Saturday 31 December 2016

Rwanda Football Moves to Outlaw Witchcraft - Seriously!

FERWAFA sets tough measures to curb ‘witchcraft in sports’ - The New Times | Rwanda

The Rwandan Football Federation (FERWAFA) has acted decisively to clean up the game following a serious spell-casting incidents in a league match which rocked the Rwanda football world a week ago.

An emergency meeting between the executive committee of the Association and all First Division football club presidents was call following the match in Huye stadium between Mukura Victory Sports and Rayon Sport. The game saw clashes on the pitch with Mukura players accusing a Rayon player, striker Moussa Camara, of gaining an unfair advantage and scoring a goal using witchcraft. The meeting decided unanimously that henceforth:

Brits Would Now Vote 'Remain' If Given The Chance

Source: WiN/Gallop International - End Of Year Survey 2016 (Page 32)
Every country surveyed would now vote Remain in an EU referendum... Including Britain | indy100

More evidence, if more were needed, that the 'Leave' vote in the EU referendum was a mistake. A clear majority of Brits (54%), according to an EU-wide WiN/Gallop International poll published a couple of days ago, would now vote 'Remain' if the referendum was repeated. Not a single country would have voted to leave.

It is clear now that a very large number of people who voted 'Leave' either did so believing their vote would not affect the result because all the polls were telling us that the vote would be to stay in, or they realise now they were lied to and, in the cold light of dawn, realise that leaving the EU will not bring the benefits they were led to believe.

Friday 30 December 2016

What Does Terrorism Tell Us About Religion?

YouGov | What the world thinks.

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter, martyr, liberator or defender. It's just a matter of perspective; of the perception of right and wrong.

This was illustrated by the results of the above YouGov poll published recently. The question asked of the 4812 respondents, weighted to make them representative of the GB population, was, "Do you think terrorist acts that are carried out by Muslims do or do not tell us anything about the nature of Islam?"

The result by political view was (terrorist acts carried out by Muslims):

Thursday 29 December 2016

Pope Francis Aware Of Child-Abusing Argentinian Priest

Priests the Rev. Nicola Corradi (wheelchair) and the Rev. Horacio Corbacho, left.

Photo credit: AP/Emmanuel Rodriguez Villegas
Pope Francis 'told about alleged child rapist' two years before his arrest | The Independent:

You might expect the Argentinian Catholic cleric, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, to be especially interested in what happens to Argentinian school children, especially when, as Pope Francis, he has expressed determination to put an end to the scandals of child-abuse by Catholic priests that have engulfed just about every Catholic diocese throughout the world.

But not so, it seems.

In 2014, Pope Francis was allegedly made aware that the Catholic priest, the Rev Nicola Corradi, had been transferred from Italy to Argentina after being accused of abusing children at the Verona school of the Antonio Provolo Institute for hearing-impaired children. He has now been arrested and charged with raping children at the Institute's school in Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza Province, Argentina, 620 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. According to the the Independent:

Tuesday 27 December 2016

It's Time To Disestablish the Church of England

The Lords Spiritual
With the news of yet another fall in the number of believers in the UK, the Church of England's claim to be the official church in England and Wales (and by extension though not in law, in Scotland and Northern Ireland) is now surely untenable.

Even taking all religions and different churches into account, those who actively believe there is no god or 'higher power' have a ten percent lead over those who still believe in a god or a higher power of some sort. Within that small and dwindling minority, Anglicans are but one group amongst many that includes Catholics, Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, Shintoists, etc., etc., etc.

Monday 26 December 2016

Fall in Religious Belief in UK Accelerates

Those saying that they do not believe in any god or higher spiritual power has gone up from 33 to 38 per cent; those saying they believe in a god or a higher power has declined from 32 to 28 per cent.
Getty Images
Belief in God slumps after turbulent year | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

One of the few bits of good news to come at the end of 2016, and maybe because 2016 has been such an awful year, is that decline in religious belief in the UK, according to a poll commissioned from YouGov by Times Newspapers, has accelerated, falling by a full four percentage points in a single year.

This is one of the biggest falls ever recorded and comes at the end of a year which saw the Brexit debacle, the election of Donald Trump, supported by a lot of very un-Christian Christians, an asylum-seeker crisis in Europe caused by warring religious factions in the Middle East, some appalling religiously-inspired terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere and the deaths of several poplar celebrities.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Toothless Old Dinosaur Bites Creationists!

Limusaurus inextricabilis (Artist's impression)
Extreme Ontogenetic Changes in a Ceratosaurian Theropod: Current Biology

Creationists are probably getting sick and tired of having to deny all the evidence that birds are evolved dinosaurs that has been flooding into the scientific literature over the last few years, but here's some more.

Not only is this pretty convincing evidence, if any more were needed, but it's an example of that other thing that creationists must be sick and tired of having to deny - a transitional species! Creationists like to pretend transitional species and evidence that birds evolved out of therapod dinosaurs is as rare as hen's teeth. It's doubly ironic therefore that this find helps explain just why hen's teeth are so rare - unlike the evidence for the evolution of birds from dinosaurs!

It was discovered by a team from George Washington University visiting the Gobi Desert in Central Asia.

By examining a series of nineteen fossils of the species Limusaurus inextricabilis, a therapod dinosaur from

How Science Works - Big Changes Evolved Small Cells

Photomicrograph showing a blood smear with the large red blood cells of the African clawed frog and the small red blood cells of a rodent side-by-side.

Photo credit: Photomicrograph by Adam Huttenlocker
Wood mouse by Anne Burges
African clawed frog by Tim Vickers
Bone Microvasculature Tracks Red Blood Cell Size Diminution in Triassic Mammal and Dinosaur Forerunners: Current Biology.

One of the requirements for a highly active species, especially one capable of scurrying around, is to be able to get oxygen around the body quickly to keep the tissues supplied with enough to maintain the high metabolic activity.

This in turn means getting the oxygen-carrying blood cells into the tissues as close to the point of need as possible and this means having a rich supply of small capillaries through which small red blood cells can pass.

Why small red blood cells? Quite simply because small is more efficient. It is quicker to get oxygen out of a small cell than a large one because the surface area

Friday 23 December 2016

Beautiful Evolution of Beatiful Cat Species

Asian golden cat, Catopuma temminckii
Two species of Southeast Asian cats in the genus Catopuma with diverging histories: an island endemic forest specialist and a widespread habitat generalist | Open Science

The frustrating thing about trying to teach creationists about evolution is the way they look for reasons to dismiss the evidence rather than to accept it and deal with with the conclusions to which it is pointing them.

For example, they will argue on the one hand that what they call 'macro-evolution', i.e., the evolution of a new species, is impossible but 'micro-evolution' is not only possible but happened at inexplicably high rates after their supposed global flood to give us all the variation we see today within species. It was just that non-one

Thursday 22 December 2016

The Christian Bigots Are Whining Again!

Christian schools downgraded by Ofsted over homophobic teachings | PinkNews

More UK Christian whining and demanding privileges this week; this time over their right to teach children whatever they like regardless of the law.

Following hard on the news that former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, has authored a report demanding special treatment for Christians, including the right to indoctrinate all children with Christian dogma, regardless of their or their parents wishes, we have a demand by Christian faith schools to be allowed to ignore the Government-approved curriculum and Ofsted guidelines intended to promote respect and equality.

Dozens of UK Christian faith schools are now following the American 'Accelerated Christian Education' (ACE) program which is blighting the education of the children of American Christian fundamentalists, rather than the government approved curriculum which is obligatory in all UK schools. ACE currently list 27 UK schools on it's website (accessed 22 Dec 2016).

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Early Bird Catches Creationists

An artist’s rendering of Tingmiatornis arctica

Image credit: University of Rochester illustration / Michael OsadciwTingmiatornis arctica
A Large Ornithurine Bird (Tingmiatornis arctica) from the Turonian High Arctic: Climatic and Evolutionary Implications : Scientific Reports

You might think a 90 million year old fossil bird with teeth would make even the most die-hard creationist stop and think but if so, you haven't met many die-hard creationists.

Dismissing evidence of just this, such as that presented by a team of geologists from the University of Rochester, is the work of but a moment for any half-decent creationists who have been rehearsing the traditional arguments for years. "It's a forgery; they got the dates wrong; it's still a bird; it died in 'The Flood'; anyway, it doesn't count as evidence because The Bible sez... and you weren't there to see it, etc., etc., etc."

Monday 19 December 2016

Panicking Christians Demand More Priviledges

Author of the report recommending more privileges for Christianity, former spiritual head of the established Anglican Church of England and unelected member of the upper chamber of the UK Parliament, George Carey, taking to the hereditary titular head of the Church of England and head of State, Queen Elizabeth II.
George Carey demands migrants be taught Britain is Christian | UK | News | Daily Express

Ex-archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is well known for complaining about Christians being deprived of what he regards as his and his fellow religionists rightful privileges.

Amongst the privileges he holds most dear is the right to discriminate against minorities of their choice, free from the requirement to treat others as equals with equal entitlement to full human rights. He can often be heard complaining loudly that Christians are being deprived of their basic human rights by being denied the right to deprive others of their human rights on the excuse of not agreeing with them.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Why Humans Lost Their Penis Bone 

Assorted mammalian bacula
Why humans lost their penis bone | Science | AAAS

Despite the assumptions behind certain slang terms, human males don't really have a penis bone, or baculum, unlike some of our closest mammalian relatives such as chimpanzees and bonobos. The reason why was not really clear until now although evolutionary explanations have been suggested.

The penis bone first put in appearance in mammalian evolution between 145 and 95 million years ago, so was present in the last common ancestor of apps and carnivores, so at some point, and in the case of humans after we diverged from the chimpanzee/bonobo line, the penis bone was lost.

Seahorses - A Creationists' Nightmare!

Tiger tail seahorse. Hippocampus comes.
The seahorse genome and the evolution of its specialized morphology : Nature : Nature Research

The seahorse is something of a creationist nightmare!

No, not because it's that dreaded 'transitional form' being part fish and part horse - which it isn't of course although many creationists seem to believe 'evolutionists' believe such idiocy is part of mainstream biology, but because its evolution flatly contradicts several creationist articles of faith. These articles include:

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Ancient Footprints - The Long And The Short Of It

Test-pit L8 at Laetoli Site S.
In the northern part of the test-pit (at the top), the Footprint Tuff is particularly altered, damaged by plant roots and dislodged along natural fractures.

New footprints from Laetoli (Tanzania) provide evidence for marked body size variation in early hominins | eLife

If you want to know why science works and creationism doesn't you could do worse than read and understand this paper.

Creationists often claim to be baffled by the way science derives information from historical records without actually being there to witness it. Curiously, they only seem to be baffled by this when it comes to things they don't want to be true. Ken Ham even proudly teaches children to kill any discussion about the distant past by asking 'Where you there?' knowing the the speaker or teacher wasn't and believing this invalidates everything they've said. It's a neat trick to prevent children learning something you don't want them to know and something that will stand any creationist in good stead well into adulthood.

The same creationists also claim to be baffled by the lack of absolute certainty in science and the way it keeps revising and improving on what it knows and how it adopts tentative answers pending further information and is prepared to ditch or adopt that temporary view later on. To these creationists, of course, certainty is far more important than accuracy and fitting the facts into a predetermined and unchangeable narrative is paramount. The actual truth is merely incidental to this objective.

Monday 12 December 2016

How a Plant Evolved to Eat Bat Poo!

Pitcher plant (Nepenthes hemsleyana) with woolly bat (Kerivoula hardwickii)
Why plants eat faeces when they could eat flesh

Mutualism as a result of evolution is a well-known phenomenon to biologists but this example is, by any stretch of the imagination, unusual and even a little counter-intuitive. It has ended up with a carnivorous pitcher plant switching from a diet of captured insects to one consisting of bat faeces.

Examples of mutualism can be found in for example, the production of nectar by flowers which supplies insects with food in return for targeted dispersal of pollen. The insects gets fed and the plant gets its pollen delivered to another flower of the same species without the wastefulness and hit and (mostly) miss nature of wind dispersal. Another example would be the gut microbes in ruminants and termites which digest plant cellulose providing nutrients from an otherwise indigestible resource in return for shelter, warmth and a ready supply of raw materials.

Just Another Under-Privileged Christian

Sister Sarah Kuteh.
Sarah Kuteh is no doubt an excellent nurse but her nursing skills are not in question, as least in so far as the medical needs of her patients are concerned.

Where her skills are called into question however is in the area of what she determines are their spiritual needs and in this matter, as a devout Christian, she perceives those needs wholly in terms of whether or not they agree with her. If they don't, they have a problem and, like it or not she is going to 'cure' their spiritual sickness too.

According to a report on the Daily Express, as an experienced nurse and a nursing sister since 2012, she had recently taken on the role of assessing the medical health of patients before going into surgery for Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford, Kent, run by Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust. Part of her assessment consisted of going through a completed questionnaire which included questions about the patients religious beliefs. Many patients chose to leave this blank, as is their entitlement. Many of these would have either had no religion or would have considered it irrelevant.

Friday 9 December 2016

Transitional Feathered Dinosaur in Exquisite Detail

A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber: Current Biology

Transitional fossils are the bugbear of creationism. Every fossil ever found, although so obviously intermediate between its parent generation and its offspring, and so obviously a sample of the evolutionary status of its particular branch at that point in time, never-the-less has to be vigorously dismissed as 'not transitional' by creationists.

It's a cardinal article of creationist doctrine that there are no transitional fossils, therefore, that no matter how obviously transitional, it can't be transitional. It mustn't be allowed to be transitional because to admit to transitional fossils is to admit to evolution.

So it is particularly pleasing to be able to present yet another example of an undoubtedly transitional fossil preserved in amber in amazing detail. It is particularly pleasing too that this is a transitional fossil of that iconic class of animals, dinosaurs.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Not So Finely Tuned!

EN-L2Pup-SPHERE ALMA: Composite sight of L2 Pup in visible light (by the VLT / SPHERE instrument, blue) and ALMA continuum light (orange). The light from the central star is subtracted from the ALMA image to better show as candidate planet.

© P. Kervella et al. (CNRS / U. de Chile / Observatoire de Paris / Lesia / ESO / ALMA)
ALMA observations of the nearby AGB star L2 Puppis | Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A)

With that splendidly panglossian view of the Universe that is so endearing about creationists, they like to imagine they live in the best of all worlds in the best of all galaxies in the best of all Universes - a Universe their special best friend made specially for them.

They have even invented a wonderfully circular argument to try to justify that starry-eyed (or is that rose-tinted?) view. They call it the 'Finely Tuned Universe' theory.

Basically, this says that because the Universe is obviously a suitable place for a sun with a planet on which human life evolved, the Universe must be set up in such a way to make this possible. Because the entity who set it up that way is perfect and all-loving and loves humans above everything else, Earth must be the best possible for humans to live on. And because it is the best possible place, the Universe must have been tuned to produce it.

Monday 5 December 2016

Catholic Church Still At It Down Under!

Father Tom Knowles performing Mass
Church apology for a 14-year sexual relationship an Australian first | The Sydney Morning Herald.

If you are still under the impression that the Catholic Church under Pope 'Uncle' Frankie has seen the error of its ways and is determined to make amends for its past crimes, this news from Australia should disavow you of that delusion.

It concerns the abuse over a fourteen-year period of a disabled Sydney woman, Jennifer Herrick, by Fr Tom Knowles, then her family priest. Jennifer Herrick, who

Saturday 3 December 2016

Primrose Poser For Creationists

Pin eye
Genetic architecture and evolution of the S locus supergene in Primula vulgaris : Nature Plants

I remember as a child being fascinated by the two different forms of primroses, which, unless you're aware of it, you probably wouldn't notice unless you looked especially closely. What I didn't realise until much later was that this had evolved to overcome a problem potentially faced by all hermaphrodite species and especially plants - the problem of losing the benefits of sexual reproduction by self-fertilisation.

Such is the advantage of mixing genes with those of another individual and so being able to 'try out' new combinations, or to acquire more advantageous alleles and pass these on to your offspring, that there is evolutionary pressure to ensure it happens frequently.

Friday 2 December 2016

Hey Creationists! What Kind Of Kind Is This?

Asian lonhorn, Anoplophora glabripennis
Genome of the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), a globally significant invasive species, reveals key functional and evolutionary innovations at the beetle–plant interface | Genome Biology.

Probably because it was intelligently designed to do just that, the term 'kind' as used by creationists is so nebulous that it can mean whatever they need it to mean. The meaning can change at will according to the audience they are trying to get away with using it on or the debate they are trying to win with tactics because they don't have any evidence.

It's almost perfectly designed to allow word play and subtle changes in debate barely noticeable by an unsuspecting audience.

Thursday 1 December 2016

Catholic Fraud in Norway

Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme
Catholic Church fined for overstating number of members to receive more state funding in Norway | The Independent

Faced with evaporating membership and a serious decline in its income stream, the Catholic Church in Oslo, Norway did what any self-respecting welfare scrounger would do, and casually defrauded the state of up to 40.6 million kroner (£3.8 million or $4.8 million) by falsely inflating their membership lists.

The Catholic Church, like other Christian churches in Norway, received a state (read Norwegian tax-payer's) subsidy in proportion to its membership.

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Speciation Observed in a Laboratory

Ecological speciation of bacteriophage lambda in allopatry and sympatry | Science

Two central article of faith in creationist circles are that speciation has never been observed and that evolution can't be replicated in a laboratory.

So essential are these dogmas to creationism that nothing will shake their faith in them, not even the evidence of evolution being replicated in a laboratory and speciation being observed in the process. You can rarely make any progress with a creationist without these 'killer' assertions being thrown into the debate. They are almost the motto or battle-cry of creationism. So we can be sure the best available dismissal techniques will be brought to bear on the paper published in Nature a few days ago showing exactly that.

That's right, creationists, scientists have observed evolution, including speciation, in the laboratory. And their experiment is reproducible.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Why We Atheists Are Hated. We Frighten Them!

What If They’re Right About the Afterlife? Evidence of the Role of Existential Threat on Anti-Atheist Prejudice.

In America and probably many other countries, though much less so in the United Kingdom and probably most of Western Europe, Atheists are amongst the least trusted of all people. Some surveys even putting them on a par with Islamic extremists.

The reasons given are usually that Atheists don't have a moral framework and therefore have no way of knowing that rape, theft, murder, etc. are wrong and that complete selfishness and disregard for others is to be expected. That this is manifest nonsense when the actual behaviour of known Atheists is observed will show, does not seem to affect the underlying cultural assumption that a hoped-for reward or the threat of punishment are the only things which motivate people to behave well and that no-one knew how to behave before we had the Christian Bible.

A paper published in the journal, Social Psychology and Personal Science in September 2015 sheds some light on this strange and irrational attitude. The authors cite 'Terror Management Theory' as the likely cause:

Thursday 24 November 2016

Gut Microbes Influence Our Evolution

Diet-Microbiota Interactions Mediate Global Epigenetic Programming in Multiple Host Tissues | Molecular Cell:

We need to stop thinking of the higher animals (and maybe plants) as a single species with a single genome as the unit on which natural selection operates.

We, along with all higher animals, are colonies of more-or-less cooperating species each of which has it's own evolutionary 'agenda' but each of which, like us, is inextricably bound up with the evolution of the colony as a whole. In effect, what is evolving is the colony with its distributed genome. This also has damaging implications for creationism and its dressed up little brother, intelligent (sic) design.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Those Poor Christians Are Being Persecuted Again!

John Freshwater
Ohio Supreme Court Is Right To Uphold Firing Of Public School Teacher Who Promoted Creationism, Says Americans United.

In a ruling that will no doubt shock and enrage Christian fundamentalists everywhere, the Ohio Supreme Court has confirmed once again that even Christians have to obey the laws of the land. This will almost certainly be presented as a war on Christianity and a denial of their 'freedom' to disregard laws they don't like whilst demanding the right to impose their own 'laws' on everyone else.

The ruling brings to an end a four-year campaign to have a fundamentalist Christian creationist teacher, sacked for disregarding instructions not to teach his superstition as fact to public school children in contravention of the US Constitution's 'Establishment' clause, reinstated and to be allowed to continue to flout the law, ignore the Constitution and use his salaried position to teach his creationist version of 'science' to school children.

In a 4:3 verdict, the court ruled:

After detailed review of the voluminous record in this case, we hold that the court of appeals did not err in affirming the termination. The trial court properly found that the record supports, by clear and convincing evidence, Freshwater’s termination for insubordination in failing to

Tuesday 22 November 2016

A Newly-Discovered Species of Archaic Humans?

Two Vanuatu girls.
Photo credit: Graham Crumb
Source: Wikipedia
People from Melanesia may carry genetic evidence of a previously unknown extinct hominid species

It's hard to see how the Abrahamic religions can continue to hold on to the myth of a single ancestral couple for the whole of humanity in the face of the onslaught from scientific evidence that this model is nonsensical. The Catholic Church's attempt to subscribe to it as an essential part of their dogma whilst also accepting the scientific evidence for the evolution of humans from a common ancestor with other apes and through a series of archaic pre-modern hominids is becoming increasingly untenable.

Monday 21 November 2016

Something Dodgy In America

Major Players in 2016 Election Get Low Marks, Including Trump | Pew Research Center

Somehow the election figures and post-election polling returns are not adding up!

Something is looking decidedly dodgy. It's almost as though the actual election was conducted elsewhere because the result it produced looks oddly out of place.

Firstly, there is the fact that, with counting still to be completed in places, Clinton not only won the popular

Sunday 20 November 2016

Holy Poland!

In Poland in the presence of the first persons of the state officially crowned Jesus Christ | true-news

Poland is now an official monarchy - if you believe the Catholic Church.

In a ceremony in Krakow Cathedral, reportedly attended by government officials including President Andrzej Duda, Jesus was crowned King of Poland. The ceremony was also attended by 'huge numbers' from Germany, Canada and the United States as well as from the rest of Poland.

This is not the first divine monarch to occupy the

Friday 18 November 2016

Why Christians Supported the Very Un-Christian Trump

How the faithful voted: A preliminary 2016 analysis | Pew Research Center

One of the most outstanding features of the American presidential election was the complete abandonment of any pretense of morality by the evangelical white conservative Christians in their eagerness to promote a white supremacist, misogynist, serial adulterer, self-confessed serial molester of women and public mocker of disabled people, to the top job. Almost as noticeable was the eerie silence from the black evangelicals and Catholics, even the hispanic Catholic leaders.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Rapid Human Evolution in America!

Partners from Canada’s northwest coast (from left, Barbara Petzelt, Harold Leighton, Bill Pahl, Wendy Pahl, Yvonne Ryan and Joycelynn Mitchell) collaborated with an international team of researchers on a genetic study of First Nations peoples – both present day and ancient.
Photo courtesy Metlakatla First Nation
A time transect of exomes from a Native American population before and after European contact | Nature Communications.

Right on the heels of the paper showing how a change in the domestic dog's environment drove their evolution, pushing them closer to humans, we have this example of how changes in the environment by one human group can have a major impact on the evolution of another human group.

In this case, the environmental change was in the microbial and viral environment of Native Americans brought about by contact with European colonists.

It has long been recognised that the huge range of viruses carried by Europeans, probably as a result of

Canine Conundrum For Creationists

Amy2B copy number variation reveals starch diet adaptations in ancient European dogs | Open Science

Here is a sweet treat for dog lovers, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists, though not so much for creationists.

An open access paper published very recently in Royal Society Open Science not only sheds light on domestic dog and modern human co-evolution but illustrates an important principle in evolutionary biology: evolution will occur in the presence of a change in the environment with little or no change in the information in the genome. It also shows how gene duplication can play an enormous role in the evolution of a species.

Monday 14 November 2016

Nasty Design. Nasty Designer?

Mycobacterium abscessus, a species of multidrug resistant mycobacteria, has recently emerged as a significant global threat to individuals with cystic fibrosis and other lung diseases.
Picture credit: © adiruch na chiangmai / Fotolia
Source: ScienceDaily
Emergence and spread of a human-transmissible multidrug-resistant nontuberculous mycobacterium | Science

I've written several posts with examples of the sheer malevolent nastiness of creationists' notional intelligent (sic) designer, asking if it can get any nastier, but this latest example really does take some beating.

It has now redesigned a mycobacterium so it can now overcome our attempts to stop it making children with cystic fibrosis even sicker, often fallay so!

This was discovered by a team from the University of Cambridge, UK and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute was published a few days ago in Science:

Thursday 10 November 2016

Brain Development and Creationism

Evolution of Osteocrin as an activity-regulated factor in the primate brain : Nature : Nature Research

Scientists at Harvard Medical School have discovered that a gene that regulates bone and muscle growth may also be involved in brain development and activity in primates, including humans. In particular, this gene appears to be active in areas of the brain involved in cognition and learning. Their finding were published yesterday in Nature.

This is a good example of how genes can be used by the evolutionary process for new functions, and, because this particular retooled gene is only found in primates, it suggests that the repurposing occurred in a common ancestor of this clade.

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Ten Great Reasons Women Should Vote For Trump

Donald Trump is the perfect choice for women.

Here are ten great reasons women should vote for him!
  1. He has a penis and you need a penis to run a country. Even a small one will do. Women are physically handicapped in the genital department.
  2. He doesn't have a vagina, despite what his enemies call him. A vagina would mean he can't think rationally.
  3. He grabs women he happens to meet in lifts by

Monday 7 November 2016

Time For Positive Thinking!

It's time for Americans to think and act positively!

Don't be negative!

Don't vote for Hillary just because Trump is a racist who is supported by the KKK and just about every white supremacist redneck!

Don't vote for her just because Trump is a self-obsessed psychopath who regards everyone else as insignificant!

Thursday 3 November 2016

Catholic Church Can Keep Child Abuse Secret!

Pope Francis "We will not take one step back..."
The Catholic Church scored a victory in Louisiana, USA, a few days ago in it's struggle to prevent priests having to report cases of child abuse to the law enforcement agencies. The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Catholic priests do not have a duty to report instances of child abuse if they learn about them in the confessional.

The Batton Rouge diocese had contested a case for negligence brought against them and Fr. Jeff Bayhi by Rebecca Mayeux, now 22. She had claimed that in 2008, when she was 14, she told Fr. Jeff Bayhi that she was being sexually abused by a fellow parishioner but Fr. Jeff Bayhi did nothing to prevent the abuse continuing.

No Women Priests! Cowardly Pope Blames His Predecessor.

Pope Francis - ban on women priests for ever, Pope John Paul II said so!
Pope Francis says women will never be Roman Catholic priests | World news | The Guardian.

Popes are supposed to be infallible and to be the absolute, ultimate authority on all spiritual and ecumenical matters - but not when it comes to trying to ride two horses simultaneously, it seems.

Face with a question from a Swiss journalist about whether women ever being admitted to the Catholic priesthood, Pope Francis confirmed that the ban would remain in place. When pressed he blamed Pope John Paul II who confirmed the ban in 1994, saying, "Saint Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands".

Tuesday 1 November 2016

A Christian Husband's Guide to Sleeping Around

A good Christian man with a wife and bit on the side.
How to train your wife not to be jealous | Biblical Gender Roles

Still trying to understand why American fundamentalist Christians regard Donald Trump as such a great role model and eminently suited to being President of the USA, I looked further into how Christian fundamentalists see a man's marital infidelities. So I turned again to the Biblical Gender Roles blog for an explanation.

Maybe fundamentalist Christians won't be surprised by the hypocritical double standards and cherry-picking approach to the Bible that I found there, but I suspect normal people might at least raise an eyebrow. After all, don't fundamentalists normally make a big thing of the Ten Commandments, including the instruction to not covet a neighbour's wife? Well, that was a mistake, apparently, or maybe it just applies to other people.

Monday 31 October 2016

A Christian Guide to Making Your Wife Have Sex

Wholesome Christian husband using God-approved moral blackmail to force sexual compliance.
In a bid to understand the fascination of fundamentalist Christians with Donald Trump, and especially with their apparent admiration for his seduction technique, I thought I would conduct a little research into Christian teaching on bedroom matters, and in particular the approved gender roles within a marriage.

Remember, Donald Trump's seduction technique, and one of the qualities that so endear him to fundamentalist Christians, is to grab a passing woman by her 'pussy' and expect her to become uncontrollably aroused at the thought of his large wealth. So how does this fit in with current Christian teaching? For this I turned to the fundamentalist Christian blogsite, Biblical Gender Roles.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Christian Hypocrisy and Donald Trump

Donald Trump. Candidate for Christian values.
In one of my occasional forays into American politics, let's take a look at what the almost universal endorsement of Donald Trump for POTU by the American conservative Christian right tells us about the American conservative Christian right.

It can best be summed up in a single word - 'hypocrisy'. The longer version is 'power and influence at any price'.

Of course, with the Bible being a cherry-picker's delight, with it being possible to find a passage or two, or maybe a whole chapter, that supports almost any cause, it can be difficult to discern what might be termed 'Christian values' in the it. And most of these can usually be contradicted with another passage somewhere, but perhaps the nearest thing to a definitive statement of what Christian are supposed to behave like is the so-called Beatitudes from the 'sermon on the mount'.

Friday 28 October 2016

'Alien' Life Beneath Canada?

Kidd Creek Mine, Timmins, Ontario.
Sulfur mass-independent fractionation in subsurface fracture waters indicates a long-standing sulfur cycle in Precambrian rocks : Nature Communications.

According to research results publish open access in Nature Communications yesterday, there could be life in water which has been isolated in rocks deep below Earth's surface for at least 1 billion years and possibly 2.7 billion years, i.e for maybe half the life of the planet.

This water, which is now seeping to the deep Kidd Creek mine 2.4 Km below Timmins, Northern Ontario, Canada, had been shown to have been isolated for this long in 2013. What is new in yesterday's report is the news that this water is capable of sustaining sulphur-based life similar to that found elsewhere in isolated subsurface water. Bacterial life has been found in similar structures in South Africa but this, if proven, would be ten times older.

Thursday 27 October 2016

Oh Creation! Interbreeding Chimps and Bonobos!

Chimpanzee genomic diversity reveals ancient admixture with bonobos | Science.

We are getting used to the relatively new science of genome analysis throwing up regular surprises and calling into question a few things we thought we understood reasonably well, but then that's science. Science wouldn't be any use if we didn't keep learning new things, revising old assumptions and so making progress.

For example, we once thought that modern humans evolved in East (or possibly South) Africa and that a small band of Homo sapiens followed an earlier migration of H. erectus and left Africa for Eurasia and thence into the Americas and the Pacific. We

Monday 24 October 2016

'Gay Cake' Victory Over Christian Bigotry

Ashers of Belfast. Guilty of religiously-inspired homophobic discrimination.
'Gay cake' appeal: Christian bakers Ashers lose appeal - BBC News.

In a victory for basic human rights over Christian bigotry, the Court of Appeal has ruled that a Northern Ireland baker was wrong to refuse to make and decorate a cake for a gay campaign to legalise same-sex marriage because they disagreed with their life-style. The cake was to bear the slogan 'Support gay marriage".

Ashers, a family firm of Belfast, initially accepted the order from gay rights activist, Gareth Lee, but then declined it on the grounds that it went against their religious belief. The cake had been ordered for a private party to celebrate the end of Northern Ireland Anti-homophobic Week.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Windsurfing Mute Swans!

Mute swan, Cygnus olor
Credit: Wikipedia
Windsurfing in Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) | The Wilson Journal of Ornithology

A lovely example of a structure evolved for one purpose being used for another, unrelated purpose was published very recently in a short communication in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

The author, Olle Terenius, of the Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden, described seeing mute swans, Cygnus olor, using their raised wings to windsurf for some considerable distance. Regrettably, the full text sits behind a paywall.

Friday 21 October 2016

Double Dose Of Frog DNA Plagues Creationism

The genome of the frog X. laevis (top) is roughly double that of its relative, X. tropicalis (bottom).
Credit: Professor Atsushi Suzuki, Hiroshima University
Doubling down on DNA - Scienmag

There are so many different forms of creationism that it's difficult to find any consistency between any two creationists and even in the same creationist at times. This make it handy for them to move the goalposts around of course because they can always change this or that definition or declare this or that impossible or possible according to the needs of the argument in hand.

However, there are a couple of pieces of dogma that are fairly consistently trotted out and are common to most flavours of creationism:
  • Mutations are always harmful and can't give rise to new information.
  • New species can't arise by natural processes so have to be created.

It must come as a shock then when a scientific paper is published showing both of these to be untrue, and untrue moreover in the same species!

Something Fishy About Jaws!

Life reconstruction of Qilinyu, a 423-million-year-old fish from the Kuanti Formation (late Ludlow, Silurian) of Qujing, Yunnan, in Silurian waters.
Photograph: Dinghua Yang
Early fossil fish shows where our jaws came from - Uppsala University, Sweden

A couple more of those little unknowns that drives science forward may have been solved this week by a team from Uppsala University, Sweden and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Beijing, China.

The first is where did our jaws come from in our evolutionary past and the second is where exactly do the 'armour-plated', fish-like placoderms fit in with the evolution of bony fish and via them, the tetrapods, including us mammals. The Silurian placoderms lived over 400 million years ago and it was not clear whether they were the direct ancestors of the bony fish or a sister clade with the ancestral bony fish along with the cartilaginous fish.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Stone Age Cave Painters Recorded A New Species!

Early cave art and ancient DNA record the origin of European bison | Nature Communications.
Black painting of bison (putative European bison, or wisent) at Grotte de Niaux (Niaux cave in Ariège, France), dated to the Magdalenian period (~17,000 years ago).

Photo credit: via University of Adelaide (under Creative Commons licence)

For a creationist claim, the assertion that no new species have been seen to evolve takes some beating for its sheer denial of the readily available data. Now geneticists working at the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA at the University of Adelaide, have shown that even the Stone Age painters of the caves such as Lascaux Cave, France, captured one such event in their art. Their findings were published yesterday in Nature Communications.
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