Sunday, 28 February 2021

Malevolent Designer News - God Hates Koalas

Wild koala, Phascolarctos cinereus
© A. Gillet
Retroviruses are re-writing the koala genome and causing cancer - Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research

Intelligent [sic] Design Creationists are stuck with a dogma that denies the role of amoral, purposeless natural forces in nature and must ascribe everything to the deliberate intent of a magic deity, whom they equate to the supposedly all-loving god of the Bible.

This means of course that the devastation the koalas are suffering right now is the result of this putative magic designer's intention. As the press release from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany, reports:
Koalas are facing multiple environmental and health issues which threaten their survival. Along with habitat loss - accelerated by last year’s devastating bush fires – domestic dog attacks and road accidents, they suffer from deadly chlamydial infections and extremely high frequency of cancer. An international team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now demonstrate that a retrovirus invading the koala germline explains the high frequency of koala cancer. The results are reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Evolution News - Million-Year-Old Mammoth DNA Shows a New Species Arose From Hybrids

Ancient DNA retrieved from different mammoth species is illuminating a complex evolutionary picture.
Picture: Beth Zaiken/Centre for Palaeogenetics
Million-year-old mammoth genomes shatter record for oldest ancient DNA

In a paper published in Nature a few days ago, a team of palaeontologists led by Tom van der Valk of the Centre for Palaeogenetics, Stockholm, Sweden, report recovering useable DNA from the million-year-old remains of mammoths. This sets a new record, the previous one being established in 2013 when a team from the University of Copenhagen led by Ludovic Orlando reported extracting DNA from the leg-bone of a horse dated to 560-780 thousand years old.

This mammoth DNA was extracted from three teeth, two of which have been dated to over a million years old, which had been preserved in Siberian permafrost. According to this report in Nature:

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Covidiot News - SCOTUS Gives the Go-Ahead for California's Religious Super-Spreaders

US Supreme Court, Washington DC
Supreme Court Again Allows Indoor Church Services, Lifts Ban - Bloomberg

Showing their partisan divide, with Trump's conservative appointees siding with them, the US Supreme Court has granted California's churches the right to obstruct efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic and hold Covid super-spreader events.

This ruling follows a string of similar rulings limiting the powers of government to regulate gatherings in places of worship in the same way that it regulates gatherings in shops, shopping malls, sports arenas and other public spaces.

Malevolent Designer News - Nasty Little Thai and Die Parasites

Figure 1. Distribution of collected snails from 13 localities, along the coast of Andaman Sea, south Thailand.
Figure 2. Shells of Stenomelania sp. (Fisher 1885) from south of Thailand. a. Morph 1: S. cf. aspirans, Krabi Province; b. Morph 2: S. cf. crenulata, Krabi Province; c. Morph 3: Neoradina aff. prasongi, Krabi and Trang Provinces; d. Morph 4: S. cf. punctata, Krabi and Trang Provinces; e. Morph 5: S. cf. torulosa, Krabi, Trang and Satun Provinces. Scale bar: 10 mm.
Figure 3. Images of Loxogenoides bicolor (Krull, 1933) Kaw 1945. a. Specimen stained with 0.5% neutral red; b. Drawing image; c. Sporocyst stained with 0.5% neutral red. Abbreviations – eb: excretory bladder; p: pharynx; pg: penetration gland; os: oral sucker; s: stylet; sp: sporocyst; ta: tail; vi: virgulate organ; vs: ventral sucker. Scale bars: 100 μm.
Figure 4. Haplorchis taichui (Nishigori, 1924) Chen 1936. a. Specimen stained with 0.5% neutral red; b. Drawing image; c. Redia stained with 0.5% neutral red. Abbreviations – dvf: dorso-ventral finfold; eb: excretory bladder; exp: excretory pore; es: eyespot; lf: lateral finfold; os: oral sucker; p: pharynx; pg: penetration gland; re: redia; ta: tail. Scale bar: 100 μm.
Figure 5. Images of Procerovum cheni Hsȕ, 1951. a. Specimen stained with 0.5% neutral red; b. Drawing of image; c. Sporocyst stained with 0.5% neutral red. Abbreviations – dvf: dorso-ventral finfold eb: excretory bladder; es: eyespot; lf: lateral finfold; os: oral sucker; p: pharynx; pg: penetration gland; re: redia; ta: tail. Scale bar: 100 μm.
Agents of food-borne zoonoses confirmed to parasitise newly-recorded in Thailand snails | EurekAlert! Science News

You have to hand it to the intelligent [sic] designer. He or she leaves very little to chance in his/her determination to make humans sick or suffer. Here, for instance, we have an example of the lengths he/she has gone to to turm people in southeast Asia blind with liver and intestinal flukes, using three different species of trematode and four different species of snail.

Trematode flatworm parasites that cause severe ocular infections in humans have been found to use these common snails as their secondary host.

Like a lot of flat-worm parasites, this one has the problem of getting back into its host when its eggs are expelled into the environment. This one does it by infecting a secondary host that is eaten by a tertiary host that itself is eaten by a human. The tertiary host is a fish that is commonly consumed by humans, sometimes only partially cooked.

Now researchers at Silpakorn University, Thailand, led by Kitja Apiraksena, working in South Thailand have discovered that snails commonly found in fresh and brackish water in southeast Asia can carry the parasite as the secondary host. The Eureka Alert news item explains:
"Trematode infections are major public health problems affecting humans in southeast Asia," explain the scientists. "Trematode infections depend not only on the habit of people, but also on the presence of first and second intermediate host species, resulting in the endemic spread of parasites, such as intestinal and liver flukes in Thailand".

The snails of concern belong to the genus Stenomelania, have elongated and pointed shells and can be found near and in the brackish water environment of estuaries in the Oriental Region, from India to the Western Pacific islands. Worryingly enough, science does not know much else about these snails to date. Further, these species are hard to distinguish from related trumpet snails, because of the similarities in their shell morphology.

In order to provide some basic knowledge about the parasitic worms in Thailand and neighbouring countries, the research team collected a total of 1,551 Stenomelania snails, identified as four species, from streams and rivers near the coastline of the south of Thailand in Krabi, Trang and Satun Provinces. Of them, ten were infected with trematodes. The parasites were found at seven of the studied localities and belonged to three different species. In Krabi Province, the researchers observed all three species.

Speculating on their presence, the scientists suspect that it could be related to the circulation of sea currents, as the flow of water along the Andaman coast is affected by the monsoon season.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Bigotry News - Christians for Hate and Discrimination

Bill Donohue
President, Catholic League
Equality Act: US House passes sweeping LGBTQ+ rights bill | LGBT rights | The Guardian

Religion provides excuses for people who need excuses.

Were you ever under the impression that Christian values include the fundamental equality of all people? How about the idea that all people are born with the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Not so, according to a gaggle of right-wing extremist Christian bigots who are furious at the passing of the Equality Act by the US House yesterday. They see the LGBTQ community enjoying the same rights as them as a frontal attack on them and their faith by the Biden administration.

Malevolent Designer News - Designing a Pointless Arms Race

Credit: CC0 Public Domain
Disease tolerance: Skeletons reveal humans evolved to fight pathogens | EurekAlert! Science News

Using evidence from the skeletons of about 70,000 ancient individuals, scientists at Flinders University have shown a pattern of co-evolution of humans and three major pathogens.

Biologist would interpret this as a typical evolutionary arms race, ending in a level of accommodation, as is predicted from the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

Creationists, however, are obliged by dogma to interpret this as the work of a single designer, whom they have designated as 'intelligent' although there are precious few signs of any intelligence, or basic principles of good design for that matter. It is difficult to think of a suitable description of a designer who appears to be in competition with him/herself, constantly seeing the solution to the problem it created last as a problem to find a solution to next, but the terms 'intelligent' or 'designer' don't seem very appropriate or accurate.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Abiogenesis News - Creationism's Favourite God-Shaped Gap Just Got Smaller Again

“Protocells” containing bubble-like compartments formed spontaneously on a mineral-like and encapsulated fluorescent dye. This could have been what happened 3.8 billion years ago when cells first began to form.

Image: Karolina Spustova.
Evidence That Earth’s First Cells Could Have Made Specialized Compartments

No wonder Creationists often come across as paranoid. At times it must feel as though their favourite dogmas and god-shaped gaps are under siege by science and constantly in danger of being overthrown or closed altogether, like so many former gaps in which they sat their favourite god(s); all found to be empty when science shone a light in them.

One of their favourites, and often their only fall-back position, is that abiogenesis hasn't been explained by science, and that easily becomes a claim that it can't be explained without resort to magic by a magic man because living things contain special god-magic called 'life' that can't be identified or even explained.

Then along comes another paper, like this one from scientists at the University of Oslo, published by the Biophysics Society, that chips away a little more at this dogma, by showing not only how simple cells got started but by showing how 'life' is simply chemical and physical processes, all understandable as properties of matter, with no magic involved.

This paper is yet another in a long line of papers all reducing the size of creationism's god-shaped abiogenesis gap, and deals with how proto-cells became internally organised, in this case, with the formation of 'bubbles' or vacuoles that are a fundamental part of living cells today.

The Biophysical Society press release explains:

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Evolution News - European Blackcaps Diverging in Plain View

Male blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla

Scientists attach geolocators to the backs of blackcaps to record the light intensity at any time of day. In this way, hiking trails can be precisely determined.
© Ben Porter
Variety in the migratory behavior of blackcaps | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Like the paper on the origins of East Asian peoples, in my last blog post, this one on the migration of the European warbler, the blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), also shows how little makes sense in biology unless seen with an understanding of evolution and how it works. Supernatural ''explanations' actually explain nothing and have no predictive power because, when you add magic to any explanation, literally anything becomes possible and nothing is falsifiable.

This little bird is a favourite of mine if for no other reason that we had one spend two of the last three winters in our garden, feeding regularly at our bird feeders and fat balls (and that is a clue to their recent change of habit, which this paper records). Readers may recall I wrote about this just over 2 years ago, explaining the evolutionary significance of it.

Now this piece of work, led by Miriam Liedvogel of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, sets out to uncover some of the remaining mysteries surrounding blackcap migration.

Evolution News - How the East Asian People Evolved

Mountainous area in the Shaoguan district, Guangdong province, China.

© wklzzz |
Genomic insights into the origin of pre-historic populations in East Asia | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Creationist frauds will try to tell you that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is a theory in crisis and about to be overthrown by their superstition, Intelligent [sic] Design, in which magic plays the major part. If so, this would be the first scientific theory to be replaced by a supernatural, evidence-free notion with no predictive powers, based on nothing more substantial then superstition, wishful thinking and ignorant incredulity. However, it won't be since there is no sign in the scientific world of any serious doubt about the validity of the TOE and its usefulness in making sense of the natural world, including human populations, as this paper shows.

As we can see from work such as this by a very large, international group of geneticists, anthropologists and linguists, led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute, Germany, what we see today only makes sense biologically in the context of evolution over time from common ancestors. In this case, a large team of scientists have shown how the different populations of East Asia, the most densely populated area of Earth, are related.

From the Max Planck Insitute's press release:

Evolution is a PROCESS, Not an Event!

Where does one colour end and the next start?

As species evolve over time, there is no one time or place where one species turns into another and never a point where it is not the same species as its parents.

Evolution is a PROCESS not an event!

All fossils are transitional!

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Malevolent Designer News - How TB Evades Our Defences

3D illustration of the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Image: 123rf
Study could explain tuberculosis bacteria paradox

A study by computational bioengineers at Rice University and infectious disease experts at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) has revealed how Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism that causes TB, is able to resist our immune system and lie dormant for many years, before becoming active and pathological again. It has a genetic mechanism that enables it to resist stress and 'remember' how id did it, so it can do it again more quickly.

Creationists, for whom evolution by entirely natural processes must be dogmatically rejected, must attribute this ability to the intentional design of their putative intelligent [sic] designer, who is one and the same as the Christian god and allegedly omni-benevolent, only wanting a maximally good world for its creation. Why then it came up with this apparently malevolent design remains a mystery that I have yet to get a creationist to explain, other than by dismissing it as a mystery that we can't ever expect to understand, and calling me arrogant for "trying to understand the mind of God", whilst still pretending it is real science and a sound basis for investigating biology.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

More Bad News for Creationists - Australia's Oldest Rock Painting is 17,000 Years Old!

Traditional owner, Ian Waina, recording the estimated 17,300 year old painting of a kangaroo found in a hard-to-access rock cluster in the northeast Kimberley region.
Image: Peter Veth,
Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation
Australia's oldest rock painting is a kangaroo | Melbourne University News

A group of rock art experts from the Universities of Melbourne and \Western Australia and the Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation have dated a rock painting of a kangaroo to between 17,500 and 17,100 years old.

The painting is typical of the artistic style from what has become known as the 'Irregular Infill Animal' or 'Naturalistic' period, chara cterised by life-like and life-sized drawings and paintings, but this is the oldest so far dated.

Psychological Profile of a Violent Evangelical Trumpanzee

Violent insurrection at the Capitol, Washington DC, 6 Jan, 2021
Psychological ‘signature’ for the extremist mind uncovered | University of Cambridge News

A combined group of psychologists from Cambridge University, UK and Stanford University, CA, USA have mapped the underlying "psychological signature" that predisposes people to hold extreme social, political or religious views and be prepared to support violence as a means to enforce their views on others, such as we saw in the attempted coup d’état in January by evangelical Christian Trumpanzee cultists.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Talibangelist Fruitloop News - God Will Wipe Out Twitter for Banning Trump

Nathan French, Prophet of God.
"Big tech companies will begin to crumble if they continue to come against God’s anointed (Donald J. Trump!"
Nathan French Prophesies That God Will 'Wipe Out' Social Media Companies for Banning Trump | Right Wing Watch

If you're having trouble accessing Twitter, Facebook, etc., you probably only have yourself to blame because you didn't vote for Donald J Trump last November, according to self-style prophet of God, Nathan French, of the Tacoma, Washington-based fundamentalist evangelical Nathan French Ministries. It's just God visiting his retribution on the social media for banning Trump and not allowing him to post the lies and false claims about electoral fraud, 'fake news' and the other tools he and QAnon used to manipulate their credulous cultists.

It's the same old story.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Covidiot News - Priest From Super-Spreader Church Dies of COVID-19

Saint Peter and Paul Church in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco, California, USA

Photo: Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE
Priest dies from COVID after San Francisco Catholic church closes due to outbreak

According to this report, a Catholic priest from a church in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco has died of Covid-19 after his church was forced to close temporarily after at least three of its five priests tested positive for the virus.

And it's not as though they didn't understand the risks; they just chose to ignore them.

The church has repeatedly ignored the city health ordinances, prompting the city to issue a cease and desist order on the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. According to this report in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Covidiot News - Christian Fruitloops Lying About the Jab

Precious Life director, Bernadette Smyth
"Jesus is in the womb of every pregnant woman"
Photo: Hugh Rusell.
Northern Ireland anti-abortion group's 'misinformation' about Covid jab causing infertility criticised by WHO - The Irish News

A northern Ireland-based 'pro-life' Christian fundamentalist group are actively campaigning to frighten pregnant women into refusing the anti-Covid-19 vaccination, with disinformation about the vaccine.

Amongst their disinformation is the false claim that the vaccine causes sterility. According to this report in Irish Times the group has been criticised by the WHO for issuing leaflets warning people against getting immunised due to concerns the jabs are "rushed" and that excess deaths are reportedly linked to the jab. They offer no evidence for these claims.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Is God a Racist?

Vitamin D - where we get it from and why we need it
Genetic variants for skin color in African Americans linked to vitamin D deficiency, City of Hope study finds

Here is a nice piece of science for people who have fallen for the Intelligent [sic] Design hoax to ponder on. It begs the question, Is God a malevolent Racist?

It is a paper by researchers at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, showing the link between skin colour in African Americans and the problems associated with the resultant vitamin D deficiency that 70% of them suffer from - an increased risk for cancers and cardiovascular diseases. African Americans have a 14% greater risk from cancers than do white Americans.

First, a little background information, from a blog post I wrote some years ago:

Evolution News - Evolution Before Abiogenesis

Fig. 1.
Templated ligation of random sequence DNA 12-mers. (A) Before cells evolved, the first ribozymes were thought to perform basic cell functions. In the exponentially vast sequence space, spontaneous emergence of a functional ribozyme is highly unlikely, therefore preselection mechanisms were likely necessary. (B) In our experiment, DNA strands hybridize at low temperatures to form three-dimensional complexes that can be ligated and preserved in the high temperature dissociation steps. The system self-selects for sequences with specific ligation site motifs as well as for strands that continue acting as templates. Hairpin sequences are therefore suppressed. (C) Concentration analysis shows progressively longer strands emerging after multiple temperature cycles. The inset (A-red, T-blue) shows that, although 12-mers (88,009 strands) have essentially random sequences (white), various sequence patterns emerge in longer strands (60-mers, 235,913 strands analyzed). (D) Samples subjected to different number (0 to 1,000) of temperature cycles between 75 °C and 33 °C. Concentration quantification is done on PAGE with SYBR poststained DNA.

© 2021 The authors
Did Darwinian evolution begin before life itself? | News - LMU München

News today that research physicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, Germany (LMU) may have solved one of the key questions relating to abiogenesis - how did order begin to emerge from the chaos of random organic chemicals? It appears that this was the result of Darwinian evolution of molecules!

In the words of the LMU New release:
Before life emerged on Earth, many physicochemical processes on our planet were highly chaotic. A plethora of small compounds, and polymers of varying lengths, made up of subunits (such as the bases found in DNA and RNA), were present in every conceivable combination. Before life-like chemical processes could emerge, the level of chaos in these systems had to be reduced. In a new study, LMU physicists led by Dieter Braun show that basic features of simple polymers, together with certain aspects of the prebiotic environment, can give rise to selection processes that reduce disorder.
In common with many researchers in this field, the LMU team placed abiogenesis in "narrow, water-filled chambers within porous volcanic rocks on the sea bottom", in other words in the porous rocks around deep ocean hydrothermal vents.
These studies showed that, in the presence of temperature differences and a convective phenomenon known as the Soret effect, RNA strands could locally be accumulated by several orders of magnitude in a length-dependent manner. “The problem is that the base sequences of the longer molecules that one obtains are totally chaotic“, says Braun. Evolved ribozymes (RNA-based enzymes) have a very specific base sequence that enable the molecules to fold into particular shapes, while the vast majority of oligomers formed on the Early Earth most probably had random sequences. “The total number of possible base sequences, known as the ‘sequence space’, is incredibly large,” says Patrick Kudella, first author of the new report. “This makes it practically impossible to assemble the complex structures characteristic of functional ribozymes or comparable molecules by a purely random process.” This led the LMU team to suspect that the extension of molecules to form larger ‘oligomers’ was subject to some sort of preselection mechanism.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Termite Gut Microbes Could Aid Biofuel Production

Microbes in the guts of certain termite species could aid in the production of biofuel.

Credit: ABS Natural History/

Termite gut microbes
Credit: mantismundi
Termite gut microbes could aid biofuel production - American Chemical Society

Another example today of why maintaining biodiversity on Earth may be vitally important to ours and the planet's survival. A microbe in the gut of termites could hold the key to producing biofuels from sustainable plant sources.

Termites are incapable on their own of digesting cellulose and the other main structural material of the wood and tough plant matter they feed on - lignin. Instead, they are entirely dependent on a diverse population of bacteria and protozoa that live symbiotically in their gut and which do the digestion for them. Very many of these organisms are unique to the guts of termites.

Now scientists at Toulouse Biotechnology Institute, TBI, Université de Toulouse, France with colleagues from the Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere, Kyoto University, Japan, and the Laboratory of Food Chemistry, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, have shown that these organisms from the guts of four species of termite, Nasutitermes ephratae, N. lujae, Microcerotermes parvus, and Termes hospes, can turn wheat straw into a useable biofuel.

The findings were published a few days ago in the American Chemical Society's journal, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, regrettably behind a firewall and the ACS refuse permission to reprint even the abstract, which can, be read here. However, the ACS News Service press release gives full details:

Evolution News - Reversal for Creationists

This dramatic paleoclimate change – which was hallmarked with widespread auroras – could help explain other evolutionary mysteries, like the extinction of Neandertals.
Photo: Unsplash.
Ancient relic points to a turning point in Earth's history 42,000 years ago | UNSW Newsroom

One of the major problems Creationist frauds have to cope with is the regularity with which natural records contradict their preferred time-line. One such series of records is that of frequent geomagnetic reversals, when Earth's North and South magnetic poles flipped. These events are recorded in the magnetic alignment of particles in the mid-ocean ridges, which record the polarity of Earth at the moment they solidified from the magma welling up from the cracks in the mantle as the tectonic plates pull apart.

Another is in the indirect record in the amount of radiocarbon preserved in ancient tree rings, which increases at the point of reversal as Earth loses the protection from solar radiation provided by its magnetic field.

These records, of course, contradict Creationism's childish claims of a young Earth of just a few thousand years old. This one shows a magnetic reversal about 40,000 years ago - some 30,000 plus years before the Universe existed, according to Creationists.

Scientist from the University of New South Wales, Australia, have found evidence of a period of major climate change associated with the last geomagnetic reversal 42,000 years ago - when Earth's North and South magnetic poles changed places. This period, which they have called the ‘Adams Transitional Geomagnetic Event’, or ‘Adams Event’ for short, after Douglas Adams of 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' fame. Douglas Adam's famously said the answer to life the universe and everything was 42!

This magnetic reversal was a period of mass extinction that saw the demise of the Neanderthals. Evidence for this change was found in the remains of ancient New Zealand kauri trees which have been preserved in sediment for over 40,000 years.

As the UNSW press release explains:
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