F Rosa Rubicondior: 2012

Sunday 30 December 2012

Birth of a Myth - Mary The Virgin

James the Just, 'brother of Jesus'
Here is an interesting Judeo-Christian sect from the first century CE. Interesting that is not so much because of what they believed in general but because of what they believed in one particular. For people who want to believe that the modern Christian Bible was all written or inspired by the Christian god and so is the gospel truth, this sect represents a major problem.

The sect is the Ebionites whose name is believed to derive from the Hebrew word 'Ebyonim' ('the poor', 'poor ones') reflecting their ascetic life-style, having obeyed Jesus and given all their possessions away. Some scholars think they may have been one and the same as the 'Nazarenes', also an early Judeo-Christian sect.

The basic belief of the Ebionites was that the Laws of Moses, traditionally believed to have been handed down by Yahweh to Moses in Sinai, were sacrosanct and that Jesus was the Messiah, so anyone who wanted to follow Jesus had to be Jewish and had to follow Jewish laws and rites (and so must be circumcised - I wonder who else can see the misogyny there). In fact, the Ebionites are believed to have been amongst the earliest followers of the 'new' sect of Jesus, of which James the Just (= 'James the brother of Jesus') and Peter (Simon "The Rock" Peter), both early church fathers in Jerusalem. The sect is thought to have arisen around the time of the destruction of the Temple in about 70 CE.

Saturday 29 December 2012

As Read In The Vatican

Closet Atheists can be hiding just about everywhere!

Just imaging being Pope and suddenly realising it's all been a lie. What would you do? Give up all that wealth, adulation and power, and the servants who come with the post, or would you be honest to yourself and to everyone else?

The Catholic Church had survived schisms, multiple papacies, corrupt gangsters, debauched gluttons and thieves, violent psychopaths, murderers and even (allegedly) a female imposter Pope, but could it survive an honest Atheist Pope, or would world-wide Catholicism shatter and crumble if an honest Pope told the world that he had come to realise that the 'faith' was founded on lies and that Jesus was just a myth based on Bronze-age superstitions and stories concocted for political purposes.

Or is an honest Pope just a dream too far?

[Update] A couple of weeks after I posted this, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, citing, amongst other things, "hard questions of faith". I'm sure it must have been a coincidence...

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Thursday 27 December 2012

Was Jesus Against Capitalism?

Casting out the money changers, Giotto di Bondone, 14th C.
Cappella Scrovegni, Padua, Italy.
What on earth was Jesus up to when he used violence against the money changers and traders in the Temple? What was it that made him lose his temper so publicly and so spectacularly?

All four of the canonical gospels have stories about Jesus 'cleansing' the Temple so we can be sure the tale appears in the earlier sources which Bible scholars assume to pre-date the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - the so-called 'Q' and 'M' sources - so the story might well relates to something that really did happen involving Jesus or someone else upon whom the myths are partly based, and is not something which the authors inserted to serve their own political ends, as so often seems to be the case, especially where the tales differ markedly, as in the nativity, the resurrection and Jesus's ancestry.
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.

And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.
First a little background:

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Münchausen Ministers?

Are religious clerics suffering from a form of Münchausen syndrome by proxy? This question is not as strange as it may seem.

Firstly, the parallels between the Abrahamic god of the Jews, Muslims and Christians and the personality disorder known as Münchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP) are really quite striking.

The god of the Bible, according to its followers, created humans then immediately rigged a 'sin' by putting temptation in their way before letting them have the ability to tell right from wrong, which anyone with the IQ above that of a plank could have worked out was going to result in them yielding to temptation and so falling into their putative creator's trap. Muslims believe Satan tempts us to disobey Allah and, although Allah is infinitely merciful, he won't forgive you unless you are strictly obedient and submissive. Although Muslims say we aren't born with 'sin' like Christians and Jews claim we are, nevertheless we have a character flaw which makes us tend to yield to 'temptation'. If someone can split that hair for me, I'd be grateful.

So, having metaphorically harmed those in its care, the Abrahamic god then poses as the hero by 'saving' them from the consequences of this deception and demands love and adoration, and above all, attention and praise, for being such a loving, hunky super-hero.

This situation is an exact analogue of someone cutting you so they can sell you a bandage.

MSP is a variant of Münchausen syndrome in which the sufferer feigns illness as a form of attention-seeking behaviour.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a form of child abuse in which a parent induces real or apparent symptoms of a disease in a child.

This syndrome almost always involves a mother abusing her child by seeking unneeded medical attention for the child. It is rare and poorly understood. The cause is unknown.

The mother may fake symptoms of illness in her child by adding blood to the child's urine or stool, withholding food, falsifying fevers, secretly giving the child drugs to make the child throw up or have diarrhea, or using other tricks, such as infecting intravenous (given through a vein) lines to make the child appear or become ill.

These children are often hospitalized with groups of symptoms that don't quite fit any known disease. Frequently, the children are made to suffer through unnecessary tests, surgeries, or other uncomfortable procedures.

The parent is usually very helpful in the hospital setting and is often appreciated by the nursing staff for the care she gives her child. She is often seen as devoted and self-sacrificing, which can make medical professionals unlikely to suspect the diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

Her frequent visits unfortunately also make the child accessible to her so that she can induce further symptoms. Changes in the child's condition are almost never witnessed by hospital staff and almost always occur only in the mother's presence.

Munchausen syndrome occurs because of psychological problems in the adult, and is generally an attention-seeking behavior. The syndrome can be life-threatening for the child involved.

In one such case in England a low-grade nurse killed 4 children, attempted to kill three others and seriously injured a further six children over a period of 59 days. She is currently serving thirteen life sentences in a secure psychiatric unit.

The term MSP is normally confined to the medical and related manifestations of the syndrome but in its broader application, it could equally apply to anyone who creates a problem in order to 'solve' it, especially by heroic efforts, such as a fire-fighter who starts fires.

How often do we hear gods being praised for saving the odd victim of a hurricane, flood, earthquake or volcano by those who also give it the 'credit' for causing the disaster in the first place? What would this be if not Münchausen By Proxy if done by a person other than a god?

The similarity between the actions of a person suffering from MSP and the Abrahamic god in causing us harm so that it can demand love and adoration for 'saving' us, is too close to be a coincidence. But whatever would induce this god's advocates to present it as having a potentially dangerous personality disorder?

The answer is probably to be found in yet another parallel, by considering answers to three simple questions:
  1. Who exactly tells us that we have the problem which needs to be solved?
  2. Who exactly offers us the solution for this problem?
  3. Who wants us to believe we need their help (and so admire them for their skill and humanity)?
The answer to all three questions is the same: the priesthood of course.

The priesthood tells everyone that that we have a problem which needs urgent attention. The priesthood are the heroes who shoulder the burden of solving the problem and the priesthood expect to be admired for their skill and humanity in having dedicated themselves to caring for us. This is especially true in rigidly hierarchical Catholicism where the priests are the only people with the self-proclaimed power to 'cure' us with absolution.

In reality, of course, there is no problem other than one of their own invention. That sounds a lot like Münchausen syndrome by proxy to me.

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Sunday 23 December 2012

Cam And Jerusalem

The Plough Inn,
Cadsden, Buckinghamshire
Followers of UK politics may remember the fuss when our upper crust Tory Prime Minister, David "Call Me Dave" Cameron announced that Britain was a Christian country, and so alienated even more people from his euphemistically, but accurately, named 'Nasty Party'. However, browsing the Christian Bible the other day, I came across a tale from Jesus' boyhood and was struck by the er... striking... similarity between the 'Holy Family' and Jesus' own putative parents.

To recap the events of last June: Samantha and 'Dave' Cameron, were staying at Chequers, the country home of our PM, when, along with their normal train of Special Branch and Diplomatic Protection Squad officers and a coterie of friends and assorted offspring, they descended on the Plough Inn in the near-by village of Cadsden for Sunday Service on the Sabbath, i.e, Sunday lunch. I can testify to the excellence of this little hostelry myself, having partaken of Sunday Service there several times, before the neighbourhood took a turn for the worse.

Joseph and Mary Cameron
On arriving back at Chequers and doing a head count they realised they were a sprog light, having left their unfortunate eight-year-old daughter Nancy in the bar.

To quote a Plough Inn 'insider':
"Pub staff found their daughter in the toilet and didn't know what to do... It's frightening the prime minister of Britain can forget something so important as his own daughter."
Well quite!

This story really chimed with us Brits whose perception of the upper classes is that they are cold and heartless people, only too keen to be rid of their children, entrusting them to nannies and packing them off to boarding schools as soon as they can - which in turn breeds another generation of unloved and unlovely people who see compassion as a weakness to be exploited in others and who populate the ranks of the Nasty Party, eager to show the lower orders just who's in charge around here.

The Temple,
Jerusalem, Judea
So what has this to do with the Bible and with Britain being a Christian country?

It seems 'Dave' and Samantha are not the only parents to mislay a child. Mary and Joseph were prone to it too.
Now his [Jesus'] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.

And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
So, the Camerons are not the first upper-crust family to lose count of their offspring and leave one behind. Luckily, it wasn't a whole day before they missed Nancy and it didn't take three days to find her, nor was she unfortunate enough to have been found by priests or Heaven knows what might have happened.

Maybe Mary and Joseph just didn't have any body guards.

I do hope for young Jesus sake that this was merely an unfortunate coincidence and doesn't speak of a closer parallel between the two blessed families, but it could explain Jesus' general contempt for parents expressed in:
And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
I know the Tories like to imagine they have a close personal relationship with God, who frequently seeks their advice, and 'Dave' has just appointed an old school chum to head their church, but perhaps the Camerons are closer to being a Christian family than they think.


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Saturday 22 December 2012

Believing In Belief

From what we read on Twitter and other social media like Reddit, it's only too obvious that most theists, especially Muslims and Christian, don't really believe what they claim to believe but actually believe in other people believing.

I accept that this is not a scientific sample and that they rarely appear to be very bright but it's also obvious that they don't believe in any god that resembles the one they purport to believe in as this random sample of Twitter tweets shows.

On the left is just a small sample of their contribution to rational debate.

The logic in the first cluster appears to be, "If I shout abuse and obscenities that will teach Atheists a lesson and then they'll believe in Allah and start doing what I tell them. Of course I don't need to behave decently or in a civilised manner because I know there isn't really a god watching me who will punish me for my wrong-doings, but it's important for people to think there is or they won't do what I say". The intent is clearly to use a god as a weapon.

Friday 21 December 2012

Was Jesus Just Another Doomsday Nutter?

It's ironic that many Christians will be chortling about the failure of the Mayan "End Of The World" prophesy today when the evidence suggests the putative founder of their religion, if he existed at all, may have been just another in a long tradition of failed doomsday apocalyptic "prophets" himself, or maybe an amalgam of several different ones all given the later name 'Jesus'.

It's long been accepted by Bible scholars and historians that the earliest of the so-called 'Gospels' later incorporated into the Christian Bible was that attributed to 'Mark', a legendary companion of Paul of Tarsus. However, the so-called 'synoptic' Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all appear to draw on an earlier, now lost, source - called 'Q' which may have been a collection of sayings of the, by then, legendary Jesus. So 'Q' is probably the earliest written account of Jesus and so likely to be closer to what was actually being talked about at that time.

One of the reasons why Jesus's immediate circle never actually wrote anything down probably include the fact that they thought the end of the world was close, so there was not going to be any posterity to preserve anything for. Another reason of course could have been that, if they actually existed at all, they were probably illiterate - the normal state of ordinary people in those days.

So what evidence is there in 'Mark' that Jesus was a doomsday merchant?

Firstly, right after the curious account of John baptising Jesus, which, given the tradition that the more righteous one baptises the less righteous one and that baptism cleanses sin, tells us that in the earlier tradition, Jesus was a mere human 'prophet', not a manifestation of the Jewish god.

Then we find:

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Mark 1:14-15

So right off, Mark makes a link between the executed John and Jesus with Jesus taking up the reins as apocalyptic prophet in chief. He maintains this link with the tale about Herod:

And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.

Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.

For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.

Mark 6:14-18

The author of Mark is in no doubt that he is writing about someone who is prophesying the imminent Day of Judgement. At the end of Chapter 8 we have:

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Mark 8:38

Followed immediate in Chapter 9 by:

And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Mark 9:1

Strange how Jesus is talking in the third person about the 'Son of Man' - when he comes in the glory of his Father.... Some might think that Jesus isn't talking about himself here, especially when he is clearly the object of the first clause of that sentence - ...me and my words...

To find out who this 'Son of Man' is we need to delve into the Old Testament, to Daniel in fact:

Thursday 20 December 2012

If God Was Real You Wouldn't Need Prayer.

Praying Hands, Albrecht Dürer c.1508
Nine months ago I asked what the purpose of prayer was. I have been repeatedly inviting answers on Twitter ever since. So far, I have had not a single answer.

This is not a scientific study but one would have expected at least one Christian or Muslim who believes in prayer to be able to say what it's for and what it does.

Of course, there are explanations for why religious people meet up for prayers to be found in psychology. Maslow's 'Heirarchy of Needs' explains it in terms of social or affiliative needs, etc., and Skinner's experiments with operant conditioning with pigeons showed how they become 'religious' and develop rituals when a rewarded is randomly associated with behaviour, so it's not hard to see the attraction of gathering together to pray.

There is also a psychological explanation for private prayer. It's one of Maslow's needs of course - the need for the esteem of others; an affiliative need again. The same reason some lonely children have imaginary friends. Someone to talk to (or rather to talk at, because there is never any reply) as a way of understanding something. Putting it into words often makes it more understandable because you have to analyse the problem in order to explain it. People have reported similar help from talking to a computer program.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Oh Creation! Scientists Find 'Habitable' Planet

Creationists! Have you started work on your excuses for when science finds evidence of life on other planets yet? Maybe now would be a good time to start because there was something you might find interesting in the Independent today:
Scientists find 'habitable' Tau Ceti planet.

Scientists have discovered a ‘habitable’ planet that orbits a sun visible to the naked eye. The world is just 12 light years away, is between two and six times bigger than the earth, and is thought to be circling Tau Ceti, a star almost identical to our sun.

The planet is one of five orbiting Tau Ceti, and lies within the star's habitable zone. It is thought to have five times the Earth's mass. Also known as the “Goldilocks zone”, the habitable zone is the orbital region that is neither too hot nor too cold to allow liquid surface water and, potentially, life.

Details of the discovery are to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Because of the difficulties involved in detecting extra-solar planets, most found so far have had high masses. The Tau Ceti planetary family is thought to be the lowest mass solar system yet detected. Read more...
Of course, merely being in the 'Goldilocks zone' is a far cry from this planet actually being suitable for the evolution of living organisms but it shows that planets developing in this zone with respect to their suns is by no means unusual. This one was found, on a cosmological scale, in our back yard and orbiting a star which was thought to be an unlikely candidate for a planetary system.

But how will the world's major religions of Christianity and Islam react if we ever find evidence of life having arisen and evolved on another planet in another solar system?

For one thing it will put paid to any notion that somehow the formation of the first replicators is so unlikely as to be practically impossible, and so, even if the rest of evolution is accepted, some form of intelligence must have been involved. In fact it will show that it's not only possible but has happened at least twice, and in this small area of a vast Universe.

But of course, the entire basis of both Islam and Christianity is that a god created an entire Universe for somewhere to create this one special planet for humans so they could worship and obey him. What on earth will they make of it if they find there are other sentient beings living in a different part of the universe? Will their god have created them as something else to worship and obey him? Even if there are no sentient beings who could worship a creator, how will creationists explain them when, according to the Bible, a god created animals on earth for humans. What will it have created them on other planets for?

And how will Creationists explain away the self-evident fact that, once life gets going on another planet, it leads to diversification which will inevitably be different to the way it diversified on earth but in ways which are entirely amenable to reason given the principles of Darwinian Evolution in a different environment with a different history?

There are a couple of verses in the Bible that always embarrass Bible literalists:
And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

What's embarrassing is that somehow, in the 'Land of Nod', Cain managed to find a wife. Where did she come from? Was there another creation in a neighbouring valley; a creation which the author of Genesis forgot to record? And did these people also 'fall from grace' in another Garden of Eden and need to be saved? Did this happen a lot in those days?

With a distance of only 3.7 pc, HD 10700 [Tau Ceti] is the third closest star reported to be a host to a putative planetary system after Epsilon Eridani (Hatzes et al., 2000) with a distance of 3.2 pc and α Centauri B (Dumusque et al., 2012) with a distance of 1.3 pc, though both of these remain to be confirmed and Zechmeister et al. (2005) have cast considerable doubt on the existence of a planet around Epsilon Eridani. This makes HD 10700 an ideal target for future direct-imaging missions. The signals we find, which suggest the presence of low-mass planets, are consistent with both current theoretical models for low-mass planet formation and extant observational evidence for the presence of low-mass planets in the immediate Solar neighbourhood.

How much more embarrassing is it going to be to explain yet another creation, this time not just in a nearby valley but in a different part of the galaxy? How will it affect the 'special and personal relationship' they like to imagine they have with the creator of the universe who naturally created it all for them?

Imagine having to re-write Genesis in view of the fact that this supposed creator god had created not just one planet with a dome over it from which two lamps hang, but billions of them, each with a lamp or two hanging from their own domes.

Will they each have had an Adam and Eve, talking snake, original sin and a flood, or will the creator have arranged things differently there? Will there have even been sin and a need to be 'saved' by the grotesquely barbaric act of nailing someone to a cross, or will people on other planets have eternal life and freedom from pain and misery with no need to look forward to going to Heaven?

Or will the creator have rigged things there too, so the people have to turn to a priesthood to be told how to be made safe from a bogeyman in the sky and a future of unimaginable horror for eternity?

There will be a need to re-write Genesis, though undoubtedly there will be forlorn Creationists, religious apologists and others whose livelihood depends on people believing these old Bronze Age myths, who will make increasingly desperate attempts not to have to, or to construct some laughable reinterpretation of it to make it look like multiple creations are really what it's all about after all.

But the simplest and most dignified recourse will be to bin the whole thing and consign it to the dustbin of history with other primitive myths, where it is long overdue. One wonders if they will ever find the self respect and dignity to accept reality, do the sensible thing and look for an honest way to earn a living.


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Tuesday 18 December 2012

Something Nasty For Creationists

Here's a nice (or rather nasty) example of evolution. You probably know someone who has been involved with it recently. If not, the chances are you will soon. It's a nasty little example of a seemingly pointless parasite which, if there was an intelligent designer, would be evidence of its malevolent intent. Not even the defence of callous indifference can be offered. It does nothing but make us feel unwell and inconvenience us in rather alarming and embarrassing ways, striking often with little prior warning.

I'm talking about norovirus, also called the winter vomiting virus because it tends to be prevalent in winter.

The name 'norovirus' is derived from Norwalk virus. It is thought to be responsible for 50% of foodborne gastroenteritis in the USA. Between 600,000 and 1 million people in the UK catch norovirus every year.

The virus, which is highly contagious, causes vomiting and diarrhoea. As there is no specific cure, you have to let it run its course, but it should not last more than a couple of days. If you get norovirus, make sure you drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and practise good hygiene to help prevent it from spreading.

Symptoms especially include forceful vomiting and watery diarrhoea. They may also include general malaise, headache, raised temperature and aching limbs. Although unpleasant, most people recover completely within two or three days. Hospitalisation is rarely necessary and deaths are very rare.
Noroviruses are a genetically diverse group of single-stranded RNA, non enveloped viruses in the Caliciviridae family. The viruses are transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water, by person-to-person contact, via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces.
Norovirus 'Family Tree'
Normally, humans and other animals become resistant to infections, especially to viral infections, by making anti-bodies which attack and destroy subsequent infections before they can gain hold. However, norovirus very rapidly mutates and changes so that anti-bodies formed against one strain are ineffective against other strains. The virus is able to evolve in response to changes in its environment (i.e your intestines). Because of this rapid evolution norovirus exists in a bewildering array of different genotypes and strains. The prevalent genotype in humans (GII) has some nineteen different strains alone.
Reports have shown a link between the expression of human histo-blood group antigens (HBGAs) and the susceptibility to norovirus infection. Studies have suggested the viral capsid of noroviruses may have evolved from selective pressure of human HBGAs.[1]
Studies have shown how the RNA from different strains and even different genotypes frequently recombine to produce new forms.
Histo-blood group ABO(H) antigens with a terminal fucose act as receptors for human norovirus in the gastrointestinal tract. A single nucleotide mutation (G428A) in the fucosyltransferase gene on chromosome 19 provides strong protection from infection in 20% of the white population,[2] although some norovirus genotypes can infect persons carrying this mutation.

So, there we have a superb example of two organisms in an evolutionary spiral: a parasitic virus and its host, in this case, us. The virus has evolved a strategy for... well... evolving quickly to overcome its host's defences, which places a huge selection pressure on the virus so it's adaptation has had to be profound. However, because the parasite doesn't cause much harm in terms of our ability to survive and reproduce, adaptation in us has been quite small. In fact, there is some indication that some otherwise harmless mutations in a protein in the human intestine makes the carriers slightly more susceptible to norovirus infection. But, twenty percent of some human populations have a mutation which gives them complete protection from most, though not all, strains.

There is no specific treatment for norovirus.

It's best to let the illness run its course and your body usually fights off the infection within a couple of days. You don't need to see a doctor.

It is important to have plenty to drink and, if you feel the need, paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.

Try to eat foods that are easy to digest, such as soup, rice, pasta and bread. Babies should continue with their normal feeds.

To reduce the risk of passing the virus on to others, wash your hands regularly and stay at home until you are clear of symptoms for 48 hours.
So why only twenty percent? Why hasn't this beneficial, protective mutation spread throughout the human gene-pool the way beneficial genes are expected to do, according to Darwinian evolutionary theory? And why haven't the mutations making us more susceptible been eliminated?

Quite simply because a nasty bout of D&V for a day or two doesn't put any significant evolutionary selection pressure on us because it doesn't affect our ability to have and nurture children to any appreciable extent. To the virus though, its very survival depends on it. It uses us to spray itself around, literally.

But imagine what would happen if a chance mutation turned a strain of norovirus into a virulent killer. How would those twenty percent of immune people fare and what would the proportion of people carrying the protective mutation be once the lethal epidemic had blown its course? Who are going to be the ones to survive and produce the next generation of humans?

That folks, is evolution!

It really IS that simple, and we can see it in progress right now. Fortunately, it's the virus, or rather the RNA it's a carrier for, which is having to evolve like crazy to stay alive.

What is the norovirus for exactly? The norovirus exists simply because it exists. It has no purpose and no function other than producing noroviruses and so perpetuating a strand of RNA through time. Its prevalence throughout the world testifies to its outstanding success in that endeavour. It outnumbers the human population of earth probably by several orders of magnitude. If the norovirus could have a point of view it would see the universe, and its hosts, including us, as being there for its convenience with no function other than helping it to make more copies of its RNA.

If it were intelligent enough to think, though not intelligent to think well enough, and it believed in a creator god, it would undoubtedly believe its god created the world including us, for its benefit. If argued purely on numbers it could well be challenged in that belief by other viruses, bacteria, fungi and some other single-celled eukaryote organisms, and possibly some nematode worms, but no mammal, including man, would come anywhere close to these numbers.

In terms of intelligent design and especially intelligent design by a benevolent designer who created everything for the benefit of humans, noroviruses make no sense at all, unless the 'intelligent designer' enjoys seeing humans gushing noxious liquids from both ends and feeling rather dreadful for a few days.

Darwinian Evolution, on the other hand, positively predicts them, without resorting to magic and infinitely multiplying magic entities.

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Sunday 16 December 2012

Which Genealogy Of Jesus?

If you're trying to convince yourself that the Christian Bible is somehow the infallible word of God, Matthew (once again) and Luke bowl you a curve ball with their attempts to construct a genealogy for Jesus. It is quite simply impossible to reconcile the two different versions. At least one of them must be wrong. To get past this and still believe the Bible is inerrant, you have no option but to knowingly lie to yourself and pretend two mutually exclusive things are both right - things like people having two different fathers.

So, the next time you come across someone telling you the Bible is the infallible word of an omniscient god, you can be sure of one of two things:
  1. They have lied to themselves and are lying to you.
  2. They haven't read the Bible.

I'll go through the two genealogies in a moment but first, there is the traditional excuse offered up by Christian apologists - that one genealogy is for Joseph and the other for Mary. Unfortunately, the authors of Matthew and Luke have to be ignored to get away with that one.

Rosa's Laws Of Religion.

Rosa's Laws of Theodynamics.

The Zeroth Law of Theodynamics

If two religions are both in equilibrium with a third religion, they will all claim to support freedom of speech and conscience.

First Law of Theodynamics

Gods can be created out of nothing and will disappear without trace.

Second Law of Theodynamics

In an open system, religions tend to disorder and form an ever-increasing number of sects.

Third Law of Theodynamics

Gods disappear completely when the number of believers in them reaches zero.

Rosa's Laws of Theological Relativity.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Inspiring Atheists - Visual Art

The things the godly say:
  • Inspiration comes from religion.
  • Without religion we would not have human culture, particularly the arts such as music and the visual arts.
  • Only God can inspire humans to create beauty and appreciation of it is a spiritual thing, implying a non-material world of pure, beautiful thought.

That's the religious propaganda, as the exponents of superstition lay claim to something else for which they have no entitlement. I have previously shown how some of the western world's top composers were Atheists and yet produced some of the great classics of Western music, often with religious themes.

Here I'll do the same with the visual arts, one of my great passions in life:


Henri Matisse

(31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954)

Henri Matisse, 1913

I don't know whether I believe in God or not. I think, really, I'm some sort of Buddhist. But the essential thing is to put oneself in a frame of mind which is close to that of prayer.

"Henri Matisse"
Matisse is commonly regarded, along with Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, as one of the three artists who helped to define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture.

Woman with a Hat, 1905.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
The Dance (Second Version), 1910
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
The Luxembourg Gardens, 1901
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pablo Picasso

(25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973)

Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth.

Pablo Picasso
One of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century, he is widely known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), and Guernica (1937), a portrayal of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

Child With a Dove, 1901
National Gallery, London, UK
Boy With a Pipe, 1905
Private Collection
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907),
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Guernica, 1937
Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain

Vincent van Gogh

(30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890)

Self-portrait, 1889
Courtauld Institute Galleries, London.

When I have a terrible need of - shall I say the word - religion. Then I go out and paint the stars.

Vincent van Gogh
Dutch post-Impressionist painter whose work, notable for its rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color, had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. After years of painful anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a gunshot wound, generally accepted to be self-inflicted (although no gun was ever found).

A religious zealot in his younger days, working as a missionary amongst poor miners in Belgium, but he questioned and then lost his faith when disgusted by the perceived hypocrisy of his theologian uncle and tutor, Johannes Stricker. He turned instead to art.

The Church in Auvers, 1890
Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Pietà (after Delacroix), 1889
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Starry Night, Saint-Rémy, 1889
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Irises, 1889
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California

Eugène Delacroix

(26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863)

Self Portrait, c.1837
Louvre Museum, Paris

French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school.

If one considered life as a simple loan, one would perhaps be less exacting. We possess actually nothing; everything goes through us.

Eugène Delacroix
In contrast to the Neoclassical perfectionism of his chief rival Ingres, Delacroix took for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, with an attendant emphasis on colour and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modelled form. Dramatic and romantic content characterized the central themes of his maturity, and led him not to the classical models of Greek and Roman art, but to travel in North Africa, in search of the exotic.

Massacre at Chios, 1824
Louvre Museum, Paris
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi, 1826
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux
Liberty Leading the People,1830
Louvre Museum, Paris
Orphan Girl at the Cemetery, 1823
Louvre Museum, Paris

Claude Monet

(14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926)

Self Portrait, 1886
Private Collection

I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.

Claude Monet
A founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant)

Water Lilies, 1906
Art Institute of Chicago
Poplars at the Epte, c.1900
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK
Impression Soleil levant, 1872
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875
National Gallery of Art, Washington, USA

Antony Gormley

(born 30 August 1950)

We are still bloody animals. We are still fixated on a Darwinian kind of drive pattern. We don't understand that the moment of enough was a long time ago already. It's really weird that with all our technology, with all our instruments, with all our intelligence, still we're really basic. Injustices continue as if we were just animals and our predatory nature and our territorial nature are stronger drives than the intellectual determinants or whatever the soul part of the human being is.

Antony Gormley
British sculptor. His best known works include the Angel of the North, a public sculpture in the North of England, commissioned in 1994 and erected in February 1998, Another Place on Crosby Beach near Liverpool, and Event Horizon, a multi-part site installation which premiered in London in 2007, around Madison Square in New York City, in 2010 and in São Paulo, in 2012.

Another Place, 1997
Crosby Beach, Merseyside, UK
Angel of the North, 1998
Low Fell, Gatehead, Tyne and Wear, UK
Quantum Cloud, 1999
London, UK

Franz Marc

(February 8, 1880 – March 4, 1916)

Franz Mark, 1910; August Macke
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie,
Berlin, Germany

German painter and printmaker, one of the key figures of the German Expressionist movement. He was a founding member of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a journal whose name later became synonymous with the circle of artists collaborating in it.

I understand well that you speak as easily of death as of something which doesn't frighten you. I feel precisely the same. In this war, you can try it out on yourself - an opportunity life seldom offers one...nothing is more calming than the prospect of the peace of death...the one thing common to all. It leads us back into normal "being". The space between birth and death is an exception, in which there is much to fear and suffer. The only true, constant, philosophical comfort is the awareness that this exceptional condition will pass and that "I-conciousness" which is always restless, always piquant, in all seriousness inaccessible, will again sink back into its wonderful peace before birth... whoever strives for purity and knowledge, to him death always comes as a savior.

Franz Marc, 1916
Following the lead of his family, Marc studied theology intensely. The family contemplated both the spiritual essence of Christianity and its cultural responsibilities. Marc was sufficiently moved by the background and his confirmation in 1894 that, for the next five years, his goal was to become a priest. But he mingled with his theological studies the Romantic literature of both England and Germany. Finally, near the end of 1898, Marc gave up his goal of becoming a priest to study philosophy at University of Munich. But suddenly, in 1900, the ethical, high-minded youth turned to art.

Der Blaue Reiter was founded in Munich in 1911 by Marc and Kandinsky after they resigned from the Neue Künstlervereinigung München due to their differences of opinion with other members of the association. Marc and Kandinsky shared similar ideas on art: both believed that true art should possess a spiritual dimension. Kandinsky's views are outlined in his text Concerning the Spiritual in Art, which first appeared in 1911. For Marc the spiritual aspect of art was perhaps more concerned with representing the inner soul of a being; Kandinsky represented the spiritual by abstract means. Both felt that much of the art of their day lacked any such dimension and thus hoped that Der Blaue Reiter would create a spiritual revolution in art. In addition to Marc and Kandinsky, other members of the group included Macke, Münter, von Jawlensky, the Austrian artist Alfred Kubin, and the Swiss artist Paul Klee. Their work was not united by a particular style but by common objectives in their artistic production.

After mobilization of the German Army during World War I, the government identified notable artists to be withdrawn from combat to protect them. Marc was on the list, but before orders for reassignment could reach him, he was struck in the head and killed instantly by a shell splinter during the Battle of Verdun in 1916.

Foxes, 1913,
Kunstmuseum, Dusseldorf, Germany
The Fate of the Animals, 1913
Kunstmuseum, Basel, Germany
Deer in the Woods II, 1912
Horse in a Landscape, 1910
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
The Enchanted Mill, 1913
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA

There are, of course, very many more Atheist artists than this small sample. I will add more as time allows.

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