. The chemicals inside living things are obeying the same basic chemical laws as are the rocks in the ground and the gasses in the air.

And when life ceases, the metabolism stops; or rather, when the metabolism stops, life ceases.

And the meaning of life? You tell me; you can make it mean whatever you want it to mean. (Tweet this)




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Friday, 28 October 2011

Alternative Reality

Joshua having a vision in Jericho. (Why would an angel need a shield?)
Here's a strange tale from the Bible. It started me wondering about the role of hallucinations, mind-altering substances and plain old insanity in religion.

And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:12-15

And that's it. Nothing more of this tale at all. Tactfully, no one mentioned it again...

I wonder what people thought when they found Joshua standing there with his shoe off, claiming a magic man told him to do it. Maybe others were feeling the effects of eating of the 'old corn' and the 'fruits of the land of Canaan'. Ergotamine sandwich, anyone?

Perhaps wacky baccy was a lot more common then than we realise....


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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

What Are Christian Missionaries For Exactly?

Let's play a little game. Let's pretend for a moment that there is a god, that people have souls, that there is a Heaven and a Hell and Satan; that the souls of people go either to Heaven or Hell when they die and that only Christian know the way to get into Heaven and to avoid being thrown into Hell.

Let's enter the world that Christians claim to inhabit in fact.

If it really is essential to accept Jesus to get into Heaven, as Christians are forever telling us, how did this god arrange it so his message did not even get revealed to us until about 2000 years ago, and in a way which ensured it would take another almost 2000 years for it to reach everyone?

Clearly, if this god thought it's message was that important and accepting Jesus is the only way to get to heaven it would have ensured that ALL people were aware of it and understood it - if it cared that is.

So, we can be sure of one of two things (and we are still pretending this god actually exists, remember). Either:
  1. It isn't a loving god.
  2. It isn't necessary to know about it, or accept Jesus, to get to Heaven.
So, let's give this god the benefit of the doubt and assume it is as loving as it's followers tell us.

Now, consider a person living at the Cape of Good Hope in the 15th Century, on some remote Pacific island in the 17th Century, the Central Highlands of Papua-New Guinea in the 19th Century, or the Amazon Rain Forest in the 20th Century, or indeed anyone living outside the Middle East 2000 years ago. None of these people would have known the first thing about Jesus. None of them were even capable of reading any of the translations of any of the books this message was supposedly written in.

Surely, any reasonable god would give these people a free pass to Heaven, wouldn't it? How could they have disobeyed it if they had never heard about this god and had no knowledge of it's laws or what they needed to do? In their case, ignorance would have been a passport to Heaven and their souls would not have been accessible to Satan. Their innocent ignorance was their shield.

Now, along comes a Christian missionary and tells them about his or her god's laws, and about Satan, and about sin, and what they have to do to make ammends. And how they need now to accept Jesus to avoid Satan getting their souls.

So, what has the Christian missionary now achieved? He has taken souls which were guaranteed entry into Heaven, taken away their free passes and has made them accessible to Satan. To get their passes back they now have to do what the missionary says and give him control over their lives, their customs, laws and culture - all to be in exactly the same position they were in before. The missionaries haven't saved souls for God, they've made them available for Satan - if you buy into that superstition.

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

Jomo Kenyata,
first president of independent Kenya
Either that, or missionaries believe their god is not the loving god they claim it to be; that their god has been happily creating people for millions of years with no hope of avoiding eternal pain and suffering; no hope of salvation because it didn't tell them how to be saved. People created to live a life of blissful ignorance not knowing what's in store for them and completely denied any opportunity to avoid it.

And this god waited until 3500 years ago, then only told a small band of desert-dwelling nomads so it took 1500 years before anyone else heard the message and another 2000 for it to spread to everyone.

Could it be that Christian missionaries are simply trying to guarantee their own entry into Heaven at the expense of those whose 'souls' they make available to Satan?

Or is there some other agenda going on which has nothing to so with 'saving souls'; something like wanting to control people and even take away their land and destroy their culture?

Perish the thought.



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Sunday, 23 October 2011

How Dan Destroys The Bible

Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, on which only the strange belief that it is the word of God has stood, and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies. The story of Eve and the serpent, and of Noah and his ark, drops to a level with the Arabian tales, without the merit of being entertaining; and the accounts of men living to eight or nine hundred years becomes as fabulous as the immortality of the giants of the Mythology.

Thomas Paine - The Age Of Reason

And, self-evidently, Thomas Paine is right.

So, what is the evidence?

A few facts, all from the Bible itself:

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


Clearly, this could only have been written after there was a place named Dan, just as an account of someone going to, say, New Hampshire, could only have been written during or after 1629 when New Hampshire was first named.

And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came to Laish, to a people that were at quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lies by Bethrehob. And they built a city, and dwelled therein. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first.


So now we can place the writing of Genesis after the events described in Judges 18 since before then, the place was called Laish.

All this takes place after the death of Samson, as related in Judges 16. Samson is reputed to have died some 330 years after Moses died and certainly after Joshua who succeeded Moses and died reputedly aged 110 (Joshua 24:29).

So, whoever wrote Genesis must have written it long after Moses died and probably at least 330 years after. Therefore Moses could not have written Genesis. So, as Thomas Paine points out, Genesis is just "an anonymous book of stories, fables, absurdities and downright lies". Moreover, the author was also clearly ignorant of the history of the place about which he/she was writing stories, not realising that Dan was not so named in those times, hence this is not even reliable history even if we ignore the poor chronology. It is as made up as Harry Potter or Peter Pan.

Genesis was clearly written long after the establishment of the ancient Israel and is at best merely folklore and at worst made up. As the Bible itself shows, the entire foundation of the Abrahamic religions as the word of God as related to Moses, has no basis in fact.

There is no basis whatever for the idea of God, of Creation, of Heaven and Hell, of Satan, Of Angels, of the "Fall of Man", of Original Sin, of the need for forgiveness and redemption including the need to 'accept Jesus' or for his supposed sacrifice, or for all the absurdities in the story of Noah, the flood and the ark, or indeed any of the basic tenets of any of the three major monotheist religions.

They are based on nothing more than "stories, fables, absurdities and downright lies".

And all this can be readily discovered by reading the Bible itself.

Can anyone suggest a reason why no preacher, Bible thumper, Pope, priest, Sunday-school teacher or neatly coiffured televangelist claiming to be a Bible scholar has ever pointed to this childishly simple biblical refutation of everything they preach as biblical truth?

Obviously, a desire to preach and teach truth can have played no part in it.






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Saturday, 22 October 2011

I Can't Believe It! The Bible Is Made Up!

Just look at what we find in Deuteronomy 34:1-7!

Death of Moses (James Tissot)
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho.  And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, And all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, And the South, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.

And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.  And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.  And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

Hmm...

So, if we're to believe all the Christians and Jews who tell us Moses wrote the Pentateuch, including Deuteronomy, we have to believe Moses wrote about his own death.  Even the great Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that Moses wrote it.  Josephus is the historian Christians quote as the earliest existing 'evidence' for Jesus.  They tell us his authority is beyond dispute.

Hmm...

Thomas Paine
Rather than go into the obvious problem here myself, I'll quote Thomas Paine who says it far more eloquently than I could:

"The writer of the book of Deuteronomy, whoever he was, (for it is not an anonymous work), is obscure, and also in contradiction with himself, in the account he has given of Moses.

After telling that Moses went to the top of Pisgah (and it does not appear from any account that he ever cam down again), he tell us that Moses died there in the land of Moab, and that he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab; but there is no antecedent to the pronoun he, there is no knowing who he was that did bury him.  If the writer meant that he (God) buried him, how should he (the writer) know it?  or why should we (the reader) believe him? since we know not who the writer was that tells us so, for certainly Moses could not himself tell us where he was buried.

The writer also tells us that no man knoweth where the sepulchre of Moses is unto this day, meaning the time in which the writer lived; how then should he know that Moses was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, as is evident from his using the expression of unto this day, meaning a great length of time after the death of Moses, he certainly was not at his funeral; and on the other hand, it is impossible that Moses himself could say that no man knoweth where the sepulchre is unto this day... "

"... The writer has nowhere told us how he came by the speeches which he has put in the mouth of Moses to speak, and therefore we have the right to conclude, that he either composed them himself, or wrote them from oral tradition.  One or the other of these is the more probable, since he has given in the fifth chapter a table of commandments, in which that called the fourth commandment is different  from the fourth commandment in the twentieth chapter in Exodus...."


Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason. 1795

So, as Thomas Paine has clearly shown, Moses could not have written Deuteronomy at least, and the laws Christians and Jews believe were given directly by their god to Moses, and which he wrote down, are nothing more than oral traditions at best and just made up by the Bible's real authors at worst.

And so the entire body of Old Testament biblical law, including all the food taboos, dress codes, marriage laws, proscribed punishment for transgression, etc, has no divine authority at all. It is nothing more than an oral tradition later written down or even the invention of one or more writers writing long after the events they were describing.

And all the genocides, child abuse, misogyny, sanctimonious homosexual condemnation, racism and war crimes supposedly ordered by this god are nothing more than retrospective self-justifications for antisocial acts and attitudes and attempts to absolve themselves of responsibility for their own actions.

And the entire foundation of both the Jewish and Christian religions has collapsed.  All because of a few careless words in the Bible and poor editorial control.

You really would have expected an omniscient god to make a better job of it than that, wouldn't you?

Friday, 21 October 2011

Holy Moses! Another Bible Blunder!

Holy Moses, Meek and Mild
Everyone knows that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, don't they? You know, the first five books of the Bible which includes Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

Ask any Christian and they'll tell you Moses wrote those. Even the laws in them are called the Laws of Moses or the Mosaic Laws. That great Jewish historian, Josephus even confirmed it and all Christians will tell you what a reliable historian he was. He even 'proved' Jesus was real, so they claim...

But what's this we find?
(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
Blimey! If Moses wrote that about himself, that wasn't very meek of him. In fact, the terms 'vain' and 'arrogant' are more apposite. There'll be no inheriting the earth for him!

So what's going on here? Is Moses lying or is that someone else writing about him?

If it's someone else, who is it? There's no mention anywhere of Moses having a personal scribe who wrote everything down, including all the laws the Bible says Moses heard God speak unto him.

So, was it all made up later and the story about Moses writing it is just a lie, or is Moses lying about being 'very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth' when really he was vain and arrogant?

And if it WAS all made up later, so were the laws which supposedly God gave directly to Moses. They are just the work of the author and have no divine authority whatsoever... Oops! Crikey!

What a Bible Blunder! You'd have thought an omniscient god would be a little more convincing than that wouldn't you. (Tweet this)

I expect Bible literalists have a sensible explanation and can clear it all up for us.


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Good Thing The Good Samaritan Wasn't A Christian!

Remember that tale in the Bible about a man from Samaria who came across a man on the roadside who'd recently fallen among thieves? He did the decent thing, like any Humanist would, and helped where he could. He could have passed by on the other side but chose not to because he was, basically, a decent human being so he helped a fellow traveler in trouble.

A few months ago a thief named Harold Camping thought up a scam for taking literally millions of dollars off gullible and vulnerable people. He told them he was receiving messages that a magic man in the sky was going to come and kill everyone but he would save people who gave Harold Camping all their money. So people even sold their homes and all their possessions hoping they would be saved.

He tried the same scam again a few months later and stole even more money off more gullible and vulnerable victims.

Strangely, even though Christians claim to follow the man who supposedly told the story of the Good Samaritan and used it to illustrate how good Christians should try to be like Humanists and behave decently, no Christian seem to have come forward to help the victims who fell prey to Harold Camping.  Instead, to a man, and to a woman, they seem to have passed by on the other side.

Clearly, Christians still have much still to learn from Humanism. (Tweet this)


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Thursday, 20 October 2011

On the Eve Of The Rapture.

Written the day before the End Of The World scheduled for 21 May 2011. Several more have come and gone with no one noticing since then.

 So, Christians! Tomorrow is the big day, eh? The day you've all been awaiting eagerly for about 2000 years. The day Jesus finally keeps his promise and comes back to Earth.

But, what if you’re wrong?

What if it’s NOT Jesus but some god from history, like Ra or Apollo?

What if it’s a god you’ve never heard of, say a god only believed in by a tribe of Amazonians or from a Papua-New Guinea mountain valley?

What if it’s a god from some other planet entirely in a far-off galaxy we’ve not discovered yet?

What if it’s a god no one anywhere in the universe knows about because it was too modest to make its existence known – until now; a god who detests religion and has come here looking for free-thinkers...?

Whatever will you say? How will you explain why you told everyone it was a false god and they shouldn’t believe in it? How will you explain telling other people that they’re going to be burned alive for not believing in the wrong god and how your god is going to come and kill everyone who disagrees with you?

I’ll bet you just WISH you had some evidence you could show it to explain yourself; to offer up as an excuse for misunderstanding it. Something you could blame for your mistake. As it is all you have is the excuse that someone told you it was true, but you never checked because they also told you it was wrong to doubt...

You see, that’s the problem being fooled into accepting what you’re told and swallowing the notion that ‘faith’ is a virtue so you shouldn’t question, just believe.

And you thought Pascal’s Wager was such a GOOD argument..! (Tweet this)

Don’t worry too much though. Both you and I know it’s not going to happen don’t we It’s just that I don’t mind other people knowing I’m an Atheist because I have the courage to think for myself and don’t mind if others disagree with me; I don’t feel I have to pretend to be conforming to something I suspect most people are just pretending to believe in too, because they’re also too afraid to be honest with themselves.

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The Slug Mite - What is it FOR Exactly?

The White Slug Mite Riccardoella limacum
As a youngster I often used to look for the large garden snails which are common everywhere in England. I also use to find the larger, creamy white 'Roman' snails, also called the edible snail or escargot. These are fairly common in and around the area of north Oxfordshire where I lived.

One of the things I found fascinating was that some of them would have several tiny white creatures moving over their surfaces and very often going in and out of the hole in their side, the pneumostome, which leads to the air sack under the shell and through which snails breath.

I've since learned they are a group of mites. Mites are a group of arthropods similar to spiders but lacking the abdomen. Very many of them are microscopic - you will almost certainly have one or more living in most of your eyelash follicles. One particularly nasty little thing, Sarcoptes scabiei, sets up home in human skin and causes the intensely itchy rash called scabies.

However, the white snail mites I discovered as a child are what this is about, not the creatures that live in and on your body, in your beds, carpets, etc.

Slug mites around the pneumostome of a tawny garden slug.
These are known as slug mites and are members of the Riccardoella genus, usually R. limacum or R. oudemansi. They live on a whole range of terrestrial molluscs (slugs and snails). They were thought to be commensal, that is, just hitching a ride on their hosts and living off mucus, so doing their host no harm at all. However, recent studies have shown that they are blood feeder; that they are true parasites. In fact it is now known that they often burrow deep into their host's skin and remain there. Despite this they appear not to do any real harm to their hosts which seem to suffer no ill effects from their activities. Certainly, they have no discernible impact on slug and snail numbers and they do not appear to be predated on by anything other than another mite - Hyoaspis miles. Slugs and snails seem to have adapted to the presence of slug mites to compensate for whatever harm they may have suffered in the past.

The only purpose for slug mites seems to be to produce more slug mites.

So a question for Creationists. What was your assumed intelligent creator's intelligent reason for designing the slug mite? (Tweet this)

Luckily for Evolutionists such questions don't arise since there is no assumed purpose, intelligent or otherwise, in evolution theory. Evolution is an intelligently designed explanation for what we can observe in nature. (Tweet this)




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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Unintelligent Design - The Head Case

Sinuses in the human face
What's wrong with the human head?

1. Sinuses.
Sinuses are air-filled spaces extending from the nasal cavity into the facial bones. As well as making the facial bones lighter they give timbre to the voice and also help heat and moisturise inhaled air

Problem: Sinus problems are common in humans, usually because of inflammation caused by an opportunist infection following a cold. The problem is cause by our sinuses being poorly drained, especially when the lining is swollen or mucus production is high. These warm, moist, protein-filled spaces are an idea environment for several species of bacteria which the body finds difficult to cope with by the normal blood-born defences. White blood cells are sent into the infected sinus where they, together with dead bacteria, form pus.


In chronic infections an abscess may form which can erode the facial bone and even penetrate to the brain, causing bacterial meningitis and death.

Cause: The human face is rotated downwards by about 90 degrees compared to most mammalian facial skeletons to compensate for our upright gait. Our faces have also become flattened with the usual mammalian muzzle receding back under our noses. By normal mammalian standards, humans have a strangely deformed face. One result of this is to distort the sinuses and restrict the drainage channels.

Human skull
2. Middle Ear.
The middle ear is an air-space between the outer ear and the inner ear where the hearing mechanism is located. A narrow tube, the Eustachian tube, connects this space with the back of the throat so that the pressure in the inner ear can be equilibrated with the outer air pressure so maintaining a constant pressure on the eardrum. This tube is normally opened during swallowing.

Problem: During a cold the Eustachian tube can become inflamed and, like the sinuses, is prone to secondary infection by opportunist bacteria. It can then become difficult to drain and equilibrate the pressure in the middle ear. This can cause severe pain and may rupture the eardrum. In children especially it may lead to 'glue ear' needing surgical insertion of grommets to keep a hole open in the eardrum to allow the inner ear to drain. In extreme cases, it can cause an abscess to form. Infection may track down the auditory nerve to the brain causing meningitis and even death

Cause: The same as with sinuses due to distortion of the bones of the skull associated with an upright gait.

3. Wisdom Teeth.
Wisdom teeth are molar teeth which normally erupt in adolescence. A few individuals fail to produce them and suffer no detectable disadvantage.

Problem: Fairly frequently, the teeth develop but fail to break through the gum. They may even grow in the wrong direction and become impacted, causing pain and difficulty chewing food. They often need to be surgically removed. Occasionally they can become infected and an abscess may form in the mandible or maxilla.

Cause: As the human face has receded from the normal mammalian skull pattern the number of teeth has been reduced. This process in incomplete.

Human cervical spine
4. Cervical Vertebrae.
The cervical vertebrae, or neck bones, carry the weight of the skull and allow the skull to rotate from side to side and to flex back and forth. To help with this the foramen magnum, a hole in the base of the skull through which the spinal cord passes, has moved under the skull compared to the normal mammalian anatomy. It is also assisted by a broad ligament which attaches to the back of the skull and runs down to the shoulder bones. This helps stabilise the skull during running.

Problem: The neck muscles frequently become fatigued causing head-ache. During rapid acceleration such as during a rear-end automobile accident, or due to a fall, the skull can hyper-extend, bending the neck backwards and fracturing one or more of the cervical vertebrae. Fragments of bone may damage or transect the spinal cord, causing paralysis or death. Arthritic problems may also develop in later life.

Cause: Adaptation to an upright gait combined with a large cranium to house a large brain has meant compromises in the basic mammalian anatomy. This process is incomplete.

Human Pharynx
5. Laryngopharynx
The laryngopharynx is a passage common to the airway and the food passage. Air-breathing vertebrates have a basic flaw in their body plan in that the air and food passages cross in the pharynx. Protective mechanisms normally prevent food entering the airway. These may include mechanisms to close the airway during swallowing and coughing to expel inhaled food.

Problem: In humans, choking is a fairly common cause of sudden death in an otherwise healthy adult or child. Choking occurs when the air passage becomes blocked by food when the protective mechanism fail. In humans, a protective flap - the epiglottis - is present and is normally effective as the larynx is pushed up against it during swallowing. Occasionally however, this fails and food may enter the air passage. A second line defence reflex, coughing, may also fail and may make matters worse as the victim attempts to breath in in order to cough, driving the blockage further into the air passage. Vomiting, also a defence reflex, may also occur and may add to the problem as the victim is also unable to clear accumulating vomit.

Cause: As an adaption to speech, our pharynx - the space at the back of the throat between our mouth and the larynx - has lengthened creating a greater likelihood of food entering the laryngopharynx before it can be fully closed off. The protective mechanisms have lost some of their effectiveness in the process and have not yet been compensated for.

All these are perfectly understandable in terms of evolution as the advantages of the adaptations far exceed the disadvantages. The greater likelihood of survival and reproductive success of genes carried by people with these evolving adaptations outweighs the loss of some individuals due to the problems they may cause.

In terms of intelligent design, these flaws make no sense at all since an intelligent designer, especially a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent and omni-benevolent one, would have produced a faultless design in the first place.

The situation is exactly as you would expect with a mindless, utilitarian process of evolution driven by whatever works to produce more copies of the genes in the next generation, differentially selected naturally from among variants in the gene-pool.



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Liam Fox, Adam Werrity and No Brown Envelopes.

The first report into a Conservative Government Minister's abuse of high office during this period of Tory-led government.

It appears that no brown envelopes were involved.





Sunday, 16 October 2011

Intelligently Designed By A Loving God?

Some living creatures, which, if you believe in biblical creationism, you should be able to explain in terms of being perfectly created for a purpose by a loving creator god.

1. Liver Fluke (Fasciola Hepatica)
Liver Flukes
A trematode or fluke measuring about 3cm by 1cm and infecting sheep, cattle and humans.

Complex life-cycle involving water snails and water plants. When ingested the fluke develops in the intestine, burrows into the peritoneum and then to the liver where is eats liver cells for a few weeks then migrates to the bile duct where females can produce up to 25,000 eggs a day.  Eggs are released into the intestines from where they are expelled in faeces. On reaching water they hatch and infect a water snails and so complete the life cycle.

Symptom:
Diarrhea, eosinophilia (raised white blood cell count), fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, hepatitis, obstructive jaundice

Benefits to the host:
None.

2. Blood Flukes (Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, S. japonicum, S. intercalatum, S. mekongi)
Blood Flukes
A genus of trematodes causing snail fever, also called bilharzia. Infecting an estimated 200 million people worldwide.

Complex life-cycle involving water snails and several larval stages. Eggs hatch in water and lava infect water snails where they develop into a second larval stage which is free-swimming. On detecting human skin then attach themselves and burrow through the skin, often via a hair follicle. They then migrate to the circulatory system where males and females pair up and migrate to rectal or mesenteric veins where they live for many years producing 300-3000 eggs per day which are shed via the faeces or urine. When in water they hatch and complete the life-cycle.

Symptoms:
Rash, itching, chills, cough, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and muscle aches. In children, anaemia, learning difficulties and malnutrition. Inflammation of intestines and liver may occur and, if the central nervous system becomes infected, paralysis, seizures and inflammation of the spinal cord may occur.

Benefits to the host:
None.

3. Tape worms (Diphyllobothrium latum, Hymenolepis nana, Taenia saginata, T. solium
Tapeworm
Head or Scolex of Tapeworm

A group of segmented Cestoda known as tapeworms which live in the human intestinal tract, absorbing digested nutrients directly through their skin. H. nana can grow to a few centimetres in length, however, the other three listed here can reach many meters.  The head, or scolex, of the tapeworm has hooks with which it attaches to the wall of the intestine. Each segment has its own male and female reproductive organs and can produce eggs on their own, however, they may mate with other segments from the same or another tapeworm.  Eventually, when the segment is full of eggs it is shed from the end of the worm and is expelled from the host where it may be eaten by the secondary host (fish, rodent, cattle or pig respectively).  In the secondary host the eggs hatch in the intestines, the larval form then migrate to muscles and form a cyst which may eventually be eaten by a human to complete the life cycle.  In the case of H. nana microscopic eggs are shed via faeces from where they may contaminate food or be picked up on fingers. An estimated 30% of rodents sold as pets in stores in Connecticut are infected with H. nana.

Symptoms:
Anal itching, bloody diarrhea, diarrhea, headache, increased appetite, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscle spasms. nausea, nervousness, seizures, stomach ache, vomiting,& weakness, weight loss.

Benefits to the host:
None.

4. Giant roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides)
Giant Roundworms in the Intestinal Lumen
This nematode worm infects some 25% of the human population. It is passed on when eggs are accidentally swallowed from dirty fingers or contaminated food or water. Larva hatch from the eggs, penetrate the intestinal walls and enter the circulatory system via which they pass into the lungs where they develop for two weeks before travelling up the respiratory tract to the throat, to be swallowed again as adult worms. The worms attach themselves to the intestinal wall and get nutrients from the host. Adult female worms are 20-35 cm long and 3-6 mm in diameter. Males are 15-30 cm long and 2-4 mm in diameter. On mating a female can produce 200,000 eggs a day and can live for two years. The eggs are passed out of the host in faeces and can survive for several months until swallowed by a human to complete the life-cycle.

Symptoms:
Blockage of the biliary tract, diarrhoea, fever, nausea, obstruction of the bowel (which can be fatal), stomach ache, slower growing of a child or a teen, vomiting, weakness. During the larval stage, when the larva are developing in the lungs, symptoms may include breathing difficulty, cough and/or coughing up blood, eosinophilic pneumonitis.

Benefits to the host:
None.

5. Entamoeba hystolytica.
Entamoeba hystolitica
A protozoan (single-celled organism) which causes amoebiasis. About 50 million people are infected world wide. The parasite lives in the large intestine and reproduce by simple binary fission. Some individuals form microscopic cysts which are passed in faeces and can survive for many weeks until ingested in food, contaminated water of by dirty fingers. Very occasionally they can be sexually transmitted.

Symptoms:
Flatulence, intermittent constipation, loose stools, stomach ache, stomach cramping, anemia, appendicitis, bloody diarrhea, fatigue, fever, genital and skin lesions, intermittent constipation, liver abscesses (can lead to death, if not treated), malnutrition, painful defecation, peritonitis, pleuropulmonary abscesses, toxic megacolon, weight loss.

Benefits to the host:
None.

6. Malaria (Plasmodium falciparum)
Plasmodium (Malaria) Life-cycle.
A protozoan with a complex life-cycle involving the anopheles mosquito and infecting some 200 million people annually. It is the deadliest of all human parasites killing over 1 million people a year. Most deaths are of children under 5 years of age. Infection begins when a mosquito injects a form of the parasite into human skin when taking a blood meal. This form migrates via the circulatory system to the liver where it infects a liver cell. This can produce 30,000 - 40,000 daughter cells within six days, each of which can invade a red blood cell and produce 8-24 new parasites each of which can infect a new red blood cell. These cells may also produce a form which can infect a mosquito when it takes a blood meal. These then undergo sexual reproduction and via several stages migrate from the mosquito's digestive tract to its salivary glands, where it is ready to infect another human.

Symptoms:
Chills, diarrhea, fever, general discomfort, headaches, muscle pains, nausea, sweating, vomiting, weakness, enlargement of the spleen or liver, hyperpyrexia, increased breathing frequency, mild anemia, mild jaundice, breathing difficulties, coma, confusion, focal neurologic signs, seizures, severe anemia, abnormalities in blood coagulation, hemoglobin in the urine, high acidity of the blood, hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, kidney failure and death. In pregnancy it can cause premature birth and low birth-weight. Babies can be infected from the mother and may cause blindness, deafness, speech difficulty, dyskinesia and paralyses.

Benefits to the host:
None.

So Creationists, just six examples out of many, some more of which can be found here.

What on earth was your loving creator thinking of? How do these organisms fit into a model in which a creator created humans and made all the other living things FOR their benefit?

BTW, on a slightly different note. Some of the examples of parasitic worms have, during their evolution, become LESS complex since they no longer need to worry about evading predators, finding and digesting their own food, etc, so they show that an evolutionary process does not always mean increasing complexity. This is a very common phenomenon in parasites.

So tell me, how does LESS information give GREATER adaptation?





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Saturday, 15 October 2011

Things a God Can't Possibly Know.

Thinking logically - after all, that's what Atheists do - there are several things no god could know about itself.

1. That it is omniscient.

  • To know this, any god would need to know that it knows everything, but how could it be aware of something it doesn't know about? It could only know what it knows it knows. It could not possibly know about something it doesn't know about.
  • As Donald Rumsfeld once painfully reminded us, there are unknown unknowns.
  • So any claim it might make about omniscience may be false and can not be made with any certainty.

2. That it is omnipotent.

  • Leaving aside the obvious paradox that no god can create an object so heavy it can't lift it, unless it knows everything it can't possibly know if there is something more powerful about which it is unaware. If there is, clearly the god can't be all powerful since the more powerful thing could have power over it.
  • So any claim of omnipotence may also be false and can not be made with any certainty.

3. That it is omnipresent.

  • Unless it knows everything, it can't possibly know if there is somewhere where it isn't present.
  • So any claim of omnipresence may also be false and can not be made with any certainty.

To make a claim of fact in the knowledge that it may be false is dishonest, so one thing we can say with certainty is that any god for which its followers claim omni qualities is a dishonest god at best.

Of course, that's not really fair on these gods. It's not the fault of gods that they were unintelligently designed by dishonest people. (Tweet this)


A Memo From The CEO


Memo


Number: 327

Date: 14 October 2011

From: The Chief Executive Officer

To: All executives, managers and employees

Subject: Disobedience and Failure to Obey Directives from the CEO

I have become increasingly aware of and concerned by the above and have taken advice on how best to deal with it. God has now given me the solution, in Leviticus 26 so, with immediate effect:

If ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant I will do this unto you;

I will appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.

I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies : they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.

If ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.

I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:

Your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.

If ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.

I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children , and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number ; and your high ways shall be desolate .

If ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.

I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.

And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied .

And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me, then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.

And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat .

I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours.

I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it.

I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste.

Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.

Upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth .

And they shall fall one upon another, as it were before a sword, when none pursueth : and ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies.

Ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up.

They that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.

If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:

Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.

The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes.

And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.

These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.

So, be thou in no doubt whatsoever, that determined am I to stampeth out this disgraceful outbreak of disobedience unto me thy Lord and master and CEO.

I hope that maketh clear my refusal to tolerate this disgraceful situation any longer.

Memo


Number: 328

Date: 15 October 2011

From: The (Acting) Chief Executive Officer

To: All staff

Subject: Restoration of Internal Disciplinary Procedures

With immediate effect, I have agreed to take over the full responsibilities of the former CEO who is now on extended leave following an emergency meeting of the Board called at the request of several major shareholders.

Memo 327 dated yesterday is withdrawn with immediate effect and all internal disciplinary procedures current at 13 October 2011 have been restored. The Board have reiterated their continued commitment to a culture in which employees at all levels can expect to be treated with dignity and respect and feel free from threats and intimidation regardless of their ethnicity and religious persuasion or lack thereof.

Threats of physical or mental abuse will not be tolerated under any circumstances. All employees will conduct themselves in a civilised and respectful manner whilst at work.

There are no plans to bake bread on the premises nor to confiscate the land of employees.

The Board also expressed their thanks to the CEO and extend their best wishes for a speedy recovery.


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The Unintelligent Designer - Arms Races

In biology, what's the point of an arms race?

An arms race, as with that between nations, is where a pair of rivals become locked in a spiral of offensive capability leading to increased defensive capability leading to increased offensive capability, with new layers of arms being developed and funded by a hugely wasteful expenditure on these weapons in order to remain in exactly the same place with respect to each other.  Running fast to stand still.

Consider the cheetah and the gazelle in Africa (this is an example I've lifted from Richard Dawkins).

The cheetah has evolved speed and maneuverability to help it catch gazelles; the gazelle has evolved speed and maneuverability to help it avoid being caught by cheetahs. Both have an 'interest' in improving their speed and maneuverability at the expense of the other, and neither can afford NOT to improve their speed and maneuverability.

The the extent to which they can do this is limited only by the potential of their anatomy and physiology to evolve further in that direction without the radical reorganization which would involve temporary loss of some other function, giving a disadvantage which would be immediately selected against. So both prey and predator can evolve only in one direction, being driven by the evolution of the other and the selection pressure this produces in their respective environments.


Both cheetah and gazelle are literally running fast to stand still with respect to each other.

How could an intelligent designer arrive at this situation?  Why would an intelligent designer create gazelles as food for cheetahs, then make it difficult for cheetahs to catch them?  If gazelles had been designed as cheetah food, they would be slow and easy to catch, wouldn't they?

Similarly, if cheetah were designed for catching and culling gazelles, why did they need to overcome the ability of gazelles to avoid being culled?

Neither species gains anything from the extra effort involved and the investment they make in developing the ability to out-maneuver the other, other than in the context of the other's presence. No intelligent designer would create a system whereby one of its designs tries to make it difficult for another of its designs to work properly, and so needing otherwise pointless and wastefully competitive modification.

About the only reason an intelligent designer would have for designing cheetahs and gazelles and then making them try to out-evolve one another in a wasteful arms race, would be if it enjoyed watching blood sports. But then, as an omniscient designer, wouldn't it know the outcome of the chase in advance anyway?

Another example from Africa is the Acacia tree and the giraffe. Trees are naturally selected for taller trunks by the shorter ones being eaten by giraffes. Giraffes are selected for longer legs and necks to avoid starvation by increasingly tall acacia trees.

What does the acacia tree get from having to grow a very much longer trunk than it would otherwise need if there were no giraffes? What does the giraffe gain from having to grow longer legs and a longer neck than it would otherwise need if acacias were shorter? The entire purpose of an acacia tree is to produce acacia trees and it does this by producing flowers and seeds.  This would work just as well at ground level if only there was nothing around which regarded the seeds as food.

So why would an intelligent designer make it difficult for the acacia?

And why would an intelligent designer design giraffes to eat acacias, then place them almost out of reach?

Would any intelligent designer of a motor car design it so the gasoline it uses could avoid being burned so the car had to develop more and more elaborate and expensive ways to get the gasoline from the tank and the gasoline had to develop more and more elaborate and expensive ways to avoid being consumed?

Would this be intelligent design?  Would YOU buy a car designed by such a designer?

Clearly, as these arms races demonstrate, there is no intelligence involved at all. What we see is exactly what we would expect if the process were an unintelligent, utilitarian process, selecting only for those solutions which work best to produce more of the next generation and having no ultimate goal in mind and with no concern that the process might be leading to the eventual extinction of one or both protagonists.

What we see is exactly what we would expect to see if there were no intelligent designer but only an evolutionary system driven by natural selection.

Further reading:
Evolutionary Arms Race
Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker.


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Friday, 14 October 2011

How Do You Know Satan Didn't Write The Bible?

Okay, Christians. Tell me how you know for sure that Satan didn't write the Bible.

Yep, I know. I'm an Atheist so I don't believe in Satan or any other spirits, evil, benign or supremely indifferent - but YOU do.

So, how can you tell that your god either wrote the Bible or inspired its authors and not Satan, the Great Deceiver?

One problem you have is that you claim that morality, and especially our knowledge of right and wrong, was revealed to us by your god in the Bible or by communication through various prophets and saints as recorded in the Bible. So you have no external references by which to judge the morality of the Bible.

So, what if Satan wrote the Bible to mislead you? What if your god has given us science so we can discover the lies Satan wrote in the Bible?

I could now give a long list of supporting evidence for that view with examples of the god of the Bible telling us to do plainly immoral things, but I don't believe it myself, since I don't believe in Satan, as you do, so I'll spare you that list. You can probably find examples for yourself in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, the various epistles of Paul, etc.

BTW, have you ever read Leviticus 26:16-46? Doesn't it strike you as written by someone who got just a tad carried away at the thought of making people suffer in unspeakably nasty ways? I could almost still see the flecks of spittle...

Over to you. Just a simple proof that Satan couldn't have written the Bible, please. Obviously, you can't quote the Bible as evidence because Satan could have included that to fool you. And you can't use any external reference points to judge right and wrong because there aren't any.... are there?

If you can't prove that Satan didn't write the Bible, then how do you know you aren't condemning your children, and anyone else whom you persuade that the Bible is your god's word, to an eternity in Hell?

Don't you have a moral obligation to be sure?  Or is your need to persuade others to agree with you more important to you than the consequences that might have for the other person? Are you saving souls or just boosting your own ego?

BTW, if you don't agree that we get our knowledge of right and wrong from your god via the Bible, then I'm fine with that. You are confirming that we need neither your god nor the Bible to lead a good and moral life. You are confirming in fact, that Christianity has nothing to offer us.


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