Monday 24 June 2019

Muslims Losing Faith Too

The Arab world in seven charts: Are Arabs turning their backs on religion? - BBC News

A major new survey by the Arab Barometer research network for the BBC, conducted across ten countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019 shows a marked increase in those with no religious beliefs.

Other finding in the survey show a move towards a more liberal attitude to a range of social issues.

Across the area, those self-identifying as "not religious" rose from just 8% to 13% between 2013 and 2018. This represents a 1% per annum increase. Amongst the under-30's this rose to 18%. The largest increases were seen in Tunisia, Libya, Morocco and Egypt, and only Yemen recorded a fall.

Saturday 22 June 2019

Terrible News for Creationists - Evolution of Ruminants Now Known

Lesser Mouse Deer, Tragulus kanchil
By Seshadri.K.S. - Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
Masai giraffe, G. c. tippelskirchi
By © Hans Hillewaert,
CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
From Sheep and Cattle to Giraffes, Genome Study Reveals Evolution of Ruminants | UC Davis

The ruminants are a large and very successful group of mammals ranging in size from the tiny lesser mouse deer of Malaysia to the giant African giraffes, and occupying a wide range of ecosystems. A characteristic of this group is a four-chambered stomach modified to digest a high-cellulose diet with the aid of specialist microorganisms, regurgitation and re-chewing of the food (chewing the cud), a pair of horns or antlers used for defence and sexual display and teeth adapted for eating grass and leaves.

This group emerged between 32 and 39 million years ago and has provided several important domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep and goats, but how exactly they are related had not before been fully worked out.

Now a team of scientists led by Wen Wang and Guojie Zhang at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, China, and Rasmus Heller at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and including Professor Harris Lewin at the UC Davis Department of Evolution and Ecology and Genome Center, Davis California, has gone some considerable way to working out a phylogenic tree for this group.

Friday 21 June 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Cardinal Nichols' Complacency

Cardinal Vincent Nichols
The Roman Catholic Church Case Study: Archdiocese of Birmingham Investigation Report | IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

The leader of the Catholic Church in England, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has been severely criticised by an Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report, for being more concerned with the reputation of the church than with the protection of children.

Nichols was Archbishop of Birmingham between 2000 and 2009 and, although he denies a coverup, was found to have "ignored" allegations which, if investigated could have prevent the abuses of children. In all, there were 130 allegations of child abuse against 78 Catholic priests in the archdiocese.

The chair of the IICSA, Professor Alexis Jay said, "I am truly shocked by the scale of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Birmingham." The inquiry concentrated on the case of four predatory paedophile priests in particular, one of them being Father John Tolkien, son of the author JRR Tolkien. One of the four remains anonymous.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Church of the Holy Hypocrite

Thomas J. Tobin, bishop of Providence, Rhode Island
Catholic bishop who ignored child sex abuse cases calls Pride parades ‘harmful for children’ / LGBTQ Nation

In a stunning display of the nauseating hypocrisy that passes for sanctimonious piety in the Catholic Church, a bishop who stood by and did nothing while priests abused children, has hit out at a planned gay pride month, warning parents that:

[Gays] promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, served for four years in the 1990s as auxiliary bishop of Pittsburgh, one of six Pennsylvania dioceses covered in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report that reveals a horror story of decades of child abuse by Catholic priests and routine cover-up by senior clerics.

Wednesday 19 June 2019

Bear Facts Refute Creationism

Polar bear, Ursus maritimus
Evolved by losing information.
News: How eating meat shifted polar bears’ DNA | College of Natural Sciences (CNS) | UMass Amherst

How did new information create polar bears?

According to creationists, it can't have done because, so the dogma says, no new information can arise due to mutations, and since evolution requires mutations on which selection can work, it should follow that evolution can't include new information. A corollary to this dogma is that loss of information is invariably detrimental.

The problem with that dogma is that real world biology keeps finding examples that shouldn't be there. The latest is the finding that polar bears evolved from a common ancestor with brown bears by adaptations that required changes in the number of certain key genes. This was discovered by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Natural Science.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Creationism Dogged By More Bad News

Dogs evolved a special muscle that lets them make puppy dog eyes | New Scientist

Creationists are probably used to ignoring yet another example of a 'non-existent' fossil showing intermediate or 'transitional' features between an ancestral and a descendant species. If not, they should be since these turn up with monotonous regularity.

A little more unusual are those examples of another of their 'non-existent' feature of biological evolution - new structure.

So, today's news gives creationists another fact to ignore and proclaim not to be there - domestic dogs have a structure which is not found in their wolf ancestors. Moreover, the mechanism by which it evolved is easy to understand in terms of how the environment selected for the ability this new structure gives dogs.

Thursday 13 June 2019

Has Creationism's Intelligent Designer Blundered?

New vulnerability found in major human viruses: Structural feature may lead to antivirals for the common cold, polio, and other pathogens -- ScienceDaily

It looks like creationism's Intelligent (sic) Designer might have blundered and built a vulnerability into some of its most annoying viruses - if you believe that creationist view of biology.

The vulnerability comes from the way viruses replicate inside cells. To enter the cell, they need to change the shape of their protein coat, so if the shape of this protein can be 'locked' they would be unable to infect cells.

Friday 7 June 2019

Malevolent Designer News - America Gets A Special Virulent Zika Virus

Are American Zika strains more virulent than Pacific and Asian strains? -- ScienceDaily

It's beginning to look like the malevolent designer, flushed with success at designing the zika virus to cause microcephaly in babies whose mothers became infected during pregnancy, then spreading it from Africa to South America, has now moved to the next level.

From the work done by a Japanese team of researchers from National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, it looks like a slight tweaking of the design means that the strain of zika now spreading to North America is more virulent. The malevolent designer is planning something a little special for the southern states of the USA.

Their work was published open access in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases yesterday. The accompanying press release explains:

Christians - It's Intolerant not to Tolerate Their Intolerance

Barronelle Stutzman, Christian
Intolerable that the courts won't tolerate her intolerance.
Christian Florist Who Won’t Sell Flowers for Gay Weddings Loses in Court Again | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

Christians in the USA are again crying foul because a court has found against their intolerance and faith-based need to victimise, demonise and deny the rights to others that they demand for themselves.

The case involved a Washington State Christian florist who in 2013 refused to supply flowers for a same-sex marriage between Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, even though same-sex marriages were legal in the state. She had been prosecuted by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the Benton County Superior Court, and fined $1000 for discrimination. She then appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court.

Having lost in the Washington State SC, which ruled that Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in the city of Richland had violated the state’s anti-discrimination law and a consumer protection measure, Stutzman took the case to SCOTUS.

Thursday 6 June 2019

Religious Marriages Plummet As UK Rejects Religion

Marriages in England and Wales - Office for National Statistics

Figures for 2016, released by the UK Office for National statistics a few days ago, show rapidly changing attitudes to marriages and especially to religious marriages in England and Wales. Religion is becoming detached from the institution of marriage and playing little or no part in relationships between adults now. Marriage is quite simply not a religious institution in England and Wales anymore.

The main points were:

  1. In 2016, there were 249,793 marriages in England and Wales, 1.7% more than in 2015, but 1.0% fewer than in 2014.
  2. 97.2% of all marriages were between opposite-sex couples and 2.8% were between same-sex couples.
  3. There were 7,019 marriages between same-sex couples in 2016, an increase of 8.1% from 2015; of these marriages, 55.7% were between female couples.
  4. Marriage rates for opposite-sex couples in 2016 were lower at all ages compared with 2006, except for men aged 60 years and over and women aged 50 years and over.
  5. For the first time ever, less than one-quarter (24%) of all marriages in 2016 were religious ceremonies.
  6. 30 July was the most popular day to get married in 2016, with 4,742 marriages on this day.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Another Mega-Church - Another Sex Scandal

Naasón Joaquín García
Leader of the La Luz Del Mundo church mega-church, Los Angeles, California. Accused of human trafficking, producing child pornography, forcible rape of a minor and other felonies.
Attorney General Becerra Announces Arrest of Naasón Joaquín García, Leader of Religious Organization La Luz Del Mundo, in Major Sex Trafficking Case | State of California - Department of Justice - Office of the Attorney General

Religion is often, probably very often, and the more closely you look at the behaviour of those who profess loudly to be religious, almost always, used as an excuse for behaviour that would be otherwise socially unacceptable.

The daily news stories of criminal, predatory behaviour by priests, pastors, nuns and practically anyone with power over children and other vulnerable people, of just about all churches and religious orders, cults and communities, are now routine; barely raising an eyebrow. This can surely leave little doubt that churches of all denominations are stuffed with people who are merely using them as a cover.

Naasón Joaquín García, leader of the La Luz Del Mundo mega-church, Los Angeles, California, USA seems to be yet another example of loud piety being used as a cover and the church providing the excuses he needed.

Monday 3 June 2019

Homophobic Fruitloop For Brexit

Ann Widdicombe MEP
Ann Widdecombe says science may 'produce an answer' to being gay | Politics | The Guardian

Ann Widdecombe, the recently-elected MEP for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, not content with pursuing a relentlessly right-wing political agenda, has decided she needs to add the role of gay-bashing homophobe to her list of unpleasant qualities.

She stood for a 'party' that had coalesced around Farage, had no manifesto and a single policy, which mysteriously had the finances to launch a major political campaign. Farage's record of racism, lies, disregard for electoral laws and cynical disregard for truth, was of no consequence to self-righteous, everso holy Ann.

Sunday 2 June 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Poland Learns the Truth

Tell No One: YouTube documentary shows sex abuse victims confronting Catholic priests

That most Catholic of European countries, Poland, is having a major child abuse scandal involving Catholic priests all of its own. Whether this results in the same rejection of Catholicism that we've seen in Ireland and elsewhere remains to be seen.

The documentary, Tell No One, which includes secret recordings of Catholic priests being confronted by their victims and confessing to the abuses, has provoked a storm of outrage, having already had more that 21 million views on YouTube, which has resulted in moves to double the prison sentence for paedophiles from 15 to 30 years.

Saturday 1 June 2019

Catholic Abuse News - Church Struggling to Keep up With Secular Humanism

Don Gino Flaim - "It was the Children's fault"
Italian priest Don Gino Flaim justifies paedophilia on live TV and blames children for ‘seeking affection’ | The Independent

A measure of just how far the Catholic Church has been forced to adopt decent Humanist standards of behaviour can be gauged by this article from 2012 and comparing it with Catholic PR today.

To day, senior Catholics know they need to be very guarded and circumspect when they try to blame others for their church's moral bankruptcy and its arrogant abuse of power. Not so just a few years ago, as Don Gino Flaim, 75, of the diocese of Trento in Northern Italy, showed when he went on TV to blame the victims, and by inference their parents, telling the viewers:

Increasingly Secular Ireland as Catholic Church Declines

Baby boom in the past as new figures show birthrates drop again - Irish Mirror Online

The degree to which the Irish Republic has rejected Catholicism in recent years can be seen in a few birth and marriage figures for 2018, released yesterday.

Traditionally, a typical Irish family of previous generations, following the diktats of the Catholic Church, would have been very large. My partner's mother, born into an Irish Catholic emigre family, was one of twelve children, for example. Her Irish-born grandfather from County Mayo, born just a few years after the famine, was one of fourteen children. By the time of the 2011 census, this was down to an average of just 1.38 children, itself a fall from 1.41 in 2006.
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