F Rosa Rubicondior: March 2021

Wednesday 31 March 2021

Atheism - Winning More

The pews are emptying in increasingly irreligious USA

Sourc: Gallup
U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time

Congratulations to America for joining the rest of the developed world, where religious non-affiliation and increasing secularisation of society are now the norm.

The latest Gallop poll shows that church, synagogue or mosque membership in the USA has fallen below 50% for the first time. Now at just 47%, this represents a 26% percentage point fall since 1937 when Gallop first began polling. And the downward trend show signs of accelerating, falling 22 percentage points since the turn of the millennium and 8 percentage points since 2015.

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Trumpanzee Cult News - Amnesiac Trump Rewriting History

Donald Trump uses new website to rewrite history of his presidency | Donald Trump | The Guardian

According to this report in the Guardian, President reject, Donald J Trump, has launched his new cult website (45Office.com) with an account of his disastrous presidency in which he appears to have forgotten certain key events.

Consistent with his narcissistic personality disorder, it is full of self-praise and 'alternative facts', such as his claim to have acted decisively over the coronavirus pandemic and implying that he was personally responsible for innovative medical treatments and two vaccines. What he 'forgot' to mention was that he had dismantled the plans and contingencies that his predecessor, Barak Obama had put in place in preparedness for just such a pandemic, in his obsessive zeal to undo everything Obama had done.

In what could pass for a parody of the kind of self-eulogising, and disregard for the facts, that characterises Trump's personality disorder, in his opening 885-word braggadocio, written in the third person, which is hard to read without laughing out loud, he says:

Evolution News - Solving Darwin's "Abominable Mystery"

Research into the flower preferences of pollinating moths may have delivered a vital clue to the simple factors needed for the emergence of new species.
Pioneering pollinator study offers clues to Darwin’s “abominable mystery”

With characteristic intellectual honesty, Charles Darwin was always quick to acknowledge difficulties for his theory of evolution by natural selection, one of which he called an 'abominable mystery' in a letter to his close friend, botanist and explorer Dr Joseph Hooker in 1879. He wrote:
The rapid development as far as we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an abominable mystery... Nothing is more extraordinary in the history of the Vegetable Kingdom, as it seems to me, than the apparently very sudden or abrupt development of the higher plants. I have sometimes speculated whether there did not exist somewhere during long ages an extremely isolated continent perhaps near the South Pole.
This 'mystery' had been used by Scottish botanist William Carruthers, keeper of botany at the British Museum, to argue for divine intervention in a 1876 lecture to the Geologists Association.

Now researchers Kelsey J. R. P. Byers and H. D. Bradshaw Jr., working at the Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA think they have gone some way to solving this mystery. The press release by the John Innes Centre explains:

Monday 29 March 2021

Evolution News - The Origins of the Scythians

Summary maps visualizing the main findings of the research. Figure from the article.
© Gnecchi-Rusconi, et al., 2021
Ancient Genomes Trace the Origin and Decline of the Scythians | Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

This is my second blog post concerning the origins of historic cultural groups, the first being about the Basques of Northeast Spain and Southwest France. This new understanding has been made possible by advances in recovering DNA from ancient sources and techniques for analysing the results. In effect, it is the result of applied evolutionary theory.

The nomadic Scythians were a major force in Eurasia during the first millennium BCE. Their domestication of the horse allowed them to dominate the steppes of Central Asia and spread far and wide. Then they declined and disappeared from history.

Where they came from, how they relate to other Eurasia peoples and why they disappeared has long been a mystery for historians, but now the work of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, by analysing the DNA from the remains they left in their burial mounds is providing some answers. As always, the DNA shows the evolutionary changes and relationships that the Theory of Evolution leads us to expect. As the press release from the Max Planck Institute tells the story:

Generally thought of as fierce horse-warriors, the Scythians were a multitude of Iron Age cultures who ruled the Eurasian steppe, playing a major role in Eurasian history. A new study published in Science Advances analyzes genome-wide data for 111 ancient individuals spanning the Central Asian Steppe from the first millennia BCE and CE. The results reveal new insights into the genetic events associated with the origins, development and decline of the steppe’s legendary Scythians.

Evolution News - The Origin and Genetic Uniqueness of the Basques

Color representation of the mixture and genetic structure in the Basque Country; the green symbolizing the Basques, and the blue and red blends it with the surrounding populations.
Credit: André Flores-Bello.
They reveal the origin and genetic uniqueness of the Basques

Isolated populations can either stay completely isolated and so gradually diverge from other populations of the same species by a combination of natural selection and genetic drift, or they can continue to exchange DNA with other neighbouring groups and so eventually merge and disappear as genetically distinct populations.

This true for all species, whether birds, mammals, reptiles or insects or, as in the case of the Basque people of Northeast Spain and Southwest France, humans.

A study by a mixed team from Spain and France, led by David Comas of the Departament de Ciències de la Salut i de la Vida, Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF), Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain has shown how the Basque people have retained genetic continuity with their Iron Age ancestors and have resisted genetic mixing with their neighbours, by a combination of linguistic, cultural and geographical barriers to gene flow.

As the news item from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, auto-translated from Catalan, explains:

Evolution News - Evolution by Horizontal Gene Transfer

Siverleaf whitefly, Bernisia tabaci
Photo: Nigel Cattlin/Alamy
Whitefly hijacks a plant detoxification gene that neutralizes plant toxins: Cell

A couple of days ago, I reported on the case of evolution by the rare process of gene shuffling in a species of bird, to bring about a new combination, reinforced by pre-zygotic barriers because the new combination gave a new plumage display and so new assortative mating behaviour.

This time we have an example of horizontal gene transfer giving species of whitefly a significant advantage over those without the newly-acquired gene. Although this is common in protozoans, it is rare in multicellular animals and previously unknown between plants and insects.

Sunday 28 March 2021

Trumpanzee News - Explaining Donald Trump's Narcissistic Personality Disorder

US Presidential reject, Donald J Trump.
Acute Narcissistic personality disorder personified
Narcissism Driven by Insecurity, Not Grandiose Sense of Self, New Psychology Research Shows

A psychology paper published a few days ago by researchers at New York University, sheds some light on Donald Trump's self-evident Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Although it doesn't name his as such, it could be describing his personality and idiosyncratic behaviour.

The open access paper shows how NPD is not driven by an inflated sense of self-worth but by insecurity and self-loathing in disguise. The question is then, what in his background caused this self-loathing in Donald Trump? We would almost certainly have to go back into his childhood and probably his relationship with his, by all accounts, particularly unpleasant and odious, psychopathic father.

From the NYU news release:

Saturday 27 March 2021

The Very First Structures in the Universe

The results of the simulation show the growth of tiny, extremely dense structures very soon after the inflation phase of the very early universe. Between the initial and final states in the simulation (top left and right respectively), the area shown has expanded to ten million times its initial volume, but is still many times smaller than the interior of a proton. The enlarged clump at the bottom left would have a mass of about 20kg.

Photo: Jens Niemeyer, University of Göttingen
The very first structures in the Universe - Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

Never having been especially interested in physics which, compared to biology, I found dry and uninteresting - probably wrongly - this subject is not something I can claim any great understanding of, but this simulation addresses the first few microseconds after the Big Bang, in the instance before the larger structures such as elementary particles came into existence.

It has been said that the initial density of the universe at this time was some trillion times that of water. Just how dense can be judged from the fact that, according to this computer simulation, some 10-24 seconds after the BB, bodies smaller than a proton had a mass of about 20 Kg! These 'inflaton halos' were responsible for the rapid inflation of the nascent Universe.

The simulation was done by theoretical physicists at the Universities of Göttingen, Germany and Auckland, New Zealand. The press release from Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen gives the details:

Evolution News - Rapid Evolution by Genetic Shuffling

Iberá Seedeater, Sporophila iberaensis
Endangered songbird challenging assumptions about evolution | Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine | University of Colorado Boulder

A group of researchers led by Sheela P. Turbek of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA have identified a rare form of evolution in a group of birds known collectively as the southern capuchino seedeaters. The process, known as genetic shuffling, had only been observed once before, in African in the cichlid fish of Lake Victoria and is believed to be behind the recent evolution of a new species, the Iberá Seedeater, Sporophila iberaensis.

In addition to speciation by gene shuffling - where a new species arises by recombining existing genes in a unique combination, this species of bird also illustrates how speciation can be maintained by pre-zygotic barriers to hybridization, that arise through natural selection because hybrids with intermediate characteristics may be at a disadvantage, having intermediate specialisations.

Friday 26 March 2021

Trumpanzee Fruitloop News - MAGA Pastor Becoming Even More Loopy

Shane Vaughn, First Harvest Ministries
Shane Vaughn Says He's Been Called By God to Denounce 'The Sin of the Biden Administration' | Right Wing Watch

Readers may remember Talibangelical Trumpanzee nut-job and self-appointed Prophet of God, Shane Vaughn, who was one of my sample of three Trumpanzee false prophets. Vaughn had prophesied a Trump win in November 2020 and was, like the many other false prophets who did likewise, desperately trying to explain why his false prophesy wasn't actually false and that he really had, despite all the evidence, related God's inerrant word to his dupes... er... followers.

Vaughn had earlier prophesied that Trump would never be impeached, after he had already been impeached the first time and shortly before he became the only president in American history to be impeached twice.

He also claimed that Trump losing in November had all been part of God's plan, so that Trump can serve twelve terms! Seriously!

Now Vaughn is claiming he has been given a special mission by God “to raise my voice against the sin of the Biden administration". Comparing himself to the biblical prophet, Elijah and Kamal Harris to Jezebel, and revealing his obsession with Kamal Harris (not a hint of racism or misogyny there, obviously!) he told his followers:

Thursday 25 March 2021

Evolution News - The Simple Mutation That Makes Us Human

Human brain organoid
Credit: S.Benito-Kwiecinski/MRC LMB/Cell
How humans develop larger brains than other apes – UKRI

A team led by researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) has identified a simple genetic switch that makes human brain organoids grow more like ape brains, and vice versa.

Organoids are the result of stem cells grown in vitro, in this case stem cells that would normally grow into brains in the developing embryo. The team discovered the 'switch' in the form of the gene 'ZEB2' which turns on sooner in the gorilla brain than the human brain. When this switch is delayed in the developing gorilla organoid, the cells multiply faster and the organoid grows like a human brain, and when turned on earlier in the developing human organoid it grows like gorilla brain tissue.

The change in the timing of this switch is probably the evolutionary change that allows the human brain to grow to something like three times the volume of the brains of the other apes.

From the UK Research and Innovations News item:

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Biodiversity News - A New Species of Chameleon From Ethiopia

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The new chameleon species, Trioceros wolfgangboehmei
Credit: Koppetsch et al.
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Living individual of Trioceros wolfgangboehmei
Credit: Koppetsch et al.
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Head detail of the new chameleon, Trioceros wolfgangboehmei
Credit: Koppetsch et al.
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Harenna Forest, Bale Mountains, Ethiopia.
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View from the deck of Bale Mountain Lodge
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Lateral detail of a living Trioceros wolfgangboehmei sp. nov. from Goba, Ethiopia, showing the heterogeneous body scalation with both small scattered tubercles and enlarged flattened plate-like scales. In this individual the dorsolateral stripe is interrupted and forms a Y-shaped pattern on the flanks.
Photo by Petr Nečas.
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Living juvenile of Trioceros wolfgangboehmei sp. nov. from Goba, Ethiopia.
Photo by Petr Nečas.
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Digital elevation map of Ethiopia (generated by using the geographic information system ArcGIS 10.0; elevation in m a.s.l) indicating the currently known distribution of Trioceros wolfgangboehmei sp. nov. east of the Ethiopian Rift in the northern Bale Mountains (red stars; left star: Dinsho, right star: Goba). Black star: Addis Abeba. Grey dots show records of T. affinis based on distributional data after Largen and Spawls (2010) and Ceccarelli et al. (2014).
Highlands of diversity: Another new chameleon from the Bale region, Ethiopia | Pensoft blog

Here is another example of why fragile and vulnerable habitats need to be preserved, if only for the rich variety of new species that could be living there.

This time it is a new species of chameleon from the Bale Mountain forests of Ethiopia. This one was discovered by zoologists Thore Koppetsch and Benjamin Wipfler of the Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, Germany, and Petr Nečas from the Czech Republic. The new species, Trioceros wolfgangboehmei is a new small-sized chameleon living on the edge of the forest. Their findings were published in the open-access, peer-reviewed life science journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.

The Pensoft blog explains:

Evolution News - Science is Filling God-Shaped Gaps With Knowledge

A slab of shale with well-preserved macrofossils of algae.

Photo: K. Maloney.
Rare fossilized algae, discovered unexpectedly, fill in evolutionary gaps | The Geological Society of America.

More bad news for Creationists. A chance discovery in the mountains of Canada’s remote Yukon territory, by geobiology graduate student Katie Maloney, has filled in another of those precious god-shaped gaps and provided yet another of those pesky transitional forms that aren't supposed to exist.

The news release from the Geological Society of America tells the story:

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Evolution News - Turns Out Altruism Is For The Fish

Convict chichlid, Amatitlania nigrofasciata
Turns out altruism is for the fish — Osaka City University

Christian fundamentalists will confidently assure you that their religion gives them superior morals to Atheists and members of other religions because they get their morals direct from a perfect god who defines right and wrong. Almost invariably, of course, the same fundamentalists who need to boast about their supposed superior morals are using religion for the excuses it gives them for otherwise unacceptable, antisocial attitudes and behaviour like homophobia, misogyny and/or racism, but that's another issue.

One of the claims they will make against Atheists, for example, is that Atheists see no reason not to be selfish, whereas Christian fundamentalist are altruistic because they know this is the right thing to do, not because it is inherently right but because their god tells them to be and promises them a reward for altruism or punishment for selfishness.

However, evolution by natural selection, operating at the level of genes is fully capable of explaining altruism as an evolved behavioural trait because self-sacrifice can often ensure the survival of those descendants and close kin who are carrying copies of the genes for altruistic behaviour, so ensuring the survival, even at the expense of individual carriers, of those genes through time.

So, this gene-centred evolution should predict altruism in other species; species moreover which don not need to read the Bible to know right from wrong because they have an innate, inherited, set of pro-social behaviours which are also situational - the situation depending on the probability of helping the survival through time of the genes for that behaviour.

This is the finding of a group of researchers from Osaka City University, Japan, whose results were published open access in Nature Communications a few days ago. They have shown that male convict cichlid fish, Amatitlania nigrofasciata can vary their behaviour between pro-social and anti-social depending on the situation.

The Osaka City University new release explains:

Support for Church of England Collapsing in Secular Britain

Poll conducted March 22, 2021
Daily Question | 22/03/2021 | YouGov

A YouGov poll conducted a few days ago shows a very clear majority of Brits think the Church of England should not be entitled to have its bishops sitting in the upper chamber of our bicameral parliament, the House of Lords.

Historically, 26 seats in the HOL are reserved for Anglican bishops in addition to the seats occupied by retired former Archbishops of Canterbury and York who sit in their own right as Peers of the Realm. The 26 Anglican bishops and archbishops together make up the 'Lords Spiritual', and have done so since the Restoration in 1660.

Monday 22 March 2021

The Pattern-Recognising Ape - Seeing Things That Aren't What They Seem

A composite image of the USS Jellyfish in Abell 2877 showing the optical Digitised Sky Survey (background) with XMM X-ray data (magenta overlay) and MWA 118 MHz radio data (red-yellow overlay).

Credit: Torrance Hodgson, ICRAR/Curtin University.
Astronomers see a ‘Space Jellyfish’ - ICRAR

In an interesting manifestation of the very human phenomenon of pareidolia (the ability to perceive things which are not really there in patterns) was published by The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) when announcing the findings of an Australian-Italian team using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope to observe a cluster of galaxies known as Abell 2877.

What they 'saw' was a space 'jellyfish'!

Pareidolia is responsible for, for example, the multiple images of Jesus and Mary on toast or in the mess left by a dropped ice-cream. In one case, a chance damp patch on a newly-platered toilet wall in Mali was interpreted as the image of Mohammad at prayer, attracting several high-profile celebrities and politicians to come to see the 'miracle'.

Biodiversity News - 4 New Species of Lichen Found

Micarea stellaris is one of the recently described lichen species. The name refers to ´star´ and comes from intensely shining crystals that are visible when studying it in polarised light.
Scale bar 1 mm.
Vuria, the highest peak in the Taita Hills, reaches to over two Kilometres heigh. Land use has fragmented mountain forests.

Photo: Aannina Kantelinen
Montane cloud forest, Taita Hills, Kenya

Photo: Petri Pellikka
Ngongoni antilopes benefit from the tree cover destroyed by elephants during the dry spells as it increases grasslands in the dry savannah plains surrounding verdant Taita Hills.
Photo: Petri Pellikka
Four lichen species new to science discovered in Kenyan cloud forests | University of Helsinki

The fragility of Earth's biodiversity was highlighted a few days ago by news that researchers from the University of Helsinki Finnish Museum of Natural History, Luomus and the National Museums of Kenya, have recently discovered four new species of lichen, all of the Micrarea genus, growing in the mountain forests in Kenya's Taita Hills. This unique environment is under threat from increasing land use which is fragmenting the forests.

From the University of Helsinki news release:

Saturday 20 March 2021

Evolution News - How to Make a Giraffe Without Using Magic

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Photo credit: Mogens Trolle
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Reticulated Giraffe, Buffalo Springs, Kenya.
Photo credit: Mogens Trolle
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Help Us Stand Tall for Giraffes.
The U.S. is one of the leading importers of giraffe parts. We need your help persuading America’s leaders to protect them before they’re gone.

Photo by Philippe Chantecaille
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"The Last Giraffes on Earth"
Source: The Atlantic
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Image credit: San Diego Zoo
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Giraffes, found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, are susceptible to poaching and habitat loss.

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Giraffes on the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Credit: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
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Reticulated sub-species of Giraffe at Loisaba conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya. As across the rest of African, they have declined steadily in recent decades.
Credit: AFP/Tony Karumba
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Girafffes in the Masai Mara.
Credit: Manoj Shah/Getty
Source: BBC Wildlife
The Trouble of Being Tall – Biologisk Institut - Københavns Universitet

Researchers at the Biologisk Institut, University of Copenhagen, and Northwestern Polytechnical University in China have succeeded in sequencing the whole genome of the giraffe and in doing so have uncovered the mechanisms by which giraffes evolved their unique features.

Evolving a long neck and tall stature presented the giraffe with a number of physiological and anatomical challenges:
  • A very high blood pressure is needed to pump blood up to the brain. The giraffe BP is about twice the normal BP for a mammal and would normally cause severe damage to the cardiovascular system.
  • Standing up from a lying position is difficult, as is bending down to drink, making the giraffe especially vulnerable while sleeping and drinking.
  • At about 5 metres above the ground, there is little role for a sense of smell.
The researchers found a number of evolved genetic features which help giraffes overcome these problems, including a version of the FGFRL1 with seven amino acid substitutions compared with the same gene in other ruminants. When tested in mice, this gene gave them added protection against damage from high blood pressure and more compact, denser bones. The team believe the function of this gene may have application in the treatment of high blood pressure in humans.

As the Biologisk Institut news release explains:

Friday 19 March 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Making the Leishmania Parasite Better at Making You Sick

Leishmania infantum life cycle

Dogs infected with Leishmania parasites smell more attractive to female sand flies | Lancaster University

Here is one of those papers that leave intelligent [sic] design creationists with two choices: they can either pretend that a designer who can come up with these sorts of designs is not really malevolent and being ever-more inventive in its endeavour to make us sick, or they can absolve it of any culpability by accepting that these things are the inevitable result of a purely natural, amoral, undirected natural process, operating under nothing more than the laws of physics and chemistry.

Cutaneous leishmaniasis ulcer
Credit: Layne Harris
It is the discovery that female sand flies, Lutzomyia longipalpis, which are the main vectors for transmitting the parasite that causes Leishmaniasis to humans, are more attracted to dogs which are carrying the parasites than those which are healthy, so increasing the probability of infecting humans.

The discovery is the work of two scientists, Professor Gordon Hamilton and Monica E. Staniek, of Lancaster University.

The new release from Lancaster University explains:

Evolution News - Recovering From Mass Extinction Events

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After The Great Dying, the ecosystem changed drastically, and included many Lystrosaurus.
© Xiaochong Guo
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The plant-eating pareiasaurs were preyed upon by sabre-toothed gorgonopsians. Both groups went extinct during The Great Dying.
© Xiaochong Guo
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By the end of the Permian, pareiasaurs had become large and armored for self-protection. This complex ecosystem collapsed during The Great Dying.
© Xiaochong Guo
New study investigates how life on land recovered after “The Great Dying” | California Academy of Sciences

Life on Earth is incredibly robust and has come close to extinction altogether a few times but has always managed to bounce back and diversify again from a few founder species. In fact, of course, it once did that from a few founder simple cells, gradually diversifying and becoming increasingly fitted for the various environments found on and in Earth.

This recent study, published open access a few days ago in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows how it struggled to do so after the "Great Dying" event of 252 million years ago during the end of the Permian period, when 19 out of every twenty species went extinct. Some ecosystems in which key members have gone extinct can sometimes take millions of years to recover. This should be a salutary warning to us as humanity generates another great extinction event in what scientists now call the Anthropocene.

The study was carried out by an international team of researchers from the China University of Geosciences, the California Academy of Sciences, the University of Bristol, Missouri University of Science and Technology, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The news release from the California Academy of Science explains:

Thursday 18 March 2021

Evolution News - How Sperms Remember

New research shows how a father's experience can be passed on to his offspring.
How sperm remember | Newsroom - McGill University

This is the sort of paper that Creationist frauds can use to fool their scientifically illiterate dupes. It will be presented as 'proof' that Darwin was wrong all along and his 'rival' Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was right.

Lamarck, in his attempt to explain inheritance and evolution, had proposed that traits acquired after conception could be passed to children. He famously claimed a blacksmith, by developing string arms, would have sons who also had strong arms and be good blacksmiths. (In a sense, he was right but the mechanism, at least in sentient species, is via memes, not some assumed physical factor (genes were not know about then)). He was of course wrong about giraffes getting longer necks by stretching to reach higher leaves and passing on the stretched neck to their offspring. There is no way an acacia tree can stretch to avoid its leaves being eaten by giraffes, so Lamarckian inheritance can't explain arms races of that sort, even if it had some basis.

Darwin, on the other hand, argued that it was traits inherited from parents that were passed on and that these were fixed at conception (with occasional variations which could be 'favoured' by the environment in 'natural selection').

However, in recent years the science of epigenetics has thrown up a few challenges to the idea of a purely Darwinian inheritance . Basically, epigenetics is the study of how genes are deactivated in specialised cells so that the cell only performs the specific punction of its speciality. As I'll explain later, epigenetics, far from being the gift creationists have been praying for which is going to refute the hated Darwinian mechanism of evolution by natural selection, but it represents a major challenge to the neo-Creationist invention, intelligent [sic] design.

Creationist thinking is often simplistic and binary so, for example, if Lamarck was a little bit right, he was entirely right and Darwin was completely wrong. As this paper shows, and as always with biology, the truth is much more nuanced than that, which is partly why creationists have difficulty with the subject.

But first this piece of research by scientists at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, led by Sarah Kimmins, PhD, of McGill's Faculty of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics. As the McGill news release explains:

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Genetic error led humans to evolve bigger, but more vulnerable, brains

The skull of Australopithecus sediba, a species of Australopithecines, who were our ancestors and whose brains started to grow two to three million years ago.
Image credit: Australopithecus sediba by Brett Eloff,
Courtesy Profberger and Wits University.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Genetic error led humans to evolve bigger, but more vulnerable, brains

If you're a creationist and need to protect yourself from the realities of science, then this is not for you. In particular, you should avoid reading the part highlighted in yellow below. The article quoted, from August 2018, refutes too many of your sacred dogmas, and without even trying:
  • No new information can arise by mutation.
  • All mutations are deleterious.
  • The Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis, about to be overthrown and replaced by the evidence-free notion of intelligent [sic] design.
  • And your newest one - all mutations are 'devolutionary' not progressive (&copy 2019 Michael J Behe/Discovery Institute) invented after this open access paper was published, by someone claiming to be a biologist and posing as an expert on evolutionary theory!
A group of scientists led by Professor Pierre Vanderhaeghen of the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, Belgium have discovered genes which produce the super-sized human brain in the developing human fetus.

According to the article announcing the research, printed in Horizon, the EU Research & Innovation Magazine:

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Trumpanzee False Prophet News - The Trump Delusion

Johnny Enslow, Prophet of God
"Trump is still President"
Johnny Enlow Insists Trump Has Been Secretly 'Ruling and Reigning' as the True President | Right Wing Watch

The distinction between religiosity and mental illness, if it's there at all, is often so blurred as to be indiscernible.

This was never more true than the case of the many Christian evangelicals who, whilst declaring themselves prophets of God, through whom God speaks, have now to come to terms with the fact that, to a man (or woman) they all prophesied, on God's authority, that Donald J Trumps would retain the presidency in November 2020. The reality is that their prophesies were false. Trump not only lost to the candidate who polled more votes than any other candidate in American political history, but, for the second time running, lost the popular vote.

Ever since then, every single prophesy by these frauds has proven false too. The courts never overturned the result; the 3vidence of 'massive electoral fraud' was never found; there never was a military coup or successful coup d’état by the Trumpanzees cult, despite trying, and Joe Biden is still president.

What a dissapointment! You felt sure that one more Trump term and you would finally gain the political power to which you're entitled! And it all went wrong when people voted the wrong way!

Monday 15 March 2021

Evolution News - An Extreme Case of Evolved Mimicry

Two orange-yellow “blooms” at right are fungal mimics of flowers produced by yellow-eyed grasses, such as the one at left.

Credit: K. Wurdack/Smithsonian Institution
This Flower Is Really a Fungus in Disguise - Scientific American

This fascinating example of fungal parasitism comes from Guyana and was discovered by researchers from the Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Agricultural Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Peoria, IL, USA.

It is produced by the novel fungus Fusarium xyrophilum which parasitizes two plant species of the Xyris genus, X. setigera and X. surinamensis, commonly known as yellow-eyed grass. Not only does the parasite mimic the petals of the flowers it mimics but also the scents they use to attract pollinating insects, so tricking bees and other pollinating insects into spreading the fungal spores instead of pollen.

The research team's findings were published last November in the journal, Fungal Genetics and Biology sadly, behind a paywall, however, the summary by the USDA Agricultural Research Service gives the following details:

Sunday 14 March 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Study Shows SARS-CoV-2 Transfer From Bats to Humans Was Relatively Easy

Natural selection in the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in bats created a generalist virus and highly capable human pathogen

Creationist mode:

Well, it looks like the intelligent [sic] designer really thought it through before it created the bat virus that was to become the SARS-CoV-2 virus and cause a global pandemic to kill 2.6 million humans and infect 119.6 million more (latest figure at 14 Mar 2021).

According to scientists at the University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, Glasgow, United Kingdom, and colleagues, the move from bats into humans was relatively easy, all the heavy lifting being done in the ancestral bat virus.

As the PLOS press release explains:

Saturday 13 March 2021

Religious Abuse News - 100 Counts of Rape and Abuse in Christian Girls Home

Boyd and Stephanie Householder face more than 100 charges, including dozens relating to child neglect and abuse.
Missouri couple, who owned religious girls home, charged with over 100 counts of abuse, rape | State News | komu.com

Details are emerging of "horrific, sexual, physical, and mental abuse" of girls at a Cedar County, Missouri home for teenage girls run by Christian fundamentalists, Boyd and Stephanie Householder. The couple have been running the, now closed down, Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch boarding school for young ladies "who were destroying their lives through poor choices and behaviours", since 2006.

According to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's website:

Friday 12 March 2021

Christian Hypocrisy News - Christian Apologist Sye ten Bruggencate Abused a Vulnerable Woman

Sye ten Buggencate,
(former) presuppositionalist apologist for Christianity
Christian Apologist Sye ten Bruggencate Took Advantage of a “Vulnerable Woman” | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

Anyone who has spent much time 'debating' with fundamentalist Christian apologists in social media will be familiar with the Canadian apologist, Sye ten Bruggencate, a leading proponent of the infuriatingly intellectually dishonest and childish 'presuppositional' school of apologetics.

Well, maybe no longer (at least for a while, anyway).

Someone dobbed him in regarding his inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable women and he has announced his withdrawal from 'ministry'. In other words, he's giving up lying for Jesus and suckering people with false arguments, because he's been caught... er... lying.

The details of the woman and who exactly dobbed Buggencate in to the elders of his Faith Presbyterian Church in Tillsonburg, Ontario, are sketchy and still emerging but he announced his 'retirement' on his website with a terse:
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