Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Malevolent Designer News - How a Parasite is Designed to Make its Host Commit Suicide

The life cycle of the hairworm
After hatching in the water, hairworm larvae parasitize aquatic insects and form a cyst in the hosts’ body cavity. After the aquatic insect has grown wings, the hairworm is transported from an aquatic environment to a terrestrial environment. If the aquatic insect is consumed by a mantid, the hairworm grows inside the mantid’s body until it reaches maturity and causes its host to enter the water. Once the mantid is in the water, the hairworm escapes back into the aquatic environment to reproduce, and its lifecycle ends.
Parasites manipulate praying mantis’s polarized-light perception, causing it to jump into water. | Research at Kobe

Readers of my popular, illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good will already be familiar with several examples of a parasite turning its host into an automaton, where the host is manipulated by the parasite to behave in ways beneficial to the parasite but detrimental to the host, often resulting in the death of its victim.

In fact, viewed as a memetic mind virus, religions which encourage and inspire self-sacrifice can be seen as examples of this manipulative mind-control too. They do nothing to enhance the wellbeing of their victim in this respect and serve only to benefit the religion that induces this behaviour, using the cultural assumptions that self-sacrifice for a cause is to be admired and indicates the validity of the religion that induces it.

This example, discovered by researchers at Kobe University, is yet another to be added to that long list. They have discovered how a nematode or hairworm manipulates the behaviour a praying mantis host to jump into water where the hairworm can escape from its body and produce larvae which infect the aquatic larval stage of flying insects, in response to polarized light reflected off the surface of water.

As the Kobe University News release explains, the biological background to this is:

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Biodiversity News - Finding Resources in the Least Expected Places

The European chestnut, Castanea sativa.
The leaves contain a chemical that neutralises MRSA by blocking its ability to make toxins.
eScienceCommons: New molecule found in chestnut leaves disarms dangerous staph bacteria

Another example today of why maintaining biodiversity is important...

Scientists have isolated a chemical from the leaves of the European sweet chestnut tree which could prove invaluable in our arms race with MRSA. They have called this substance, castaneroxy A, after the Latin name for the sweet chestnut tree, Castanea sativa.

According to Carol Clarke, writing in Emory University eScienceCommons:

Talibangelical Covidiot News - The Self-Possessed Arrogance of "God's Prophets".

Chuck Pierce, Global Pheres, Ince, Corinth, Texas
"God cause the Coronavirus pandemic so he could get closer to me!"
'Prophet' Chuck Pierce: God 'Stopped the Whole World' With COVID-19 to a Deeper Relationship With Me | Right Wing Watch

Despite the Christian teaching against the 'deadly sin' of pride, American Talibangelical fundamentalist 'Prophets of God' simply can't get over their self-worshipping idolatry. "God did/does it all for me, because I'm so special!"

This is the clear message from fruitloop Talibangelist Chuck Pierce. A few days ago he 'revealed' to viewers of Cindy Jacob's Facebook 'Religious Center' the astonishing fact that God had caused the Coronavirus pandemic just so he could build a closer relationship with Chuck Pierce, president of Global Spheres, Inc., Corinth, Texas, USA.

Malevolent Designer News - Three More Examples of Malevolent Design

The virus that causes COVID-19 normally gets inside cells by attaching to a protein called ACE2. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a single mutation confers the ability to enter cells through another route, which may threaten the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics designed to block the standard route of entry.
Image: Getty images
Virus that causes COVID-19 can find alternate route to infect cells – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Creationist mode:

Creationists who believe only their special magic friend designs living organisms because nothing can evolve naturally and the only intelligent [sic] designer clever enough is their special magic invisible friend, must be thrilled at the recent news of its brilliance, especially with its design of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is currently killing people by the tens of thousands, ruining economies and making hundreds of millions more sick.

But, it's not just the SARS-Cov-2 virus which is the result of its special efforts to make us sick: it has been hard at work with its attempt to get round human medical science's success with anti-biotics with its resistant strains such as MRSA, and has come up with a particularly nasty form of Streptococcus pneumoniae, which it has designed to take advantage of an infection with any one of the many strains of influenza virus, to do even more damage to our lungs. First, the news that the SARS-CoV-2 virus may have found an alternative way to enter our cells to begin making more viruses and destroying our cells in the process. And this has special relevance to medical science's attempts to control the pandemic with vaccines, because most of these vaccines are designed to reduce the viruses ability to enter our cells using its 'spike' proteins.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Malevolent Designer News - The Sadistic Monster Has Been at it for Millions of Years!

Mushroom growing out of ant's rectum
Mushroom growing out of fossilized ant reveals new genus and species of fungal parasite | Oregon State University

The standard excuse by Creationists for why there is so much evil in the world, in the form of parasites, is because of Eve's sin. Unwittingly, with this excuse, they give away the fact that intelligent [sic] design is far from being the alternative science that Michael J. Behe and the Discovery Institute liars pretend it is, but is nothing more than Biblical fundamentalism in disguise. What other science needs to invoke religious superstition and unproven Bronze Age origin myths to explain anything?

But what are these frauds to make of the fact that one of the nastier parasites has been turning ants into zombies for millions of years, from way before the Bronze Age goat-herders set their tale of Adam and Eve just a few thousand years ago; millions of years before there were any humans to scrump a god's apples even, let alone eat one.

According to George Poinar from Oregon State University Department of Integrative Biology and Yves-Marie Maltier from France, a fungus was parasitising ants 50 million years ago, according to the evidence found in Baltic amber.

Ants are hosts to a number of intriguing parasites, some of which modify the insects’ behavior to benefit the parasites’ development and dispersion. Ants of the tribe Camponotini, commonly known as carpenter ants, seem especially susceptible to fungal pathogens of the genus Ophiocordyceps, including one species that compels infected ants to bite into various erect plant parts just before they die...

We can see a large, orange, cup-shaped ascoma with developing perithecia – flask-shaped structures that let the spores out – emerging from the rectum of the ant. The vegetative part of the fungus is coming out of the abdomen and the base of the neck. We see freestanding fungal bodies also bearing what look like perithecia, and in addition we see what look like the sacs where spores develop. All of the stages, those attached to the ant and the freestanding ones, are of the same species...

There is no doubt that Allocordyceps represents a fungal infection of a Camponotus ant. This is the first fossil record of a member of the Hypocreales order emerging from the body of an ant. And as the earliest fossil record of fungal parasitism of ants, it can be used in future studies as a reference point regarding the origin of the fungus-ant association.

George Poinar, Lead author
Department of Integrative Biology
Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
Readers of my popular, richly illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good will be aware of the fungus that takes control of an ant's behaviour and induces it to find a leaf in the forest canopy, then bite into a midrib on the underside and die, so the fungus growing inside it can produce a fruiting body, growing out of its head, to make spores which can infect another ant.

This newly-discovered Ascomycota fungus produces fruiting bodies out of the ant's abdomen, including its anus.
A mushroom is the reproductive structure of many fungi, including the ones you find growing in your yard, and Poinar and a collaborator in France named their discovery Allocordyceps baltica. They found the new type of Ascomycota fungi in an ant preserved in 50-million-year-old amber from Europe’s Baltic region...

The new fungal genus and species shares certain features with Ophiocordyceps but also displays several developmental stages not previously reported, Poinar said. To name the genus, placed in the order Hypocreales, Poinar and fellow researcher Yves-Marie Maltier combined the Greek word for new – alloios – with the name of known genus Cordyceps...

The fungus could not be placed in the known ant-infecting genus Ophiocordyceps because ascomata in those species usually come out the neck or head of an ant, Poinar said, and not the rectum.
The researcher's findings are published in the journal of the British Mycological Society, Fungal Biology, published by Elsevier Ltd., sadly behind an expensive paywall.

So, if you've believed the Intelligent Design hoax, you now need to explain why your putative intelligent [sic] designer was designing these nasty parasitic fungi to infect, control and kill ants, millions of years before there were humans so millions of years before this mythical 'fall' that is routinely cited to explain the presence of these manifestations of evil (if they were intentionally designed).

Clearly, parasitising ants has nothing to do with what a mythical ancestral human couple are supposed to have done according to a Middle Eastern Bronze Age creation myth. For some inexplicable reason, Creationists are not permitted to ascribe these things to an amoral, natural, unguided process - evolution by natural selection - but, instead, must assign it to the intentions of an omniscience designer, so making it appear that this 'designer' is a malevolent monster who enjoys watching its creation suffer.

How many devout Christians and Moslems prefer this view of their god to the view that it had nothing to do with creating these parasites or the suffering they cause, and for some reason, despite its omnipotence and supposed omni-benevolence, is either unaware of them, powerless to prevent them doing what they do, or indifferent to the suffering they cause?

Poinar, George; Maltier, Yves-Marie
Allocordyceps baltica gen. et sp. nov. (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae), an ancient fungal parasite of an ant in Baltic amber
Fungal Biology 2021 DOI/: 10.1016/j.funbio.2021.06.002

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Thursday, 24 June 2021

Religion - Providing Excuses for People who Need Excuses

The vital element to consider is the gender norms and beliefs surrounding male dominance and male superiority, created by power hierarchies that accord men greater status.

Domestic abuse more prevalent among Anglican churchgoers, new report finds - ABC News

Australia has a significant problem of domestic violence perpetrated mostly by men against women with whom they are in an intimate relationship and especially common in Anglican communities. The problem was first highlighted by an ABC News investigation which reported:
Research shows that the men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians who attend church sporadically*. Church leaders in Australia say they abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it
The report had cited as a typical example, a couple named 'Sally' and 'Peter' and the exchange that took place the evening before Sally left the household with nothing except her young daughter and what cloths she could carry to escape from the nightly abuse.

This exchange was triggered by Sally coming down stairs to say 'Goodnight' which Peter interpreted as her unwillingness to have sex. He began screaming abuse at her and accused her of being a disobedient wife who was disobeying God's instruction to be obedient to her husband. He grabbed a Bible and quoted from it:

Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Refuting Creationism - It's Yet Another of Those 'Missing' Links!

Scanning electron micrographs of Fensomea setacea, gen. & sp. nov. (GeoB*184) in (A, B) ventral view, (C) left lateral view, (D) right lateral view, (E) dorsal view, and (F) ventral apical view. Scale bars = 5 µm.
Phytoplankton: The discovery of a missing link - LMU München

Here is yet another example of scientists refuting Creationist dogma simply by discovering the facts. This is easily done of course, without the slightest intent on the part of the scientists because the facts are invariably at odds with evidence-free, superstition-based Creationism, so we would expect the facts and the truth to expose the fallacies and lies Creationist frauds fool their credulous dupes with.

In this case, the dogma refuted is that there are no missing links. The facts reported by the scientists based at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany, is that they have discovered a 'missing link' between the two major phylogenetic groups of unicellular algae known as the dinophytes or dinoflagellates, which sheds new light on the evolution of these organisms.

Missing links at the unicellular organism level might not sound significant to those who, like Creationists, don't understand taxonomic levels, but they are no less significant, or 'transitional', than would be 'missing links' between, for example, chimpanzees and hominins or between old world monkeys and the African great apes. The point is that these organisms lie at the origin of two different taxonomies or branches of the evolutionary tree.
As the Ludwig-Maxillians University news release explains:

Monday, 21 June 2021

Religion - Providing More Excuses for People Who Need Excuses

Pastor Lewis Clemons
Kingdom Awareness Ministries International, Columbus, Georgia, USA
$500,000 compensation for rape victim
Jury imposes $500K verdict on pastor accused of rape | U.S. News | The Christian Post

Pastor Lewis Clemons, Could have settled a claim that he raped a 15-year-old girl with a simple public admission and an apology, but he refused. So, the jury in the Superior Court of Muscogee County, Georgia, found in favour of the complainant, Lequita Jackson, and imposed a $500,000 penalty against him.

In 2017, Jackson and another of Clemons' congregants, Lakisha Smith, launched a civil lawsuit against Clemons, claiming that he had sexually abused them when they were under 16 years old. During the trial, Jackson, who is now 33, told the court that Clemons routinely sought out girls from troubled backgrounds and

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Is Creationism's Magic Designer Preparing Something Even Nastier?

Electron microscopy of selected samples.
A. Negative stain electron micrograph of a ground stool pool homogenate from a Myotis myotis colony.
B. Negative stain electron micrograph of a pooled liver and spleen homogenate from Pipistrellus nathusii.
Metagenomic analysis of fecal and tissue samples from 18 endemic bat species in Switzerland revealed a diverse virus composition including potentially zoonotic viruses

Creationist mode:

Creationism's malevolent designer - the designer who, according to Creationist dogma, must have created the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the coronavirus pandemic - seems to be working on something even nastier!

According to researcher led by Isabelle Hardmeier of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, bats are acting as hosts to viruses from 39 different viral families, 16 of which have the potential to cross over into humans and cause the next major pandemic, just as SARS-CoV-2 is thought to have originated.

The researchers analysed the RNA and DNA of viruses found in the faeces and organs of more than 17,000 bats living in Switzerland. One of the studied bat colonies was found to harbour a near-complete genome of a virus known as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-related coronavirus (CoV). Others known to have the potential to become pathogenic in humans include coronaviruses, adenoviruses, hepeviruses, rotaviruses A and H, and parvoviruses.

Their findings have been published open access in PLOS ONE:

Christian Hate News - Pastor Greg Locke is Suspiciously Obsessive About Gay Sex!

Pastor Greg Locke of the Global Vison Bible Church, Tennessee
Christian Hate-Preacher: Pride Month Has “Always Been About These Pedophiles” | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

Preacher of hate, Greg Locke, of Global Vision Bible Church, Mt Juliet, Tennessee, seems fixated with homosexuality to a degree that must raise questions about what exactly he is trying to dissociate from. In his latest outburst he is ranting about Gay Pride:
I know what the Bible teaches. And what the Bible teaches is that pride is an abomination. Pride in sin is a double abomination. So now we've decided that we would nationalistically and around the world take an entire month to celebrate something that God clearly says in His Bible grieves Him. "Because, after all, love is love." Not according to the Bible! Love ain't always love! Sometimes love is lust!

Friday, 18 June 2021

Watching the Pandemic - UK

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Previous 7 Days total cases per 100,000 population
The number of covid-19 cases in the UK is rising again, due to the δ variant. It had been falling steadily until about mid-May but is already some 5,000 cases higher that at the peak of the first wave in April, 2020.

The main reason why hospitalisations and deaths are not rising nearly so sharply as they did then, is due to the vaccination campaign in which just over 80% of adults have had at least one dose and close to 60% have had both.

[update 28 Nov 2021] We now have a new varianr, (ο - omicron) to watch. The question is whether the vaccines will be as effective against it as they have been against α and δ and whther it will be more or less transmissible. The early indication is that it quickly replaced δ in southern Africa so is significantly more transmisible, with 50 mutations, 30 of which are in the gene for the spike protein.

[update 15 Dec 2021] Ο is proving to be far more transmissable that δ with an r number of 2-3 or higher. Cases in UK are now at record levels but serious cases seem to be remaining low (early days yet as there is about 1-2 week lag in being diagnosed and needing hospitalisations, with deaths about a week behind.)

This slideshow uses maps of cases published daily on the UK government Coronavirus UK Summary website. It starts about early April 2021, when I started saving them. An area shown in outline only has missing data.

Slideshows are something which I have been experimenting with for a few weeks and hopefully, I'll be adding some controls to this one in the near future. At the moment is simply recycles back to the first slide when it comes to the end of the list.

I'll be updating it with a new slide each day. A red background indicates the last 7 days.

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