Saturday, 30 March 2019

Changing Morals as Society Evolves


Utah Governor Gary Herbert
Utah Gov. Signs Bill That Legalizes Sex Outside Of Marriage : NPR

A lovely example of how the morals of human society evolve and change over time was unwittingly provided by the legislators of Utah, USA, a few days ago, despite a die-hard campaign by the religious fundamentalist forces of reaction.

Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill that decriminalizes sex outside of marriage in the state. Until that point, consensual sexual intercourse between non-married couples anywhere in the state of Utah, USA, was a criminal offence, liable to a fine of up to $1000 and a 6-month prison sentence.

Malevolent Design - A Virus to Help a Bacterium Make Us Sick!


Internalization of Pf bacteriophage within a mammalian cell.

Endocytosis of Pf by dendritic cells and other leukocytes triggers viral pattern recognition receptors, which suppress bacterial clearance. This three-dimensional image was generated by using confocal microscopy and z-stacked images (purple, actin stain; blue, DAPI (4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) stain; green, Alexa Fluor 488–labeled Pf4).
Bacteria partners with virus to cause chronic wounds | News Center | Stanford Medicine

My admiration for the malevolent inventiness of creationism's putative Intelligent (sic) Designer, is growing by leaps and bounds.

Not content with designing a bacteria to infect wounds and prevent them healing, this supposed designer has given it a virus to enhance it's virulence.

We normally think in terms of viruses being parasites and there is a class of viruses known as bacteriophages (or phages) which often are parasitic on bacteria. Bacteria and viruses have been co-evolving for tens of billions of years so it shouldn't really be surprising that some have come to some sort of accommodation where the virus contributes something to the bacterium and the bacterium derives some benefit from being infected.

This example of a degree of symbiosis was however, surprising, and it could not have come about before there were more complex, multicellular organisms that could sustain damage that needed to heal.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Unintelligent Design - God Hates Frogs

Yellow-legged frogs killed by chytrid fungus in Sixty Lakes Basin area of the Sierra Nevada, California, USA

Photo credit: Joel Sartore/Natural History Museum.
Amphibian fungal panzootic causes catastrophic and ongoing loss of biodiversity | Science

Continuing our quest to discover the nature of the 'Intelligent (sic) designer', we continually discover that any such sentient entity is ever-more malevolent in its inventiveness.

Here, for example, is evidence that it hates the frogs it designed and is intentionally killing them off in very large numbers - or so you would be required to believe if you had accepted the ID hoax and were taking an honest view of the reality of the natural world.

An international team led by Ben Scheele of the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, ACT, Australia has estimated that some 501 species of amphibian have severely declined in number with some 90 species becoming extinct in the last 25 years or so, due to two closely related chytrid fungi Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

New Bird Shows How Species are Maintained

Newly-identified Cream-eyed bulbul, previously thought to be a variant of the Cream-vented bulbul.

Credit: Subir Shakya, Louisiana State University
Department of Biological Sciences
New Bird Species Discovered by LSU Researchers

A very nice example of how speciation between closely-related species occupying the same or overlapping ranges is maintained, is illustrated by the discovery of a new species of bird hiding in plain sight in Borneo.

Over most of its range, the Cream-vented bulbul, Pycnonotus simplex, a rather drab olive-brown bird, has white eyes but on the island of Borneo it was thought to have occurred in two forms; the locally more common red-eyed form and the 'normal' white-eyed form.

Now, after painstaking analysis of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of both red and white-eyed bulbuls and other related species, a team of researchers from Louisiana State University (LSU) led by PhD student, Subir Shakya, has shown that the white-eyed form on Borneo is a newly-identified species, genetically distinct from the red-eyed Borneo form and the white-eyed form found elsewhere. They have named this new species, Pycnonotus pseudosimplex.

Their paper was published a few days ago in the Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Catholic Bishops Want Privilege to Hate and Abuse Minorities

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, president of the Scottish Bishops’ Conference
with Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office.
Scottish bishops reject proposed hate crime laws, fear criminalization of religion | News | LifeSite

One of the more repugnant tendencies of organised religion is its tendency to demand and require privilege, even assuming it to be theirs of right and seeing it as an attack on their religious freedom to deny it to them. There is a breathtaking arrogance in that assumption that is so embedded in our culture that it passes almost unnoticed. It is even expect.

Religions, or those powerful enough, expect the law to incorporate and accommodate their prejudices and dogmas or at least provide them with exemptions when they conflict with the law of the land.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Casually Refuting Creationism With Codfish Genes


Polar cod, Boreogadus saida
Molecular mechanism and history of non-sense to sense evolution of antifreeze glycoprotein gene in northern gadids | PNAS

The amazing thing is that creationists never seem to notice how frequently scientific research, quite incidentally and without conscious intent, casually refutes creationism and the claims of creationists. It's as though there is a complete detachment from reality in creationism.

This paper, for example, about the evolution of 'antifreeze' genes in an arctic fish related to cod, utterly refutes four creationist claims whilst giving a completely consistent evolutionary explanation supported by evidence.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Human Societies Evolved Gods

Complex societies gave birth to big gods - CSH

Locations of the 30 sampled regions on the world map, labelled according to precolonial evidence of moralizing gods.

An international research team has investigated the role of "big gods" in the rise of complex societies and, not surprisingly, have found an evolutionary relationship between the two.

The slightly surprising thing was though that their findings show it was not as previously thought - that "big gods" are the cause of the evolution of complex societies, but are a consequence of them.

Gods, it seems are the product of human cultural evolution.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Carry On Regardless

Pope Rejects Resignation of French Cardinal Convicted of Abuse Cover-Up - The New York Times

Cardinal Barbarin meets Pope Francis
Apparently, the Pope doesn't think covering up for child-abusing priests is that serious. Either that or he feels he can ignore the fact that one of his cardinals, the most senior Catholic cleric in France, has been convicted of the crime in a French court.

In an extraordinary twist to the story I reported on just a few days ago, the Pope has refused to accept the resignation of Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, France, despite his conviction in a French court on 7 March 2019. He has cited "the presumption of innocence" as his reason.

Subversive Christian News - South Dakota Theocrats

Gov. Kristi Noem
Noem signs Capitol concealed firearm carry, 'In God We Trust' laws.

The Christian plan to subvert the US Constitution and replace democratic government in the USA with a Christian theocracy took another step forward yesterday.

Despite the very clear constitutional prohibition on established religion, Governor Kristi Noem, signed into law a bill requiring all public schools to prominently display "In God We Trust". According to this report by Lisa Kaczke in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:

Every public school will be required to prominently display the national motto, "In God We Trust," beginning in the 2019-20 school year, according to a bill signed into law by Noem this week. The bill requires the display to be easily readable and no smaller than 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. A prominent location is defined as a school entryway, cafeteria or other common area where students are likely to see it, according to the bill.

In other words, the clear endorsement by the South Dakota state government is to be thrust into every student's face. Imagine the hysteria if the law required schools to display "Allahu Akbar" or "Imagine! No Religion!" (the latter slogan actually expressing the clear intent in the First Amendment).

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Evolution News - Explaining Mammalian Forelimbs

Photographs of the upper arm bones from seven kinds of early mammal relatives. The three bones on the left are from an early group called pelycosaurs, and the bones are all roughly the same shape. The four bones on the right are from therapsids, the group that includes today's mammals, and they show the greater variety of shapes and sizes that characterize therapsid limbs. The black scale bars represent 2cm.
Credit: (c) Jacqueline Lungmus, Field Museum
Mammals’ unique arms started evolving before the dinosaurs existed | Field Museum

Creationists and evolution deniers have been predicting the imminent demise of the Theory of Evolution almost since the day Darwin and Wallace presented their idea to the Linnean Society in 1858.

The latest claim, repeated forlornly every day by creationists like a prayer or a protective mantra, is that the notion of 'Intelligent (sic) Design' will soon replace the ToE as the accepted scientific explanation for biodiversity, so becoming the only established body of science to be replaced by magic. Imagine, a 'scientific' explanation that includes magic and an unproven notional entity that no-one can explain, doing things that no-one has ever witnessed it doing by a process that remains a mystery.

The fact that ID has been refuted comprehensively and dismissed by serious biologists, and declared in a court of law to be creationism in disguise, with the intention of deceiving people, is lost on creationists, apparently.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Pell Gets Six Years

Caption
George Pell sentenced for child sex abuse - Live Coverage Catholic church news Melbourne

Cardinal George Pell, former number three in the Vatican as its financial controller, brought in by Pope Francis to sort out the Vatican's byzantine finances, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for sexual abuse of children. He will serve a minimum of three years and eight months before being eligible for parole.

Pell is by far the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted in a criminal court of the sexual abuse of minors. At the age of 77 and with health issues, it is quite possible that he may never leave prison alive.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Competing Contrition

The Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford, CT
Catholic Archbishop, on His Hands and Knees, Begged for Forgiveness Over Abuse - The New York Times

As Catholic bishops panic to release lists of abusive priests to avoid accusations of coverup, following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, there appears to be a competition developing over who can show himself to be the most contrite.

The archbishop of Hartford, CT, The Most Rev. Leonard P. Blair, for example, held a special Mass of Reparations and went down on his hands and knees, even laying prostrate before the altar, and begged the congregation for forgiveness.

He had earlier released the names of 48 priests accused of sexual abuses; five of them from the same small church, St George's, in the small coastal town of Guilford where the special Mass was held.

He went one better than Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, the archbishop of Newark, who only expressed his "genuine sorrow and regret to the victims who put their trust in a member of the church only to have that trust so profoundly betrayed."

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Christian Corruption News - Fleecing the Flock

Terry Waye and Brenda Millender
Virginia pastor gets 8 years for $2 million fraud scheme | Fox 5

What's the point of having a flock if you don't fleece them? The sentencing of a Virginia pastor to eight years in prison a few days ago illustrates this principle very nicely.

Christian pastor, Terry Wayne Millender and his wife Brenda, who together ran the Victorious Life Church in Virginia, USA, had been convicted by an Alexandria jury of fleecing their flock of $2 million. They faced up to 20 years in prison.

Terry Milender was convicted in December 2017 of 31 charges including wire fraud, money laundering, false-tax-return filing and obstruction; Brenda was convicted of 7. In a wonderful example of the fine Christian principle of a wife standing by her husband through thick and thin, Brenda's lawyers tried to distance her from his crimes, expressing pleasure that the jury has recognised her lesser role in the affair and implying that she had played little part in her husband's scam.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Another Day, Another Cardinal

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin
French Cardinal, Convicted of Ignoring Child Sex Abuse, Will Resign from Church | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

The French Catholic cardinal recently convicted of failing to report a serial paedophile priest to the police, has decided to offer his resignation to the Pope.

Had Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon and France's most senior Catholic cleric, not been convicted in a civil court, it is unlikely that anything would have been done. In essence, he is resigning for embarrassing the church, not for failing to protect the victims of one of his priests.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Christian Abuse News - How Piety Provides Excuses

Matthew Lane Durham
Christian missionary, paedophile and multiple rapist
Oklahoma Missionary Sentenced to 40 Years for Raping Nairobi Children, Underscoring the Harm Done by Some Foreigners in Africa

The account of how Matthew Lane Durham, then 19, from Oklahoma, raped four African children in an orphanage in Kenya whilst working as a Christian missionary, is an illustration of how piety can be used as a cover for socially unacceptable activity, just as we see it used by Catholic priests and priests and pastors of other denominations.

According to this report from CNN, Matthew Lane Durham, 21, was sentenced to four decades in prison by Judge David L. Russell on four counts of "engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places". According to court documents, in the course of just 33 days, Durham "raped three girls -- ages 5, 9 and 15 -- at least eight times. During that same time period, he sexually molested a 12-year-old boy twice." Durham had volunteered for the Oklahoma-based charity which runs the Upendo Children's Home in Nairobi. The charity recruits volunteers from the Oklahoma Christian community.
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