F Rosa Rubicondior: 2014

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Time To Remove The Bishops From The House Of Lords

What on Earth are 26 Anglican bishops and archbishops still doing in the UK House of Lords, or upper chamber of our legislature?

I suspect most people brought up in proper democracies, where membership of legislative assemblies is with the permission of, and consent of, the people as expressed in free and fair elections, will be astonished to know that we even have unelected people in our upper house, let alone people who can have a say in our laws who are unaccountable to anyone and who acquired that right simply by being senior wizards in one particular Christian sect - Anglicanism.

Sunday 28 December 2014

How Creationists Lie To Us Some More

Following on from my blog a couple of days ago about Ray Comfort's idiotic claim about the absence of gravity in space (sic) and his clear implication that the only explanation for how the people who wrote the Bible 3000 years ago knew this is that his locally popular god inspired them, I thought I would look more closely at this familiar religious false dichotomy fallacy and it's close similarity to the tactics of the snake-oil seller, con artist and shyster.

His fallacy has actually made me quite angry because of the contempt Comfort shows for his dupes, confident that their scientific illiteracy, eagerness for confirmation of their pre-existing bias, and difficulty with basic joined up thinking, would do most of the work for him.

Comfort is also playing to the schizophrenic attitude towards science of the average fundamentalist creationist: on the one hand, when it destroys and renders ridiculous their preferred mythical view of the Universe, it can be waved away as wrong, Satanic, the work of evil/mad/stupid/elitist scientists as appropriate; when there is the slightest hint that it might support them, suddenly brilliant scientists have proved the locally popular god is real.

Friday 26 December 2014

How Creationists Lie To Us - Ray Comfort

Unbelievably, not only did Ray Comfort actually post this publicly on Facebook, but his adoring fans seem to believe he's proved the locally popular god inspires the Bible with it.

But this blog isn't so much about Comfort's scientific ignorance and the credulous gullibility of his equally ignorant followers, but about what his Facebook post tells us about the dishonest tactics used by creationists who deliberately play on and exploit the scientific illiteracy of their dupes.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Fossil Fish Refutes Another Creationist Lie

Acanthodes bridgei
Image: Tanaka et al., Nature Communications
Three-hundred-million-year-old fossil fish still has traces of eye tissue | Science/AAAS | News

An amazingly well preserved fossil fish from 300 million years ago has its eyes so well preserved that it can be seen to have had both rods and cones in its retina, showing that it had colour vision. This is the first time a fossilized vertebrate eye has been found with that degree of detail and probably results from the fish becoming quickly submerged in anoxic sediment so protecting it from bacterial action.

It has also been shown to have melanin in its eyes - a pigment normally associated with good daylight and twilight vision when it's present in eyes, which would have been useful in the shallow, brackish, estuarine conditions in which it probably lived. It was found in ancient estuarine deposits near Hamilton, Kansas, USA.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Not A Happy Christmas For Pope Frankie

Pope Francis warns Vatican officials of 'spiritual Alzheimer's,' other ills - The Arlington Catholic Herald:

In a remarkably frank Christmas address to the Vatican Curia - the cabal of cardinals and Vatican bureaucrats who cluster around the Pope and generally run and live off the vast money-making and power-wielding organization that the Catholic Church has become - Pope Francis showed his frustration with them.

He bluntly accused them of suffering from fifteen 'spiritual diseases' including 'spiritual Alzheimers' and

Stem Cell Mistake Shows Why Science Beats Religion

Haruko Obokata anouncing the discovery
Image: Kyodo/Reuters
Acid bath stem-cell scientist can't reproduce results - health - 19 December 2014 - New Scientist

Unlike religion, science is a self-correcting process designed to minimise the opportunities for mistakes, statistical anomalies and downright fraud to pass unnoticed into the general body of science, and so ensure that the answers scientists believe they have found are at least a close approximation to the truth, and that our understanding of the world moves ever closer to the truth.

This example concerns an exciting and, if true, revolutionary 2012 'discovery' by a Charles Vacanti of Harvard Medical School working with Haruko Obokata and others at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan

Thursday 18 December 2014

Catholic Outrage - The Law Applies To Them Too!

Bernadette Smyth. "I'm no witch, I'm a Christian".
BBC News - Bernadette Smyth: Anti-abortion protester given community service

Catholics in Northern Ireland expressed shock and disappointment that a judge at Belfast's Magistrates Court had imposed a community service and issued a restraining order on Catholic anti-abortionist campaigner, Bernadette Smyth, preventing her from harassing Dawn Purvis of a Marie Stopes clinic and going within 20 yards of the clinic.

She was also sentenced to 100 hours community service and given a five-year restraining order

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Mad Manny Gets Another Warning

It's not often that I have something positive to say about the people at Twitter Support these days, as it was beginning to look like they had given up even pretending to be taking abuse and harassment seriously and seemed to be selecting random responses to complaints or ignoring them altogether.

But I see they've at last taken notice of all the complaints they've been getting about the behaviour of Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled seminarian and notorious Internet stalker and abusive blogger. Manuel is currently using his @CatholicGadfly, @SCDTVS, @SacerdotusRadio and @StudiousAtheist accounts to abuse, defame and denigrate anyone who responds to his phoney piety and infantile challenges to debate (usually first made in secret without informing the victim so he can claim victory by default).

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Bob Jones Uni Abusers - It's Not Just The Catholics!

Boz Tchividjian
Sex abuse report: Bob Jones University fosters culture of victim-blaming | Guardian 11 December, 2014

According to a report by GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an non-profit Christian organization headed by Billy Graham's grandson and Liberty University Law Professor, Boz Tchividjian, the Protestant Evangelical Bob Jones University was even worse than the Catholics when it came to sexual abuse of students.

Bob Jones University has seen a spectacular decline in admissions in recent years as disbelief gains ground in the USA. This may not be disconnected with their desire to clean up their act, hence the commissioning of this report, albeit the moment of panic when they sacked GRACE only to reinstate them last January.

The report catalogues systematic sexual abuse of students, actively facilitated by a policy of blaming the victims, piling guilt and shame on them and discouraging them from reporting it to the police whilst abusers were left to carry on their abuse.

It states:

Sunday 14 December 2014

Malaria Is Down - But Not Yet Out

Scale-up in effective malaria control dramatically reduces deaths | WHO 9 December 2014:

Brilliant news that the infection and death rate from malaria has fallen worldwide and especially sharply in Africa where 90% of malaria deaths occur - and it's all down to science again.

The number of people dying from malaria has fallen dramatically since 2000 and malaria cases are also steadily declining, according to the World malaria report 2014. Between 2000 and 2013, the malaria mortality rate decreased by 47% worldwide and by 54% in the WHO African Region - where about 90% of malaria deaths occur.

New analysis across sub-Saharan Africa reveals that despite a 43% population increase, fewer people are infected or carry asymptomatic malaria infections every year: the number of people infected

Friday 12 December 2014

Pope Francis Just Can't Hide His Misogyny

Lost in translation? 7 reasons some women wince when Pope Francis starts talking - Religion News Service

Poor old Pope Francis just can't hide his misogyny no matter how hard he tries to look like a modern liberal reformer. These seven examples of where his prejudices are showing comes from religionnews.com a site not normally associated with religious criticism.

The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, the son of Italian immigrants, comes from a background and a clerical tradition not normally associated with its liberal progressiveness and

Thursday 11 December 2014

Ken's Ham-Fisted Plan Scuppered

The Lost Ark: Kentucky will not grant tax incentives to Ark Encounter - Insider Louisville

Thanks to their own arrogant stupidity, the plan by the money-making loons at Answers in Genesis to subvert the US Constitution and con the State of Kentucky into using taxpayers money to help them promote their fundamentalist Christian bigotry and Bronze Age superstition, despite the 'Establishment Clause', has failed.

AiG had been planning to create an 'Ark Encounter' theme park to promote its infantile belief that the story of Noah's Ark in the Bible is a literal account of an

Sunday 7 December 2014

How Creationists Lie To Us - Michael J. Behe

Kenneth R. Miller
Edging towards Irrelevance - part 1

Professor Kenneth R Miller is an evolutionary biologist and expert in molecular biology and cell membranes. He is also a Roman Catholic who has written books such as Finding Darwin's God trying to show that evolution is compatible with belief in the Christian god. He also profoundly disagrees with the notion of 'Intelligent Design' as promulgated by fellow Roman Catholic, Michael J. Behe and the Discovery Institute.

The Discovery Institute was set up with the aim of using the Theory of Evolution, which many Americans find distasteful because it doesn't make them feel important enough, to undermine science as a prelude to subverting the secular US Constitution and installing a fundamentalist Christian, Taliban-style Levitican theocracy in America and elsewhere. Behe is a leading light in this disinformation campaign and concentrates particularly on misrepresenting evolutionary biology.

Miller's opposition to Behe and the Discovery Institute has made him a particular target of the antisciencers who are continually demanding he apologise for disagreeing with Behe and pointing out the misrepresentations of science, glaringly bad mathematics and false conclusions in his 2007 book, The Edge of Evolution, in which Behe tries to bamboozle his readers into thinking Darwinian evolution is mathematically impossible.

Saturday 6 December 2014

A Message From Homo Erectus

Homo erectus made world's oldest doodle 500,000 years ago : Nature News & Comment

A fossilised etched river mussel shell, dated to between 430,000 and 540,000 years old, from Java in Indonesia is being attributed to one of our immediate ancestors, Homo erectus and so becomes the oldest known engraving, beating the previous earliest by some 300,000 years and the first to be unequivocably pre-modern. This early artist from our remote ancestry unwittingly left an important message for those with the scientific literacy to read it.

This find is highly significant, if it turns out to be what it's claimed to be, because it's the first real evidence

Thursday 4 December 2014

Catholic Deception - Pope To Venerate The Fake of Turin

A typical ‘souvenir’ of an exposition with presiding clergy (1608), one of several made between 1578 and 1750.

The Trustees of the British Museum.
The Origins of the Shroud of Turin | History Today

News that Pope Francis is to make a pilgrimage to Turin Cathedral to venerate the Shroud of Turin, despite it now being regarded only by the most die-hard supporters as anything other than a fairly crude 14th Century painting on linen made from flax which grew in the 14th Century, shows that the 'reforming' Pope, whom many people thought was going to modernise the Catholic Church and introduce a modicum of honesty into its teachings and dealings with people, is still happy to follow his predecessors and mislead the credulous and gullible with forgeries and deliberate deceptions.

The Pope's announcement came only a few days after the publication in History Today of a slamming refutation of the Shroud's authenticity by a British historian. I've written before about this forgery here and here so it's pleasing to read this exposé by historian and writer, Charles Freeman, who, in this article destroys any remaining vestige of arguments for the shroud's authenticity and offers a possible explanation for its existence. An intent to deceive may well not have been the motive of the 'artist' who created it. That came later probably from the Savoy family who bought it and, of course, was adopted later by the Catholic Church in its constant search for the means to fool gullible people and keep them giving the clergy power, money and privileges.

Monday 1 December 2014

Look Where Manny Is Accessing The Internet From!

Manuel de Dios Agosto, the Bronx expelled seminarian, Internet stalker and habitual liar has boobed again and revealed something interesting about himself. He has shown us exactly where his emails are coming from and it's all available online from public sources so you don't even have to take my word for it; you can check for yourselves.

Twitter users will have watched in stunned amusement as Manny, with his usual Dunning-Kruger cock-sure self-confidence, via his sock puppet account @CatholicGadfly, challenged Twitter user Ellif D'Wulf to post evidence that he knew his IP address. Ellif had been pointing out that at least two of Manny's sock puppet accounts have the same IP address. Didn't he realise that Ellif doesn't make evidence-free claims? Not everyone does, Manuel! It's not normal!

Sunday 30 November 2014

Victims of Religion in Poland

30–39 year old female with a sickle placed across her neck.
PLOS ONE: Apotropaic Practices and the Undead: A Biogeochemical Assessment of Deviant Burials in Post-Medieval Poland

Ignorant superstitions are often a cause as well as an effect of religious bigotry. These can and often do provide an excuse for human rights abuses and victimisation of people who are a little bit different to the cultural norm, whether in personality, physical or mental disability or even race, skin colour or ethnic origin.

Eastern Europe, and Poland in particular, has a long history of superstitious belief in 'unclean' spirits re-entering a dead body and reanimating it. This superstition, underpinned by the religious idea of a soul or some form of magical other being who lives in our bodies and gives it 'life' is not, as some might think, a biblical or Quranic idea but one which was known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Environment, Evolution and Polar Bear Extinction

PLOS ONE: Projected Polar Bear Sea Ice Habitat in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The prospect of polar bears becoming extinct by 2075 because of the loss of the North Polar icecap is a stark warning of what we are doing to the life-support system we call Earth as we pump out more and more of our toxic waste, like bacteria polluting our culture medium. It also serves to illustrate a couple of things about how life evolves and changes over time, pushed as often as not by environmental change, not genetic change.

Chamber of Secrets Has Creationists in Denial Again

Phote credit: John Hawks
Bone bonanza: Chamber of secrets yields human remains - life - 28 November 2014 - New Scientist

One of the things which illustrates the difference between religion and science is how science continually looks for new information and adjusts its thinking accordingly, whereas religion constantly looks for excuses not to change in any way, and this includes actively ignoring, or finding ways to dismiss, new information.

Take for example the buzz of excitement in the field of palaeoanthropology at the moment at news that a team of archaeologists working in a cave system in South Africa have discovered and excavated the

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Christian Fundamentalist - No Cake for Gays!

Equality law 'conscience clause' bid - UTV Live News

You have to hand it to Christians, they are relentless in their determination to get their special privileges back and to be permitted to carry on victimising and bullying minorities. Even though they've been knocked down and defeated in every court in the UK and Europe, still they whinge and grizzle and demand changes to the law when they are found yet again to have been bullying gays and denying them the same basic human rights that they enjoy.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Rapid Darwinian Evolution In Agricultural Weeds

Wheat Field; Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Weeds and all.
Dawn of farming sparked speed-evolution in weeds - life - 19 November 2014 - New Scientist

One of my recurrent themes in my blogs about evolution is the difference between information held in the DNA and the meaning of that information as interpreted by the environment. This is something that creationist frauds traditionally ignore of course, especially when they try to fool their credulous victims with the claim that no new information can arise because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (sic), so evolution is impossible.

Not only is that nonsensical claim refuted by simple observation but evolution often doesn't need new information anyway; evolution often comes about because a change in the environment give new meaning to existing information.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Evolving Cooperation - But For Who Or What?

Bacteroides fragilis
Look after your gut bacteria; it might be your allotted purpose in life - if you subscribe to the evidence-free religious notion that you must be here for a purpose.

A couple of scientific papers in the last couple weeks have caught my attention because they demonstrate how Richard Dawkins' 'Selfish Gene' metaphor for how Darwinian evolution actually works gives, contrary to what a superficial reading of the term might suggest to those who don't understand evolution, cooperation rather than conflict.

We humans, as with all other multicellular species, are not just cooperative alliances of 'human' genes; not just cooperative alliances of prokaryotic cells and not even just cooperative alliances of eukaryotic cells

Thursday 20 November 2014

Another Mad Day In A Bronx Cuckoo Land

I really must resist the temptation to write blogposts exposing Manuel de Dios Agosto, known to Twitter and G+ users as 'Manny' or 'Sac', or other less printable terms, and get back to writing about science and exposing religion's fallacies and human rights abuses, but his latest pratfall is just too hilarious to pass over. Besides, as Oscar Wilde said, the only sensible response to temptation is to yield to it.

His latest piece of hilarity is yet another attempt to convince people he knows who I am and yet another 'exposé' on me straight from Manny's fevered imagination.

So far over the last couple of years, he has told his few readers of his various blogs that:

Gay Gene Poser For Homophobic Creationists

Cambridge Journals Online - Psychological Medicine - Genome-wide scan demonstrates significant linkage for male sexual orientation.

Strangely, a paper based on a large study of brothers and twins which supports the idea that male sexuality, including homesexuality, has a strong genetic basis, has been completely ignored by homophobic religious fundamentalist. I say strangely because these same religious extremists are almost invariably creationists of one sort or another, either Young Earth Creationist loons and frauds like Ken Ham, Ray Comfort and Michael Behe, who ignore almost all science, or Old Earth Creationists like Francis Collins and Alvin Plantinga who only ignore the inconvenient bits and bits they can't pretend aren't true.

Background: Findings from family and twin studies

Monday 17 November 2014

Is Manny Plagiarising Your Work?

What's the real reason or Manny's insistence on apparently absurd conditions for debating him? It may not just be cowardice.

Those few people who have logged onto one of Manuel de Dios Agosto's blog sites to discover his terms and conditions for 'debating' him when he issues one of his many challenges to do the impossible and prove the Christian god doesn't exist, will have been astonished to find some apparently idiotic conditions being imposed, failure to comply with which will result in Manny claiming victory by default.

Incidentally, thanks to Wulfwitch for that link to a cached copy of one of Manny's blogs. Manny's blogs tend to be quickly edited when he's embarrassed by them, just prior to calling people liars for quoting them verbatim. Thanks too to Wulfwitch for drawing my attention through his blog to these conditions that Manny tries to impose on people who may be tempted to try to have a grown-up debate with him.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Church of England 'Has Six Years Left'

The Right Reverend Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro. Looking for a miracle.
BBC News - Bishop of Truro says Church of England has 'six years'

No. This is not an over-optimistic secularist or a cleric from a rival Christian sect spreading disinformation about Anglicanism but an Anglican bishop telling the Church of England that, basically, unless a miracle intervenes, and there have been precious few of them since we introduced universal education, the Anglican Church is about to expire.

No less an authority than the Bishop of Truro estimates that the Church has about six years left, such is the decline in attendance and income. His diocese alone

Saturday 15 November 2014

Religion's Flexible 'Moral Absolutes'

One of the smug claims made by theists is that their religion gives them a set of moral absolutes, thus whatever they do in the name of their religion can't be immoral - and anyone who questions it is, by implication, immoral. It's fundamental to the way abusive clerics gain the confidence of their victims, for example. Who could doubt the moral fibre of someone who is working for God or Allah? Obviously, we should consult them on all matters of morality and ethics and allow them to dictate to us on such matters.

So where exactly are these moral absolutes in the holy books, and more importantly where is the evidence that these are er... moral absolutes? Shouldn't we expect a moral absolute, especially as practiced and promoted by religious clerics to be unchanging and eternal? If not, in what way is it an absolute?

Friday 14 November 2014

How Selfish Genes Can Make Large Testes

Infanticide drives female promiscuity and big balls - life - 13 November 2014 - New Scientist

Infanticide by a dominant male is frequent in many species, having been observed in some 200 species of mammal alone. It is, of course, easily explained by gene theory of Darwinian evolution by natural selection; it is, like so much else in biology, completely nonsensical in terms of intelligent design by a benevolent designer.

It is especially common in species where a single dominant male has a harem of females but can be displaced by a new, younger male, and especially

Thursday 13 November 2014

Comets, Science And Religion

BBC News - Probe makes historic comet landing.

In an astonishing feat of precision engineering and applied science, scientists today landed a probe on the surface of a comet 316 million miles away travelling at 40,000 mph, after a ten year journey of 4 billion miles.

There is a slight concern that the probe might not be anchored firmly to the comet as the harpoons which should have fired into the surface may not have fired. but they are now set to perform scientific experiments

Friday 7 November 2014

Oxfam Confirms It - Manny Lied Again

Let's see Mad Manuel try to lie his way out of this one.

In a spectacular intervention, Oxfam, through their verified Twitter account, @Oxfamgb, have confirmed that all the donations I have said I made to them from the proceeds of advertising through this blog have been received. Twitter account @CatholicGadfly is, as most people will be aware, just another fake disinformation account owned by Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled Bronx Catholic seminarian, hobby troll, Internet stalker, pathological liar and serial abuser who can be read about here.

My thanks to Twitter user @Ellif_DWulfe for taking this up with Oxfam with my full cooperation and at my invitation. I gather they confirmed everything I said by email, which of course, Manuel was disputing on Twitter. Oxfam's intervention was unsolicited and must have come as a bombshell for poor little Manny.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Even Our Gut Microbes Show Our Evolution From Apes

Picture: MicrobiologyBytes
Our gut bugs evolved with us as we split from chimps - health - 04 November 2014 - New Scientist

It's long been known that the evolution of obligate parasites such as lice and fleas closely parallels the evolution of their hosts, and now it seems the same parallels can be seen in the evolution of our microbiome - the ecosystem of gut bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in us and with which we have co-evolved and become co-dependent.

Basically, the 'friendly bacteria' that live in our guts not only aid our digestion by breaking down complex polysaccharides, etc, but they also keep our gut healthy by occupying niches, so excluding 'foreign' organisms. They also keep one another's populations in check so that none normally proliferates to levels which can be harmful. One of the causes of diarrhoea which often accompanies

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Female Ants Go After Foreign Sex

Photo: Micheal Herrmann & Sara Helms Cahan
Inter-genomic sexual conflict drives antagonistic coevolution in harvester ants.

In a fascinating paper published by the Royal Society a few days ago, two researchers have shown how the opposed interests of males and females in hybridization can lead to different competing strategies. Like many species of social insects such as ants and wasps, the females mate once a year, or even sometimes only once in a lifetime.

The harvester ants of the closely related Pogonomyrmex genus mate each year after the monsoon rains and the females mate with males of not only their own species but with males of related species too. In fact, they need to mate with the males of other

Sunday 2 November 2014

Manny Scores Another Own Goal!


I know it's unkind, but LOL!

I know! Mad Manny lying again is not news. What would be news would be Manuel telling the truth, but this one is a spectacular own goal of the sort we've come to expect of Internet stalker and habitual abuser Manuel de Dios Agosto, as he continues his desperate attempt to convince people he's not the same Manuel de Dios Agosto who was expelled from St Joseph's Seminary, New York for behaviour which, had it been made public, would have been just another of the scandals then, as now, embroiling the Catholic Church and it's abusive clerics.

His latest ploy, in his increasingly bizarre guise as Twitter user @StudiousAtheist with which he pretends to be an Atheist who has discovered that I am him and that we are both a Catholic priest from Suffolk, England (Manny fantasy land, remember!) is to claim that St Joseph's Seminary, New York, closed in 1977 - before he was born.

The Bigots Are Whinging Again!

Colin Hart, Director, Christian Institute
Poll shows voters ‘concerned’ over religious liberty threats | News | The Christian Institute

In a wonderful example of how you can rig an opinion poll to give the result you want, the Christian Institute is trying to influence UK Government policy ahead of the General Election next May. They had commissioned the ComRes polling organisation to conduct a poll in marginal constituencies on the question of religious freedom versus equality legislation.

They found that only eleven percent of voters in these constituencies believe religious freedom has increased

Saturday 1 November 2014

What's So Great About Eternal Life?

The problem for theists of the Abrahamic varieties is that all they really have is a promise of jam tomorrow. All they really have to offer is the hope of an eternal life but you have to die first and spend your life as though its a preparation for this eternal life and for which, to qualify, you have to live to strict rules.

Needless to say, the rules are conveniently made and interpreted by the same people who sell you the promise of jam tomorrow...

Friday 31 October 2014

Rise of Atheism Alarms Egyptian Clerics

Rise of atheism in Egypt sparks concern | GulfNews.com

It's not just in the Western world that clerics who earn their living from people's irrational superstitions, delusions and phobias are becoming concerned over the spread of rationalism and outbreaks of logical thinking. Egyptian clerics too are concerned about the growth of Atheism.

It is estimated that there are about two million Atheists in Egypt, i.e. about 2.3% of the population of 87 million, despite the fact that Atheism is regarded as a

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Muddled Pope Tries To Face Both Ways

In one of those excruciatingly embarrassing pronouncements Popes are periodically prone to making about science, Pope Francis today announced that the Big Bang theory and Evolution are both right and that God isn't a magician with a magic wand (so far so good), then proceeded to explain how neither the Big Bang nor Evolution would be possible without a magic god to get them going, presumably by doing magic, with or without a wand.

Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the Pope announced:

Saturday 25 October 2014

Rapid Human Evolution In South America

The Cuncaicha rock shelter, high in the Peruvian Andes
Photo: Barbara Fraser
Humans were living at extreme altitudes 1000 years earlier than thought | Science/AAAS | News

A paper published a few days ago suggests human evolution, under the right conditions, can be very rapid.

A mixed American, German and Canadian team led by Kurt Rademaker of Department of Anthropology, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA have discovered that humans lived above 4300 metres for at least part of the year, probably as seasonal hunters, in the High Andes within 2000 years of settling at Monte Verde in Chile. Monte Verde, at about 14,000 BCE is the earliest widely accepted site for human occupation in South

Thursday 23 October 2014

Human Evolution - Sex With Neanderthals

Neanderthal DNA specialist Svante Pääbo examines the anatomically modern human femur, found near Ust'-Ishim in western Siberia.
Photograph: Bence Viola/MPI EVA
Thoroughly modern humans interbred with Neanderthals - life - 22 October 2014 - New Scientist

A little more light was shed on the fascinating human story the other day when an international team from America, Asia and Europe led by Svante Pääbo and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, published their findings from the DNA sequenced from the oldest human fossil so far. And the picture is emerging of not only several periods of interbreeding between fully modern humans and Neanderthals but that there may have been several waves of modern human migration out of Africa and into Euro-Asia, not all of which were successful in the long run.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Massive Decline in UK Religious Affiliation

Methodist Chapel, Bentlawnt, Shropshire, UK
Exclusive: New figures reveal massive decline in religious affiliation | Christian News on Christian Today

That sensational headline isn't mine, it's from Christian Today, a mainstream online magazine for Christians, and it couldn't be more apposite.

The results of a large, 20,000 person survey by 2015 British Election Study, published on the British Religion in Numbers website, make gloomy reading for people who earn their living from religion. The decline has been little short of catastrophic and however you look at them, there are few crumbs of comfort for the Christian Churches.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Bronx Liar Exposed Again!

It's been a bad couple of weeks for poor little Manuel de Dios Agosto, the unemployable, expelled Catholic seminarian with attention deficit and narcissistic personality disorder from the Bronx, New York.

Not only was he confirmed conclusively by Twitter user @God___Swill to be Twitter users @CatholicGadfly, @StudiousAthiest, @SCDTVS, @SacerdotusRadio and the now suspended @Sacerdotus by the simple scientific technique of textual analysis which produced identical profiles - almost impossible to fake and so statistically significant as to have a probability of being due to chance alone which is almost indistinguishable from zero, but he's now been caught by another Twitter user forging emails in the lies he keeps posting about me.

This sad little tale goes back about a year when, for reasons which can only be guessed at, he became psychotic again,

Sunday 19 October 2014

Slapdown For The Supine Pope

BBC News - Catholic synod: Gay rights groups 'disappointed'

Any illusions the 'reforming' Pope Francis may have been under that he is reforming the Catholic Church and bringing it into the 21st-Century by injecting a small dose of humanism into its doctrine were shattered today. The synod of bishops meeting in Rome put him firmly in his place and voted down his paragraph containing the mildest of calls to 'accept' and 'value' the contribution of homosexuals to society and replaced it with a reaffirmation of traditional homophobic Church dogma.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Creationist Abomination - Lesbian Lizards


Photograph by Alistair J. Cullum. Via Wikimedia Commons
Of course, Intelligent Design 'Theory' has nothing to do with religion or the Bible, does it, creationists! No! Intelligent design is all based on good science and has no fundamentalist religious agenda at all. Intelligent Design 'Theory' would be just the same even if all the proponents of it weren't religious fundamentalist who believe Genesis is the inerrant word of a magic creator and the best available description of reality.

Or that's what they would have their non-fundamentalist victims believe anyway.

Similarly, it's merely a coincidence that proponents of IDT are invariable against same-sex relationships and agree with the the Bible that homosexuality is a mortal sin. And it's naturally no coincidence that the god of the Christian Bible agrees with IDTists because the Bible is science and what they are dealing with is science, not religion at all... isn't it?

So, what's all this about lesbian lizards? Doesn't the creator hate homosexuality?

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons from Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill, the largest Neolithic earthwork in Europe
Silbury Hill, in Wiltshire, UK, is the largest Neolithic man-made earthwork in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It was made about 4,750 years ago, would have taken about 18 million man-hours of labour or 500 men working for 15 years to construct - and nobody knows why it as built or what it was for.

It seems highly likely that religion was a factor if not the entire reason for its construction. Let's see what we can learn from it.

Monday 13 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons From Cirencester

Three Goddesses, Roman high relief sculpture.jpg
"Three Goddesses, Roman high relief sculpture" (Corinium Museum, Cirencester) by Tony Grist - Photographer's own files. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
A little study of ancient history can teach us a lot about religions.

As I said in a previous blog, we've just had a very pleasant mini-break in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire during which we spent a few hours in the old Roman town of Cirencester, which, 2000 years ago was a thriving, bustling Romano-British community called Corinium, surrounded by and more-or-less peacefully co-existing with the indigenous Dubonnii tribe of native Britons.

These native Britons were supposedly Celtic people, though I personally find the arguments for that less than convincing (but that's another story). They, like the Romans, and like the Anglo-Saxons did later, had replaced earlier migrants to the British Isles comming possibly from Western Iberia and the Pyrenees.

Sunday 12 October 2014

How Evolution Gave Us Fruity Beers

Cirencester, looking east down Market Place.
We've just arrived back home from a very pleasant Autumn mini-break in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, staying for a couple of nights in a hotel overlooking the Cotswold Water Park at South Cerney, near Cirencester. Cirencester, as the name ...cester implies, was an old Roman fortified town used as both a center of Romano-British culture and a garrison to maintain military dominance and political control over the native Britons. 'Castra' is Latin for 'camp', which came to mean a military garrison.

The Romans knew it as Corinium, Corinium Dobunnorum (after the local Celtic tribe the Dubonnii)

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Manny Busted - Again!

You just can't beat science.

You can almost feel sorry for Fruit Loop, Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled Bronx Catholic trainee priest, narcissist and full-time Internet stalker, abuser and psychopathic fantasist whose personality disorder compels him to seek center stage, only to take another pratfall to the great enjoyment of onlookers. Manny rarely disappoints as he continues to live down to his promise.

Ever since we outed him under his then main persona, Sacerdotus, who, under a variety of usernames had been stalking and abusing people on Twitter with explicit threats of sexual violence amongst other things from the safety of his room in his mother's

Tuesday 7 October 2014

How Evolution Works - Sickle Cell Disease And Malaria

Malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in human blood.
For about 100,000 years, humans have had to live with a particularly nasty parasite and one that was given a boost about 10,000 years ago when humans began to settle down to a urban, agricultural existence, rather than a nomadic hunter-gatherer one. With settlements came the need for a regular water supply even in times of drought and for irrigation of crops, meaning we lived close to areas of standing water - ideal breeding places for mosquitoes. And mosquitoes are the key to the spread of the parasite in question - malaria.

A month or so ago we were in the south of France, being eaten alive every night by mosquitoes. Fortunately, apart from the infernal itching and red blotches, we suffered little real harm because Europe is now malaria-free, but in Africa, India, Southeast Asia and South America, hundreds of millions of humans get malaria every year by being bitten by mosquitoes carrying one or other of the four species of Plasmodium parasites. About a million children die from malaria every year.

Monday 6 October 2014

It's All Someone Else's Fault - Vatican

Vatican accuses U.N. panel of sowing confusion

If you're expecting radical reforms in the Catholic Church, especially in its attitude to predatory paedophile priests and nuns, don't hold your breath.

In stark contrast to Pope Francis' protestations of regret and promises of reform with no measure spared to root out corruption and coverups and bring the abusers to justice, the reality is hand-washing that would do credit to Pontius Pilate, weedling excuses that would make a rogue market trader blush, and ducking down behind obscure, strict legalistic interpretations of International Law. Anything in fact

Sunday 5 October 2014

Another Creationist Lie Refuted By Science

Early bioenergetic evolution

Here's another one of those scientific papers that creation pseudoscience frauds must dread because it deals with another of their mysterious 'beginnings', abiogenesis.

Beginnings are such things as the Big Bang, the origins of morality and abiogenesis, or, as creationists like to call it, life from no-life. These are where they can fool those ignorant of science that the beginning must have had a magic cause because there couldn't have been something before it so, to the scientifically illiterate (i.e. creationists), it looks like getting
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