F Rosa Rubicondior: July 2023

Monday 31 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - How Evolution Produced Full Cooperation Between Mitochondrial Endosymbionts and Host Cells

Two mitochondria from mammalian lung tissue displaying their matrix and membranes as shown by electron microscopy

Louisa Howard via Wikipedia
Public Domain
Cell biology: How cellular powerhouses call for help when under stress | Aktuelles aus der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Four Scientists from Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany have shown just how fully mitochondria have integrated into their endosymbiotic host cells over the course of their evolutionary history.

First a little background from ChatGPT3:
Mitochondria and how they evolved>

Mitochondria are double-membraned organelles found in the cells of most eukaryotic organisms, including plants, animals, fungi, and protists. They play a crucial role in cellular respiration, where they generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of cells. Mitochondria are believed to have evolved from endosymbiosis, a process where one organism lives within another and both organisms benefit from the relationship.

The endosymbiotic theory suggests that mitochondria originated from a free-living bacterium that was engulfed by an ancient eukaryotic cell. Over time, the bacterium and the host cell developed a symbiotic relationship, where the bacterium provided energy through respiration, and the host cell provided protection and nutrients. Eventually, the bacterium lost some of its independence and became a specialized organelle within the host cell – the mitochondrion.

Creationism in Crisis - A Newly-Discovered Non-Genetic Mode for Inheritance, But It's No Comfort For Creationists

Hardship affects the gut microbiome across generations | UCLA

Human gut microbiome
The old scientific debate from the early 19th century between Darwinian evolution and Lamarckian evolution all hinged on whether characteristics acquired after birth could be inherited by offspring, as Lamarck thought, or whether what we inherit from our parents is a variation (within limits) of what they inherited from their parents:
Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution are two contrasting theories of evolution that were proposed in the past. Though both sought to explain the process of biological change over time, they differ in their fundamental mechanisms and assumptions.
  1. Darwinian Evolution (Theory of Natural Selection):
    • Proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in the mid-19th century.
    • Central concept: Natural selection is the main driving force behind evolution.
    • Mechanism: Variation exists within populations, and individuals with traits better suited to the environment are more likely to survive and reproduce. Over time, these advantageous traits become more common in the population, while less favorable traits are selected against.
    • Inheritance of acquired characteristics: Darwinian evolution does not rely on the inheritance of traits acquired during an organism's lifetime. Instead, it is based on the passing down of genetic information from parents to offspring.
    • Example: Consider a population of giraffes with varying neck lengths. If the environment favors individuals with longer necks (e.g., taller trees for feeding), those with longer necks have a survival advantage and are more likely to pass on their long-necked genes to the next generation.
  2. Lamarckian Evolution (Theory of Inheritance of Acquired Characteristics):
    • Proposed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in the early 19th century.
    • Central concept: Evolution is driven by an organism's effort to adapt to its environment and the inheritance of acquired traits.
    • Mechanism: Lamarck proposed that if an organism acquires new characteristics or traits during its lifetime due to its environment's demands, these acquired traits can be passed on to its offspring.
    • Example: Lamarck suggested that if a giraffe stretches its neck throughout its lifetime to reach higher leaves, the elongated neck acquired during its life will be passed on to its offspring, leading to the gradual evolution of longer-necked giraffes over generations.
The key difference between the two theories lies in their view on the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Darwinian evolution relies on natural selection acting on existing genetic variation, while Lamarckian evolution suggests that acquired traits during an individual's lifetime can be inherited by their offspring, driving evolutionary change. Lamarckian evolution, however, has been largely discredited by modern genetics and molecular biology, as it does not align with the principles of inheritance through genes and DNA. Instead, the modern understanding of evolution is based on the principles proposed by Darwin, which include the processes of mutation, genetic variation, and natural selection acting on heritable traits.

ChatGPT3 "What is the difference between Darwinian and Lamarckian evolution?" [Response to user request]
Retrieved from https://chat.openai.com/
That debate has now been opened up again in an unexpected way with the news that an international team of scientists led by UCLA psychologists has shown that information produced during hardship suffered by a woman during pregnancy can be passed on to her baby via its microbiome.

Sunday 30 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Now its A Living Nematode From 46,000 years Ago in Siberian Permafrost

Duvannyi Yar thaw site on the banks of the Kolyma River, Siberia, Russia.
Credit: Robert G. M. Spencer
Genome analysis of 46,000-year-old roundworm from Siberian permafrost reveals novel species: MPI-CBG

The problem with clinging to counter-factual beliefs like Bible-literalist creationism, for fear of having to contemplate being wrong, is that you have to keep deciding whether to believe the Bible or the evidence.

Here, for example, is a (to a creationist) key passage from the Bible:
Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Genesis 7:21-23
Leaving aside the absurdity of believing there was a time just 4000 years ago when the highest mountain would have been covered by a fifteen-cubit (i.e., about 22.5 feet) flood, it is necessary to believe that everything outside the Ark was destroyed. The Bible is quite specific on that point - every living substance was destroyed, including the 'creeping things'!

And that claim has to be set against the evidence provided a couple of days ago by an international team of scientists led by Anastasia Shatilovich, of the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science Russian Academy of Science, Pushchino, Russia, and Vamshidhar R. Gade of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany, that they have revived, analysed the genome of and C14-dated a nematode worm recovered from Siberian permafrost, shown to be 46,000 years old.

So, not only was this not destroyed as the Bible claims, it was around some 36,000 years before the Earth was created, according to creationist fundamental dogma.

And of course, a corollary to that is that the permafrost containing the nematode in suspended animation, also survived a catastrophic flood a few thousand years ago.

But then, to be fair on the Bronze-Age Canaanite hill farmers who plagiarized that Mesopotamian local flood myth, what did they know of real mountains, as opposed to low hills, permafrost, or nematodes? They thought Earth was small, flat and ran on magic, and the sky was a dome to keep the water above it out.

The account of the discovery, and its significance, is explained in a news release by the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics:

Thursday 27 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Evolution and Arms Races - How Resistance to Snake Venom Evolved in Caecilians

Yellow-striped caecilian, Ichthyophis kohtaoensis
How an unlikely amphibian survived its “Judgement Day” - Faculty of Science - University of Queensland

When one thinks of amphibians, it's usual to think in terms of frogs and toads, and newts and salamanders. However, there is a third group, the legless Caecilians, (pronounced Sicilians), which look superficially like earthworms.

Now a research team led by Associate Professor Bryan Fry of Queensland University, Australia, has shown how their evolution was strongly influence by group of venomous snakes, the elapids. These snakes evolved in what is now Australia when it was still part of the single landmass, Gondwana, around 50 to 60 million years ago (Late Paleocene to Early Eocene).

The distinct characteristic of the elapids is hollow fangs with which they inject powerful toxins into their victims.

The evidence of the resulting intense selection pressure and resulting evolutionary arms race as the snakes used their new ability to kill otherwise defenceless caecilians is a devastating refutation of several creationist articles of faith.

First, a brief background of the caecilian amphibians and the elapid snakes

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Lesson from France - 2 Million Year Old Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt

Slideshow code developed in collaboration with ChatGPT3 at https://chat.openai.com/

Les Orgues d'Ille-sur-Têt, Occitane, France
Note the different layers of soft sandstone formed in ancient beaches as local sea levels changed
In southern France near the pretty Catalan town of Ille-sur-Têt are strange rock formations, or hoodoos, known as the Orgues or organs, so called because they resemble organ pipes (and also the slightly more salacious reason - because they resemble phalluses). The rock pillars with their caps, which give them their alternative name, demoiselles coiffées (ladies with their hair styled) and cheminées de fée (fairy chimneys).

The embarrassing thing for Bible-literalist creationists who believe that all rock strata were laid down in about a year during a mythical genocidal flood, is that there is no way the strata that make up the Orgues could have been deposited in a single inundation because, as can be seen in the accompanying photos, the layers are composed of different sized particles of sand, sometimes mixed with pebbles, sometime not, showing they were once part of different sea levels and river flood plains and the whole was then covered in a shallow sea which produced the limestone cap.

And that means they are very old, pre-dating even the Pyrenees because the erosion into their present formation did not start until plate tectonics caused the Pyrenees to rise up at the boundary between the Iberian plate and the Eurasian plate, the Iberian plate itself being pushed north by the African plate.

The resulting uplift exposed the layers of sandstone which now form the Orgues to be lifted up and exposed to the action of, mostly, water, to give them their present shape - which is still being actively eroded. The evidence for this can be seen along the narrow road that runs between the river Têt and the Orgues, where heavy rain has washed sand across the road in places.

Monday 24 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - It's More of Those Transitional Fossils And the Japanese Scientists Call It Evolution

Miocene period fossil forest of Wataria found in Japan | Hokkaido University

<i>Wataria parvipora</i> showing annual rings
Wataria parvipora showing annual rings. It is one of the characteristics that helped the scientists in identifying the wood-fossil.
A central dogma of creationism, a left-over from the days when they insisted there was no such thing as evolution at all, and before they decided there were two sorts (micro-evolution, which happens all the time now and happened at warp speed after the mythical flood, and 'macro-evolution' which is still impossible) is that there are no transitional fossils. This lie is also an attempt to recruit Darwin for their superstition as he predicted there would be found series of transitional fossils showing the progress of evolution over time.

This creates a problem for the cult leaders who have to keep devising strategies for ignoring all the many examples of transitional fossils that palaeontologists keep unearthing; one of which is to claim that the transitional fossil is that of a fully formed species, which works on people who think evolution means one taxon turns into a different taxon such as cats turning into dogs or crocodiles into ducks, or, in the case of humans (the (non)evolution of whom is a special obsession with creationists), a chimpanzee turning into a fully modern human.

For a laugh, try asking a creationist to describe exactly what they would expect a transitional fossil to look like!

Anyway, this article is about examples of transitional fossil plants that have been found in an especially well-preserved fossilised Miocene Forest in an exposed bed of the Kiso River. The river level was subject to an unprecedented drought in 1994 which exposed 400 fossilized tree stumps. The stumps are now inundated again but not before a research group led by Professor Toshihiro Yamada of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Hokkaido University, had analysed 137 stumps, of which 130 were identified as Wataria parvipora. The stumps were covered in leaves identified as Byttneriophyllum The Hokkaido University news release 3xplains the research and its significance:

Sunday 23 July 2023

Lesson from France - The Bloody Extermination of the Cathars at Béziers - "Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His!"

Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His!

Abbot Arnaud Amalric of Citeaux
Papal legate in charge of the Cathar genocide.
Citing 2 Timothy 2:19
Burning the Cathars at Béziers
Another reminder of the brutal, blood-soaked history of Christianity is to be found in the history of the French town of Béziers on the banks of the River Orb, in the Languedoc region, southeast of Montpellier, on the edge of the Camargue.

It has been, in turn, along with much of the area south of Toulouse, under the control of Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, Moorish Moslems from Andalucia, Catholic Spain and latterly, Catholic France. Until recent times, the local language was a dialect of French, Occitan, which has close links with Catalan. This gave it a sense of a separate identity from that of France - something that concerned King Philip II, keen to exert the same control over the southern provinces as he had over the North.

Béziers is now a peaceful, quite little market town and cultural centre but it was not always so. It was, until 1209, a stronghold of the Cathars, a religious sect which rejected Roman Catholicism and the authority of the Pope, which was brutally suppressed in the 'Albigensian Crusade' on the orders of Pope Innocent III in alliance with King Philip II of France.
For more information on the Albigensian Crusade and Pope Innocent III's and King Philip II of France's reasons for launching it, see:
  1. Lesson from France - Massacre of the Cathars of Carcassonne, or How Christians Settled Theological Differences
  2. Feel That Christian Love!
  3. Brotherly Love - How Christians Settle Disputes
Fresh from their success in laying siege to and then massacring the inhabitants of the Carcassonne, the crusaders moved on to other towns in the area, including Béziers.

Saturday 22 July 2023

Lesson from France - Massacre of the Cathars of Carcassonne, or How Christians Settled Theological Differences

Slideshow code developed in collaboration with ChatGPT3 at https://chat.openai.com/

Street below the Cité De Carcassonne with the Citadel on the Hill
We've just spent a day in Carcassonne, in southern France, just north of the Spanish border. It's a place every Christian should visit as a reminder of the blood-soaked history of their religion because Carcassonne was the site of one of the most brutal periods of Catholic history until the conquest of the Americas, the Albigensian Crusade.

The Albigensian crusade was conducted on the orders of Pope Innocent III, surely one of the most misnamed Popes in history; a crusade with the objective of nothing less than a total genocide of the Cathars and their religion.

The technique put into practice many of the methods used to terrorize populations and force them into submission that had been developed in the Crusades against the Moslems of the Eastern Mediterranean, where the method was to promise land to the barons and noblemen who led the armies, and the spoils of looting and pillage to the mobs of mercenaries that comprised to soldiery. There were no provisions for feeding and supplying the rag-taggle mobs as they raged through the countryside, so they had to take wheat they needed from the local populations. Towns and villages were ransacked, and the inhabitants slaughtered as a matter of routine.

And bloodletting was encouraged and glorified, to the extent that one observer recorded enthusiastically how the streets of Jerusalem were ankle-deep in blood when the Christian mob over-ran it.
The origins of Catharism are somewhat obscure, as it contained several different ideas fused into a loose system of beliefs with no central authority, so it tended to vary in different communities. A central idea was the essentially Gnostic belief in two gods - a good god of the spiritual domain and an evil god (Satan) who created the physical world and trapped angels inside human bodies. The creator (evil) god was the god of the Old Testament and the good god was the god of the New Testament, who Jesus was sent to tell us about. Escape from the physical world was through death and a special form of baptism to enable reunion with the god of the spiritual realm.

Like Catholicism does today, Catharism was obsessed with sex and saw sexual intercourse as sinful unless performed in the prescribed manner and pre-blessed by a priest in a special ceremony.

A consequence of their belief that the physical world was the domain of Satan and created by him to keep people away from God, was that everything to do with sexual intercourse was to be avoided because it produces more physical reality and more angels trapped in human bodies, so they were Pescatarians, believing that meat, cheese, milk and eggs were the result of sexual intercourse, but fish spontaneously generated and thus were safe to eat. The general disapproval of sexual intercourse caused some obvious problems for some Cathar communities, but others had found a way round it in a legend that the origins of the battle between good and evil in Heaven was because Satan had seduced one of God's wives (he has two, apparently), or maybe it was God who seduced one of Satan's two wives. This was sufficient evidence that God has sexual intercourse, so doesn't prohibit it.

Thursday 20 July 2023

Malevolent Designer News - Why Creationism's Favourite Sadist Gave Some People Protection From COVID-19 - If You Believe That Superstitious Nonsense

Gene Mutation May Explain Why Some Don’t Get Sick from COVID-19 | UC San Francisco

The thing about being a follower of the intelligent [sic] design cult is that you have to believe whatever the 'design' is, that was precisely what your putative intelligent [sic] designer intended to design because, although you should never say so, your designer god is one and the same god that fundamentalist Christians and Moslems believe in, i.e., it is omniscient, omnipotent and inerrant so is incapable of making a mistake.

So, what the cult now has to explain is why their favorite sadist gave some people a gene which protects then against symptomatic COVID-19, but not everyone, if, as the normal excuse for these parasites is valid - i.e., it wasn't God, it was something called 'sin' which creates viruses (and apparently the supreme, omniscient ruler of the universe is powerless to stop it or uncaring enough to not bother, or maybe even unaware of it).

In which case, why create the protective gene?

Of course, a ready explanation which fits in with the intelligent [sic] design superstition is that it wanted a few people to catch COVID-19 but not know they has=d it, so they could spread it around - the infectious but asymptomatic cases that are believed to have been responsible for a great deal of the pandemic's success.

So, creationists need to explain whether their intelligent [sic] designer deliberately created these super-spreaders to infect as many people as possible and if not, what did it create them for and how come it didn't know what the outcome would be? The discovery of this gene was made by a group led by researchers from the University of California San Francisco, who have just published their findings, open access, in Nature. As the UC San Francisco news release explains:

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Genes for Learning, Memory and Complex Behaviour Evolved 650 Million years Ago!

Examples of bilaterians each with genes first evolved in the pre-Cambrian.
Genes for learning and memory are 650 million years old, study shows | News | University of Leicester

Bilaterians are a group of animals characterized by bilateral symmetry, which means they have a left and right side that are mirror images of each other. This symmetry allows for a clear front and back end, as well as distinct top and bottom surfaces. Bilaterians are among the most diverse and successful animal groups on Earth.

The emergence of bilaterians marked a significant milestone in the evolution of life. They evolved during the Cambrian explosion, a period around 541 million years ago when there was a rapid diversification of complex animal life in the fossil record.

Bilaterians gave rise to a wide array of animal lineages, many of which are still present today. Some of the major groups that evolved from bilaterians include:
  1. Deuterostomes: One of the major branches of bilaterians, deuterostomes include several important animal groups, such as vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) and echinoderms (starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers).
  2. Protostomes: Another major branch of bilaterians, protostomes include diverse groups such as arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans), mollusks (snails, clams, squids), annelids (earthworms, leeches), and many others.
Bilaterians were crucial in shaping the animal kingdom and played a pivotal role in the complex ecological relationships that emerged throughout Earth's history. They eventually diversified into the incredible variety of animal species that we see today.

ChatGPT3 "What were bilaterians and what did they evolve into?" [Response to user question]
Retrieved from https://chat.openai.com
Imagine, you're a creationist fool whose cult leaders have made to feel smugly self-important because a supernatural magic man created your ancestors specially with uniquely humans abilities that set you apart from the other animals, just a few thousand years ago, like the ability to learn, remember and have complex social interactions.

Then along comes a bunch of those spoil-sport scientists who shows that the genes for those things evolved in some very primitive ancestors, the bilaterians, 650 million years ago and so are shared with all the multitude of descendants of those primitive organisms.

How do you handle this new information while still feeling the smugly self-important special creation of the creator of the universe?

You can't allow yourself to think you could be wrong, because that would spoil the whole delusion, so you ignore the science, abuse the scientists, or simply declare it all wrong, and carry on believing the myth of your special importance.

But the problem is the research findings are still there and won't go away just because you've ignored them or declared them wrong, so, whatever you do, avoid reading what follows because it is from a press release from the university of Leicester, UK, where the leaders of the research team were from, and the open access paper in Nature Communications where they published their findings:

Friday 14 July 2023

Malevolent Designer News - How Creationisms Putative Designer is Hiding its New Improved Version of SARS-CoV-2 for Later.

“Reservoir Species” – USDA Releases Shocking Research on COVID-19 Transmission Between White-Tailed Deer and Humans

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
in 2022, 12.2% were carrying the virus and 31% showed signs of previous exposure.
If you're a malevolent designer and you just had a major triumph with a nasty little virus that killed millions, made many more times that sick, and wrecked economies worldwide, but the human victims hit back with a vaccine that protects them, what do you do?

We'll, if you're creationism's favourite sadist, you don't just give up and allow your victims to win; you have a long-term plan to teach the upstarts a lesson.

Using the fact that immunity to your virus is short-lived because you designed their immune systems that way, you store your nasty little virus away somewhere where there is no vaccine-induced immunity and you can experiment with better, more deadly and more infectious versions of it and wait until your human victims no longer have enough immunity to resist the new, improved, version, then you transfer it back into the human population and sit back to enjoy the suffering again!

And what better than a wild species that humans regularly hunt for food, but which don't need to meet the food-hygiene regulations with which humans normally protect themselves from infections in domesticated species.

In China, this could be practically any species, but in North America, what better species is there than the white-tailed deer, which is regularly hunted for meat?

This, of course, is the sort of thinking an honest, troobuleeving creationist (if there is such a thing) would have to believe, because the evidence is that white tailed deer are a reservoir species harbouring the SARS-CoV-2 and providing an environment in which to mutate and evolve.

This evidence comes from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) which has just released the results of its first year of sampling white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for active infection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These studies show that SARS-CoV-2 is likely to have spread widely within the U.S. white-tailed deer population.
According to a USDA APHIS news item:

Thursday 13 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Cosmologists May Have the Age of the Universe Wrong - But not in the Way Creationisst Might Like To Imagine

Spiral Galaxy NGC 1672 from Hubble
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA);
Reinventing cosmology: uOttawa research puts age of universe at 26.7 — not 13.7 — billion years | About us

Scientists may be wrong about the age of the Universe!

But there is no reason for creationists to get excited thinking their childish superstition might have some scientific merit after all.

A researcher from the University of Ottawa, believes he has shown the Universe is not the 8,000 years old that creationists dogma dictates they believe; it's not even the 13.7 Billion years old that mainstream cosmologists believe. In fact, it might be 27.7 billion years old!

The new thinking is the work of Rajendra Gupta, adjunct professor of physics in the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa. He has attempted to resolve some problems with the existing model, the Lambda-CDM concordance model, which estimates the Universe to be 13.797 billion years old. This model fails to explain why some stars like the Methuselah appear to be older than the estimated age of our universe and early galaxies in an advanced state of evolution, as discovered by the James Webb Space Telescope. These galaxies, existing a mere 300 million years or so after the Big Bang is calculated to have occurred, appear to have a level of maturity and mass typically associated with billions of years of cosmic evolution. Furthermore, they’re surprisingly small in size, adding another layer of mystery to the equation.

Professor Gupta's new theory in part resurrects a 1922 theory proposed to explain Hubble's red shift within the idea of a steady state Universe, known as "Zwicky's tired light theory":
Zwicky's tired light theory

Zwicky's tired light theory, proposed by the Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky in the 1920s, suggests an alternative explanation for the redshift observed in the light coming from distant astronomical objects.

According to the tired light theory, the redshift observed in the light from distant objects is not due to the Doppler effect caused by the expansion of the universe, as described by the prevailing Big Bang theory. Instead, Zwicky proposed that light loses energy as it travels through space over vast distances, resulting in a gradual decrease in its frequency (and hence, an increase in its wavelength) and a corresponding shift towards the red end of the spectrum.

In the tired light theory, the loss of energy by photons is caused by interactions with other particles or fields in space. As photons travel through space, they continually collide with these hypothetical particles or fields, which gradually sap their energy and cause the redshift. This energy loss mechanism is often referred to as "tiredness" of the light.

However, it's important to note that Zwicky's tired light theory has not gained wide acceptance among scientists. The prevailing consensus among astrophysicists and cosmologists is that the observed redshift is primarily a result of the expansion of the universe, as explained by the Big Bang theory, rather than the tired light hypothesis. The tired light theory faces several challenges in providing a comprehensive explanation for the observed redshift and other cosmological phenomena.

ChatGPT3 "What is Zwicky’s tired light theory?" [Response to user question] Retrieved from https://chat.openai.com/
Zwicky's tired light theory has been ruled out by the modern consensus for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the difference in observation of light intensity from distant objects as predicted by the steady state and the expanding Universe models:
>For example, in a static universe with tired light mechanisms, the surface brightness of stars and galaxies should be constant, that is, the farther an object is, the less light we receive, but its apparent area diminishes as well, so the light received divided by the apparent area should be constant. In an expanding universe, the surface brightness diminishes with distance. As the observed object recedes, photons are emitted at a reduced rate because each photon has to travel a distance that is a little longer than the previous one, while its energy is reduced a little because of increasing redshift at a larger distance. On the other hand, in an expanding universe, the object appears to be larger than it really is, because it was closer to us when the photons started their travel. This causes a difference in surface brilliance of objects between a static and an expanding Universe. This is known as the Tolman surface brightness test that in those studies favors the expanding universe hypothesis and rules out static tired light model.

Professor Gupta has proposed a form of Zwicky’s tired light theory and an idea proposed by Paul Dirac - "coupling Constants". The idea is that these constants govern the interaction between particles but they could have 'evolved' over time. By allowing these coupled constants to evolve over time, Gupta has moved the age of the Universe back several billion years to a time which accounts for the apparently mature small galaxies seen by the James Webb Space Telescope. It also allows the 'cosmological constant', introduced to explain the expansion of the universe due to dark energy to be replaces by Dirac's 'Coupled Constants'.

His work is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS):

Deep space observations of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have revealed that the structure and masses of very early Universe galaxies at high redshifts (z∼15 ⁠), existing at ∼ 0.3 Gyr after the BigBang, may be as evolved as the galaxies in existence for ∼10 Gyr. The JWST findings are thus in strong tension with the ΛCDM cosmological model. While tired light (TL) models have been shown to comply with the JWST angular galaxy size data, they cannot satisfactorily explain isotropy of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) observations or fit the supernovae distance modulus vs. redshift data well. We have developed hybrid models that include the tired light concept in the expanding universe. The hybrid ΛCDM model fits the supernovae type 1a data well but not the JWST observations. We present a model with covarying coupling constants (CCC), starting from the modified FLRW metric and resulting Einstein and Friedmann equations, and a CCC + TL hybrid model. They fit the Pantheon + data admirably, and the CCC + TL model is compliant with the JWST observations. It stretches the age of the universe to 26.7 Gyr with 5.8 Gyr at z=10 and 3.5 Gyr at z=20⁠, giving enough time to form massive galaxies. It thus resolves the ‘impossible early galaxy’ problem without requiring the existence of primordial black hole seeds or modified power spectrum, rapid formation of massive population III stars, and super Eddington accretion rates. One could infer the CCC model as an extension of the ΛCDM model with a dynamic cosmological constant

So, whether you go with Zwicky's tired light theory, Paul Dirac’s 'Coupled Constants', Hubble and Lemaître's Big Bang, or Professor Gupta's combination of these ideas, it's still impossible to come up with an age anywhere near what the creationists superstition says is the age of the Universe, and the current debate amongst cosmologists is moving the age even further away from the Biblical account.

But then when did having demonstrably counter-factual belief ever trouble a troobuleeving creationist?

How Science Works - Peer Reviewers Slate a Submitted Research Paper Suggesting Homo Naledi Buried their Dead

Evidence for deliberate burial of the dead by Homo naledi

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Christopher Hitchens.

The Homo naledi hand and foot were uniquely adapted for both tree climbing and walking upright.

Credit: Peter Schmid and William Harcourt-Smith | Wits University
The things that make the hominin species, Homo naledi, at the same time, something of an enigma and exciting for paleoanthropologists, is that it:
  • Has a mosaic of features of both anatomically-modern humans and chimpanzees, making it a candidate species for our early ancestor. One of the chimpanzee-like features is the small brain, little larger than a chimpanzee.
  • Was apparently contemporaneous with early modern humans in East Africa and yet had failed to evolve a larger brain, believed to have been driven in hominins by the African savannah environment.
  • Is from South Africa, but the Homo genus is believed to have emerged in East Africa in the Rift Valley and Ethiopian Highlands, from the Australopithecines such as Au. afarensis ('Lucy')
These sorts of enigma are the stuff of science and suggest new avenues for research. Nothing spurs science more than discovering something which doesn't fit in with the existing consensus or for which there is no obvious explanation at present, so there is a great deal of interest in the findings from the Rising Star Cave System in South Africa, so far the only source of fossil H. naledia. The remains are found deep within the cave system in locations that would have been difficult to reach, so the large number of individuals found there suggest they were placed deliberately in these deep chambers.

And now the team investigating the cave have produced evidence that they believe indicates that the remains in the cave were not only placed there but were ritually interred in specially prepared graves. If confirmed, this would be the earliest known deliberate internment of a hominin species, indeed the only example other than of modern humans and Neanderthals. This practice also strongly suggests respect for the dead and maybe even a spiritual belief in an after-life - which would be astonishing for a species with a brain little larger than that of a chimpanzee.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Historical Christian Abuse - New Museum to Scotland's Witch Hysteria

New museum remembers Scotland's dark era of witch hysteria

News that there is now a museum to the Scottish witch hysteria, prompted me to do a little bit of research into witchcraft and societies changed attitude toward the idea of witches casting evil spells and suspending the laws of nature with their thoughts.

Our modern-day attitude toward the whole idea of witches and witchcraft, compared to what it was when the atrocities of witch-finding and witch burning were being committed, mostly but not exclusively, by the Catholic Church at the behest of the Pope, shows how our morals are evolving and consigning religious 'morals' to the dustbin of history where they belong.

On of the main driving forces behind witch hysteria in Europe was a book, "Malleus Maleficarum" (Hammer of Witches) written by a sex-obsessed and misogynistic German Catholic clergyman Heinrich Kramer (under his Latinized name Henricus Institor). This classified witchcraft as heresy and thus punishable by burning alive, and recommended torture as the best way to discover the truth. Kramer's hatred for women whom he blamed for tempting him to 'sin', could scarcely be disguised, and on that faith-based misogyny, the witch burnings were based.

Although it was rejected by the Catholic Church at the time, "Malleus Maleficarum" was later revived by insecure royal courts during the renaissance for the same reason witch hysteria has been promoted since - to unite a frightened population behind a 'war' against an internal threat. The same way America's Republicans are waging a 'culture war' against the 'evil of liberalism' today.

Protestant Christianity also did its share of the persecution and murder of (mostly) unmarried or widowed women, of course, as the Pendle witch trials in England, the Salam witch trial in the Puritanical Massachusetts Bay Colony in Colonial America and the witch trials in Presbyterian Scotland attest.

The change in attitude towards the idea of witchcraft between then and now illustrates how societies do not get their morals from religion but religions get their morals, such as they are, from society. No organized church ever spoke out against the witch trials and demanded they cease or preached that they were immoral. But the churches, inspired by the Bible (Exodus 22:18) were very much the instigators of the atrocities, as they still are in some parts of Africa, where children are regularly targeted by preachers and accused of witchcraft in order to spread fear and distrust amongst their followers to keep them dependent on the church for 'protection against evil'.

What brought about the changes was an injection of a large dose of enlightened Humanism into western culture, with its sense of fairness, justice and evidence-based decision-making in place of faith-based superstition and reactionary dogma.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - The 36 Million-Year Geological Cycle That Drives Burst of Biodiversity.

Scientists discover 36-million-year geological cycle that drives biodiversity - The University of Sydney

The thing about believing Earth is only 8,000 years old is that the cognitive dissonance that arises when evidence such as these 36 million-year geological cycles can cause all manner of bizarre, childish behaviour, like pretending the facts aren't there and if you don't look at them, they'll go away, or going on line and lying in the social media in the hope that, if you can fool a few more simpletons into believing your counter-factual superstition, it'll become true because whether facts are true or not doesn't depend on evidence but on how many people believe they are true.

This bizarre behaviour in an adult comes directly from the fact that, as research has shown, creationism, like conspiracism, is caused by a thinking defect where an adult has retained a childhood mode of thinking known as teleological thinking where nothing happens unless there is agency and where everything, even elementary particles are sentient and aware of whatever a directing entity is telling them to do. To a toddler, questions like, "How does DNA know how to mutate?" or "How does natural selection know what to select?" seem like intelligent questions.

And underlying the whole thing is the unshakeable belief that what their mummy and daddy believed must be true, because mummy and daddy are always right.

So, imaging the cognitive dissonance this latest piece of research will cause the truubuleeving creationist. Not only does it concern an Earth that is many orders of magnitude older than they believe Earth and the Universe have existed for, but it explains the periodic bursts of biodiversity caused by change in the fundamental environment - just as the Theory of Evolution predicts, and which, incidentally, could explain the appearance of 'punctuated equilibrium' in the fossil record.

The research, which has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Associate Professor Slah Boulila from Sorbonne Université, CNRS, Institut des Sciences de la Terre Paris, Paris, France, and included Professor Dietmar Müller, from the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney, Australia. The team also included Shanan E Peters of the Department of Geoscience, University of Madison, Madison, WI, USA, Bilal U. Haq of the Département d’astronomie, Université de Genève, Genève, Switzerland.

It is explained in a news release from Sydney University:

Monday 10 July 2023

Unintelligent Design - Why Did Creationism's Designer Give Honey Bees a Better Brain for Decison Making Than it Gave Us?

Bees make decisions better and faster than we do ... for the things that matter to them | The Lighthouse

This is one of those pieces of research which leaves you wondering, if we had been intelligently designed, especially by a designer for whom we were a special creation with everything else created just for us, why it didn’t give us the best available from all the systems it had designed for other species.

For example, why don't we have the immune system of bats, the respiratory system of birds, the eyesight of the peregrine falcon or the cancer resistance of sharks and elephants? And now we learn that the little honeybee, Apis mellifera, with its brain the side of a sesame seed, can make decisions much more quickly that we can. Surly, with our large brains, there was room to incorporate a honeybee's decision-making process.

But these are problem for creationists and those who like to imagine they were the special design of an omniscient god who only wanted the best for them. For evolutionary biologists of course, the answer is that there is no design and no plan and humans are the result of their own evolution with its environmental selectors and compromises that enabled our ancestors to survive over time, and honeybees, bats, birds and sharks are the result of theirs.

Evolution isn't a process that can remember what it did in a different branch of the tree of life and copy that into another branch, as an intelligent designer could, which is why species can be arranged in nested hierarchies.

The research in question, which was focused on machine learning and robot autonomy, rather than exposing the infantile stupidity of creationism, was conducted by a team led by Professor Andrew Barron from Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia and Dr HaDi MaBouDi, Neville Dearden and Professor James Marshall from the University of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, UK.

It is explained in The Lighthouse, the online news magazine of Macquarie University:

Malevolent Designer News - How Ticks are Designed to Infect Deer With a Prion Disease

Ticks may be able to spread chronic wasting disease between deer

White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus
May catch fatal Chronic Wasting Disease from tics

Black-legged or Deer tick,
Ixodes scapularis
The thing about being a troobuleeving creationist is that you have to find a way to avoid crediting your putative intelligent [sic] designer deity with all the nasties that exist in nature, while insisting that only your beloved intelligent [sic] designer designed everything.

You also need to buleeve your putative designer is omniscient because it's one and the same as the allegedly omniscient and omnipotent god of the Bible and Qur'an, so knows exactly what its designs will do when it designs them, which amounts to designing them for that purpose.

The same deity is also allegedly omni-benevolent, which makes parasites and prey-predator arms races difficult to explain, especially since it supposedly boasted to Isaiah about creating evil, so the Bible claims (Isaiah 45:7).

So, imagine the mental gymnastics that a troobuleeving creationist will need to perform to accommodate the knowledge that one of their intelligent [sic] designer's designs, the black-legged or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, might be responsible for transmitting the prion that causes Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer, as this piece of research, led by Heather Inzalaco of the Wisconsin Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, suggests.
The black-legged tick and how it transmits the rickettsia parasite, Anaplasma phagocytophilum to humans - The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature’s God is Not Good pp. 15-17.
First, a little about prions and the diseases they cause:

Sunday 9 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Even 'Artificial' Cells With a Minimal Genome Evolve Naturally

Electron micrographs of a cluster of minimal cells magnified 15,000 times.

Credit: Tom Deerinck and Mark Ellisman
University of California at San Diego.
Artificial cells demonstrate that "life finds a way": 2023 news: News: News & Events: Department of Biology: Indiana University Bloomington

It's turning out to be another terrible week for those few creationists capable, and willing, to read the science.

Here for example is a report on the work of a team led by evolutionary biologist, Professor Jay T. Lennon, of the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University. It shows a number of things that refute basic creationist dogmas:
  • The team use a genetically engineered, stripped down version of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides, a parasitic organism that, in common with many parasites had lost genes in the course of its evolution as a dependent parasite in the gut of goats and similar animals, reducing its genome to just 901 genes. So here we have evolution by loss of information (something creationists claim can't happen because their dogma says loss of information is invariably detrimental) as the starting point of this research.
  • The team then removed all but the essential genes needed to maintain a functional, reproducing cell, removing a further 45 percent of the genes, reducing the genome to just 493 genes, showing the massive amount of redundancy in a cell's genome - something that no intelligent designer would have designed, showing there was no intelligence in the design of M. mycoides. By comparison, a typical cell can contain 20,000 genes!
  • The team then allowed the minimal cell to evolve for 300 days, or 2000 generations (equivalent to 40,000 years of human evolution). They found that even with a minimal genome and so fewer targets for mutation and selection to act on, the minimum cells evolved towards greater fitness, just as the TOE predicts.
  • And of course, as with all biological research, there is the complete dependence on the TOE to understand and explain the results, with no hint of doubt in it's explanatory powers or any suggestion that the creationists superstition with its magic and unproven supernatural entity might offer a better explanation of the facts.
Here then is how the Indiana University news release describes the research:

Creationism in Crisis - The Universe is Larger and More Majestic Than the Ignorant Authors of Genesis Ever Imagined - Don't Blame Them, They Were Only Doing Their Best With What Little Knowledge They Had

Slideshow code developed in collaboration with ChatGPT3 at https://chat.openai.com/

Seven Amazing Accomplishments the James Webb Telescope Achieved in Its First Year | Science | Smithsonian Magazine

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?” Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.” A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - 500 Million Year-Old Fossil Reveals How Tunicates Evolved

Discovery of 500-million-year-old fossil reveals astonishing secrets of tunicate origins | Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
Newly-discovered tunicate from the Middle Cambrian Marjum Formation in Utah, USA

Holotype (UMNH.IP.6079) and only known specimen of Megasiphon thylakos, showing overall morphology including paired siphons and barrel-shaped body
Counterpart fossil of the same specimen
Tunicates are interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they are believed to be ancestral to all the chordates, which includes us and all other vertebrates. However, it's not obvious to look at them how they evolved into the chordates in the first place, until you examine the juvenile form, which is motile, unlike the adult which is sedentary, anchored to a rock by what had been its head.

The juvenile form had the beginning of a notochord, or collections of neurons along its back that evolved into the central nervous system, encased, in the case of the vertebrates in the bony spinal column with a cranium at the head end.

Another interesting thing is that it was not clear what ancestry they had and how they evolved from it. Modern tunicate form two groups: the sedentary (when adult) appendicularias and the free-swimming ascidiaceans or "sea squirts", but it was not clear which form, if either, was the stem tunicate. That mystery came some way to being solved recently with the discovery of a rare fossil from 500 million years ago, in the Middle Cambrian Marjum Formation in Utah, USA, and the study carried out on it by four Harvard biologists led by Dr Karma Nanglu, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.

Just how, is explained in a Harvard news release:

Creationism in Crisis - Now It's Stone Tools Being Used in Kent, Almost 300,000 Years Before Creationists Think Earth Was Created.

Giant handaxe recovered from fluvial deposits in the Medway Valley, Kent, UK

The Maritime Academy handaxe
Giant stone artefacts found on rare Ice Age site in Kent | UCL News - UCL – University College London

The problem with being a devotee of a counter-factual superstition like creationism in order to feel important enough, is that reality keeps trying to intrude and make you wonder if you could be wrong and less important than you feel you should be. So, it's a characteristic of a creationist that they have to have a whole repertoire of mental gymnastics to continue to fool themselves into thinking practically every discovery by science isn't a problem, because, somehow, it isn't real.

One of these tactics is to tell yourself that you must be right because lots of others agree with you, regardless of the fact that even more people disagree with you, so you have to keep recruiting new members of your cult. In the childish belief that facts become truer the more people believe them, you have to plumb ever greater depths of dishonesty to fool gullible people into joining your cult by seeking out scientifically illiterate fools with a child-like thinking ability to misrepresents science to.

A fundamental counter-factual creationist belief is that a magic supernatural deity created everything out of nothing with you in mind, in just 6 days about 6,000 years ago, and all living species were created in one day without ancestors. And of course, it holds you in such high regard as the pinnacle of its creative ability that it did it all for you!

So, one of the problems you need strategies for dismissing is the evidence that Earth is several billion years old, there were tool-making hominins living on it several hundred thousand years ago every species, including modern humans, had ancestors. If you ever concede those facts, your entire counter-factual world disintegrates and leaves you not feeling important enough and feeling stupid for having been fooled into believing it in the first place.

So, to prick the pomposity of creationists again, here is solid evidence that hominins were creating stone tools in what is now Kent, in the UK, 300,000 years ago - some 294,000 years before Earth was supposedly created.

Since anatomically modern humans had not migrated out of Africa at that time and Neanderthals and Denisovans had not yet evolved in Eurasia, the descendants of an earlier migration, such as Homo heidelbergensis, H. antecessor or even H. erectus, must have made these tools.

These tools, some of the largest ever found in Europe, were discovered during a survey by archaeologists from University College London (UCL) of a site at Frindsbury, Kent on which it is planned to develop the Maritime Academy School.

A UCL press release explains the finding:

Friday 7 July 2023

Creationism in Crisis - How Evolution Helped the Avian Dinosaurs Survive the K-Pg Extinction to Become Birds

Fossil of an extinct Enantiornithine, Zhouornis hani
Fossils reveal how ancient birds molted their feathers— - Field Museum

All modern birds have evolved from the few early birds and avian dinosaurs that survived the mass extinction that killed off the Cretaceous megafauna such as dinosaurs at the so-called Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary, also erroneously called the K-T (Cretaceous-Triassic) boundary. Incidentally, K is the initial letter for the German for Cretaceous (Kreide).

It is believed that one thing that helped some of the early birds survive was that they were clothed in feathers, which, like the fur of the early mammals, enabled them to survived several years of ice-age weather that were caused by the dust in the stratosphere the exploding meteorite threw up, dimming the sun and causing an expansion of the polar ice sheets.

But not all birds survived. One group that didn't was the Enantiornithines which went extinct along with the non-avian dinosaurs.

Now two researchers, Yosef Kiat and Jingmai Kathleen O’Connor, from the Negaunee Integrative Research Center in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL, USA believe they have discovered why. The key to the discovery was feathers from this group of birds preserved in amber.

Their research is explained in a press release from the Field Museum of Chicago:

Creationism in Crisis - More Evidence for Evolution in Soft-Bodied Fossils from Wales

Slideshow code developed in collaboration with ChatGPT3 at https://chat.openai.com/

A reconstruction of the ancient inhabitants of the Castle Bank Quarry in Wales.
Credit: Yang Dinghua
Newly discovered soft-bodied fossil site found in Wales | Department of Zoology

Creationists frauds like to make much of the so-called 'Cambrian Explosion' some 542–485 million years ago, when, so they claim the fossil record shows that a whole range of multicellular species with different body plans, suddenly appeared without ancestry, as if by magic.

Of course it was nothing of the sort and lasted some 6-10 million years during which multicellular organisms evolved out of the Ediacaran biota and arms races between predators and prey, made possible by the evolution of mobility (the Ediacarans had probably been sedentary filter-feeders, fixed to rocks and the sea bed) led to the evolution of different forms of mobility, senses such as sight and touch which require a nervous system, defensive armour like shells, spines and scales, burrowing and of course advanced digestive and excretory systems to process the new food supplies.

With little competition for natural niches, it is hardly surprising that diversification was rapid, but the impression of sudden appearance in the fossil record is due to the fact that most of the biota were soft-bodied (bones, teeth and shells not yet having evolved) and so the conditions in which they were preserved was rare. Previously, almost all out knowledge of the Cambrian biota came from the Burgess Shales from Canada, so all we have is a snapshot of the state of play at a moment in time with nothing on which to base a claim of sudden appearance or unnaturally rapid diversification.

But now though, thanks to a chance discovery made during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, we have another collection of soft-bodied fossils from Wales from the Ordovician Period, some 462 million years ago, the geological period immediately following the Cambrian. This collection of fossils shows the state of play some 20 million years after the Cambrian. Not surprisingly, these reveal a clear ancestry in the Cambrian with some of the species bearing a striking resemblance to Cambrian species such as the iconic Opabinia, Yohoia and Wiwaxia.

The discovery is the subject of a paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution by scientists from Cambridge University, UK, which is sadly behind an expensive paywall, together with several astonishing pictures of the fossils and artist's reconstructions, however, the abstract is available here. The work is also described in a brief news release from Cambridge University:

Monday 3 July 2023

Unintelligent Designer News - How Trees Evolved Sub-optimal and Complex Seed Dispersal Mechanisms

A seed survival story: How trees keep ‘friends’ close and ‘enemies’ guessing | Penn State University
Hawes, the fruit of the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, in an English hedgerow in Autumn
Hips (Rosa Canina) and blackberries (Rubus Fruticosus)

© 2023 Rosa Rubicondior

Back in November 2013 (was it really nearly ten years ago?!) I wrote a blog post which anticipated this latest piece of research. It was all about how a symbiotic relationship between birds and flowering plants had evolved in which the plants provide birds with food in exchange for them dispersing their seeds, and how this incidentally led to us evolving colour vision. Now this research by a large international team led by Assistant Professor Tong Qiu, of the College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State University, has looked at the dynamics of this relationship in which trees need to balance the loss of seeds by consumption and their dispersal by those same consumers, and how this balance can change in years of plenty (mast years) and lean years.

The relationship is complex and sub-optimal, exactly as might be expected of an evolved system, but not of an intelligently designed system, which would be optimized and minimally complex to avoid the unnecessary waste of the naturally evolved system. Climate too plays a part in the complex, especially the occurrence of summer drought.

The research is explained in a Penn State News release:
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