/* */ Rosa Rubicondior: May 2021

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Trumpanzee Fruitloop News - Lying for Trump

Dr. Laurie Roth, Ph.D.
Are the Military and Trump in control? – News With Views

Dr. Laurie Roth, Ph.D, is a failed singer-song writer who is now a shock-jock radio talk-show host. She is so unswervingly pro-Trump and pro-QAnon conspiracy theories that one might be forgiven for thinking she is actually behind the QAnon hoax. Like Trump, she was a leading light in the 'Birther' movement that tried to prove Barak Obama was born outside the USA, despite his authenticated birth certificate showing otherwise.

She now writes lurid tales to please Trumpanzee cultists of how the military and Donald Trump are covertly running America under the 'Insurrection Act' and planning to arrest those who 'stole the election'. Her Facebook page, which strangely has not been taken down for containing disinformation (presumably they haven't had enough complaints yet!), is full of wackadoodle nonsense lifted straight out of QAnon sources.

Curiously, the date for this 'coming storm' appears to be forever sometime in the future, but real soon, any day now... you'll see!

Only a few days ago she wrote:

Are the Military and Trump in control? I just got off the phone with a high up and trusted, military source I know. He...

Posted by Dr. Laurie Roth on Thursday, 27 May 2021
I just got off the phone with a high up and trusted, military source I know. He comfirmed a few things for me.

Regarding, the speculation/confusion as to whether President Trump signed the Insurrection Act or not, he did. He signed it on Jan 14th, 2021. The act of signing it immediately gave him 2 more months as President according to the very directives of the Act itself. I was then told that the military gave him 2 more months as President. The second extension was over on May 20th and most likely extended again by the military who is now in control per the signed Insurrection Act.

Now, with Manhattan Attorney Cy Vance convening a Grand Jury against President Trump, regarding his taxes and business practices, the Trump which hunt continues. The only problem they may have is that they cannot arrest a sitting President and I am assured that he still is President. Once again, the liberal, legal crazies are desperately trying all they can to stop Trump.

It was confirmed today that many Generals approached Trump to run for office to take out the deep state, criminal cabal. They have been making arrests since the Biden – fake inauguration. The military support is all around Trump and continues under the Insurrection Act.

I was told that the military goes through the FISA court and already did their own investigation, determining that there was international and domestic voter fraud They have long known the real election and voting numbers and have acted accordingly.

Our military is bound by the constitution, their duty and the signed insurrection act to be in control, do what they have to do, make arrests and make things right. They are supporting a new election in August and the return of President Trump . I am told he will be returning very soon...
And more in that vein.

So, Trump signed the 'Insurrection Act' 8 days after leaving office when he had no powers to do so and is now plotting a military takeover and a coup d’état with senior military officials who have taken an oath of allegiance to their commander in chief, President Biden! Isn't that an act of Treason in itself? [correction: he did not formally leave office until 20th Jan on Biden's innauguration. I had confused it with the House confirmation hearing on 6th Jan. However, if as Roth alleges, he is in secret talks with senior military figures and plotting a de facto coup d’état, that would be treason, since Biden is the legal POTUS.]

And all will be revealed 'very soon' when he returns to power. Then there will be a new election in August!

Anyone prepared to lay a small bet that none of this comes to pass, but Dr Laurie Roth, Ph.D. will continue to write about how it's had to be postponed for one reason or another but it's gonna happen any day now... you'll see?

I'll wager a £50 donation to Oxfam that Trump is still President Reject Trump come September 2021, if anyone is prepared to match me.

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Covidiot News - Anti-Vaxxer Christians for Jesus - and Covid-19

Biopolymer, mucoadhesive disc being developed to deliver vaccines sublingually. Because it is circular and placed in the mouth, anti-vaxxer Christian fundamentalists claim this is in imitation of the Catholic host, so is a new 'Church of Covid' religion.
Researchers develop vaccine technology in ‘wafer’ form, identical to Catholic host used at Mass | News | LifeSite

In the time-honoured tradition of presenting any ideas they disagree with as some form of faith or alternative religion, the infamous Christian fundamentalist site with a long record of anti-vaxxer propagandizing, LifeSite News, is trying to present the anti-coronavirus measures as 'the Church of Covid' and are casting round for any excuses to do so.

Now they are asserting that a polymer disc impregnated with the components of a vaccine and placed under the tongue, as an alternative to injection, is an imitation of the Catholic host - the wafer used to represent the body of Jesus in the Mass - with the clear implication that having the vaccine is the religious equivalent of a sacrament.

Without a hint of embarrassment at such a ludicrous stretch, the article by Michael Haynes even refutes its own claim by explaining that the 'wafer' is merely a disc of polymers such as alginate (not wafer) and is placed under the tongue, not onto the tongue like the Catholic host. In fact, the resemblance stops at the shape and size of the disc.

Covidiot News - How a Christian Nut-Job Pastor Caused the Death of One of His Congregation

Pastor Greg Locke, Global Vision Bible Church, Tennessee. Coronavirus denier.
Blamed for death from Covid-19 of member of his congregation
Family Speaks Out Against Hate-Preacher Whose COVID Lies Led to Uncle’s Death | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

A stark reminder, if any were needed, of the harm that religious fruitloops with their penchant for conspiracy theories and paranoia can cause when they put their mind to it, was witnessed by viewers of CNN's item about Christian hate preacher, Greg Locke the other day.

Locke, of Global Vison Bible Church in Tennessee, has been downplaying the coronavirus pandemic, and telling his credulous dupes not to get the vaccine and to ignore the anti-covid measure, can claim credit for at least one death amongst his unfortunate congregation.

Friday, 28 May 2021

Biodiversity News - You'll Never Guess What Beetle Poop Contains!

The “bessbug” beetle not only eats its own poop, known as frass, but also uses the material to line the walls of its log-based galleries and to build protective chambers around its young. UC Berkeley scientists have discovered that the frass contains antibiotic and antifungal chemicals produced by actinomycete bacteria, helping to protect the insect from pathogens.

Credit: UC Berkeley photo by Rita de Cassia Pessotti
How antibiotic-filled poop helps ‘bessbug’ beetles stay healthy | Berkeley News

Exactly what potential resources there are in nature can only be guessed at - which is why conservation is so important, not just for the sake of biodiversity on 'spaceship' Earth, but to conserve stuff that could be essential to our long-term survival. Who would have guessed, for example, that the excrement of a beetle would contain potentially powerful antibiotics and fungicides, but that's exactly what a team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley have discovered.

Malevolent Designer News - How Salmonella Has Been Designed to Make Us Sick

Scanning electron micrograph of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium invading a human epithelial cell.
Credit: NIAID
NIH Scientists Find that Salmonella Use Intestinal Epithelial Cells to Colonize the Gut | NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

The malevolent creativity of Creationism's putative intelligent [sic] designer was revealed in another paper published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe yesterday. Scientist have shown how a mechanism Creationists believe was designed by the same designer to protect us against the intestinal bacteria it designed to live in our gut, has actually been turned against us so that Salmonella can bypass our defences.

Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, Hamilton, Montana have found that when your body's immune system tries to eliminate Salmonella bacteria from the cells lining your gut, this actually benefits the bacteria and enables them to colonize your gut and increase the faecal shedding of masses of bacteria to infect other people.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates Salmonella bacteria cause about 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths in the United States alone every year. This is small beer compared to this supposed designer's success with the coronavirus of course, but nevertheless, if you believe in this monster, it is something of a success of which its worshipers can be proud.

How it does this is explained in the NIH news release:

Attack on Roe v. Wade Could Backfire on Conservative Repuglicans

The State of Abortion and Contraception Attitudes in All 50 States | PRRI

With a stable majority of Americans supporting a woman's right to abortion in all or most cases, attempts to repeal Roe v. Wade in SCOTUS, exploiting the new Trump-supplied right-wing majority, could backfire badly on the Repuglicans, since conservative evangelicals tend to be the only demographic group with less than 50% support for the continuing legality of abortions, so repealing Roe v. Wade could precipitate a move of moderate and liberal red voters to vote blue in red states. Most of the opposition, by numbers, comes from white evangelical Christians, matched only by a few minority faiths such as Mormons, Jehovah's Winesses and Hispanic Catholics. All the major non-evangelicals are strongly or moderately pro-abortion legality in all or most cases.

What a repeal of Roe v. Wade would produce is a situation where Repuglican politicians in red states would no longer be able to pander to their evangelical base by passing anti-abortion legislation, confident that it will be struck down in the lower courts, so they can pose as champions of conservative 'values', thwarted by a liberal establishment.

They would then be faced with the choice of continuing to pander to their extremist wing by passing increasingly restrictive anti-abortion measures and accepting the consequences of losing large numbers of their less extreme supporters to the Democrts or alientating the fanatics by not using their new-found freedom to restrict a woman's right to choose.

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Talibangelical Trumpanzee False Prophets - Now Reduced to Threats

Robin Bullock (left) - God will make you insane
Hank Kunneman (right) - God will give you leprosy.
Right Wing Bonus Tracks: You Might Get Leprosy | Right Wing Watch

At least two of the Trumpanzee Talibangelical false prophets who prophesied a Trump win in 2020, claiming God told them, are now trying threats to stop people laughing at them and pointing out that either God lied to them or they lied about what God said - or God never said anything and they made the whole pack of lies up to try to ingratiate themselves with Trump-supporting evangelical Christians.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Transitional Evolution News - Ancient Baleen Whales with Teeth!

Aetiocetus weltoni
Ancient Baleen Whales Had a Mouthful | NewsCenter | SDSU|

You can quite understand why Creationists never read scientific papers and have had to devise all sorts of mental exercises for dismissing them out of hand as the work of liars and conspirators out to fool people, when there is a veritable tsunami of papers like this one that refute their dogmas with simple facts.

Here again we have another example of one of those transitions that Creationists need to believe never happened, because some Bronze Age hill farmers didn't know how life came to be the way it was then, and still is today, and guessed it must have all been the result of magic. This time it is evidence of the transition between the toothed whales (the common ancestors of all the whales had teeth) and the baleen whales.

The research also resolves another piece of embarrassment for Creationists - the fact that baleen whales like blue whales, humpback whales and grey whales, all start to develop teeth as embryos, then lose them again before birth. This an atavistic remnant of the fact that they all once had teeth. There is no reason at all for an intelligent designer to give embryo baleen whales teeth, especially since they are never going to need them as adults.

This evidence was discovered by biologist, Eric Ekdale, of San Diego State University and palaeontologist, Thomas Deméré, of the San Diego Natural History Museum, when they examined a 25 million year-old fossil whale skull of Aetiocetus weltoni, an evolutionary “cousin” of today’s baleen whales (Mysticeti), loaned to them by the University of California, Berkeley. They examined the skull using high-resolution computed tomography (CT) and discovered that it had teeth as well as baleen.

Since baleen is composed of keratin, like hair and fingernails, it does not normally preserve long enough to become fossilized, so the team used the CT scans to find evidence of grooves and holes on the roof of the mouth that connect internally to a vascular canal, consistent with the same structures in living baleen whales.
We have found evidence that supports a co-occurrence of teeth and baleen, indicating the tooth-to-baleen transition occurred in a stepwise manner from just teeth, to teeth and baleen, to only baleen.

Our study provides tangible fossil evidence of a major shift in feeding behavior from a raptorial carnivorous feeding mode to a bulk filter-feeding mode for obtaining food, among the largest animals that have ever lived in earth’s oceans. Krill are around 1/600th the size of blue whales. That’s like us humans eating nothing larger than sesame seeds floating in a pool.

Eric G. Ekdale, Lead author.
Department of Biology
San Diego State University,
San Diego, CA, USA
This also showed that the blood vessels that supply the baleen in modern whales is a modification of the blood supply to teeth.

The research was published two days ago in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society of London:
Abstract

Extant baleen whales (Mysticeti) have a deciduous foetal dentition, but are edentulous at birth. Fossils reveal that the earliest mysticetes possessed an adult dentition. Aetiocetids, a diverse clade of Oligocene toothed mysticetes, have a series of small palatal foramina and associated sulci medial to the postcanine dentition. The openings have been homologized with lateral palatal foramina that transmit neurovascular structures to baleen in extant mysticetes, thereby implying a co-occurrence of teeth and baleen in aetiocetids. However, homology of the foramina and sulci have been questioned. Using CT-imaging, we report that the lateral palatal foramina of Aetiocetus weltoni are connected internally to the superior alveolar canal, which transmits neurovascular structures to baleen in extant mysticetes and to teeth in extant odontocetes. Furthermore, the lateral palatal foramina of Aetiocetus are separate from the more medially positioned canals for the greater palatine arterial system. These results provide critical evidence to support the hypothesis that the superior alveolar neurovasculature was co-opted in aetiocetids and later diverging mysticetes to serve a new function associated with baleen. We evaluate competing hypotheses for the transition from teeth to baleen, and explore the transition from raptorial feeding in early mysticetes to filter-feeding in extant species.

And so another transitional form is added to Creationism's list of fossils they have to pretend don't exist. It must be so tiresome for Creationists having to remember which fossils to ignore, what scientific evidence should never be looked at and which questions you don't want answers too in case an imaginary magic, mind-reading sky thug notices and adds your name to his list of people to burn alive, but such is the power of parental child abuse and brainwashing.

Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Unintelligent Designer News - Fixing the Designer's Incompetence

Rubisco in every green cell.
Compensating with quantity for what it lacks in quality
Rubisco proton production can enhance CO2 acquisition | RIPE

Scientists working on the Illinois-based Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project are trying to improve Earth's food production capability by improving on probably the most abundant protein enzyme on Earth, Rubisco.

The reason you rarely hear an intelligent [sic] design Creationist talking about Rubisco, apart from the fact that few of them know enough biology to know anything about it, is that, for the few who do understand it, it is a major embarrassment.

Quite simply, as an example of sheer incompetence in design, Rubisco, or to give it its full name, ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, is hard to beat. It is the key enzyme involved in photosynthesis so is at the basis of almost all life on Earth, and is probably the most abundant protein on Earth, being in all the photosynthesising cells of every green plant. And it is probably the least efficient of all enzymes, being only capable of about 4 reactions per second, against the hundreds or thousands of reactions for most enzymes. Indeed, the reason it is so abundant, is probably because it is so inefficient. Green plants need lots of it to compensate with quantity what it lacks in quantity.

It is responsible for fixing CO2 in the initial stages of converting CO2 and water into glucose. The problem is, it finds it hard to distinguish between CO2 and O2, so it wastes about 20% of its time doing something destructive that costs the plant energy that could be used to increase the glucose yield.

In evolutionary terms, this is easily explained because evolution is utilitarian and builds on what is there. Once living organisms evolved a Rubisco, it had an advantage over organisms that couldn't utilise CO2, so this put all their descendants on an evolutionary path in which they were dependent on an inefficient enzyme but could not scrap the design and start again - something that would have been no problem for an intelligent designer. Also, since photosynthesis is the source of O2, Rubisco evolved in an environment in which molecular oxygen was a rarity, so its inability to differentiate between CO2 and O2 was not the problem it later became. Again, an intelligent designer, who should have foreseen that his design was going to produced lots of O2, should have foreseen the problem it would become.

However, many photosynthetic organisms have evolved mechanisms to overcome some of Rubisco’s limitations. Among these organisms are microalgae and cyanobacteria from aquatic environments, which have efficiently functioning Rubisco enzymes sitting inside liquid protein droplets and protein compartments called pyrenoids and carboxysomes.

Inside Rubisco compartments, these protons can speed up Rubisco by increasing the amount of CO2 available. The protons do this by helping the conversion of bicarbonate into CO2. Bicarbonate is the major source of CO2 in aquatic environments and photosynthetic organisms that use bicarbonate can tell us a lot about how to improve crop plants.

The outcomes of this study provide an insight into the correct function of specialized Rubisco compartments and give us a better understanding of how we expect them to perform in plants.

Ben Long, Lead researcher
Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency
Plant Science Division,
Research School of Biology,
The Australian National University, Acton, ACT, Australia
In fact, this inefficiency has been the driver of ways to improve the efficiency of Rubisco in some photosynthesising organisms, some of which are being studied by scientists on the RIPE project in cooperation with Australian National University Research School of Biology.

“However, many photosynthetic organisms have evolved mechanisms to overcome some of Rubisco’s limitations,” said Ben Long who led this recent study published in PNAS for a research project called Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE). RIPE, which is led by Illinois in partnership with the Australian National University (ANU), is engineering crops to be more productive by improving photosynthesis. RIPE is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, and U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

“Among these organisms are microalgae and cyanobacteria from aquatic environments, which have efficiently functioning Rubisco enzymes sitting inside liquid protein droplets and protein compartments called pyrenoids and carboxysomes,” said lead researcher Long from the ANU Research School of Biology.

How these protein compartments assist in the Rubisco function is not entirely known. The team from ANU aimed to find the answer by using a mathematical model that focused on the chemical reaction Rubisco carries out. As it collects CO2 from the atmosphere, Rubisco also releases positively charged protons.

“Inside Rubisco compartments, these protons can speed up Rubisco by increasing the amount of CO2 available. The protons do this by helping the conversion of bicarbonate into CO2,” said Long. “Bicarbonate is the major source of CO2 in aquatic environments and photosynthetic organisms that use bicarbonate can tell us a lot about how to improve crop plants.”

The mathematical model gives the ANU team a better idea as to why these special Rubisco compartments might improve the enzyme’s function and it also gives them more insight into how they may have evolved. One hypothesis from the study suggests that periods of low CO2 in the earth’s ancient atmosphere may have been the trigger for the cyanobacteria and microalgae to evolve these specialized compartments, while they might also be beneficial for organisms that grow in dim light environments.

ANU members of the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project are trying to build these specialized Rubisco compartments in crop plants to assist in increasing yield. “The outcomes of this study,” explained Long, “provide an insight into the correct function of specialized Rubisco compartments and give us a better understanding of how we expect them to perform in plants.”
The researcher have published their findings, open access, in PNAS:
Significance

Rubisco is arguably the most abundant protein on Earth, and its catalytic action is responsible for the bulk of organic carbon in the biosphere. Its function has been the focus of study for many decades, but recent discoveries highlight that in a broad array of organisms, it undergoes liquid–liquid phase separation to form membraneless organelles, known as pyrenoids and carboxysomes, that enhance CO2 acquisition. We assess the benefit of these condensate compartments to Rubisco function using a mathematical model. Our model shows that proton production via Rubisco reactions, and those carried by protonated reaction species, can enable the elevation of condensate CO2 to enhance carboxylation. Application of this theory provides insights into pyrenoid and carboxysome evolution.

Abstract Membraneless organelles containing the enzyme ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) are a common feature of organisms utilizing CO2 concentrating mechanisms to enhance photosynthetic carbon acquisition. In cyanobacteria and proteobacteria, the Rubisco condensate is encapsulated in a proteinaceous shell, collectively termed a carboxysome, while some algae and hornworts have evolved Rubisco condensates known as pyrenoids. In both cases, CO2 fixation is enhanced compared with the free enzyme. Previous mathematical models have attributed the improved function of carboxysomes to the generation of elevated CO2 within the organelle via a colocalized carbonic anhydrase (CA) and inwardly diffusing HCO3−, which have accumulated in the cytoplasm via dedicated transporters. Here, we present a concept in which we consider the net of two protons produced in every Rubisco carboxylase reaction. We evaluate this in a reaction–diffusion compartment model to investigate functional advantages these protons may provide Rubisco condensates and carboxysomes, prior to the evolution of HCO3− accumulation. Our model highlights that diffusional resistance to reaction species within a condensate allows Rubisco-derived protons to drive the conversion of HCO3− to CO2 via colocalized CA, enhancing both condensate [CO2] and Rubisco rate. Protonation of Rubisco substrate (RuBP) and product (phosphoglycerate) plays an important role in modulating internal pH and CO2 generation. Application of the model to putative evolutionary ancestors, prior to contemporary cellular HCO3− accumulation, revealed photosynthetic enhancements along a logical sequence of advancements, via Rubisco condensation, to fully formed carboxysomes. Our model suggests that evolution of Rubisco condensation could be favored under low CO2 and low light environments.

Long, Benedict M.; Förster, Britta; Pulsford, Sacha B.; Price, G. Dean; Badger, Murray R. Rubisco proton production can drive the elevation of CO2 within condensates and carboxysomes
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
May 2021, 118 (18) e2014406118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2014406118

Copyright: © The authors. Published by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Open access Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).
Just imagine what a different world we would be living in if Rubisco really had been intelligently designed by a creative deity who was everything Creationists like to imagine their putative designer is, including competent, omniscient and omnipotent as well as perfect. As it is, we have inherited a world in which living things were produced by a utilitarian, unthinking natural mechanism with no plan and no ability to design or even to scrap a bad design and start again. Consequently, we are hard-pressed to produce enough food and need to employ scientists to try to improve on things to compensate for the bad designs evolution has come up with.

Incidentally, that applies in so many other areas of life too, including medical science, none of which would be necessary without bad design and parasites like worms, protozoa, bacteria and viruses.


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Monday, 24 May 2021

Unintelligent Designer News - Correcting Its Blunder with even More Complexity

Superficial Relationship: Enzymes Protect the Skin by Ignoring Microbes and Viruses

As an example of incompetent design, this mechanism, discovered by researchers based at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Medical School, takes some beating. As an example of what a mindless, utilitarian, natural process would come up with, it is entirely understandable, even predictable.

The mechanism in question is that for protecting us from the harmful organisms Creationism's putative intelligent [sic] designer reputedly designed to make us sick. As though that added and unnecessary level of complexity wasn't bad enough, it has had to be switched off to prevent the skin being constantly inflamed, with yet more complexity.

It might sound like a good idea to have a mechanism for stopping your skin being constantly inflamed, but not when you consider the reason it was necessary in the first place. It is the equivalent of a car maker designing iron cladding on the car's rubber tyres to prevent them being punctured by the tacks and spikes he built into the surface of the roads to puncture the rubber tyres, then inventing another rubber tyre to cover the iron cladding to stop the car shaking to pieces - an act of sheer malevolence for which he had to invent a solution, followed by more malevolence and yet another layer of added complexity to compensate for it!

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Evolution News - Great Tits Evolving to Suit City Living

Great tit, Parus major, adapting to city life
Photo: Caroline Isaksson
A stressful life in the city affects birds' genes | Lund University

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given what we know of the way the environment drives evolution, a group of researchers from Lund University, Sweden, have found that the genome of the common European great tit, Parus major, living in European cities is different to those living in the countryside. What was surprising perhaps, was the very clear evidence of this urban selection in a widespread but genetically very similar European population.

This is probably true for all European cities. Whether Milan, Malmö or Madrid the genetic changes were similar, showing a high degree of convergence on the same solutions to the same environmental factors. At least, this was true for the diverse selection of cities on which the team chose to concentrate their efforts.

They found that the changes involved genes that regulate cognition, aggression and circadian rhythms, all of which are important in a high-stress environment like a city with
This indicates that these behaviours, and cognition, are very important in order to live in urban environments with a lot of stress in the form of noise pollution, lights at night, air pollution and constant proximity to people.

We have analysed more than half a million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (snips) spread over the entire genome. There were a handful of genes that had clearly changed in response to the urban environment.

That we see such a clear urban selection across the board, in an otherwise genetically similar European great tit, is surprising.

Caroline Isaksson, Lead author
Senior Lecturer
Department of Biology
Lund University, Lund, Sweden
high levels of pollution, night-time lighting, noise and the proximity to people.

A total of, 192 great tits were examined from populations in Malmö, Gothenburg, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Glasgow, Lisbon and Milan. For each urban population, there was a control group of great tits living on a nearby rural environment. Blood samples have been taken from all of the birds and analysed genetically.

The research is published, open access in the journal, Nature Communications:
Abstract

Urbanisation is increasing worldwide, and there is now ample evidence of phenotypic changes in wild organisms in response to this novel environment. Yet, the genetic changes and genomic architecture underlying these adaptations are poorly understood. Here, we genotype 192 great tits (Parus major) from nine European cities, each paired with an adjacent rural site, to address this major knowledge gap in our understanding of wildlife urban adaptation. We find that a combination of polygenic allele frequency shifts and recurrent selective sweeps are associated with the adaptation of great tits to urban environments. While haplotypes

Saturday, 22 May 2021

My Books Now Available in Hard Cover

USA


United Kingdom


Also available in Germany, France, Spain and Italy (so far)
Amazon Kindle Direct are now publishing laminated, hard-cover versions of books, so several of my tiles will soon be available in that format in addition to the paperback and ebook for Kindle formats. The titles so far available are shown in the panel.

This is a new (beta) service from Amazon so there may be a few problems still to be resolved. Although having greater durability than paperback books, hard cover books are more expensive to produce, so this is reflected in the price, nevertheless, in my opinion, they still represent very good value for money.

A history of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything covers the period from the first appearance of humans on the island of Ireland to the present day and shows how religion shaped the culture of the people and eventually divided them into two mutually hostile and at times warring factions, one based in the strongly independent, predominantly Catholic Republic and the other in the staunchly Protestant, 'Loyalist' Ulster, culminating in a period of 'Trouble' in Northern Ireland which cost an estimated 3000 lives, and the subsequent peace deal, the 'Good Friday Agreement'.

What Makes You So Special: From the Big Bang to YOU. How did you come to be here, now? This book takes the reader from the Big Bang to the evolution of modern humans and the history of human cultures, showing that science is an adventure of discovery and a source of limitless wonder, giving us richer and more rewarding appreciation of the phenomenal privilege of merely being alive and able to begin to understand it all. It is written for a lay readership with little formal education in the sciences and is intended as an introduction and a spur to further learning.

Other titles currently in preparation for hard-cover format are:






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Friday, 21 May 2021

Evolution News - How a Changing Environment Caused Wall Lizards to Speciate

Ibiza wall lizard
Ibiza wall lizard
New species formed when the Mediterranean dried up | Lund University

In an entirely unsurprising finding, a group of researchers led by Professor Tobias Uller of Lund University, Sweden, believe they have explained the present range and diversity of wall lizards in the Mediterranean region as the result of major environmental changes caused by changes in the climate and sea-level about 6 million years ago.

This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the way a changing environment is the main driver of evolution and diversification.

This is also an example of how the TOE is supported by different strands of science, since it predicts that periods of significant evolution will be accompanied by periods of significant environmental change.

According to the Lund University news item:

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Northern Ireland - Loony DUP Leader Already Looking for Martyrdom

Edwin Poots, made a brief statement to the press but refused to answer questions
Ian Paisley accuses BBC of mocking Edwin Poots' faith - The Irish News

Taking offence and playing the martyr seems to come naturally to religious fundamentalist and Creationists like the new leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, Edwin Poots.

Poot's long-time political ally on the extreme right of the party, Ian Paisley Jnr. has already started complaining that the BBC mocked Poots for his fundamentalist beliefs when it told viewers that Poots is a Free Presbyterian Young-Earth Creationist, who believes Earth is only 6000 years old. Apparently, telling the truth about the bible-literalist beliefs of fundamentalist Christians is a form of mockery. But perhaps Paisley is sensitive about the matter, realising as he must, how ludicrous those beliefs sound in the rest of the UK, where they are regarded as more than a little deranged and the opinions of loopy religious nut-jobs and people with whom you wouldn't want your children left alone.

With so many questions following from his election, his refusal to answer them from the assembled journalists outside Stormont can only attract more ridicule. What is he running away from? What about his opinions is he ashamed of or embarrassed by?

Talibangelical News - Trump's Right-Wing SCOTUS to be Given a Chance to Overturn Roe v Wade

The US Supreme Court.
Hearing a challenge to Roe v Wade this autumn.
Supreme Court to Review Anti-Choice Law Designed by Alliance Defending Freedom to Overturn Roe | Right Wing Watch

The extreme Christian right in the USA have been keen to exploit their new-found dominance in the Supreme Court ever since Donald Trump supplied them with it in return for them turning a blind eye to his very un-Christian behaviour and giving him their unconditional and uncritical support. And now, thanks to Mississippi Talibangelicals, who have passed a blatantly illegal and unconstitutional bill to restrict women's right to abortions, they may get to use it to roll back 39 years of social progress.

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Trumpanzee Talibangelical News - Planning Voter-Suppression Laws

Talibangelical, Mike Huckabee,
Hon. President My Faith Votes
Religious-Right Group My Faith Votes Backs GOP Voter Suppression Campaign | Right Wing Watch

If you want to see what it would be like living in a Christian theocracy, look no further than Mike Huckabee's My Faith Votes campaigning organization which has thrown itself squarely behind the current GOP voter-suppression measures.

These moves are a direct reaction to the shock of losing both the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 Georgia run-off vote which they felt entitled to win. Clearly, people turning out in large numbers to vote for the 'wrong' candidates is a serious fault that needs urgent correction, so GOP-run states are rushing to amend their election laws to make it more difficult for Democrat supporter to vote. These laws include making it illegal to give food or water to those waiting in line to vote, so that the long delays caused by the interminable identity and citizenship checks before voting will result in a large number of voters giving up and going home.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Covidiot News - Catholics to Try Magic Spells and Chants to End the Coronavirus Pandemic

Photo credit:Thérèse Westby/Unsplash (CC BY)
Pope Francis invites faithful to monthlong rosary marathon for end of pandemic.

Inspired no doubt by the singular lack of success with praying to make the coronavirus pandemic go away, the Pope has announced a month-long period for Catholics to try praying to make the coronavirus pandemic to go away. They are to do this ritually, while chanting short prayers in a strict order as predetermined by a string of magic beads, known as a rosary and bearing a strong resemblance to the 'worry beads' which are popular in Arab countries.

The belief is that ancient dead people will be alerted to the human requests and tell God about them. At the moment, God is not aware that the virus it created to make us sick is making us sick, or if he is aware of the success of his plan in that regard, he doesn't realise it's wrong. Having been so informed by his long-dead advisors, the belief is, he will see the error of his ways and stop his virus from working the way it was designed to work.

Sound like a plan?

Apparently, the Pope thinks so. According to this report in Religion News Service:
In this month of May, led by the shrines scattered throughout the world, we are reciting the rosary to pray for the end of the pandemic and for the resumption of social activity and work.

Pope Francis
5 May, 2021
Thirty sanctuaries located all over the world and dedicated to the Virgin Mary will take part in reciting the rosary in unison, each one in turn leading the prayer. From Poland to Nigeria to South Korea, faithful Catholics will join together with special intentions for those who have been affected the most by COVID-19.
This period of spell-casting by millions of Catholics will achieve more than medical science has so far with its vaccines which are reducing the seriousness of the Covid-19 illness the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes and reducing the rate of transmission from person to person.

Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results

Atrib. Albert Einstein
(Probably wrongly)
The spell-casting began on Wednesday, 5th May in South Korea at 'The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary' in Namyang. Over the next few days, more spell-casting took place at various shrines across the world, from the shrine of ' Our Lady of Lujan', in Argentina, 'The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock', Ireland and various other Marian shrines including 'Our Lady of Health', India and 'Our Lady of Lourdes', Myanmar, culminating is a special spell-casting ritual at 'The National shrine of the Immaculate Conception' in Washington, D.C., USA. where special spells will be cast to protect "all world leaders and for all heads of international organizations". This is expected to bring about:
...the end of the pandemic and the resumption of our social and economic life.
Despite this period of spell-casting, either no-one was listening or the dead remains of the legendary mother of Jesus either didn't ask God to change his perfect plan for mankind, or God declined to do so, since nothing whatsoever happened in terms of reduced transmissions or reduced mortality rates from Covid-19, which could not be directly attributed to the success of the vaccination and social distancing campaigns.

Last December, Pope Francis braved the rain to cast special anti-coronavirus spells at the 'Shrine of the Immaculate Conception' near the Spanish Steps in Rome, just as another, more serious, wave of infections was taking off over most of Europe and elsewhere.

It made no discernible difference whatsoever.

So, inspired by this spectacular failure, and following his policy of backing both horses in a two-horse race, Pope Francis then announced that he had asked the same dead person to ask God to divert the money intended for military purposes to medical research to prevent God from repeating his success with another similar virus or similar natural catastrophe.

Will this succeed? Don't hold your breath - if God's special virus isn't preventing you from breathing normally.

The only change so far seems to be the design of a new, more contagious variant, the 'Indian variant', that is threatening the tentative moves to lift the restrictions.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

A Young-Earth Creationist Loon to Lead Northern Ireland Assembly!

Edwin Poots, Democratic Unionist Party leader and Young-Earth Creationist
"Earth was created in about 4 BCE!"
Edwin Poots: Who is the new leader of the DUP? - BBC News

The Democratic Unionist Party, founded by Ian Paisley, has elected Edwin Poots, a fundamentalist Presbyterian Creationist, as its leader. As the leader of the largest party in the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly, he could, subject to formal approval by the Legislative Assembly, become First Minister in the power-sharing Executive in which, in line with the Good Friday Agreement, the leader of the second largest party, currently Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill, is Deputy First Minister.

However, in what would be a break with tradition, Poots has indicated that he wishes to separate the roles of First Minister and leader of the DUP, so may nominate a First Minister from amongst his colleagues. If so, as leader of the DUP, he will retain considerable political power and influence in the Province.

As so often in Irish politics, religion is set to poison the political process in Northern Ireland and threaten the Good Friday agreement and the peace and stability of the province, hastened in that process by the idiotic vote in 2016 to leave the European Union.

Poots, despite being an educated adult, is on record as saying he believes Earth is a little over 6,000 years old. He believes this because this date was once calculated by Bishop Ussher of Armagh, from his reading of the Bible. It is not based on any scientific data, all of which shows Earth to be about 3.8 billion years old. Presumably, on the same basis, Poots believes in a literal 6-day creation, Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark. He gets this from a book which endores slavery and second-class status for women, the authors of which thought Earth was small and flat, had a dome over it, and was at the centre of a Universe which ran on magic!

He first became prominent in Northern Ireland politics when, as the DUP member of the Stormont Parliament for Lagan Valley, he opposed the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, but accepted a ministerial post as Minister for Culture and Arts, in the newly-formed power-sharing Executive under Ian Paisley with Martin McGuiness for Sinn Féin as Deputy First Minister. He also opposed reform of the then highly politicised Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), to form the officially politically non-aligned Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) - regarded as a key reform to allow policing in the province to be with the consent of both communities.

As a proud socially-conservative fundamentalist Christian, he opposes a woman's right to choose, gay couples adopting children and, as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety he banned gay men from donating blood. He also expressed a desire to ban blood donations from anyone who had had sex with an African.

He is also strongly opposed to coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions and, without presenting any evidence, claimed transmission rates were six times higher in Nationalist (predominantly Catholic) areas of Northern Ireland than in Unionist (predominantly Protestant) areas. There is in fact no evidence to support that claim since data in infections is not collated on the basis of religion or political persuasion.

He is also strongly opposed to the Brexit arrangements under which there is a de facto customs border down the Irish Sea, with different customs rules for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, keeping NI in a de facto customs union with the Republic and the rest of the EU. This was the issue that prompted Arlene Foster's resignation when she lost the confidence of DUP MLA colleagues who felt she had been too compliant over the Brexit arrangements Boris Johnson had signed up to. In February this year, as Minister for Agriculture and the Environment, Poots withdrew the staff carrying out the Brexit checks at the port of Larne as part of these customs arrangements. The alternative to the border down the Irish Sea is border posts and checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic - a breach of international law under the Anglo-Irish Treaty as part of the Good Friday Agreement, under which goods, capital and people can move freely across the border.

In the 2016 referendum, Northern Ireland voted by a large majority to remain within the European Union while the DUP was in favour of leaving.

Poots is no stranger to the charge of corruption, of which his predecessor, Arlene Foster was also no stranger. Foster famously arranged a Renewable Energy Scheme when Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, with minimal cost controls, under which anyone could install a wood-burning heater in, for example, an out-house or barn, and claim huge sums of money to buy fuel for it - far in excess of the actual cost of the wood-pellet fuel - a generous facility under the guise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, from which very many Unionist-supporting land-owners made small fortunes at NI taxpayers' expense.

This was the issue, and Foster's refusal to allow an enquiry into the scandal, that cause the previous Executive to collapse when Martin McGuiness resigned as Deputy First minister after an election had put the DUP within one seat of losing their majority in the Legislative Assembly. Under the Good Friday Agreement, Foster was also required to resign and the Power-Sharing executive collapsed. Fearful of an election they they could well have lost, Foster refused to call another election and Westminster re-imposed direct rule on the province.

Poots had been lobbying Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, on which his son, Luke, was a councillor, in support of planning applications by friends and associates. Luke Poots voted on these applications without declaring an interest, when he should have absented himself from any votes related to the applications. In effect, Poots Snr. was acting as a conduit for paid-for favours with Poots Jnr. delivering the favours. Luke Poots did not seek re-election to the council in 2019. Both he and Edwin Poots, like Foster before them, deny any breach of the rules or abuses of power.

Together with the Brexit debacle and the dwindling of support for the old sectarian and casually corrupt politics of the DUP, there is now a distinct possibility that the regressive Protestant majority in the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly could fall to a progressive Sinn Féin-led coalition in a future election, followed by a referendum on re-union with the Republic, for which there is growing popular support.

Come that day, the 1920's creation of the British Conservative and Unionist Party and the Protestant Orange Lodges under Carson of "A Protestant State for a Protestant People", for long the slogan of Ulster Unionism, will finally be laid to rest. The selection as DUP leader of someone who apparently find it difficult to assimilate scientific evidence and base his policies on that evidence, can only hasten that day, especially as the Republic simultaneously turns its back on religion and becomes increasingly secular and progressive, and where Sinn Féin now has the same number of seats in the Dáil (37) as Fianna Fáil and is the leading party in the governing coalition.

Hopefully, Poots, or whoever he nominates to be First Minister on his behalf, will be the last Protestant leader of Carson's Protestant State and the island of Ireland will become a Secular State for a Secular People.

Survey Reveals Repuglican/Evangelical Gullibility

The “Big Lie”: Most Republicans Believe the 2020 Election was Stolen | PRRI

Amazingly, despite not a single piece of corroborating evidence that would stand up in court of widespread voter fraud ever being found, 66% of republicans and 61% of white evangelical Christians still believe Donald Trump's lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by the Democrats.

By contrast, only 4% of Democrats and 27% of Independents believe the lie.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

A Talibangelical False Prophet for Trump is Now Lying About the Bible.

False prophet Hank Kunneman, One Voice Ministries, Nebraska
"God Sez, only his prophets can judge me!"
Self-Proclaimed ‘Prophet’ Hank Kunneman Says Only Other ‘Prophets’ Have the Authority to Question Him | Right Wing Watch

Stung by conservative Christian complaints that the Trumpanzee Talibangelical 'prophets' who guaranteed, on God's authority, that Trump would win in November 2020, are harming the church by refusing to admit they were wrong, leading denialist and right-wing Talibangelical loon, Hank Kunneman has trawled through his hand-book of excuses and come up with a way to dismiss this criticism with the wave of his hand.

His critics have no right to criticise him, because God has allegedly only given that right to other prophets!

And apparently, he believes his credulous dupes will fall for that one!

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Unintelligent Designer News - How the Stupid Designer's Blunders Gave Us Mustard

Phylogeny and diversity.


A chronogram of both Brassicales families (Upper) and Pierinae butterfly genera (Lower), showing species numbers and identification of clades in the adjacent table. A common temporal scale is provided between the two chronograms. The branches in the Brassicales phylogeny are colored to indicate the origin of indolic glucosinolates (purple), methionine derived glucosinolates (green), and novel structural elaborations to glucosinolates unique to the core Brassicaceae lineage (orange). Vertical dashed lines also indicate the origin of these novel chemical groups. Primary host–plant associations of various Pierinae lineages are similarly colored: orange (Brassicaceae), green (Capparaceae or Cleomaceae), orange-green (mixture of previous), purple (more basal Brassicales that synthesize indolic glucosinolates), blue (non-Brassicales feeding) and gray (unknown). The phylogenetic positions for the At-α and At-β WGDs are depicted with white diamond symbols, and significant net diversification rate shifts with red star symbols.

Scientists uncover how caterpillars created condiments

While researching for my previous blog post about the unintelligent design in the horseradish flea beetle, I noticed I failed to write about this beautiful piece of research from 2015, despite having referenced it and wrote about the discovery in my popular book, Unintelligent Design: Refuting the Intelligent Design Hoax

I'm referring to the paper published in PNAS in June 2015, entitled The butterfly plant arms-race escalated by gene and genome duplications, now freely available under PNAS' open access option, the work of a large international team of scientists including biologists from The University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA, The Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany, and the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK.

This work confirmed the conclusions made 50 years earlier by two now-renowned biologists, Peter Raven and Paul Erhlich, who introduced the concept of co-evolution, where two species influence the evolution of each other, by showing how gene duplication, and subsequent repurposing of the spare genes produced, was responsible for plants evolving a defence against the caterpillars of butterflies and how, beginning about the same time as the extinction of the large dinosaurs in the mass extinction at the KT boundary, this gave rise over several million years to the co-evolutionary diversification of brassica-eating butterfly species and the brassicas, in an ultimately pointless arms race. Raven and Erhlich had even used the brassicales and cabbage butterflies as examples (A case of a prediction of the Theory of Evolution being proved correct, 50 years later!)
.
The result of this arms race was the tangy taste we call mustard, produced by glucosinolates - chemicals which are toxic to butterfly caterpillars and other leaf-eating insects - the large number of brassicales and a large number of brassica-eating butterflies.

The blunder by Creationism's putative intelligent [sic] designer, if you believe that nonsense, is that it apparently thought it was good design to create species to eat the leaves of plants, then redesign the plants to prevent them being eaten, then redesign the plant-eating insects to overcome the toxins intended to stop them eating the plants. An example there of the designer's right hand not knowing what its left hand was doing!

Unintelligent Designer News - Overcoming the Defences It Designed

Horseradish flea beetle: Protected with the weapons of its food plant | MPI CE

One of the more idiotic aspects of intelligent [sic] design Creationism is the way its advocates ignore the evidence that for there to have been a single sentient designer (as required by the central dogmas of Christianity and Islam), this designer would have to be incredibly stupid or amnesiac.

As research like this shows, there are very many cases in nature of a defence being 'designed' then a workaround for that defence also being designed in a predator or parasite, as though the 'designer' treated its solution for one species as a problem to be overcome - a problem of its own creation!

Quite simply, this is not an intelligent act. Nor is it a characteristic of good design, let alone intelligent design.

However, it is a predictable outcome for a mindless, undirected, natural process like evolution, where the randomly mutating genes will be naturally selected for whichever mutation results in the most copies of themselves appearing in the next generation, with no concern for the genes of another species. Hence, we have abundant examples of arms races in nature and arms races are themselves a major driver of evolution.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

How Religions Cause Divisions

'Healing' crystals

Photo credit: Hasan Can Devsir/Unsplash (CC-BY)
Pagan 'metaphysical' shops navigate threats from Christian critics

An example here of how religion divides communities through bigotry and intolerance and by reacting to competition in the market place of gullible fools to exploit.

In fact, the latter could be seen as an example of how religions control their victims in order to prevent hybridization with other wackadoodle cults, in the same way genes control diverging gene pools to set up barriers to hybridization and so cause speciation to go to completion. Religions are acting like meme pools in a Darwinian competition, and so tending to cause divisions and barriers to social peace and harmony.

This example is that of Heron Michelle, a purveyor of 'pagan metaphysical' objects such as crystals, jewellery and herbs allegedly with mystical properties, from a shop, The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions, in Uptown Greenville, North Carolina. She and her shop have attracted the hostile attention of the local fundamentalist Christians. Ironically, the trouble came to a head after a festival on the last day of April, ostensibly organized to bring the whole community together following the Covid-19 lockdown.

As part of the festival, Heron set up a table outside her shop and offered to do tarot readings for anyone interested in that sort of thing. Fairly soon though, she had a visit from two young men dressed in identical green t-shirts who wanted to 'share the Gospel of Jesus' with her. She explained that she already knew about Jesus and had been baptised into three different Christian faiths but found none of them 'took'. She now believes she has found the 'love that Jesus was trying to bring to the world' outside of Christianity. She also told them that in her faith, proselytizing was regarded as a cardinal sin.

After patronising her with more preaching, the pair eventually left to re-join their large group who had been moving through the festival talking to other shop keepers and festival-goers, trying to win recruits for their cult. Afraid of what was going to happen next, Heron folded up her table and stopped offering tarot readings.

After the festival was over, things turned ugly and menacing. The entire green t-shirted mob of fundamentalists turned up outside her shop physically blocking the entrance and standing and staring at her through the windows.

This is not the first time that Heron has faced crowds of hostile Christians. When she first opened her shop in 2008, the local church organized a boycott and a crowd of women vandalized her shop by paining crosses on the windows. They then stood outside chanting about demons.

In 2017, Philip Brown, a local street preacher who travels around preaching through a bullhorn and harassing other metaphysical stores, set up outside her shop and began preaching, so she engaged him in a discussion about the Gospels. It was soon obvious that she knew them better than he did. Nevertheless he posted his recording of his 'work for Jesus' on You Tube.

According to this report in Religion News Service, these attacks by fundamentalist Christians on metaphysical stores are commonplace:
Vandalism, protests, harassment and regular proselytizing are not uncommon for metaphysical shops. In 2010, Rondell Gonzalez, the owner of Pye’Wackets, south of Anchorage, Alaska, found a 7-foot cross attached to her store’s sign. In 2015, someone tossed a gasoline bomb through the storefront window at Shooting for the Moon Spiritual Development Center, in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. (It failed to explode, and the attackers were never identified.)

In Minnesota in 2016, metaphysical shop owner Bonnie Gurney filed a cease-and-desist order to stop a local woman from posting protests on her store’s social media page, publicly burning store fliers, blocking the shop entrance and harassing patrons, telling them to “repent.” In 2019, a newly opened metaphysical shop in Staunton, Virginia, was shut down, reportedly after the property owner belatedly realized his renter was a metaphysical shop.
Clearly, fundamentalists who go to these lengths to suppress any alternative superstitions, have something to fear from them. Their own faith in the truth of their beliefs must be on shaky ground for them to fear alternative views. It's not just Atheists whom they fear but anyone who might put them in danger of wondering if they could be wrong.

This was found, in a piece of research by Cory L Cook, Florette Cohen and Sheldon Solomon, published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, entitled What If They’re Right About the Afterlife? Evidence of the Role of Existential Threat on Anti-Atheist Prejudice. Human knowledge of death gives ris to:
...potentially paralyzing terror that is assuaged by embracing cultural worldviews that provide a sense that one is a valuable participant in a meaningful universe.
Anything which might cause a believer in one of these worldviews carries the risk that their terror will reassert itself, so hostility to other religions is a simple matter of terror management in response to an existential threat. In their research, which focussed on the relationship between believers and Atheists, the authors found that thinking about death made the believers more hostile to Atheism and thinking about Atheism made them more aware of the issue of death. It seems that any other set of ideas that don't include some sort of hope of survival after death, is an existential threat to fundamentalist Christians and evokes the same terror management response.

As these attacks on alternative metaphysical beliefs show, it's not just Atheists who attract the hostile attention of fundamentalist Christians. The worst thing you can do to a fundamentalist is make them wonder if they could be wrong and the response is often aggression. This is why they have developed all manner of mental gymnastics for rejecting any evidence, or logical reasoning you can offer them that might cause them to have self-doubt, and why they are so susceptible to frauds and charlatans who sell them cosy platitudes and disinformation intended to reinforce their cosy certainties and comforting freedom from their terror of death.

This tendency, in Christianity especially, to build barriers to shut out alternative ideas and to divide society up into mutually hostile camps, each distrusting the others, has resulted in over 30,000 different Christian churches in the USA alone.

Truly a house built on sand and a faith standing on the shaky ground of absent evidence and a book full of internal inconsistences and contradictions. No wonder so many fundamentalist Christians are also gun nuts, opposed to any restrictions on their right to carry weapons of mass destruction. And no wonder the USA with its very large evangelical Christian population is also the most violent, divided and intolerant of all developed economies, in contrast to the countries of Europe with their large and growing populations of non-believers and rapidly falling numbers of believers.

In Darwinian terms, what these cultural memeplexes are doing is ensuring their survival in the human meme pool by rigorously excluding any potential rivals for the human resource they all depend on and preventing any dilution of their dogmas with which they recruit and retain members who are themselves looking for a means to manage their potentially paralyzing fear of death.


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Monday, 10 May 2021

Humanism is Slowly Civilising Christianity

Bishop-elect Megan Rohrer of the Sierra Pacific synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The San Francisco pastor is the first transgender person to be elected bishop in the denomination or in any of the U.S.'s major Christian faiths.
Lutherans elect Megan Rohrer first transgender bishop

In an example of how Humanist egalitarian ideas have penetrated even the more fundamentalist, historically misogynistic and macho flavours of Christianity, the American Lutherans have elected their first transgender bishop.

In the early days of Luther's Protestant Reformation, women were expected to be married 'as ordained by God' and had a strict role within the marriage of motherhood and subservience to her husband.

Nunneries were suppressed and the former nuns were expected to marry, as remaining unmarried was considered to be a defiance against God's ordinance. Indeed, one such nun, Katharina von Bora, having been helped escape the nunnery by Luther himself who sent a cart with barrels of herring for her and 8 other nuns to hide behind, made her way to Wittenberg and married Martin Luther and dutifully bore him several children.

Lutheran reformers established matrimonial and moral courts to enforce Luther's Bible-based ideas of gender roles within a marriage. Adultery is now strictly prohibited and both genders must make their bodies available for “conjugal duties”. Women now have one role and one role only - they are to be professional mothers - to bear children and raise them in the 'one true faith'. There is no role for women outside of marriage and subservience to her husband, because God has ordered it thus.

Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children… If a woman grows weary and at least dies from child bearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing - she is there to do it.

Women have narrow shoulders and wide hips, therefore they ought to be domestic; their very physique is a sign from their Creator that he intended them to limit their activity to the home.

And, they have a book which says so!
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

1 Corinthians 33-35



Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Ephesians 5:22-24



Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

1 Peter 3:1-7



Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

1 Timothy 2:11-12


The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Titus 2:3-5


And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

Ephesians 5:21-22
These 'Orders from God' reputedly inspired St Augustine of Hippo - considered one of Christianity's greatest thinkers - to declare:
Any woman who acts in such a way that she cannot give birth to as many children as she is capable of, makes herself guilty of that many murders.

This obsessive repression and subjugation of women reaches its peak in the teachings of the Swiss Lutheran, Johannes Calvin, founder of the misogynistic Presbyterians, who can scarcely conceal his loathing of women:

John Calvin
We take nothing from the womb but pure filth [meras sordes]. The seething spring of sin is so deep and abundant that vices are always bubbling up from it to bespatter and stain what is otherwise pure.... We should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only but are buried in innumerable impurities.... all human works, if judged according to their own worth, are nothing but filth and defilement.... they are always spattered and befouled with many stains.... it is certain that there is no one who is not covered with infinite filth.

In John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait, 1989,
William J. Bouwsma, Oxford University Press, USA, p. 36.
The modern manifestation of this Lutheran misogyny was of course the allotted role of women in Nazi Germany as expressed in the slogan - Kinder, Küche, Kirche (Chidren, Kitchen, Church). These "3K's" were originally 4 K's in the Lutheran German Proverb by Karl Friedrich Wilhelm Wander:
Vier Ks sind Voraussetzung für eine fromme Frau, nämlich dass sie Rücksicht auf Kirche, Kammer, Küche, Kinder nimmt. (Four K's are requisite of a pious woman, namely, that she keeps regard for church, bedroom, kitchen, children.)
It's a sign of just how far decent Humanist ideas of full human rights for all, regardless of gender, sexuality, skin colour, ethnic origin, social class or ability have penetrated the once deeply misogynistic Lutheran church that they are now prepared to allow not just a woman but a transgender woman to be anything other than silent in church and confine herself to the home in dutiful submission to her 'superior' husband.

At this rate of progress, there will be little of these old, outmoded religions left in a generation or two, although it's hard to imagine how some of the more fundamentalist flavours of Christianity can abandon their fundamental, institutionalised hatred of others and still claim to be Christian. The one hope is that, if the American Lutherans can manage it, the others can too.


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