Thursday, 29 January 2015

Genghis Khan And Gene-Meme Co-Evolution

Genghis Khan. Unknown artist.
Genghis Khan's genetic legacy has competition : Nature News & Comment.

A technical paper published a few days ago in the European Journal of Human Genetics shows how, at least in humans, genes can increase in frequency in a population not necessarily because they represent an adaptive advantage in their own right but because they are bound to other replicators, such as cultural memes, which give them an advantage. This linkage may be entirely due to chance.

For example, a culture which is hierarchical and expansionist, and especially where sons inherit the power, authority and privilege of their fathers, may facilitate the spread of genes carried by powerful men, especially where power gives access to females and comes with a higher standard of living so children are more likely to survive. The actual genes benefiting from this may be completely unremarkable.

This paper found that it was possible to identify a number of clusters of particular haplotype of the Y-chromosome (only carried by males and so indicating the male inheritance line). By counting the number of mutations in a given region of the Y-chromosome and

Rites and Reason in Tribal Religion

E. O. Wilson: Religious faith is dragging us down - opinion - 27 January 2015 - New Scientist.

Rite reasons: Why your brain loves pointless rituals - life - 19 January 2015 - New Scientist.

A couple of articles in New Scientist this week help explain the attraction of organised religion and why so many people are seduced by them despite the absence of any evidence that any religion is based on anything more than myth and superstition, so no objective basis for choosing one over another or indeed for following any of them.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Earth-Sized Planets May Be Commonplace.

Ancient planets are almost as old as the universe - space - 27 January 2015 - New Scientist

It's been another dreadful day for creationism.

Not only have we had news of another of those 'non-existent' fossils showing intermediate characteristics not just between species but between orders, with four fossil early snakes with lizard-like features and possibly even legs in one case, but now we learn that Earth-sized planets may well be common in the Universe and at least the Milky Way galaxy in which we live has been making them for 11.2 of the 13.8 billion years that the Universe has been around.

Oh Creation! Now It's Transitional Snake Fossils!

Source: Nature Communications
Fossils of oldest known snakes unearthed | Science/AAAS | News: "DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa6402"

Thanks to Science Magazine's excellent content sharing initiative, I'm able to embarrass creationists with another piece of science for them to ignore or lie about. This time it's news of the discovery of four very early snakes which push the known evolution of snakes back by almost 70 million years and they show unmistakable signs of transition from lizards with whom they are known to share a common ancestor.

So that's transitional snakes living between 143 and 167 million years ago, and already showing considerable diversification, suggesting an origin many millions of years earlier. It must be embarrassing having to try to force-fit facts like that into a superstition which claims Earth is only a few thousand years old

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Haeckel's Embryos and Creationist Hypocrites

1874 illustration from Anthropogenie showing "very early", "somewhat later" and "still later" stages of embryos of fish (F), salamander (A), turtle (T), chick (H), pig (S), cow (R), rabbit (K), and human (M)
How fudged embryo illustrations led to drawn-out lies - life - 20 January 2015 - New Scientist

Haeckel's embryo drawings are something of embarrassment for biology, but how they have been used to mislead their dupes should be an even bigger embarrassment for creationist pseudoscientists, if it were even remotely possible to embarrass them with evidence of false claims, that is.

Haeckel produced his set of drawings intending to show how vertebrate embryology supported Darwinian evolution by pointing to a common ancestor and because the stages of development represented a replay of the evolution which led to their final adult forms. Unfortunately, he not only 'enhanced' his drawings to support this 'Recapitulation theory' but then

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Unintelligently Designed Reproduction

Petunia (P. × atkinsiana)
Credit: Hiroyuki Kakui
Sophisticated system prevents self-fertilization in petunias | EurekAlert! Science News

Why would an intelligent designer design a system which is prone to errors then design a mechanism for avoiding those errors, and then, in different circumstances, have to break that avoidance mechanism because the solution is worse that the problem it was intended to solve?

I don't expect any self-respecting intelligent design creationists to answer that question because the default, "It's all a mystery which humans can't be expected to understand", or the easier, "I'm ignoring that question because it can't be true", response should have cut in by now.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Gender Gap in UK Religious Belief

Religious faith in Britain today
Women much more likely than men to say 'I'm a believer', study finds:

A survey out today has shown that 54% of British men born in 1970 now identify as non-believers but the same survey also showed that only 33% of women in the same cohort share this non-belief. The survey is the latest report from a longitudinal cohort study tracking the lives of 9,000 people born in a single week in 1970 being carried out by the UCL Institute for Education (IOE).

This gender gap is perhaps rather surprising but so is the wide range of different religious beliefs

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

How Creationist Lie To Us - Jehovah's Witnesses

Professor Rama Singh "I fully support the theory of evolution."
The Freethinker - The voice of atheism since 1881 » Prof’s words twisted to attack evolution

What the Jehovah's Witness on-line magazine, "Awake!", claims:

How would you complete the following sentence?

LIFE IS THE RESULT OF _______________________________________.

SOME might assume that a scientifically-minded person would pick "evolution" and that a religious person would pick "creation."

Is Pope Francis Fit For Purpose?

Pope Francis insists Catholics do not need to breed 'like rabbits' and criticises woman for 'tempting God' with eighth pregnancy - People - News - The Independent

Is Pope Francis up to the job? Does he even understand what the job is?

It's beginning to look like his ever-present public smile is not the smile of an affable, avuncular and kindly old man full of the joy of living, but the stupid grin of a confused and muddled misfit not quite sure what he should be doing. His spontaneous little 'pearls of wisdom' as often as not seem like the thoughtless blurtings of someone who can't keep his silly mouth shut as he lurches about like a theological loose cannon.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why Christians Are So Easy to Fleece

Alex Malarkey (The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven)
"I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. I said it to get attention"
The Freethinker - The voice of atheism since 1881 » Boy’s visit to heaven is now pulped fiction

This week we have yet another example of just how easy it is to fleece credulous and gullible Christians as a Christian book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, by Kevin & Alex Malarkey, a 2010 New York Times Bestseller, is being withdrawn and pulped because the boy in question has admitted it was a lie.

The reasons for this vulnerability to frauds is probably all too obvious to people who have decided to be led by the evidence, wherever it may lead, and who base their conclusions on evidence, reserve judgement when the evidence is lacking and change their minds

12 Questions for Punching Pope Francis

"If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
An open letter to Pope Francis in view of his proclamation that people who insult religion can expect to be punched.

Dear Pope Francis

I saw your recent statement in Manilla in response the the Charlie Hebdo atrocities in Paris, that people who insult religion can expect to be punched. I am surprised that you seem to be excusing Islamic violence, presumably because you feel solidarity with other religions in the face of growing secularism in Europe, and find it confusing in view of official Christian teaching.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

"Jesus Was Wrong. Punch Your Enemies" - Pope

BBC News - Pope Francis: 'Curse my mother, expect a punch'

In a quite astonishing response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Pope not only defended those who use violence to deny others the right to criticise religion but reversed centuries of Christian official teaching, and said that people who insult religion should expect to be punched, just as someone should expect to be punched for insulting someone's mother.

In all matters of morality and theology the Pope is considered by Catholics to be infallible and to speak the words of God to humanity, so we can assume that, according to Catholic dogma, God has changed his mind and now thinks Jesus was wrong when he said:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:38-39

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Look! No Women for Charlie!

Thanks to Why Evolution Is True for this little snippet:

Did you see that fantastic rally in Paris to reaffirm France's (and Europe's) secularism and determination to not be swayed from the basic principles of the European enlightenment and modern secular democracy - the principles of Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité - in the face of a cowardly and frightened little creed too insecure in its faith to be able to tolerate questions, criticism and doubt?

I'm talking of course of the mega crowd which

Friday, 9 January 2015

Martyrdom And Mind Viruses

Martyrdom of St Stephen
One man's heroic martyr is another man's deluded fool or misguided idiot who probably deserved what he got.

I wrote yesterday about how the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris were the effects of mind control by viral memeplexes we call religion, which take control of human minds and convert them into machines for replicating not humans or human cultural ideas, but of the religion virus, just as a genetic virus can take control of a cell's DNA replicating mechanism and convert it to a machine for making viruses.

The characteristic of these viruses, memetic or genetic, is that the host has only a utilitarian value to the parasite and so is disposable once its usefulness has passed.

An especially powerful mechanism often used by the religion virus is to kill the host in such a manner as to impress the minds of its other carriers, or at least render them less susceptible to resistance. This is of course to turn the victim into a 'martyr' where their disposal can be presented as some great act of heroism rather than the act of an automaton being controlled by a mind virus. The notion of martyrdom is of course already present in the human meme pool in the form of

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Religion Kills People

A particularly malignant form of the religion virus hit Paris yesterday when three infected individuals, directed by the virus, tried to suppress criticism of it by killing people who made fun of it. This especially virulent strain of the Islam memetic virus, which can control the mind and actions of its victims, making them do things which no sane person would normally do, is reaching epidemic proportions in parts of the world, especially in the Middle East where the population has suffered from various form of it for centuries.

Like other forms of the religion family of memetic viruses, Islam is normally passed on to children when they are at their most susceptible to infection so in many parts of the world, infection rates can reach almost 100% of the population.

The human infant is almost unique in nature being sentient, keen to learn and understand the world around him or her, having good memory recall and having a long childhood. To avoid the danger of overly-curious and sceptical but naive children being easy prey for predators, humans evolved childhood gullibility so parents could teach children almost anything quickly and without the children doubting them. So, for example, children told by their parents to keep away from the water hole where there were crocodiles didn't go to check for themselves.

OUI! OUI! OUI!

En solidarité avec le peuple français que je reproduis cet article par Ayaan Hirsi Ali sur son déconversion de l'Islam, traduit en français par Google Translate, afin excuses pour mauvaise grammaire et l'orthographe. L'original peut être lue ici.

D'abord un peu de fond sur Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Né en Somalie, elle a pu constater les mutilations génitales féminines à la main, la cruauté cléricale, et la barbarie de la religion d'inspiration. Après avoir échappé à la Hollande, elle regarda son collègue Theo Van Gogh a été assassiné par des extrémistes islamiques pour la satire de la répression islamique de la femme et a dit qu'elle devait être leur prochaine victime. Elle avait d'abord cru que l'islam pouvait être réformé, mais vite rendu compte que ce est la «foi» lui-même qui est le problème.

Quand j'ai finalement admis à moi-même que je étais un incroyant, ce était parce que je ne pouvais tout

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The God Of Low Standards - It's Official!

David Noel Freedman. Lowering the Standards.
I've just started on Raphael Lataster's There Was No Jesus, There Is No God and, while I'm not going to write a blog on every little gem I find in it, this one justifies a brief note, I think.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog on The God of Low Standards in which I argued that belief in gods always involves people lowering their standards of evidence way below that required to believe in fairies, to believe in other gods and even to believe that an empty road is safe to cross. In other words that religion in general and their god in particular requires a much lower standard of evidence, logic and reasoning than is used for normal, everyday life. (See for example, The Milk Bottle Delusion - Why Prayers Always Work, for the standard Christian 'proof' that God always answers prayers.)

So it's good to see a leading Christian apologist and Bible scholar, the late David Noel Freedman, as quoted by Raphael Lataster, confirming that Bible scholars need to lower their standards way below that normally required to substantiate a claim with:

We have to accept somewhat looser standards. In the legal profession, to convict the defendant of a crime , you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient. When dealing with the Bible or any ancient source, we have to loosen up a little; otherwise, we can't really say anything.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Bottle of Milk Delusion - Why Prayers Always Work.

I don't claim original authorship of the argument here, but I think it's worth a little elaboration. I'm assuming, by the way, that an Islamic argument to prove Allah always answers prayer would be very similar if not identical. Indeed, there doesn't appear to be any other possibility for what could happen as a result of prayer.

No doubt some Christians will argue that there are more ways that their god answers prayers, such as the five here, where there are three yesses (somethining else happens; something happens and them something else happens; the thing happens) or the four here ("I can't hear you!" although how that differs from "No", and how the faithful tell the difference is beyond me). I wish they would make their mind up. Perhaps they are talking about different gods.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Intelligent Designers Unmasked

Illustration: P. Huey/Science
Persisters unmasked

Have you ever noticed how religious people, when asked for evidence that their magic friend actually exists, will point to something attractive or good or otherwise worthy of awe and arbitrarily ascribe it to their favourite god, then claim it as evidence? Strangely, they never point to things obviously bad or ugly or otherwise worthy of revulsion and disgust, such as childhood cancer, eye-worms, famine, malaria or natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes, and claim them as evidence.
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