Thursday, 15 April 2021

Evolution News - If This Is Not A Transitional Hominin, What Would Be?

KNM-ER 2598 partial occipital
a Inset image indicates the approximate anatomical location of the KNM-ER 2598 occipital.
b Posterior view and right lateral view are shown.
Revisiting a Renowned Skull From Early Human Homo Erectus | AMNH

When it was discovered about 50 years ago at East Turkana in northern Kenya, the skull fragment of what came to be known as Homo erectus, was believed to be the oldest specimen of a truly human species known, at 1.9 million years old.

However, some people doubted the age of this specimen, suggesting the remains could have been moved there from later strata by wind or water. Now a study led by American Museum of Natural History Assistant Curator Ashley Hammond has revisited the site and found more fragments of what are believed to be H. erectus associated with strata that confirm the original dating of the earlier skull fragment.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Talibangelist News - And Right Round The Twist Goes Another Trumpanzee Loon

Ricky Skaggs, Talibangelical Trumpanzee
Famous Musician Ricky Skaggs Says the Election Was 'A Crime' and God Will Return Trump to Office | Right Wing Watch

The country singer, Ricky Skaggs appears to be the latest Talibangelical Trumpanzee to follow fruitloops like Robin Bullock, Steve Quayle, Rick Joyner, Jonny Enlow, Hank Kunneman, and Kat Kerr, round the twist into psychotic delusion. He is now claiming God talks to him and gives him important messages for the rest of us. This is a common phenomenon in the excessively religious and shows how the line between excessive religiosity and psychosis is so fine as to be invisible on occasion.

So, when Skaggs appeared on the "Elijah Streams" Talibangelical YouTube program last Tuesday, his audience heard him say:

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Religious Abuse News - The Mexican Cult With a Paedophile Leader - Allegedly

Naasón Joaquín García
Alondra Ocampo Susanna Medina Oaxaca
Trial date set in sexual abuse case against La Luz del Mundo leader Naasón Joaquín García

On Monday, a Superior Court Judge reversed the April 8th decision of an Appeal Court that the case against alleged Paedophile, Garcia, be dropped because of procedural delays in bringing the case to court. The trial will now be held on September 27 and Garcia remains in detention in lieu of a $90 million bail.

Also to appear in court on the same day, is Susana Medina Oaxaca. The third defendant in the case, Alondra Ocampo, has pleaded guilty to four counts, include three counts of contact with a minor for a sexual offense, involving three Jane Does, and one count of forcible sexual penetration, involving a fourth Jane Doe. She is believed to have struck a deal with the prosecution, the details of which are not disclosed.

Garcia is leader of the Mexican fundamentalist Christian La Luz del Mundo (The Light of the World) church and is known to the sect as "The Apostle". He faces counts of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation of a minor, human trafficking and possession of child pornography.

According to court documents, Ocampo took photos of minor girls “touching each other sexually at her direction” to send the photographs to García. Ocampo directed one of the victims, along with other minors, to perform “flirty” dances for García while wearing as little clothing as possible.

After the dance, García “gave them a speech about a king having mistresses and stated that an apostle of god can never be judged for his actions,” according to the court papers.

According to this report in the Los Angeles Times:

Catholic Abuse News - The Church Pays Up to Avoid a Court Case

Fr. Gerald Ridsdale.
Predatory paedophile who abused almost 70 schoolboys when chaplain to their Catholic boys school.
Gerald Ridsdale: Victorian man abused as schoolboy by paedophile priest given $1.5m settlement | Victoria | The Guardian

A man who cannot be named for legal reasons, a victim of the notorious, predatory paedophile Catholic priest, Gerald Ridsdale, has been given one of the largest amounts received to date, a A$1.5 million settlement on the eve of the court case in which he was claiming compensation for the abuses he received from Ridsdale and two Catholic teachers at his school in the Catholic dioceses of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

Ridsdale was sentence in 1994, initially to 12 months in prison for abusing 9 boys, but this was extended as more victims came forward. By 2006, he had pleaded guilty to 54 more child victims and his sentence was extended so he would not be eligible for parole until 2019.

Since then, a further batch of 23 additional charges have been brought against him, bringing his total number of victims to 65, and he will now not be eligible for parole untill 2022, Judge Irene Lawson deciding that even at the age of 83 he still posed a threat to the community.

Evolution News - Rapid Evolution in Foxgloves

Common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, pollinated by bumblebees
Study finds rapid evolution in foxgloves pollinated by hummingbirds - British Ecological Society

Researchers from the University of Sussex, Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia) and Universidad de Costa Rica have shown how a change of environment and the presence of new pollinator species can induce rapid evolutionary change in flowers.

The common foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is a native plant of Europe where it is normally pollinated by bumblebees. The markings on the inside of the corolla tube and the length of the tube are adaptations to facilitate these pollinators. However, in Costa Rica and Columbia, there were two independent introduction events about 200 years ago. These populations are pollinated by different bumblebee species and also hummingbirds, which are absent from Europe.

The researchers have shown that in these introduced populations, the corolla tube is significantly longer; a clear adaptation to new pollinator species. The British Ecological Society News release, explains:

Catholic Abuse News - The Priest Who Saw Sex With Young Girls as Payment for His Good Works

Rev. Richard Daschbach
Defrocked US priest revered in East Timor accused of abuse

The newly-independent nation of East Timor, or Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste as it shoud be called, is said to be the most devoutly Catholic country outside the Vatican City.

It was in this atmosphere of unquestioning trust, almost amounting to idolization of Catholic Priests as Men of God, that the American, Rev. Richard Daschbach, predated on children to satisfy his sexual perversion.

He had risen to local fame when he set up a refuge for the destitute and orphaned child victims of the long, bloody war for independence from Indonesia, that the Timorese final won in 2002.

The way that you determine who sits on his lap is by the list that he’d have on his door, and that meant that you were the little girl that was going to go with him.

Abuse victim
But there was a grim price to pay for his protection. Every evening a list would be posted on his bedroom door and the girl whose name appeared at the top of the list was expected to share a bed with Daschbach and another elementary school-aged girl. Fear of banishment from the shelter prevented the young girls from complaining or resisting at the time.

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Trumpanzee Fruitloop News - More Bull From Robin Bullock

Robin Bullock, Youth Force Ministries Church International
'Prophet' Robin Bullock Calls on Biden to Confess That He's 'Not the Legitimate President' | Right Wing Watch

Readers will be familiar with self-styled prophet of God, Robin Bullock, of Youth Force Ministries Church International, and his increasingly deranged attempts to prove his God-given guarantee that Trump would win a second term was not a false prophesy, despite the fact that Biden won.

Only last week he claimed that God has given him authority to 'call' Donald Trump back to the White House. A month ago, he was declaring that President Joe Biden didn't really exist. Now he claims God has told him he is 'extending the hand of mercy' to this 'non-existent' Joe Biden. All he has to do is 'confess' that he is not the legitimate president and hand power back to Trump and all will be forgiven.

Covidiot News - SCOTUS Backs Christian Super-Spreader Events

Supreme Court, Washington DC
Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
By 5-4 Vote, Supreme Court Lifts Restrictions on Prayer Meetings in Homes - The New York Times

Donald Trump's right-wing fundamentalist appointees on SCOTUS are paying dividends for the Christian Trumpanzees in California.

Early in the coronavirus pandemic the Supreme Court normally ruled in favour of states imposing restrictions on gatherings in places of worship, citing the health and welfare of the public over the desire of religious people to gather together in a single place and so spread the virus. Now, following the replacement of the late Ruth Bader-Ginsberg with the Trump-appointed right-wing fundamentalist, Amy Coney Barrett, a move widely seen as a thank you for the support he received from the Talibangelicals, SCOTUS is leaning more towards prohibiting states from banning or imposing limits on these gatherings, citing religious freedom over the health and welfare of the public at large.

Last Friday, the court split 5-4 on the issue, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr joining with the three liberal justices in dissenting.

Pandering to the Christian need for martyrdom and victimhood the conservatives said that California treated at-home worship differently to hardware stores, hair dressing salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts and indoor restaurants. None of those were required to limit access to no more than three families.

However, in their dissent, Justices, Elena Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the majority had compared in-home prayer meetings with the wrong kinds of activities - a comparison not justified or required by the law. In other words, they had been highly selective to justify their bias:

Justice Kagan wrote:

The First Amendment requires that a State treat religious conduct as well as the State treats comparable secular conduct. Sometimes finding the right secular analogue may raise hard questions. But not today. California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike. California need not, as the per curiam insists, treat at-home religious gatherings the same as hardware stores and hair salons—and thus unlike at-home secular gatherings, the obvious comparator here. As the per curiam’s reliance on separate opinions and unreasoned orders signals, the law does not require that the State equally treat apples and watermelons.
In other words, the blanket ban on in-home gatherings swept up in-home gatherings for religious services not because they were religious services but because they were in-home gatherings.

Justice Kagan further explained:
And even supposing a court should cast so expansive a comparative net, the per curiam’s analysis of this case defies the factual record. According to the per curiam, “the Ninth Circuit did not conclude that” activities like frequenting stores or salons “pose a lesser risk of transmission” than applicants’ at-home religious activities. Ante, at 3. But Judges Milan Smith and Bade explained for the court that those activities do pose lesser risks for at least three reasons:
  • First, “when people gather in social settings, their interactions are likely to be longer than they would be in a commercial setting,” with participants “more likely to be involved in prolonged conversations.”
  • Second, “private houses are typically smaller and less ventilated than commercial establishments.”
  • And third, “social distancing and mask-wearing are less likely in private settings and enforcement is more difficult.”
These are not the mere musings of two appellate judges: The district court found each of these facts based on the uncontested testimony of California’s public-health experts.
In other words, even if California had treated at-home worship differently to commercial premises, there was good reason to do so in terms of expert assessment of the differential public health risks.

In granting religions special privileges to the rest of society and in ignoring the threat to the health and welfare of the general public that their selfishness poses, Trump's compliant SCOTUS is posing a threat to American democracy and moving it closer to a de facto theocracy where a religion can apply to the Supreme Court to have its self-awarded privileges enshrined in American Law - which is exactly what Trump and his Talibangelical supporters wanted. Meanwhile these religions are spearheading the campaign against the anti-coronavirus measures and against the vaccinations that will reduce the virus' severity, citing all manner of ludicrous conspiracy theories and dubious interpretations of obscure Bible texts to justify it.

It's almost as though they believe science is interfering with their god's plan to kill as many people as possible with one of its nastier designs and it requires their help in doing so. If only the virus restricted itself to fundamentalists, it would be tempting to let them carry on and allow Darwinian evolution to improve the human species by natural selection.


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Saturday, 10 April 2021

Malevolent Designer News - The Ingenious Way Tuberculosis Poisons You

This transport system may be widespread across many Gram-positive bacteria that contain proteins in the WXG100 superfamily. Tuberculosis kills 1 million people each year.
The tuberculosis pathogen releases its toxin by a novel protein transport system - News | UAB

Creationist mode:


The sheer genius of Creationism's putative Intelligent designer is breath-taking on occasion.

In this case, almost literally, since it concerns the mechanism by which Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause of the common lung disease, tuberculosis, kills you. In its determination to make people sick, the Intelligent Designer constantly comes up with these ingenious ways to make sure its nasty little parasites do the job they were designed to do, despite our immune system it allegedly designed to protect us from the organisms it designed to make us suffer.

Scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama, USA have just published the results of their research in which they discovered that M. tuberculosis not only produces a toxin to poison us with, but it also has a nifty way to make sure we get a good dose of it.

The problem the bacterium has is getting the toxin through its own cell membrane and into the host. Its cell membrane is designed to keep substances inside the cell, not leaking out, so it has to be able to control what leaves and provide it with a means of passing through small, special channels designed for the purpose. It does this by making two small proteins which join together to form dimers. Five of these dimers then join together as a ring in the bacterium's cell membranes to make tiny, star-shaped pores through which the toxins can pass.

Jeff Hansen, in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) news letter gives the details:
Six years ago, Michael Niederweis, Ph.D., described the first toxin ever found for the deadly pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This toxin, tuberculosis necrotizing toxin, or TNT, became the founding member of a novel class of previously unrecognized toxins present in more than 600 bacterial and fungal species, as determined by protein sequence similarity. The toxin is released as M. tuberculosis bacteria survive and grow inside their human macrophage host, killing the macrophage and allowing the escape and spread of the bacteria.

Here, we show for the first time that small Esx proteins of the WXG100 family have an important molecular function inside the Mtb cell by mediating toxin secretion. Our results suggest a dynamic mechanism of pore formation by small Esx proteins that might be applicable to other members of the large WXG100 protein family. Thus, our study not only represents a major advancement in our understanding of secretion of TNT and likely of other proteins in M. tuberculosis, but also describes a biological function for Esx-paralogs in M. tuberculosis and their homologs in the large WXG100 protein family in Gram-positive bacteria.

EsxE and EsxF constitute the first known outer membrane components mediating protein secretion in M. tuberculosis, however, it is unlikely that EsxE and EsxF are sufficient for TNT secretion, since an energy source is required in all known bacterial protein secretion systems. Therefore, it is possible that EsxE-EsxF associate with other proteins or protein complexes to achieve CpnT export and TNT secretion.

This work was a remarkable achievement of an outstanding graduate student, Uday Tak, who did almost all of these experiments by himself.

Professor Michael Niederweis, Co-author
Department of Microbiology
University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL, USA
For 132 years, the lack of an identified toxin in M. tuberculosis had contrasted with nearly all other pathogenic bacteria whose toxins contribute to illness or death. M. tuberculosis infects 9 million people a year and kills more than 1 million.

Now, in another groundbreaking work, the University of Alabama at Birmingham researcher and colleagues describe how two small ESX proteins made by the M. tuberculosis bacteria mediate secretion of TNT by pore formation in the membranes that envelop the bacteria. This finding may have broad application because a distinctive three-amino acid motif found on EsxE and EsxF — tryptophan/any-amino-acid/glycine, known in shorthand as WXG — is also found on many other small mycobacterium proteins and on the large WXG100 superfamily of bacterial proteins that resemble EsxE and EsxF.

“Here, we show for the first time that small Esx proteins of the WXG100 family have an important molecular function inside the Mtb cell by mediating toxin secretion,” said Niederweis, a professor in the UAB Department of Microbiology. “Our results suggest a dynamic mechanism of pore formation by small Esx proteins that might be applicable to other members of the large WXG100 protein family. Thus, our study not only represents a major advancement in our understanding of secretion of TNT and likely of other proteins in M. tuberculosis, but also describes a biological function for Esx-paralogs in M. tuberculosis and their homologs in the large WXG100 protein family in Gram-positive bacteria.”

TNT is one of two domains in the M. tuberculosis outer membrane protein CpnT; activity of the TNT domain of CpnT in the cytosol of the macrophage induces macrophage death by hydrolyzing NAD+. M. tuberculosis has an inner membrane and an outer membrane, and a protein needs to get through each layer to be secreted outside of the bacterium. How CpnT gets to the outer membrane was unknown.

EsxE and EsxF are part of the same gene segment as CpnT, and the UAB researchers hypothesized that the two small proteins might be involved in secretion of the toxin.

By creating different strains that lacked either EsxE or EsxF, they showed that both proteins were necessary for the translocation of CpnT to the cell surface of M. tuberculosis and for the secretion of TNT into the cytosol of macrophages infected with M. tuberculosis. Furthermore, EsxE and EsxF are surface-accessible proteins on M. tuberculosis as a membrane-associated complex.

To learn more about the mechanism of that translocation, the UAB team made mutants of each Esx protein, where the tryptophan amino acid of the single WXG motif on each protein was replaced by the amino acid alanine. The mutants showed that an intact WXG motif on EsxE and on EsxF were required for efficient CpnT translocation to the outer membrane of M. tuberculosis and subsequent TNT secretion into the cytosol of infected macrophages.

Purification of the water-soluble EsxE and EsxF proteins showed they formed EsxE-EsxF dimers, and five of these dimers assembled into star-shaped structures, as viewed by electron microscopy. Each was about 10 nanometers across, with a 3-nanometer central pore.

Experiments with planar lipid bilayers were key to understanding the molecular function of EsxE-EsxF, as they showed that the EsxE-EsxF pores formed channels through lipid membranes.

Finally, the researchers showed that the WXG motifs were required for pore formation and membrane disruption by the EsxE-EsxF complex, and the motifs mediated assembly of functional EsxE-EsxF oligomers. This now defines a biochemical role for the previously enigmatic WXG motif.

“EsxE and EsxF constitute the first known outer membrane components mediating protein secretion in M. tuberculosis,” Niederweis said. “However, it is unlikely that EsxE and EsxF are sufficient for TNT secretion, since an energy source is required in all known bacterial protein secretion systems. Therefore, it is possible that EsxE-EsxF associate with other proteins or protein complexes to achieve CpnT export and TNT secretion.”

The UAB researchers propose two models for the transport of CpnT by EsxE and EsxF. In the first, the EsxE-EsxF heterodimers form a pore in the inner membrane, and then form another pore in the outer membrane to create transmembrane channels. “Alternatively,” Niederweis said, “the inner membrane channel is extended to span the periplasm via filament formation, and connects to EsxE-EsxF pores in the outer membrane, exposing EsxF on the cell surface. In this model, the putative EsxE-EsxF channel tunnel enables export of the CpnT polypeptide to the outer membrane of M. tuberculosis, and subsequent secretion of TNT and EsxE-EsxF.”

Co-authors with Niederweis in the study, “Pore-forming Esx proteins mediate toxin secretion by Mycobacterium tuberculosis,” published in Nature Communications, are Uday Tak and Terje Dokland, UAB Department of Microbiology.
Brilliant, what? This is the sort of thing that any self-respecting ID advocate, such as Michael J Behe, could make another fortune from, with a book claiming it is 'irreducibly complex' so couldn't have evolved and must have been designed by a magic man, proving Darwin wrong. And all to make a million people get progressively more debilitated and sicker until they die. It used to be a lot more than that in the good ol' days before human medical science came up with antibiotics that kill the mycobacteria, but the Intelligent Designer is working on that problem too, and has already come up with antibiotic resistant strains which are becoming more common nowadays.

Creationist mode:


Well that's how a Creationist should be seeing things anyway, since they also purport to worship this putative entity they claim designed and created all living things and, being omniscient, knew exactly what they would do and designed them for that purpose.

Here is how people who understand biology see it:

Abstract


Mycobacterium tuberculosis secretes the tuberculosis necrotizing toxin (TNT) to kill host cells. Here, we show that the WXG100 proteins EsxE and EsxF are essential for TNT secretion. EsxE and EsxF form a water-soluble heterodimer (EsxEF) that assembles into oligomers and long filaments, binds to membranes, and forms stable membrane-spanning channels. Electron microscopy of EsxEF reveals mainly pentameric structures with a central pore. Mutations of both WXG motifs and of a GXW motif do not affect dimerization, but abolish pore formation, membrane deformation and TNT secretion. The WXG/GXW mutants are locked in conformations with altered thermostability and solvent exposure, indicating that the WXG/GXW motifs are molecular switches controlling membrane interaction and pore formation. EsxF is accessible on the bacterial cell surface, suggesting that EsxEF form an outer membrane channel for toxin export. Thus, our study reveals a protein secretion mechanism in bacteria that relies on pore formation by small WXG proteins.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about ID Creationism is how it not only completely fails to provide any answers to basic questions about mechanisms, or provide any evidential basis for the claims it makes, but how it appears to blind its followers to the nasty realities of the natural world with it parasites and the suffering they cause, and the ultimate futility in the arms races which about and which make no sense at all as the product of a single master designer.

Amazingly too, they claim to get their morals from this hateful misanthropist!

As I showed in my beautifully-illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good, the natural world is full of examples such as this of how any designer who came up with it could only be a malevolent sadist who enjoys watching suffering and creates it for the pleasure of watching its creation suffer, like an evil man who breeds kittens for the fun of burning them alive and the pleasure of watchig them suffer.


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Talibangelical News - Hysteria Because SCOTUS Rules Facebook is not USA

Republican Laura Loomer, Right wing Trumpanzee Conspiracist
Laura Loomer Contemplates Getting a 'Nazi-Style Holocaust Tattoo' to Symbolize Her 'Digital Extermination' on Social Media | Right Wing Watch

Something that extremist Talibangelical fundamentalists find hard to understand is how the US constitutional constraints on the US government don't apply world-wide or to private organizations, so imagine their shock and horror when they discover that they don't!

Laura Loomer, an extreme right-wing, Islamophobic conspiracy theorist and Trumpanzee nut-job was so incensed when SCOTUS declined to hear the case she brought before them, claiming her ban on Facebook and other social media for disseminating hate and disinformation violated her First Amendment right to free speech that she is threatening to have the SCOTUS case number tattooed on her wrist, like a Nazi death camp victim.

In effect, SCOTUS ruled that they have no jurisdiction over how a private company applies its own TOS that its customers have agreed to. It's hard to see how they could have reached any other conclusion, given that the First Amendment is explicitly a constraint on government and the social media are private companies and not part of the government or even agents of the government at any level in the USA.

With typical insensitivity, Loomer is equating the loss as what she regards as her special entitlement to abuse and foment hate with being a victim of the Holocaust!

Friday, 9 April 2021

Malevolent Designer News - How SARS-CoV-2 Was 'Designed' to Kill Us

Schematic model of SARS-CoV-2-induction of complement in respiratory epithelial cells. SARS-CoV-2 infects respiratory epithelial cells and induces an interferon response. IFNs signal via the IFN receptor to activate STAT1 via JAK1/2. STAT1 co-operates with RELA to induce transcription of IL6 and complement genes including C3, CFB, C1R and C1S. CFB acts as an alternative pathway C3 convertase to cleave C3 intracellularly to C3a and C3b. C3a engages C3aR and C3b engages CD46 on leukocyte subsets in the lungs to drive inflammation. These events can be pharmacologically targeted with antivirals (e.g., remdesivir), JAK-STAT inhibitors (e.g., ruxolitinib) and/or cell permeable complement inhibitors, including CFBi.
COVID-19 causes 'unexpected' cellular response in the lungs, research finds - Purdue University News

Creationist mode:


News today of what a brilliant job the Intelligent [sic] Designer did with the SARS-VoV-2 virus which is designed to make us sick and die.

An international team of researchers working with Majid Kazemian, assistant professor in the departments of computer science and biochemistry at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indian, USA, have discovered that a biochemical pathway, known as the immune complement system, is triggered in lung cells by the virus, which might explain why the disease is so difficult to treat.

According to the press release from Purdue University press release:

Talibangelical News - Jim Bakker Gets Desperate. Now it's Antichrist Asteroid Apophis

Jim bakker and Thomas Horn. Fruitloops for Jesus and Donald Trump
Tom Horn Says an Asteroid Will Strike Earth in 2029, Unleashing an 'Alien Virus' That Will Give Rise to the Antichrist | Right Wing Watch

Poor Jim Bakker (I use the term 'poor' not in its wealth sense but as a term of concern for his welfare) is becoming more and more desperate in his frantic search for yet more money.

Following on from his inclusion of the wackadoodle conspiracist, Steve Quayle with his 'impending zombie apocalypse' prophesies on his show, he then invited another deranged conspiracist, Tom Horn, to expound on his loopy predictions and wackadoodle claims.

Tom Horn is a leading Trumpanzee cultist who, back in May, 2019 announced that God had chosen Donald Trump, to 'Help build the Third Temple' in Jerusalem in preparation for the return of Jesus. Sadly for Horn, Trump was booted out by the US electorate before the construction work began, having failed even to build a single wall.

Apparently, Horn has detected an approaching asteroid, due to strike Earth in 2029. Not only that, but reading the paranoid writings of a 1st or 2nd century CE author of a book of dubious legends and prophesies, the Bible, he has concluded that this asteroid will be carrying a virus that will turn into the antichrist. His 'evidence' is that said 1st or 2nd Century CE author wrote:
The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water — the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.
Revelation 8:10-11
Earlier this month Horn claimed to have died and met God and Jesus who told him what the future held.

No mention of viruses there, of course, because no-one had heard of them in those days of ignorance and scientific illiteracy, but not content with the mental gymnastics needed to turn a 'star' named "Wormwood" (from the days when stars were believed to be little lights, stuck to a dome over Earth and could be shaken loose by earthquakes, to fall down), into an asteroid named Apophis, Horn goes one better and includes it in a conspiracy invented for the purpose usig the 'logic' there must be consspiracy somewhere or my 'prophesy' would look implausible!

He needs to explain why the governments of the world (for Tom Horn's and his parochial target marks' world, read, the USA) aren't becoming concerned that an asteroid is heading our way, bent on destruction. So, he has concluded that 'they' (ie, the US federal government) are aware but are conspiring with Satanic forces to keep news of it leaking out and alarming people, presumably in case they start asking God to change his perfect plan and divert the evil asteroid with which he plans to kill us - which would turn Tom and the 1st or 2nd century CE author of the Bible into false prophets.

He told Jim Bakker:
I believe that Apophis is carrying an alien microorganism on it in which a virus is being sustained. I believe it’s going to make coronavirus look like a walk in the park. On impact with the Earth, the contagion that is going to be brought to this planet. … I think that it’s going to be a trigger event that ultimately leads to the Mark of the Beast, which will mean that you’re going to have to be vaccinated. A contagion during the Tribulation period could sweep the world. Literally tens of millions of people are dying by the hour, and an international cry goes up around the world for some kind of cure, a vaccine. Well, a man comes forward — a single individual who happens to be the Antichrist — and he’s the only man on Earth whose blood is naturally immune to this alien virus. And so a vaccine is created from his blood by which all mankind then are required to be inoculated. So, it’s almost like a black communion.
Because, of course, that's how vaccines are made - from the blood of immune individuals. Clearly, Horn is even less of a biologist/immunologist than he is an astronomer or prophet.

But he has a handy book - the only book he needs - in which, with a creative imagination, the entire future of the world is spelled out in detail. All it needs is a few words to have their meanings changed and the historical context of the time it was made up, to be ignored.

Is this insanity caused by excessive religiosity, excessive religiosity caused by insanity or merely a fraud fleecing gullible fools by trading on ignorant superstitions and psychotic paranoias?

Watch his videos and decide for yourselves.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Talibangelical News - Yes, They CAN Get Even More Deranged!

Steve Quale & Jim Bakker
Loopy prophets of paranoid psychoses
Jim Bakker Is Now Using His End Times Broadcast to Warn About Zombies | Right Wing Watch

Just when you were beginning to think Trumpanzee Talibangelical Christians couldn't get any further round the bend, up pops Jim Bakker and Steve Quayle to prove you wrong!

Serial adulterer, Jim Bakker, who has a personal hotline to Jesus for when he needs his sin counter zeroed, has been earning a crust recently by selling his dupes products intended to help them survive the 'End Times' that he keeps on forecasting.

He's now turned that up a notch and thrown his lot in with equally sleazy, Steve Quayle, the extreme right-wing, conspiracy theorist fruitloop who earns his living selling goods to help survive the coming zombie apocalypse he keeps on prophesying.

Quayle's conspiracy theories are becoming ever loopier and byzantine. His latest is that coronavirus tests are to collect your DNA to be used to create targeted biological weapons that will infect people and either kill them or turn them into flesh-eating zombies. Bakker asked Quayle if zombies were a disease on Earth, like any other disease. Quayle 'explained':

Evolution News - Still Making Monkeys of Creationists

Mona Monkey, Cercopithecus mona
Population Genomics Reveals Incipient Speciation, Introgression, and Adaptation in the African Mona Monkey (Cercopithecus mona) | Molecular Biology and Evolution | Oxford Academic

A research paper dealing with the evolution of a widespread species of African monkey, the Mona Monkey, Cercopithecus mona, illustrates several mechanisms by which a species can diversify and speciate, and gives the lie to the Creationist claim that the Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis.

The reality is that the TOE is the foundation of modern biology and the only theory that explains the observed facts. Creationist frauds like to tell their dupes that it's about to be overthrown by some flavour of Bible-literalist fundamentalist creationism or other to make them feel intellectually superior to 'mad' scientists with their 'false' theories and wacky ideas.

A) Image of typical Cercopithecus mona taken at Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove protected area.
(B) Comparative genomics analysis among C. mona and six related primates. Node bars refer to 95% confidence intervals of divergence time and blue triangles indicate fossil-based calibration points
Ayoola, Adeola Oluwakemi, Zhang, Bao-Lin, et. al.
The mona monkey is a widespread African monkey of the Cercopithecus genus, showing considerable phenotypic, taxonomic, and ecological diversity across its range, forming numerous geographical varieties and subspecies. However, until now, it was not known how geographical populations of this species relate to one another and to other members of the Cercopithecus genus. Now an international research team, led by Adeola Oluwakemi Ayoola and Bao-Lin Zhang of the State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has successfully sequenced the genome of 13 individual mona monkeys from Nigeria.

From their analysis, the team showed that there had been evolution by:
  • Classic Darwinian allopatric speciation. Isolated populations east and west of the River Niger, separated by a physical barrier, evolve according to local environmental factors and genetic drift.
  • Introgression and hybridization. The East population showed signs of introgression of genes related to pigmentation.
  • Natural selection. Genes involved in immunodeficiency virus defences and malaria resistance showed evidence of being under positive selection pressure.
In other words, the "phenotypic, taxonomic and ecological diversity", giving rise to the "geographical varieties and subspecies" of mona monkeys could be accounted for by classic evolutionary processes operating at the genetic level.

Some years ago, I wrote a blog post explaining exactly how this process of divergence and speciation had probably occurred in the African monkeys, as an illustration of how evolution is a process, not an event and why we would not expect to find 'transitional' fossils showing this diversification, or why it can appear to be sudden in the geological record. Here is what I said at the time:
So where and what was the 'speciation event'? At what point in the process could an observer say, "Hey! I've just seen speciation occur! It happened when...". In fact, we only know that speciation has occurred retrospectively because, according to our rules of taxonomy, failure to interbreed means they are now different species. Maybe if we had been able to examine them a hundred thousand years ago, we might have found that they could still interbreed...

There was no sudden emergence of a new species; no sudden branching of the 'tree of life'; no mutation which brought a new species into being and no 'macro-evolution' event. There was no event which creation pseudo-scientists proclaim to be impossible and which they claim has never been seen. All there was was a slow accumulation of difference, directed by natural selection with each group doing nothing but struggling to survive and reproduce with the ones which left the most descendant contributing the most genes to the gene-pool.
This open access paper vindicates everything I said in that post. Although appearing in the March 2021 edition of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, it was published online in September 2020.

Abstract


Guenons (tribe Cercopithecini) are the most widely distributed nonhuman primate in the tropical forest belt of Africa and show considerable phenotypic, taxonomic, and ecological diversity. However, genomic information for most species within this group is still lacking. Here, we present a high-quality de novo genome (total 2.90 Gb, contig N50 equal to 22.7 Mb) of the mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona), together with genome resequencing data of 13 individuals sampled across Nigeria. Our results showed differentiation between populations from East and West of the Niger River ∼84 ka and potential ancient introgression in the East population from other mona group species. The PTPRK, FRAS1, BNC2, and EDN3 genes related to pigmentation displayed signals of introgression in the East population. Genomic scans suggest that immunity genes such as AKT3 and IL13 (possibly involved in simian immunodeficiency virus defense), and G6PD, a gene involved in malaria resistance, are under positive natural selection. Our study gives insights into differentiation, natural selection, and introgression in guenons.

And yet another scientific paper gives the lie to the Creationist claim that the TOE is a theory in crisis. As a reading of this research shows, it is the bedrock of biology as the only theory capable of explaining the diversity we see in nature, and it has the major benefit of not relying on magic and mysteries. It also reinforces the constant biologist refrain:

Where does one color change into another?

Evolution is a process, not an event,
so why demand evidence of an event?





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Look What Religion Can Cause!

Covid-19 Vaccine fact sheet produced by Hennepin Healthcare
This is not a joke, not even a belated April fools joke.

There really are people who, because they suffer from religion, can be induced to believe these absurdities.

An American health-care provider has had to put out a disclaimer stating that the anti-Covid-19 vaccine does not contain something called 'luciferase' or 'the mark of the beast" to mark recipients as followers of Satan.

Luciferase is the enzyme found in bioluminescent organisms responsible for making them glow in the dark. There would be absolutely no purpose in putting it in a vaccine. But what on earth is 'the mark of the beast'? Oh, I know all about the nonsense in Revelations about the number 666 and all that tosh, but how can it be a substance included in a vaccine?

Apparently, this is one of the latest QAnon-type conspiracy theories concerning the Covid-19 vaccine, which is circulating in fundamentalist Christian circles, as though, fresh from their success with the "Deep state, cannibalistic paedophile ring", Bill Gates' "tracking nanobots" and "gay genes", nonsense, the originators of this idiocy have gone one step further round the bend and taken their dupes with them.

I suspect that a small group somewhere is betting amongst themselves to see who can get people to say the most idiotic thing in public. I wonder if Republican politicians and evangelical, Talibangelist 'prophets' realise they're being made public fools of for someone's entertainment.

The scary thing is that, as Voltaire said:

People who believe absurdities will commit atrocities



Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Evolution News - Great Tits Have Evolved Flexible Cultures

Great tits (Parus major) can change their culture to become more efficient
Great tits change their traditions for the better | University of Konstanz

How arrogant we once were, before science taught us humility!

When I was young, back in the 1950s, we assumed us humans were exceptional in so many ways that justified believing we must be a special creation with a special purpose, being blessed with so many unique abilities. Human exceptionalism justified so much about religion and our relationship with the rest of nature and the world, which we assumed had been created solely for our benefit to be used as we saw fit. There was even an account in our book of self-justificatory origin myths that related how and why everything was created this way - "And God gave Man dominion..."

But that was in the days before we knew any better. Now we know otherwise.
  • We used to think we were the only 'thinking' beings, now we know that many other species can think and solve problems.
  • We used to think we were the only beings with intelligence enough to make and use tools, now we know many other species also shape and use tools.
  • We used to think we were the only beings with ethics and moral codes, now we know several other species are also empathetic and know the difference between right and wrong in context.
  • We used to think we were the only beings with a sense of self, now we know many other species are self-aware and have a conceptual map of their environment with them at the centre of it.
  • We used to think we were the only beings with cultures, now we know that other species also form cultures which they inherit from their parents and peers.
And, that latter assumption has just taken another blow with the news that a group of researchers at the University of Konstanz and Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Germany have found that birds are able to change their culture to become more efficient. As the University of Konstanz press release explains:

How Science Works - Looking for Questions Requiring Answers

Top: Fifty-two-million-year-old fossil snakefly (Megaraphidia ootsa sp.nov) from Driftwood Canyon in British Columbia, Canada.
Bottom: Living snakefly.
Fossil image © Zootaxa.
Fossil discovery deepens snakefly mystery - University Communications - Simon Fraser University

A paper published in Zootaxa very recently, neatly illustrates how science works.

The paper concerns the discovery of four new (to science) extinct species of snakefly which pose something of a problem. They were found in western North America in an area which our understanding of their modern counterparts says they shouldn't have been in.

All know modern snakeflies live in habitats which experience winter frosts and it was assumed that their over-wintering eggs needed a period of freezing in order to develop. However, these extinct species are all from temperate regions which experience few if any winter frosts, so the question is, why did their modern descendant evolve to be dependent on these winter conditions?

Sadly, the paper is behind a paywall, however, the Simon Fraser University media release has the details:

Atheism - The Winning Continues as Religions Lose Their Importance to Americans

Importance of Religion in USA today
Religion | Gallup Historical Trends

Another Gallop poll to gladden the heart of any Atheist or secular humanist, showing again the decline in religion in the USA. This poll appears to be undated, the only clue being that the last data points are for 2020 and the copyright is dated 2021, so we can assume the poll represents the state of religious opinion towards the end of 2020.

I'll let the charts speak for themselves since they need little by way of explanation. The trendlines in the first chart were added by me using Excel's 3 phase polynomial which gave a closer fit to the data points than a simple linear trend.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Vatican's Byzantine Financial Stink Reaches a London Crown Court

Gianluigi Torzi with Pope Francis
UK judge lifts restraining order on arrested Vatican businessman - The Pillar

A whiff of the stinking cesspit of corruption that is the Vatican under Pope Francis was hanging around Southwark Crown Court in March when Judge Tony Baumgartner lifted a freezing order which had been placed on Gianluigi Torizi’s bank account. Torizi is the Italian businessman who was arrested in the Vatican City last year as part of its ongoing investigation into the London property deal at the heart of the financial scandal concerning the finances of the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Delivering his judgment, Judge Baumgartner criticised the Vatican Promoter of Justice offices for court filings that the judge said were riddled with “non-disclosures and misrepresentations.

Readers may remember how this scandal first surfaced when Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu suddenly 'resigned his rights as a cardinal' (a euphemism for 'was summarily sacked and stripped of his powers') over his involvement in financial scandals, including the London property deal, using a Vatican slush fund known as "Peter's Pence", and his doctoring of the Vatican's financial accounts.

Monday, 5 April 2021

How Creationists Lie to Us - Ham and Platypus Eggs

Platypus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus
Does Oddball Platypus Genome Reveal Its Origins? | The Institute for Creation Research

In this article from Ken Ham's AiG, we have a prime example of how Creationist frauds misrepresent science to their target dupes.

First, here is what Creationist Bryan Thomas says, referring to an open access paper on the genomes of the monotremes in Nature, reporting on the work of a team of researchers at Copenhagen University:
The team zoomed in on the uniqueness of egg-laying in mammals. Today, chicks get all their nutrients from within the egg before they hatch. Newly-hatched puggles get some nutrients from within their platypus eggs, but they still need to lap mother’s milk. And of course, human babies initially get all their nutrients from milk. The research group demonstrated that chickens have three egg-producing genes, the platypus has one, and humans have none.

They concluded that since all three evolved from a common ancestor that laid eggs, the platypus lost two egg-specific genes while humans lost all three. This conclusion relies entirely on the premise of a common ancestor. It simply ignores the at least equally logical divine origins option. A smart Creator could have equipped each of these three creatures with the specific DNA sequences needed to carry out its own unique growth and development.
This subtle misrepresentation relies on three characteristics of Creationist frauds' target marks:
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