Sunday, 29 May 2022

Catholic Child Abuse News - Will Italy's New Senior Cardinal Launch a Historical Child Abuse Enquiry?

Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy
President of the Italian Bishops' Conference
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi is the new president of Italy’s Catholic bishops’ conference | Catholic News Agency

The appointment by Pope Francis of Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna, to the powerful post of President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, raises the delicious possibility of another major investigation into historical sex abuses by Catholic Priest in a devoutly Catholic Country, and of course the likely haemorrhage of membership from the church and loosening of the Church’s grip on national politics when the truth is revealed, as was seen in France, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere.

Zuppi is regarded as a liberal and was appointed by the Pope when Italian Bishops declined the Pope's invitation to be given the power to elect their president from amongst themselves. This gives him power in Italy second only to the Pope, who as Bishop of Rome is also Primate of Italy. He is believed to have strong links with the Sant’Egidio Community - a liberal-leaning, humanitarian community which describes itself as:
Sant’Egidio is a Christian community born in 1968, right after the second Vatican Council. An initiative of Andrea Riccardi, it was born in a secondary school in the centre of Rome. With the years, it has become a network of communities in more than 70 countries of the world. The Community pays attention to the periphery and peripheral people, gathering men and women of all ages and conditions, united by a fraternal tie through the listening of the Gospel and the voluntary and free commitment for the poor and peace.

Although it doesn't mention LGBTQ issues on its website, the Sant’Egidio Community is believed to support an inclusive approach to members of the LGBTQ community.

Italian bishops have long resisted calls for an enquiry into the sexual abuses of children by Catholic clerics but recently, they agreed to launch an enquiry into abuses over the past 10 years, having rejected one going back 50 years. Obviously, they know they have much to fear from such a long historical period going back to a time before the historical abuse scandals swamped the church and prompted actions to prevent them; a time when deference and a code of silence allowed abuses to go unreported and the abusers to continue their predation without let or hindrance. Similar enquiries in other countries have usually revealed thousands of victims of hundreds of priests, nuns and monks in most Catholic diocese and institutions, and a culture of tolerance, cover-up, facilitation and bullying of victims who dared to complain.

Zuppi's rise has been relatively rapid, having been ordained in 1981 and serving as an auxiliary bishop in Rome. He was appointed bishop of Villanova by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and Archbishop of Bologna by Pope Francis in 2015. He was made a cardinal by Pope Francis just 3 years ago, but he needs to tread carefully, as a too liberal approach with too much revelation of the murky world of Italian Catholicism, could alienate him from the powerful conservative wing of the Church which is especially strong in Italy, and that could scupper his chances of becoming the next Pope - a position for which he is currently regarded as a leading candidate.

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Christian Child Abuse News - 700 Sexual Predators Found on a Secret SBC List

An annual meeting for the Southern Baptist Convention, which has almost 14 million members.

Photo: Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated Press
Southern Baptist Sex Abuse Report Stuns, From Pulpit to Pews - The New York Times

Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention in the USA have decided to release a formerly secret list of child abusers known to senior figures in the Convention. The list was originally started as a research project for an SBC committee in 2007 but was officially discontinued shortly after. However, a staffer continued to maintain it until 2022. It's existence was unknown until discovered by Guidepost Solutions, a firm employed as part of a multi-million dollar investigation into how the SBC handled abuse cases.

According to this report, the 205-page list contains details of cases involving "pastors, Sunday school teachers, camp counselors, music ministers, bus drivers and missionaries, with about 400 tied to SBC churches from Alaska to Alabama. In almost all of the cases, the abuse had led to arrests and jail time.". The compiler, whose name has been redacted from the released file, and who remains anonymous in the Guidepost Solutions report, has added the following disclaimer:

Friday, 27 May 2022

Evolution News - Evolution is Occurring Faster Than Previously Thought

Rhesus Macaque, Macaca mulatta

Photo: Timothy Gonsalves, CC BY-SA 4.0,via Wikimedia Commons
Wild animals evolving much faster than previously thought - ANU

The precondition for Darwinian evolution is genetic difference between individuals in a population. This is the 'fuel' which drives evolution in an environment in which certain genetic variations are more advantageous than others, so the amount of this variation in any given population, is the main determinant of the rate of evolution.

In order to quantify the amount of this 'fuel of evolution', an international team led by Dr Timothée Bonnet from the Australian National University (ANU) spent three years trawling through reams of data, after which they were able to quantify how much species change occurred due to genetic changes caused by natural selection.   It turned out to be about two to four times what was previously thought and evolution can go much faster than Darwin originally thought.

The Australian Nation University news release explains:

Evolution News - Observing Evolution by Horizontal Gene Transfer in Action

There are two types of plasmid integration into a host bacteria: Non-integrating plasmids replicate as with the top instance, whereas episomes, the lower example, can integrate into the host chromosome.
Source: Wikipedia
By User:Spaully - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5
Drug resistance molecule can spread though bacterial 'communities'| Research and Innovation | University of Exeter

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) plays an important role in the evolution of microorganisms like bacteria, but a lesser, though not unknown, role in multicellular organism. In bacteria, which freely share small bundles of DNA known as plasmids, even amongst unrelated species, HGT can be the means by which, in the right environment, a beneficial trait such as antibiotic resistance can spread rapidly through an entire microbiome. Plasmids are shed by bacteria into their environment where they can be picked up by other bacteria.

This was demonstrated recently by a study led by the researcher, Arthur Newbury, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on Exeter University's Penryn Campus in Cornwall, UK. The significance of this finding is that it shows how antibiotic resistance can be spread by plasmids in waste water, for instance.

The Exeter University news release explains:

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Malevolent Designer News - What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox causes lesions that resemble pus-filled blisters, which eventually scab over.
What is monkeypox? A microbiologist explains what's known about this smallpox cousin

The third in a series looking at monkeypox and asking whether this is creationism's putative divine malevolence's latest attempt to increase the misery and suffering in the world with another of its nasty little creations.

If not, then creationists need to explain why it either didn't design this virus, or, if it did, why it didn't realise what it would do - and what else it was designed to do. Unlike the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is causing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which is an RNA virus, the virus that causes monkeypox is a more complex, DNA virus that, again unlike the SARS-CoV-2, has the ability to repair mistakes in its DNA when it replicates, so mutations are much rarer.

Monkeypox viruses are from a subset of the Poxviridae family, known as Orthopoxvirus, which includes smallpox and cowpox (but not chickenpox).

An expert in the field explains what the monkeypox virus is, probably why why we are experiencing the current outbreak and what we can learn from the history of the closely-related smallpox virus.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. The Conversation is a charity set up to allow experts in the field to give expert insight into items of current public interest and to counter the deluge of lies and disinformation with which politically-motivated extremists are flooding the social media in the Trumpian/Putinesque so-called ‘post truth age’.

What is monkeypox? A microbiologist explains what’s known about this smallpox cousin


Rodney E. Rohde, Texas State University

On May 18, 2022, Massachusetts health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a single case of monkeypox in a patient who had recently traveled to Canada. Cases have also been reported in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Monkeypox isn’t a new disease. The first confirmed human case was in 1970, when the virus was isolated from a child suspected of having smallpox in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Monkeypox is unlikely to cause another pandemic, but with COVID-19 top of mind, fear of another major outbreak is understandable. Though rare and usually mild, monkeypox can still potentially cause severe illness. Health officials are concerned that more cases will arise with increased travel.

I’m a researcher who has worked in public health and medical laboratories for over three decades, especially in the realm of diseases with animal origins. What exactly is happening in the current outbreak, and what does history tell us about monkeypox?

A cousin of smallpox

Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to a subset of the Poxviridae family of viruses called Orthopoxvirus. This subset includes the smallpox, vaccinia and cowpox viruses. While an animal reservoir for monkeypox virus is unknown, African rodents are suspected to play a part in transmission. The monkeypox virus has only been isolated twice from an animal in nature. Diagnostic testing for monkeypox is currently only available at Laboratory Response Network labs in the U.S. and globally.

The name “monkeypox” comes from the first documented cases of the illness in animals in 1958, when two outbreaks occurred in monkeys kept for research. However, the virus did not jump from monkeys to humans, nor are monkeys major carriers of the disease.

Electron microscope view of monkeypox, showing oval-shaped, mature virus particles and spherical, immature virions
Monkeypox belongs to the Poxviridae family of viruses, which includes smallpox.

Epidemiology

Since the first reported human case, monkeypox has been found in several other central and western African countries, with the majority of infections in the DRC. Cases outside of Africa have been linked to international travel or imported animals, including in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The first reported cases of monkeypox in the U.S. was in 2003, from an outbreak in Texas linked to a shipment of animals from Ghana. There were also travel-associated cases in November and July 2021 in Maryland.

Because monkeypox is closely related to smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can provide protection against infection from both viruses. Since smallpox was officially eradicated, however, routine smallpox vaccinations for the U.S. general population were stopped in 1972. Because of this, monkeypox has been appearing increasingly in unvaccinated people.

Person getting temperature tested at airport
Indonesia began screening travelers after a monkeypox case was reported in Singapore in May 2019.

Transmission

The virus can be transmitted through contact with an infected person or animal or contaminated surfaces. Typically, the virus enters the body through broken skin, inhalation or the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth. Researchers believe that human-to-human transmission is mostly through inhalation of large respiratory droplets rather than direct contact with bodily fluids or indirect contact through clothes. Human-to-human transmission rates for monkeypox have been limited.

Health officials are worried the virus may currently be spreading undetected through community transmission, possibly through a new mechanism or route. Where and how infections are occurring are still under investigation.

Signs and symptoms

After the virus enters the body, it starts to replicate and spread through the body via the bloodstream. Symptoms usually don’t appear until one to two weeks after infection.

Monkeypox produces smallpox-like skin lesions, but symptoms are usually milder than those of smallpox. Flu-like symptoms are common initially, ranging from fever and headache to shortness of breath. One to 10 days later, a rash can appear on the extremities, head or torso that eventually turns into blisters filled with pus. Overall, symptoms usually last for two to four weeks, while skin lesions usually scab over in 14 to 21 days.

While monkeypox is rare and usually non-fatal, one version of the disease kills around 10% of infected people. The form of the virus currently circulating is thought to be milder, with a fatality rate of less than 1%.

Vaccines and treatments

Treatment for monkeypox is primarily focused on relieving symptoms. According to the CDC, no treatments are available to cure monkeypox infection.

Because smallpox is closely related to monkeypox, the smallpox vaccine can protect against both diseases.
Evidence suggests that the smallpox vaccine can help prevent monkeypox infections and decrease the severity of the symptoms. One vaccine known as Imvamune or Imvanex is licensed in the U.S. to prevent monkeypox and smallpox.

Vaccination after exposure to the virus may also help decrease chances of severe illness. The CDC currently recommends smallpox vaccination only in people who have been or are likely to be exposed to monkeypox. Immunocompromised people are at high risk.

Rodney E. Rohde, Regents' Professor of Clinical Laboratory Science, Texas State University
The Conversation
It seems that creationism’s putative designer saw an opportunity created by medical science when smallpox was eradicated altogether, so routine vaccinations against it were stopped as unnecessary, and repurposed a related virus to try to make up for what it had lost in terms of making people suffer with smallpox. At least, that's the conclusion if we assume for one moment that the childish notion of a magic designer of these things. For a creationist, the idea that this could be an evolutionary change which exploits the niche once occupied by a related species of virus with a common ancestry has to be ruled out by dogma. Inexplicably, it is thought more important that people regard their beloved creator god as a pestilential sadist rather than that they accept that evolution works and explains these things without the need for gods and magic.

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Malevolent Designer News - What You Need to Know About Monkeypox

European outbreak of monkeypox: what you need to know

The second in a series looking at the monkeypox outbreak and whether it is creationism's beloved pestilential malevolence's latest attempt to increase the suffering in the world.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Malevolent Designer News - Is Monkeypox the Divine Malevolence's Next Pestilence?

Monkeypox Q&A: how do you catch it and what are the risks? An expert explains | The Conversation

The first in a series on monkeypox, reproduced from The Conversation, an open access online source aimed at providing trustworthy information by experts about subjects in the news.

How thrilled should creationists be that their divine malevolence appears to be having another go at spreading suffering and misery with another of its nasty little viruses?

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Tory Corruption News - Sue Gray Report in Full

The full report into partying at 10 Downing Street, under Boris Johnson's leadership, during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, when such gatherings were illegal. Johnson misled parliament when he stated that there were no such parties and that all the rules were followed at all times.






The full Sue Gray Report into illegal partying at 10 Downing Street.



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Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Covidiot News - Now Even More Reason to Get COVID Vaccines

This study provides more evidence that Covid vaccination is safe for both current and future pregnancies, and shows in a mouse model that immunization during the earliest stages of pregnancy provides antiviral antibodies to the fetus throughout the rest of pregnancy.

Image Credit: Hannah J. Lee (CC-BY 4.0)
Data contradict fears of COVID-19 vaccine effects on pregnancy and fertility.

Two of the bogus antivaxxer claims with which the politically-motivated covidiot antivaxxer movement is trying to scare women into not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 are:
  1. The vaccines cause birth defects if given during pregnancy.
  2. The vaccines reduce fertility or cause sterility in women by producing antibodies against the protein syncytin-1, which in humans and related primates is involved in attaching the placenta during pregnancy.
Now both of these antivaxxer claims have been exposed as lies by Alice Lu-Culligan and her colleagues of the Yale School of Medicine, in a paper published open access today in PLOS Biology.

The second piece of disinformation was based on the fact that a small part of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that antibodies are produced against by the vaccines has a short sequence of amino acids that is also found in syncytin-1.

This is hardly surprising since syncytin-1 is the remnant of an ancient retrovirus that has been co-opted to aid in the attachment of the placenta in many primates. In fact, it's one of many pieces of evidence of common descent since it is present in all the old-world primates, but not in the new-world primates. The Wikipedia entry for syncytin-1 reads:
Syncytin-1 also known as enverin is a protein found in humans and other primates that is encoded by the ERVW-1 gene (endogenous retrovirus group W envelope member 1). Syncytin-1 is a cell-cell fusion protein whose function is best characterized in placental development.[3][4] The placenta in turn aids in embryo attachment to the uterus and establishment of a nutrient supply.

The gene encoding this protein is an endogenous retroviral element that is the remnant of an ancient retroviral infection integrated into the primate germ line. In the case of syncytin-1 (which is found in humans, apes, and Old World but not New World monkeys), this integration likely occurred more than 25 million years ago.[5] Syncytin-1 is one of two known syncytin proteins expressed in catarrhini primates (the other being syncytin-2) and one of many viral genomes incorporated on multiple occasions over evolutionary time in diverse mammalian species.[6]

ERVW-1 is located within ERVWE1,[7][8] a full length provirus on chromosome 7 at locus 7q21.2 flanked by long terminal repeats (LTRs) and is preceded by ERVW1 gag (Group AntiGen) and pol (POLymerase) within the provirus, both of which contain nonsense mutations rendering them non-coding.[9][10] Syncytin-1 is also implicated in a number of neurological pathologies, most notably, multiple sclerosis, as an immunogen.

According to information made available ahead of publication by PLOS, Lu-Culligan and her colleagues:

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Malevolent Designer News - Creationism's Beloved Sadist Targets People With Particular Genes

Researchers find genetic factors played a greater role in a person’s overall wellbeing as the pandemic wore on.

Credit: Gary Butterfield, Unsplash (CC0)
Increased genetic contribution to wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic | PLOS Genetics

Creationist mode:


A new study by Lude Franke and colleagues of the University of Groningen, Netherlands has shown that some individuals were more affected than others by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to their genes.

Of course, any omniscient designer of those genes and of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, such as the one intelligent [sic] design creationists believe is the creator of everything, will have been fully aware of that fact when it created the virus, so can't escape the charge of deliberately targeting certain individuals because of their genetics.

The difference is to be found in how well or badly individuals coped not so much with infection by the virus, but with the overall social effect of the pandemic, including the measures to mitigate and control it.

The new study was published a couple of days ago in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics.

According to information made available by PLOS, in advance of publication:

Friday, 20 May 2022

Evolution News - How the Maltese Evolved a Distinct Genome in Isolation

Reconstructed view of the burial caves of the Xagħra Circle
(Libby Mulqueeney after an original by Caroline Malone).

Source: Malone et al.2009. Mortuary Customs in Prehistoric Malta.Cambridge: McDonald, pp 375, 377. Malone, C., Stoddart, S., Trump, D. & Bonanno, A. (eds.). 2009. Mortuary Customs in prehistoric Malta. Excavations at the Brochtorff Circle at Xagħra (1987-1994). Cambridge: McDonald Institute.
How seascapes of the ancient world shaped genetic structure of European populations - Trinity News and Events

A group of researchers from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, and their international colleagues, have shown how relative isolation on the small Mediterranean islands of Malta (and neighbouring Gozo) produced distinct genomes in the population, due to a combination of the 'founder effect' and a small population reduced at time to just a few hundred inbred individuals.

Contrary to current thinking, which sees oceans as highways at the time, allowing migration and mixing more easily than travel overland, this result suggests that over the period in question, the Mediterranean acted as a barrier to isolate the population of Malta, consequently they failed to acquire some of the genetic signatures that mark migration across the rest of Europe at the time.

Analysis of the genome of ancient (4500–5000-year-old) individuals from a cave burial at the Xagħra Circle on Gozo, compared to the genomes of individuals of the same age from burial sites around Europe, show evidence of a small population numbering in the hundreds and of inbreeding, which is to be expected of a small, isolated population. One of the individuals examined turned out to be the offspring of second-degree relatives.

The Trinity College News release explains:

More Bad News for Creationists - Their Putative Designer Designed Death and Suffering, Allegedly.

Buck Scientist Uncovers Clues to Aging in Mitochondria
For the want of a better answer, Bible-literalist creationist will tell you that before Adam and Eve and 'The Fall' there was no death in the world and that death is the result of 'sin', not designed by their god at all, so their god can't be held responsible for all the lethal organisms that cause so much ill health, death and suffering in the world. They never manage to explain where the food Adam and Eve ate was alive during the whole of the eating, digestion and metabolism of it though, or whether their god made an exception in that case and allowed a little bit of death, just not human death.

Now, however, they have some more mental gymnastics to perform with the discovery that it is the mitochondria in all our cells that are responsible for aging - a process that leads ultimately to death unless illness of some sort intervenes. Scientists have known about this for some time, but a team of scientists from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have worked out how it happens. Mitochondria, the powerhouses inside every eukaryote cell, are believed to be the descendants of a bacteria related to rickettsia which became incorporated with other organelles inside prokaryote cells.

The mitochondria in our cell still have their own DNA and replicate inside our cells, although much of their original genome has been incorporated into the cell nucleus. Because only the head of the sperm penetrates the egg at fertilisation and the head contains no mitochondria, we get all our mitochondria and so all our mitochondrial DNA from our mother and none from our father.

Basically, aging is caused by imperfect mitochondrial replication which is accumulated over the years until the mitochondria start to malfunction. Because they have given up some of the DNA into the cell nucleus, they need to reactivate some of it and import the products of it before they can replicate themselves, and this is where the process begins to go wrong, according to the Buck team.

The Buck News release explains what the team led by Buck Fellow Chuankai (Kai) Zhou, PhD, has discovered:

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Evolution News - Tracing Our Cousins the Denisovans

Views of the TNH2-1 specimen.
a. Occlusal, b. inferior, c. mesial, d. distal, e. buccal and f. lingual
Ancient tooth suggests Denisovans ventured far beyond Siberia.

Until recently, the archaic humans, the Denisovans, cousins of the Neanderthals and probably cousins to modern humans, were known only from a few fragments of bone and teeth from a single site - the Denisova Cave in Siberia. One fragment turned out to be from a girl who was the child of a Denisovan father and a Neanderthal mother, showing that the two species co-existed and interbred, at least in Siberia.

Since then, there has been increasing acceptance that, because up to 5% of the genome of many people from South East Asian and Oceania, including Native Australians and people from Papua-New Guinea, is Denisovan DNA, Denisovans probably occupied South East Asia and interbred with modern Homo sapiens as they migrated to and through it.

There was also the intriguing discovery that the genes that help the inhabitants of the Tibetan Plateau live at high altitude were from Denisovans. The initial assumption was that they must have been acquired from people from lower altitudes because Denisovans would probably not have lived on the Tibetan Plateau. This would have meant that the Denisovans must have evolved these genes for a different purpose, possibly related to prolonged physical exertion, and that modern humans exapted them for high altitude survival.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Malevolent Designer News - Why Creationism's Beloved Malevolence Has Its Work Cut Out

Even as the structure of SARS-CoV-2 changes with different variants of the virus (gray), the J08 antibody (blue) can still bind it, Scripps researchers showed.
Credit: Scripps Research
Scripps Research scientists explain what makes COVID-19 antibody “J08” so potent | Scripps Research

Creationist mode:


Creationism’s beloved malevolence is going to have its work cut out it it is to outdo bio-medical science in their search for a definitive cure for the COVID-19 virus it created to cause the current COVID-19 Pandemic. So far, it has come up with several variants, the latest being the Omicron variant that is much more contagious than earlier variants, but, at least in a population where a large proportion of the people have been vaccinated, is mostly, though not always, a relatively mild infection.

Nevertheless, it has managed to achieve nearly 6.3 million deaths worldwide, 1 million of them in the USA where, due to the incompetence and narcissistic Dunning-Kruger stupidity of the president when the pandemic started and was most dangerous in 2020, and because of the opposition to measures to control it by fundamentalist Christians and the super spreader events they insisted on holding in their churches, deaths were far in excess of anything seen in most other advanced economies.

But now, a collaborative effort between scientists at the Scripps Institute and scientists in Italy and France may have found an antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that not only treats and prevents known variants of COVID-19 but will probably be effective against future variants. The antibody is currently undergoing stage II/III clinical trials in Italy. The antibody, known as J08 was isolated from the blood of people who had recovered from COVID19 by scientists at the Scripps Institute and Toscana Life Sciences.

The question creationist devotees of the magic, pestilential sky man whom they believe designs these things, is just how is it going to find a way round this new prevention/treatment so it can continue the chaos and suffering it created? Only time will tell.

Evolution News - Ecology Before the 'Cambrian Explosion'

A group of Ediacaran specimens of Fractofusus and Plumeropriscum from the “E” surface, Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland, Canada.
Credit: Charlotte G. Kenchington (CC BY 4.0)
Creationists are fascinated by the so-called Cambrian Explosion, believing it to have happened over a very short time span and claiming it to be evidence of spontaneous creation of a wide variety of body plans. Of course, it took place over tens of millions of years and was preceded by the Ediacaran biota in which a number of novel body plans evolved in the second major wave of multicellular evolution.

Now, According to a study by Rebecca Eden, Andrea Manica1 and Emily G Mitchell of the Zoology Department, Cambridge University, UK, published today in the open access online journal, PLOS Biology, these early animals formed complex ecological communities more than 550 million years ago, setting the evolutionary stage for the Cambrian explosion.

The Ediacaran period is itself divided into three periods of evolutionary radiation, named after the locations where representative fossils have been found: the Avalon, White Sea and Nama radiation. The Avalon (575-565 million years ago), shows relatively limited ecological and morphological diversity, unlike the White Sea radiation which shows a large increase in morphological diversity, including probable bilateralism and with it an increase in ecological diversity and environmental influence. Some this was followed by a mass extinction leading to a loss of taxonomic diversity but the evolution of biomineralization, such as shells, in the third, Nama, radiation.

Biomineralization implies the need for protection and that implies the prior evolution of motility and predation and the beginnings of evolutionary arms races between predator and prey, and with that would have come environmental pressure to evolve sensory organs such as eyes. Predation also requires digestive and excretory systems.

According to information supplied by PLOS ahead of publication:

Evolution News - How the Environment Made a Difference with Penduline Tits

Eurasian penduline tit, Remiz pendulinus
Chinese penduline tit buries eggs to prevent them from blowin’ in the wind | Science Linx News | Science LinX | University of Groningen

First off, if you came here attracted by the title, hoping to see something about large busty substances, you're in the wrong place. This is about a couple of closely related birds known as the Eurasian and Chinese penduline tits and about how subtle differences in their environments can cause differences in behaviour that act as barriers to hybridisation and so reinforce the evolving divergence into different species. If you're so shallow as to be looking for the former on line, you're probably too shallow to be interested in the latter.

The Eurasian penduline tit, Remiz pendulinus, is so called because males build a relatively large, dangling (penduline) nest on the end of thin willow branches or reeds, often over water. He then tries to attract a female to use the nest and, if she approves, he mates with her, and she begins to lay a batch of eggs over the next 14 days but won't permit the male to enter the nest. This choice of location is probably to make it difficult for predators to reach the nest.

The strange thing is each day she covers the eggs in the bottom of the nest before going off to feed herself. This is thought to be due to inter-sex rivalry because either one or the other parent is going to take responsibility for the incubation of the eggs and rearing the chicks and the female needs the male to hang around to mate with her and the male needs her to stay and use his nest so his offspring are in the eggs she lays.

When the batch of eggs is complete, the female, more often than not, incubates them and the male leaves to find another mate, but frequently, it's the female who leaves the male to do the incubation and rearing. Very occasionally, neither parent takes responsibility, and the nest and eggs are abandoned. But the male won't start to incubate the eggs until the batch is complete. Burying the eggs is thought to be an evolved strategy for keeping the male interested until the batch is complete.

Chinese penduline tit, Remiz consobrinus
However, a closely related species, the Chinese penduline tit, Remiz consobrinus, has a different pattern of behaviour. The make builds the next in the same way and in a similar position to his Eurasian cousin, and attracts a female to use it. However, she doesn't exclude him from the nest but they both roost in it together at night, and both sexes share responsibility for incubation and rearing the chicks. But, like her Eurasian cousin, the female Chinese penduline tit still assiduously buries her eggs every day. The question is, if this isn't due to inter-sex rivalry as with the Eurasian species, what is it due to? The answer has turned out to be due to subtle environmental differences.

To investigate this difference and the lack of aggression between the sexes by which the Eurasian female keeps the male from entering the nest while she is laying her batch of eggs, Jia Zheng, who had completed her master’s degree under Professor Zhengwang Zhang, from Beijing Normal University, and was now completing her PhD at the University of Groningen, conducted a number of experiment to test out various hypotheses.

The Groningen University News release explains how she went about it:

Monday, 16 May 2022

Malevolent Designer News - Creationism's Favourite Malevolence Suffers Another Blow From Science

Congenital melanocytic nevus.
These can be very large and often involve the head, face or genitalia.
Skin drug treatments may regress dangerous birthmarks and prevent melanoma

Creationist mode:


The malevolent designer that creationists worship must be getting really pissed off with modern bio-medical scientist, the way they keep finding ways to combat the nasty things it designs to increase the suffering in the world, and all because someone scrumped one of its apples, allegedly.

Fresh from science's partial victory over the SARS-CoV-2 virus with which the divine malevolence caused a major pandemic, killing millions, ruining economies and businesses and making even the survivors suffer long-term complications, we have news that scientists led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), MA, USA may have come up with a treatment for a rare form of melanoma that about 20,000 babies a year are born with.

The congenital melanoma is usually in the form of a large mole or 'giant nevus' that covers part of the face, head or other parts of the body and carries a very high risk of becoming malignant. Because of the high risk of malignancy, the treatment up to now had been surgical removal, which was not always successful in that the melanoma could recur, and which often left a large, permanent scar. Congenital giant nevi are normally caused by a mutation in the gene NRAS, which, as any intelligent [sic] design creationist will tell you, only happens by design.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

QAnon/COVID Conspiracy News - The Flights of Fancy Go Stratospheric

Dr Bryan Ardis, Chiropractor and acupuncturist.
"Covid-19 is not a virus, it's snake venom" [sic]
The King Cobra Venom Pandemic: Stew Peters Unveils a New COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory | Right Wing Watch

It's amazing how, the more QAnon's ludicrous conspiracy theories are debunked, the more risible they became in trying to justify them, like toddlers caught with their hands in the cookie jar, rather than admit the game's up and they've been rumbled.

The even more amazing thing is that adults, even adults holding responsible positions, like Representative Marjorie Taylor-Green (R-GA 13) and Senator Doug Mastriano (R-PA 33) continue to fall for these tactics.

One example of how far into the stratosphere QAnon conspiracists have gone in the justification for opposing measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which is about to achieved its millionth American death, on the grounds that it's all a plot, somehow linked to a Satanic, cannibalistic paedophile, deep state conspiracy run by Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and the Pope, and including Bill Gates, Andrew Faucci and others, is the so-called 'explosive report' by medical quackticioner, Dr. Bryan Ardis.

His 'explosive' report which he revealed on the far right Stew Peters Show, is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is not a virus at all but a modified snake venom which is passed on deliberately in drinking water. Seriously!

Here is how he arrived at that conclusion, not by analysis of drinking water, or by subjecting samples of the virus to biochemical analysis, but by a form of logic of which any self-respecting toddler might be proud, until they grew up enough to cringe in embarrassment at their childish thinking.

Here is his 'reasoning':

SCOTUS Now Represents Only a Small Minority of American Religious Extremists.

Attitude towards abortion by religiosity and political leanings. States set to make abortion illegal in all circumstances will be complying with the opinion of Americans who attend church every week, especially Republicans.
Personal Religiosity and Attitudes Toward Abortion

The evidence from Gallop is that, if SCOTUS as expected overturns the 1973 ruling in Roe v Wade and allows the criminalisation of abortions in all or most cases, they will be empowering states to impose the views of a small minority of religious extremists on the rest of America, as the following charts show.

SCOTUS, whose prime purpose is to uphold the Constitutional constraints on government action, will be explicitly endorsing a flagrant imposition of Conservative Christian dogma by incorporating it into state laws.

On every measure, the opinion that abortions should be illegal in all circumstances - including where pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or the woman is very young, and even when there is severe foetal abnormality such that independent life will be impossible or there is a serious risk to the woman's life - is an opinion not shared by most Americans. It's not even the majority opinion of those Americans who go to church every week.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

YEC/Creationism - Notions in Crisis

A spatiotemporal interpretation of population differentiation in SW Asia and Europe based on our model and the geographic distribution of the genomes.
Colored shaded areas indicate approximate putative distributions of populations at different time points. The letters (A) to (H) indicate the chronological order of events; see main text for a detailed description. Note that warmer periods (Bølling and Allerød interstadials, Holocene) correspond to population range expansions while colder periods (LGM, Older Dryas) are associated with contractions. See also Figure S4 for additional f-statistics analyses supporting alternative connections between the Levant and the Aegean/Greece area.

Ancient DNA maps ‘dawn of farming’


The flood of evidence that YECism and Creationism are notions (I won't grace them with the scientific term, 'theories') in crisis continues with news that two of the largest assemblages of ancient human genomes have revealed that the origins of European farmers was in Turkey, but that population originated many thousands of years earlier from diverse hunter-gatherer populations in Europe and Asia.

Of course, there is absolutely no evidence that all humans are descended from a single founder couple who lived just a few thousand years ago in the Middle East, as creationism's favourite myths claim.

The advances in recovering high quality genomes from ancient remains would be terrifying creationist cult leaders if they weren't safe in the knowledge that their dupes would never dream of checking facts or reading scientific publications in case they had to admit they could be wrong, so articles in science magazine such as Nature or New Scientist will go unnoticed and ignored.

The evidence in question was published in two open access papers in Cell and BioRxiv a few days ago. These works build on the 2016 findings by Lazaridis, Iosif, et al, who showed that:
…the earliest populations of the Near East derived around half their ancestry from a ‘Basal Eurasian’ lineage that had little if any Neanderthal admixture and that separated from other non-African lineages before their separation from each other. The first farmers of the southern Levant (Israel and Jordan) and Zagros Mountains (Iran) were strongly genetically differentiated, and each descended from local hunter–gatherers. By the time of the Bronze Age, these two populations and Anatolian-related farmers had mixed with each other and with the hunter–gatherers of Europe to greatly reduce genetic differentiation. The impact of the Near Eastern farmers extended beyond the Near East: farmers related to those of Anatolia spread westward into Europe; farmers related to those of the Levant spread southward into East Africa; farmers related to those of Iran spread northward into the Eurasian steppe; and people related to both the early farmers of Iran and to the pastoralists of the Eurasian steppe spread eastward into South Asia.

Lying Christians News - David Barton Just Can't Stop

David Barton, pseudo-historian and Talibangelical liar
David Barton Falsely Claims Voter Turnout 'Was 100 Percent' in Early America Because 'Churches Ran the Communities' | Right Wing Watch

How can you tell when pseudo-historian and Talibangelical Christian extremist David Barton is lying again?

Well, I'll leave you to fill in the obvious punchline, but Barton epitomises the old adage that when you show the world you know you need to lie for your faith, you show the world you know your faith needs fools to believe falsehoods. As Mark Twain said, "Lying is trying to fool someone into believing something you know ain’t so!"

The question is, why does David Barton and his extremist Christian supporters need Americans to believe something they know ain’t so? The answer is because they don't want them believing things they know are so, of course.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Abiogenesis News - Closing in to Fill Creationism's Favourite Gap - No God Found.

a, tRNA structure showing selected ribose and nucleobase modifications. The 3′-amino acid-acylated adenosine is located at the CCA 3′ end in contemporary tRNAs. 5-Methylaminomethyl uridine, mnm5U, is found in the wobble position 34. The amino acid-modified carbamoyl adenosine, (m6)aa6A (aa, amino acid), is present at position 37 in certain tRNAs. b, General RNA–peptide synthesis cycle based on mnm5U and m6aa6A. The structures of oligonucleotides are simplified and only terminal nucleobases are drawn.
The origin of life: a paradigm shift - LMU Munich

It doesn't seem to have dawned on creationists who forlornly claim, despite the daily torrent of evidence to the contrary, that the Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis. Far from the TOE being a 'theory in crisis', the reality is that it's the childish notion of creationism that's in crisis and which is being increasingly rejected even by religious people as a valid explanation for how life diverged. It's only by creative misrepresentation of the data, or by dismissing it out of hand, that creationist frauds are still able to pull the wool over the eyes of their credulous dupes, to maintain their cult’s superstitions.

One of their mainstays as an 'argument' which they invariably fall back on when confronted with unarguable evidence for evolution by natural selection and other mechanisms, is that none of the mechanisms explain the origin of 'life' itself (abiogenesis, life from non-life'), and without that, evolution would have nothing to work on. It is, of course, irrelevant to the mechanisms by which life diversified once replicators did get going, but, as usual with childish notions, the relevance of using the false dichotomy fallacy is lost on creationists who lack the critical thinking skills to spot the trick, and few if any of them could define the term 'life' in a scientifically meaningful way, anyway, so assume it means some magic ingredient that separates organic' molecules from inorganic ones. It is one of the last remaining gaps which they insist must contain their god and their belief is that, of all the gaps closed by science, this will be the one where a god is found. Their ever-shrinking little god has degenerated to the size of this one remaining gap. The magician that magicked 'life' from non-life and made them 'speshul'.

There are, of course, many possible alternative explanations for how a simple replicator could have got going and, indeed, there doesn't even need to be a single explanation since two or more replicators could have got together early on. If the result had given them an advantage over remaining separate, then this symbiosis would have been almost inevitable.

One of the more popular hypotheses amongst biologists is the 'RNA world hypothesis' that says, because RNA is still the functional unit of biological activity and it is simpler than DNA, it probably came first and DNA followed on as an evolved improvement, acting as RNA's data store and so became the functional organ of inheritance of genetic data.

This is the idea currently being expanded by a team at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany. Their work has just been published, open access in Nature. They believe they have solved one of the outstanding problems with the theory - how RNA began catalysing the production of chains of amino acids to form peptides and short proteins without the peptides it codes for - a classic chicken and egg conundrum.

Like all chicken and egg conundrums, if this scenario is correct, it turns out that neither of them came first; they both emerged simultaneously and part of a developing complex out of simple pre-existing precursors.

As the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität news release explains:

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Malevolent Designer News - Creationism's Divine Malevolence Excels Itself With Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasma gondii
I thought devotees of creationism's malevolent designer might like to read about an astonishingly successful organism it allegedly created. It is the organism known to medical science and biology as Toxoplasma gondii, the organism responsible for the disease, toxoplasmosis.

According to the WHO over 1 million people in the European area alone become infected by it and, according to Professor Justine R. Smith, Professor of Eye & Vision Health, Flinders University, Australia and Assistant professor João M. Furtado, Assistant professor of Ophthalmology, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, writing in The Conversation, 30%-50% of the world's population could be infected by it, making it the most successful pathological organism known. Once infected a person carries it for life and it is one of the most zoonotic organisms, capable of infected almost any animal or bird.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Unintelligent Designer News - More on the Blunder That is RuBisCo

The enzyme rubisco is found in all plants and other photosynthesizing organisms. It plays a key role in fixing carbon from the air and has helped shape life on Earth.
Credit: Getty Images
Photosynthesis unaffected by increasing carbon dioxide channels in plant membranes | RIPE

Readers may recall how I wrote recently about the enzyme RuBisCo, and how, if they understood its significance, it would be a major embarrassment for devotees of creationism's putative intelligent [sic] designer. To give it it's full chemical name, ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase is probably the least efficient enzyme in all biology and yet is absolutely essential for the energy almost all living things ultimately depend on.

It is responsible for 'fixing' the inorganic carbon in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) as the first stage in building the carbon chain that is the backbone of the organic sugar, glucose, which is the end product of photosynthesis, along with free Oxygen (O2) as a by-product.

Indeed, so inefficient is RuBisCo that it is the reason there is so much green in the world, wherever there are growing plants. RuBisCo manages about 4 reactions a second against the hundreds or thousands of reactions that most other enzymes are capable of, and, because it frequently mistakes a molecule of O2 for one of CO2, it frequently wrecks the process and causes a loss of carbon. It can also go wrong and produce xylulose-1,5-bisphosphate which actually poisons it!

Because of this inefficiency, there is great pressure on scientists to come up with an alternative, or to develop an improved version, in order to increase food production, and, to that end, multiple universities and research institutes have established the RIPE Project, led by the University of Illinois, USA in partnership with The Australian National University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Lancaster University, UK, Louisiana State University, USA, University of California, Berkeley, USA, University of Cambridge, UK, University of Essex, UK, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.

But one of the programs run by RIPE has just reported a failure. The researchers at the Division of Plant Sciences, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Acton, ACT, Australia, had been hoped that, if they could improve the supply of CO2 to RuBisCo, they could improve its efficiency. However, they discovered that the limitation was not the availability of CO2 itself but the ability of RuBisCo to utilise it that was the bottleneck in the process.

As the RIPE news release explains:

Evolution News - Why North American Fossils from 95 Million Years Ago Look Like Tropical Fossils

Cretaceous oysters of the genus Pycnodonte investigated in the new study. These specimens were collected in San Miguel County, Colorado (top left), Kane County, Utah (top right), Big Horn County, Wyoming (bottom left), and Natrona County, Wyoming (bottom right), with a penny for scale.
Image credit: Matt Jones
Bali-like temperatures in Wyoming? Fossils reveal tropically hot North America 95 million years ago | University of Michigan News

Gullible fools who have been conned into believing, despite all the evidence showing otherwise, that planet Earth is just a few thousand years old, for no better reason than their mummy and daddy had been fooled into believing it, will need to ignore this evidence as well.

It is evidence that not only were fossils of highly evolved species being laid down in Wyoming, USA, 95 million years ago, but that the climate there at that time was more like that in tropical regions of Earth today.

The new study, by researchers from the University of Michigan shows that much of western North America, 95 million years ago, was covered by a shallow sea as warm as today’s tropics. The existence of this sea coincided with the "Cretaceous Thermal Maximum", one of Earth's hottest periods in the past 100 million years.

According to information supplied by the University of Michigan:

Malevolent Designer News - How Creationism's Divine Malevolence Made a Parasite Better at Killing Children

The Kissing bug, Triatom infestans,
The main vector for Trypanosoma cruzi, the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
Hybrid strains make insidious parasite more dangerous | Karolinska Institutet Nyheter

Creationist mode:


If you’re a divine malevolence and have gone to all the trouble to design a blood-born parasite like the trypanosome, Trypanosoma cruzi, especially for making people sick and die, and have even created a special means of passing it from one person to another to make sure as many people suffer as possible, such as the 'kissing bug', Triatom infestans, you're not going to just stand by and allow a potential victim's immune system (that you designed to protect them from your parasites), stop the trypanosome from doing its job and making them sick, are you?

Of course not!

Trypanosoma cruzi, the organism that causes Chagas disease

Credit: CDC/Dr. Myron G. Schultz
As we have seen before, most of these nasty little organisms that creationists believe were created by their favourite god, have been designed to evade or even suppress their host's immune system so they can make life as miserable, or as short, as possible.

A good example of this, and an example of the inventive genius of anything that designed it, is in fact Trypanosoma cruzi, the microorganism that causes Chagas disease, which affects millions of people in Central and South America, causing thousands of deaths every year. Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have discovered just how brilliantly this parasite has been designed so it can continue to do what it was designed to do. They have shown that it can form new variants from hybrids of different strains that are often better at circumventing the immune system and causing disease.

As the Karolinska Institutet news item announcing the team's publication of their findings in the online journal, eLife, explains:

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Malevolent Designer News - How a Mutation Made Us More Susceptible to Cancer

A single genetic mutation made humans more susceptible to cancer | New Scientist

Creationist mode:


Creationism’s favourite divine malevolence could have given humans the same protection from cancer that it gave to elephants, but it chose not to.

Instead, it gave us a mutated version of a gene that makes us more likely to develop life-threatening cancers when the replication mechanism it designed for our cells, goes wrong and the faulty DNA doesn't get repaired. This replication mechanism, where the entire genome is replicated even though most cells will use only a small fraction of it, is necessary because the designer used the same method for us multicellular animals that it created for single-celled organisms, so being massively wasteful and increasing the danger of something going wrong, of course, but that's a slightly different issue.

I have more to say on this phenomenon in my popular, illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good

What scientists have recently discovered is that the gene, BRCA2, which plays a key role in repairing the DNA when it isn't replicated properly, has been modified in humans to make it less effective at doing what it was designed to do in other mammals, including chimpanzees. This repair mechanism was already far less efficient than that in elephants which get multiple copies of these repairing genes, so, although they have very many more cells than us and so very many more cell replications as they grow, they very rarely get cancers.

Even in our closest relative, the other great apes, cancers are relatively rare. Between 1901 and 1932, of the 971 non-human primates that died in Philadelphia Zoo, only 8 were found to have tumours on autopsy. so there is no doubt that humans, supposedly the favourite creation of creationism's favourite creator, are designed to get cancers more than most mammals and the decision to design us that way was a choice.

Creationist must believe, because they are obliged to, that this change in the BRCA2 gene can't have been accidental because nothing happens in nature without the intention and involvement of their magic creator, so we can only assume it wants us to get cancer.

Creationist mode:


Now to the science, which, unlike creationism and the childish notion of intelligent design, makes sense of the facts:

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