F Rosa Rubicondior: 2021

Thursday 30 December 2021

The Covidiot Cull is Forging Ahead in the USA

Covidiot Trumpanzee, antivaxx podcaster and QAnon dupe, Doug Kuzma, has COVID-19 and is unconscious on a ventilator.
Anti-Vaxx Podcaster Reportedly on Ventilator After Attending QAnon-Friendly Event in Texas | Newsweek

The prominent, right-wing, MAGA-hat wearing Trumpanzee and anti-vaxx campaigner, Doug Kuzma, is reportedly seriously ill, sedated and on a ventilator, in a Virginia hospital, with COVID-19, after attending a QAnon rally in Texas. Several other attendees at the rally also became unwell but have claimed they were suffering from 'anthrax poisoning'. Anthrax is a bacterial infection, unlike COVID-19 which is viral, so is easily distinguished from it.

Kuzma is in many ways an example of what happens when you, consciously or unconsciously, buy into a cult and adopt cult-think in place of rational thought. He has a long history of recruiting into the Trumpanzee cult by uncritically repeating any QAnon-originating conspiracy theories and campaigning to persuade the gullible dupes who listen to his raving right Frog News spots, not to get vaccinated. As a right-wing evangelical Christian he has no hesitation in risking the health and welfare of others to serve his ego-tripping self-promotion.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

More Evidence of Declining Religiosity in USA

The Bellefonte First Presbyterian Church in Bellefonte, Pa., USA. Founded in 1800 by the same group who founded the borough of Bellefonte in Pennsylvania, held its last service on 21th December 2021.
'Go in peace': Pennsylvania church founded in 1800 holds last service.

As though to reinforce the recent findings of the Pew Research survey which shows an accelerating decline in affiliation to mainstream churches in the USA, one of the oldest fundamentalist Christian churches in Pennsylvania, The First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte, has closed its doors for the last time, attendance having fallen by 87% from about 200 in the 1970s to about 40 before the pandemic and just 25 now.

When it was founded in 1800, the First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte was very much a part of the local political establishment, even holding meetings in the courthouse before the church was built and providing two Pennsylvania governors from amongst its members. The church provided the local civil leadership for the borough and the state at large, which was, for all practical purposes, a local theocracy with no attempt to separate church and state, the local Christian leadership believing it was entitled to rule.

Monday 27 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - How Brilliant was Creationism's Favourite Serial Killer?

Viruses enter cells to make copies of themselves and cause infection. One secret to SARS-CoV-2’s success is hiding from the immune system by spreading between cells. This transmission electron micrograph shows COVID-causing virus particles that were isolated from a patient.

Image: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
SARS-CoV-2 goes ‘underground’ to spread from cell to cell

Creationist mode:

A couple of papers published recently show us just how brilliant and obsessively determined to maximise suffering Creationism's beloved mass murder was when it designed and then subsequently modified the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The first, by a team from Ohio State University, Ohio, USA, led by virology professor, Shan-Lu Liu of the University's Veterinary Biosciences Department and its Center for Retrovirus Research, explains how the virus is designed to evade your immune system by spreading in your body by cell-to-cell spread rather than by being liberated by infected cells to circulate and infect new host cells.

The problem with the latter method was that it brings the virus into contact with circulating antibodies which remain outside the cell. Spreading from cell to cell is a much more efficient method as it circumvents your immune response so far as the antibody part is concerned. This means a wave of infection can spread across tissues relatively unmolested by your immune system.

Brilliant, eh? It seems the malevolent designer learned a valuable lesson from its failed attempt with the SARS-CoV virus that caused the short-lived 2003 SARS outbreak, which was more lethal but only lasted for 8 months. But it's weird how a supposedly intelligent designer would see the immune system it supposedly also designed to protect us from its viruses, as a problem to be overcome! Creationists, however, see having an arms race with yourself as the act of a supremely intelligent [sic] designer.

Saturday 25 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - How Creationism's Favourite Mass Murderer Gets a Second Go at Killing You With COVID-19

Immune memory less durable after severe COVID-19, study suggests - UT Health San Antonio

Creationist mode:

This is turning out to be a great day for devotees of Creationism's supernatural sadistic malevolence!

Not only have we learned that its brilliantly redesigned omicron (ο) variant is good at evading the antibodies produced by medical science's vaccines as well as being much more infectious than earlier variants such as δ and α, but we now learn that if it can cause a severe enough case of COVID-19, it will produce a dysfunctional B cell response to the spike proteins, so reducing its victim's ability to fight off future infections. In other words, if it doesn't quite kill you the first time, it makes it more likely to kill you on its second or subsequent try.

Brilliant, eh? Just when you think you've beaten it, it sets you up for a sucker punch.

Creationist mode:

Friday 24 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Update on Omicron - SARS-CoV-2's Brilliant New Design

New Study Adds More Evidence for Omicron Immune Evasion | Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Creationist mode:

A new study by scientists from Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York and The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China has provided more evidence of the brilliance of Creationism's putative magic designer in the way it has modified its design of the SARS-CoV-2 virus so it can overcome the efforts of medical science to stop it killing people and making many more sick.

They have shown how the modifications it put in the Omicron (ο) variant help it evade the antibodies produced by the vaccines medical science produced. What the putative intelligent [sic] malevolence spotted was the slight flaw in the vaccines - they are all made by injecting the viral mRNA that produces the virus' spike proteins with which it prizes open a cell to gain entry. This means the antibodies produced in response to the spike proteins that the vaccines produce are specific for the spike proteins on the surface of the virus. This was a quick and easy solution to the immediate crisis caused by the virus but it has meant that the putative malevolence behind the virus only had to think of a way to modify the spike proteins so the antibodies wouldn't attach to them and deactivate them, while retaining their function in prizing open the cell.

It did this with about 30 modifications plus another 20 to other proteins, just to be on the safe-side.

Creationist mode:

At least that is what ID advocates would have to admit to, if they are honest and wish to maintain the childish belief in a magic designer of everything.

Thursday 23 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Has Creationists' Favourite Sadist Blundered with Omicron?

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay measurement of serum dilution titers with a 50% effective concentration (EC50) of SARS-CoV-2 spike RBD-binding antibodies. The dotted lines indicate the assay limits of detection. Two-tailed P values were determined using the Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed rank test with the Holm-Šídák multiple comparison correction. Box plots were generated using the Tukey method. The large box displays the median and IQR. The error bars indicate 1.5 times the IQR or the furthest outlier, whichever is closer to the median. All individual data points are displayed as filled circles.

Super immunity may be sparked by getting Covid while double-vaccinated | The Independent

It's early days yet and what studies there have been have been mostly inconclusive and tentative, but it's beginning to look like the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic could be nearing the end as the virus is facing extinction.

If you're a Creationist, you'll have to see this as a blunder by the supernatural malevolence you believe was behind the design and adaptations of the virus. If, on the other hand, you're rational with the thinking abilities of a normal adult, you will see this as the inevitable result of a natural, evolutionary process.

The reason for this slight optimism, and it is slight so far as the data sets are small and may not be representative of the general human population, is a couple of recent studies. The most recent being one from the Oregon Health & Science University which shows that people infected after being vaccinated (the so-called breakthrough infection where the virus manages to overcome the protection given by the antibodies produced as a result of the vaccines) go on the develop a 'super immunity' to the virus with serum antibody levels of up to 1000 times greater than with vaccination alone.

Monday 20 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Is Creationism's Beloved Sadist Winning the Antibiotic Arms Race?

In order to distinguish bacteria with and without plasmids, and thereby with and without antibiotic resistance, the researchers modified the bacteria genetically. The red cells carry plasmids, while green cells have lost the plasmid. The bacteria were studied under different conditions. In this case the bacteria are cultivated in small, round alginate beads.

illustration from scientific article in NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes.
Danish researchers discover new hiding place for antibiotic resistance – University of Copenhagen

Creationist mode:

It's beginning to look like Creationism's divine malevolence is winning its antibiotic arms race with medical science.

Danish scientists working at the University of Copenhagen have discovered that it has even thought of a way to overcome one of the treatments used against antibiotic resistant bacteria - discontinuing their use for a period to allow the non-resistant forms to reassert their dominance in the bacterial population, before hitting them with the antibiotic again.

It had been assumed that the bacterial population would lose their resistance with this 'rest' period, but the scientists have shown that bacteria have been designed to 'hide' their resistance, so this assumptions needs to be reassessed and modified.

As the Copenhagen University press release accompanying the research published open access in the journal NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes, explains:

Sunday 19 December 2021

Christian False Witnessing News - David Barton is Lying Again

David Barton,
Pseudo-historian and professional liar for Jesus and the gun lobby
The pseudo-historian, David Barton, who earns his living lying for Jesus is also lying for the gun industry in the USA. Apparently, he feels his piety entitles him to an exemption from the commandments which forbids bearing false witness and he knows the extreme right-wing causes he take money for promoting can't be promoted with truth and honesty.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall how David Barton went on American TV to try to fool Americans into believing the US Constitution was taken 'verbatim' straight from the Bible and so America should be a Christian theocracy, by lying about what was in the Bible - a tactic that depends on the fools he dupes taking his word for it and not fact-checking his claims.

He has repeated that tactic, this time to defend and promote the gun lobby (which traditionally provides vast financial support for right-wing politicians and buys political influence at Washington). On 17 Dec, he tried to fool viewers of Victory News, that banning guns would not reduce the death rate because England [sic] does not "allow guns and they've got a knife death rate higher than we have in some of our major cities."

Not only does he appear to be unaware that the UK is not just England (a common enough mistake American's make, but a curious degree of ignorance for someone who poses as a historian!), and guns are banned throughout the UK; he is also lying about the knife death rate in the UK. According to a freely available House of Commons Library research briefing, in the year ending March 2021, there were just 224 homicides involving sharp instruments (including broken bottles) in England and Wales. The worst area was the area covered by West Midlands Police, which includes the major industrial cities of Birmingham, Coventry, West Bromwich, and Wolverhampton where the knife crimes in total, not just deaths, stood at 156 for the same year.

By contrast, according to a 2021 CNN analysis of 40 US Cities:
The rise in violent crime is an epidemic that is happening "all across the country," said Thomas Abt, a senior fellow at the Council on Criminal Justice, and a result of three major factors: the impact of Covid-19 on communities and first responders, the fallout of the social unrest after the murder of George Floyd, and the surge in gun sales since the start of the pandemic.

At least nine major cities have broken their previous annual homicide records with about three weeks left to go in 2021. There have been 513 homicides this year in Philadelphia, higher than the previous total of 503 in 1990. There have been 230 homicides in Indianapolis, breaking the previous record of 215 set just last year.

These increases are not isolated to any particular region of the country. Other cities with record homicide totals include Louisville, Kentucky; Columbus, Ohio; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tucson, Arizona; Rochester, New York; and Portland, Oregon. Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Nashville are also on pace to reach record homicide numbers by the end of the year.

Los Angeles recorded 352 homicides so far this year, and Chicago has seen 756, with year-to-date increases of 12% and 4% respectively. In Houston, homicides are up 18% from 2020.
In other words, the knife-related deaths in England and Wales (awful though they are), far from being what David Barton lied about, are at levels of which those trying to reduce US gun deaths in the USA can only dream. By contrast, the number of gun deaths in UK is minuscule compared to those in the USA with total anula gun deaths in the entire UK being well below those in an average US city in a month.

Barton's chosen platform from which to lie to America is a right-wing evangelical Christian channel which laughably describes itself on its website as:
VICTORY News is here to bring you daily news you can trust—always delivered in a spirit of faith. Stay informed and encouraged with faith, facts and freedom!
As 'Christians' they would know the power of truth to 'set you free' and so they also know that lies achieve just the opposite. The last thing they want their dupes knowing is the truth when, as a recent Pew Research survey showed, affiliation to the protestant churches in the USA, including the white evangelical churches, is collapsing at an accelearating rate and unaffiliated ('None') numbers are doubling every ten years. They know the only way to keep the faithful inline and paying their tythes is to keep them fooled and enslaved by believing the lies they pump out.

And David Barton knows that too. He also knows how it would hit the profits of the gun industry and so the size of their donations to right wing political causes such as the Repugnican Party if gun sales were curtailed and controlled - which is why he went on a right-wing Christian TV 'news' channel to lie to Americans and probably why the right-wing Christian TV 'news' channel invited him on to lie to Americans.

When you show the world you know you need to lie for your faith, you show the world you know your faith is a lie that needs people to believe falsehoods

Friday 17 December 2021

Malevolent Design News - SARS-CoV-2 May Cause Parkinsonism

The SARS-CoV-2 N-protein can interact with α-synuclein in the test tube and help it form amyloid fibrils, a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.

SARS-CoV-2 protein interacts with Parkinson’s protein, promotes amyloid formation - American Chemical Society

Creationist mode:

Scientists working at the University of Twente, Netherlands, have shown a tentative link between infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the onset of Parkinsonism. As any Creationist devotee of the supernatural malevolence, whom they believe created the virus, will tell you, Creationism's putative intelligent [sic] designer is nothing if not thorough in its determination to cause as much misery and suffering as possible with its new pestilence.

Publishing in the American Chemical Society's journal, ACS Chemical Neuroscience, the team say they have shown, at least in the test tube, the SARS-CoV-2 N-protein interacts with a neuronal protein called α-synuclein and speeds the formation of amyloid fibrils, pathological protein bundles that have been implicated in Parkinson’s disease.

The ACS press release accompanying the publication explains:
In addition to respiratory symptoms, SARS-CoV-2 can cause neurological problems, such as loss of smell, headaches and “brain fog.” However, whether these symptoms are caused by the virus entering the brain, or whether the symptoms are instead caused by chemical signals released in the brain by the immune system in response to the virus, is still controversial. In Parkinson’s disease, a protein called α-synuclein forms abnormal amyloid fibrils, leading to the death of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Interestingly, loss of smell is a common premotor symptom in Parkinson’s disease. This fact, as well as case reports of Parkinson’s in COVID-19 patients, made Christian Blum, Mireille Claessens and colleagues wonder whether protein components of SARS-CoV-2 could trigger the aggregation of α-synuclein into amyloid. They chose to study the two most abundant proteins of the virus: the spike (S-) protein that helps SARS-CoV-2 enter cells, and the nucleocapsid (N-) protein that encapsulates the RNA genome inside the virus.

In test tube experiments, the researchers used a fluorescent probe that binds amyloid fibrils to show that, in the absence of the coronavirus proteins, α-synuclein required more than 240 hours to aggregate into fibrils. Adding the S-protein had no effect, but the N-protein decreased the aggregation time to less than 24 hours. In other experiments, the team showed that the N- and α-synuclein proteins interact directly, in part through their opposite electrostatic charges, with at least 3–4 copies of α-synuclein bound to each N-protein. Next, the researchers injected N-protein and fluorescently labeled α-synuclein into a cell model of Parkinson’s disease, using a similar concentration of N-protein as would be expected inside a SARS-CoV-2-infected cell. Compared to control cells with only α-synuclein injected, about twice as many cells died upon injection of both proteins. Also, the distribution of α-synuclein was altered in cells co-injected with both proteins, and elongated structures were observed, although the researchers could not confirm that they were amyloid. It’s unknown whether these interactions also occur within neurons of the human brain, but if so, they could help explain the possible link between COVID-19 infection and Parkinson’s disease, the researchers say.
If subsequently proven, this will be just another example of the brilliance and creative genius of Creationism's favourite sadist. Why use a creation like the SARS-CoV-2 virus to just kill people or make them sick for a few weeks, while ruining the world's economies and destroying businesses, when you can use the same virus to start a progressively debilitating disease developing in relatively young people and make them suffer for the rest of their lives, if they manage to survive the initial infection?

Creationist mode:

The grown-up science, of course, is not an attempt to show off the cleverness of a mythical magician in the sky but how much of a threat this virus could be, especially in its 'long covid' form. Showing yet again the importance of getting what protection against it medical science can currently offer - the vaccines, complete with the booster, and any regular (?annual) updates that might be required until the pandemic burns itself out and become just another annoying virus like those causing influenza and the common cold.

In other words, get boosted, as soon as possible and continue to excercise caution.

Thursday 16 December 2021

The Long Slow Decline of Religion in USA is Continuing

Chart showing that in U.S., roughly three-in-ten adults now religiously unaffiliated
About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated | Pew Research Center

The latest Pew Research survey reveals another huge fall in the number of Americans self-identifying as Christian and another increase in the number self-identifying as 'None' or unaffiliated. At just 63% self-identifying as Christians, this is the second lowest since Pew began these surveys, down from 75% a decade ago and from 78% in 2007.

'Nones' have reached a new high at 29%.

As the next chart shows, all the decline has been at the expense of Protestant churches which have fallen by 12 percentage points since 2007 to just 40%, in other words, 6 out of 10 Americans now self-identify as non-Protestant, including 21% Catholic and about 3% Orthodox Christian or Mormon.

The Protestant share of the population is down 4 percentage points over the last five years and has dropped 10 points in 10 years, in other words, these churches which includes those who described themselves as 'just Christian' without identifying any particular church, have been losing about 1% of their share of the people per year.

Catholicism has fallen by only 3 percentage points since 2007 and has staged a small recovery compared to 3 years ago when it fell below 20%. It is now back to its 2014 share at 21%.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Another Piece of Brilliance by Creationism's Beloved Sadist

Female Guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis, emerging from the foot of a victim.

Research news - Debilitating human parasite transmitted via dogs eating fish - University of Exeter

Creationist mode:

Until recently, it looked like scientists could be on the verge of eradicating another of the divine malevolence's nasty little parasites, like they did with smallpox and the disease in African cattle - Rinderpest.

This time, the disease was the disgusting parasitic worm, the Guinea worm, Dracunculus medinensis, which I described in my popular, illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good, p 87..

A person becomes infected with the Guinea worm when they drink water containing water fleas that are carrying the larval form of the worm. The water fleas are killed in the stomach, releasing the larvae which penetrate the stomach wall and enter the peritoneum. Here, male and female worms mature, pair up and mate. The male then dies but the female migrates to the subcutaneous tissues and grows to about 2 mm wide and up to a metre long. After 10-14 months she moves around in the subcutaneous tissues, often causing intense pain and eventually migrating to the lower leg or foot where she forms a painful, burning blister which can be relieved by immersion in water. When the foot is in water, the female emerges from the blister and begins to shed larvae which infect water fleas to begin the cycle again. The resulting wound may ulcerate and may become infected with opportunist bacteria such as tetanus. Secondary infections have necessitated limb amputations.

Guine worm being extracted
Source: CDC
So successful has the eradication campaign been that infections had fallen from about 3.5 million in 1986, in some of the poorest parts of the world, such as Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and South Sudan, to just 27 in 2020, all in Chad, and D. mediensis looked to be on the verge of extinction. A major part of this campaign was the simple expedient of filtering the water through cloth, which was enough to remove water fleas.

But, as any devotee of Creationism's putative creator god will tell you, the malevolence who creates these nasty little parasites with which to make its creation suffer, is often well ahead of the game in its battles with medical science, so, true to form, it has stepped in in the nick of time with a brilliant master-stroke which means it is much more difficult now to eradicate it.

Scientists working at the University of Exeter, UK, have discovered that the worm now infect domestic dogs, cats and maybe wild animals such as wild cats too. But it is not as simple as that. To get the worms into dogs and cats, it have adapted it so it lives in the digestive tract of fish inside the water fleas that they eat, which are then eaten by dogs and cats when human catch the fish and either throw them away or gut them before cooking them. Inside the mammalian digestive tract, the worm larvae are liberated from the water fleas, just like they are when ingested in drinking water by humans.

Guinea worm is now most widespread in Chad, where according to the CDC, 1,582 of the 1,625 (97.4%) worm infections detected worldwide were recorded in 2020. Of these, 1,507 (92.7%) were in domestic dogs, 61 in domestic cats, and 2 in wild felids, compared to only 12 in humans.

So feral and domestic animals are now acting as a reservoir of these worms, making it much more difficult to eradicate them because you just can't get cats and dogs to filter their drinking water.

Brilliant, eh? There's no stopping the divine malevolence once it decides to make life miserable for people, as it did with Africans and the Guinea worm. Africans seem to be its favourite victims judging by the number of these nasty parasites to be found there, especially in the tropical parts, what with these and other worms, mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, zika and yellow fever and sleeping sickness carried by tsetse flies, on top of the regular famines and malnutrition caused by drought and crop failures.

Creationist mode:

Now the science, rather than the childish superstition.

Dogs are now the key impediment to eradicating this dreadful human disease.

Our work shows that fisheries, and the facilitation of dogs eating fish, are likely contributing to the persistence of Guinea worm in Chad.

The challenge now is that this pathogen must be eliminated not only from people but also from animals.

This is a clear example of where a 'One Health' approach to integrating health of people, animals and the environment is required to eradicate this debilitating human disease.

Professor Robbie McDonald, Lead author
Environment and Sustainability Institute
University of Exeter, Penryn, Devon, UK
Here is how the Exeter University scientists made their discovery, as explained in the news release:
Targeted surveillance showed that in 2020, 93% of Guinea worms detected worldwide were in dogs in Chad, in central Africa.

Research by the University of Exeter, published today in Current Biology, has revealed a new pathway for transmission – by dogs eating fish that carry the parasite larvae. This means dogs maintain the parasite’s life-cycle and humans can still catch the disease.

The researchers worked for a year in several of the worst-affected villages along the River Chari in Chad.

They tracked hundreds of dogs with satellite tags to analyse movements, and revealed dog diets throughout the year using forensic stable isotope analysis of dog whiskers.

Much of the fish eaten by the dogs – usually guts or smaller fish – was discarded by humans fishing on the river and its lagoons.
In the abstract to their paper in Current Biology, the authors say:
  • Reservoirs of infection in dogs impede eradication of human Guinea worm disease.
  • We analyzed disease risk in dogs in Chad where Guinea worm is most common.
  • Disease is associated with consumption of fish made available by seasonal fisheries.
  • Novel transmission pathway highlights value of One Health for disease eradication.

Exploitation of natural resources is a driver of human infectious disease emergence. The emergence of animal reservoirs of Guinea worm Dracunculus medinensis, particularly in domestic dogs Canis familiaris, has become the major impediment to global eradication of this human disease. 93% of all Guinea worms detected worldwide in 2020 were in dogs in Chad. Novel, non-classical pathways for transmission of Guinea worm in dogs, involving consumption of fish, have been hypothesized to support the maintenance of this animal reservoir. We quantified and analyzed variation in Guinea worm emergence in dogs in Chad, across three climatic seasons, in multiple villages and districts. We applied forensic stable isotope analyses to quantify dietary variation within and among dogs and GPS tracking to characterize their spatial ecology. At the end of the hot-dry season and beginning of the wet season, when fishing by people is most intensive, Guinea worm emergence rates in dogs were highest, dogs ate most fish, and fish consumption was most closely associated with disease. Consumption of fish by dogs enables a non-classical transmission pathway for Guinea worm in Chad. Seasonal fisheries and the facilitation of dogs eating fish are likely contributing to disease persistence and to this key impediment to human disease eradication. Interrelated natural resource use, climatic variation, companion animal ecology, and human health highlight the indispensability of One Health approaches to the challenges of eradicating Guinea worm and other zoonotic diseases.

The thing is, there are so many of these examples of how, if there really were an intelligent designer with the characteristics Creationists like to attribute to their favourite god - omniscience and omnipotence - it could only be described as a malevolent sadist as well as an incompetent designer. I certainly found enough to fill a book with and could probably write another if it wasn't simpley making the same point again. What other reason could there be for changing the MO of the Guinea worm so it can avoid being eradicated by medical science?

This is, of course, why you can never get an ID advocate to discuss parasites and parasitism, other than to blame their mythical first pair, Adam and Eve as though 'sin' itself is a sentient, creative entity capable of designing things like the Guinea worm, the SARS-CoV-2 virus and childhood cancers. Certainly, none of it make any sense as the work of an intelligent, omniscient, omni-benevolent designer.

It is, of course, entirely explained as the result of an unplanned, mindless and so amoral, process involving nothing more than chemistry and physics and the inevitable result of natural selection acting on random variations in a population. For some inexplicable reason though, Creationists would rather present their god as an evil monster rather than accept the demonstrable and observable fact of evolution.

Monday 13 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - It Looks Like The Divine Malevolence Could Have a Major Win with Omicron

Images of the Delta and Omicron variants from the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, showing mutations compared to the original SARS CoV-2 spike
© Laurence SAUBADU
Vaccines and previous infection could offer some “stronger than basic” protection to Omicron, early study suggests - Taylor & Francis Newsroom

An early study by a Chinese research group could show that the ο variant of the SARS-Cov-2 virus could be something of a victory for Creationism's divine malevolence in its battle with medical science to ensure as many people as possible get sick and die from its coronavirus. The major finding of the study is that the neutralising capacity of antibodies produced by infection with the reference strain (D614G) is reduced 8.4 fold for Omicron, compared to only 1.2-4.5 fold decrease for earlier variant of concern, such as Alpha and Delta, and other variants of interest.

The study shows that vaccines, and previous infections offer some "stronger then basic" protection against Omicron but are by no means a complete protection against it and that even a third (booster) vaccination, while significantly increasing antibody levels, might not be sufficient to prevent significant illness, because the variant has 'significant capacity to evade [antibody] protection'. Their findings are published in the open access Taylor & Francis online journal, Emerging Microbes & Infections.

The team conducted serological tests using serum from 28 patients recovering from infection by the original (D614G) strain. According to information supplied by Taylor & Francis:

Sunday 12 December 2021

Malevolent Designer News - How Creationism's Divine Malevolence Intelligently Designed Childhood Cancers

Preparing the tumour for sequencing.

© Charité | Linda Ambrosius
Tumor evolution: Study on genetic changes in neuroblastoma | Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Creationist mode:

When cells within a single tumour differ in terms of their genetic makeup, this is referred to as intratumour heterogeneity. Researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) have been able to reconstruct the process by which this genetic heterogeneity develops in neuroblastoma, a type of cancer which primarily affects young children. According to their findings, the genetic makeup of individual tumours shows marked spatial and temporal variability. Results from this study have been published in Nature Communications.

The brilliance of this design is only just being appreciated by medical science since it makes it very difficult to treat and control the growth of these malignant cancers which are especially common in young children, accounting for 15% of cancer-related child deaths. It enables the tumour to quickly evolve to escape any drug therapies because these don't work against all the cell variations in the tumour, enabling some to survive the treatment and grow back. It also means some of the cells can break off from the original tumour and migrate to other parts of the body to start new tumours which will also carry this ability to evade treatment with them.

According to information provided by Charité and MDC in their press release:

Saturday 11 December 2021

Unintelligent Design News - What on Earth is This Complex System For?

Lizard beetles, Doubledaya bucculenta, plant a fungal garden inside dead bamboo stems to feed developing larvae.
Credit: Wataru Toki
Nagoya University Research Achievements

The thing about good design is that the thing designed should have a clear purpose. Simply making things that don't do anything except make copies of themselves is not the act of an intelligent designer, and there are some complex systems and processes in nature that should leave any intelligent [sic] design advocate scratching their head and wondering what on Earth the purpose of this is and why does it need to be so complicated?

Of course, nothing in the living world has any ultimate purpose other than making copies of itself (which is just one of the ways we know it isn't intelligently designed). So, Creationists go on to make up all manner of reasons, or assert that it's not given to us to understand the purpose of their putative magic creator, which illustrates the utter uselessness of ID as an alternative scientific hypothesis!

So it would be interesting to hear what Creationists think the purpose of this fungus-farming beetle and its bizarre reproductive system is for, and why it needs to be so complicated?

Briefly, Japanese Lizard beetles, Doubledaya bucculenta, farm yeast inside bamboo stems for their developing larvae to eat. The larvae feed on yeast injected from their mothers' abdomens into the bamboo stems they are growing in. The female beetle has a special structure in her abdomen in which to keep the fungus, which she then injects into dead bamboo shoots along with her eggs. The bamboo supplies the fungus (a type of yeast, Wickerhamomyces anomalus) with nutrients and the growing beetle larvae eat the fungus.

Now, that might seem like a sensible arrangement as the beetle larvae live safe inside the hard bamboo and get a self-renewing food supply and the fungus gets somewhere safe in which to live and reproduce, albeit at a cost. However, two Japanese scientists from Nagoya University have made a surprising discovery. Unlike most fungal-insect symbiotic relationships where the fungus breaks down large and otherwise indigestible polysaccharide molecules such as the cellulose and lignin of which the bamboo is composed, W. anomalus digests small molecules such as glucose and fructose, which the beetle larvae could do for themselves.

This was a real surprise. While yeast can indeed decompose those indigestible components, our analysis shows the yeast actually grows on small molecule monosaccharides.

Bamboo is not only a farm for the yeast but also a house for the larvae. So the larvae can live in a strong house safely because the house is not decomposed by the food.

Wataru Toki.
Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences
Nagoya University, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
And that's not all. The same scientists also found that the fungus could digest cellulose, etc, since it has the necessary enzymes, but does not do so.

What the scientists propose is that this evolved to prevent the fungus from digesting the bamboo which protects both it and the beetle larvae, the adults of which it needs to perpetuate itself.

So, we have a fungus provided for the larvae to eat, but they do so by digesting the same sugars that the larvae could digest themselves without all the intermediate machinery the fungus uses, and this is all to prevent the yeast digesting the plant it and the larvae are housed in. Any sane designer who ended up with a beetle needing somewhere safe to lay its eggs, so its larvae were protected and fed, would have just created the larvae to eat the glucose and fructose the fungus eats and cut out the middleman. The larvae's inability to digest the structural polysaccharides would have prevent it from destroying its protective housing.

And that would be assuming there was some purpose for these beetles beyond making more lizard beetles.

The scientist's findings were published in Scientific Reports last September:
Symbiotic fungi of wood-inhabiting insects are often considered to aid wood digestion of host insects when the associated fungi can assimilate wood-associated indigestible materials. In most cases, however, the components of wood that are utilized by fungal symbionts remain poorly understood. The lizard beetle Doubledaya bucculenta (Coleoptera, Erotylidae, Languriinae) farms the symbiotic yeast Wickerhamomyces anomalus inside the cavity of host bamboo internodes, which serves as food for larvae. To determine the carbon sources of the internodes serving as nutritional substrates for W. anomalus, we used ion exchange chromatography measurements to analyze free and structural sugar compositions in fresh pith (FP), yeast-cultured pith (YP), and larva-reared pith (LP) of internodes. Glucose and fructose were the major free sugars in FP and markedly decreased in YP and LP. For structural sugars, no sugar significantly decreased in YP or LP compared with FP. Carbon assimilation tests showed that W. anomalus assimilated glucose, mannose, fructose, and sucrose strongly, xylose and cellobiose moderately, and xylan weakly. Elemental analysis revealed that the compositions of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen were not significantly different among tissue types. These results suggest that W. anomalus does not consume bamboo-associated indigestible sugars but most free sugars, mainly glucose and fructose, in the pith. Our findings suggest that a symbiont’s abilities may not always benefit its host in nature.

Toki, W., Aoki, D.
Nutritional resources of the yeast symbiont cultivated by the lizard beetle Doubledaya bucculenta in bamboos.
Scientific Reports 11
, 19208 (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-98733-y

Copyright: © 2021 The authors. Published by Springer Nature Ltd.
Open access
Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0)
It would be hard to think of a better example of a system which violates all the principle of good design. Firstly we have no clear purpose; secondly, we have needless complexity and thirdly, we have prolific waste in that an intermediate of that complexity in the larvae’s food chain is inevitably wasteful and many more beetles could be produced without it.

And then, of course, the inexplicable stupidity of using a fungus with all the enzymes needed to digest cellulose, then not using them because doing so would destroy the entire system!
There are very many more of these examples in my book, The Unintelligent Designer: Refuting the Intelligent Design Hoax, but few of them are so starkly examples of the sort of stupidity in design that can only come from an unintelligent, undirected, mindless, natural process such as evolution by natural selection, so it is hard to think of a system which doesn't refute the notion of intelligent design quite so comprehensively.

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Friday 10 December 2021

Intelligent Design Hoax News - How an 'Irreducibly Complex' System Evolved

Rove Beetle, Staphylinidae sp.
A beetle chemical defense gland offers clues about how complex organs evolve -- ScienceDaily

Rove beetles are a widespread family of beetles, comprising some 64,000 different, soil and leaf-litter dwelling species, many of which have interesting defensive organs for producing noxious chemicals that would normally have an unscrupulous Creationist fraud jumping up and down with glee - they appear to be irreducibly complex in that all components need to be present for the system to work.

What Creationist frauds, presented with these systems, do, is declare that such a system could not have evolved by Darwinian evolution which depends on an accumulation of small differences each of which conveys a benefit, since the entire evolutionary process would need to complete before any benefit became apparent. They then declare it to have been intelligently designed as is, by magic, because the probability of it arising as is, by chance in a single evolutionary event, is so low as to be indistinguishable from zero. The entire Intelligent [sic] Design industry is founded on just such a spurious argument, coupled with the implied false-dichotomy fallacy that if science can't explain something, "God did it!".

Evolution News - And Then There Was One

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Common arctic finches are all the same species | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | University of Colorado Boulder

The Redpoll is a Holarctic finch which makes occasional forays south, so, while never a common bird outside its normal range, it is a favourite of birdwatchers and ornithologists. The problem was that the range of morphologies within a species, with considerable overlap, made it very difficult to distinguish between then in the field, so birdwatchers were never sure which species or subspecies they had actually seen or whether they were really different species or subspecies.

Now, work by researchers from University of Colorado, Boulder, has finally settled the question about their taxonomic status. Detailed DNA analysis has shown that they are in fact the same species, which is highly variable due to the control of a 'supergene' which produces a range of different morphologies - the usual basis for taxonomic classification prior to the technology which enables DNA to be analysed in sufficient detail.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Unintelligent Designer News - Another Stupid Arms Race Discovered

Highly venomous Cape cobra, Naja nivea, in threat posture

Source: Times Newspapers
Photo: Willem van Zyl
Primates vs cobras: how our last common ancestor built venom resistance - UQ News - The University of Queensland, Australia

A team of researchers from Queensland University, Australia, and Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK, led by Associate Professor Bryan Fry, has discovered evidence of an evolutionary arms race between Afro-Asian primates and venomous snakes, especially the cobras, which has given us an increased resistance to the neurotoxin in cobra venom, compared to other mammals and the primates of Madagascar where there are no venomous snakes and South America where venomous snakes are usually small, nocturnal and burrowing.

In doing so, they have also produced yet more evidence of the evolutionary relationship between the other African apes and Homo sapiens, who together form the Hominidae clade, sharing a common ancestor in which this resistance is thought to have evolved. In members of this clade, the resistance is especially marked, though not complete since cobra venom can still kill us.

As primates from Africa gained the ability to walk upright and dispersed throughout Asia, they developed weapons to defend themselves against venomous snakes, this likely sparked an evolutionary arms race and evolving this venom resistance.

This was just one of many evolutionary defences – many primate groups appear to also have developed excellent eyesight, which is thought to have aided them in detecting and defending themselves against venomous snakes.
But Madagascan Lemurs and Central and South American monkeys, which live in regions that haven’t been colonised by or come in close contact with neurotoxic venomous snakes, didn’t evolve this kind of resistance to snake venoms and have poorer eyesight.
It’s been long-theorised that snakes have strongly influenced primate evolution, but we now have additional biological evidence to support this theory.

Richard Harris, lead-author
PhD candidate
Venom Evolution Lab
University of Queensland
Biological Sciences, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia
Our movement down from the trees and more commonly on land meant more interactions with venomous snakes, thus driving the evolutionary selection of this increased resistance.

It is important to note that this resistance is not absolute – we are not immune to cobra venom, just much less likely to die than other primates.

We have shown in other studies that resistance to snake venoms comes with what’s known as a fitness disadvantage, whereby the receptors don’t do their normal function as efficiently, so there is a fine balance to be struck where the gain has to outweigh the loss.

In this case, partial resistance was enough to gain the evolutionary advantage, but without the fitness disadvantage being too taxing.

We are increasingly recognising the importance snakes have played in the evolution of primates, including the way our brain is structured, aspects of language and even tool use.

This work reveals yet another piece in the puzzle of this complex arms race between snakes and primates.

Associate Professor, Dr. Bryan Fry, team leader and supervising author
Venom Evolution Lab
University of Queensland
Biological Sciences, St. Lucia, Brisbane, Australia
According the Queensland University News:
The team studied various snake toxin interactions with synthetic nerve receptors, comparing those of primates from Africa and Asia with those from Madagascar – which doesn’t have venomous snakes – and those from the Americas – where the cobra-related coral snakes are small, nocturnal and burrowing. Team leader Associate Professor Bryan Fry said the study also revealed that in the last common ancestor of chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans, this resistance was sharply increased.
One of the problems to be overcome as a species evolves resistance to a neurotoxic venom, stems from the way these venoms work. In the case of cobra venom it contains α-neurotoxins which target nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, binding to them, so blocking these essential metabolic pathways. Any changes which modify these receptors, so making the α-neurotoxins less effective, will also reduce the efficiency of the pathway of which these receptors are a part, so there is an inevitable evolutionary trade-off between this cost and any benefits from increased resistance.

A similar phenomenon is involved in the evolutionary arms race between Garter snakes and rough-skinned newts, only in this case it is a snake evolving resistance to a toxin produced by a potential prey species. I used this as an example of any creator of this system indulging stupidly in an arms race with itself, in my book, The Unintelligent Designer: Refuting the Intelligent Design Hoax.

We see this same stupidity in the arms race between the primates and cobras, reaching its peak in the Hominidae.

The teams report is published open access in BMC Biology:

Snakes and primates have a multi-layered coevolutionary history as predators, prey, and competitors with each other. Previous work has explored the Snake Detection Theory (SDT), which focuses on the role of snakes as predators of primates and argues that snakes have exerted a selection pressure for the origin of primates’ visual systems, a trait that sets primates apart from other mammals. However, primates also attack and kill snakes and so snakes must simultaneously avoid primates. This factor has been recently highlighted in regard to the movement of hominins into new geographic ranges potentially exerting a selection pressure leading to the evolution of spitting in cobras on three independent occasions.

Here, we provide further evidence of coevolution between primates and snakes, whereby through frequent encounters and reciprocal antagonism with large, diurnally active neurotoxic elapid snakes, Afro-Asian primates have evolved an increased resistance to α-neurotoxins, which are toxins that target the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. In contrast, such resistance is not found in Lemuriformes in Madagascar, where venomous snakes are absent, or in Platyrrhini in the Americas, where encounters with neurotoxic elapids are unlikely since they are relatively small, fossorial, and nocturnal. Within the Afro-Asian primates, the increased resistance toward the neurotoxins was significantly amplified in the last common ancestor of chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans (clade Homininae). Comparative testing of venoms from Afro-Asian and American elapid snakes revealed an increase in α-neurotoxin resistance across Afro-Asian primates, which was likely selected against cobra venoms. Through structure-activity studies using native and mutant mimotopes of the α-1 nAChR receptor orthosteric site (loop C), we identified the specific amino acids responsible for conferring this increased level of resistance in hominine primates to the α-neurotoxins in cobra venom.

We have discovered a pattern of primate susceptibility toward α-neurotoxins that supports the theory of a reciprocal coevolutionary arms-race between venomous snakes and primates.

It is facts like this that expose Intelligent [sic] Design as a hoax aimed at scientifically illiterate fools who will remain wilfully ignorant of the very many arms races in nature which are one of the main drivers in evolution. Nothing that could conceivably be described as intelligent would indulge in a competitive arms race with itself and nothing that could be described as omni-benevolent would create the predator-prey and parasite-host relationships which give rise to these arms races in the first place.

On the other hand, evolutionary arms races are the inevitable, and entirely predictable, result of mindless, unplanned, evolution by natural selection.

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Malevolent Designer News - Another Inexplicable Arms Race to Protect Us AND Keep Making Us Sick!

As hunter-gatherer cultures began to eat more ruminants, they encountered anthrax more regularly than their primate ancestors.
Image credit: Abubakar Balogun/Provided
Anthrax arms race helped Europeans evolve against disease | Cornell Chronicle

Creationist mode:

When Creationism's putative intelligent [sic] designer created the anthrax bacteria, the purpose was to create an organism that would lay dormant in the soil for tens or hundreds of years and then, when eaten by a grazing animal such as sheep or cattle, it would produce a toxin which killed the unfortunate animal, so it's body could rot and produce millions more spores to lay dormant in the soil and so repeat the cycle endlessly. We know this because this is the result and an omniscient, omnipotent creator must know what the result of its creations will be, so creates them for that purpose and that purpose only.

Also, part of this intended outcome was that, as human culture evolved from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists with domesticated animals, humans too would catch anthrax from their domestic animals and die from the toxins the bacteria produce in their bodies. Humans were intended to catch anthrax by eating their cattle while their cattle caught it by grazing on anthrax-contaminated pastures.

Now researchers at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine have discovered that Creationism's intelligent [sic] designer then went in for something it frequently does with the nasty little parasites it creates to kill us with - it started to have an arms race with itself to protect us from the bacteria it had created to harm us with, then by modifying the bacteria so they could overcome the defences if was giving us - just as today it is creating new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 so it can continue to make us sick despite the vaccines humans have created to defend themselves with.

Creationist mode:

At least, that, if they follow the logic of their Creationist dogmas, is how Creationists have to view the relationship between anthrax and humans and other animals.

Evolution News - How Denisovans Helped Han Chinese Live the High-Life

The Tibetan Plateau where the research took place.

Photo credit: Peiqi Zhang/UC Davis
Denisovans or Homo Sapiens: Who Were the First to Settle (Permanently) on the Tibetan Plateau? | UC Davis

The story from human evolution of how the inhabitants of the Tibetan plateau acquired the ability to live permanently at such a high altitude just got a lot more interesting.

Once it was thought to be an example of very rapid evolution under intense selection pressure as a band of Han Chinese migrated to the Tibetan Plateau where the low oxygen pressure over a prolonged period would make them sick, and reduce their fertility with a very high rate of foetal death. Today, Han Chines living in Tibet have an infant mortality rate three times that of Tibetans. This intense selection pressure was believed to have favoured the evolution of the Endothelial Pas1 (EPAS1) gene which, in living populations, is known to improve oxygen transport in the blood. Most modern Tibetans carry a high frequency of the EPAS1 gene.

Tibetan woman
It also favoured the evolution of genes which reduce the tendency of the body to react to a low oxygen pressure by making more red blood cell, so making the blood thicker and causing blood pressure to increase - the cause of altitude sickness. This is normally the result of the kidneys being deprived of oxygen so secreting the hormone, haemopoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production (after severe blood loss, for example). The presence of the EPAS1 gene means that no such increase in red blood cells is necessary because it increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of haemoglobin.

But that rapid evolution hypothesis, delicious though it was, was before the DNA, extracted from a finger bone found in a the Denisova cave in Siberia was sequenced and found to contain the same gene. Their gene and that of the Tibetans are so similar that almost identical genes evolving twice in two different hominins is highly improbable. There was little doubt that the Han Chinese who migrated to Tibet had acquired the gene from Denisovans.

It was also believed that this migration had been very recent in geological terms. The question then became, how did these migrants acquire this Denisovan gene, which is absent in the Han who stayed put? It was thought unlikely that they acquired it directly from Denisovans since interbreeding was believed to pre-date the split from the Han. It was proposed that they acquired it from South Asian people such as the Nepalese. South Asian people carry a large proportion of Denisovan DNA, acquired by earlier periods of interbreeding.

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