Wednesday, 28 March 2018

No Transitional Neanderthal Forms!

Neanderthal skeleton and artist's reconstruction.
Source: Wikipedia
Credit: Photaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Appealing to their ignorance and desire for confirmation of their bias, creationists fraud often dupe their followers with assertions that there are no transitional fossils showing evidence of change from one species to another. This is nonsensical, of course, because all archaic fossils are transitional between their ancestors and their descendants.

Having said that, however, there is a very good reason why there are no transitional forms between some earlier species and later ones - the later ones did not evolve from the earlier one as a superficial reading of the geological column might suggest. I explained this some years ago using the apparent 'transition' from red squirrels to greys in Britain, but there is an even better European example from our own ancestry.

Neanderthals were first discovered in 1829 in Belgium but it was not until 1864 that, following other discoveries, they were identified as an archaic species of humans and a different species to Homo sapiens, H. neanderthalensis. This was just a few years after Darwin's Origin of Species and before any of the many African hominin fossils had been found.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Christian Cult of Child Abuse

The Twelve Tribe cult's base at Klosterzimmern near Deiningen, Bavaria
European court upholds German move to take kids from sect

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that members of a Christian sect do not have the right to abuse children and that the German child-protection agency that intervened and took the abused children into care was right to do so.

The case had been brought by four families, members of the fundamentalist Twelve Tribes sect, who had had their children taken away. A fundamental tenet of faith for the cult is that children need to be beaten regularly to drive the Devil out of them. According to one former member, daily beatings of the cult's children are normal.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Good News From the Catholics

Europe's Young Adults and Religion | St Mary's University Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society.

A recent poll conducted jointly by St Mary's University Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, UK and the Institute Catholique de Paris, France makes miserable reading for it's target readership - 2018 Synod of Bishops, due to be held in Rome in October 2018. In brief, it shows the massive haemorrhage of church members is continuing apace especially amongst the young. The survey was concerned with the religious views and practices of the key sixteen to twenty-nine year-old.

The key findings are:

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Triple Alliance

Brown-throated three-toed sloth (Bradypus variegatus)
Credit: Tauchgurke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the fascinating aspects of evolutionary ecology is how two or more species can become inextricably bound together in an evolutionary alliance of mutual dependency.

One such alliance, actually an alliance between three completely unrelated species, can be found in the Amazon jungle, centred on one of the strangest and more specialised mammals, the three-toed sloth. The three-toed sloth (in fact there are four closely related species, all in the South and Central American jungles) is one of the most slowly moving mammals on Earth, spending almost all its time hanging beneath tree branches high in the canopy, eating leaves or sleeping. However, they descend from the trees to the forest floor once a week to defecate, which they do in a large pile.

Its slow speed, although conserving energy, makes it especially vulnerable to depredation by harpy eagles, jaguars and other predators, so its descent to the forest floor to defecate is all the more puzzling, placing it at additional risk when it could simply defecate in the trees where its faeces could simply drop to the forest floor.

But all this begins to come together and make sense as an alliance with other species.
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