F Rosa Rubicondior: May 2018

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Weakening Religious Commitment in Europe

Key findings about religion in Western Europe | Pew Research Center

A new survey by the Pew Research Center highlights major differences between Europe and the USA not only in the level of religious affiliation but in what exactly religious affiliation means.

In the USA people who identify as non-practising Christian, i.e., people who self-identify as 'Christians' but who don't go to church regularly or, in some instanced, don't believe in God, are far more likely to believe in God with absolute certainty (27%) than Europeans (3%); they are ten times more likely to pray daily (20% and 2% respectively), to attend religious services at least monthly (9% and 1% respectively) and think religion is important in their lives (13% and 1% respectively).

In Europe 'Christian' is much more a cultural identified rather than a statement of religious belief, with 16% calling themselves Christian but not actually believing in any god and only 24% believing in the god of the Bible. The remaining 51% believe in a 'higher power' of some sort but not the Biblical god. In effect, 16% of European 'Christians' are actually Atheists and have no problem describing themselves as Christian Atheists, just as non-religious Jews will identify themselves as Jewish Atheists.

Hidden in that statistic is the fact that 67% of European 'Christians' don't believe in the Bible, or at least the god described in it, and implicitly reject the Bible as the divine word of the Christian god. Curiously, 2% of church-attending Christians don't believe in any god. Presumably they attend regularly with someone who does believe in the Biblical God.

Monday 28 May 2018

Chile Catholic Abuse Scandal Deepens

Chilean Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić.
Credit: Diocese of Rancagua.
After scandal, head of Chilean Church’s anti-abuse panel resigns

Following the mass 'resignation' of all Chile's 34 bishops at a meeting in the Vatican, where they were handed a 10 page report by the Pope detailing their neglect and failure to protect children, the victims of clerical abuse that they had been complicit in covering up, there is now another high-level resignation.

Bishop Alejandro Goić Karmelić of Rancagua, head of the Chilean Church’s National Commission for the Prevention of Abuses has resigned his chairmanship because of 'difficulties that have occurred in the diocese he leads'. The 'difficulties' are that fourteen priests in Goic’s diocese have been suspended, accused of being part of an organised paedophile ring called 'La Familia', (the family) which practised sexual behaviour including, but not limited to, the abuse of minors.

Saturday 26 May 2018

Another Massive Rejection of the Catholic Church in Ireland

Greeting the result
Credit: AP
With the result now confirmed, the 'Yes' campaign has scored a stunning victory in their campaign to legalise abortion in the Republic of Ireland.

The result is 66.4 : 33.6 in favour of replacement of the 8th amendment - article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution - which forbids abortion in almost all circumstances, with one which reads “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”

According to this report, the Irish government has already said it will bring legislation before the Dail which

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Chile Wind At The Vatican

Chile's 34 bishops offer resignation to Pope

Credit: AFP/Getty Images
All Chile's 34 bishops offer resignation to Pope over sex abuse scandals - BBC News

All 34 of Chile's Catholic bishops have tendered their resignation after crisis talks in the Vatican during which Pope Francis produced a 10-page document which accused the Chilean Catholic heirarchy of neglect in sex abuse cases.

According to the report, leaked to Chile's T13 television, Pope Francis said he was ashamed that people had been pressurised into not investigating allegations fully.

Covering Up Down Under - Catholic Archbishop Convicted

Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson

Credit: Darren Pateman/AAP
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson found guilty of covering up child sexual abuse | Newcastle Herald

And another Catholic cleric is convicted of facilitating child abuse by paedophile priests.

This time it is the most senior Catholic cleric world-wide to be convicted of covering up child abuse, Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide, Australia. He was convicted earlier today, Australia time, of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse against paedophile priest Father Jim Fletcher, who died in jail in 2006.

Monday 21 May 2018

Evolutionary Paradox - Predation Pushed Red Squirrel Numbers Up!

Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris).

The enemy of my enemy is my friend: native pine marten recovery reverses the decline of the red squirrel by suppressing grey squirrel populations | Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences

A while ago I wrote a book under my real name about my childhood in rural Oxfordshire and included a brief mention of the loss of the native red squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris, that had been so familiar to us in the 1940s and 50's but which had disappeared almost completely by 1960 to be replaced by the non-native grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis.

In it I speculated, based on observations in Ireland, that it might have been the loss of the predatory pine marten, Martes martes, that was actually a contributory cause because it had allowed the grey squirrel to proliferate.

It's rewarding to see that this link has now been given added credence by a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences.

Saturday 12 May 2018

And So The 'Moderates' Enable The Extremists

On March 28th, the white march in honor of Mireille Knoll brought together thousands of people in Paris.
Credit: LP / Guillaume Georges
PressTV-Anti-Islam 'manifesto' sparks outrage in France

A letter signed by 300 French public figures, including ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy and three former prime ministers, calling on Islamic leaders to publicly reject the more violent passages in the Qur'an which call for the murder and punishment of Christians, Jews and non-believers, has been met with outrage by the very people who profess to condemn terrorism and proclaim it to be "pas a mon nom" (not in my name).

According to a report in Middle East Eye the letter entitled Manifesto "against the new anti-Semitism” published in Le Parisien, has been condemned as "Vile, racist, contemptible, Islamophobic, provocative..."

And Another of Those 'Missing Links' Isn't

Jurassic croccodile, Magyarosuchus fitosi (artist's impression)
Credit: Márton Szabó
Jurassic fossil is missing link in crocodile family tree | The University of Edinburgh

This week's example of creationism's non-existent missing links comes from the crocodile family tree in the Jurassic. Creationism has no problem with declaring these things to be non-existent to try to force-fit the facts into their preferred model of reality, of course.

This specimen was found by amateur collector, Attila Fitos (hence it's specific name) on a mountain range in north-west Hungary in 1996 and stored in a museum in Budapest. It was unearthed on a mountain range in north-west Hungary in 1996 and stored in a museum in Budapest, where it was examined by a team of palaeontologists including Dr Mark Young from the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Monday 7 May 2018

Science Shows Creationists and Conservatives Are Ignorant

Source: Deena Skolnick Weisberg et al., in Bioscience, Vol. 68, No. 3; March 1, 2018
No Missing Link: Knowledge Predicts Acceptance of Evolution in the United States
Bioscience, Vol. 68, No. 3; March 1, 2018
Credit: Amanda Montañez
People Who Understand Evolution Are More Likely to Accept It - Scientific American

A study published in BioScience last March and reported on in Scientific American shows a clear link between scientific ignorance and rejection of evolution in favour of creationism in America.

It also shows the same link between scientific ignorance and political conservatism. In both cases the more ignorant of science a person is the more likely he/she is to be a creationist and politically conservative.

Friday 4 May 2018

Neanderthal Were Skilled Engravers

The engraved flint flake from Kiik-Koba layer IV.
The arrow indicates the point of impact. Scale = 1 cm.
Assessing the significance of Palaeolithic engraved cortexes. A case study from the Mousterian site of Kiik-Koba, Crimea

By examining the markings on a flake of flint from a Mousterian (Neanderthal) site in Crimea, researchers have concluded that they were made deliberately by a skilled Neanderthal engraver.

Twenty-Seven Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites from Europe and the Middle East are reported in the literature to have yielded incised stones. At eleven of these sites incisions are present on flint cortexes. Even when it is possible to demonstrate that the engravings are ancient and human made, it is often difficult to distinguish incisions resulting from

Thursday 3 May 2018

Lesson From Goa - Temple to Shriva.

Shri Nageshi Temple, Ponda, Goa, India
First a confession; I know very little of the Hindu religion other than that there are multiple gods and that the stories of these gods are contained in the sacred books, the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Agamas. The Bhagavad Gita is itself part of a much larger work, one of two Indian epics, Mahabatha. These books also contain the basic philosophies of Hinduism.

So, all of our guided visit to the temple to Shriva or Shri Nageshi, at Ponda, Panjim, Goa, was new to me and to my partner. Neither of us had been to a Hindu temple before.

The Shri Nageshi temple is reputedly on the site of the oldest Hindu temple in Goa which was destroyed by the Portuguese colonialists who tried to impose Catholicism on the inhabitants. Ironically, we visited the Shri Nageshi temple immediately after visiting the Catholic church of Bom Jesus (Good Jesus) which contains the body of St Francis Xavier, co founder of the Jesuits and responsible for imposing Catholicism on the people of Goa. The church of Bom Jesus proudly boast of being the oldest religious building in Goa. Something it achieved by default when all the older Hindu, Jain and Muslim religious buildings were destroyed.

Another Piece of the Jigsaw Puzzle

Fossil reconstruction and illustration of Ichthyornis dispar.
Photo Credit: Michael Hanson/Yale University
Scientists find the first bird beak, right under their noses | Yale News.

Yet another piece of the jigsaw puzzle completing the picture of how a sub-order of dinosaurs transitioned into modern birds was put in place yesterday when researchers from Yale published a paper showing how the beak evolved from a dinosaur jaw. The paper was published in Nature. Unfortunately, it sits behind a paywall and the copyright holders require payment for reproducing even the abstract. However, it can be read here, and the Yale press release contains much of the essential information.

Ichthyornis dispar holds a key position in the evolutionary trail that leads from dinosaurian species to today’s avians. It lived nearly 100 million years ago in North America, looked something like a toothy seabird, and drew the attention of such famous naturalists as Yale’s O.C. Marsh (who first named and described it) and Charles Darwin.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Lessons From Goa - Saint Francis Xavier

Body of Saint Francis Xavier in a silver casket of Basilica of Bom Jésus in Goa.
source: Wikipedia
While on a recent vacation in Goa, India we were treated to a guided tour of some of the historic places, including the UNESCO World heritage church of Bom Jésus (Good Jesus in Portuguese - is there a bad one?).

This church is notable mostly because it contains the remains of St Francis Xavier, co-founder of the Jesuits with St Ignatius Loyola.

The body of St Francis is allegedly incorruptible. Our guide assured us that it is exactly as St Francis was in life, despite being buried and exhumed multiple times before being placed in the air-tight silver casket. Curiously, given the importance of such miracles, this incorruptibility of St Francis' body is tantalisingly displayed through little windows showing selected body-parts barely visible from ground level as the casket is mounted some twenty feet up in an elaborate shrine, richly endowed with gold, silver and precious stones, presumably in tribute to his vow of poverty. Who wants to look directly at a rotting corpse?

What can be seen of the body suggests, if the legend of incorruptibility is true, that St Francis had the appearance of a blackened and desiccated corpse in life, which is curious because a statue of St Francis, which our guide assured us was a miraculously accurate statue, perfect in every details, shows him to be on the short side but otherwise a perfectly normal European, albeit with a rather strange posture.

Cardinal Pell to Face Sex Abuse Trial

Cardinal George Pell leaving court in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Credit Joe Castro/EPA, via Shutterstock
Cardinal George Pell to Stand Trial on Historical Sex Offenses - The New York Times

Cardinal Pell, the Vatican's third most highly ranking official, is to stand trial in Australia on several sex-abuse charges. A Melbourne magistrate, Belinda Wallington, found there was sufficient evidence to justify a full trial.

This ruling came after a three-month pretrial hearing during which witnesses described abuse from decades ago. However, the majority of the charges against Pell were either dropped or dismissed, including some of the more serious allegations of abuses which were said to have taken place in a playground, on an altar, on a mountaintop and during a 1970s screening of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in Ballarat.
Web Analytics