F Rosa Rubicondior: October 2016

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.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Lessons From Cyprus - Aphrodite, A Goddess For All Men

Birth of Venus (Aphrodite). Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)
When you're the goddess of love, everyone, and especially men, are bound to sit up and take note, especially if your beauty is legendary.

Cyprus, that beautiful, arid island in the eastern Mediterranean and possession of every Mediterranean power from Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Ottoman Turkey, and latterly Britain, is the place of legend. It is remote enough to be mysterious and culturally distinct, yet close enough to the major centres of regional power to be familiar. Not surprisingly, Cyprus had its own gods and its own legends about gods but, unlike those of Minoan Crete, we know quite a lot more about these gods if for no other reason than that, again unlike Minoan Create, the culture which worshipped the Cypriot gods didn't get wiped out in a sudden catastrophic natural disaster.

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Irish Catholic Bishop Now 'Irrelevant'.

Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell
Fine Gael TD: Archbishop’s opinion on abortion ‘is not at all relevant’ | Irish Examiner.

A measure of just how much contempt there is in the Irish Republic for the Catholic Church can be seen in an astonishingly frank attack on Archbishop Eamon Martin, Primate of Ireland, for his comments on the subject of the proposed liberalisation of Ireland's draconian abortion law, which is enshrined the Constitution.

A Fine Gael TD, Kate O’Connell, told the Irish Examiner,

Sunday 9 October 2016

'Kind' Pope Francis Bashing the Gays Again!

Pope Francis: A 'global war' seeks to destroy marriage.

A few days ago in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, the Pope gave an almost perfect illustration of how the Catholic Church is completely incapable of reforming itself without giving up being the Catholic Church.

He reportedly told an audience of priests and seminarians that there is a 'global war to destroy marriage'. He was of course referring to moves to legalise same-sex marriage and so give equal human rights to homosexual couples rather than to stigmatise, persecute and deny basic rights to them as the church would prefer.

Saturday 8 October 2016

It's Time To Dump Trump!

I don't normally comment here on American politics, if for no other reason that I'm not American and believe Americans should decide their own affairs.

However, Donald Trump provokes me to make an exception. Donald Trump is not fit to run a used car lot, let alone the most powerful nation in history with a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying everything on this planet several times over. He has shown himself to be emotionally unstable and quite incapable of controlling his most hateful impulses. He has a sociopathic, even psychopathic disregard for other people. This latest revelation should have done for him as a serious presidential candidate but it

Altruism and Spiders

A female dark fishing spider (left) and its male counterpart, which sacrifices itself as a food source immediately after mating. A new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Gonzaga University has found that this cannibalism can benefit the male's offspring.
Photo: Karina I. Helm
Ultimate sacrifice: Spider's post-sex cannibalism aids offspring | University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Altruism is one of those evolutionary traits that creationists claim not to be able to comprehend for a couple of reasons:
  1. It seems to require some sort of morality and a knowledge of outcomes, and they normally find it hard to think why anyone would do something for someone else if there is no promise of a reward. At least that is normally behind their claim that you need their god to be moral.
  2. How can a trait which is detrimental to the individual in that it causes loss or harm, be advantageous in the Darwinian sense, and so be passed on differentially in preference to a trait for selfishness?

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Even Educated Bees Do It!

The buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris.
Source: Wikipedia
Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect | PLOS Biology

It's now well known that humans are not the only species capable of learning new skills and passing these on to others.

Despite the old religious-based view of humans as having a unique intelligence not seen in other animals, and thus standing us apart from the rest of 'creation', like tool construction and use and the ability to solve problems, learning and culture are now being seen in a whole range of other animals. Until now though, this had been confined mostly to vertebrates and almost exclusively to mammals and birds.

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Does God Favour Axolotls?

Early development reveals axolotl mysteries -- ScienceDaily

You can understand a creator being quite fond of axolotls. There is something fascinating about them, especially the way they look and behave a lot like some sort of fish with legs and even breathe underwater using gills.

Basically, the Mexican axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, is a big salamander which spends most of its life as a tadpole. They even breed in their juvenile form and only become land-based adults when their water dries up. They also have a massive genome by mammalian standards, all packed into just fourteen chromosomes. Their genome is far larger than any other known amphibians but this appears to be due almost entirely to repetitive gene duplication.

Monday 3 October 2016

We Owe It All To Pollution!

Dr Rosalie Tostevin. Field work in Namibia.
Source: UCL
Credit: Fred Bowyer
Low-oxygen waters limited habitable space for early animals | Nature Communications.

The great thing about science is the way it all meshes neatly together. Although there may currently be gaps in our understanding these gaps are getting smaller and the piece that fills the gap almost always neatly fits in with what we already know.

Of course, there may be occasions when the piece doesn't quite fit and so we need to look again at the surrounding science, but in the long run, these conflicts are always resolved to smooth out the wrinkles and fill in the cracks.

And another one of these little gaps looks as though it might have been filled in. Despite the ever and unrealistically optimistic hope of creationists that the very next gap will be found to be where their god lives, no such god was found by science yet again. The answer was entirely consistent with what we already know - which is inevitable, when you think about it. It is inevitable because science is about reality and reality is consistent.

Talking Neanderthals Give Creationists Earache!

Tympanic membrane (grey), ossicular chain (yellow, green, red), and bony inner ear (blue) of a modern human with a One-Eurocent coin for scale.
© A. Stoessel & P. Gunz
Morphology and function of Neandertal and modern human ear ossicles

Creationists struggle with archaic human like Neanderthals, Homo erectus and H. habilis trying out various ways to dismiss them as diseased and deformed individuals, forgeries, etc.

The slightly less delusional ones have learned that there are limits to the amount of evidence that can be denied without looking more than a little insane, so have learned to accept a form of evolution, albeit a ludicrously rapid one which requires several fully-formed new species to spring into existence every generation. To these, all hominids are merely minor variations and have all developed from the fully human people who supposedly got off the Ark about 4000 years ago.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Has The 'Intelligent Designer' Been Tweaking Zika?

Fatal Zika Virus Infection with Secondary Nonsexual Transmission - NEMJ Correspondence

Parasites in general and viruses like the zika virus in particular continue to be an embarrassment to creationists who insist everything is intelligently designed for a purpose.

The main embarrassment of course is in explaining why it designed them in the first place, although 'The Fall' is regularly trotted out as the excuse. But, this gives away the fact that the 'intelligent (sic) designer' is the Christian god and that intelligent design 'science' is fundamentalist, Bible-literalist Christianity posing as science to try to sneak past the 'Establishment Clause' in the US Constitution.
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