Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Catholic Abuse News - The Rapist Paedophile Nun

Edward Hayes and his daughter
Man raped by NUN at Catholic home meets daughter he fathered for first time 62 years later - Irish Mirror Online

While researching the article on the abuse and starvation of children by the Catholic nuns who ran the Irish Mother and Baby homes, I came across this news item. It makes a change from the tens of thousands of accounts of Catholic priests raping children.

This account is of a nun repeatedly raping a boy in her care and eventually getting herself pregnant by him.

Catholic Ireland Where Nuns Sold Dead Babies

Bessborough Mother and Baby Home, Cork.
Highest infant mortality rate of any religious-run institution.
Pat Flanagan column: Selling 1,000 dead babies shows how much Catholic Church hated children - Pat Flanagan - Irish Mirror Online

The fifth interim report of the Irish Government's Commission Of Investigation On Mother And Baby Homes, published a few days ago, has added yet more horror to the catalogue of horrors that the homes became under the Catholic Church's supervision.

The homes were run by Catholic nuns and became almost autonomous, being accountable to no-one but themselves. They served as homes for pregnant unmarried women and mothers and became virtual places of punishment with both the women and their babies treated as sub-human and worthless by the nuns, who saw them as sinners and the products of sin. When they died, and they died very often, they were not even accorded respect as human beings.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Malevolent Designer News - Making Better Mosquitoes

Aedes aegypti

Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim [GFDL 1.2],
via Wikimedia Commons
Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes Detect Acidic Volatiles Found in Human Odor Using the IR8a Pathway | Current Biology.

Following close on the news that creationism's malevolent... er... sorry... intelligent (sic) designer has designed liver flukes to be better at making us and our livestock sick, comes news of another brilliant piece if design to improve a mosquito's ability to give us serious infections with life-threatening parasites.

Researchers from the Department of Biological Sciences & Biomolecular Sciences Institute, Florida International University, Miami, FL, USA have shown how the antennae of female Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes can 'smell' characteristic signature chemicals in human body odour. Their findings were published open access in Current Biology yesterday.

Malevolent Designer News - Making a Better Liver Fluke

Liver flukes, Fasciola hepatica.
Mechanism of a protein upon infection of the 'Fasciola hepatica' -- ScienceDaily

Scientists working at the University of Córdoba, Spain, have discovered just how devious any intelligent designer would have to have been when it designed the liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica.

Creationists who advocate intelligent design as the best explanation for organisms and the diversity of living things need to believe several key things about their purported designer:

Monday, 22 April 2019

Catholic Bishops Admit Bible Class Disadvantages School Children

Richard Brunton, TD.
In Letter to Irish Government, Bishops Admitted Religion Makes Kids Dumber | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

In an astonishing letter to the then Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD PDF, Catholic bishops have unwittingly revealed that even they regard religious education as detrimental to the children being subjected to it.

The letter, which had never been made public, came to light by chance when Seamus and John from The Free Thought Prophet Podcast were researching for a podcast and submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Irish Department of Education and Skills.

The letter was written in response to Circular Letter 0013/2018 PDF from the Department of Education and Skills, detailing proposals for changes in the purpose of the circular was to:

... set out a new approach to the arrangements that are made for religious instruction and worship in the schools covered by this circular in order to ensure that the rights of children to attend the school without having to attend religious instruction will be conducted in a manner that takes account of the likelihood, given changing demographics, of an increasing number of families wanting to exercise their constitutional right to withdraw.

Sri Lanka and New Zealand - Why the Different Responses?

Dead bodies of victims lie inside St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. More than two hundred people were killed and hundreds more injured in eight blasts that rocked churches and hotels in and just outside Sri Lanka's capital on Easter Sunday.

Credit: AP/Chamila Karunarathne
In a world in which we've become used to mass killings and atrocities by religious fanatics, often perpetrated against members of a different religion, the New Zealand atrocities carried out by one fanatical Christian against Muslims peacefully at prayer stood out for it's barbarity and brutal violation, not just of the lives destroyed but of a peaceful and tolerant society.

The death toll was 50. People across the world were rightly outraged by it.

In Sri Lanka, an as yet unidentified (but assumed to be Muslim) group yesterday targeted Christian churches with bombs designed to kill as many as possible while Christians were at prayer on a day which many Christians regard as the most holy of the year.

Also targeted were hotels where mostly Europeans stay in a country in which Europeans are assumed to be Christian. This was clearly an attack against members of a religion by members of a different one.

The death toll currently stands at about 300. And yet the response to the Sri Lanka massacre has been far more muted than the response to the New Zealand massacre.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Moral Decisions - No Gods Required

How Do We Make Moral Decisions?

Contrary to Christian apologists' assertions, humans do not get 'objective' morals from a god whose capricious whims determine right and wrong.

No matter how much C.S.Lewis tied himself into knots with his intellectual contortions, trying to prove that because he couldn't tell right from wrong, the god his mummy and daddy believed in must be real, the evidence of other cultures with other gods, and with none, shows that moral codes have broad principles common to all human cultures.

The rule probably most basic to all human cultures is the 'golden rule' - do as you would be done by or, as Christians would say, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. However, why people generally stick to this principle has been the subject of debate. Do they do it because of guilt, because we would feel bad about letting the other person down, or because of an innate sense of fairness where we want the fairest outcome.

Evolution News - A Matter of Joined-Up Thinking

Buff-browed Foliage gleaner, Syndactyla rufosupercilita.

Photo credit: Ricardo O. de Oliveira
Source
The Cerrado once connected the Andes with the Atlantic Rainforest | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

Far from being, as creationists would have their duped believe, a theory in crisis, evolution is so well embedded as a fundamental science that no serious scientists even question it any more, that it can be used to settle debate about things like climate change and distribution of different biomes in the past.

An example of this is the paper in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution in which the distribution of a family of oven birds in the Amazon and Andean rain forests was used to show how and when these two rainforests were connected at times.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Fall in US Religious Affiliation is Accelerating

U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades.

A second poll in a few days has confirmed the sharp, and accelerating, decline in religious affiliation in the USA. Now only 50% of Americans identify themselves as belonging to any particular church, synagogue or mosque, compared to 68% or more between 1937 and the 1990s.

This fell by only 2% between the 1970s and 1990s, but in the last 20 years the decline has accelerated massively to 20% with more than half of that in the ten years up to 2018. Projecting this accelerating trend forward, religious affiliation in the USA should be below 30% within the next 15-20 years.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Notre Dame - Not Just a Catholic Cathedral

No trip abroad or to a new city in the UK for my partner and I would be complete without a visit to the local cathedral, and so it was when we were in Paris some years ago. We put an afternoon aside for it.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame was a monument not just, or for us as Atheists even partly, to the 'Glory of God', but to to the glory of mankind's artistry and craftsmanship.

We looked upon the skill and dedication of the carpenters, stonemasons, iconographers and stained-glass window designers and creators and wondered who they were. What lives did they live? How did they get those skills? What were their thoughts as they made their mark and left a record of their existence for future generations?

Sunday, 14 April 2019

The 'Nones' Take The Lead in USA

'Black Protestant' and 'Jewish' subsumed into 'Other faiths' to give 'Other affiliation'
'No religion' includes Atheists, Agnostics and spiritual but not affiliated to any religion.
Survey: As many Americans claim no religion as there are evangelicals, Catholics - CNN.

The 'nones' are winning.

Within a few days of one another, we have two major opinion surveys by respected organisation, both showing a huge and growing movement away from religious belief, especially Christianity, towards having no religion. Last week we saw a 46% increase in no belief in the UK between 2011 and 2018 and now we hear that the largest single demographic in the USA is the 'none', who have overtaken the Catholics and evangelicals for the first time.

This latter survey was released last month but has only just found it way into the mainstream news media.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Evolution in Just Six Generations

Rape, Brassica rapa, pollinated by bumblebees has more attractive flowers.
Image: Florian Schiestl, UZH
Interplay of pollinators and pests influences plant evolution

Evolution is a dynamic process in which a species responds to competing selection pressures in its environment. Some of these might push the species in one direction and others in the opposite direction. Changing environmental factors effectively redefine the term 'fitness' as it applies to relevant characteristics.

Brassica plants, for example, have large attractive flowers which attract insect pollinators. They are also monoecious or hermaphrodite and, like many plants, have both male and female parts in the same flower, so are capable of 'selfing' or self-pollination.

Pollination by pollen from other flowers, carried by pollinating insects, increases genetic mixing, so reducing the change of deleterious mutations occurring in the same individual. This pressure pushes the species towards the evolution of larger, more attractive flowers.

However, there is a price to pay in that large attractive flowers also attract herbivores that eat brassica leaves, so wasting the plant's resources and reducing their vigor. This pressure pushes the species towards less attractive flowers. This in turn reduces the likelihood of cross pollination, which pushes the species toward selfing and characteristic that make that more, not less likely.

Massive Increase in Non-Belief in UK

Number of non-religious people in Britain jumps by 46%, new figures show » Humanists UK

Figures released by the Office of National Statistic last week show that non-belief in the UK has increased by an astonishing 46% since 2011.

Over the same period, the percentage of those self-identifying as Christian has fallen by a further 15%. This is consistent with other polls that have show a sharp decline in religious affiliation and particularly affiliation to the Anglican Church whose attendance continues to fall.

However, there has been criticism, notable from Humanists UK, about the leading nature of the question asked, which significantly overestimates religious belief by tying it to religion as a cultural identifier rather than a description of actual belief.

The question asked by ONS was "What is your religion?". Other studies have shown that when people are asked, "What is your religion, if any?" they give a different answer. Subliminally, the question as asked by ONS implies the respondent is expected to have one. For example, the British Social Attitudes Survey, by using a two-part question, concluded that 52% of British people have no religious belief.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Old Blue Eyes and the Mutant Gene

Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor – University of Copenhagen

Some 6-10,000 years ago, probably in the agricultural lands to the north east of the Black Sea, a person was born with strange, blue eyes. He or she was the common ancestor of all blue-eyed people alive today.

This is the conclusion of Professor Hans Eiberg and his colleagues from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Copenhagen. They arrived at this conclusion after analysing the genes of a large Danish family to pinpoint the area of DNA responsible for regulating the OCA2 gene known to be the major contributor to human eye colour. This gene, HERC2 exists in a number of alleles, one of which is the mutation that causes blue eyes.

Catholic Abuse News - Indian Bishop Charged With Raping a Nun

Bishop Franco Mulakkal
Kerala Nun Rape Case: Franco Mulakkal Charge-Sheeted, First Bishop To Go On Trial In India For Rape

Bishop Franco Mulakkal, bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Jalandhar since 2013, has been charged with raping a nun nine times. This is the first time a Catholic bishop has been charged with such a crime in Indian history.

The attacks are alleged to have taken place in the southern Indian state of Karela over a two year period between 2014 and 2016. Mulakkal faces life in prison if convicted. The charge sheet includes statements from more than 80 witnesses including a cardinal, three bishops, 11 priests and 25 nuns.

He also faces charges of intimidation, illegal confinement and unnatural intercourse, charges which carry a ten year sentence.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Human Evolution News - Another New Species?

Callao Cave, Luzon, Philippines. Home of Homo uzonensis.
New species of ancient human discovered in the Philippines: Homo luzonensis

The wonderful human evolutionary story that only a few days ago became a little more complicated with the discovery of two more 'Denisovans' in Papua-New Guinea, just got even more complicated with the announcement of yet another possible species of archaic hominins on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

A combined French, Filipino and Australian team of archaeologists led by Florent Détroit of Département Homme & Environnement, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France have discovered twelve more fragments of hominin bones and teeth to add to the metatarsal bone found in 2007 and dated to 67,000 years ago. These recent finds of two more toe bones along with seven teeth, two finger bones, and part of a femur, are from the same stratigraphic layer as the earlier find and come from at least three individuals.

Unintelligent Design News - WWI Muddle

Vibrio cholerae bacteria. If swallowed, these highly contagious organisms release toxins in the gut that cause severe diarrhoeal disease.
Credit: David Golding,
Wellcome Sanger Institute
Genetic code of WWI soldier's cholera mapped | Wellcome Sanger Institute

Creationism's putative intelligent (sic) designer seems to have gotten itself into a right old muddle during World War I, according to the findings of a team of researchers published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Science today.

The team from the Wellcome Sanger Institute analysed the genome of a strain of the bacteria normally responsible for causing cholera, Vibrio cholerae, isolated from a sample of the stools of a WWI soldier of the British Expeditionary Force which had been taken in 1916 while the soldier was convalescing in Egypt.

As the Wellcome Sanger Institute press release explains:

Why Christians Need to Hate Atheists

A theist comforts himself after losing another argument on the Internet.
Fox & Friends Says Protecting Atheists From Discrimination Is Anti-Christian! | Crooks and Liars

This little item by Heather from Crooks and Liars shows Christians arguing that protecting Atheists from discrimination is anti-Christian.

In other words, so they imply, to be a Christian, you should actively discriminate against people who disagree with you, or at least you should have the right to, so treating them as lesser people deserving of lower standards than you are entitled to by virtue of your religion.

None of that essential equality of man or all people being created equal stuff. That's all very well in theory and certainly applies when Christians are being discriminated against, but Atheism threatens Christianity so Christianity needs to abandon ... er... Christianity to defend itself.

So what is it about Atheism that threatens Christian fundamentalists that way? There are a couple of reasons, none of which reflect well on Christians:

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Neanderthals and Mammoths Refute Creationism Again

News Page (Archaeology) - American Friends of Tel Aviv University

The news from science is never good news for creationism, but that's the problem with having opinions which are not based on reality.

This little item from Tel Aviv University, for example, shatters several creationist myths. It shows the fallacy behind the claim that all mutations are harmful and result in degradation (or 'increased entropy') in the genome. It shows common ancestry between two distantly related mammals; it shows how environmental change drives evolution and it shows how mutation does not inevitably lead to a loss of function.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Catholic Abuse News - How the Church Corrupted Ireland

Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, Diarmuid Martin

Image credit: Gareth Chaney Collins
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin reveals paedophile priests cannot identify new victims because they abused so many - Irish Mirror Online.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, the senior Catholic cleric in the whole of Ireland, has revealed in an astonishingly frank interview on Irish TV, that some paedophiles priests were so prolific in their abuse that when presented with names of possible victims, they could not remember, there had been so many. In some instances, their victims numbered more than a hundred.

He made the statement in an RTE program detailing the scale of the Catholic Church's interference in Irish public life, becoming involved in just about every aspect of life since the foundation of the Republic. The programme by former government minister, Michael McDowell, looks at how this situation was allowed to develop. How could an organisation with no democratic mandate, accountable only to itself and owing allegiance to a foreign state in the form of the Vatican City, wield so much power in a supposedly democratic state?

Human Evolution - More Evidence of Interbreeding

Some of the last Denisovans may have intermingled with modern humans on mountainous New Guinea or nearby islands.
Photo credit: Dozier Marc/Hemis.fr/Getty Images
Moderns said to mate with late-surviving Denisovans | Science.

The human evolutionary story just got a lot more complicated and a lot more interesting than we thought.

Before we discovered that non-African modern humans hybridised with Neanderthals we thought it was quite straightforward. Modern humans evolved in Africa then a small group migrated out and spread all over the world.

Then we discovered the Denisovans - a different species of human that lived in Asia and with which we also interbred, making the non-African humans the result of hybridisation between three related but different species.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Catholic Abuse News - One Law for One, One Law for Another

Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Guam
Catholic Archbishop of Guam removed from office | RTE.

The Vatican is nothing if not inconsistent.

The Catholic Archbishop of the US island territory of Guam, Anthony Apuron, has been convicted by a Vatican tribunal, upholding an earlier guilty verdict by an earlier tribunal, of sexually abusing three underaged boys but is to be allowed to retain his archbishop title.

By contrast, (former) Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, was stripped of his title and defrocked for similar offences, and Cardinal Pell, sentenced to 6 years in prison by an Australian court for sexually abusing minors, has been presumed innocent by the Vatican, pending his appeal.

Friday, 5 April 2019

A Catastrophic Flood Piled Up The Evidence Against Creationism

Fossilized fish piled one atop another, suggesting that they were flung ashore and died stranded together on a sand bar after the wave from the seiche withdrew.

Photo credit: Robert DePalma
Does fossil site record dino-killing impact? | Science.

66 million years ago, the world changed suddenly and without warning. The Cretaceous era ended, virtually instantaneously, and gave way to the Triassic.

The cause was a massive chunk of rock hurtling in from space, super-heating the atmosphere, and crashing into Earth, setting off a chain of events which exterminated the large dinosaurs and much else - and cleared the way ultimately for the rise of mammals and birds.

The asteroid impacted at Chicxulub on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. The earth and the asteroid turned liquid with the heat of the impact, exploding liquid glass spheroids high into the atmosphere to rain down again like red hot bullets. The impact set off a seismic shockwave with catastrophic tsunamis which surged up river valleys, destroying everything in their path. These surges of salt and fresh water are known to science as seiches.

And now scientists believe they have found the result of one site of devastation, some 3000 Km from the Chicxulub impact site, at the Tanis deposit in North Dakota, USA. They have found the fossilised, chaotic debris left by one such surge. The species in the jumble are of course only the species that were around at the time, including freshwater sturgeons, apparently suffocated by the glass beads that rained down, blocking their gills.

Another 'Non-Existent' Transitional Fossil

Peregocetus pacificus
© A. Gennari
Ancient four-legged whale with webbed feet and hooves uncovered in Peru | Natural History Museum

Another discovery this week of one of those 'non-existent' intermediate fossils is causing creationists to think of inventive ways to explain it away and so maintain the myth that these things just aren't really there.

This time it closes another gap in the story of the evolution of whales - or as creationists will probably claim, it opens up two gaps now where there was previously only one.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Three-toed Skink Is an Evolutionary Intermediate

Which came first the lizard or the egg? - The University of Sydney

Three-toed skink, Saiphos equalis.
Today from the the reptile world, we have a very nice example of evolution in progress, or at least in a state of dynamic equilibrium between two characteristics, each of which could be advantageous in different circumstances.

This example is an Australian skink which appears to be so finely balanced between egg-laying (oviparous) and live-young bearing (viviparous), that one individual has been observed doing both in the same pregnancy. Several weeks after laying a batch of three eggs, an individual three-toed skink, Saiphos equalis, was seen to give birth to a live young.

Examples of individuals reptiles of the same species being either oviparous or viviparous (bimodally reproductive) are rare but by no means unknown, however this is the first observed example of the same individual being able to be both. The three-toed skink is native to Australia's east coast. In the northern highlands of New South Wales it normally gives birth to live young but in the Sydney area, it lays eggs.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Malevolent Design News - A New Way To Make Us Sick

Asian longhorn tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis
Photo credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention
New Yorkers Brace for Self-cloning Asian Longhorned Tick | Columbia News.

Creationism's Malevolent Designer has been busy recently. Not only have we recently learned how it has armed a bacterium with a virus to use to trick our immune systems so it can prevent wounds from healing, we have just discovered how it has designed a new way to deliver parasitic pathogens directly into our bloodstream.

This delivery system is the Asian longhorn tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, an invasive species that is rapidly becoming common in Staten Island, New York, USA, and will almost certainly spread from there. Ticks are arachnids which live as blood-sucking parasites, mostly on vertebrates. Like other blood-sucking parasites they can transfer blood-borne infections between its hosts.
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