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.
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