F Rosa Rubicondior: 2020

Thursday 31 December 2020

Argentina Decriminalises Abortion as Catholic Church Influence Wanes.

Celebration in Argentina as the Senate decriminalised abortions. Abortion had previously only been legal in cases of pregnancy due to rape or where there was a serious health risk to the mother.
Argentina legalises abortion in landmark vote | The Independent

There was near euphoria in Argentine women's groups as, in yet another rejection if the Catholic Church and its teaching, Argentina yesterday became the first Latin American country to decriminalise abortion.

As with formerly devoutly Catholic Ireland, this is another milestone on the road to complete independence from the former dominance of the Catholic Church as secular morality develops and moves on, leaving a fossilised Church with its morality based on Medieval superstition behind. Instrumental in this reassessment and rejection of the moral leadership of the Catholic Church has, of course, been the tsunami of child sexual abuse scandals and exposure of the systematic facilitation and coverup by Catholic clerics of these abuses, often with the complicity and participation in the abuses by bishops and cardinals.

Wednesday 30 December 2020

Malevolent Designer News - Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine - a Triumph of Science

Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine approved by UK regulator | Society | The Guardian

The day after the UK recorded its highest ever number of new Covid-19 cases at 53,135 and hospitals in the Southeast reported that they now have more Covid-19 patients than at the height of the first wave last Spring, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) finally announced the long-anticipated approval of the vaccine developed by Oxford University researchers in conjunction with the pharmaceutical firm, AstraZeneca. No magic, magic deities or spell-casting preachers were involved in this scientific breakthrough.

This mRNA vaccine has an advantage over the Pfizer vaccine, which is already being deployed to the most vulnerable people, in that it can be stored at ordinary refrigerator temperatures, so is easy to deploy to GP surgeries, health centres, chemists and places like community centres for mass-vaccination efforts, instead of being held as specially-equipped hubs, like the Pfizer vaccine.

The UK government already has 100 million doses on order at a cost of just £3 per dose. With each person needing two doses this is enough for 50 million adults. The rollout is to begin on Monday 4th January. Together with the 30 million Pfizer vaccines, that should be enough for the whole adult population of the UK. There are high hopes that this vaccination program will be substantially complete by April 2021! What's the betting that Donald Trump will then claim he meant April 2021 when he said last in March 2020 that it would all be over by April?

Daily new Covid-19 - UK (30 Dec 2020)

For those intelligent [sic] design creationists who believe the SARS-Cov-2 must have been deliberately designed by their favourite creator deity, for some mysterious divine purpose that involved the random killing of the pious and impious alike, this must come as a bitter disappointment because it looks increasingly as though human medical science has developed an antidote to the virus their putative designer had created to make as many people sick and die as possible, even giving it a little tweak recently to produce the VUI-202012/01 variant which is spreading rapidly in the UK and elsewhere and which threw Christmas plans into chaos, because it is estimated to be some 56% more infective!

In fact, on that point, I'm still waiting for an intelligent design proponent to explain why this new variant, which seems to coincide with the announcement of the approval of the Pfizer vaccine, should not be regarded as a coincidence and the result of a natural, evolutionary process to which they are bound by dogma to deny, but the wilful attempt by their malevolent designer to pre-empt the vaccine and make as many people as possible as sick as possible before the vaccine was fully deployed against it. It looks like I'll have a long wait as an embarrassed silence seems to be the only response so far.

The other great thing about this Oxford vaccine is that it seems to be just as effective against this new strain and even if this putative malevolent designer manages to redesign it so the antibodies no longer work against redesigned 'spike' proteins, it is a simple matter to replace the mRNA in the vaccine with the relevant segment of the new viral RNA, so restoring its effectiveness.

The vaccine works by using the shell of a harmless virus to transport the mRNA it into muscle cells at the injection site. This is then used by the cells' internal protein-manufacturing mechanism to make the SARS-CoV-2 'spike' proteins. These proteins are harmless on their own, serving only to get gain the virus access to the cells and deliver their own full RNA genome, but are recognised by the body as foreign proteins, so stimulating the production of antibodies. These antibodies then attack and deactivate the 'spike' proteins on any SARS-CoV-2 viruses that manage to get into the body. Since these proteins are what the virus uses to get into the cells of, primarily, the lining the respiratory tract to replicate itself, deactivating them stops that part of the virus' life cycle and, importantly, stops the virus infecting and killing your body's cells and making you sick and producing lots more virus particles for you to pass on to someone else.

The results of the clinical trials for the Oxford vaccine had seemed to indicate, from a trial on a small sub-group in the UK in which participants were mistakenly given half the normal dose as a first injection, followed by a normal second dose, that this gave 90% protection against the 60% protection given by the normal full dose regime. However, that result has largely been discounted as due to a non-random age distribution in the sub-group meaning that the sub-group was inadvertently biased toward a younger age group, and, significantly, there was a longer gap between first and second dose. It is now thought that the greater efficacy was due to the latter, the implication being that there is now not the same urgency to give a second dose within the 21 days and something to be gained by delaying it, meaning more vaccine is available for a first injection early on in the program and a second dose can wait for up to 12 weeks.

This first dose should be sufficient to protect 70% of people for that length of time, quickly building up heard immunity in the adult population. The second dose given 12 weeks later, raises the effectiveness to about 80% - better than the current annual flu vaccines. None of the volunteers who participated in the trial and who received the test vaccine, not the placebo, became ill or needed to be hospitalised during the trial! There were no serious side-effects from the vaccine reported in the clinical trial.

According to the DHSS, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation today issued the following advice on priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination:
  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals [footnote 1]
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years[footnote 2] to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality[footnote 3]
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over
There are no certainties in science, especially when confronted with a process like evolution which is generally far cleverer than humans, but it is looking set now for the defeat by science of the most serious pandemic to befall mankind since the 'Spanish Lady' flu of 1919 and possibly since the Black Death plagues of the Middle Ages. Hopefully, by this time next year, the Covid-19 pandemic will be just an unpleasant memory and the triumph of science will stand as an example of what can be achieved by science when the funding and international cooperation are there.

It will also stand as a reminder to the way religious fundamentalists sought to exploit the misfortune of others and, when their income was threatened, or they were being slightly inconvenience by the social distancing regulations and requirement to wear a face-covering to protect others, they put that above the mere lives and welfare of their followers and of the general public. Never again can these sanctimonious hypocrites claim to be pro-life!

And it still remains for an intelligent design proponents to explain why a natural process such as the evolution by natural selection that they dogmatically reject, is the only explanation for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the devastation it caused, which doesn't leave their putative designer looking like a malevolent, misanthropic, pestilential, genocidal, sadistic monster who hates its creation and goes to extreme lengths to make us sick and die, apparently singling out the pious church-goers and their priests, of all denominations, for special attention by turning church assemblies into super-spreader events.

Tuesday 29 December 2020

2020 - A Review of the Poll Findings

President-reject Donald J Trump - sore loser
20 striking findings from 2020 | Pew Research Center

A few things in particular caught my eye in this year's Pew Research Center's "20 striking findings from 2020", especially since they are germane to things I have been writing about more recently - the coronavirus pandemic and in particular the disastrous Trump administration's handling of it in alliance with American evangelical Christians, the growing rejection of religion in the USA (and the rest of the developed world) and the growth of secular humanism and atheism/agnosticism.

Firstly, the pandemic and President-reject Trump's bungling:

Democrats nearly twice as likely as Republicans to view COVID-19 as a major threat to public health

This chart shows as well as any the different priorities between the right-leaning Republicans and the centre-left Democrats.

Republicans care more about the economy than about people, despite many of them perporting to be evangelical Christians and supporters of anti-abortion, 'pro-life' causes.

While 84% of Democrats thought the pandemic was a threat to public health, this view was shared by only half that proportion of Republicans. By contrast, both Democrats and Republicans recognised that the pandemic was a threat to the economy in almost equal numbers.

A major plank of Trump's attempt to explain away his inept handling of the health crisis has, of course, been to down-play the threat by pandering to the conspiracists who promulgate the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theories, and so create the impression that lockdowns, social distancing, and wearing face-mask are unnecessary and part of some 'deep state', satanic conspiracy.

Many Republicans supported Trump in the belief that he would stuff the Supreme Court with fundamentalist pro-lifers who would put their religion above human rights, reverse Roe vs Wade and re-criminalise abortions. Some hoped he would go even further and help them establish a virtual fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the USA, ignore the Establishment Clause and make the teaching of Bible-literalism as real science and history compulsory in public schools, as a prelude to a Taliban-style dictatorship by self-appointed religious clerics. But when it comes to being slightly inconvenienced as a result of measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and conserve hospital services, it seems the lives of others pales into insignificance in comparison to that threat to their individual liberties as they eschew collective responsibilities for their fellows' health and welfare.

This finding is entirely consistent with a finding earlier in the year that showed how evangelical Christians were the least concerned group for the welfare of others.

More voters say it ‘really matters’ who wins the presidency than at any point in the last 20 years

Probably because of Trump's inept handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the mounting death toll, whilst he continued to down-play the seriousness of the situation, tried to supress the truth and showed how out of touch with reality he was in what he was recommending - injecting disinfectant and inserting a UV light into an orifice, taking unproven drugs with known harmful side-effetcs like hydroxychloroquine, despite medical advice against it, and because of his deliberately divisive, often blatantly racist, white supremacist leanings, more people than in the previous decades thought politics in America 'really matters' in 2020.

Even in 2000, when the presidential election was presented as an ideological struggle between the progressive, left-leaning Al Gore and the conservative, reactionary George W Bush, only 50% of Americans thought the outcome of the election really mattered. In2020 this had risen to 83%; a surprisingly high level of engagement in a democracy in which turnout and engagement were previously notoriously low.

Consequently, turnout was at record levels, with Biden getting more votes than any other candidate in American electoral history and winning the Electoral College vote by a margin that Trump had proclaimed a 'landslide' in 2016 when he won the EC vote by the same margin. Trump thus became the first presidential candidate in history to lose the popular vote twice; the second time by double the margin by which he lost to Hillary Clinton.

Trump sowed the wind with his deliberate attempts to polarise and divide American society and ended up reaping the whirlwind.

Trump approval more polarized than for any other president since Eisenhower

This polarisation can be seen in this chart which shows how American society has tended to become more polarised over time, reaching its highest level so far during Trump's presidency with 87% of Republican's approving of him but only 6% of Democrats.

But, unlike most other presidents, where approval/disapproval tended to be fairly volatile, often falling dramatically towards the end of their term, Trump's approval/disapproval ratings have been relatively stable. Somehow he managed to keep the approval of a large proportion of Republicans and never made significant inroads into the Democrat disapproval of him and his performance. His deliberately divisive policies consolidated his support in what looked increasingly like a cult, but won him few converts.

In some countries, ratings for U.S. are at record low

In international PR terms, Trump's presidency has been a disaster for America which has seen its ratings plummet in terms of the percentage of those surveyed in other counties who had a favourable view if the USA.

Approval fell from an average of around 75% in 2000 to around 33% in 2020, with most countries surveyed recording the biggest falls during Trump's term, between 2016 and 2020.

On the specifics of how well or badly the USA had handled the coronavirus pandemic compared to their own country, the EU, the WHO, and China, the USA invariably came out by far the worst, never rising about 20% (Spain) and falling to single-figure percentages in German, Denmark and South Korea. The median score for USA across the countries surveyed was just 15%, less than half that for China (37%)!

Trump's declared aim, loudly and repeatedly trumpeted at his inauguration as he conducted his supporters in rehearsing the simplistic slogans he was teaching them as though they were slow children, to put "America First" and "Make America Great Again" was a singular failure in that it succeeded on in making America a laughing stock in the eyes of the world, and now very far removed from the former reputation as the shining beacon for democracy and progress she had enjoyed since the end of WWII, despite set-backs such as the Vietnam War and support for openly fascist regimes during the Cold War years.

Given Trump's barely-concealed white supremacism and misogyny, and the support he has received from neo-Nazi mobs such as the Proud Boys and white evangelical Christians, the incidental but delicious result of Trump's inept and divisive strategy for gaining a second term, has been to install a left-leaning, mixed race woman as Vice-President, with a very real prospect of becoming the first female POTUS. Apart from the mega-deaths due to Covid-19, and the deterioration of American influence in the world, that could be Trump's lasting legacy!

And now, on an altogether and probably unrelated topic, leaving aside the almighty mess that President-reject Trump will soon be handing over to President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris to sort out, a little bit of news from the UK which has been hurtling toward the cliff-edge of the final stage of Brexit as the transitional period comes to an end in the next couple of days:

British views of the EU reached a historic high

Having taken the decision to leave the European Union in a 2016 referendum and after the political turmoil that saw the end of David Cameron's and Theresa May's political career, a significant majority of Brits now have a favourable view of the EU. This is consistent with a recent YouGov poll in which a majority expressed the view that leaving the EU had been a mistake.

Not surprisingly, now people have a better view of the stark reality of being a small, offshore island on the edge of an increasingly prosperous and expanding European Union, there are already a few, as yet plaintive, calls to re-join. If this becomes irresistible as the next generation assumes political power in Little Britain, or what's left of it if Scotland and Northern Ireland go their own way, could be the rump of England with Wales going back in on terms dictated by the EU, including acceptance of the Euro as the national currency and a reduced voice in the Council of Ministers.

Monday 28 December 2020

What is Wrong With These Covidiots?

'Bishop' W.E. Jackson, Head pastor at Exodus Faith Ministries, Chesapeake, Virginia and former right-wing Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia.
E.W. Jackson: Joe Biden Cursed Our Nation by Saying COVID Is Still Dangerous | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

The stupidity of American evangelical Christian preachers continues to plumb new depths as the coronavirus crisis engulfing President-reject Trump's America continues to deepen.

Deaths have now exceeded 300,000 and are forecast to reach 500,000 before enough people have been vaccinated for 'herd immunity' or as Donald Trump called it, 'herd mentality', reaches the critical point at which the R number falls significantly due to the virus being unable to find enough victims to sustain its population.

Tuesday 22 December 2020

Evolution News - Using the TOE to Understand Biology

Genomic study of fleas finds them to be related to scorpionflies

Image: Shutterstock
December: fleas study | News and features | University of Bristol

Three of the more ludicrous claims from those who want to attack the current consensus of evolutionary biologists, that evolution is gene-centred, are refuted, quite incidentally and without effort or intent, by a team of biologists from Bristol University, in an open access paper published in the journal, Palaeoentomology a couple of days ago.

The study resolves the long-standing problem in taxonomy of where exactly fleas should be placed in the tree of life, since they are not morphologically easily assigned to any of the other major insect taxons, so have been given a taxon of their own with no clear evolutionary relationship to the other Insecta taxons. The team resolved the issue by examining more than 14,000 protein-coding genes of fleas. These showed an evolutionary relationship to a rare group of insects called scorpionflies. Fleas diverged from this sap-sucking group some 290 to 165 million years ago when they adopted a parasitic, blood-sucking life-style. The Bristol University press release explains:

Hoax Miracle News - Failure of the San Gennaro's Blood Hoax Worries Neapolitan Catholics

Naples Cathedral
Blood of Catholic saint fails to liquefy despite hours of prayer, sparking worries about future

The fake 'miracle of San Gennaro's blood' is an tri-annual hoax perpetrated on the devout Catholics of Naples who attend the rather drab cathedral in a run-down slum area just north of the docks, in May, September and December.

They go to pray and hold a special mass, then witness a priest mutter a few magic spells, give a vial containing a brownish mixture of iron chloride, calcium carbonate and salt, all of which can be found locally, a good shake until it becomes 'liquid', then hold it up for the crowds to see and proclaim the 'miracle' of the liquefaction of what is claimed to be a sample of the blood of a local saint who died about 1700 years ago.

This saint, Saint Januarius or San Gennaro, is believed to protect Naples from earthquakes and the brooding, ever present menace from nearby Vesuvius.

Sunday 20 December 2020

Evolution News - Newly-Discovered Centipede is Top Predator in Isolated Cave

Newly-discovered centipede, Cryptops speleorex. Top of the food chain in an isolated Romanian cave.
Photo credit: Mihai Baciu
King of the Cave: New centipede on top of the food chain in the sulphurous-soaked Movile | Pensoft blog

Movile Cave in Romania has been totally isolated from the outside world for 5.5 million years and contains a unique ecosystem entirely dependent on chemosynthetic bacteria, i.e., bacteria that use the minerals in the walls of the cave itself as their source of energy. These bacteria produce a scum on the surface of the underground lake in the cave which forms the basis of the food chain. Their waste products - Sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide - and the low level of oxygen, makes the atmosphere toxic to creatures such as humans who have not evolved to live in this totally dark, extremely hostile environment.

Here is what I wrote about this cave in 2016:

Saturday 19 December 2020

Malevolent Designer News - A New, More Infectious, Covid-19 Variant

Covent Garden, Central London

Credit: Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Coronavirus live news: Boris Johnson to hold press conference at 4pm amid fears over new virus strain; Swiss approve Pfizer vaccine | World news | The Guardian

Believers in the intelligent [sic] design hoax, who also believe the putative creator is one and the same as the Christian, allegedly omni-benevolent, god of the Bible (a belief held despite the OT version clearly being based on a violent, genocidal and irascible despot resembling a Bronze Age tribal war-lord) will be thrilled to know it has modified its SARS-CoV-2 virus to make it more infectious - just as we were beginning to roll out the vaccines medical science has provided to protect ourselves from it!

Covidiot News - At least 75 Sick After North Carolina Christians Hold a Super-Spreader Event

The First Baptist Church, Henderson, North Carolina, USA. 75 sick with Covid-19 following a super-spreader event in early December
At Least 75 People Have COVID After NC Church’s In-Person Christmas Concert | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

According to this report in the Ashville Citizen Times, health officials in Henderson County, North Carolina, USA have so far traced 75 covid-19 cases to a super-spreader in-person event at the First Baptist Church over the weekend of 5th Dec.

Attendees reported that the church was crowded with many not wearing masks and the choir stood shoulder to shoulder, again with many not wearing face-masks.

75 is the minimum number since attempts to trace all those who have been in contact with the covidiots who attended the event are ongoing. A spokesperson for Henderson County Health Department said:

Friday 18 December 2020

Science Has Confirmed a Theory Explaining the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe

Optical image of the Abell 3391/95 system

© Reiprich et al., Astronomy & Astrophysics
Longest intergalactic gas filament discovered — Universität Bonn

I don't normally write about cosmology and astro-physics because they are not subjects in which I have any particular expertise but the findings of a team of researchers from Bonn, Germany, are interesting from a general science point of view in that they confirm our ideas about the early formation of the Universe are correct. It's also good to have a theory I described in What Makes You So Special? From the Big Bang To You confirmed by science.

In particular, the scientists confirm models which explain why the Universe is grainy, with stars, galaxies and super-clusters, and not smooth and amorphous as a simple understanding of mathematics that ignore quantum fluctuations seems to predict.

In this simplistic model, atoms should be evenly distributed so there would be no reason for gravity to pull it into clumps to form denser regions. However, small differences produced by quantum fluctuations should produce small areas of increased density where gravity was higher than the surrounding space, so nearby matter would tend to move towards these centres.

Computer simulations predict that this would leave the Universe looking somthing like a sponge with large 'empty' spaces connected by thin filaments of rarified gas forming a basic matrix, and this is exactly what the researchers have found.

Why the QAnon Conspiracy Failed Trump

5 facts about the QAnon conspiracy theories | Pew Research Center

As conspiracy theories go, the theory the QAnon is a Trump-supporting conspiracy intended to win him a second term by polarising and dividing America, and one in which Donald Trump is actively involved either directly or indirectly through his staff, is one of the few with any merit.

However, as this Pew Research survey from last November, prior to Trump's defeat in the presidential election, shows, it failed to achieve this to the extent needed to ensure a Trump second term. In fact, because Democrats by and large saw through it and saw QAnon for what it was - a right-wing attempt to fool people into supporting Trump - it could well have hardened their determination to remove Trump from office and replace him with someone with more personal integrity and basic honesty.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Global Acceptance of Human Evolution Now Far Outstripping Creationism

Biotechnology Research Viewed With Caution Globally, but Most Support Gene Editing for Babies To Treat Disease | Pew Research Center

The results of the latest Pew Research international survey reported recently explore the public perception of science, how it conflicts with religion if at all, and how much this influences people's perception of the appropriateness or otherwise of gene editing techniques on human babies.

The results vary considerably by nation and especially by the predominant religion in that nation. Significantly though, almost all religious groups in almost all countries register 50% or more who accept evolution. It thus measures to what extent the scientific account has replaced the creationist view of the origin of species and particularly of humans, which predominated until Darwin and Wallace published the idea of a natural force - evolution by natural selection - as being responsible for the origin of species and of biological diversification.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Malevolent Designer News - Hiding SARS-CoV-2 Ready for Another Attack

The binding affinity for the ACE2 receptors with the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 across eight different species compared to humans (the blue baseline). Species above the threshold are vulnerable to letting the coronavirus enter the cell while those below have significantly lower or no risk for infection.
Ferrets, cats and civets most susceptible to coronavirus infection after humans - Centre for Genomic Regulation

As human medical science releases the first of several vaccines intended to regain control of our lives and bring the coronavirus under control, we have news of the pre-emptive plans Creationism's putative designer has already made to enable it to launch another attack on humans.

This, of course, assumes anyone has been fooled into believing in this magic designer in the first place, as so many Creationist dupes have been.

What scientists working at the Barcelona-based Centre For Genomic Regulation (CGR) have discovered is which other species, the intelligent [sic] designer has designed the SARS-CoV-2 virus to infect, so they can act as repositories for the virus pending the day when human herd immunity falls below the level required for a new pandemic to occur. This repository can also act as a test-bed for new mutations until one which can overcome the artificially-acquired immunity in uhmans is chanced upon.

Thursday 10 December 2020

Anti-Covid-19 Vaccines - A Triumph for Science.

Margaret Keenan, 90, becomes first in world to receive Pfizer Covid vaccine outside a clinical trial.
Covid vaccine: UK woman becomes first in world to receive Pfizer jab | World news | The Guardian

Remember the name Margaret Keenan, for she has just made history and will be the answer to trivia quiz questions for years to come. She is the first person outside a clinical trial, to be injected with the first dose of the new SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

In a slight departure from my usual posts, I publish this one to mark this historic first. It marks a significant milestone in mankind's battle against one of the most deadly and destructive pandemic viruses since the 'Spanish' flu of 1919 and possibly since the black death of the early Middle Ages.

It is also a significant advance in the science of immunology, being the first vaccine produced from the messenger RNA (mRNA) of a virus itself. The section of mRNA is that from the virus' genome that codes for the 'spike' proteins on the virus surface that play a major role in gaining access to the inside of the cell, where it parasitises the cells replicative machinery to make thousands of copies of itself and destroy the cell in doing so.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Evolution News - Another 'Non-Existent' Observed Instance of Evolution in Progress

E. coli are common in the gut – and in scientific experiments.

Credit: Maurizio de Angelis/Science Photo Library/Getty Images
UZH - Natural Selection also Increases the Adaptability of Organism
Not that it will bother them because truth is the least of their concerns, but from today, Creationists who claim there are no observed instances of evolution in progress, are either knowingly lying or repeating lies they have been fooled with, because here we have another instance of as clear and unambiguous an example of it as you could wish for.

Amusingly, Creationists have already tried hard to dismiss it with typically childish responses such as:
Aha! But can you prove it will become a horse? Didn't think so.

Monday 7 December 2020

Covidiot News - The Orthodox Church's Super-Spreader Events

Funeral of Bishop Ioannis of Lagadas, who died from Covid-19 at age 62.

Credit: Sakis Mitrolidis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Greek Orthodox Church Faces Criticism as Virus Hits Its Ranks - The New York Times

Readers of this blog will be familiar with how Eastern Orthodox priests have been instrumental in spreading the coronavirus amongst their followers in much the same way that Catholic Priests and, especially, American fundamentalist Christian pastors have been.

Only a couple of weeks ago I reported how the death from Covid-19 of 82-year-old Metropolitan Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, one of the leading Orthodox Patriarchs campaigning against the measures to contain the virus on the grounds that piety would protect church-goers, was treated as an opportunity for a super-spreader event.

Friday 4 December 2020

Evolution News - Arms Races and the Evolution of Vision

An artist’s reconstruction of ‘Anomalocaris’ briggsi swimming within the twilight zone.

Image: Katrina Kenny
Incredible vision in ancient marine creatures drove an evolutionary arms race | Newsroom | University of Adelaide

One of the abilities that gave the Cambrian biota such a big advantage over the earlier sedentary Ediacaran organisms that they probably exterminated them, was the ability to move.

The next major development was the ability to detect movement with vision. This in turn led to an evolutionary arms race that hugely added to the biodiversity in the biota of the early Earth. The evolutionary advantage in being able to detect prey species, and the evolutionary pressure this placed on their prey to see and avoid predators, led to an evolutionary arms race and a period of very rapid diversification, accounting, in part, for the rapid appearance over some 60 million years of the so-called Cambrian Explosion.

Malevolent Designer News - Brilliantly Evil 'Design' of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus

Pathophysiology of SARS-CoV-2 systemic infection. Infection initiates in the upper respiratory tract and progresses to lower regions of the lung in severe cases. Respiratory droplets carrying SARS-CoV-2 infect epithelial and endothelial cells, neurons, microglia, and lung macrophages containing angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2). Viral replication and release of damage-associated molecular patterns induce pyroptosis, causing a dysfunctional innate immune response. Release of pro-inflammatory agents can induce a cytokine storm, increasing vasodilation, capillary permeability, and hypoxemia that can often lead to multiple organ failure

How the SARS-CoV-2 Virus Hijacks and Rapidly Causes Damage to Human Lung Cells | School of Medicine

If you've fallen for the intelligent [sic] design hoax, you must be thrilled by the almost daily revelation of the sheer, malevolent genius behind the SARS-CoV-2 virus currently responsible for 65 million cases of Covid-19, 1.5 million deaths and financial ruin and economic collapse world-wide on a scale not even seen in wartime (as of today).

The latest finding to impress creationists is the mechanism the virus uses to enter and destroy the cells of the lungs of its victims and the ruthless efficiency with which it does it.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine, Massachusetts, USA, in a multi-group collaboration involving scientists from the National Emerging Infectious Disease Laboratories (NEIDL), the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM), and the Center for Network Systems Biology (CNSB), have reported the first map of the molecular responses of human lung cells to infection by SARS-CoV-2.

According to a Boston University School of Medicine press release:

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Malevolent Designer News - God Doesn't Hate Frogs; He Just Loves Mosquitos and Malaria More

New research finds the global collapse of frogs and other amphibians exacerbated malaria outbreaks in Costa Rica and Panama during the 1990s and 2000s.
Credit: David Mark from Pixabay.
Amphibian die-offs worsened malaria outbreaks in Central America - AGU Newsroom

Readers of this blog may recall that I wrote about the fungus that is devastating amphibian populations around the world several years ago. I then asked the question, "Does God Hate Frogs?"

I also wrote about it in my latest book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good., in which I said:

Exterminating Frogs with a Fungus.

Most of the examples I’ve talked about so far have been organisms and viruses that affect humans, but we are far from being the only species that Creationism’s putative intelligent designer seems to have taken an intense dislike to. For example, the world’s frogs and other amphibians are currently being decimated by chytridiomycosis, caused by a couple of related Chytrid fungi, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans. It has been estimated that over 500 different species have been severely reduced in number by this fungal plague, with over 90 extinctions.

Malevolent Designer News - The Widow's Bite

The Noble False Widow Spider, Steatoda nobilis
Study Finds Noble False Widow Spiders Bite Can Transmit Harmful Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria to Humans - NUI Galway

Readers of my latest book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good, will be familiar with very many examples of the malevolence on the part of any designer who could come up with so much pure evil in nature, so they will hardly be surprised at this latest example of its evil genius.

Researchers at NUI Galway, Ireland have discovered that the otherwise harmless bite of the Noble False Widow spider, Steatoda nobilis, now spreading as an invasive species in Britain and Ireland, can inject antibiotic resistant bacteria, causing a serious and intractable infection at the site of the bite.

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Malevolent Designer News - How Covid-19 Destroys Your Brain

An electron microscope image (ultrathin section, artificially colored) shows a section of a ciliated cell in the olfactory mucosa. Large numbers of intact SARS-CoV-2 particles (red) are found both inside the cell and on cellular processes. Yellow: kinocilia.

Photo: Michael Laue/RKI & Carsten Dittmayer/Charité
How SARS-CoV-2 reaches the brain: Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

As though intelligent [sic] design Creationists hadn't got enough to worry about trying to explain why their putative designer designed the coronavirus currently killing people by the hundreds of thousands and making millions more sick, they now have to contend with the virus attacking their brain when they stupidly expose themselves to it in one of their super-spreader events when they gather together to shout down their doubts and sing the praises of this malevolent, misanthropic monster.

A team of scientists at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany, has now explained how the virus looks for all the world as though it was tailor-made for attacking and destroying the human brain, gaining access to it through the nasal mucosa - if you subscribe to the half-baked intelligent [sic] design notion, that is.

Monday 30 November 2020

Coronavirus Question for Intelligent [sic] Design Creationists

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles
SARS-CoV-2 mutations do not appear to increase transmissibility | UCL News - UCL – University College London

Findings published, open access, a few days ago in Nature Communications, raises a worrying question for intelligent [sic] design Creationists.

Creationist dogma states that there are no such thing as random, purposeless mutations because all changes to a genome are made by their putative sentient designer for a purpose. The question then is why do the mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 virus not appear to do anything in terms of the virus' ability to infect people or to replicate more quickly or successfully? All of them appear to be neutral and apparently random and purposeless - exactly what Creationist dogma states never happens.

This was the conclusion of a team of researchers, led by Professor Francois Balloux, of University College of London (UCL) Genetics Institute, from their analysis of the genome of viruses recovered from more than 46,000 patients who had been infected with the virus during 2020. The team includes scientists from the Université de la Réunion and the University of Oxford.

Covidiot News - SCOTUS Backs Unrestricted Church Super-Spreader Events

Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Fundamentalist Catholic and Trump stooge on SCOTUS.
Splitting 5 to 4, Supreme Court Backs Religious Challenge to Cuomo’s Virus Shutdown Order - The New York Times

In an astonishing but predictable ruling, and one which reverses similar rulings concerning coronavirus restrictions on church services in Nevada and California, the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for New York's Mayor Cuomo to impose restrictions on places of worship in New York in an attempt to bring the raging coronavirus pandemic under control.

Sunday 29 November 2020

President-Reject Trump's Dangerous Legacy

U.S. voters are fearful, angry but hopeful about country post-election | Pew Research Center

President-reject Trump's legacy is to leave almost two-thirds of Americans feeling fearful about the future of the country, as the coronavirus pandemic grips the country like no other, and the narcissistic fool is too proud to admit defeat and allow the handover to President-elect Biden to proceed as smoothly as it should if continuity is to be maintained and Biden is to get to grips with the major problems as quickly as he needs to.

This is the finding of a Pew Research survey published a few days ago.

But the survey also showed how a majority of people now feel more hopeful following Biden's election than felt hopeful during Trump's disastrous stint in office but not in charge, rising to 56% from 42% under Trump.

So we now have the paradox of a majority of Americans still feeling fearful, but more hopeful about the future of the nation.

Saturday 28 November 2020

Covidiot News - Why President-Reject Trump is Encouraging National Suicide

Coronavirus New Cases - USA
Daily new coronavirus cases, USA (27 Nov 2020)
(A new spike is predicted by experts following widespread travel and flouting of the guidelines during the Thanksgiving holiday)

An Extraordinarily Dangerous Moment for Rural America | Psychology Today

An extraordinarily powerful article in Psychology Today explains why people in rural America are being led like lambs to the slaughter by a failing President Trump as his powers decline in the last few weeks of his disastrous presidency.

Professor Floyd "Ski" Chilton, of the University of Arizona, hails from the rural American south and identifies with this 'tribe'. He explains the phenomenon as an expression of the dual thinking process - the slow, deliberate, analytical thought process versus a fast, effortless, unconscious, associative processes:
The early works of Sloman, Stanovich, Evans, and Kahneman proposed a dual process theory of thought. A psychological distinction is made between slow, deliberate “thinking” versus fast, effortless, unconscious, associative processes and emphasizes the dominance of the latter evolutionarily driven, unconscious system in most people and especially in people who feel threatened.

Friday 27 November 2020

Why Trumpanzees Go along with President-Reject Trump's Delusions

August Landmesser 1936. The lone dissenter from the Nazi cult.
Source: Wikipedia
Compelled to Conform: When Tribal Ties Trump Truth | Psychology Today

An article in Psychology Today, by Noam Shpancer Ph.D., explains very well the current strange phenomenon of dedicated Trumpanzees insisting, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and the singular lack of evidence for it, that President-reject Trump actually won the 2020 presidential election.

The answer is that cult-think, i.e. the need to belong and conform to the pressure from a group, rather than have the courage to stand up and tell the truth, is the stronger motive for these weak and intellectually dishonest individuals. Conformity has greater value to them than the truth does. They will be admired more for conforming and not spreading doubt and dissent than they will be for defending the truth.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

Catholic Abuse News - Letting The Predatory Priests Off

Roger Sinclair, who was removed by the Diocese of Greensburg in Pennsylvania in 2002 for allegedly abusing a teenage boy decades earlier. Now serving a prison sentence in Oregan for abusing a developmentally disabled man in 2017.

Credit: Deschutes County District Attorney's Office / via AP
Almost 1,700 priests and clergy accused of sex abuse are unsupervised

An investigation by reporters from Associated Press has discovered that almost 1700 American Catholic priests and clergy who had been named as credibly accused of sexual abuses are working unsupervised in the community, often with children.

According to this report by Claudia Lauer and Meghan Hoyer of Associated Press:
Nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement, decades after the first wave of the church abuse scandal roiled U.S. dioceses, an Associated Press investigation has found. These priests, deacons, monks and lay people now teach middle-school math. They counsel survivors of sexual assault. They work as nurses and volunteer at nonprofits aimed at helping at-risk kids. They live next to playgrounds and daycare centers. They foster and care for children. And in their time since leaving the church, dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault and possessing child pornography, the AP’s analysis found.

Monday 23 November 2020

Evolution News - How a Medicinal Plant Evolved to Hide from Humans

Fritillaria delavayi in populations with high harvest pressure.
Photo credit: Yang Niu
Research news - Plant evolves to become less visible to humans - University of Exeter

Researchers from Exeter University and the Chinese Academy of Science Kunming Institute of Botany, have discovered that a plant, Fritillaria delavayi, used in Chinese medicine, has evolved to become harder to find and harvest.

They have shown how this example of cryptic camouflage is more prevalent in areas more heavily harvested than in areas where it is less likely to be picked.

The plant has leaves that naturally vary from grey through brown to green and only flowers when at least five years old, after which it produces a single flower each year. The bulbs are used in Chinese medicine and are harvested in the wild. Their price has escalated in recent years, increasing the selection pressure on them from human collectors.

Covidiot News - The Orthodox Patriarch, Prayer and Covid-19

Mourners kissed the glass cover on Patriarch Irinej's coffin, despite the risk of Covid-19.
Serbia: Thousands mourn Patriarch Irinej amid Covid concerns - BBC News

Mourners at the funeral of Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox church, today, mostly wore face-masks and observed sensible social distancing - apart that is from the priests who conducted the service. They declined to wear face-masks, despite the fact that Patriarch Irinej died of Covid-19, probably contracted when he conducted the service at the funeral of the Orthodox Church's most senior cleric in Montenegro, 82-year-old Metropolitan Bishop Amfilohije Radovic, who also died of Covid-19 earlier this month.

In line with tradition, many mourners kissed the glass covering over the dead patriarch's face, placed there to prevent them kissing his face and hands. Some even drank from the same communion spoon, believing their prayers and piety would keep them safe!

Patriarch Irinej, aged 90, was a conservative and was politically highly influential. He tested positive for Covid-19 three weeks ago, a few days after kissing the face and hands of the dead Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, at his funeral at the end of October. Those attending the funeral of Radovic had agreed to ignore the dangers from the coronavirus and abide by the tradition of walking up to the open coffin and kissing the hands and forehead of the dead priest.

Initially, Irinej's office issued a statement which said "His Holiness is hospitalised in a Covid-19 hospital in Belgrade. [He remains] without symptoms and is in excellent health." On 14th November his condition was described as "stable and under control during hospitalization". On 19th November the Serbian Orthodox Church officially refuted press reports of his death, despite press claims of 'reliable sources', but announced he was dead on 20th.

Coronavirus daily new cases, Serbia

Metropolitan Amfilohije was a notable coronavirus sceptic who foreswore wearing face-masks and recommended pilgrimages instead, describing them as "God's Vaccine". In addition to Patriarch Irinej, several other attendees at Amfilohije funeral were also reported to have contracted the virus and Amfilohije's successor was said to be suffering from "mild pneumonia".

Although ostensibly favouring inter-religious dialogue, Patriarch Irinej was a Serbian nationalist and advocate of 'Greater Serbia' who described the independence of Kosovo as a 'sin' and referred to Republika Srpska as a Serbian state - repeating the Serbian territorial claim to it that had precipitated the Serbia/Bosnia war following the breakup of former Yugoslavia. Republika Srpska is an ethnically Serbian-dominated autonomous part of the Federation of Bosnia and Hertzegovinia, which emerged as a compromise from the war.

During that conflict, a Serbian Nationalist and Greek Orthodox Volunteer militia occupied the town of Srebrenica and murdered 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in what a war-crimes trial later established was an act of genocide. The Serbian and Greek Orthodox churches had strongly supported the Serbians in the war against the mainly Moslem Bosniaks.
Having initially downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, Serbia's Orthodox leaders are now appealing for people to take it seriously. Patriarch Irinej and Metropolitan Amfilohije are just two of a large and growing number of religious clerics who have told their followers that prayer and pious deeds will save them, or even that the virus only infects the ungodly, only to have themselves then died of Covid-19.

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Saturday 21 November 2020

Covidiot News - More Lying Christian Pastors Against Covid-19 Vaccines

Pastor Rodney Howard-Brown of The River church, Tampa, Florida and Revival Ministries International. Lying for money and to keep his death-cult paying for his quackery while endangering their health and welfare.
Lying Pastor: A COVID Vaccine Will Alter Your DNA and “Remove the God Factor” | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

As I remarked in my previous post, there is something weird about fundamentalist Christians who seem to want to help their malevolent designer's special creation, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, kill people or at least make them sick.

This one, Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, of The River church in Tampa, Florida, and Florida-based Revival Ministries International, who, along with his good friend, Pastor Jonathan Shuttlesworth, has been doing his best to ensure as many people as possible get Covid-19, is now lying in a desperate attempt to fool people into not having the vaccine medical science has developed to combat it.

Covidiot News - The Catholic Bishop And The Great Vaccine Lie

Bishop Joseph Brennan, Bishop of Fresno. Fooling the faithfooled.
Bishop tells Catholics not to jump on 'vaccine bandwagon’ - Los Angeles Times

There is something really weird about fundamentalist Christians. They seem to want people to catch the coronavirus!

And it's not just the American mega-church pastors more worried about their falling income than the welfare of their 'flock', who have campaigned against social distancing and wearing facemasks, often with blatant lies and criminal irresponsibility, encouraging and organising the super-spreader events that church services have become.

These same frauds are also now campaigning now against the vaccines that medical science is on the verge of bringing into mass production to protect us from the virus and bring life back to normal - even making it safe to go into a crowded church to stuff more money into the mega-rich pastor's bank account, safe in the knowledge that you're not going to take something away that could kill your friends and relatives.

This mysterious campaigning on the side of a lethal virus is almost like they know they should be siding with the malevolence they believe designed and perfected the SARS-C0V-2 virus. So, Bishop Joseph Brennan's deliberate attempt to trick his followers into thinking they should refuse any vaccine and instead take their chances with a lethal virus is understandable, even if morally reprehensible. He worships the malevolent god whom he believes sent the plague to make people sick and kill millions, and probably thinks its a blasphemy to try to counter its attempted genocide.

His lie is of course, that the vaccine is made from the bodies of aborted foetuses, playing on the superstition that the Catholic Church inculcates its members with that an aborted foetus and even the zygote resulting from in vitro fertilisation are full human beings and thus the sacred special creations of God. Brennan singled out the Pfizer vaccine now going into full production, claiming the cells of aborted foetuses were used in its production.

They are not. Not a single stage in the vaccine's production uses them, according to Pfizer spokeswoman, Jerica Pitt. Bishop Brenan has yet to correct this misinformation and to apologise to Catholics for dangerously and wilfully misleading them.

As with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the vaccines currently leading the race, such as the Oxford vaccine, are made from small sections of SARS-CoV-2 messenger RNA (mRNA); the section that carries the instructions for making the 'spike' proteins coating the surface of the virus which it uses to gain entry into the cells of the respiratory system and other organs. This is inserted into the genome of a harmless virus so that, when injected into a muscle, the harmless virus delivers its package of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA into the muscle cells whose internal mechanisms then begin to make the viral 'spike' protein.

The protein on its own is harmless but the body recognises it as foreign and makes antibodies against it. In effect, the vaccine tricks your immune system into thinking you have Covid-19. Now, when the actual SARS-CoV-2 virus enters your body, these antibodies attach to its 'spike' proteins and prevent them working, so the virus can't enter your cells and destroy them, nor can it reproduce to create a viral load for you to spread to other people.

This use of an 'mRNA vaccine' is a major technological breakthrough for medical science and opens up the possibility of quickly making new vaccines to combat other similar viruses as well as the resistant mutations that will inevitably evolve in the future, making us able to respond quickly and effectively against the parasite's latest move in the evolutionary arms race. Maybe it's this stunning victory of human medical science against the malevolent entity that fundamentalists believe creates these nasty little parasites and wages this arms race against us that so worries these people.

If we have eradicated its smallpox virus and are on the verge of eradicating its poliomyelitis virus, what of its special creations will we be attacking next, and how will that affect their market in the magical 'cures' for sickness they now hawk? Minimising the threat from SARS-CoV-2 is the final straw for frauds who require a frightened, superstitious people to prey on.

Their hated 'enemy', science, is winning and needs to be stopped!

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Friday 20 November 2020

Malevolent Designer News - A Little More Malevolence

TB researcher Faramarz Valafar and his team have discovered what causes the TB bacterium to become resistant to antibiotics, which will help advance therapeutics and vaccine targets.
Solving a Mystery: How the TB Bacterium Develops Rapid Resistance to Antibiotics | NewsCenter | SDSU

The TB bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is one of the malevolent designer's little triumphs (if you've been taken in by the intelligent [sic] design hoax).

Once a major killer in cities where crowded conditions made transmission easy for it, medical science had seemed on the point of eliminating it with antibiotics and vaccinations. However, it has now made a strong come-back due to developing antibiotic resistance and is now endemic in many third world and developing countries with some 10 million new cases and 1.8 million deaths a year in 2018.

Exactly how it did this so quickly for an organism that is slow-growing and which reproduces relatively slowly was something of a mystery to medical science because a slow generation time is not conducive to rapid evolution and yet antibiotic resistance can arise within weeks or months in an individual patient undergoing treatment.

Intelligent [sic] design advocates, of course, have what they think is a better explanation - it was redesigned by their putative designer as another escalation in its arms race against human medical science in its determination to make us sick and die in an especially nasty way.

However, scientists at San Diego State University think they have discovered that this was due to evolution after all, not to the intervention of a magician, malevolent or otherwise.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Covidiot News - Wearing a Face Mask Does NOT Impair Breathing

Wearing a mask while exercising may feel uncomfortable, but research shows doing so does not impair lung function.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Exercised Over Nothing: Masks Don’t Impair Lung Function During Physical Activity

More evidence, if any were needed, that, contrary to the lies of President-reject-supporting evangelical Christians, wearing a face-mask does not impair airflow or exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, even during physical activity.

This is the conclusion from a meta-analysis of all known scientific literature that "examined the effects of various face masks and respiratory loading devices on physiological and perceptual responses to physical activity" by an American and Canadian team led by Susan Hopkins of the University College of San Diego, USA. The single exception was someone with severe cardiopulmonary disease for whom a minor change in resistance to breathing or a slight change in blood gasses could precipitate dyspnoea. However, these people are also at high risk from Covid-19 - an important factor when deciding whether to wear a face-mask or not.

The results of this analysis were published two days ago in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

President-Reject Donald Trump - Portrait of a Disordered Narcissist

President-reject Donald Trump, the best narcissist.
"No-one does narcissism better than me!"
Is This How Narcissists Think? | Psychology Today

An article by Mariette Jansen Ph.D., in Psychology Today neatly explains President-reject Donald Trump's bizarre behaviour. It is characteristic of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

Although, like his all too obvious learning difficulties, this has never formally been diagnosed. Nevertheless, he has all five classic symptoms of NPD which can be easily observed.

These are:

Monday 16 November 2020

Evolution News - Closing Creationism's Abiogenesis God-Shaped Gap

Early Earth (Artist's impression)

Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
Cysteine synthesis was a key step in the origin of life | UCL News - UCL – University College London

Abiogenesis is the creation industry's favourite fall-back gap for when they find the evidence for evolution irrefutable and overwhelming. Science is then challenged to reproduce a fully functional complex cell in a laboratory, starting out with a few raw chemicals.

What they've been conditioned to believe is that any current gap in our scientific knowledge will, unlike all the previous gaps, never be closed, so it must be done by a god, notwithstanding the absurd false dichotomy in that argument.

So, these instances of their abiogenesis god-shaped gap shrinking considerably under scientific scrutiny is bound to produce hand-waving denialism in even the hardiest of creationists. It is, of course just another small step by science toward a comprehensive understanding of how self-replicating, entropy-managing, free-living collections of chemicals in a bag, started evolving into today's amazing biodiversity.

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