Saturday, 31 December 2016

Rwanda Football Moves to Outlaw Witchcraft - Seriously!

Witchcraft!
FERWAFA sets tough measures to curb ‘witchcraft in sports’ - The New Times | Rwanda

The Rwandan Football Federation (FERWAFA) has acted decisively to clean up the game following a serious spell-casting incidents in a league match which rocked the Rwanda football world a week ago.

An emergency meeting between the executive committee of the Association and all First Division football club presidents was call following the match in Huye stadium between Mukura Victory Sports and Rayon Sport. The game saw clashes on the pitch with Mukura players accusing a Rayon player, striker Moussa Camara, of gaining an unfair advantage and scoring a goal using witchcraft. The meeting decided unanimously that henceforth:

Brits Would Now Vote 'Remain' If Given The Chance

Source: WiN/Gallop International - End Of Year Survey 2016 (Page 32)
Every country surveyed would now vote Remain in an EU referendum... Including Britain | indy100

More evidence, if more were needed, that the 'Leave' vote in the EU referendum was a mistake. A clear majority of Brits (54%), according to an EU-wide WiN/Gallop International poll published a couple of days ago, would now vote 'Remain' if the referendum was repeated. Not a single country would have voted to leave.

It is clear now that a very large number of people who voted 'Leave' either did so believing their vote would not affect the result because all the polls were telling us that the vote would be to stay in, or they realise now they were lied to and, in the cold light of dawn, realise that leaving the EU will not bring the benefits they were led to believe.

Friday, 30 December 2016

What Does Terrorism Tell Us About Religion?

YouGov | What the world thinks.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter, martyr, liberator or defender. It's just a matter of perspective; of the perception of right and wrong.

This was illustrated by the results of the above YouGov poll published recently. The question asked of the 4812 respondents, weighted to make them representative of the GB population, was, "Do you think terrorist acts that are carried out by Muslims do or do not tell us anything about the nature of Islam?"


The result by political view was (terrorist acts carried out by Muslims):

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Pope Francis Aware Of Child-Abusing Argentinian Priest


Priests the Rev. Nicola Corradi (wheelchair) and the Rev. Horacio Corbacho, left.

Photo credit: AP/Emmanuel Rodriguez Villegas
Pope Francis 'told about alleged child rapist' two years before his arrest | The Independent:

You might expect the Argentinian Catholic cleric, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to be especially interested in what happens to Argentinian school children, especially when, as Pope Francis, he has expressed determination to put an end to the scandals of child-abuse by Catholic priests that have engulfed just about every Catholic diocese throughout the world.

But not so, it seems.

In 2014, Pope Francis was allegedly made aware that the Catholic priest, the Rev Nicola Corradi, had been transferred from Italy to Argentina after being accused of abusing children at the Verona school of the Antonio Provolo Institute for hearing-impaired children. He has now been arrested and charged with raping children at the Institute's school in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza Province, Argentina, 620 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. According to the the Independent:

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

It's Time To Disestablish the Church of England

The Lords Spiritual
With the news of yet another fall in the number of believers in the UK, the Church of England's claim to be the official church in England and Wales (and by extension though not in law, in Scotland and Northern Ireland) is now surely untenable.

Even taking all religions and different churches into account, those who actively believe there is no god or 'higher power' have a ten percent lead over those who still believe in a god or a higher power of some sort. Within that small and dwindling minority, Anglicans are but one group amongst many that includes Catholics, Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, Shintoists, etc., etc., etc.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Fall in Religious Belief in UK Accelerates

Those saying that they do not believe in any god or higher spiritual power has gone up from 33 to 38 per cent; those saying they believe in a god or a higher power has declined from 32 to 28 per cent.
Getty Images
Belief in God slumps after turbulent year | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

One of the few bits of good news to come at the end of 2016, and maybe because 2016 has been such an awful year, is that decline in religious belief in the UK, according to a poll commissioned from YouGov by Times Newspapers, has accelerated, falling by a full four percentage points in a single year.

This is one of the biggest falls ever recorded and comes at the end of a year which saw the Brexit debacle, the election of Donald Trump, supported by a lot of very un-Christian Christians, an asylum-seeker crisis in Europe caused by warring religious factions in the Middle East, some appalling religiously-inspired terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere and the deaths of several poplar celebrities.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Toothless Old Dinosaur Bites Creationists!

Limusaurus inextricabilis (Artist's impression)
Extreme Ontogenetic Changes in a Ceratosaurian Theropod: Current Biology

Creationists are probably getting sick and tired of having to deny all the evidence that birds are evolved dinosaurs that has been flooding into the scientific literature over the last few years, but here's some more.

Not only is this pretty convincing evidence, if any more were needed, but it's an example of that other thing that creationists must be sick and tired of having to deny - a transitional species! Creationists like to pretend transitional species and evidence that birds evolved out of therapod dinosaurs is as rare as hen's teeth. It's doubly ironic therefore that this find helps explain just why hen's teeth are so rare - unlike the evidence for the evolution of birds from dinosaurs!

It was discovered by a team from George Washington University visiting the Gobi Desert in Central Asia.

By examining a series of nineteen fossils of the species Limusaurus inextricabilis, a therapod dinosaur from

How Science Works - Big Changes Evolved Small Cells

Photomicrograph showing a blood smear with the large red blood cells of the African clawed frog and the small red blood cells of a rodent side-by-side.

Photo credit: Photomicrograph by Adam Huttenlocker
Wood mouse by Anne Burges
African clawed frog by Tim Vickers
Bone Microvasculature Tracks Red Blood Cell Size Diminution in Triassic Mammal and Dinosaur Forerunners: Current Biology.

One of the requirements for a highly active species, especially one capable of scurrying around, is to be able to get oxygen around the body quickly to keep the tissues supplied with enough to maintain the high metabolic activity.

This in turn means getting the oxygen-carrying blood cells into the tissues as close to the point of need as possible and this means having a rich supply of small capillaries through which small red blood cells can pass.

Why small red blood cells? Quite simply because small is more efficient. It is quicker to get oxygen out of a small cell than a large one because the surface area

Friday, 23 December 2016

Beautiful Evolution of Beatiful Cat Species

Asian golden cat, Catopuma temminckii
Two species of Southeast Asian cats in the genus Catopuma with diverging histories: an island endemic forest specialist and a widespread habitat generalist | Open Science

The frustrating thing about trying to teach creationists about evolution is the way they look for reasons to dismiss the evidence rather than to accept it and deal with with the conclusions to which it is pointing them.

For example, they will argue on the one hand that what they call 'macro-evolution', i.e., the evolution of a new species, is impossible but 'micro-evolution' is not only possible but happened at inexplicably high rates after their supposed global flood to give us all the variation we see today within species. It was just that non-one

Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Christian Bigots Are Whining Again!

Christian schools downgraded by Ofsted over homophobic teachings | PinkNews

More UK Christian whining and demanding privileges this week; this time over their right to teach children whatever they like regardless of the law.

Following hard on the news that former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has authored a report demanding special treatment for Christians, including the right to indoctrinate all children with Christian dogma, regardless of their or their parents wishes, we have a demand by Christian faith schools to be allowed to ignore the Government-approved curriculum and Ofsted guidelines intended to promote respect and equality.

Dozens of UK Christian faith schools are now following the American 'Accelerated Christian Education' (ACE) program which is blighting the education of the children of American Christian fundamentalists, rather than the government approved curriculum which is obligatory in all UK schools. ACE currently list 27 UK schools on it's website (accessed 22 Dec 2016).

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Early Bird Catches Creationists

An artist’s rendering of Tingmiatornis arctica

Image credit: University of Rochester illustration / Michael OsadciwTingmiatornis arctica
A Large Ornithurine Bird (Tingmiatornis arctica) from the Turonian High Arctic: Climatic and Evolutionary Implications : Scientific Reports

You might think a 90 million year old fossil bird with teeth would make even the most die-hard creationist stop and think but if so, you haven't met many die-hard creationists.

Dismissing evidence of just this, such as that presented by a team of geologists from the University of Rochester, is the work of but a moment for any half-decent creationists who have been rehearsing the traditional arguments for years. "It's a forgery; they got the dates wrong; it's still a bird; it died in 'The Flood'; anyway, it doesn't count as evidence because The Bible sez... and you weren't there to see it, etc., etc., etc."

Monday, 19 December 2016

Panicking Christians Demand More Priviledges

Author of the report recommending more privileges for Christianity, former spiritual head of the established Anglican Church of England and unelected member of the upper chamber of the UK Parliament, George Carey, taking to the hereditary titular head of the Church of England and head of State, Queen Elizabeth II.
George Carey demands migrants be taught Britain is Christian | UK | News | Daily Express

Ex-archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is well known for complaining about Christians being deprived of what he regards as his and his fellow religionists rightful privileges.

Amongst the privileges he holds most dear is the right to discriminate against minorities of their choice, free from the requirement to treat others as equals with equal entitlement to full human rights. He can often be heard complaining loudly that Christians are being deprived of their basic human rights by being denied the right to deprive others of their human rights on the excuse of not agreeing with them.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Why Humans Lost Their Penis Bone 

Assorted mammalian bacula
Why humans lost their penis bone | Science | AAAS

Despite the assumptions behind certain slang terms, human males don't really have a penis bone, or baculum, unlike some of our closest mammalian relatives such as chimpanzees and bonobos. The reason why was not really clear until now although evolutionary explanations have been suggested.

The penis bone first put in appearance in mammalian evolution between 145 and 95 million years ago, so was present in the last common ancestor of apps and carnivores, so at some point, and in the case of humans after we diverged from the chimpanzee/bonobo line, the penis bone was lost.

Seahorses - A Creationists' Nightmare!

Tiger tail seahorse. Hippocampus comes.
The seahorse genome and the evolution of its specialized morphology : Nature : Nature Research

The seahorse is something of a creationist nightmare!

No, not because it's that dreaded 'transitional form' being part fish and part horse - which it isn't of course although many creationists seem to believe 'evolutionists' believe such idiocy is part of mainstream biology, but because its evolution flatly contradicts several creationist articles of faith. These articles include:

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Ancient Footprints - The Long And The Short Of It

Test-pit L8 at Laetoli Site S.
In the northern part of the test-pit (at the top), the Footprint Tuff is particularly altered, damaged by plant roots and dislodged along natural fractures.

New footprints from Laetoli (Tanzania) provide evidence for marked body size variation in early hominins | eLife

If you want to know why science works and creationism doesn't you could do worse than read and understand this paper.

Creationists often claim to be baffled by the way science derives information from historical records without actually being there to witness it. Curiously, they only seem to be baffled by this when it comes to things they don't want to be true. Ken Ham even proudly teaches children to kill any discussion about the distant past by asking 'Where you there?' knowing the the speaker or teacher wasn't and believing this invalidates everything they've said. It's a neat trick to prevent children learning something you don't want them to know and something that will stand any creationist in good stead well into adulthood.

The same creationists also claim to be baffled by the lack of absolute certainty in science and the way it keeps revising and improving on what it knows and how it adopts tentative answers pending further information and is prepared to ditch or adopt that temporary view later on. To these creationists, of course, certainty is far more important than accuracy and fitting the facts into a predetermined and unchangeable narrative is paramount. The actual truth is merely incidental to this objective.

Monday, 12 December 2016

How a Plant Evolved to Eat Bat Poo!

Pitcher plant (Nepenthes hemsleyana) with woolly bat (Kerivoula hardwickii)
Why plants eat faeces when they could eat flesh

Mutualism as a result of evolution is a well-known phenomenon to biologists but this example is, by any stretch of the imagination, unusual and even a little counter-intuitive. It has ended up with a carnivorous pitcher plant switching from a diet of captured insects to one consisting of bat faeces.

Examples of mutualism can be found in for example, the production of nectar by flowers which supplies insects with food in return for targeted dispersal of pollen. The insects gets fed and the plant gets its pollen delivered to another flower of the same species without the wastefulness and hit and (mostly) miss nature of wind dispersal. Another example would be the gut microbes in ruminants and termites which digest plant cellulose providing nutrients from an otherwise indigestible resource in return for shelter, warmth and a ready supply of raw materials.

Just Another Under-Privileged Christian

Sister Sarah Kuteh.
Sarah Kuteh is no doubt an excellent nurse but her nursing skills are not in question, as least in so far as the medical needs of her patients are concerned.

Where her skills are called into question however is in the area of what she determines are their spiritual needs and in this matter, as a devout Christian, she perceives those needs wholly in terms of whether or not they agree with her. If they don't, they have a problem and, like it or not she is going to 'cure' their spiritual sickness too.

According to a report on the Daily Express, as an experienced nurse and a nursing sister since 2012, she had recently taken on the role of assessing the medical health of patients before going into surgery for Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford, Kent, run by Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust. Part of her assessment consisted of going through a completed questionnaire which included questions about the patients religious beliefs. Many patients chose to leave this blank, as is their entitlement. Many of these would have either had no religion or would have considered it irrelevant.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Transitional Feathered Dinosaur in Exquisite Detail

A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber: Current Biology

Transitional fossils are the bugbear of creationism. Every fossil ever found, although so obviously intermediate between its parent generation and its offspring, and so obviously a sample of the evolutionary status of its particular branch at that point in time, never-the-less has to be vigorously dismissed as 'not transitional' by creationists.

It's a cardinal article of creationist doctrine that there are no transitional fossils, therefore, that no matter how obviously transitional, it can't be transitional. It mustn't be allowed to be transitional because to admit to transitional fossils is to admit to evolution.

So it is particularly pleasing to be able to present yet another example of an undoubtedly transitional fossil preserved in amber in amazing detail. It is particularly pleasing too that this is a transitional fossil of that iconic class of animals, dinosaurs.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Not So Finely Tuned!

EN-L2Pup-SPHERE ALMA: Composite sight of L2 Pup in visible light (by the VLT / SPHERE instrument, blue) and ALMA continuum light (orange). The light from the central star is subtracted from the ALMA image to better show as candidate planet.

© P. Kervella et al. (CNRS / U. de Chile / Observatoire de Paris / Lesia / ESO / ALMA)
ALMA observations of the nearby AGB star L2 Puppis | Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A)

With that splendidly panglossian view of the Universe that is so endearing about creationists, they like to imagine they live in the best of all worlds in the best of all galaxies in the best of all Universes - a Universe their special best friend made specially for them.

They have even invented a wonderfully circular argument to try to justify that starry-eyed (or is that rose-tinted?) view. They call it the 'Finely Tuned Universe' theory.

Basically, this says that because the Universe is obviously a suitable place for a sun with a planet on which human life evolved, the Universe must be set up in such a way to make this possible. Because the entity who set it up that way is perfect and all-loving and loves humans above everything else, Earth must be the best possible for humans to live on. And because it is the best possible place, the Universe must have been tuned to produce it.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Catholic Church Still At It Down Under!

Father Tom Knowles performing Mass
Church apology for a 14-year sexual relationship an Australian first | The Sydney Morning Herald.

If you are still under the impression that the Catholic Church under Pope 'Uncle' Frankie has seen the error of its ways and is determined to make amends for its past crimes, this news from Australia should disavow you of that delusion.

It concerns the abuse over a fourteen-year period of a disabled Sydney woman, Jennifer Herrick, by Fr Tom Knowles, then her family priest. Jennifer Herrick, who

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Primrose Poser For Creationists

Pin eye
Genetic architecture and evolution of the S locus supergene in Primula vulgaris : Nature Plants

I remember as a child being fascinated by the two different forms of primroses, which, unless you're aware of it, you probably wouldn't notice unless you looked especially closely. What I didn't realise until much later was that this had evolved to overcome a problem potentially faced by all hermaphrodite species and especially plants - the problem of losing the benefits of sexual reproduction by self-fertilisation.

Such is the advantage of mixing genes with those of another individual and so being able to 'try out' new combinations, or to acquire more advantageous alleles and pass these on to your offspring, that there is evolutionary pressure to ensure it happens frequently.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Hey Creationists! What Kind Of Kind Is This?


Asian lonhorn, Anoplophora glabripennis
Genome of the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), a globally significant invasive species, reveals key functional and evolutionary innovations at the beetle–plant interface | Genome Biology.

Probably because it was intelligently designed to do just that, the term 'kind' as used by creationists is so nebulous that it can mean whatever they need it to mean. The meaning can change at will according to the audience they are trying to get away with using it on or the debate they are trying to win with tactics because they don't have any evidence.

It's almost perfectly designed to allow word play and subtle changes in debate barely noticeable by an unsuspecting audience.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Catholic Fraud in Norway

Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme
Catholic Church fined for overstating number of members to receive more state funding in Norway | The Independent

Faced with evaporating membership and a serious decline in its income stream, the Catholic Church in Oslo, Norway did what any self-respecting welfare scrounger would do, and casually defrauded the state of up to 40.6 million kroner (£3.8 million or $4.8 million) by falsely inflating their membership lists.

The Catholic Church, like other Christian churches in Norway, received a state (read Norwegian tax-payer's) subsidy in proportion to its membership.
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