Saturday, 6 March 2021

Malevolent Designer News - The Pestilential Sadist is Hitting Back?

Physician assistant Philana Liang prepares a vial of COVID-19 vaccine on the Washington University Medical Campus. New research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that new variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 can evade antibodies that work against the original form of the virus that sparked the pandemic, potentially undermining the effectiveness of vaccines and antibody-based drugs now being used to prevent or treat COVID-19.
New evidence COVID-19 antibodies, vaccines less effective against variants – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Let's pretend there really is an intelligent [sic] designer designing things like the SARS-CoV-2 virus currently killing people throughout the world, like Creationists claim.

In that fantasy, what we are seeing right now is this designer hitting back against the fantastic response of medical science in developing a vaccine against its invention in record time, by redesigning its pet virus to be able to survive attack from the anti-bodies these vaccines produce. The same modification also allows the virus to re-infect those it didn't kill first time round and whose immune systems did what they were intelligently designed by the same designer to do - and make antibodies to protect us from its other creations- viruses and bacteria that were designed to parasitise us. (Seriously! Creationists regard this sort of pointless arms race as evidence of high intelligence and perfection in design!)

The thing is, these antibodies all work by attacking the 'spike' proteins that are part of the virus' protein coat and which are an important part of its ability to break into a cell to infect it and produce more copies of itself. So, our putative intelligent [sic] designer has modified the gene that makes this spike protein so it is no longer recognised by the antibodies.

At least this is the preferred interpretation by the Creationist industry promulgated by the Discovery Institute, apparently oblivious of, or indifferent to, the fact that this makes their putative designer god look like a malevolent sadist and its religion look like the worship of a monstrous evil. Clearly, there is a political agenda at work here in which even the reputation of their god is being sacrificed, just as the evangelical Christians abandoned any pretence of moral superiority by supporting the odious Donald J. Trump.

Today we have news that a team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX, USA have shown that three new, fast-spreading variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 can evade antibodies that work against the original form of the virus that sparked the pandemic.

Why Biodiversity Matters - Anti-Cancer Chemical from Blue-Green Algae

The cyanobacteria species that produces gatorbulin-1, tentatively identified as Lyngbya confervoides, forms these reddish-green, hair-like structures which are a collection of connected single cells rather than a true multicellular organism.
Photo: Raphael Ritson-Williams
Scientists Find Blue-Green Algae Chemical with Cancer Fighting Potential | Smithsonian Voices | National Museum of Natural History | Smithsonian Magazine

I've written several articles recently showing why biodiversity is important because, if for no other reason, it represents a potential untapped resource of useful chemicals such as antibiotics, fungicides, etc.

Now here's another one, this time yielding a potential anti-cancer drug.

It was found by a team of scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and University of Florida in blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, tentatively identified as Lyngbya confervoides, in the sea off south Florida. These cyanobacteria are simple organisms that form hair-like filaments which look superficially like plants but which are just simple chains of single cells with no specialisation or division of labour.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Evolution News - Unraveling the History of Limb Bones

How tetrapods acquired new bone characteristics as they transitioned from water to land.

(A) About 380 million years ago, lobe-finned tetrapods were still water-bound (top). Yet, lengthwise cross sections of their forelimb bones (bottom) show that they had already evolved limbs that elongate through calcified cartilage columns (dark blue) within the metaphysis – the area near the extremities of the bones that features a ‘growth plate’ formed of cartilage (light blue). Marrow processes — the blood vessels (red) between the mineralized columns in the growth plate — were also present at this stage. However they did not communicate freely with the open cavity inside the shaft.

(B) Tetrapods that first ventured onto land 360 million years ago (top) also elongated their limbs at the growth plate. Their bones do show evidence of marrow processes occurring within the metaphysis (bottom), but they still produce red blood cells via their liver and kidney. Indeed, a trait necessary for red blood cell production in the bone is missing: the blood vessels of the marrow processes open into small connected cavities in the bone rather than communicating with the open marrow cavity.

(C) Fully terrestrial tetrapods appeared 300 million years ago (top), and they retained the fan-like growth plate of their ancestors (bottom). However, the cavities within their bones indicate that the marrow processes were interconnected via blood vessels, and that they communicated with the bone marrow. This suggests that red blood cells were now produced within bone.
New light shed on the early evolution of limb-bone growth plate and bone marrow | eLife

An open access paper published in eLife a couple of days ago, sheds light on a mystery surrounding the evolution of the limb bones of terrestrial tetrapods; in particular the evolution of bone marrow and the transfer of red blood cell production into the bone marrow and away from the liver and kidneys, where they are normally produced in most aquatic vertebrates such as fish.

Using the powerful x-ray beam produced by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, an internationa team of scientists led by Jordi Estefa of Department of Organismal Biology, Evolution and Development, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, examined the limb bones of fossil lobe-finned fish and early terrestrial tetrapods.

The eLife Digest explains:
For many aquatic creatures, the red blood cells that rush through their bodies are created in organs such as the liver or the kidney. In most land vertebrates however, blood-cell production occurs in the bone marrow. There, the process is shielded from the ultraviolet light or starker temperature changes experienced out of the water.

It is possible that this difference evolved long before the first animal with a backbone crawled out of the aquatic environment and faced new, harsher conditions: yet very little fossil evidence exists to support this idea. A definitive answer demands a close examination of fossils from the water-to-land transition including lobe-finned fish and early limbed vertebrates. To support the production of red blood cells, their fin and limb bones would have needed an internal cavity that can house a specific niche that opens onto a complex network of blood vessels.

Evolution News - Our Ancestors Walked (or Probably Crawled) With Dinosaurs

Artists impression of the newly discovered early primate species, Purgatorius mckeeveri.
Illustration by Andrey Atuchin
New Fossil Discovery Illuminates the Lives of the Earliest Primates

No matter what forgeries and inventions Creation frauds resort to to fool their dupes into believing humans lived amongst dinosaurs, we know they died out some 63, million years before even archaic pro-hominins were around. They were killed in the sudden Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction event 66 million years ago.

However, dinosaurs did live alongside the earliest ancestors of the primates, according to the discovery by a team from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Centre. This claim is based on an examination of fossil teeth found in the Hell Creek area of north-eastern Montana which have been dated to 65.9 million years old, in other words, to between 105,000 and 139,000 years after the dinosaurs vanished.

The extinction of the dinosaurs freed up lots of ecological niches that the early ancestors of the mammals were able to radiate into, giving rise to most of the stem species of modern mammalian families, including the primates.

The CUNY New release explains:

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Evolution News - A 3.67 Million-Year-Old Hominin Skull CT Scan Shows Amazing Detail.

Fossil skull ("Little Foot")
New technology allows scientists first glimpse of intricate details of Little Foot’s life - - Diamond Light Source

It must be difficult for a dedicated creationist to have to live with these regular accounts of things happening many millions of years before their dogma requires them to believe the Universe existed, but then I suppose as would be Christian martyrs, they like a cross to bear.

So here for them then is yet another one. This is a scientific account of the amazingly detailed examination of a 3.67 million-year-old hominid skull from South Africa, using a new technology that allows fragile speciments to be non-destructively examined.

The skull is that of a female Australopithecine - a genus of hominin that were the immediate ancestors of the Homo genus, were widely distributed in eastern and southern Africa.
This examination was made possible by using a technology developed just a stone's throw from where I live, by Diamond Light Source - the UK's national synchrotron science facility at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Southeast Oxfordshire.

The Diamond Light news release explains:

Abiogenesis News - That God-Shaped Gap is Getting Smaller!

A replicator made of tRNA-like sequences
© Kudella / LMU
Origin of life: The chicken-and-the-egg problem | News - LMU München

Another shovel-full of science just got thrown into Creationism's favourite God-shaped gap, abiogenesis.

A Team of German scientists led by Professor Dieter Braun of the Ludwig Maximilians Universität (LMU), München, have shown how to resolve the classic 'chicken and egg' conundrum when explaining the origins of living systems, that proteins are required for transcription of the genetic information, but their synthesis itself depends on transcription.

It involved Darwinian evolution at a molecular level! As always when science solves a problem, magic was found not to be required!

The LMU press release explains the problem:

Monday, 1 March 2021

Evolution News - Neanderthals Could Speak and Process Spoken Communication

3D model and virtual reconstruction of the ear in a modern human (left) and the Amud 1 Neandertal (right)

Image: Mercedes Conde-Valverde.
Neanderthals had the capacity to perceive and produce human speech | Binghamton News

When the ancestors of anatomically-modern non-Africans came out of Africa and met their Neanderthal sister species, they would probably have been able to communicate with them with speech. The fact that two related species of hominin could very probably use speech in exactly the same way, is strongly suggestive that our common ancestor could too, even if not to such a developed standard.

This is the conclusion of an international team of researchers including Binghamton University anthropology professor Rolf Quam and graduate student Alex Velez, and scientists from several Spanish universities and research institutions. The team was led by Professor Mercedes Conde-Valverde of Universidad de Alcalá, Spain.

Talibangelical Sore Losers - Three False Prophets for Trump

Three False Prophets

Robin Bullock
"Joe Biden doesn't exist"
Shane Vaughn
"Trump will serve 12 years as leader of the nation"
Jeff Jansen
"Trump is still President. Military will return him to the White House this summer"

Robin Bullock declares President Biden isn't really there!
It's fast becoming a characteristic of Talibangelical Trumpanzee Christians that they find reality too difficult to cope with, so need to make up an alternative one.

Here, by way of illustration are three fundamentalist preachers struggling to come to terms with the fact that their idol, Donald J. Trump, lost the presidential election and that Joe Biden is the duly elected President of the United States of America.

First up we have Robin Bullock, a well-known fruitcake, who last November told his followers that God brought about the Covid-19 pandemic to punish people who voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016. Apparently, neither Robin Bullock nor God realised that most of those who caught the virus and died weren't even Americans because it's a pandemic, but Bullock managed to find this prophesied in the Book of Revelations (where anyone can find anything they want prophesied).

Imagine that! The book of Revelations contains prophesies about the outcome of an election in a country that didn't exist at the time it was written and about a democratic process that no-one then had even heard of!

According to Right Wing Watch, having guaranteed that Trump would win because God told him he would, he is now telling his followers that there is no presidency and no administration with:

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Malevolent Designer News - God Hates Koalas

Wild koala, Phascolarctos cinereus
© A. Gillet
Retroviruses are re-writing the koala genome and causing cancer - Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research

Intelligent [sic] Design Creationists are stuck with a dogma that denies the role of amoral, purposeless natural forces in nature and must ascribe everything to the deliberate intent of a magic deity, whom they equate to the supposedly all-loving god of the Bible.

This means of course that the devastation the koalas are suffering right now is the result of this putative magic designer's intention. As the press release from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Germany, reports:
Koalas are facing multiple environmental and health issues which threaten their survival. Along with habitat loss - accelerated by last year’s devastating bush fires – domestic dog attacks and road accidents, they suffer from deadly chlamydial infections and extremely high frequency of cancer. An international team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) now demonstrate that a retrovirus invading the koala germline explains the high frequency of koala cancer. The results are reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Evolution News - Million-Year-Old Mammoth DNA Shows a New Species Arose From Hybrids

Ancient DNA retrieved from different mammoth species is illuminating a complex evolutionary picture.
Picture: Beth Zaiken/Centre for Palaeogenetics
Million-year-old mammoth genomes shatter record for oldest ancient DNA

In a paper published in Nature a few days ago, a team of palaeontologists led by Tom van der Valk of the Centre for Palaeogenetics, Stockholm, Sweden, report recovering useable DNA from the million-year-old remains of mammoths. This sets a new record, the previous one being established in 2013 when a team from the University of Copenhagen led by Ludovic Orlando reported extracting DNA from the leg-bone of a horse dated to 560-780 thousand years old.

This mammoth DNA was extracted from three teeth, two of which have been dated to over a million years old, which had been preserved in Siberian permafrost. According to this report in Nature:

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Covidiot News - SCOTUS Gives the Go-Ahead for California's Religious Super-Spreaders

US Supreme Court, Washington DC
Supreme Court Again Allows Indoor Church Services, Lifts Ban - Bloomberg

Showing their partisan divide, with Trump's conservative appointees siding with them, the US Supreme Court has granted California's churches the right to obstruct efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic and hold Covid super-spreader events.

This ruling follows a string of similar rulings limiting the powers of government to regulate gatherings in places of worship in the same way that it regulates gatherings in shops, shopping malls, sports arenas and other public spaces.

Malevolent Designer News - Nasty Little Thai and Die Parasites

Figure 1. Distribution of collected snails from 13 localities, along the coast of Andaman Sea, south Thailand.
Figure 2. Shells of Stenomelania sp. (Fisher 1885) from south of Thailand. a. Morph 1: S. cf. aspirans, Krabi Province; b. Morph 2: S. cf. crenulata, Krabi Province; c. Morph 3: Neoradina aff. prasongi, Krabi and Trang Provinces; d. Morph 4: S. cf. punctata, Krabi and Trang Provinces; e. Morph 5: S. cf. torulosa, Krabi, Trang and Satun Provinces. Scale bar: 10 mm.
Figure 3. Images of Loxogenoides bicolor (Krull, 1933) Kaw 1945. a. Specimen stained with 0.5% neutral red; b. Drawing image; c. Sporocyst stained with 0.5% neutral red. Abbreviations – eb: excretory bladder; p: pharynx; pg: penetration gland; os: oral sucker; s: stylet; sp: sporocyst; ta: tail; vi: virgulate organ; vs: ventral sucker. Scale bars: 100 μm.
Figure 4. Haplorchis taichui (Nishigori, 1924) Chen 1936. a. Specimen stained with 0.5% neutral red; b. Drawing image; c. Redia stained with 0.5% neutral red. Abbreviations – dvf: dorso-ventral finfold; eb: excretory bladder; exp: excretory pore; es: eyespot; lf: lateral finfold; os: oral sucker; p: pharynx; pg: penetration gland; re: redia; ta: tail. Scale bar: 100 μm.
Figure 5. Images of Procerovum cheni Hsȕ, 1951. a. Specimen stained with 0.5% neutral red; b. Drawing of image; c. Sporocyst stained with 0.5% neutral red. Abbreviations – dvf: dorso-ventral finfold eb: excretory bladder; es: eyespot; lf: lateral finfold; os: oral sucker; p: pharynx; pg: penetration gland; re: redia; ta: tail. Scale bar: 100 μm.
Agents of food-borne zoonoses confirmed to parasitise newly-recorded in Thailand snails | EurekAlert! Science News

You have to hand it to the intelligent [sic] designer. He or she leaves very little to chance in his/her determination to make humans sick or suffer. Here, for instance, we have an example of the lengths he/she has gone to to turm people in southeast Asia blind with liver and intestinal flukes, using three different species of trematode and four different species of snail.

Trematode flatworm parasites that cause severe ocular infections in humans have been found to use these common snails as their secondary host.

Like a lot of flat-worm parasites, this one has the problem of getting back into its host when its eggs are expelled into the environment. This one does it by infecting a secondary host that is eaten by a tertiary host that itself is eaten by a human. The tertiary host is a fish that is commonly consumed by humans, sometimes only partially cooked.

Now researchers at Silpakorn University, Thailand, led by Kitja Apiraksena, working in South Thailand have discovered that snails commonly found in fresh and brackish water in southeast Asia can carry the parasite as the secondary host. The Eureka Alert news item explains:
"Trematode infections are major public health problems affecting humans in southeast Asia," explain the scientists. "Trematode infections depend not only on the habit of people, but also on the presence of first and second intermediate host species, resulting in the endemic spread of parasites, such as intestinal and liver flukes in Thailand".

The snails of concern belong to the genus Stenomelania, have elongated and pointed shells and can be found near and in the brackish water environment of estuaries in the Oriental Region, from India to the Western Pacific islands. Worryingly enough, science does not know much else about these snails to date. Further, these species are hard to distinguish from related trumpet snails, because of the similarities in their shell morphology.

In order to provide some basic knowledge about the parasitic worms in Thailand and neighbouring countries, the research team collected a total of 1,551 Stenomelania snails, identified as four species, from streams and rivers near the coastline of the south of Thailand in Krabi, Trang and Satun Provinces. Of them, ten were infected with trematodes. The parasites were found at seven of the studied localities and belonged to three different species. In Krabi Province, the researchers observed all three species.

Speculating on their presence, the scientists suspect that it could be related to the circulation of sea currents, as the flow of water along the Andaman coast is affected by the monsoon season.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Bigotry News - Christians for Hate and Discrimination

Bill Donohue
President, Catholic League
Equality Act: US House passes sweeping LGBTQ+ rights bill | LGBT rights | The Guardian

Religion provides excuses for people who need excuses.

Were you ever under the impression that Christian values include the fundamental equality of all people? How about the idea that all people are born with the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Not so, according to a gaggle of right-wing extremist Christian bigots who are furious at the passing of the Equality Act by the US House yesterday. They see the LGBTQ community enjoying the same rights as them as a frontal attack on them and their faith by the Biden administration.

Malevolent Designer News - Designing a Pointless Arms Race

Credit: CC0 Public Domain
Disease tolerance: Skeletons reveal humans evolved to fight pathogens | EurekAlert! Science News

Using evidence from the skeletons of about 70,000 ancient individuals, scientists at Flinders University have shown a pattern of co-evolution of humans and three major pathogens.

Biologist would interpret this as a typical evolutionary arms race, ending in a level of accommodation, as is predicted from the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

Creationists, however, are obliged by dogma to interpret this as the work of a single designer, whom they have designated as 'intelligent' although there are precious few signs of any intelligence, or basic principles of good design for that matter. It is difficult to think of a suitable description of a designer who appears to be in competition with him/herself, constantly seeing the solution to the problem it created last as a problem to find a solution to next, but the terms 'intelligent' or 'designer' don't seem very appropriate or accurate.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Abiogenesis News - Creationism's Favourite God-Shaped Gap Just Got Smaller Again

“Protocells” containing bubble-like compartments formed spontaneously on a mineral-like and encapsulated fluorescent dye. This could have been what happened 3.8 billion years ago when cells first began to form.

Image: Karolina Spustova.
Evidence That Earth’s First Cells Could Have Made Specialized Compartments

No wonder Creationists often come across as paranoid. At times it must feel as though their favourite dogmas and god-shaped gaps are under siege by science and constantly in danger of being overthrown or closed altogether, like so many former gaps in which they sat their favourite god(s); all found to be empty when science shone a light in them.

One of their favourites, and often their only fall-back position, is that abiogenesis hasn't been explained by science, and that easily becomes a claim that it can't be explained without resort to magic by a magic man because living things contain special god-magic called 'life' that can't be identified or even explained.

Then along comes another paper, like this one from scientists at the University of Oslo, published by the Biophysics Society, that chips away a little more at this dogma, by showing not only how simple cells got started but by showing how 'life' is simply chemical and physical processes, all understandable as properties of matter, with no magic involved.

This paper is yet another in a long line of papers all reducing the size of creationism's god-shaped abiogenesis gap, and deals with how proto-cells became internally organised, in this case, with the formation of 'bubbles' or vacuoles that are a fundamental part of living cells today.

The Biophysical Society press release explains:

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Evolution News - European Blackcaps Diverging in Plain View

Male blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla

Scientists attach geolocators to the backs of blackcaps to record the light intensity at any time of day. In this way, hiking trails can be precisely determined.
© Ben Porter
Variety in the migratory behavior of blackcaps | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Like the paper on the origins of East Asian peoples, in my last blog post, this one on the migration of the European warbler, the blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), also shows how little makes sense in biology unless seen with an understanding of evolution and how it works. Supernatural ''explanations' actually explain nothing and have no predictive power because, when you add magic to any explanation, literally anything becomes possible and nothing is falsifiable.

This little bird is a favourite of mine if for no other reason that we had one spend two of the last three winters in our garden, feeding regularly at our bird feeders and fat balls (and that is a clue to their recent change of habit, which this paper records). Readers may recall I wrote about this just over 2 years ago, explaining the evolutionary significance of it.

Now this piece of work, led by Miriam Liedvogel of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, sets out to uncover some of the remaining mysteries surrounding blackcap migration.

Evolution News - How the East Asian People Evolved

Mountainous area in the Shaoguan district, Guangdong province, China.

© wklzzz |
Genomic insights into the origin of pre-historic populations in East Asia | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Creationist frauds will try to tell you that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is a theory in crisis and about to be overthrown by their superstition, Intelligent [sic] Design, in which magic plays the major part. If so, this would be the first scientific theory to be replaced by a supernatural, evidence-free notion with no predictive powers, based on nothing more substantial then superstition, wishful thinking and ignorant incredulity. However, it won't be since there is no sign in the scientific world of any serious doubt about the validity of the TOE and its usefulness in making sense of the natural world, including human populations, as this paper shows.

As we can see from work such as this by a very large, international group of geneticists, anthropologists and linguists, led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute, Germany, what we see today only makes sense biologically in the context of evolution over time from common ancestors. In this case, a large team of scientists have shown how the different populations of East Asia, the most densely populated area of Earth, are related.

From the Max Planck Insitute's press release:

Evolution is a PROCESS, Not an Event!

Where does one colour end and the next start?

As species evolve over time, there is no one time or place where one species turns into another and never a point where it is not the same species as its parents.

Evolution is a PROCESS not an event!

All fossils are transitional!

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Malevolent Designer News - How TB Evades Our Defences

3D illustration of the bacterial pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Image: 123rf
Study could explain tuberculosis bacteria paradox

A study by computational bioengineers at Rice University and infectious disease experts at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) has revealed how Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism that causes TB, is able to resist our immune system and lie dormant for many years, before becoming active and pathological again. It has a genetic mechanism that enables it to resist stress and 'remember' how id did it, so it can do it again more quickly.

Creationists, for whom evolution by entirely natural processes must be dogmatically rejected, must attribute this ability to the intentional design of their putative intelligent [sic] designer, who is one and the same as the Christian god and allegedly omni-benevolent, only wanting a maximally good world for its creation. Why then it came up with this apparently malevolent design remains a mystery that I have yet to get a creationist to explain, other than by dismissing it as a mystery that we can't ever expect to understand, and calling me arrogant for "trying to understand the mind of God", whilst still pretending it is real science and a sound basis for investigating biology.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

More Bad News for Creationists - Australia's Oldest Rock Painting is 17,000 Years Old!

Traditional owner, Ian Waina, recording the estimated 17,300 year old painting of a kangaroo found in a hard-to-access rock cluster in the northeast Kimberley region.
Image: Peter Veth,
Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation
Australia's oldest rock painting is a kangaroo | Melbourne University News

A group of rock art experts from the Universities of Melbourne and \Western Australia and the Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation have dated a rock painting of a kangaroo to between 17,500 and 17,100 years old.

The painting is typical of the artistic style from what has become known as the 'Irregular Infill Animal' or 'Naturalistic' period, chara cterised by life-like and life-sized drawings and paintings, but this is the oldest so far dated.

Psychological Profile of a Violent Evangelical Trumpanzee

Violent insurrection at the Capitol, Washington DC, 6 Jan, 2021
Psychological ‘signature’ for the extremist mind uncovered | University of Cambridge News

A combined group of psychologists from Cambridge University, UK and Stanford University, CA, USA have mapped the underlying "psychological signature" that predisposes people to hold extreme social, political or religious views and be prepared to support violence as a means to enforce their views on others, such as we saw in the attempted coup d’état in January by evangelical Christian Trumpanzee cultists.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Talibangelist Fruitloop News - God Will Wipe Out Twitter for Banning Trump

Nathan French, Prophet of God.
"Big tech companies will begin to crumble if they continue to come against God’s anointed (Donald J. Trump!)"
Nathan French Prophesies That God Will 'Wipe Out' Social Media Companies for Banning Trump | Right Wing Watch

If you're having trouble accessing Twitter, Facebook, etc., you probably only have yourself to blame because you didn't vote for Donald J Trump last November, according to self-style prophet of God, Nathan French, of the Tacoma, Washington-based fundamentalist evangelical Nathan French Ministries. It's just God visiting his retribution on the social media for banning Trump and not allowing him to post the lies and false claims about electoral fraud, 'fake news' and the other tools he and QAnon used to manipulate their credulous cultists.

It's the same old story.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Covidiot News - Priest From Super-Spreader Church Dies of COVID-19

Saint Peter and Paul Church in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco, California, USA

Photo: Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE
Priest dies from COVID after San Francisco Catholic church closes due to outbreak

According to this report, a Catholic priest from a church in the North Beach neighbourhood of San Francisco has died of Covid-19 after his church was forced to close temporarily after at least three of its five priests tested positive for the virus.

And it's not as though they didn't understand the risks; they just chose to ignore them.

The church has repeatedly ignored the city health ordinances, prompting the city to issue a cease and desist order on the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco. According to this report in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Covidiot News - Christian Fruitloops Lying About the Jab

Precious Life director, Bernadette Smyth
"Jesus is in the womb of every pregnant woman"
Photo: Hugh Rusell.
Northern Ireland anti-abortion group's 'misinformation' about Covid jab causing infertility criticised by WHO - The Irish News

A northern Ireland-based 'pro-life' Christian fundamentalist group are actively campaigning to frighten pregnant women into refusing the anti-Covid-19 vaccination, with disinformation about the vaccine.

Amongst their disinformation is the false claim that the vaccine causes sterility. According to this report in Irish Times the group has been criticised by the WHO for issuing leaflets warning people against getting immunised due to concerns the jabs are "rushed" and that excess deaths are reportedly linked to the jab. They offer no evidence for these claims.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Is God a Racist?

Vitamin D - where we get it from and why we need it
Genetic variants for skin color in African Americans linked to vitamin D deficiency, City of Hope study finds

Here is a nice piece of science for people who have fallen for the Intelligent [sic] Design hoax to ponder on. It begs the question, Is God a malevolent Racist?

It is a paper by researchers at Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, showing the link between skin colour in African Americans and the problems associated with the resultant vitamin D deficiency that 70% of them suffer from - an increased risk for cancers and cardiovascular diseases. African Americans have a 14% greater risk from cancers than do white Americans.

First, a little background information, from a blog post I wrote some years ago:

Evolution News - Evolution Before Abiogenesis

Fig. 1.
Templated ligation of random sequence DNA 12-mers. (A) Before cells evolved, the first ribozymes were thought to perform basic cell functions. In the exponentially vast sequence space, spontaneous emergence of a functional ribozyme is highly unlikely, therefore preselection mechanisms were likely necessary. (B) In our experiment, DNA strands hybridize at low temperatures to form three-dimensional complexes that can be ligated and preserved in the high temperature dissociation steps. The system self-selects for sequences with specific ligation site motifs as well as for strands that continue acting as templates. Hairpin sequences are therefore suppressed. (C) Concentration analysis shows progressively longer strands emerging after multiple temperature cycles. The inset (A-red, T-blue) shows that, although 12-mers (88,009 strands) have essentially random sequences (white), various sequence patterns emerge in longer strands (60-mers, 235,913 strands analyzed). (D) Samples subjected to different number (0 to 1,000) of temperature cycles between 75 °C and 33 °C. Concentration quantification is done on PAGE with SYBR poststained DNA.

© 2021 The authors
Did Darwinian evolution begin before life itself? | News - LMU München

News today that research physicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München, Germany (LMU) may have solved one of the key questions relating to abiogenesis - how did order begin to emerge from the chaos of random organic chemicals? It appears that this was the result of Darwinian evolution of molecules!

In the words of the LMU New release:
Before life emerged on Earth, many physicochemical processes on our planet were highly chaotic. A plethora of small compounds, and polymers of varying lengths, made up of subunits (such as the bases found in DNA and RNA), were present in every conceivable combination. Before life-like chemical processes could emerge, the level of chaos in these systems had to be reduced. In a new study, LMU physicists led by Dieter Braun show that basic features of simple polymers, together with certain aspects of the prebiotic environment, can give rise to selection processes that reduce disorder.
In common with many researchers in this field, the LMU team placed abiogenesis in "narrow, water-filled chambers within porous volcanic rocks on the sea bottom", in other words in the porous rocks around deep ocean hydrothermal vents.
These studies showed that, in the presence of temperature differences and a convective phenomenon known as the Soret effect, RNA strands could locally be accumulated by several orders of magnitude in a length-dependent manner. “The problem is that the base sequences of the longer molecules that one obtains are totally chaotic“, says Braun. Evolved ribozymes (RNA-based enzymes) have a very specific base sequence that enable the molecules to fold into particular shapes, while the vast majority of oligomers formed on the Early Earth most probably had random sequences. “The total number of possible base sequences, known as the ‘sequence space’, is incredibly large,” says Patrick Kudella, first author of the new report. “This makes it practically impossible to assemble the complex structures characteristic of functional ribozymes or comparable molecules by a purely random process.” This led the LMU team to suspect that the extension of molecules to form larger ‘oligomers’ was subject to some sort of preselection mechanism.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Termite Gut Microbes Could Aid Biofuel Production

Microbes in the guts of certain termite species could aid in the production of biofuel.

Credit: ABS Natural History/

Termite gut microbes
Credit: mantismundi
Termite gut microbes could aid biofuel production - American Chemical Society

Another example today of why maintaining biodiversity on Earth may be vitally important to ours and the planet's survival. A microbe in the gut of termites could hold the key to producing biofuels from sustainable plant sources.

Termites are incapable on their own of digesting cellulose and the other main structural material of the wood and tough plant matter they feed on - lignin. Instead, they are entirely dependent on a diverse population of bacteria and protozoa that live symbiotically in their gut and which do the digestion for them. Very many of these organisms are unique to the guts of termites.

Now scientists at Toulouse Biotechnology Institute, TBI, Université de Toulouse, France with colleagues from the Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere, Kyoto University, Japan, and the Laboratory of Food Chemistry, Wageningen University, The Netherlands, have shown that these organisms from the guts of four species of termite, Nasutitermes ephratae, N. lujae, Microcerotermes parvus, and Termes hospes, can turn wheat straw into a useable biofuel.

The findings were published a few days ago in the American Chemical Society's journal, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, regrettably behind a firewall and the ACS refuse permission to reprint even the abstract, which can, be read here. However, the ACS News Service press release gives full details:

Evolution News - Reversal for Creationists

This dramatic paleoclimate change – which was hallmarked with widespread auroras – could help explain other evolutionary mysteries, like the extinction of Neandertals.
Photo: Unsplash.
Ancient relic points to a turning point in Earth's history 42,000 years ago | UNSW Newsroom

One of the major problems Creationist frauds have to cope with is the regularity with which natural records contradict their preferred time-line. One such series of records is that of frequent geomagnetic reversals, when Earth's North and South magnetic poles flipped. These events are recorded in the magnetic alignment of particles in the mid-ocean ridges, which record the polarity of Earth at the moment they solidified from the magma welling up from the cracks in the mantle as the tectonic plates pull apart.

Another is in the indirect record in the amount of radiocarbon preserved in ancient tree rings, which increases at the point of reversal as Earth loses the protection from solar radiation provided by its magnetic field.

These records, of course, contradict Creationism's childish claims of a young Earth of just a few thousand years old. This one shows a magnetic reversal about 40,000 years ago - some 30,000 plus years before the Universe existed, according to Creationists.

Scientist from the University of New South Wales, Australia, have found evidence of a period of major climate change associated with the last geomagnetic reversal 42,000 years ago - when Earth's North and South magnetic poles changed places. This period, which they have called the ‘Adams Transitional Geomagnetic Event’, or ‘Adams Event’ for short, after Douglas Adams of 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' fame. Douglas Adam's famously said the answer to life the universe and everything was 42!

This magnetic reversal was a period of mass extinction that saw the demise of the Neanderthals. Evidence for this change was found in the remains of ancient New Zealand kauri trees which have been preserved in sediment for over 40,000 years.

As the UNSW press release explains:

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Evolution News - The How and Why of Seahorse Evolution

© Ralf Schneider
How sessile seahorses managed to speciate and disperse across the world’s oceans | News and media | University of Konstanz

We have news today showing how the biological world we see now only makes sense in the context of the Theory of Evolution, and showing how well the TOE meshes with other strands of scientific evidence, in this case, genetics, plate techtonics and oceanography.

It was produced by an international research collaboration, involving a research team led by evolutionary biologist Professor Axel Meyer of the University of Konstanz, Germany and researchers from China and Singapore, which was able to identify factors that led to the success of the seahorse from a developmental biology perspective: its quickness to adapt by, for example, repeatedly evolving spines in the skin and its fast genetic rates of evolution.

Their results were published, open access, on 17 February 2021 in Nature Communications.

From the Konstanza Universität press release:

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

How Science Works - Telling a Consistent Story of Crocodile Evolution

Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) from a population living on the coast of Panama.
Image: José Avila-Cervantes.
Crocodile evolution rebooted by Ice Age glaciations - McGill University

Once in a while we get a piece of scientific research that shows how science, and the answers science provides, all mesh together to give a much larger picture, showing how several different branches of science all work to support one another and confirm our conclusions about what happened in the past to produce what we see today.

In this case, evidence from genetics, geology and climatology all work to explain what can be observed in the evolution of the American crocodiles either side of the Panamanian isthmus. It was provided by researchers from McGill University, Quebec, Canada who initially set out to see how far the Caribbean and Pacific populations of crocodiles had diverged from one another in the 3 million years since the Isthmus of Panama rose up and joined North and South America but separated the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The news release from McGill University explains:

Evolution News - The Evolution of 'Selfish' Altruism

Red paper wasp, Polistes canadensis
Polistes colonies offer windows into the evolution of co-operation.
Image: P Kennedy
February: tropical-wasps | News and features | University of Bristol

One of the things Creationists pretend to find hard to understand is how 'selfish' genes, or an evolutionary process that means individuals with certain beneficial mutations have an advantage over those who don't, can produce altruism. It probably tells us something about Creationists, that they don't understand how something which isn't purely selfish can improve the chances of survival of the species over all, or why this should be beneficial.

It may also help explain the recent finding that fundamentalist evangelical Christians tend to have a low regard for the health and welfare of others, as we are seeing by their selfish behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic.

Evolution News - A Gift From Our Neanderthal Cousins

Neandertal gene variants both increase and decrease the risk for severe COVID-19 | Karolinska Institutet Nyheter

Readers may remember how, back last October, I reported on a paper from researchers at Karolinska Institutet and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, which showed that a gene carried on chromosome 3, which we inherited from our Neanderthal cousins, is a significant risk factor for severe Covid-19.

Now the same team have shown that Neanderthals also contributed a protective variant, carried on chromosome 12, that helps us fight RNA viruses. Genes known as OAS, from this region of chromosome 12, code for protein enzymes that break down viral RNA. People with this Neanderthal variant have a 20% lower chance of needing intensive care in hospital if they become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This allele is present in half the non-African population of the world, showing in conveys a significant benefit and so has been steadily increasing in the human gene pool.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Trumpanzee News - How Trump Split the GOP

QAnon conspiracy theorists in the failed coup d'etat
Rise of conspiracies reveals an evangelical divide in the GOP - The Survey Center on American Life

Everything Donald J Trump does ends in failure. His businesses go bankrupt; his presidency was a monumental failure in which not a single one of his pre-election promises were kept and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic was probably the worst of any state, resulting in 25% of all cases world-wide being in America, peaking at 250,000 a day with 2,000 deaths, the measures scientists were urging to control it becoming political issues with widespread flouting of social distancing and mask-wearing and now deep suspicion about the safety and even the real purpose of the vaccine.

And now we discover that the party he led - the Republican Party of Lincoln - is deeply divided and practically in a state of civil war, as the evangelical Christian faction has become ever more extreme and mainstream, pushing the moderate Republicans out to the side-lines.

Old Dead Gods - Stonehenge Rebuilt

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK
Stonehenge may be dismantled Welsh stone circle | UCL News - UCL – University College London

Stonehenge, that ancient monument in the middle of the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, may have been built first, about 5,000 years ago, in the Preseli Hills of South Wales, and then been dismantled, transported to its present site and re-erected. This is the conclusion of archaeologists from University College London (UCL) who have published a paper in the journal Antiquity.

The smaller, inner, stones or 'blue stones' are already known to have come from the Preseli Hills and to have been erected before the larger, outer ring of local 'sarsen' stones was erected. Now archaeologists led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, have identified an ancient quarry and the remains of a stone circle nearby, which may have been dismantled and transported 140 miles away, possibly by migrants.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Evolution News - On the Origin of Our Species

This cranium from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco is often called a modern human ancestor. The meaning of that ancestry is discussed and disentangled in a new study by Bergstrom and colleagues.

© Chris Stringer
On the Origin of Our Species | Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

As I have said before, despite Creationist fraudulent assertions that there are no transitional fossils in the human ancestral lineage, the reality is that there are, if anything too many of them. This has led to a confusing picture and a 'tree' more resembling of a bush than a neat tree with nicely spaced-out branches. But then nature has no obligation to provide us with neat, easy to understand data, especially when the reality is fuzzy and complicated.

Now a group of paleoanthropologists from the Natural History Museum, London, UKThe Francis Crick Institute, London, UK and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany have joined forces to try to sort out the confusion and debunk a few misunderstanding that have arisen, even in scientific circles.

The Max Planck Institute news release explains:

Christian Talibangelical Trumpanzees for Violence

Attempted coup d’état by Trumpanzees, 6th January, 2021
After the ballots are counted: Conspiracies, political violence, and American exceptionalism - The Survey Center on American Life

In its American Perspective Survey, The Survey Center on American Life has revealed a post-Trump America deeply divided and with a large number of people, especially evangelical white Christians, ready to resort to violence to achieve their political ambitions.

But even as pride in America has taken a battering because of the antics of Trump and his supporters, the belief in American exceptionalism, that many of us non-Americans find so arrogant and worryingly nationalistic, still remains strong.

Although Trump retains considerable support, especially amongst the Republican rank and file, most Americas expressed relief that he had finally gone. There is also broad support for investigating the possible wrongdoings by his administration.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Creationist Failure News - Yes! It's Another of Those Commonplace 'Non-Existent' Things!

Cantabrigiaster fezouataensis from the Lower Ordovician (Tremadocian) Fezouata Shale,
Zagora Morocco
Credit: Collection of Yale University
New starfish-like fossil reveals evolution in action | University of Cambridge

Researchers from Cambridge University's Earth Sciences and Zoology Departments have identified an Ordovician period fossil, about about 450-million-years-old, from Morocco's Anti-Atlas Mountains as intermediate between the sea lilies or Crinoids and modern starfish. The Ordovician was a period of rapid diversification starting about 485.4 million years ago immediately after the Cambrian and lasting until about 443.8 million years ago.

Regular find like this must be acutely embarrassing for the Creationist frauds who tell their credulous dupes that the absence of these transitional forms in the fossil record means Darwin's TOE is falsified!

Friday, 12 February 2021

Evolution News - How a Single Gene Alteration May Have Separated Modern Humans From Cousin Species

Modern Human skull (L) compared to Neanderthal skull (R)
How a Single Gene Alteration May Have Separated Modern Humans from Predecessors | UC San Diego News Center

Researchers at UC San Diego, led by Alysson R. Muotri, PhD, believe they have shown that a mutation in a single gene could have altered the way our ancestors' brains were wired, enabling them to develop complex social structures, language, adaptability, creativity and use of technology, all of which appear to have arisen over a very short period of time, by evolutionary standards.

The mutation involved a single base-pair substitution - the simplest of all mutations!

They did this by growing brain 'organoids' in Petri dishes from modified stem cells. The UC San Diego news release explains:

Thursday, 11 February 2021

Trumpanzee Fruitloop News - "God Didn't Say Trump Lost, So He Won Really!"

Amanda Grace,
"All part of God's plan to make eveyone think Joe Biden won"
'Prophetess' Amanda Grace Says Trump's Impeachment Trial Is Proof He's Still President | Right Wing Watch

Self-declared "prophetess" and Talibangelical grifter, Amanda Grace, normally bases her 'prophesies' on what the voices in her head say. This time, however, she's going with what they don't say.

In this case, despite wrongly telling her Trump would win last November, so far, 'God' hasn't told her Trump lost - so he must have won really and is still president! Or so she told a delighted right-wing author, commentator, and leading Trumpanzee cultist, Eric Metaxas, on The Eric Metaxas Radio Show.

Apparently believing that it's not the final tally of the votes cast, the certification of the count by state officials, the votes of the Electoral College and finally, certification of the result by Congress, that determines the outcome of American elections, but what her personal voices say, that determines them, she said:
There has been a delay for a reason. It’s not over, and it’s far from over with what the Lord is going to do with President Trump, what the Lord is going to do to the wicked of this nation, including the media. You know, I prophesied from the Lord in October about the media suffering the biggest crisis they ever had in 2021 for their crimes, so I’m watching for that to unfold.
She also 'revealed' that it is all part of God's plan to make everyone think Joe Biden won, so there will be no doubt it is God's miracle when Trump is reinstalled in the White House.

But the real clincher is the fact that Trump is being impeached for a second time. Grace has declared, despite legal opinion to the contrary, that it is only possible to impeach a president in office, and not after he has been deposed, therefore, impeachment 'proves' he is still president, really:
There’s been a delay because I believe God is trying to get people’s eyes on him. He wants all eyes on him right now for the demonstration he’s going to put on. Just like when the Jews were at the Red Sea, and they’re there, and Egypt’s at their back, and it’s all eyes on God because either the Lord is going to do this, or it’s not going to happen. And when they thought there was a dead end, God saw a path through that water. So, God’s ways are much higher when he sees how to make a path when people don’t think there is a way.

The Lord has never said to me [Trump is] not going to serve a second term. Sometimes what the Lord doesn’t say is as important as what he says. And he never said to me, ‘President Trump is not going to serve a second term.’ However, I do believe, because I prophesied this last night from the Lord, a surprise is coming with this impeachment because you can’t impeach a citizen. So something is very interesting here going on, because they’re trying to impeach a citizen right now, if he really is a citizen. You can only impeach a sitting president, so this is like we have dueling presidents right now. This is what it is: dueling presidents.

People’s actions speak louder than their words. These wicked peole right now in Congress—who the Lord is going to deal severely with, by the way—you can only impeach a president. If he is really a citizen right now, how are you impeaching him? You can’t impeach a regular citizen. It’s not possible, not according to the law, not according to the Constitution. So their action—sometimes the actions of the wicked will give them away—are pointing that something is not quite kosher going on with who’s the president.
One person who disagrees with Grace on that score, is President-reject, Donald J. Trump who once famously called for the impeachment of Barak Obama after he had left office. In early 2020, in a tweet which is no longer available, Trump's Twitter account having been permanently suspended, in response to Obama's comments on health care, Trump said, "We should impeach him for that. Why aren’t we impeaching him?"

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), himself a lawyer, though not a constitutional scholar, also disagrees with 'Prophetess' Grace. Answering criticism of his call to impeach Obama in December 2019, he assured Jake Sherman, "You actually can impeach a former president, FWIW".

Not that anyone need take fruitloop, Amanda Grace's opinion on the niceties of US constitutional law, seriously, but there is actually some unsettled debate on the matter of impeaching former officials, unsettled partly because it's never really been tested at this level before. The argument is over the interpretation and the intent of two Articles:
  • Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, says, “The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
  • Article I, Section 3, says, “Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.”
In other words, a person convicted on impeachment can't be imprisoned, executed, fined, have property seized or face any other penalty - not even the loss of his pension.

So, those convicted face two penalties - removal from office, and disbarment from holding future office, the latter being the only relevant penalty for a former official, meaning the purpose of impeachment is not solely to sack a corrupt official, but also to prevent them from ever holding office again.

The other argument is over the intent of the people who framed these articles, and it surely can't have been their intention to build in a massive loophole that would render the entire thing moot and unusable - namely, by offering the escape route of resignation to avoid the penalty of being disbarred in the future, and the ignominy of being convicted.

Be that as it may, the reality is that Congress has the right to bring articles of impeachment against a former office holder, and has decided to do so, as is their constitutional right; and the Senate now has a constitutional duty to hold a formal trial once articles of impeachment have been brought before them, to which they are bound by their oath of office. The argument over whether the Senate can then convict under the Constitution is a separate one altogether.

The moral of this story is, if you want to understand the US Constitution and the powers of the legislature, ask a constitutional lawyer, not a deluded fruitloop who hears voices and even understands what they mean when they don't say anything - especially when what they don't say is what she doesn't want them to say anyway.

What is the probability that she is just plain lying because she is too embarrassed about making false prophesies to admit she made them up too and got it wrong?

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The Fundamentalist Christian Child Pornographer and Trump Aide.

Christmas at the White House with Trump's Ad designer, child pornographer and paedophile rapist, Ruben A. Verastigui.
Former Trump and GOP Aide Ruben Verastigui Charged With Child Pornography Offenses

Of course it would be wrong to suggest that all Trump's supporters and staffers share his lack of moral scruples in sexual matters, but this one certainly did.

In fact, when he was working for the Senate Republican Conference and Christian pro-life groups, and designing social media ads for Donald Trump's Make America Great Again Committee and Donald J Trump for President, Inc., Ruben A. Verastigui was also trading in child pornography and telling his online pal and fellow paedophile:
Well like I said babies are some of my biggest turn-ons and beast. Young rape… Fuck I love all that.
According to this report in The Daily Beast:
D.C. Metropolitan Police arrested Ruben A. Verastigui on Friday after an investigation revealed he allegedly “distributed, received, and possessed images of child pornography” between March 2020 and February 2021. Jared Holt, resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, first reported Verastigui’s arrest on Twitter.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Trump's Legacy - How Trump Made America Hate Again

Police clash with a mob of Trump supporters who breached security and stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

Photo: Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
How America Changed During Trump’s Presidency | Pew Research Center

What happens when an advanced nation elects an incompetent oaf with a narcissistic personality disorder and the emotional maturity and self-control of an over-privileged adolescent, gives him a Twitter account and his own room and tells him he runs the world?

We spent the last 4 years finding out when America did just that in 2016. As this article by Michael Dimock and John Gramlich of the Pew Research Center, based largely on Pew Research polling over the period, shows, it left American society and the Republican Party deeply divided and at one point on the brink of violent insurrection, and America massively diminished in the eyes of the world.

Trump became the first world leader to try to govern (with his idea of government) through a Twitter account. Policies were announced and people were sacked not after discussions with colleagues and attempts to reach consensus but on a whim, often in the small hours of the morning by a Twitter tweet in response to an item on one of the right-wing disinformation TV networks, such as Fox News.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Evolution News - Our Common Ancestry in Fish

Polypterus bichir
We’re more like primitive fishes than once believed – University of Copenhagen

Humans, like all terrestrial tetrapods, have a couple of major differences with the bony fish we are all believed to be descended from via an intermediate species such as Tiktaalik roseae, which crawled out onto land about 370 million years ago; the major differences being our jointed limbs and our lungs, all thought to be adaptations to walking on land and breathing air.

However, researchers at the University of Copenhagen believe they have found evidence to show that these structures could have been present in our ancestral fish some 50 million years before that. In fact, lungs may be the forerunner of the swim-bladder found in bony fish, rather than the swim-bladder being the forerunner of lungs.

The conventional view is that bottom-feeding fish, in low-oxygen environments, used their swim-bladder as a fresh-air supply by gulping air from the surface. The swim-bladder is connected to the gut. This, over time, evolved into the lungs and enabled this bottom-feeders to use the limbs they were evolving to crawl around in the silt, to come out onto land.

This research challenges that view by suggesting that some early bony fish may have had lungs that later evolved into swim-bladders in fish that needed to vary their buoyancy while some retained them as functional lungs which server the purpose of a fresh air store for foraging in an anoxic environment.

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