Friday 23 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - 250 Million Years of Butterfly And Moth Evolution

Butterfly and moth genomes mostly unchanged despite 250 million years of evolution

It'll no doubt come as a surprise to those creationists who believe Earth was created from nothing by magic just about 10,000 years ago to learn that the butterflies and moths have been evolving for 250 million years.

It'll maybe come as a bigger surprise to those creationists who have been fooled into believing that the Theory of Evolution is being discarded by mainstream biologists in favour of their childish fairy tale of magic and supernatural spirits, that yet another group of mainstream biologists regard it as the foundation of modern biology, and are participating in the Darwin Tree of Life Project, which aims to sequence the genome of 70,000 eukaryote species from Britain and Ireland, to learn their evolutionary relationships.

This project also contributes to the much larger, Earth BioGenome Project.

One of the teams taking part in this project, based at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, has just completed the sequencing of 200 high-quality genome of the Lepidoptera order of insects (moths and butterflies) and discovered some interesting facts about the evolution of the order, including that there are some elements in the genomes, which they term 'Merian elements' after the 17th century entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, which have remained relatively stable over the 250 million years the order has been evolving.

The research is published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution and is described in a Welcome Sanger Institute news release:

Thursday 22 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - Fossil Plants from Australia, from 30 Million Years Before 'Creation Week'

Impression of lobed Proteaceae leaf (SAM P59649) from the Stuart Creek fluvial silcrete, South Australia.

A botanical Pompeii: we found spectacular Australian plant fossils from 30 million years ago

With so much of Earth's long history recorded in the geology, it’s quite astonishing that there are grown adults who still believe Earth is about 10,000 years old and was created out of noting, along with everything on it, in 6 days, with a few magic words, and that the science which shows otherwise is false or even forged.

It's even more astonishing that many of those people will live in technologically advanced societies that take products of science such as modern medicines, air transport, electricity, computers, radio and telephone communications and satellite navigation systems for granted and will never have any doubt about the truth of the science that created them.

Yet here we have yet more evidence that there were plants growing and leaving fossilised remains, 30 million years before creationists believe 'Creation Week' happened. And all they will have by the way of rationalising the facts with their evidence free-superstition is to lie about the science and claim the scientists used a flawed dating method that somehow managed to make 10,000 years look like 30 million years, or they lied about their results for some nefarious reason as part of a multi-million person conspiracy about which no-one ever breaks ranks and blows the whistle, even though they would gain instant fame and fortune if ever they did so.

And the same creationists who will tell that lie are the same people who hang on every word of a small handful of pseudo scientists who have taken an oath to always reach a required conclusion in their work, regardless of what the facts really reveal, as a condition of their employment.

How and where these fossils were found and dated, and the geological processes of silicification that preserved them, is the subject of a recent paper in the journal Gondwana Research. Andrew Rozefelds, Adjunct Assoc Professor in Central Queensland University and Principal Curator Geosciences Queensland Museum, CQ University Australia, lead author of the paper in Gondwana Research has also written about the research in an article in The Conversation, reprinted here under a Creative Commons license, reformatted for stylistic consistency:

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - 275 Million New Human Genetic Variants in USA Alone - Why So Many?

275 Million New Genetic Variants Identified in NIH Precision Medicine Data | All of Us Research Program | NIH

Researchers at the American NIH have identified 275 million previously unknown genetic variants in samples from 250,000 representative American adults who participated in their All of Us research program. Half the participants were of non-European ancestry. Nearly 4 million of these newly discovered variants are from areas of the genome tied to known disease risks.

Let's consider that from the point of view of someone who believes in intelligent [sic] design:

Why on Earth would an intelligent designer design so many variations on the same theme? An intelligent designer, especially one endowed with the foresight of omniscience and unlimited powers and who is omnibenevolent and perfect, would design the perfect solution to every problem, and stick with it, not design lots of different solutions to the same problem. And every iteration through the cycle of replication would produce an exact copy of that perfect design, so there is no logical way all those variations could be the result of random mutations which all happened to be equally good at whatever they did, so there was no element of selection involved.

Quite simply, lots of variations on the same theme are evidence not of intelligent design, but of utilitarian, mindless 'design' working without a plan and with no conception of the ideal or perfection. Variation is kept because it works; maybe not exactly as well as other alleles, but well enough for the carrier to survive and reproduce. Even if the differences are too small to play a significant part in evolution by natural selection, unless they are serious deleterious, genetic drift can account for them being a significant part of the species genome.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - How An Ancient Retrovirus Evolved To Create The Vertebrate Brain

Ancient retroviruses played a key role in the evolution of vertebrate brains | ScienceDaily
Schematic diagram of a neuron show the myelin sheath as the electrical insulator of the axon.

Extinct Late Devonian placoderm Bothriolepis canadensis. Myelin first appeared in these primitive early fish

Credit: Nobumichi Tamura / Stocktrek Images / Getty.
Creationists generally hate endogenous retrovirus (ERV's) because:
  1. They are one of the strongest pieces of evidence of common descent appearing in the same locations in the genome of all organisms in a clade, forming nested hierarchies exactly as the Theory of Evolution predicts. The probability of the same viral DNA appearing in the same locus in all species in a clade by chance is, of course, so small it can be dismissed as an explanation.
  2. They form a large part of the 'junk' DNA carried by all organisms, which, although a small proportion of it is transcribed into RNA, the RNA doesn't get translated into proteins and most of it doesn't serve any purpose. Some, but by no means all of it may have some regulatory functions.
  3. Occasionally, an ancient ERV may have become exapted for some useful purpose unrelated to the original virus, so showing how new genetic information can enter a genome, flatly contradicting creationist's claims that no new information can arise within a genome because the second law of thermodynamics [sic] and Shannon Information Theory somehow forbids it.
  4. An ERV serving a useful purpose also contradicts creationist claims that, while their favourite creator god is responsible for all the good stuff, another creator, called 'Sin', is responsible for the harmful stuff like parasites and viruses. Yet in those exapted ERVs we have viruses providing something that is beneficial and therefore, according to creationist dogma, must have been provided by their god!
  5. Lastly, the examples of where ancient ERVs have mutated and provided some additional ability or function, such as enabling the formation of the myeline sheath in vertebrates, can't be regarded as detrimental mutations, yet creationist dogma, courtesy of the hapless Micheal J. Behe, is that all mutations are 'devolutionary'[sic].

How Science Works - Correcting Earlier Mistakes With Modern Technology

Latest News and Views from University College Cork (Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh)

There are few things that creationist like more than reports of 'soft' tissues being found in ancient fossils, because they imagine this 'proves' the fossils are much younger than palaeontologists claim, and places them well within the 10,000 years they believe Earth has existed for. It's nonsense, of course, because fossilised 'soft' tissues are not the same as actual soft tissues since, under the right circumstances, there is nothing to prevent soft tissue being mineralised by the same processes that hard tissues are mineralised. The results are not soft; they are hard, mineralised fossils. The term 'soft tissue' simply relates to what they started out as, not what they ended up as.

That point is probably too subtle for most creationists to appreciate.

Given the propensity of creationist frauds to misrepresent the science to their dupes, it's perhaps surprising that they don't wave the fossil of Tridentinosaurus antiquus. as 'proof' of a young Earth because it was believed to have its skin preserved and was thought by some to be an example of the rare preservation of soft tissue in a fossil.

However, a paper in Palaeontology a few days ago, not only destroys that notion, but shows how the scientific method eventually corrects mistakes and even deliberate hoaxes, in much the same way that the scientific method eventually exposed the Piltdown hoax as a forgery.

This paper shows that what was interpreted as fossilised skin was actually black paint. Whether this was a deliberate attempt to mislead or simply an attempt to make the fossil stand out from the surrounding rock matrix in which it is embedded may never be known, but one thing of which we can be sure, is that it isn't fossilised skin, so there is no mystery for science too explain.

The fossil is embedded in volcanic rock, so the 'mystery' was how the skin survived the high temperatures involved in the production of the rock, and various theories were proposed for this, including the lizard-like reptile sheltering in a crack in the rock.

How the 'forgery' was exposed is the subject of the paper in Paleontology and a news release from the University of Cork, Ireland:

Monday 19 February 2024

Old Dead Gods - With Long Forgotten Religions - And No Way To Recover Them

Joint interment of a dog and a human perinate.

Photo by S.R.Thompson, courtesy of SABAP-VR Soprintendenza archeologia, belle arti e paesaggio per le province di Verona, Rovigo e Vicenza.

Laffranchi Z, Zingale S, Tecchiati U, Amato A, Coia V, Paladin A, et al. (2024)
Some Pre-Roman humans were buried with dogs, horses and other animals | ScienceDaily

I've made the point several time before, but another paper published recently, reinforces it again, that when old gods are forgotten and old religions die, there is nothing on which they can be reconstructed because religions are never founded in verifiable evidence.

Unlike religion, science, which is a description of reality, could be rediscovered if it, or a major branch of it, was somehow wiped from our collective memories and all text books on the subject were wiped clean. And the rediscovered science would be the same as it is today. Atoms would have the same structure and properties, chemistry would do what we know it does today; physics would have the same explanations for the different colours of light, for the way energy is conserved; entropy and the laws of thermodynamics would be the same; and the description of the universe, together with the Big Bang, how suns form and how planets form around them, would be the same.

In fact, we can be as sure as eggs is eggs, that if ever we contact intelligent life from another planet, their science will be the same as ours, although they'll use different words to describe it and their numbering system may well have a different base.

But, expunge every trace of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hindi, Shintoism, etc., and erase everyone’s memory of them, and we would never again know what the followers believed or what they believe their god(s) did or didn't do. We would know no more about the major religions of today than we know about the ancient religions before writing was invented. We have not the slightest idea what inspired the builders of Stonehenge and Silbury Hill in Wiltshire; we don't have a clue what the people who built the oldest existing roofed building in Europe, in Menorca in the Balearic Islands believed or what the Minoans of Crete believed, or even the names of their gods, and, unless someone decodes the language the Minoans wrote, we never will. We only know anything about the Egyptian and Sumerian pantheons because someone learned to read their writing.

And we know nothing about the gods and religion of the people who buried horses and dogs with their dead in Late Iron Age, Northern Italy - the subject of a recent paper in PLOS ONE.

In information from PLoS, cited in Science Daily, the authors explain their findings:

Saturday 17 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - Now It's Evidence In Spain From 6,200 Years Ago That Survived Creationism's Favourite Genocide

Stratigraphic units (SU) from which P. lineatus shells analysed in this investigation were recovered: SU 1406 (C), SU 1704 (D), SU 705 (E) and SU 1516 (F)

Neolithic groups from the south of the Iberian Peninsula first settled in San Fernando (Cadiz) 6,200 years ago - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona - UAB Barcelona

Another terrible week for creationism is coming to an end with news that archaeologist from the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona (UAB) and the University of Càdiz, together with colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA), Leipzig, Germany, have uncovered evidence that Neolithic groups from the south of the Iberian Peninsula first settled in San Fernando (Càdiz) 6,200 years ago and supplemented their diet with shellfish.

This news comes on top of the news that the remnants of a stone plaza in Peru and the body of the victim of a sacrificial bog burial in Denmark, that could not have survived creationism's mythical global genocidal flood if it had really happened as described in the Bible, had also been revealed by archaeologists.

The discovery, and details of how the date was calculated is the subject of an open access paper in the journal Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences and the subject of a UAB new release:

Creationism in Crisis - A 4750-Year-Old Stone Plaza in Peru That Survived Creationists' Favourite Genocide

Callacpuma archaeological site, Peru
UW Anthropologists’ Research Unveils Early Stone Plaza in the Andes

Imagine for a moment that you're dating someone who told you they were 30 years old, then you discover a photograph of them as a teenager, in a newspaper dated 1984. Would you conclude that someone had been lying to you and your date was really about 55 years old, or would you assume the photograph had been faked or the newspaper had the wrong date?

Imagine now being a creationist who believed Earth was devastated by a global flood that covered the highest mountains, about 4000 years ago, which would have scoured the Earth and destroyed everything on it, then someone shows you the remains of a building in Peru that had been there for 4750 years, and showed no signs of ever being submerged in even a few feet of water, let along several thousand feet of it!

If you're a creationist, you dismiss the evidence or assume the dates are wrong or that somehow the inevitable layer of silt had been cleaned up, even if the building had managed to escape the destruction going on around it, because, if you're a creationist, the last thing you can admit to is that your beliefs could be wrong because that would make you feel less important that you think you should be, so you're prepared to perform any mental contortions necessary to avoid that thought.

And this is why belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible has been in headlong decline ever since science began providing evidence of an old Earth and evidence that there never was a global genocidal flood just a few thousand years ago, because people with intellectual integrity who value truth and have the humility to let the evidence lead their opinions, even if it leaves them feeling less important than they think they should be, have realised that the evidence tells them that the Bible is wrong, despite their mummy and daddy believing otherwise.

And of course, just such remains of a building have been found in Peru by two University of Wyoming anthropology professors, and dated to about 4750 BP. It is the remains of a stone plaza and is the oldest stone structure so far found in the Americas, being older even than the Egyptian pyramids and about the same age as Stone Henge (both of which, incidentally, also survived the alleged genocidal flood).
How they did it is explained in a University of Wyoming news release:

Friday 16 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - How The Fossil Record Provides Evidence For Evolution - No Magic Needed

Desert sand dune landscape of the Upper Cretaceous Djadokhta/Baruungoyot Formations. Foreground: the large-bodied monstersaurian lizard Estesia mongoliensis predating on the enantiornithine bird Gobipteryx minuta.

Illustration by Nathan Dehaut
A Lighthouse in the Gobi Desert | Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County

We are regularly told by creationists who have either been fooled by a lie, or are trying to fool us with one, that biomedical scientists are increasingly rejecting the Theory of Evolution and replacing it with the notion of intelligent design.

This was, of course, the aim of the Discovery Institute's 26-year-old, 5-year[sic] strategy detailed in The Wedge to insert Bible literalism into mainstream science, apparently believing that for the first time in the history of science, a well-established scientific theory is going to be replaced by a an evidence-free superstition based on misrepresentation of the data and including unproven supernatural entities doing magic.

Intelligent design creationism, of course, doesn't meet the basic criteria to be called a science, which is why any scrutiny of the relevant scientific literature will find no hint that the TOE is inadequate for explaining the data or that magic explains it in a more scientifically satisfying way. Indeed, as I repeatedly show in these blog-posts, virtually every piece of scientific research casually refutes creationism by revealing the evidence and not a single peer-reviewed biomedical science paper ever concludes that intelligent design is the only way to explain the observations.

As Michael J Behe was forced to admit in the Kitzmiller case, "There are no peer-reviewed article by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred". And that situation has not changed since Behe effectively sank the Wedge Strategy with that grudging admission under oath in an American court. Instead, we find papers like this technical one in which a team of researchers led by Dr. Hank Woolley, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Dinosaur Institute, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, discuss and evaluate the degree to which exceptional collections of fossils, such as those found in the Gobi Desert of Central Asia can influence our understanding of evolutionary relationships between fossil groups - what they term the lagerstätten effect .

The team have explained their research in a news release from the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County:

Creationism in Crisis - What Creationist Frauds Will Never Tell You - Vittrup Man's Body Could Not Have Survived a Global Genocidal Flood

The life of a Stone Age man has been mapped | University of Gothenburg

There are two things about a global flood deep enough to cover the highest mountains, just about 4,000 years ago, that would have been inevitable.

The first is that the whole surface of Earth would have been scoured and all trace of prior human and animal existence would have been destroyed along with any soil or alluvial deposits which would have been suspended in the water to fall out later or be left behind as silt. For example, no bog burial would have survived because no bogs would have survived.

The second is that the bare rocks would then have been left with a layer of silt which settled out, complete with the remains of all the animals and plants destroyed in the flood. Those remains, moreover would not just be from the local area, but would have had a world-wide distribution prior to the flood, so bodies of animal and plants from the Americas would have been jumbled up with those from Africa, Asia and Australia, etc. and they would all have been mixed with the remains of sea creature that would have inevitably been killed to. In fact, on that point, the Bible is quite specific that all living matter outside the Ark was destroyed.

But that's simply not what we see, ever!

Nowhere on the surface of the planet is there such a layer and yet its existence is a certain prediction of the legendary global genocidal flood.

Thursday 15 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - The Inner Ear Of A 6 Million-Year-Old Hominoid Fossil Gives A Clue To The Evolution Of Bipedalism In Humans

How Did Humans Learn to Walk? New Evolutionary Study Offers an Earful

To walk upright successfully needs a fully functioning balance organ in the inner ear, as anyone suffering from Ménière's disease will testify, so the study of the origins of bipedalism in the remote ancestors of humans needs to take into account changes in the inner ear that would facilitate it.

Humans and our closest relatives, the great apes and the simians, display a range of locomotion but only humans are normally fully bipedal, although chimpanzees can use bipedal locomotion when carrying a load for example.

The monkeys normally run along branches on all fours, balanced on top of them and jumping from branch to branch; the apes hang beneath the branches in locomotion known as brachiation, but humans are ungainly in trees and prefer bipedal locomotion on the ground. The question is, when did this ability evolve in our ancestry?

We can be sure our hominin ancestors the Australopithecines, were fully bipedal because we have a record of their footprints in volcanic ash at Laetoli, and their lower limbs and feet were almost indistinguishable from those of Homo sapiens. 'Lucy' (Au afarensis) was probably mostly bipedal but may have taken to trees for safety and possibly to sleep on constructed platforms like chimpanzees do. The evidence of injuries to her fossilised skeletal remains suggests she may have died by falling out of a tree.

To investigate this stage in our evolution a group of researchers, led by Professor Xijun Ni, which included Yinan Zhang, a doctoral student, both of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IVPP), and Terry Harrison, a New York University anthropologist, used 3-dimensional CT scanning to examine the inner ear of a 6-million-year-old fossil ape, Lufengpithecus, unearthed in China’s Yunnan Province in the early 1980s, and compared it to the inner ear of other living and fossil apes and humans from Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The formation the fossil was found in has been previously dated magnetobiostratigraphically to about 6 million years. This technique depends on the record of periodic changes in Earth's polarity trapped in magnetic particles in sedimentary rocks and by recording the microfossils such as pollen associated with these changes:

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Malevolent Design - Another Arms Race Between A Parasitic Worm And Its Host - Or is It Just Unintelligent Design?

Cane Toad, Rhinella marina
A secret war between cane toads and parasitic lungworms is raging across Australia

The subject of parasitic arms races throws creationists into a bout of cognitive dissonance from which they can only emerge with a hefty dose of double-think and self-deception, telling themselves that it's perfectly logical to hold two diametrically opposite and mutually contradictory views simultaneously, like believing that the term 'circle' describes a spere but the term 'square doesn't describe a cube.

They need to believe that, whilst it is central to their dogma and the belief on which all their god of the gaps and false dichotomy fallacies relies - that there is only one creator god capable of whatever it is they are waving as 'proof' or its existence, and at the same time believing that parasites were created by a different creator, over whom their omnipotent god has no powers and who goes toe to toe with it in parasite-host arms races.

Sadly for creationists, they were denied the argument concerning a second creator by their guru and Deception Institute flunky, Michael J Behe, who used the evolution of parasites like Escherichia coli and Plasmodium falciparum (the malaria parasite) as 'proof that their god is the intelligent designer behind the 'design' of all living things.

So, let's do what Behe unwittingly did and remove the second, evil designer from the equation, and see where it leads.

A case in point is the recently discovered arms race between the Australian cane toads and the lung worm parasite that infests their lungs:

Creationism in Crisis - Hundreds of Fossils From France From 470 Million Years Before 'Creation Week'

New fossil site of worldwide importance uncovered in southern France - UNIL L'ACTU

Artistic reconstruction of the Cabrières Biota.
Credit: Christian McCall (Prehistorica Art).
The news just keeps getting worse for creationism as the relentless scientific refutation of all their sacred dogmas continues unabated.

Today, it's the turn of palaeontologists from the Faculty of Geosciences and Environment at the University of Lausanne (UNIL), Switzerland, who, together with international colleagues, have just announced the discovery of a large collection of exceptionally well preserved fossils in the Lower Ordovician formation at Montagne Noire, in the Hérault department of France. The Lower Ordovician deposits were formed between about 485.4 and 470 million years before creationists believe Earth was magicked out of nothing.
Tell me all about the Lower Ordovician period particularly in the Montagne Noire, in the Hérault department of France, including how its age was determined. The Lower Ordovician period is a significant geological epoch characterized by a diversification of marine life, particularly marine invertebrates such as trilobites, brachiopods, and mollusks. It spans from approximately 485.4 to 470 million years ago. The Lower Ordovician is part of the larger Ordovician period, which is divided into three stages: Tremadocian, Floian, and Dapingian.

Montagne Noire, located in the Hérault department of France, is a region renowned for its Lower Ordovician sedimentary rocks, which provide valuable insights into the Earth's geological history during this period. The geological formations in Montagne Noire contain a wealth of fossils and sedimentary structures that have been studied extensively by geologists and paleontologists.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - Humans Were Making Beads In North America 2,900 Years Before 'Creation Week' - And The Evidence Survived The Legendary Genocidal Flood!

UW Archaeology Professor Discovers Oldest Known Bead in the Americas

The problem with having counter-factual beliefs that are only believed because you want to feel more important than you're afraid you really are, is that you need a vast array of strategies for ignoring the vast amount of evidence that your beliefs are wrong. This is especially important if you live in a technological society where there is free access to that vast amount of evidence and news such as this discovery of what could be the oldest known bead from the western hemisphere, dated to 12,940 years ago.

It was recovered from a site in Wyoming, USA at an archaeological site known as the La Prele Mammoth site:
What information do you have on the La Prele Mammoth site in Wyoming, USA?

Atheism - Eight Things You Probably Didn't Know

8 facts about atheists | Pew Research Center

Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of any god or gods, nothing more and nothing less. This position is based on the self-evidence fac that the only intellectually honest basis for belief is evidence and the equally self-evidence fact that there is not (and cannot be) any definitive evidence for the existence of anything supernatural because, by definition, nothing supernatural can be detected. All there is, is the material universe and anything beyond that has nowhere and no time to exist in and could not interact with or influence events in the material universe, so is indistinguishable from nothing. Belief in anything supernatural is thus a superstition for which there is no supporting evidence.

Atheism is a belief position, not a knowledge claim. Since again the only intellectually honest position is that all knowledge has a degree of uncertainty, atheism is not Agnosticism since Agnosticism allows for the possibility of Atheism being wrong, but any assessment of the probability of the existence of any god must be subjective since there can be no observations to base it on. So, an Agnostic cannot express that probability without it becoming a belief position. As it is, Agnosticism is a pedantic knowledge claim which has no measurable probability of being different to Atheism, in the accuracy of its claim.

Recently, the Pew Research Center published 8 facts about Atheism based on its opinion polling in the USA and elsewhere. Most of them refer to Atheism in the USA, where Atheists make up 4% of U.S. adults, according to their 2023 National Public Opinion Reference Survey. That compares with 3% who described themselves as atheists in 2014 and 2% who did so in 2007.

That figure of 4% for the USA lags someway behind the UK (12%), Netherlands (17%), Sweden (18%), France (23%) and even once staunchly Catholic countries of Spain (10%) and the Republic of Ireland where 14.2% gave Atheist/No religion, as their religion, (if any) in the 1922 census (an increase of 187% since 2011). However, with a great deal of stigma still attached to Atheism in the USA and pressure to conform with regular church attendance, the true figure for Atheism is probably very underestimated and hidden within the large and growing 'Nones, which currently stands at 28% in the USA.

Pew Research Center's eight fact about Atheism are:

Monday 12 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - Now It's Fossils of Air-Breathing Fish From Australia - From 380 Million Years Before 'Creation Week'

A 380-million-year-old predatory fish from Central Australia is finally named after decades of digging

It seems every day brings a new scientific refutation of creationism that the frauds who lead the cult and feed it disinformation need to keep hidden, or at least give the half-baked strategies for ignoring. The scientists are lying; the scientists get their dates wrong; no matter what the evidence shows, God's holy word trumps it; if you weren't there to see it, it probably didn't happen.

Maybe creationists can be satisfied with such obvious logical fallacies and evidence free assertions, but normal people will allow the evidence to lead their opinions, not the misrepresentations and lies of frauds who know nothing of the subject.

And what better evidence that the world wasn't created out of nothing by magic in a few days about 10,000 years ago, than yet more evidence that there were creatures like fish living on Earth 380 million years before creationist mythology says the magic creation happened; creatures like this fossil air-breathing, lobe-finned fish found in Devonian rocks in Central Australia.

And to make matters worse for creationists, this fish was a close relative of one of the lobe-finned fish that evolved into the terrestrial tetrapods from which all terrestrial vertebrates are descended. Taxonomists have now named this fish, Harajicadectes zhumini.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - Social Learning Is Part of Beaked Whale Culture - Just Like Humans

Surprising Behavior in One of the Least Studied Mammals in the World - SDU

Continuing where I left off with the account of how orcas (killer whales) form distinct cultures based on food, hunting strategies, location and dialect, which parallel human cultures in many way, we now have evidence that at least one of the 24 known species of the beaked whales, Baird's beaked whale, form cultural groups, and that another 'human' trait - social learning - is involved in the formation of these cultures.

Creationists, of course, continue to insist that only humans form cultures and have the social ethics that hold them together because they were specially created in a way that makes them materially different to all other animals, and by the circular reason that often typifies creationist arguments, this proves they were specially created by a god who holds them in the highest esteem.

s But as we are learning, almost all the traits creationists try to claim are uniquely human and therefore proof of our special creation, are turning out to be common to many other species, especially mammals, and so are evidence for common ancestry and evolution by descent with modification.

The little-known beaked whale, a relative of orcas and dolphins, has recently been observed changing its habitat and hunting strategy by a process of social learning. This is the same process by which growing children adopt the social norms and customs of their culture and how people from other cultures can assimilate into unfamiliar cultures. Essentially it means observing others and memorizing what they do in any given situation.

This observation was made by researchers from the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) led by Olga Filatova, a whale expert and postdoc at Department of Biology and SDU Climate Cluster. She led the study which showed that some pods of orcas in the Pacific have occupied the same area since the last Ice Age glacial maximum, 20,000 years ago when they occupied warmer refugia and adopted them as permanent territories. The same study showed how orcas form distinct 'ecotypes' which are genetically isolated from other ecotypes by cultural barriers to interbreeding.

For the beaked whale study, the team observed a population of Baird's beaked whales, which has unexpectedly been found near the coast and in shallower waters than previously observed.

Their work has been published, open access, in the journal Animal Behaviour and is explained in a SDU press release by Birgitte Svennevig:

Creationism in Crisis - More Bad News For Creationists - 12 Million-Year-Old Colored Snail Shells

Fossil shell of Pithocerithium rubiginosum (height is 1.5 cm) from the Miocene sediments of Nexing in Austria (left) and isolated reddish polyene pigments on calcium fluoride disc (diameter of disc is 2 cm) (right).
Photo: Klaus Wolkenstein
Information for the Media: Surprisingly vibrant colour of 12-million-year-old snail shells - Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Another terrible week for creationists is continuing today with news that a team of researchers from the University of Göttingen and the Natural History Museum Vienna (NHMW) have shown that the red pigment frequently found associated with the shells of fossilised snails from the Middle Miocene is the pigment that would have been present in the living shells, and not, as had been suggested, the product of later reactions.

This makes these pigments, from the chemical group of polyenes which includes the carotenes that give the colour to the plumage of some birds and to carrots, the oldest known pigments ever discovered. The fossil snails, Pithocerithium rubiginosum, so named from the 'rusty red' pigment they often contain, are from the Middle Miocene deposits in the geologically important Vienna Basin:

Saturday 10 February 2024

Creationism in Crisis - How Killer Whales Were Evolving Cultural Groups - 20,000 Years Before 'Creation Week'

Researchers find 20,000 years old refugium for orcas in the northern Pacific - SDU
The northern Pacific near Japan and Russia is home for several different groups of orcas. They have no contact with each other, do not seek the same food, do not speak the same dialect, and do not mate with each other. Some are the descendants of a pod that moved there during the last Ice Age.

Any study of whales, such as dolphins and they larger cousins, the orca's or killer whales will quickly dispel one of the myths creationists use to try to justify their absurd belief that humans are somehow materially different to the rest of life on Earth in a way which isn't just because we are a variation on the general mammalian theme with enough distance between us and related species to justify a separate taxon, because we were specially created - humans form cultures and have languages and traditions, etc.

Of course, it's not just the whales that have cultures and languages; chimpanzees and bonobos and other primates also have distinct cultural groups that differ significantly from one another, but this article deals specifically with orcas and the research which has shown that they moved into Ice Age refugia at the last glacial maximum, some 20,000 years ago, and some have slayed there ever since.

The article also illustrates a problem of modern taxonomy in how to define a species with hard and fast rules when the distinction in reality is fuzzy. Some of the pods studied form isolated cultural groups that seek different foods to the others, which speak a different dialect, move in a specific area, and never interbreed. This cultural barrier to hybridization is as much a barrier as is the different plumage and mating rituals that are the pre-zygotic barriers to interbreeding that justify classifying many related birds as distinct species because the barriers ensure an isolated gene pool in species that could successfully interbreed and do so in captivity. Killer whales exist in many pods with cultural barriers to interbreeding and so form isolated gene pools, yet they are regarded as a single species.

To overcome this problem, biologists have classified the different killer whale pods into 'ecotype', but it is this genetic isolation that enables genetic analysis to determine how long the pod has been isolated.

A research team led by whale biologist, Olga Filatova, of the University of Southern Denmark recently published an open access paper in the journal Marine Mammal Science showing how environmentally stable marine regions may have preserved refugial populations of the killer whale that retained historical genetic and cultural diversity. These whales are believed to have moved into the warmer refugia during the last Ice Age.

The team's work is explained in a University of Southern Demark (SDU) press release by Birgitte Svennevig:

Trust in The Clergy Falls To An All-Time Low in USA

Ethics Ratings of Nearly All Professions Down in U.S.

According to the latest Gallup Poll, trust in the ethical standards of almost all identified professional groups in the USA has declined in the four years up to 2023 with trust in the clergy reaching an all-time low at 32 percent of those polled rating their trust in them as very high or high. The clergy now rank alongside chiropractors and psychiatrists in the public perception of their ethical trustworthiness.

All the 5 major professions in the USA fell steadily between 1976 when polling began but the profession which fell furthest and fastest was that of clergy. in 1977, 61 percent of adult Americans polled, gave their trust in clergy as very high or high; this has now fallen to 32 percent, a 29 percentage points decline to almost half what it was in 1977.

And this downward trend has accelerated since 2012, declining by an average of slightly over 1.8 percentage points per year, against an average of just over 0.38 percentage points between 1977 and 2012. This represents about a four-fold increase in the rate of decline which, projected forward, if this rate continues, no-one in America will rate the ethical trustworthiness of clergy as very high or high by mid-2032.

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