F Rosa Rubicondior: September 2023

Saturday 30 September 2023

Extinction News - How Britain is Exterminating its Wildlife - And What is to be Done

Norfolk damsel fly, Now extinct in UK.

One in six UK species threatened with extinction – here's what we could lose (plus how to save them)

One of the great crimes of the Abrahamic religions is the allegedly 'God-given' dominion over the entire planet Earth, its wildlife, its mineral wealth and its land and sea to humankind, to be treated as free and there for the sole benefit of humankind with no other purpose.

In the British Isles this has resulted in a landscape dominated by towns and cities, agriculture and monoclonal forestry, and coastal waters where anything edible is hoovered up and consumed, leaving, in many cases, stocks too small and immature, or too scarce to maintain a stable population, let alone recover.

And our waste in the form of single-use plastics, sewerage, industrial waste such as CO2 and heavy metals, agricultural run-off containing artificial fertilisers, have polluted and destroyed many waterways. Agricultural monocultures have produced virtual deserts, so far as many species are concerned and destroyed soil structure with over-use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers has led, in a few years, to loss of precious topsoil that took hundreds of thousands of years to create and ploughed-up water-meadows have gone, taking their biodiversity with them.

Consequently, our wild bird, wild mammal, insect and wild plant populations have been in steep and accelerating decline for most of the last two centuries.

According to the following report, we are now faced with the extinction of 1,500 of our 10,000 species. The report, "State of Nature" is the result of a collaboration between a large number of British and Irish conservation and wildlife charities. It can be read here:
The State of Nature report referred to in the article may be read here:

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Complexity May be an Accidental Consequence of Evolution, Not its Inevitable Result.

It's reassuring to think humans are evolution's ultimate destination – but research shows we may be an accident

In the creationist parodies of the Theory of Evolution, evolution is presented as a theory that organisms become more and more complex and at the apex of evolution are human beings, the most complex of all species.

Of course, the real TOE says no such thing and claims about aims and purpose, with humans as the intended outcome, are childishly anthropocentric in the extreme. Nor is complexity the inevitable result of evolution since many species, especially parasites, have evolved with a loss of complexity and genetic information. But in general, ignoring parasites, much of evolution does include an increase in complexity, though not always an increase in genetic information. Many salamanders, such as the axolotl, have a much larger genome than humans and even the Christmas tree has a genome 7 times larger than the human genome.

The most complex organism, genetically speaking, is in fact a relatively simple, single-celled amoeba, Amoeba dubia, with a genome 60 times larger than the human genome.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Increased Complexity Does Not Always Mean Increased Diversity

Study shows birds that have evolved greater complexity are less biodiverse
Flamingoes and geese
High skeletal complexity, low species diversity
The creation cult has fooled its members into believing that evolution, as defined by science, always involves increasing complexity. They do this because it's easier then to argue that either greater complexity implies intelligent design because systems become 'irreducibly complex' or because it implies that science is claiming that new structures can arise by evolution which contravenes some half-baked notion about new information contravening the second law of thermodynamics by equating 'information' to energy in a closed system.

This claim is blatantly untrue, of course, as any study of parasites will show, since parasites normally evolve by loss of complexity and genetic information, as I reported recently, and repeatedly point out in my illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good, which, judging by the misleading, lying and hysterical 'reviews' on Amazon is still causing panic in the creationist cult.

If that claim of increasing complexity leading to increased structures were true, we would expect it to always lead to increased biodiversity, which is exactly what we often see, but the truth is not as black and white as creationist frauds need to present it to their simplistic dupes.

As a new study by researchers at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath have shown, in birds, evolution often results in less diversity and greater specialisation, as species adapt to new niche opportunities or environmental change. Their findings are published, open access, in Nature Communications.

As the press release from Bath University explains:

Monday 25 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - People Migrated to Siberia and Europe 40,000 Years Before 'Creation Week'!

Chikoy National Park

Pollen analysis suggests peopling of Siberia and Europe by modern humans occurred during a major Pleistocene warming spell | The University of Kansas

The latest piece of science to refute creationism without even trying, is the discovery that modern humans migrated to Siberia and Europe during a relatively warm period during the Pleistocene, about 40-50,000 years ago.

According to creationist superstition, there was to be another 40,000 years before their putative creator god, who had existed for infinite time and, being all-knowing, always knew what it would do and how it would do it, finally found enough time to create the Universe out of nothing, then did the whole thing in 6 days.

The evidence comes in the form of an analysis of pollen in sediment in Lake Baikal which shows that the region briefly became forested, facilitating human migration from South-east Asia into Siberia and from thence westward into Europe.

The research, by Professor Ted Goebel, professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, together with colleagues, Koji Shichi of the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Kochi, Japan, Masami Izuho of Tokyo Metropolitan University, Hachioji, Japan; and Kenji Kashiwaya of Kanazawa University, Kanazawa, Japan, is published in Science Advances and explained in a University of Kansas press release.

First a little about the Pleistocene to set the context for the research findings:

Saturday 23 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - How African Genetic Diversity Refutes Creationist Origin Myths - It's Those Pesky Facts Again!

San people, Southern Africa
Probing the deep genetic structure of Africa | Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Creationist dupes believe that all human life on Earth was reduced to a small band of 8 related individuals who survived a global genocidal flood and then got off a boat in Turkey and repopulated Earth from there.

Their problem is that this ludicrously implausible tale gives us a testable hypothesis - that an analysis of human genetics should show this bottle neck and the distribution of humans from that geographical point. We would also expect the greatest diversity to be found around the area of modern Turkey.

And of course, this hypothesis is easily and repeatedly falsified, which normally spells the death of any scientific hypothesis.

The scientific explanation for human origins is that modern Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and spread to the rest of the world from there, preceded, probably by archaic hominids such as H. erectus. A hypothesis stemming from this theory is that the greatest genetic diversity is to be found in Africa, because humans have been evolving there for longer than anywhere else. A recent refutation of it was found in an analysis of the genome of ancient people in the Angola/Namib region of Africa, which also validates the 'out of Africa' theory of human origins.

The work was done by a research team from the University of Bern in Switzerland, the University of Porto in Portugal and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. The Maz Planck Institute News release explains it:

Creationism in Crisis - African Hominins Were Building With Wood - Almost Half a Million Years Before Creationists Believe Earth Was Created!

Upper image shows shaping marks on the tapered side and surface of Part 2 as seen on excavation (Fig. 4). Lower image shows loss of definition during storage. The arrows in the Lower image correspond with the area to the left of centre on the Upper image.

Archaeologists discover world's oldest wooden structure - News - University of Liverpool

Yet more embarrassment for creationists as archaeologists announce the discovery of the remains of the world's oldest known wooden structure to date.

It was discovered in Africa, and has been dated to at least 476,000 years old, i.e., about 466,000 years longer that Earth has existed, according to creationist superstition.

This age places the structure in a time before anatomically-modern hominins had evolved, so showing that at least one archaic species of hominin had mastered the skill of shaping wood and making structures out of it, using nothing but stone and bone tools. Some of the timbers show evidence of jointing.

The discovery was made by a team led by Professor Larry Barham, from the University of Liverpool's Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, as part of the University of Liverpool's 'Deep Roots of Humanity' research project.

The news was announced in an open access paper in the journal Nature and in a University of Liverpool press release:

Friday 22 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - A Parasitic Plant That Evolved by LOSS of Genetic Information!

This parasitic plant convinces hosts to grow into its own flesh—it’s also an extreme example of genome shrinkage | UBC Science - Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia

I wonder if creationists ever puzzle over the fact that science never produces any evidence supporting their dogmas and superstitions; instead, science repeatedly finds evidence the flatly contradicts them. It takes a special form of delusion and self-deception to dismiss all that contrary evidence and stick with an evidence-free notion.

Just such a creation-refuting piece of science has just been published in the journal Nature Plants. It concerns the evolution of the parasitic plants, the Balanophora and in particular, the discovery that during their evolution they lost 38% of their genome.

Despite the fact that many parasites have undergone a genome reduction during their evolution to a parasitic life-style, creationist dogma dictates that mutations and loss of genes are always deleterious, or 'devolutionary' (©Michael J Behe) a nonsensical term which tries to relate biology to the biblical myth of 'The Fall' because Behe has now abandoned the futile attempt to prove that evolution isn't a natural process in which no gods or supernatural entities are involved.

Parasitism is also a refutation of the childish notion of intelligent [sic] design, especially by a supposedly omni-benevolent designer, because no intelligent designer would design the inevitable arms race that characterises a parasite-host relationship, unless that designer was both malevolent and extremely stupid.

First, a little about the Balanophora:

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Evidence of Common Origins Found in Microscopic Sea Creatures

Tiny sea creatures reveal the ancient origins of neurons | Centre for Genomic Regulation (CGR)

Sad news today for any creationist trying desperately to cling to the childish notion that humans were created by magic without ancestors just a few thousand years ago and so are a special form of life, not related to any other.

It comes in the form of an open access paper in the online journal Cell announcing that researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Barcelona, Spain have found evidence of the ancient origins of neurons in microscopic sea creatures, the placozoans, the size of a grain of sand.

These simple, multicellular creatures are in many ways transitional between single-celled and multicellular organisms.

Monday 18 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - How The Malevolent Designer Kills Mother & Child During Pregnancy

Western News - In major breakthrough, Western, Brown researchers close in on preeclampsia cure

In a major breakthrough, scientists have identified the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause of mortality during pregnancy.

And once again a scientific breakthrough exposes the utter nonsense that is intelligent [sic] design creationism.

Preeclampsia affects up to 8% of women during pregnancy. If left untreated it can lead to eclampsia (an epileptiform fit) in the later stages of pregnancy, which can result in the death of both mother and baby.

Sunday 17 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - The Universe is Much Grander and More Magnificant Than Any Religion's Prophets Ever Told Us.

Maisie’s Galaxy.
Not as old as previously thought

NASA (representative image)
Collaboration with global team confirms, disproves distant galaxies | RIT

Cosmologists are making discoveries about the age and nature of celestial bodies almost daily and, as with all science, as the information improves, theories and knowledge are either being abandoned or confirmed, so our understanding of reality improves - which is the entire point of scientific research.

This is in marked contrast with religions, where 'research' consists of trying to find new ways to stick to ancient belief and all apologetics presuppose the answer.

For instance, compare theology to a 'philosophy' based on the assumption that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden who created everything and who demand adoration and worship as the price for not doing something unspeakably unpleasant to you when you die (assuming you'd know about it and could experience it, even though you're dead and won't have a body with a sensory system and functioning brain to experience it with)!

Sound extremely childish and risible?

Yes, it does, doesn't it! And yet theologians command respect and power in society, far greater than should be given to someone because they have an imaginary friend and spends their time trying to make excuses for not having any definitive evidence for their beliefs.

What is giving cosmology this power is the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) which is sending back hugely improved data of a much higher quality and reliability of anything cosmologists have had to work with before.

For example, in a paper published in Nature a few days ago, by a team of scientists including researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, USA, cosmologists showed that there are very many more ancient galaxies whose red shift dates them to the very early universe, but that a candidate for the oldest such galaxy is in fact much younger than previously thought. This is because the JWST is able to measure the red shift with far greater accuracy than was previously possible.

Saturday 16 September 2023

Creationism in Crists - How Prey Perception Directs Evolution

Lapwing, green plover or peewit, Vanellus vanellus
Habitat geometry rather than visual acuity limits the visibility of a ground‐nesting bird's clutch to terrestrial predators - Hancock - 2023 - Ecology and Evolution - Wiley Online Library

If you're going to perpetuate your genes through time, you need to arrange things so the next generation doesn't get eaten, because that ends your gene line. To do that, you need to ensure you arrange things so any potential predator has difficulty finding the next generation, at least before they've managed to breed.

I appreciate these concepts are difficult for creationists to grasp, but a paper out today shows the importance of catering for the perception of potential prey on your offspring, if you want then to survive and breed.

It concerns the siting of lapwing nests and eggs.

The northern lapwing, Vanellus vanellus, green plover or peewit (from their call), is a ground-nesting bird, which, until about 40 years ago was common in my part of Oxfordshire, UK. They formed vast flocks in the Autumn that would put on impressive displays as twilight approached, as they twisted and turned in flight (hence their name, lapwing) giving the flock a twinkling appearance as they exposed their white underwings, then twisted to hide them, confusing any potential predator such as peregrine falcons. Since then, they have been in rapid decline, probably due to habitat destruction and change in agricultural land management, and these vast flocks are no more.

Friday 15 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Now It's an 800,000 Year History of the Sahara Desert With Periods of Greening

Changes of vegetation between humid and arid phases in North Africa. Vegetation zones are based on the minimum precipitation requirements of each vegetation type.

Image: Jani Närhi / University of Helsinki
September: Sahara Desert greening | News and features | University of Bristol

Scientists led by Dr Edward Armstrong, a climate scientist with Bristol University, UK, have successfully modelled the climate history of North Africa and shown that the Sahara Desert had periods of greening, with rivers, lakes and savannah-like grasslands.

These periods of greening explain the evidence of water-dependent species such as hippos. Their research is published open access in the journal Nature Communications.
This evidence adds support to the 'Sahara Pump' hypothesis:

Creationism in Crisis - How Flowering Plants Survived the Mass Extinction That Killed the Dinosaurs

Dog rose, Rosa canina.
Descendant of a K-Pg mass extinction survivor.
Nature’s great survivors: Flowering plants survived the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs

Despite creationist claims that their putative creator god created Earth and set the parameters of the universe to make it perfect for human life, Earth is not a very safe place to live. Most of it is actually hostile to human life, being either too cold, too hot, under water or too high for there to be enough partial pressure of oxygen to survive for long.

It is also subject to regular, non-discriminatory natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, droughts, or devastating floods. In the last few days, tens of thousands of people have dies in Morocco and Libya because of natural disasters.

And Earth is occasionally hit by an asteroid that changes the climate so radically that a mass extinction occurs, like the one, 66 million years ago, that exterminated all the dinosaurs except for a few feathered varieties that went on to become birds - the K-T extinction, more correctly known as the K-Pg extinction or boundary. (K is the initial letter of the German word for Cretaceous, and Pg is for Paleogene, which used to be called the Triassic)

Thursday 14 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Evidence of the Earliest Deep-Sea Vertebrates Found - Those Gaps in the Record Just Keep on Closing!

Fossilized sea-floor traces resembling those made by modern bottom-feeding fish suggest that fish colonized the deep sea as early as 130 million years ago—80 million years earlier than the earliest known fossilized deep-sea fish.
The earliest deep-sea vertebrates revealed by unusual fossils

The refutation of several key creationist claims continues with news that a team of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and British scientists, led by palaeontologist Andrea Baucon of Genoa University, Italy, have discovered strong evidence of the existence of fish, 130 million years ago, pushing back the earliest known vertebrate presence in the abyssal plain by 20 million years.

Just to remind creationists, 130 million years is 130,000 times longer than they believe Earth has existed. Although all dating methods return a range of dates with a predictable variance, none of them has a lower limit anywhere approaching that magnitude.

The evidence, found in the Apennine mountains that run down the centre of Italy consists of the pits and tail-fin drag marks left in the silt in deep-ocean floor, of which the Apennines are now composed.

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - No-One Mourns For The Old Dead Gods of Arabia - Part 2

Mirrored building at the ancient al Ula Maraya archaeological site, Saudi Arabia

7,000-year-old animal bones, human remains found in enigmatic stone structure in Arabia | Live Science

Archaeologists are uncovering evidence of religious rituals in Norther Arabia, 3000 years before creationists believe Earth and humans were created!

Creationists love to point to the fact that all cultures, ancient and modern, tend to have religion as a central element to the culture, as though that fact somehow proves the locally popular god is real.

Of course, it also points to the fact that we have evolved to 'fail safe' and assume agency where there is none, to naively believe what our parents believe, to accept simplistic answers to complex questions and find it impossible to imagine total oblivion at death.

But, ask a creationists to explain why we should accept the locally popular god is the only real one and all the ancient gods are false, and they will probably cite much of that list as reasons why they had false beliefs, stopping short of going just one god (or one pantheon) further and applying that logic to their own god(s), citing all sorts of nebulous reasons why they believe in their particular god(s).

The team found animal horns from a variety of animals, including cattle and caprines, or animals in the goat family, at the site.

Image credit: Wael Abu-Azizeh et al. 2022/RCU
So, it must be embarrassing to realise that those nebulous reasons were very probably cited by believers in those ancient gods as 'proof' that they existed.

Did the sun not rise in the morning because they had performed the right rituals? Did the crops not fail when they had failed to chant the right prayers in exactly the right way at the right time, or had broken the rules in some other way?

Did the gods not reward them by helping them prevail in battle or punish them for an assumed transgression when they lost a battle?

And could they too not 'look at the trees' and marvel at the wonders their gods had created? And did their priests not also have the power of prophesy and claim they heard the god(s) speaking to them?

One thing we can be sure about is that belief in their god(s) was a strong motivation for rituals associated with life, death and probably animal husbandry, as it is for believers today. The evidence for that is in the artifacts they left behind as discovered by archaeology, such as that currently going on at al Ula in the Ashar Valley in Northern Arabia, where researchers have now discovered evidence of ritual sacrifice and burials in the remains of stone structures known as mustatils, which are believed to have been used for religious purposes.

To add to the embarrassment for creationists, these structures have been dated to about 7,000 years ago, i.e., some 3,000 years before Earth and humans were created!

Regular readers may recall how the archaeological site in Northern Arabia, close to the Fertile Crescent was the subject of a blog post here last March. Now the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCA), set up to investigate the site, has produced an update. It concerns the remain, both animal and human, found in some of the graves associated with the buildings.

As the RCA news release reports:

Malevolent Designer News - How A Deadly Superbug Is 'Designed' To Make Us Sick

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria being engulfed by an immune cell known as a neutrophil.

Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health

Researchers discover genes behind antibiotic resistance in deadly superbug infections | Doherty Website

Scientists based at the Docherty Institute, Melbourne University, Victoria, Australia have discovered just how devious any designer of the deadly super bug, Staphylococcus aureus, also known as Golden staph, would need to have been to come up with such a clever way to make us sick and die.

Curiously, for people who purport to worship the putative designer of all living things, creationists would have us believe that the designer is just such a mendacious malevolence, rather than have us believe that a natural process such as evolution by natural selection is responsible for parasites and the way they evade our immune systems - also, so creationists claim, designed by the same designer, making it look like a bumbling incompetent amnesiac than a supremely intelligent deity.

First, a brief background on S. aureus and MRSA:

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Signs of Life on an Exoplanet 120 Million Lightyears Away.

Webb Discovers Methane, Carbon Dioxide in Atmosphere of K2-18 b | NASA

Abiogenesis, like the conditions that produced the Big Bang, is one of creationism's favourite gaps in which they try to fit their ever-shrinking little god and play their false dichotomy fallacy - if science can't explain it, "God did it!".

That ploy depends for its success of a couple of things, not the least of which are scientific illiteracy and cultural chauvinism of their target dupes. Creationists, while telling their targets that science can't explain how abiogenesis occurred, then pretend they know anyway and have calculated the probability of it. Of course, without knowing the precise conditions and chain of events, it is impossible to do that calculation, but nevertheless, creationist frauds will confidently proclaim it to be infinitesimally small.

However, if the precise mechanism were known, and the conditions could be replicated (temperature, pressure, catalysts, chemicals and time) the mechanism would not be impossible, it would be inevitable (i.e., certainty) since it is a basic principle of chemistry that if the conditions are right, a reaction will occur. No ifs or buts, it will occur since chemical reactions are not governed by laws of probability but by laws of physics. No chemist has ever needed to set up ten thousand test tubes to ensure at least one will produce the expected result. He/she would get ten thousand identical results.

But now, as scientists improve their ability to detect and examine the atmosphere of distant exoplanets orbiting other suns in the galaxy, so they are improving their ability to detect the inevitable signs of life on those planets and many people think it is only a matter of time before we have strong evidence of life elsewhere in the universe.

Monday 11 September 2023

Conspiracy Loon News - Why Some People Fall For Wackadoodle Conspiracy Theories

They fall more easily for conspiracy theories - Linköping University

In the last 20 years of so, two things have featured in western culture, especially so in the United States, and recent research has shown how these are linked.
  1. Democratization of opinion: Conflation of the belief that everyone is entitled to their opinion on every subject under the sun, as guaranteed to Americans by their constitution, and the belief that this means every opinion should carry equal weight in a debate, regardless of the evidence (or lack of it) on which it is based, or the level of expertise in the subject of the person voicing that opinion.

    The attractiveness of this belief to the intellectually lazy and to those who feel alienated by the political and economic forces that shape their lives, is that they can tell themselves that they are at least the equal of the experts, and very probably their better.

    For example, I was recently castigated in the social media when I disagreed with the claim that "everyone needs Jesus because without Him life is meaningless". I was informed that "This is America (it was actually Facebook!) where we are entitled to our opinions!", as though a constitutional right in one country mandates the rest of the world to respect dogma and regard it as a statement of irrefutable truth, with the implication that no-one has a right to disagree. The constitution guarantees my right to my opinion (but not your right to yours).

    Similarly false claims are made by creationists daily in social media, accompanied by indignation when challenged. Creationists who couldn't define the terms 'evolution' or 'kind' and who assiduously maintain their scientific ignorance, will confidently inform the world that the millions of highly qualified working biomedical scientists who have no difficulty with the science, have it all wrong, and should listen to the creationist who knows best, having completed a 15 minute Google University degree in creationism. And they're all part of a gigantic Satanic conspiracy anyway.

Pollution News - How Road Vehicle Tyres Are Polluting Our Waterways

Bit by bit microplastics from tyres are polluting our waterways – Griffith News

Back in the late 1960's, when I was a student at Oxford Polytechnic (Now Oxford Brookes University) studying for an HNC in Applied Biology, one of the modules (on which apparently the National Council for Academic Awards (NCAA) insisted) was 'General Studies', i.e., anything which broadened our education away from the narrowness of a specialised subject, such as Applied Biology.

Part of that was an assignment to investigate an aspect of man-made environmental pollution, Rachal Carson's 'Silent Spring' being a recent publication and a nascent green movement beginning to emerge. The subject I decided on was to investigate what happened to the millions of tons of vulcanized rubber from road vehicle tyres that needed to be replaced annually because tyres wore away on the roads. It stood to reason that that rubber either entered the atmospheres as dust, or, more likely, got washed off the roads and into road-side ditches and eventually into the waterways and from there to the sea.

The question was, what effect did this fine rubber dust have on the environment and how much of it ended up in the food chain?

I was shocked to discover, after several days searching the literature available to me in the college library (if only we had had the Internet in those days!) that there was not a scrap of scientific data on the subject. There were no published papers on the question whatsoever. Either no-one had thought it worth investigating, no-one had identified the problem, or no-one was prepared to fund the research. And yet millions of tons of vulcanized rubber were being turned into tyres and from then into rubber dust on our roads, and it was all going somewhere, but no-one knew where!

In desperation, and with a project to complete, I abandoned my research and instead looked at the environmental effects of DDT, then extensively used as an insecticide, and about which some alarming news was emerging - extermination of brown pelicans in American lakes treated with DDT to kill mosquitoes, because DDT is adsorbed onto particulate matter which is ingested by the small organisms eaten by fish and so concentrated up the food chain, at the apex of which were brown pelicans; loss of peregrine falcons because DDT reduced egg shell thickness, leading to a loss of broods, again the result of DDT being concentrated up the food chain and killing the apex predators.

So, news that, some 54 years later, researchers at Griffin University, Australia, have published a paper in Environmental Science & Technology, dealing with a closely related problem - the problem of microplastics and tire [sic] wear products in urban stormwater.

Sadly, the research paper is behind a paywall, but a Griffin University news release explains the research and its significance:

Saturday 9 September 2023

Malevolent Designer News - Is Creationism's Divine Malevolence Planning the Next Pandemic?

News - Bird flu is undergoing changes that could increase the risk of widespread human transmission - University of Nottingham

On top of a couple of recent papers showing creationist dogma to be false and that, if there were such a thing as an intelligent designer of living things, that designer can only be regarded as a malevolent monster, we have another paper which, if we believe creationist dogma, again shows their divine creator to be an obsessive, sadistic psychopath.

It is the news that scientists at Nottingham University, UK., and China have discovered how the variant of the H3N8 avian flu virus which is endemic in Chinese poultry farms, is mutating in a way which could make it more likely to cross the species barrier into humans and become the next pandemic.
What is the H3N8 Avian influenza virus and what threat does it pose to humanity?

H3N8 Avian influenza, also known as avian flu or bird flu, is a subtype of the influenza A virus that primarily affects birds, especially waterfowl and shorebirds. It is one of several subtypes of avian influenza viruses, each identified by specific combinations of surface proteins: hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). In the case of H3N8, it refers to the third type of hemagglutinin (H3) and the eighth type of neuraminidase (N8) found on the virus's surface.

While H3N8 avian influenza primarily affects birds, it has the potential to pose a threat to humans under certain circumstances. Here are some key points to consider regarding its potential threat to humanity:
  1. Zoonotic Transmission: Avian influenza viruses, including H3N8, are zoonotic, which means they can infect humans when they come into close contact with infected birds or contaminated environments. Most human cases of avian influenza have resulted from direct or indirect exposure to infected poultry.
  2. Limited Human Infections: H3N8 avian influenza has not been as widely reported in human infections as some other avian influenza subtypes, such as H5N1 and H7N9. However, there have been occasional cases of H3N8 avian influenza infection in humans, often associated with direct contact with infected birds.
  3. Potential for Adaptation: Avian influenza viruses have the ability to mutate and potentially adapt to human hosts. If a strain of H3N8 were to acquire the ability for efficient human-to-human transmission, it could lead to a more widespread outbreak or even a pandemic. This is a significant concern with avian influenza viruses in general.
  4. Influenza Pandemic Preparedness: Due to the risk of avian influenza strains causing pandemics, public health organizations and governments worldwide monitor and study these viruses closely. Preparedness plans and strategies are in place to respond quickly to potential outbreaks, including the development of vaccines and antiviral medications.
  5. Importance of Surveillance: Surveillance of avian influenza in both bird populations and humans is crucial to detect any changes in the virus's behavior or its potential to infect humans more easily. Timely identification and containment of outbreaks are essential to minimize the risk to public health.
In summary, H3N8 avian influenza is primarily a bird virus, but it can infect humans in rare cases. The main threat it poses to humanity lies in its potential to evolve and adapt to human-to-human transmission, potentially leading to a wider outbreak or pandemic. Vigilant surveillance, early detection, and preparedness are key components in mitigating this threat and preventing a significant public health crisis.

As explained in a Nottingham University news release, the evidence comes from an isolate of the H3N8 avian influenza virus (AIV) recovered from a human patient:

Friday 8 September 2023

Malevolent Designer News - How Creationism's Favourite 'Designer' Made Alzheimers More Likely

IU researchers identify new gene mutation that alters Alzheimer’s disease risk

The terrible week for creationism continues unabated: Following yesterday’s news of more evidence of common descent of the great apes, including humans, we have news that creationism's putative designer has apparently given some people a gene variant that increases their risk of developing Alzheimer’s dementia in later life, while some others get a variant the reduces that risk.

A problem of creationists' own making is the insistence that mutations don't happen by chance but need the deliberate intervention of their favourite putative designer, without whom nothing happens.

This means they need to ignore the existence of parasites, which, if they were designed deliberately, can only be regarded as evidence that whatever designed them had malevolent intent, and intended to increase the suffering in the world, since that is what they do.

It also means they need to ignore the evidence that a lot of diseases are caused by mutations, especially the degenerative diseases in older people, which don't manifest until after they have produced their offspring, and so passed on their genetics, including any mutations.

This is where we come to the news that a large team of researchers, led by scientists from Indiana University School of Medicine, USA, have identified a mutation in a critical gene for the brain's immune system, so greatly increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Creationism in Crisis - How Human Shoulders and Elbows Show Our Common Ancestry With Chimpanzees

Our Shoulders and Elbows Began as Brakes for Climbing Apes | Dartmouth

Every week is a bad week for creationists but this one is shaping up to be especially bad, with a clutch of peer reviewed papers which either show creationist is a counter-factual superstition, or that any putative designer can only be regarded as a malevolent entity, forever plotting new ways to make its creation suffer with more effective parasite.

The first of these is a paper by Dartmouth researchers, published in The Royal Society Open Science, which shows that the human shoulder and elbow joints probably evolved in an arboreal ape ancestor on the evidence that chimpanzees have the same adaptations.

The adaptations evolved to act as brakes as the apes lowered themselves from trees, reducing their chance of falling or injuring these joints because of their relatively large bodies.

The research, and its significance for understanding human evolution, is explained in a Dartmouth news release:

Thursday 7 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Another Terrible Day for the Creationism Cult as Scientists Find a Predicted Massive Fossil-Like Record of the Big Bang

Vast bubble of galaxies discovered, given Hawaiian name | University of Hawaiʻi System News
Figure 13. Interactive 3D visualization of the cosmography of Ho'oleilana. All objects in the north galactic hemisphere of the Cosmicflows-4 collection of galaxy groups are seen as points in gray while those lying within the shell of Ho'oleilana, of radius 11,492 km s−1 and width ±2w where w = 837 km s−1, are highlighted in red. Major components in proximity to the shell are highlighted and identified by name. The Boötes supercluster lies near the center of Ho'oleilana. Our home location is at the origin of the red, green, and blue axes. These axes have lengths 10,000 km s−1 and are directed toward positive SGX, SGY, and SGZ, respectively. An interactive version of this figure is available on Sketchfab at https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/hooleilana-a871418f1a3b4afc89f5cda9f3a70c53.

The thing about science is that it is supported by evidence and one of the best pieces of evidence is when something predicted by a theory turns out to be true.

And one of the things predicted by the Big Bang is massive objects produced by 3D ripples found in the material of the early universe, known as Baryon Acoustic Oscillations (BAO).

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Evolution By Whole Genome Duplication in Venomous Gastropods

Red-mouthed Rock Shell, Stramonita haemastoma

Whole Genome Duplication and Gene Evolution in the Hyperdiverse Venomous Gastropods | Molecular Biology and Evolution | Oxford Academic

Creationist dupes will confidently tell you that genetic information can only be created with the intervention of a magic, supernatural creator because, so they claim, information theory says, no new information can arise because it's somehow analogous to the creation of energy which the First Law of Thermodynamics says can't be created.

Press them to explain why they think information is analogous to energy and they'll break off the conversation and run, usually with departing abuse or smug condescension.

They will also confidently tell you that all mutations are deleterious, so evolution is either impossible, or 'devolutionary' [sic] (© Michael J Behe).

So, show them examples of increase in genetic information being part of the explanation for evolution in some taxons because the real world has no difficulty duplicating all or part of a genome then letting natural selection select for advantageous mutations in the duplicated genes, and they'll go into denial mode or pretend to be too stupid to understand.

These examples abound in nature and most species will have remnants of gene duplication in their genome. An example of the role it played in the evolution of a highly diverse class of mollusks, the marine gastropods, many of which are venomous.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Covidiot News - How ChatGPT is Dispelling Anti-Vaxx Disinformation

ChatGPT is Debunking Myths on Social Media Around Vaccine Safety, Say Experts - Taylor & Francis Newsroom

According to a very recent report in the peer-reviewed journal, Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, the artificial intelligence chat bot, ChatGPT, is helping to dispel some of the myths surrounding vaccines, by providing the factual information that debunks the myths.

Having had all our COVID-19 vaccinations, including any seasonal boosters, and having just recovered from a mild, but unpleasant bout of it which my partner and I probably caught in France or during the flight back, I thought I would put this to the test with a little research of my own:

Creationism in Crisis - An Acute Bottleneck in Early Hominin Ancestral History - Almost a Million Years Ago

Early Ancestral Bottleneck Could’ve Spelled the End for Modern Humans----Shanghai Institute of Nutrition and Health, Chinese Academy of Sciences
African savannah in the Middle Pleistocene (Artist's Impression)

Credit: Peter Schouten

Creationists claim, without any understanding of the biological absurdity of the claim, that the human population on Earth went through a genetic bottleneck of 8 related individuals about 4,000 years ago following a genocidal flood inflicted on Earth by an angry god, annoyed that his design wasn't working as intended.

The one thing right about that claim is the bottleneck, although it wasn't so narrow that it would have almost guaranteed extinction within a few generations because of accumulated deleterious genes and a lack of genetic diversity, it was about 1,280 individuals and it happened about 900,000 years before creationists believe the universe was created, before anatomically-modern humans had evolved.

This is the findings of Chinese researchers led by Haipeng Li, of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) Key Laboratory of Computational Biology, Shanghai Institute of Nutrition and Health, and Yi-Hsuan Pan of the Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics of Ministry of Education, School of Life Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China.

First, a little about evolutionary bottlenecks and the consequences for humanity had the mythical genocidal flood actually occurred as creationists believe:

Creationism in Crisis - The James Webb Space Telescope Reveals an Ancient Universe

Webb Reveals New Structures Within Iconic Supernova | NASA

The age of the universe is guaranteed to get creationists tying themselves in knots while performing the most contorted mental gymnastics ad foaming at the mouth. Their problem is that they have been conditioned to dismiss scientific dating by chanting mindlessly about all radiometric dating methods being wrong because radioactive decay rates changed over time and dating the same sample by different methods gives different results.

The latter point, to a creationist, is the clincher because, to a simplistic, black vs white, thinker any discrepancy means the entire process is wrong and therefore its rational to argue that they can make 8,000 years look like several billion years.

But their problem is, dating the age of celestial objects such as the Ring Nebula does not rely on radiometric dating. Astronomers use a variety of methods to calculate the distance of the object from Earth, or in this case the JWST:

Sunday 3 September 2023

Unintelligent Design - The Ludicrous Complexity, High Risk and Prolific Waste in Bamboo Reproduction

Sagao Bamboo Forest
Antti T Nissinen
Flowering for naught: 120 years with nothing to show | Hiroshima University

If you want an example of something that no even half competent, intelligent designer would come up with, but exactly the sort of thing a mindless, undirected, utilitarian process such as evolution by natural selection, can produce, you need look no further than bamboo.

Bamboo is monocarpic, i.e., like many annual and biennial plants it flowers once, then dies. However, unlike most monocarpic plants that take just one of two, maybe a few years, to flower, bamboo of the variety hedonis takes 120 years.

To make matters worse, because they all germinated at the same time after the last flowering, all the bamboo plants in the local area flower and die at the same time, devastating an ecosystem that had been forming for 120 years, as food crop, and even providing raw materials for local crafts. And then it's gone, reverting to grassland for the three or more years it takes for the new generation to reestablish itself.

As though that weren't bad enough, researchers at Hiroshima University have now shown that there is a very low success rate in germinating seeds as most of them are sterile and fail to germinate.

The last time this variety of bamboo flowered was in 1908, so, in a few years, there is a very real risk that var. hedonis could become extinct.

The problem is explained in a Hiroshima University News release:

Friday 1 September 2023

Creationism in Crisis - A 4.5 Billion-Year-Old Meteorite Helping to Understand How The Solar System Formed

Erg Chech 002 (EC 002) Meteorite

Sahara space rock 4.5 billion years old upends assumptions about the early Solar System

According to creationists, a magic supernatural god magicked a flat Earth into existence from nothing and put a dome over it to keep the water about the sky out. It then hung a sun and a moon from the dome and the sun has been orbiting Earth ever since. In its Bronze Age account of this creation, the magic god 'forgot' to say where the sun went at night, and creationists have puzzled over that problem for centuries, never reaching a conclusion.

Nowadays, 25% of Americans still believe Earth is the centre of the universe and the sun orbits it, although most of them now accept that Earth is no longer flat or has a dome over it, whilst believing the Bible, which says otherwise, is the inerrant word of the god who created everything from nothing.

Science, on the other hand, is providing evidence that the universe is some 14 billion years and the solar system, with the sun at the centre and Earth orbiting it, formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

One of the pieces of evidence is a meteorite, recovered from a sand dune in the Saharah Desert which has been dated to 4.5 billion years old, using the aluminium-26 – magnesium-26 (26Al-26Mg) decay system combined with the Uranium/Lead system.

First, a little AI information from ChatGPT3.5 about the dating methods used, their accuracy and limitations. Creationists especially might want to skip this since it refutes many of their claims about radiometric dating in general, and shows their responses to be parrot squawks, regurgitated on cue without the slightest understanding of the subject:
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