Sunday 29 January 2017

No More Support for Redundant Churches!

ComptonBeauchamp StSwithun WestPortrait.jpg
St Swithun Church, Compton Beaucham,
Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia. By Motacilla - Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
National Secular Society - Government must not prop up the Church of England, says NSS

The UK National Secular Society has make strong representation to the UK Government that public money should not continue to be used to prop up the failing Anglican Church and its buildings, pointing out that, despite plummeting congregations and thousands of essentially redundant churches, the Church of England is a very wealthy organisation, having assets estimated at £20 billion!

Despite this wealth, since 2014 the government has allocated some £221 million for repairing and maintaining places of worship, the vast majority of which was spent on Anglican churches and cathedrals.

The representation by the NSS was made to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport which is coordinating the survey for the English Churches and Cathedrals Sustainability Review. The review was set up last March to consider the whole question of the sustainability of the very large number of virtually unused churches.

Weekly attendance at Sunday services has now fallen to 1.4% of the population and some 2000 churches have regular

Saturday 28 January 2017

The Church of England 'Is Dying'!

Church of England is 'dying' and you should leave - Former chaplain to the Queen

After a few days away from blogging it is gratifying to be able to return to report signs of further disintegration of the Anglican Church. These became evident last week when the former chaplain to the Queen, Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden, resigned and urged others to leave the Church of England if they want to remain true Anglicans.

The Queen of England and Scotland is herself titular head of the Anglican Church so it's especially pleasing that her personal spiritual adviser is telling people they should leave her Church!

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Creationism in Iceland Out In The Cold

Godless Icelanders in violent rampage.
0.0% of Icelanders 25 years or younger believe God created the world, new poll reveals | Icelandmag

You know, if you listen to Christians, you would expect a country in which most people say they are not religious, 40% of young people say they are Atheists and non-one believes God created the world, to be a pretty grim, 'godless' place.

You should expect to see bands of marauding rapist, thieves and cutthroat murderers roaming the streets in an orgy of selfishness and greed with no regard for the sanctity of human life. The last thing you would expect to see would be peace, brotherly love, a high level of social responsibility and good neighbourliness.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Declining Church Weddings in Spain

Church weddings hit historic low in Spain - Olive Press News Spain

Spain has to be one of my favourite countries and not just for the sun, sand and sangria.

But one thing that used to put me off was the overt religiosity. If you don't like public displays of piety don't go there in Holy Week (Semana Santa) - the week leading up to Easter. Whole town centres will be closed and antiquities made inaccessible because one church or another is having one of those bizarre processions where dozens of men in costumes carry immensely heavy tableaux depicting Jesus and Mary.

Friday 13 January 2017

Was Human Intelligence Made Possible By A Virus?

Viruses in the genome important for our brain | Lund University.

Well no, perhaps human intelligence was not caused by a virus as such but according to new research, its evolution may well have been made possible by an ancient retrovirus which infected an early vertebrate ancestor.

In a blog just a couple of days ago, I explained the origin of the endogenous retroviruses (EVRs) which now form 5%-10% of the human genome, much of it believed to be junk. I also explained that some of it might well have been exapted for other purposes, just as you might expect of a lot of 'spare' DNA hanging around for tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of years.

Catholic Influence Waning in The Philippines

Manilla Slum
Duterte orders full implementation of modern family planning by 2018 - CNN Philippines

Good news last Wednesday from the normally devoutly Catholic Philippines, where, as in the rest of the civilised world, secularisation and rejection of papal authority seems to be gaining ground.

According to CNN, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order providing funds and support for modern family planning, in a bid to make it fully available to the poor by 2018. This comes at the end of a titanic 16 year battle with the Catholic Church which had seemed to have ended in victory for secularists and those campaigning for an end to poverty in 2012.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Something Good From Religion!

Just occasionally, something good can come from religion!

Take for example, something that you'll see everywhere in Lisbon, Portugal, and in most other Portuguese-speaking countries - the wonderful pastel de nata or custard tart!

You see them everywhere in Portugal, in specialist shops and cafés and street vendor's vans. They are consumed in vast quantities and not just by tourists experimenting with local cuisine but by the Portuguese themselves as snacks and treats and just because they are sublimely delicious, glorious in the mouth and very, very moresome. Eaten warm, they are a delight of crisp pastry case and lush, soft egg custard, often flavoured with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. One is never enough!

Something Fishy About Retroviruses

Un-rooted phylogenies, estimated from a reverse transcriptase protein alignment.
Marine origin of retroviruses in the early Palaeozoic Era | Nature Communications.

Retroviruses are enough to induce extreme denialism in creationists because they can't be explained in terms of intelligent (sic) design, or design of any sort, but they can easily be explained by standard genetic evolutionary theory. In fact, they can only be explained by evolution.

Retroviruses are a class of related RNA viruses which, on gaining entry to a host cell, insert the DNA counterpart of their RNA into the genome, making themselves practically invisible to the normal antibody defences of the host. They can lay dormant for many years before being activated and, if they infect the germ-line cells, can be passed on to the next generation.

Bacterial Evolution Recorded in Byzantium

The skeleton of a woman who died 800 years ago on the outskirts of the ancient city of Troy in modern Turkey
Photo: Gebhard Bieg
Byzantine skeleton yields 800-year-old genomes from a fatal infection | University of Wisconsin-Madison News.

A 30 year-old woman who died 800 years ago in what was Troy has unwittingly left us a snapshot of evolving bacteria and a serious infection in humans as it was 800 years ago.

The bacteria were recovered from calcified nodules found just below the ribs of a skeleton of the woman who died during pregnancy and who showed skeletal evidence of a hard, agrarian existence which may have made her vulnerable to infection. The recovered genome of two species of bacteria are of such high quality that they can be used to compare changes in one of the bacteria, Staphylococcus saprophyticus, in the intervening 800 years. The other bacteria, Gardnerella vaginalis, showed little change.

Pregnancy complications are poorly represented in the archeological record, despite their importance in contemporary and ancient societies. While excavating a Byzantine cemetery in Troy, we discovered calcified abscesses among a woman’s remains. Scanning electron microscopy of the tissue revealed ‘ghost cells’, resulting from dystrophic calcification, which preserved ancient maternal, fetal and bacterial DNA of a severe infection, likely chorioamnionitis. Gardnerella vaginalis and Staphylococcus saprophyticus dominated the abscesses.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Early Neanderthals Had Religion Before Modern Humans?

Early Neanderthal constructions deep in Bruniquel Cave in southwestern France | Nature Letters.

This paper passed beneath my radar last August but it illustrates something rather nice about science - the way it continually challenges our assumptions and, if we are honest, causes us to change our minds and revise our understanding. It also shows that Neanderthals may have had religion before modern humans had left Africa.

The paper deals with the discovery in a French cave of artefacts which could only have been made by Neanderthals and a very long time ago.

Monday 9 January 2017

Ask And It Shall Be Given

Arkansas State Rep. Micah Neal, Republican.
Asked for and was given $38,000 in bribes.
Evangelical Christian Arkansas Republican pleads guilty in $600K Bible college bribery scheme

A couple of Good Christian principles seem to have motivated evangelical Arkansas Republican State representative, Micah Neal. He appears to subscribe fully to the idea that:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

Friday 6 January 2017

Malevolent Design or Evolution?

Carla Cerami, M.D., PhD., is the lead scientist on the study and said its results reveal the relationship between anemia, iron supplementation and malaria risk.
Anemia Offers Stronger Protection Than Sickle Cell Trait Against the Erythrocytic Stage of Falciparum Malaria and This Protection Is Reversed by Iron Supplementation - EBioMedicine

I've yet to find an intelligent (sic) design advocate who doesn't believe their putative designer is anything other than the god they purport to believe in, whether they call it God, Allah, Dios, Gott, Yahweh or any other of the names for the god of the Bible and Qur'an.

It's fair to assume therefore that this putative intelligent designer, in the minds of its advocates, has all the characteristics they assign to their particular version of this god. This includes having made humans as it's special creation with everything else there merely to serve the needs of these special human creations. So this open-access paper presents intelligent (sic) design advocates with a special problem. If it was intelligently designed, there is no way these findings can be presented as anything more than a work of extreme malevolence and mendacious sadism.

Thursday 5 January 2017

Signals From Space - Keep Calm and Carry On!

Source of mysterious deep space radio wave discovered for the first time | Science | The Guardian

Scientists have identified the source of a pulse of radio signals first detected in 2016 of a type only known about since 2007.

The so-called fast radio bursts (FRBs) most probably came from a dwarf galaxy some 3 billion light years from Earth, so the pulse only began its journey when Earth was just a few million years old, maybe when life was just getting going.

But it's nothing for alien conspiracists to get excited over; nor is it anything for creationists to start to panic over. It almost certainly isn't a signal from some other intelligence in a distant galaxy. However, exactly what it is is still a bit of a mystery.

Christian Crime Wave

Pastor John Thomas Lindsey, armed robber
Church Pastor Arrested For Nine Armed Robberies in Charlotte |

"When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked him to forgive me." - Emo Philips

It seems that John Thomas Lindsey, 47, a pastor at True Love Church of Refuge, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA also understood that basic Christian principle and the great benefit to be had from having a faith that means a few magic words can conveniently re-set your sin counter to zero without needing to make reparation to those you have wronged. He has been arrested and charged with nine counts of armed robbery!

After enquiries from a local tv station, Chanel 9, the True Love Church of Refuge issued the following statement:

We, the leadership and membership of True Love Church of Refuge, are deeply saddened and disappointed that our leader and brother, John Thomas Lindsey, is facing charges associated with criminal activity. Though we denounce any involvement he may have had, we love him and will continue to pray for him. The ministry will continue to stand strong despite the latest allegations and will continue to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Monday 2 January 2017

Religious Persecution - Spain and Portugal Making Amends

Expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal following the Alhambra Decree, 1492.

Brexit vote sparks rush of British Jews seeking Portuguese passports | World news | The Guardian

News that large numbers of British Sephardic Jews are applying for Portuguese and Spanish citizenship in order to retain their citizenship of the European Union when Britain leaves has prompted me to look a little deeper into the historic background to this story.

Study of Spanish history is well worthwhile if you want to see how religion brutalises people and poisons communal relations. It's not the only example, of course, as examples can be found in the history of just about every European country but, outside the Balkans, Islam was not normally involved; inter-communal strife and bloodshed normally being confined to anti-Semitic Christians or different warring Christian sects. Spain managed all the blood-letting, persecution and hate perfectly well without Protestantism to provide an excuse.
Web Analytics