F Rosa Rubicondior: August 2021

Tuesday 31 August 2021

Christian False Prophet, Kat Kerr, Makes a Fool of Herself (and Her Followers) Again

Kat Kerr
Talibangelical Christian False Prophetess
Christian “Prophetess” Tries (and Fails) to Take “Authority” Over Hurricane Ida | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

As frauds go, they don't get more fraudulent than Christian Talibangelist, false prophetess, Kat Kerr.

Kerr earns her living telling her credulous followers implausible tales about her supposed multiple visits to Heaven to chat with her personal friends Jesus and his dad. She also claims to have the power to command vast armies of angels to guarantee the security of, for example, her beloved former president, Donald Trump's rallies, and to ensure he wins the presidential election in which he was booted out of office by the American electorate.

She also claims to be able to control the weather and take control of hurricanes and tropical storms; claims which her simpleton followers appear to believe despite her appalling record in that respect. Mind you, those who can believe a hurricane is sentient and has the ability to obey the words and magic spells of Kerr and her ilk can probably be persuaded to believe that which is manifestly untrue.

Sunday 29 August 2021

A Lying Loony Speaks - "Nonsense, twisted, and false view of God and Intelligent Design".

Nonsense, twisted, and false view of God and Intelligent Design.

Someone calling himself (I assume it's a 'he' but I could be wrong) 'Ether Technology'[sic], who hasn't read my illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good, and who doesn't want you to either, has decided to pretend he has and to be able to refute its contents without addressing anything in it. Instead, he has claimed to be posting what God said about the book, and simply posted a list of irrelevant Bible verses followed by the traditional threat, betraying his own psychotic state of mind.

Had he read the book, he would have found it contains description of some of the very many examples to be found in nature where, if they were designed, the designer could only be described as a malevolent, sadistic monster who hates its creation and designs ever-more nasty ways to make it suffer.

Bizarrely, the understandably anonymous 'Ether Technology' thinks this can all be explained by 'sin' but neglects to explain how, for example, an isopod amputating and replacing the tongue of a fish with its own body, a nematode turning a cricket into a zombie and making it commit suicide, a fungus that indiscriminately kills frogs or a bacterium that selectively kills the males of a species of butterfly on a Pacific island, could possibly be directed at mankind as a punishment for some mythical misdeed of a founding couple that science shows could not possibly have existed.

Saturday 28 August 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Creationism's Almighty Malevolence is Not Giving Up on SARS-CoV-2

New laboratory findings from OHSU confirm that two variants of concern reduce protection against COVID-19 in blood serum drawn from people previously vaccinated or infected. The findings underscore the importance of vaccinations combined with public health measures to stop the spread of the virus.
Getty Images
COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness Dips, But Remains Potent Disease Deterrent | University of Utah Health

Study confirms virus variants reduce protection against COVID-19 | OHSU News

A clutch of reports in the last few days have shown just how much effort Creationism's beloved malevolence is putting into keeping ahead of medical science in its battle to kill and make sick as many people as possible whilst medical scientists have the audacity to try to limit its success - if we subscribe for the moment to the childish notion of intelligent [sic] design, that is.

The first, conducted by researchers from the University of Utah, reports that the protection given against the virus by the vaccines has fallen to about 80% from about 91% in a large group of frontline healthcare workers between December 2020 and August 2021. This was measured using COVID-19 RT-PCR testing rather than measuring the effectiveness at preventing serious illness, including hospitalisations and deaths.

The suggestion is that this may be due to one or both of:
  • Waning immunity, a decrease in the strength of the body’s vaccine-activated defences against the virus.
  • Greater virulence of the δ variant, which has become the predominant form of the virus since June 2021.

Evolution News - Another Ancient Hominin Species Identified by DNA.

The Leang Panninge (‘Bat Cave’) on the southern peninsula of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
© Leang Panninge Research Project
Oldest genome from Wallacea shows previously unknown ancient human relations | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

More evidence is emerging that suggests for much of our recent history, Homo sapiens existed alongside and interbred with several related species or subspecies or humans, behaving very much like a 'ring species' where a geographically widespread species is speciating into several related species and barriers to hybridization have not been fully established, allowing genes to flow between the species - something entirely predictable from the Theory of Evolution.

The fact that H. sapiens interbreed with H. neanderthalensis, the Denisovans (who have yet to be given a formal scientific name) and a third species known only from DNA fragments in our genome, is now very well established, as it the fact that H. neanderthalensis and the Denisovans also interbred. We also know of several other contemporaneous species with H. sapiens in the vicinity of this find, although there is no evidence of interbreeding with them - H. floresensis (the 'Hobbit') on the nearby Flores Island and H. luzonensis on the Island of Luzon in the Philippines. Palaeontologists have also discovered a so-far unnamed probable new species in Israel, the Ramala Homo, and from China, Homo longi sp. nov. ('Dragon Man'), both of which were contemporaneous with early H. sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans.

This confirmation of the TOE as it applies to H. sapiens is a constant irritant to Creationists, not simply because it confirms their most hated scientific theory, but also because it destroys their most cherished creation myth - the childish Bronze Age tale of a founding couple and 'original sin' and so the need for Jesus to 'save' us from the consequences of it. Not only does this interbreeding wreck the notion of a founding couple, but it wrecks the notion of even a founding species and of course totally destroys any notion of original sin and the need for salvation and a saviour! And without that superstitious fear with which to threaten their victims, where would the Abrahamic religions and their priests be?

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Evolution News - Rapid Evolution of Early Tetrapods. Crisis? What Crisis?

Late Devonia early tetrapods
Artwork: Davide Bonadonna
Sustained fast rates of evolution explain how tetrapods evolved from fish | Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Creationist frauds flatter their willing marks by telling them the scientific Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis, so scientists are coming to see their superstition as correct after all. This makes them feel they know more than the millions of biomedical scientists who spend their working lives applying the TOE to interpret and explain the biological data, all without having to bother with learning very much. It also enables the frauds to get away with a false dichotomy fallacy rather than show evidence for their god claim.

The extent to which this falsehood has penetrated public opinion in the USA can be gauged by two polls. One of members of the American Academy of Science on the statement, "Humans and other living things have evolved over time" (95% agreed, rising to 99% of biomedical members) and a 2015 Pew Research Poll on the question, "Do scientists generally agree about evolution?" where only 66% thought they did (29% thought they disagreed!). Public perception of the degree of scientific support for evolution is thus very different in the USA to the actual support.

In this paper we can see how biologists take the TOE as fundamental to any explanation of the data and how the data only makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Never, at any point, is a mystery settled for as unknowable or is data taken as evidence of an unproven, supernatural entity, plucked from one or other of Earth's many cultural origin myths.

Covidiot News - Cardinal Burke off a Ventilator but Unrepentant for Misleading Catholics Over Covid-19 Vaccines.

Cardinal Raymod Burke
Recovering from COVID-19 having lied about the vaccine.
Cardinal Burke off ventilator, still hospitalized with COVID

Cardinal Burke, one of Catholicism's most influential Covidiots, who has been deliberately spreading false anti-vaccine information to deter those gullible enough to listen to him from being vaccinated, is now recovering from COVID-19 and off the ventilator that medical science used to save him when prayers failed. A ventilator, incidentally, that could have been used to save one of his victims or one of the few people who ignored his lies and had the vaccine, but fell sick from the δ variant anyway.

Needless to say, rather than thanking the medical staff and the scientists behind the medical science that was used to save him, he and his supporters are thanking the same god they believe created the virus and in particular the magic spells chanted to that god by his followers. Rather than credit their skill to their dedication and hard work, he even attributed the skills of the hospital staff to his god.

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Creationist Failure News - Gaps in the Geological Record Refute YEC Bible Literalists

The Grand Canyon. More bad news for Creationists
Geologists dig into Grand Canyon’s mysterious gap in time | CU Boulder Today | University of Colorado Boulder

Normally, Creationists love gaps in science as somewhere to sit their ever-diminishing little god, and actively look for them and even try to invent them where none exist.

However, this is a gap they will most probably ignore in the hope it'll go away.

The reason? It is a gap (known as the "Great Unconformity") of almost 1 billion years in a geological record of some 2 billion years. Moreover, the gap is not everywhere - which is how we know about it - but just occurs in a few locations. And having a gap as wide as almost 1 billion years anywhere, utterly refutes any notion that Earth could be just a few thousand years old, and puts it beyond doubt that Earth is much older than Creationists claim from their literalist reading of the Bible. And, to disconcert Creationists even more, this gap is most noticeable in the Grand Canyon, that Creationist frauds lie so much about, ludicrously claiming it as evidence of a global flood "where the water ran off! [sic]"

The gap is missing rock - lots of it - but the mystery remains - where did all that rock go to?

And this is what the researchers from University of Colorado Boulder believe they have solved. They published their findings in the journal of the Geological Society of America, Geology. Sadly, the paper appears to be behind a paywall, however the UC Boulder news release contains the details:
The research comes closer to solving a puzzle, called the “Great Unconformity,” that has perplexed geologists since it was first described nearly 150 years ago.

Barra Peak rests her hand on the line where old rocks and new rocks meet in the Grand Canyon.
Credit: Barra Peak
Think of the red bluffs and cliffs of the Grand Canyon as Earth’s history textbook, explained Barra Peak, lead author of the new study and a graduate student in geological sciences at CU Boulder. If you scale down the canyon’s rock faces, you can jump back almost 2 billion years into the planet’s past. But that textbook is also missing pages: In some areas, more than 1 billion years’ worth of rocks have disappeared from the Grand Canyon without a trace.

Geologists want to know why…

Now, [Barra Peak] and her colleagues think they may be narrowing in on an answer in a paper published this month in the journal Geology. The team reports that a series of small yet violent faulting events may have rocked the region during the breakup of an ancient supercontinent called Rodinia. The resulting havoc likely tore up the earth around the canyon, causing rocks and sediment to wash away and into the ocean.

The team’s findings could help scientists fill in missing pieces of what happened during this critical period for the Grand Canyon—today one of North America’s foremost natural wonders…

The Great Unconformity is one of the first well-documented geologic features in North America,” Peak said. “But until recently, we didn’t have a lot of constraints on when or how it occurred…

There are beautiful lines. At the bottom, you can see very clearly that there are rocks that have been pushed together. Their layers are vertical. Then there there’s a cutoff, and above that you have these beautiful horizontal layers that form the buttes and peaks that you associate with the Grand Canyon…

There’s more than a billion years that’s gone. It’s also a billion years during an interesting part of Earth’s history where the planet is transitioning from an older setting to the modern Earth we know today.
Barra Peak, lead author
Graduate student in geological sciences
Colorado University Boulder, CO, USA
It’s a mystery that goes back a long way. John Wesley Powell, the namesake of today’s Lake Powell, first saw the Great Unconformity during his famed 1869 expedition by boat down the rapids of the Colorado River.

Peak, who completed a similar research rafting trip through the Grand Canyon in spring 2021, said that the feature is stark enough that you can see it from the river…

The difference between those two types of rocks is significant. In the western part of the canyon toward Lake Mead, the basement stone is 1.4 to 1.8 billion years old. The rocks sitting on top, however, are just 520 million years old. Since Powell’s voyage, scientists have seen evidence of similar periods of lost time at sites around North America…

To explore the transition, Peak and her colleagues employed a method called “thermochronology,” which tracks the history of heat in stone. Peak explained that, when geologic formations are buried deep underground, the pressure building on top of them can cause them to get toasty. That heat, in turn, leaves a trace in the chemistry of minerals in those formations.

We have new analytical methods in our lab that allow us to decipher the history in the missing window of time across the Great Unconformity. We are doing this in the Grand Canyon and at other Great Unconformity localities across North America.

Rebecca Flowers, co-author
Professor of geological sciences
Colorado University Boulder, CO, USA
Using this approach, the researchers conducted a survey of samples of rock collected from throughout the Grand Canyon. They discovered that the history of this feature may be more convoluted than scientists have assumed. In particular, the western half of the canyon and its eastern portion (the part that tourists are most familiar with) may have undergone different geologic contortions throughout time.

Roughly 700 million years ago, basement rock in the west seems to have risen to the surface. In the eastern half, however, that same stone was under kilometers of sediment.

The difference likely came down to the breakup of Rodinia, a gigantic land mass that began to pull apart at about the same time, Peak said. The researchers’ results suggest that this major upheaval may have torn at the eastern and western halves of the Grand Canyon in different ways and at slightly different times—producing the Great Unconformity in the process.
An explanation of the observable evidence then that only makes any sense as a process occurring over many millions of years - unlike the Creationist myths that try to compress everything into a few weeks or even a few days. And how does the childish belief that the strata through which the Colorado River cuts were deposited over the course of a year as the result of a single geological process, account for these unconformities and folds? It can't of course. That can only be explained by the sorts of long, slow geological processes associated with major tectonic plate activity such as the splitting of continents that resulted in a dome rising up under the bed of an existing river at a rate slow enough for the flow of the river to erode it.

Scientists these days no longer set out to discredit Creationism like this. In fact, it's not they who do so, but the facts that they reveal using scientific methods and analysis. A superstition which can be refuted with facts has something wrong with it. Any decent hypothesis worth considering should not need to ignore inconvenient evidence such as this.

Thank you for sharing!

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Sunday 22 August 2021

Creationist Failure News - How White Clover is Unlucky for Creationists

White Clover, Trifolium repens
White clover’s toxic tricks traced to its hybridization | The Source | Washington University in St. Louis

If there is one thing that Creationists are good at, it is ignoring the facts that show their dogma to be wrong, so here is yet another research finding for them to ignore.

This time, the research concerns the ubiquitous white clover, Trifolium repens, which is abundant throughout temperate zones of the world to the extent that there can scarcely be a patch of grass anywhere that doesn't have its population of white clover, unless specifically treated with a herbicide.

Saturday 21 August 2021

Evolution News - Science is Winning the Argument in USA

Stylised representation of the evolution of Homo sapiens from a common ancestor with the other African apes.
Study: Evolution now accepted by majority of Americans | University of Michigan News

According to a meta-analysis of several surveys carried out over the past 35 years by researchers from Michigan University's Institute for Social Research, American public opinion has now shifted firmly to a majority acceptance that humans evolved from ancestral pre-hominid ancestors, with a surge in support for evolution in the last decade, even amongst fundamentalist Christians.

However, there is now a marked difference between Republicans and Democrats and between fundamentalist Christians and moderate Christians/non-affiliated on the issue.

According to the Michigan University news release:

Friday 20 August 2021

Malevolent Designer News - How SARS-CoV-2 Sneaks Past The Defences The Idiot Designer Designed to Protect You

The glycan gate opens: Supercomputing-driven simulations depict the glycan N343 (magenta) acting as a molecular crowbar to pry open the SARS-CoV-2 spike’s receptor binding domain, or RBD (cyan), from a “down” to an "up" position.

Credit: Terra Sztain, Surl-Hee Ahn, Lorenzo Casalino (Amaro Lab, UC San Diego).
Researchers Discover Hidden SARS-CoV-2 ‘Gate’ That Opens to Allow COVID Infection

Creationist mode:

Scientist from UC San Diego, University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas at Austin, Columbia University and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have discovered how Creationism's beloved malevolence designed the nasty little SARS-CoV-2 virus to sneak past our defences, enter the cells lining our respiratory tract and either kill us, or make us very sick while producing lots of new virus particles with which to infect others.

In this way, it brilliantly produced the coronavirus pandemic currently wrecking economies and killing people by the tens of thousands a day and leaving very many more with long-term health problems. This same malevolence also allegedly designed our inadequate defences to protect us from the parasites, such as this virus, it creates to harm us! <sarcasm>Obviously, such a designer is worthy of our admiration and adoration and provides the role model for our social ethics.</sarcasm>.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Covidiot News - Another Antivax Lie Busted By Science

Comparison of 1st day post-vaccination symptoms between groups
Study: Pregnant women do well with COVID vaccine | Newsroom

According to a large study of over 17,000 women, conducted by University of Washington medical School (UV Medicine), pregnant and lactating women who received the COVID-19 vaccinations, did not experience symptoms any more severe than their non-pregnant counterparts. And what symptoms they had were minor and predictable, such as slight pain at the injection site.

The study was limited largely to healthcare workers because at the time the study was conducted, they were the only women of the right age to have been vaccinated, as healthcare workers were vaccinated early as a high-risk group. The study now needs to be conducted on a more generalised sample to ensure there is not something in this group that is skewing the result. However, this is the second such study to produce these reassuring figures and it's difficult to imagine what about being a healthcare worker could be skewing the results. Nevertheless, that small possibility needs to be eliminated.

The finding was published open access in JAMA Network Open. In their conclusions the team report:

Wednesday 18 August 2021

Covidiot News - Why Vaccinated People are Doing Better Against the Delta Variant

Daily New Cases, (USA) [18-08-2021]

Antibodies elicited by COVID-19 vaccination effective against delta variant – Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

A paper published in the journal Immunity a couple of days ago shows what we've pretty much known for several weeks now - that the surge in the δ variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus now being seen in America, Europe and elsewhere, is being facilitated by having a large population of, as yet, unvaccinated people to exploit, and not because it can evade the antibodies in those who are fully vaccinated.

This is why the current surge in the USA looks like a deliberate, self-induced genocide of supporters of the GOP and it's covidiot allies in the evangelical Christian churches, the Trumpanzee cult and the victims of the shadowy, pro-Trump QAnon organization behind much of the disinformation and lies in the antivaxxer movement.

Just as we would expect, and as this paper confirms, the δ variant is not able to make much headway in the vaccinated population because it can't evade their antibodies, hence the proportion of new cases coming from the red states and counties in the USA vastly outnumbers those coming from the blue states and counties. At the start of this recent surge, 40% of all new cases were coming from just three red states, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, all of which have had a low take-up of the vaccines.

Covidiot News - No Time to Gloat, But We DID Say This Would Happen

Two Covidiots
Left: Jimmy DeYoung Sr. Antivaxxer. Died last Sunday
Right: Cardinal Burke. Antivaxxer. On a ventilator
Christian Radio Host Who Discouraged Getting the Vaccine Dies of COVID | Hemant Mehta | Friendly Atheist | Patheos

It's difficult to feel sorry for people like antivaxxer, evangelical Christian radio host and covidiot, Dr Jimmy DeYoung Sr, who devoted his last year of life to spreading disinformation to discourage his followers from getting the anti-COVID vaccine and who has now died of COVID-19, and Catholic Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the homophobic right-winger who downplayed the coronavirus and similarly rubbished and lied about the vaccine, who is now fighting for his life on a ventilator, suffering from... you've guessed it!.. COVID-19.

Tuesday 17 August 2021

QAnon Nut Job News - A Man "Enlightened by QAnon" Killed His Children "Because They Had Serpent DNA"

Matthew Taylor Coleman
Killed his two children "because they had serpent DNA".
Surf School Owner Kills His Children After Being "Enlightened" by QAnon | Daily Beast

A surf school owner who had been suckered in by the pro-Trump, neo-Nazi QAnon conspiracy theories ended up so paranoid that he killed his children, believing that was the only way to save the world from evil.

According to this report in the Daily Beast, he told FBI agents:
... that he was enlightened by the QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories and was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife...possessed serpent DNA and had passed it onto his children [so he was] saving the world from monsters.
Coleman was arrested when he attempted to re-enter the USA from Mexico, the day after the bodies of his two children, a 3 year-old boy and a 1 year-old girl, were found at a ranch near Rosarito, Baha California, Mexico, to where Coleman had taken them a day earlier without telling his wife where he was taking them. The girl had 17 stab wounds and the boy, 12.

Coleman and his wife, Abby, ran the Lovewater Surfing School at Santa Barbara, California, offering 'surfing therapy' to child victims of sex trafficking.

In a (now deleted) Facebook post last November, Coleman told his followers about his Christian faith, speculating that:
...there is a type of Great American Renaissance following the years of Covid, censorship, and political divisiveness... that will empower each person’s heart to come alive and explode with innovative ideas, new business models, new music sounds and never seen ways to build an amazing community?
Last October, celebrating his daughter's birthday, in a post suffused with the 'coming battle' imagery of QAnon conspiracists, he posted about his 'visions' on Instagram:
While waiting for her to come, I kept feeling this sense that she was going to be born at a very pivotal time in history and that she would represent a dawn, or even awakening, to years of great blessing for our family and nation. Another picture that came to me was of God reaching down into a river bed and picking up a small stone (rock), examining it intently. Just as David had done before slaying Goliath, God examined the stone and was confident that it was just the perfect one for the battle. Although it was small, smooth and somewhat harmless looking, he knew that it would become great when placed into the palm of a skilled hand. My declaration over Roxy Rain is that she has been hand picked by God to slay the giants in the land.
Clearly, Coleman, who appears to have been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, began imagining visions and messages telling him something far more sinister, and more in line with the sort of paranoia being deliberately inculcated into their followers' minds by whoever is behind the QAnon conspiracy theories.

As Karim Zidan of Right Wing Watch pointed out:
QAnon adherents believe in a myriad of far-right conspiracy theories, including the false belief that a cabal of Satanic pedophiles comprised of global elites, Hollywood actors, and Democratic politicians operate a global child sex-trafficking ring, and that former president Donald Trump was working to bring down the cabal. In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, which led to the election of Democratic nominee Joe Biden, QAnon adherents began spreading disproven election fraud narratives while also contributing to the spread of COVID-19 disinformation and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. The QAnon conspiracy theories have consumed relationships and marriages across the United States, with thousands of people sharing their stories on support groups such as Reddit’s r/QAnonCasualties subreddit. Countless spouses and family members shared stories about their “losing” their loved ones to QAnon. Recently, a student who survived the Parkland shooting in 2018 revealed in the subreddit that QAnon convinced his own father that the tragic shooting was nothing more than a hoax.
Clearly there is nothign the Trumpanzee cult and their allies in white supremacist evangelical Christianity, won't stoop to. No price is too high for them to pay in terms of damage to the mental health of individuals and destruction of families, to try to get the former head of the White House crime syndicate, Donald J Trump, back into the White House in 2024.

Christian Loopy Liar News - Spreading False Information for Jesus

Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel
Lies include claim that the vaccine is designed to prevent people from procreating!
Mat Staver Claims COVID-19 Vaccines Are Designed to 'Prevent People From Procreating' | Right Wing Watch

Two well-known Talibangelist Christian nut-jobs who have been doing their best to encourage the self-genocide of Trumpanzee evangelical Christians and GOP voters, through false witnessing about COVID-19, were in the news last week.

First off is the habitual liar, Mat Staver, of Liberty Counsel, an extremist conservative Christian, homophobic hate group, who, despite having no medical or other science qualifications and who manifestly knows nothing about how vaccines work, has been feeding his equally ignorant supporters with blatantly made-up disinformation about them. Back in 2019, Staver's Liberty Counsel was campaigning against lynching being made a federal offence because it extended that protection to LGBTQ people. Apparently, this would contravene the civil liberty of extremist Christians to lynch LGBTQ people whenever they felt like doing so.

Now, sounding more like a sex-obsessed paranoid psychotic, he told viewers of his "World Prayer Network" on Facebook, that the vaccines are part of Bill Gates' plan to reduce the world population by up to a billion people. He claimed, without offering the slightest evidence or saying where he got the information from, that this is being achieved by making people sterile and/or sexually dysfunctional. He said:

Monday 16 August 2021

Unintelligent Designer News - Compensating for the Designer's RuBisCo Blunder

So much greenery as RuBisCo makes up in quantity what it lacks in quality - but it's still not enough to feed 9 billion people (by 2050).
Scientists take step to improve crops’ photosynthesis, yields | Cornell Chronicle

The world is heading for a severe food shortage as we approach a projected 9 billion people by 2050 (assuming global warming doesn't get us first!). To feed that number of people, farmers need to increase crop yields by some 50%. But there is a major road-block to achieving anything like that productivity from plants, because the entire system, indeed the entire cycle of life on Earth (save for a few chemosynthetic bacteria) is dependent on what must rate as the worst pieces of 'design' in all biology - RuBisCo.

RuBisCo, or to give it its full chemical name, ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, would be a major embarrassment to intelligent [sic] design advocates if they had the knowledge and intellect to understand it. It is responsible for taking 6 molecules of inorganic carbon dioxide (CO2) and 6 molecules of water (H2O) and, using just the energy in sunlight, making a molecule of glucose (C6H12O6) which is then used as the energy source and as the basic building block for many structural and storage carbohydrates such as cellulose, lignin (wood) starch, glycogen, etc. This forms the very basis of almost all food chains. It also, in the process, makes 6 molecules of oxygen (O2) as a waste product.

Incidentally, note that 'living' (organic) glucose molecules are made out of non-living (inorganic) molecules, and all without the involvement of god magic!

The problem is, RuBisCo is notoriously bad at what it does. Not only is it highly inefficient as catalysing enzymes go, catalysing only about four reactions a second as opposed to the hundreds or thousands of reactions a second for most enzymes, but it finds it hard to tell CO2 from molecular oxygen (O2) which, when RuBisCo tries to 'fix' it, produces a toxic product that stops RuBisCo working and wastes energy.

Friday 13 August 2021

Covidiot News - The Ongoing Disaster That is Trump's Legacy to America

Covid-19 daily new cases, USA (Aug 13, 2021)
GOP's Trump Legacy Is Its COVID-19 Indifference Which Is Now Exploding!

No wonder Europeans look at America and ask, "What is wrong with these people?"

As though electing a narcissistic moron with the mentality of a spoilt adolescent wasn't stupid enough, they are still being led by the legacy of indifference to the coronavirus pandemic he left them with as a result of his own narcissism and inability to accept that there are people in the world who are more expert at something than he is. In this case, understanding the science behind a lethal viral pandemic as it rips through a population with little or no resistance to it.

I'm talking about Donald Trump and his disastrous 4-year term playing at POTUS from his room, via a Twitter account, of course, like a friendless teenager with nothing but the social media and a following count for self-validation and feeding his sense of self-importance.

The problem was, as leader of one of America's two main political parties in what is effectively a two-party state (or according to some, a one party state with two wings, each vying for dominance), party loyalists has little choice but to follow his lead and minimise the seriousness of the pandemic, or break ranks and face the opprobrium of their voters.

Now they are stuck with that policy and can't afford the political damage a volte-face on the issue would involve, with those Trumpanzee loyalists on the right accusing them of disloyalty and those on the left pointing out how their error had cost thousands of lives needlessly. Caught between a metaphorical rock and a hard place is never a comfortable position for a politician on the make to find him or herself.

The result of all this is of course, now the δ variant is raging through America, that new cases are coming predominantly from the states governed by GOP governors who have actively minimised the pandemic and rubbished the need for social distancing, face masks and vaccinations, and the parts of America where fundamentalist, Trumpanzee Christian churches are still influential and there are votes to be gained from pandering to them.

And all of this is the legacy of Donald Trump's initial knee-jerk response, which was to dismiss what he lacked the intellect to understand and the ability to formulate an effective plan against, to dismiss the scientists and epidemiologists as incompetent or unpatriotic traitors conspiring against him, and then stick to that fatal position at all costs and in the face of all the evidence that he had got it wrong. While Americans died on an unprecedented scale, he and his appointees tried to bully and intimidate the scientists and experts who delivered the facts he didn't like and didn't want people to know. And now GOP governors like DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbot in Texas are repeating Trump's blunder, politically unable to change tack, even going to the lengths of banning measures to mandate wearing of face-masks in the belief that face-masks are a symbol of political opposition to them, just as dopey Donald Trump did.

And now, as was entirely predictable, we have a new variant, the δ variant, that has a ready population of unprotected idiots who not only have not been vaccinated but for whom even taking basic precautions means losing face and probably provoking the ire of their peer group of suckers. Suckers who will see any precautions as signs of disloyalty and being politically suspect, even 'hating Jesus' by not accepting his 'protection' with faith, or even worse, being in league with Democrats and the "cannibalistic, child-trafficking paedophile deep state" that the pro-Trump QAnon, neo-Nazis have invented to scare their credulous victims with.

As a result of this unwitting, although entirely predictable, effective genocide of their own supporters by Trumpanzee cultists, cases in the USA are rising exponentially again, as are hospitalisations and deaths, almost all of unvaccinated people from red states. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, warned viewers of ABC News, things are going to get much worse, unless there is a massive change in the behaviour of GOP voters, evangelical Christians and Trumpanzee cultists. And, as the number of cases rises, so the number of people in whom even more virulent and possibly vaccine-escaping variants evolving increases exponentially and so the probability of that happening at all increases, also exponentially.

Donald Trump's lasting legacy to his own cult-like supporters, in alliance with evangelical Christians and neo-Nazi white supremacists, could be a self-inflicted genocide of those gullible enough to have believed he was a good president and giving a lead worth following instead of the narcissistic, criminally incompetent buffoon who deserved to be sacked and should now face prison. How on Earth can a president who through wilful dereliction of duty and incompetence not only allowed, but is now actively causing, the deaths of tens of thousands of those he was elected to protect, be allowed to get away with it?

Wednesday 11 August 2021

Unintelligent Designer News - How Darwin's Finches Are (Still) Making a Fool of Creationists.

Small tree finch Camarhynchus parvulus with naris damage caused by larvae of the avian vampire fly, Philornis downsi.
Photo: Dr Katharina Peters, Flinders University.
How Galápagos finches evade a parasitic fly – News

It's always fun when Creationist frauds are exposed and their credulous dupes shown to be... well... credulous dupes (to be kind). It's even more delicious when the scientists unwittingly doing it are using those iconic birds, Darwin's finches, or more correctly, Galápagos finches of the genus Camarhynchus.

The story begins back in the 1960s when the parasitic avian vampire fly (Philornis downsi) was accidentally introduced onto one island in the Galápagos group. Females of this species lay their eggs in the nests of certain species of bird and the larvae feed on the blood and tissues of the young. They are especially attracted to the ears and nostrils of the chicks and cause distortions and deformities in those which survive to adulthood. 50-100% of a brood can be lost to an attack. After spending 10 days eating the chicks, the fly larvae then pupate in the base of the nest and emerge as adult 16 days later to begin the cycle again.

As a result of this newly-introduced predation, 10 species of Darwin's finches are now under sever threat of extinction so there is intense selection pressure on the birds to evolve strategies for resisting or avoiding this predation. There is similar selection pressure on the flies to continue their predation by selecting hosts with the lowest ability to avoid predation.

In other words, the introduction of these parasites has created a new host-parasite dynamic and the conditions for evolution to operate under selection pressure, so creating a 'natural' laboratory for studying how evolution works in practice. It also makes it possible to test out predictions made by the TOE. This has been closely monitored and investigated by teams of scientists from Flinders University.

From a Flinders University news release:

Catholic Corruption News - More Malodorous Bubbles Burst on the Surface of the Stinking Cesspit

Monsignor Alberto Perlasca
"Gave incomplete or partial information"
Pope Francis receives death threat as he grapples with Vatican financial scandals

Just when you thought the Vatican financial scandals couldn't get any murkier, we have news that someone is sending Pope Francis death threats, presumably to try to intimidate him into dropping the charges against former cardinal, Angelo Becciu and his shady cronies in the dodgy London property deal and money-laundering operation. Meanwhile the Vatican is degenerating into mutual back-stabbing and finger-pointing.

Readers may recall how Becciu was summarily sacked and stripped of his rank as cardinal last September. He had been replaced by Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, as sostituto (effectively, Pope Francis' Chief of Staff), in 2018.

The Mafioso-style death threat, in the form of an envelope containing three 9mm bullets and a letter referring to Vatican financial mismanagement, addressed to "Pope Francis — Vatican City — St. Peter’s Square in Rome", was sent from France. According to this report, Vatican police believe they know the person who sent it.

Covidiot News - A Loopy Fundamentalist Christian Keeps up the Self-Genocide Campaign

Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel
"'They' are using the pandemic to take our freedom away!"
Liberty Counsel Official Calls COVID-19 Vaccines a ‘Crime Against Humanity’ | Right Wing Watch

So overwhelmingly are the new cases and deaths from COVID-19 coming from the unvaccinated/GOP-supporting segment of the American people that a self-inflicted genocide is the only realistic way to describe the current situation. The δ variant rages through the red states, infecting young and old alike, if they have been fooled by the right-wing, Talibangelical Trumpanzee and QAnon conspiracy nut jobs into remaining unvaccinated.

And prominent amongst the cheer-leaders in this genocide campaign is fruitloop Christian fundamentalist, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who is using the American paranoia that there is always someone conspiring to 'come and take our freedoms away'. Recently, he told his credulous dupes that the vaccines are "maiming, paralyzing and killing people". In July he compared the vaccination campaign to the inhumane medical experiments carried out in Nazi Germany.

Tuesday 10 August 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Making a Nastier Crop Parasite

Cowpea witchweed, Striga gesnerioides
The witchweed Striga gesnerioides and the cultivated cowpea: A geographical and historical analysis of their West African distribution points to the prevalence of agro-ecological factors and the parasite’s multilocal evolution potential

Creationist mode:

For admirers of Creationism's malevolent designer, the sheer inventiveness of their beloved malevolence must be breath-taking as science discovers more and more of the lengths it has gone to in order to increase the suffering of its creations.

Here, for example, is a parasitic plant, the cowpea witchweed, Striga gesnerioides, which seems carefully designed to maintain the poverty and malnutrition endemic to parts of Africa, as though malaria, sleeping sickness and other exotic diseases, and regular droughts weren't enough. The lengths it has gone to in this endeavour is revealed by a paper from scientists working for the Université de Montpellier, France, the Université Dan Dicko Dankoulodo de Maradi, Maradi, Niger and the Université Paris Diderot, France.

The importance of the cowpea as a crop is explained in the introduction to that open access paper:

Monday 9 August 2021

Creationist Fraud News - Mr. Kent Hovind Arrested on Domestic Violence Charge

Convicted tax fraud and Young Earth Creationist, Mr. Kent Hovind. Arrested on domestic violence charges.
Alabama evangelist Kent Hovind arrested on domestic violence charge - al.com

The Young Earth Creationist fraud and Christian televangelist, Kent Hovind, or to give him his correct academic title, Mr. Kent Hovind, has been arrested on domestic violence charges, brought by his wife, Cindi Lincoln, who alleges that he 'body-slammed her' causing injuries for which she needed to go to an emergency room. The alleged assault took place in late 2020. She is now seeking a protection order against him to prevent him repeating the attacks.

She also alleges that he sent his 'right hand man' to her apartment to threaten her and had her apartment trashed the next day. She now says she fears he may try to kill her to shut her up because his following depends on his public persona, not on his private behaviour.

Hovind, who styles himself 'Dr Dino', is the owner of a Creationist scam park, Dinosaur Adventure Land, in Conecuh, Alabama, which he opened soon after being released from an nine-year jail term for tax fraud. He makes a living by fooling scientifically illiterate simpletons by pretending to have a legitimate academic doctorate and to have been a high-school science teacher. This works on his target marks who believe anyone called 'doctor' must be an expert scientist.

Saturday 7 August 2021

Religion - The Good, The Bad and The Completely Irrelevant.

Words of encouragement and beatific smiles, but little else for Greta Thunberg, from the increasingly powerless Pope Francis.
COVID-19, global warming and diminishing Catholic guilt.

If ever there was a time for the Catholic Church, under the leadership of Pope Francis, to do some good for the future of mankind and life on Earth it is now, with two major crises currently playing havoc: the coronavirus pandemic and global warming. The latter being perhaps the most serious in the longer term.

And yet we have had very little in the way of encouraging Catholics, let alone the rest of us, to do something constructive about either!

In an article by Thomas Reese in Religion News Service, he simultaneously points out this failure by the Pope and identifies some of the reason for it. The main problem is that the Pope can no longer command the support and mandate the actions of Catholics, under the threat of hellfire and damnation, or even death for heresy for non-compliance, so all he can do is smile and mutter warm words and platitudes in the hope that someone will listen to him.

The problem is not just the lack of any moral authority from the leader of a church whose clerics systematically and routinely abused their positions of trust to sexually predate on children and vulnerable adults, but the fact that when Popes did have those autocratic powers, they almost invariably abused them. Far from supporting scientists like Galileo and Darwin on the basis that the truth is worth defending, they were condemned as heretics because they reported evidence that went against the established doctrines. The test was not "What does the evidence show?" or "What is the truth?", but "What do we need people to believe?".

Reese points out the contrast between when Popes could order Crusades against Muslims and how today the Pope is powerless to order a 'crusade' to save the planet, or to get the world's people vaccinated against the coronavirus:
And rather than organizing crusades against Muslims, as it did in the past, the church could mobilize its people to protect the health of the Earth and humanity. But today, the children’s crusade is led, not by the church, but by Greta Thunberg. Hopefully she will be more successful than the Children’s Crusade of 1212, which ended in disaster.
But of course, by the murderous Medieval crusades, and the Inquisition, the Pope showed how to abuse dictatorial powers, so those powers, post-enlightenment, have been removed.

Again, Reese points out:
There was a time when Christianity had the ability to do great things (some good, some bad).

We marvel at those Christians in the past who dug the foundations of great cathedrals, the completion of which they and their children would never see. The idea of taking on a project, like building a cathedral, that might take centuries to complete is incomprehensible to us.
Indeed, although it is quite difficult to think of many 'great things' that Christianity did. Reese cites the laying of foundations for Cathedrals for their grandchildren by people who would never see the full fruits of their labours, but those were invariably on the instructions of powerful bishops and monarchs, intent on consolidating their grip on the people with an ostentatious display of wealth and power.

It is doubtful that the labourers, or those who paid them, were motivated by a vision of the great architecture, impressive vaulting and stained glass that would follow. Skilled though they may have been, they were likely more motivated by the need to earn their daily bread and feed a family, in the case of the diggers, and their own self-aggrandizement in the case of the financiers, than thoughts of what their grandchildren might eventually see.

In stark contrast, there are the very many bad things that Christianity did, from witch burning, holy wars like the Albigensian Crusade (read, genocide of the Cathars), antisemitic pogroms, the Inquisition, marginalisation of women and minorities, the literal demonization of people suffering with mental health and neurological problems, imperialism and permitting slavery in the nameunder the guise of 'civilising' other peoples and teaching them the 'good news' of the need for salvation and how to achieve it by adopting Christianity, obeying the priests, accepting the autocratic rule of Christian kings and emperors, and knowing their place and staying in it.

Yes, Thomas Reese is right: the Pope could and should use what authority he still has to urge Catholics to do their utmost to save the planet and get on top of the coronavirus pandemic. But he cannot, for the simple reason that he has little or no moral authority left after centuries of abuse of their power by his predecessors, the accumulation of vast treasures of incalculable worth for nothing more important than self-glorification, decades of abuse of children and vulnerable adults by his priests and a long, sorry history of marginalisation, demonization and damnation of minorities, degradation of women, and the promotion of poverty and suffering as a blessing.

He now leads a church visibly struggling to keep up with the advances in humanist ethics now replacing the primitive, Bronze Age superstitions and brutal, misogynistic tribal moral codes that his church still holds sacred, in civilised countries. To paraphrase Stephen Fry's words in the Intelligence Squared debate, the Pope could take that vast wealth stored in the Vatican and use it to send his nuns and priest and monks out into the world with instructions to use it to vaccinate the poor and invest in green technologies and renewable energy.

If he did so, the Catholic Church could be a force for good in the world; but he does not, and it is not.

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Friday 6 August 2021

Covidiot News - The Red State Self-Genocide of GOP Supporters is Forging Ahead

Daily new cases, USA (08 Aug, 2021)

COVID Hospitalizations More Than Triple in Past Month, Nearly 40 Percent Are in 3 States

Despite warnings from the CDC, the self-genocide campaign in the Repugnican-controlled US states is continuing, as they encourage their gullible victims not to get vaccinated and not to wear face-masks, aided in this endeavour by their wack-a-doodle allies in the Evangelical Christian churches and QAnon conspiracy nut jobs.

Having early-on bought into the panicky, knee-jerk response from the acutely narcissistic Donald Trump when, lacking the intellect to grasp the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, and the prtsonal integrity to admit he was out of his depth, he responded by minimising it, blaming it on 'liberals', pretending to be more expert than the experts, and claiming his do-nothing policy was the best one, resistance to any measures to mitigate the pandemic became, for the extreme right, a token of disloyalty to Trump and the right-wing cause in general.

Religion News - Ignorance and Indifference to Child Abuses in American Catholics

Former Cardinal McCarrick
Facing criminal charges for the sexual abuse of minors
National Survey of Adult Catholics | America Magazine (pdf)

As the news broke that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has been formally charged with sexual offences against minors, a survey revealed that 62% of American Catholics (52% of men and 69% of women) said they had never heard of him.

Given his former high profile as the senior Catholic cleric in America and the high-profile nature of both his crimes and his public laicisation, this shows an astonishing degree of indifference to the scandal of clerical sexual abuse that has engulfed the Catholic Church in recent decades. It suggests that many American Catholics are Catholic in name only, and have no particular affiliation to the Church or identification with what priests, Catholic school teachers, etc, have been doing under its protective and facilitative cover for decades now.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Refuting Creationism - Modern Humans Were Not the Only Aesthetic Species

Flowstone formation in the Sala de las Estrellas at Cueva de Ardales (Malaga, Andalusia), with the traces of red pigment.
© João Zilhão, ICREA
Neanderthals indeed painted Andalusia’s Cueva de Ardales | CNRS

One of the evidence-free claims Creationism is forced into by virtue of dogma, is that modern humans are unique in several ways that sets them apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, as some sort of special creation; namely, sentience and self-awareness, aesthetic appreciation, and a sense of moral obligation.

However, the notion that we alone have self-awareness and are thus the only sentient species has long been discounted by animal behaviourists by demonstrating self-awareness and even complex puzzle-solving behaviour in many other, even non-mammalian, species such as octopuses, bees and several birds. But there has been an on-going debate in anthropology about exactly when aesthetic appreciation (or in lay terms, artistic appreciation and symbolism) first arose in the hominins. Until now, there were precious little evidence that anyone other than modern humans ever used symbolism and colour in any deliberate, representational way.

Now, however, a team of international scientists, including researchers from the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) have shown that red ochre pigments on stalactites in a cave in Andalucia, Spain, were taken there and applied deliberately on multiple occasions, at a time when only Neanderthals were present in Europe. As though, over a period of several thousand years, the site had special significance and needed regular restoration, indicating a long oral tradition lasting for a very long time.

The press release from CNRC explains:

Tuesday 3 August 2021

Evolution News - Inadvertently Refuting Creationism Again

Right: hyper-parasitoid wasp Mesochorus stigmaticus parasitising the larvae of a parasitoid wasp Hyposoter horticola within the caterpillar of Glanville fritillary butterfly. Left: adult Glanville fritillary.
Image: Saskya van Nouhuys
Like matryoshka dolls: one insect species introduced decades ago to a small island had an effect on several insect populations  | University of Helsinki

An open access paper published today in the journal, Molecular Ecology, refutes so many favourite Creationist dogmas that it's hard to know where to begin.

The paper is by scientists from Helsinki University, Finland, and Cornell University, USA, and is an account of the consequences of the introduction of a species of butterfly to a small Finish island of Sottunga (full name Storsottunga) in the Åland Islands, at the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia, at the North-Eastern end of the Baltic Sea.

What was also inadvertently introduced with the larvae of the Glanville fritillary that were taken to the island, were a couple of parasitic insects and a symbiotic bacteria, so what was created was an experiment on the founder effect and how a species and its symbionts/parasites evolve over time, and how this environmental change affects the evolution of other species in an ecosystem.

From the University of Helsinki News release:
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