F Rosa Rubicondior: October 2023

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Unintelligent Design - How Viruses Are Needed To Promote Mammalian Cell Growth

Fig 1. Uptake of T4 phage by mammalian cells does not trigger a pro-inflammatory immune response [modified].

(A) A549 cells and (B) MDCK-I cells incubated with T4 phages for 2 hours. Images were taken with a confocal microscope; the plasma membrane is shown in magenta, T4 phage DNA in green, and the cell nucleus in blue.

Mammalian cells internalize bacteriophages and use them as a resource to enhance cellular growth and survival | PLOS Biology

Imagine you're a designer charged with designing a mammalian cell so it grows and multiplies efficiently. You've already designed DNA and genes to make the right proteins to stimulate cell growth, but it isn't working as well as it should.

What do you do?

An intelligent designer, especially an omnipotent, omniscient designer, wouldn't have designed it sub-optimally in the first place, but if it had, it would simply redesign it and make sure all the right genes were provided because, being omnipotent, nothing would be impossible.

But whatever designed the mammalian cell didn't do the intelligent thing.

Instead it opted for an unnecessarily complex solution - it used the bacteriophage viruses that it had designed to infect and kill the bacteria it had designed earlier, to infect mammalian cells and give them the missing genes to correct its mistake. It then modified the process it had designed to protect the cells from infection, so these viruses don't trigger an immune response and get destroyed.

No going for the simple solution like a normal intelligent designer would, when a much more complex solution is available, eh?

This is what you need to believe to be an intelligent [sic] design creationist, to explain the findings of a group of researchers led by Jeremy J. Barr of the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Clayton, Australia. They have discovered that phage viruses, which proliferate in our gut where they normally parasitise and kill bacteria, are taken in by mammalian cells where they accumulate and activate metabolic pathways that promote cell metabolism and growth and prolong the cell cycle.

The findings of the team are published open access in PLOS Biology:

Monday 30 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Some of Our Mental Heath Problems Could Be the Result of Denisovan Genes

Geographic distribution of the substitution identified in the SLC30A9 gene in current human populations and possible scenarios of Denisovan introgression. Ancestral SLC30A9 corresponds to the version of the gene prior to interbreeding between Denisovans and sapiens. SLC30A9 variant, refers to the version shared with Denisovans.

Credit: Jorge Garcia and Elena Bosch.
Licensed under Creative Commons 4.0. Created with mapchart
Denisovan genetic inheritance may have left a mark on our mental health - Focus UPF (UPF)

A team of researchers led by the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint center of the Superior Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF) , and by the Department of Medicine and Life Sciences (MELIS) of the UPF, has identified one of the most widespread traces of the genetic inheritance of the extinct Denisovans in modern humans.

These genes probably played an important role in helping early Homo sapiens adapt quickly to a cold climate, but, because they are involved in the regulation of zinc and play a part in cellular metabolism could also be a contributory factor in predisposition to mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.

It's tempting to assume that they may also have contributed to a growth in religion since many 'prophets' seem to have had schizophrenic disorders in which they heard voices. However, that's not the main worry for creationists in this research. What they need to cope with is the fact that all this happened in that vast expanse of time before 'Creation week' when creationists believe the universe was magicked up from nothing, just 10,000 years ago.

There is also the matter of Homo sapiens not having a single founding couple who were created without ancestors, and don't even come from a single species, but are a hybrid between several related species.

So, just who were these Denisovans?

Creationism in Crisis - New Thinking on How a Hunting Strategy Evolved in Barbastelle Bats - But no Comfort For Creationists.

Western barbastelle bat, Barbastella barbastellus
Evolutionary chance made this bat a specialist hunter - SDU

In a classic example of how scientists never take what they think they know as proven beyond question, a group of scientists led by associate professor Lasse Jakobsen of the Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark have reassessed how the Western barbastelle bat, Barbastella barbastellus, evolved its hunting strategy, and have concluded that the way we thought it evolved is probably wrong.

But it's no comfort to creationists because there is no suggestion that it may have been acquired by anything other than a god-free natural process or that the scientists are having any doubts about the Theory of Evolution. Indeed, the general principle of arms races is not in doubt, only whether it applies in the case of the barbastelle's hunting strategy. To add to creationist discomfort, evolutionary arms races were the subject of an early research paper by a certain Richard Dawkins together with John Richard Krebs and are now accepted as a fundamental driver of evolution. They are, of course, utterly incompatible with the notion of intelligent [sic] design.

Briefly, it was previously thought that the 'quiet' echolocation used by barbastelles to locate their insect prey was the result of an evolutionary arms race between bats and insects in which insects had evolved the ability to detect bats by their echolocation sounds and take evasive action. Bats then adjusted their sounds by either changing their frequencies or, in the case of barbastelles, turning down the volume.

Creationism in Crisis - How Panic Is Causing Creationist Frauds To Expose Their Dishonesty On Amazon

Why would someone lie to you about the contents of a book?

Like those who lie to you about science, their problem is not that they think it is wrong; their problem is that they think it is right, but they don't want you to think otherwise because they don't want you to be informed. They have an agenda that requires you to remain ignorant and believing falsehoods.

These are frauds who understand how knowledge empowers and sets you free, so they need you to remain captive and weak probably because their income and power depends on it.

This was never better illustrated than by the barrage of lies and disinformation with which the creation industry is trying to stop you reading my books. It is so important to them that you don't read these books that expose them as frauds and conmen that they are willing to sacrifice their personal integrity to try to fool you into not reading them. The fact that they are willing to bear false witness to you for their own self-interest, should tell you that their pretense of piety is part of their agenda, since a devout Christian would believe that bearing false witness is a sin. These are frauds using religion as an excuse for their behaviour.

I suppose I should be flattered in a way, that they are so afraid you'll read these books because of the irrefutable arguments they present and the examples I used that they need to go to these lengths to retain their control of their cult members and recruit more ignorant dupes into it.

Two of my books that are causing consternation in creationist cult circles are, The Unintelligent Designer: Refuting the Intelligent Design Hoax, and The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good.

An indication of this consternation is the number of misleading and downright dishonest 'reviews' that Amazon are allowing to remain on these books.

The following is an all-too-typical examples, written by someone who calls him or herself 'The Professor' and who purports to be a University professor who has written numerous books, although he/she neglects to say what chair he/she holds at what university or give the tile of any of these 'numerous books'. We just have to take their word for it.

However, the veracity of their word can best be judged by the content of the 'review' of The Malevolent Designer. For some reason, the title of the book in their 'review' is followed by Unintelligent Design in parenthesis, so it's not even clear which book is being 'reviewed' here.

The 'review' read:

Sunday 29 October 2023

Superstition News - The USA is Not The Only Country Where a Large Number of People Believe in Magic and Would Welcome a Theocracy

Religion in South and Southeast Asia: Key facts | Pew Research Center

Although post-war Europe has seen major changes in religious affiliation and beliefs with Atheism and acceptance of the scientific view of human origins now the largest demographic by far in many countries, including the UK, the USA continues to be an outlier amongst Western industrial democracies in this regard, with a large number of people believing in magic and the special creation of humans as is, on an Earth that is just a few thousand years old.

Another feature of Western European post-war culture is the presumption that religious freedom comes not from a close association between church and state but by strict secularism, so that many countries that were formerly solidly Catholic or Protestant are increasingly secular. This contrast markedly with American evangelicals, who, whilst not being in the majority in what is also becoming an increasingly secular society, would like nothing more than a theocracy with Christianity even being required to qualify as a 'proper American' and the church being involved in education, the judiciary, the legislature and even the executive, in a Taliban-style theocracy.

As this Pew Research survey shows, American Evangelicals closely resemble South and Southeast Asian Buddhists and Muslims in this respect. The survey is the subject of a report by Jonathan Evans, Kelsey Jo Starr, Manolo Corichi and William Miner and a summary by Jonathan Evans.

It shows that in "three Buddhist-majority countries (Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand) and two Muslim-majority countries (Malaysia and Indonesia), as well as the religiously diverse country of Singapore", religion is an important part of everyday life with both Buddhism and Islam having some similarities in terms of belief, personal and national identity and to what degree it should be involved in politics, laws and customs. In all these measures, religion, regardless of the sect, had a remarkable similarity to Evangelical Christianity in the USA, especially amongst the far-right Christian Nationalists.

Saturday 28 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - 7,000-Year-Old Shark-Tooth Knives From Indonesia Cuts Creationism Down

Bringing a shark to a knife fight: 7,000-year-old shark-tooth knives discovered in Indonesia
Figure 5. Use-related features of the Leang Panninge shark tooth: a) ground facet (indicated by red arrowhead) and striations on the lingual surface; b) grooves between the perforation and tooth shoulder from ligatures; c) plant fibre associated with hafting; d) cut notches along the base and grooves from ligatures (both indicated by red arrowheads) on the labial surface. White scale bars = 1mm (image c by B. Stephenson; all other images by M. Langley).
It's a fundamental requirement of the creation cult to believe that about 4000 years ago, their putative perfect creator god had a human-like fit of temper because its intelligently [sic] designed creation wasn't working as intended and inflicted a genocidal flood on the planet, killing everything apart from a few survivors who lived in a floating box for a year. They then disembarked onto a sterile planet somewhere in the Middle-east and somehow survived to create the biodiversity we see today.

From there, apparently, the surviving humans repopulated Earth, invented new cultures and languages as they did so, forgetting all about the flood and the god who inflicted it on their recent ancestors, and invented new gods and religions, with only one small tribe remembering it all in word-perfect detail.

Apart from the ludicrously narrow genetic bottleneck this would have cause, meaning almost all the surviving species would be extinct within a few generations, there is the little problem of so much archaeology being around that would not have survived such a flood, and evidence of cultures that existed before, during and after it apparently without noticing it at all. An example is the 7,000-year-old fighting knife made from shark teeth discovered on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, which should not have been there if the Bronze Age tales made up by people who thought Earth was small and flat with a dome over it and ran on magic, that creationists think were true history and real science, actually were true history and real science.

This discovery by a team of archaeologists from Australian and Indonesian universities led by Associate Professor of Archaeology, Michelle Langley of Griffith University, is the subject of an open access paper published recently in Antiquity. Five of the authors have also written about this discovery in The Conversation. Their article is reprinted here under a Creative Commons license, reformatted for stylistic consistency:

Bringing a shark to a knife fight: 7,000-year-old shark-tooth knives discovered in Indonesia

Michelle Langley, Griffith University; Adam Brumm, Griffith University; Adhi Oktaviana, Griffith University; Akin Duli, Universitas Hasanuddin, and Basran Burhan, Griffith University

Excavations on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi have uncovered two unique and deadly artefacts dating back some 7,000 years – tiger shark teeth that were used as blades.

These finds, reported in the journal Antiquity, are some of the earliest archaeological evidence globally for the use of shark teeth in composite weapons – weapons made with multiple parts. Until now, the oldest such shark-tooth blades found were less than 5,000 years old.

Photos of two bone shards with a serrated edge and holes along the bottom
Modified tiger shark teeth found in 7,000-year-old layers of Leang Panninge (top) and Leang Bulu’ Sipong 1 (bottom) on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.
Credit: M.C. Langley
Our international team used a combination of scientific analysis, experimental reproduction and observations of recent human communities to determine that the two modified shark teeth had once been attached to handles as blades. They were most likely used in ritual or warfare.

7,000-year-old teeth

The two shark teeth were recovered during excavations as part of a joint Indonesian-Australian archaeological research program. Both specimens were found in archaeological contexts attributed to the Toalean culture – an enigmatic foraging society that lived in southwestern Sulawesi from around 8,000 years ago until an unknown period in the recent past.

The shark teeth are of a similar size and came from tiger sharks (Galeocerda cuvier) that were approximately two metres long. Both teeth are perforated.

A complete tooth, found at the cave site of Leang Panninge, has two holes drilled through the root. The other – found at a cave called Leang Bulu’ Sipong 1 – has one hole, though is broken and likely originally also had two holes.

Microscopic examination of the teeth found they had once been tightly fixed to a handle using plant-based threads and a glue-like substance. The adhesive used was a combination of mineral, plant and animal materials.

The same method of attachment is seen on modern shark-tooth blades used by cultures throughout the Pacific.
Close-up photo of a pointy yellow tooth with scratches clearly visible
Scratches and a ground section on the tip of the Leang Panninge shark tooth indicate its use by people 7,000 years ago.

Credit: M.C. Langley
Examination of the edges of each tooth found they had been used to pierce, cut and scrape flesh and bone. However, far more damage was present than a shark would naturally accrue during feeding.

While these residues superficially suggest Toalean people were using shark-tooth knives as everyday cutting implements, ethnographic (observations of recent communities), archaeological and experimental data suggest otherwise.
A brownish yellow bone close up with holes and grooves clearly visible
Grooves and traces of red resin along the base of the Leang Panninge tooth show how the teeth were attached using threads.

Credit: M.C. Langley
Why use shark teeth?

Not surprisingly, our experiments found tiger shark-tooth knives were equally effective in creating long, deep gashes in the skin when used to strike (as in fighting) as when butchering a leg of fresh pork.

Indeed, the only negative aspect is that the teeth blunt relatively quickly – too quickly to make their use as an everyday knife practical.

This fact, as well as the fact shark teeth can inflict deep lacerations, probably explains why shark-tooth blades were restricted to weapons for conflict and ritual activities in the present and recent past.
Shark-tooth blades in recent times

Numerous societies across the globe have integrated shark teeth into their material culture. In particular, peoples living on coastlines (and actively fishing for sharks) are more likely to incorporate greater numbers of teeth into a wider range of tools.

Three serrated implements with neat rows of pointy teeth attached
Shark teeth are widely used to edge deadly combat weapons or powerful ritual blades in the Pacific. Left: a knife from Kiribati; centre and right: weapons from Hawai'i.

Observations of present-day communities indicate that, when not used to adorn the human body, shark teeth were almost universally used to create blades for conflict or ritual – including ritualised combat.

For example, a fighting knife found throughout north Queensland has a single long blade made from approximately 15 shark teeth placed one after the other down a hardwood shaft shaped like an oval, and is used to strike the flank or buttocks of an adversary.

Weapons, including lances, knives and clubs armed with shark teeth are known from mainland New Guinea and Micronesia, while lances form part of the mourning costume in Tahiti.

Farther east, the peoples of Kiribati are renowned for their shark-tooth daggers, swords, spears and lances, which are recorded as having been used in highly ritualised and often fatal conflicts.

Shark teeth found in Maya and Mexican archaeological contexts are widely thought to have been used for ritualised bloodletting, and shark teeth are known to have been used as tattooing blades in Tonga, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Kiribati.

In Hawai‘i, so-called “shark-tooth cutters” were used as concealed weapons and for “cutting up dead chiefs and cleaning their bones preparatory to the customary burials”.
A wooden weapon with a rounded handle and jagged tooth attachments at the other end
A shark-tooth knife from Aua Island, Papua New Guinea. Red arrows highlight wear and damage caused by fighting.

Credit: M. Langley and The University of Queensland Anthropology Museum
Other shark tooth archaeological finds

Almost all shark-tooth artefacts recovered globally have been identified as adornments, or interpreted as such.

Indeed, modified shark teeth have been recovered from older contexts. A solitary tiger shark tooth with a single perforation from Buang Merabak (New Ireland, Papua New Guinea) is dated to around 39,500–28,000 years ago. Eleven teeth with single perforations from Kilu (Buka Island, Papua New Guinea) are dated to around 9,000–5,000 years ago. And an unspecified number of teeth from Garivaldino (Brazil) is dated to around 9,400–7,200 years ago.

However, in each of these cases the teeth were likely personal ornaments, not weapons.

Our newly described Indonesian shark tooth artefacts, with their combination of modifications and microscopic traces, instead indicate they were not only attached to knives, but very likely linked to ritual or conflict.

Whether they cut human or animal flesh, these shark teeth from Sulawesi could provide the first evidence that a distinctive class of weaponry in the Asia-Pacific region has been around much longer than we thought. The Conversation
Michelle Langley, Associate Professor of Archaeology, Griffith University; Adam Brumm, Professor, Griffith University; Adhi Oktaviana, PhD Candidate, Griffith University; Akin Duli, Professor, Universitas Hasanuddin, and Basran Burhan, PhD candidate, Griffith University

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

Published by The Conversation.
Open access. (CC BY 4.0)
The authors give more technical details in their paper in Antiquity:

Although first identified 120 years ago, knowledge of the Toalean technoculture of Middle Holocene Sulawesi, Indonesia, remains limited. Previous research has emphasised the exploitation of largely terrestrial resources by hunter-gatherers on the island. The recent recovery of two modified tiger shark teeth from the Maros-Pangkep karsts of South Sulawesi, however, offers new insights. The authors combine use-wear and residue analyses with ethnographic and experimental data to indicate the use of these artefacts as hafted blades within conflict and ritual contexts, revealing hitherto undocumented technological and social practices among Toalean hunter-gatherers. The results suggest these artefacts constitute some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the use of shark teeth in composite weapons.
Figure 1. Map with (inset) the location of Leang Panninge and Leang Bulu’ Sipong 1

image by K. Newman.
Figure 2. Archaeological contexts of the perforated shark teeth: a) Leang Panninge cave; b) cave entrance at Leang Bulu’ Sipong 1, at the foot of the isolated limestone karst tower; c) stratigraphic profile, Leang Panninge (2019); d–e) stratigraphic profiles, Leang Bulu’ Sipong 1 (2018); f) Maros point excavated from Leang Bulu’ Sipong 1 (Square T9S1) above the Toalean-associated layer that yielded the shark tooth (scale bar is 10mm)

Photographs and image compilation by Y. Perston.
Figure 8. Comparison of the Toalean shark-tooth artefacts with examples of Maros points found at Leang Panninge (bottom left) and Leang Pajae (top and bottom right)

Photographs of Maros points by Y. Perston;
figure by M. Langley.
Langley MC, Duli A, Stephenson B, et al.
Shark-tooth artefacts from middle Holocene Sulawesi.
Antiquity. 2023:1-16. doi:10.15184/aqy.2023.144.

Copyright: © 2023 The authors.
Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd. Open access
Reprinted under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0)
Other than lying about science or blatantly misrepresenting it, I've yet to see a coherent explanation for why so much of Earth's history pre-dates the creation cult's 'Creation Week'.

We know, for instance that the scientists are using the correct decay rates when they use radiometric dating to determine the age of objects like these shark teeth because creationists assure us that if the basic parameters of the Universe were even slightly different, life would be impossible, yet decay rates depend on two of the four fundamental forces - the weak and strong nuclear forces, so, if they were very different 10,000 years ago by an amount that would make 10,000 years look like 3.8 billion, or 14 billion, or whatever is needed to explain the discrepancy between belief and observable reality, then life would have been impossible when it was supposedly created because quite simply, atoms larger than hydrogen would not have existed because their nuclei would have been unstable.

Creationism must be about the only cult that requires its followers to believe that the vast majority of history occurred when there was no place and no time for it to occur in.

But then these are people who can be made to believe that all life on Earth is descended from a tiny number of ancestors that lived in an unventilated box and got out of it onto a sterile planet on which every living substance had been destroyed (Genesis 7:23), including, presumably, the plants the herbivores needed, the insects the insectivores needed and where most of them would have promptly been exterminated by the carnivores.

Creationism in Crisis - How Bat Faces Evolved Under Selective Pressure of Food Resources - In Just 25 Million Years

Fruit, nectar, bugs and blood: How bat teeth and jaws evolved for a diverse dinnertime | UW News
The pale-faced bat, Phylloderma stenops, is a noctilionoid bat with an omnivorous diet.

Credit: Sharlene Santana/University of Washington
A side-view image of the skull of a greater spear-nosed bat, Phyllostomus hastatus, a noctilionoid species with an omnivorous diet.

Credit: Sharlene Santana/University of Washington
Just as Darwin's finches evolved different beaks to fit them for the differing food on the different Galapagos Islands, so the shape of bats' faces have evolved to fit them for the predominant food in their diet, in just 25 million years, which is a mere tick of the clock in geological time.

What this can tell us about the evolution of bats and especially their dentition is the subject of a study of the noctilionoid bats published in Nature Communications last August.

Friday 27 October 2023

Catholic Sex Abuse News - Spanish Catholic Priests Sexually Abused Over 200,000 Children

Cardinal Isidro Gomá y Tomás, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, when the Catholic Church was at the height of its power in Spain.
Spanish clergy sexually abused more than 200,000 children, inquiry estimates | Spain | The Guardian

The routine sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests is back in the news after an independent commission, led by Spain's national Ombudsman, former education minister, Ángel Gabilondo, has discovered that more than 200,000 minors have been sexually abused by Catholic priests since 1940.

This figure is an estimate based on extrapolating the figure of 0.8% of 8,000 Spanish adults in a survey who reported being sexually abused by Catholic priests before the age of 18 - a figure which rose to 1.13% (360,000 of Spain's 32 million adult population) if lay members of the church were included. Lay members of the church perform some of the duties of priests but are not ordained or under holy orders. As such, they come under the authority and control of senior church figured, usually the bishops, archbishops and cardinals in charge of diocese.

For most of the period, the Spanish Catholic Church was a privileged and protected institution that considered itself largely above the law - a position that derived from its active support and cooperation with General Frano's Fascist regime. During this period, the Catholic Church was given control of most of the influential and welfare aspects of Spanish life, including education, health and institutions such as orphanages, mother and baby homes and homes for single mothers, many of whom were themselves victims of sexual abuse.

Creationism in Crisis - Pigeons Can Solve Complex Problems More Quickly Than Humans

‘Dim-witted’ pigeons use the same principles as AI to solve tasks
The feral pigeon, Columba livia domestica. Dimwit or genius?
In yet another casual and unintentional refutation of creationist dogma, two psychology professors, one from Ohio State University and the other from the University of Iowa, have shown that humans were not created as the species with the highest intelligence, which creationists argue shows we were specially created, different to the other animals.

The researchers have shown that pigeons can solve complex problems that would be difficult for humans because pigeons use the same principles as artificial intelligence to crunch through the available options. The difference being that unlike humans who can extrapolate from solving one problem to general problem-solving similar problem, pigeons don't extrapolate from the particular to the general.

It appears then that the natural process of evolution produced a form of AI, long before humans developed machine learning and AI.

As explained in an Ohio State University news release by Jeff Grabmeier:

Thursday 26 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - How Microscopic Organisms Were Evolving Half a Billion Years Before 'Creation Week'

Algae-like fossils show colonial arrangement"
Bizarre new fossils shed light on ancient plankton | News | University of Leicester

A scientist at the University of Leicester, UK, has discovered a new type of fossil, that lived half a billion years ago in the Cambrian Era. It resembles an algae but shows evidence of the beginnings of colonial existence as groups of cells joined together to form larger masses.

It was part of the Cambrian biota which evolved at a time of increasing competition between predatory and prey species, after multicellular life had evolved motility and the ability to hunt and consume other life forms, so exterminating the Ediacaran biota that preceded it.

Evolving the ability to group together into larger masses could have happened because doing so made it harder for a predator to consume the algae-like organisms.

In their obsessive search for something to discredit the Theory of Evolution, creationists often abandon one or more of their basic dogmas, confident that their target dupes won't realise they don’t have a coherent set of ideas with which to counter the vast body of science that established the TOE beyond a shadow of doubt.

This cavalier approach to truth also demonstrates the truism that there is no truth agenda in creationism; it’s all about recruiting more people into the cult in the childish belief that a fantasy becomes more and more true, as more and more people are fooled into believing it - a childish way of seeking safety in numbers.

A classic example of this is the absurd claim that the so-called 'Cambrian Explosion', which actually lasted several million years, was a literal explosion of life forms that arose overnight without ancestors. They believe this shows the work or a creator and simultaneously refutes the idea of common origins and the evolution of multicellular life from single-celled organisms.

And of course, it abandons the notion of a 10,000-year-old Earth and the mythical account in Genesis of how and when life on Earth was created, in which there is no mention of the Cambrian biota or anything resembling it.

First, a little background to the era in which these newly-discovered organisms lived:

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - How the Birth of the Atlantic Ocean Caused a Mass Extinction - 55 Million Years Before 'Creation Week'

Mid-North Atlantic hydrothermal vent
Past climate warming driven by hydrothermal vents - GEOMAR - Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel

In that very long period during which some 99.97% of Earth's history occurred prior to when creationists believe the Universe, Earth and life on it was created, the supercontinent, Pangea, split apart, then about 55 million years ago, North America and Eurasia drifted apart as did South America and Africa, opening up a rift which flooded to become the North and South Atlantic Oceans.

This coincided with an event called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) during which Earth's temperature rose by about 5-8 oC. causing a mass extinction. The exact cause of the PETM has been something of a puzzle for palaeontologists and geologists, until now.

Creationism in Crisis - Research Shows How Environment Drives Evolution - No Magic Required

Raining Cats and Dogs: Research Finds Global Precipitation Patterns a Driver for Animal Diversity

A team of researcher from Utah University's Department of Watershed Sciences in Quinney College of Natural Resources and the Ecology Center, led by Jaron Adkins, has investigated why there is a rich diversity of species in some areas and a paucity of species in others. Not surprisingly, given what we know of how diversity evolves due to environmental selectors, they found a close link between diversity and the environment, especially rainfall, and the result of rainfall, or a lack of it - plant growth.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Scientists Got The Age of The Moon Wrong! But It's Not Good News For Creationists.

4.46 billion years old
The Moon is 40 million years older than previously thought - Northwestern Now

Scientists have recalculated the age of Earth's moon and found they got it wrong.

But, before creationists start jumping up and down with excitement, it's not good news.

The recalculated age shows the Moon to be, not 4.425 billion years old, but 40 million years older, at 4.46 billion years old. This now makes it 44.6 million percent older than the Universe, which, according to creationist superstition is only 10,000 years old, instead of the 44.25 million percent older that used to be thought.

This means, if creationists want to dispute this new age on the grounds that the dating method used was flawed, they need to show how the 'error' made 100 years look like 44.6 million years, in a universe moreover that they claim to be so finely tuned that altering any of the parameters by even a small amount would make life impossible. Radiometric dating of course depends on the decay rate of unstable isotopes which in turn depends on random quantum fluctuations in the strength of two of the four fundamental forces - the weak and strong nuclear forces.

This new age was arrived at by analysing the zircon crystals in the moon rock brought back by the Apollo 17 moon landing:

Creationism in Crisis - No Fun for Creationists in Evolving Fungi

Mycena purpureofusca
Fungal evolution discovered: Mycena can now invade living hosts – University of Copenhagen

An international team of mycologists led by Christoffer Bugge Harder of the Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway has discovered that a family of fungi, the Mycena or Mycenaceae, also known as the bonnet mushrooms, is in the process of evolving a change of life style from that of a saprophyte (i.e., feeding on dead and decaying plant matter, mostly wood) to becoming a symbiont, living in cooperative alliance with other plants, or even a parasite able to invade and live on living plant tissues.

First a brief background on the Mycena:

Monday 23 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Observable Evolution in the Creeping Woodsorrel (Oxalis Corniculata)

Does Urbanization Trigger Plant Evolution? | CHIBADAI NEXT

Creeping woodsorrell (green-leaved form),
Oxalis corniculata.
Common in rural areas
This latest refutation of creationism is an example of observable evolution occurring in recent history. It shows how a species will evolve according to local environmental conditions. The definition of biological evolution is of course, changes in allele frequencies in a population over time, and need not include a phenotypic change at all. In this case though the change is the observed change in the leaf-colour of a species of plant, the creeping woodsorrel, Oxalis corniculata.

The traditional response by creationists to these examples is to try to get away with a different definition of biological evolution to include changes that biologists don't claim ever happen, such as an entirely new taxon arising in a single event, or one taxon changing into another, unrelated taxon. It matters not one iota to a creationists that they may have been corrected on this point numerous times, it's almost impossible to shift them away from their protective shell of pretending science makes claims science never makes and the definition of biological evolution is something so absurd that no sane person could accept it.

First, a short conversation with ChatGPT3.5 on the definition of biological evolution and why creationists need to misrepresent the science:

Creationism in Crisis - Disastrous Sea Level And Climate Changes - 385 Million Years Ago.

2023-10 - Ancient sea level and climate changes led to major extinctions around South Africa - Wits University

A planet designed by a loving, omniscient designer would be stable and not subject to periodic bouts of mass extinction because the life on it couldn't cope with a massive environmental change.

And yet new research by Dr Cameron Penn-Clarke from the University of the Witwatersrand and Professor David Harper from Durham University has shown that a catastrophic environmental change in the Early Devonian caused the mass extinction of the Malvinoxhosan biota. This was in the 99.97% of Earth's history that occurred before the Universe was created out of nothing by magic, according to creationists.

The term 'Malvinoxhosan biota' foxed ChatGPT3.5:

Creationism in Crisis - Now Scientists and Philosophers have Discovered How Evolution Obeys a Fundamental Law of Nature

Scientists and philosophers team up to study concept of evolution beyond biological context | Carnegie Science

A paper written by a consortium of scientists and philosophers led by Carnegie’s Michael Wong and Robert Hazen, has outlined a law that some of us have been arguing is a fundamental law of evolution for many years. Their "law of increasing functional information" states:

The functional information of a system will increase (i.e., the system will evolve) if many different configurations of the system undergo selection for one or more functions.

Basically, in any selective environment, systems will tend towards structures that improve function by accumulating small (micro) differences which eventually result in large (macro) changes. In other words, replication in a selective environment will inevitably result in evolution towards greater fitness in that environment. Where that improved fitness comes from new or improved function then there will be an increase in complexity.

The exception to that law is in parasites where the whole system (the parasite-host complex) can become increasingly complex (by the host taking on many of the functions of the parasite) but the parasite itself can lose complexity.

The force driving that increase in complexity is, of course, natural selection, where selectors in the environment ensure those arrangements better suited to produce the next generation do so in preference to those less suited.

This fundamental law is of course, not restricted to biological systems but will operate in any situation where there is replication and selection, echoing something I wrote many years ago (Darwin's Powerful Science).

The consortium expresses this fundamental law as:

Sunday 22 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - Women Hunted Too - Before Man-Made Religion Assigned Them a 'God-Given' Role

Woman the hunter | UDaily

Sarah Lacey, an anthropologist with Delaware University, USA, believes she has found evidence that, in hunter-gatherer societies, in contradiction to the traditional view which has men as the hunters and women as the gatherers, in fact, women played their part as hunters too.

This was before their assumed gender roles became formalised by religions which provided men with the excuses they needed to control women by declaring that 'God' had assigned them roles as man's 'help meet' and so subservient to men. Women were instructed that they should be obedient to a man's demands and fill the role of sex-slave, housekeeper and cook, because God said so:
And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Genesis 2: 21-24

GENE 3.15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. GENE 3.16. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

Genesis 3: 15-16
As I related in my book, A History of Ireland: How Religion Poisoned Everything, in pre-Christian Gaelic society, under the 'Brehon Law' women had equal rights to men and could adopt leadership roles, own property and divorce abusive or unfaithful husbands - rights that were systematically stripped from them under the influence of Patricus (St Patrick, first bishop of Armagh), when he called an all-male meeting of Gaelic tribal petty kings and declared those rights to be contrary to God's Law in the Bible, and women should henceforth be subservient and obedient to men and never be in a position of leadership over them.
St. Patrick is reputedly responsible for abolishing the Brehon law or rather with integrating it with Christian Law by going through it line by line with a convention of tribal chiefs called for the purpose and striking out anything which did not accord with the Bible. Brehon law, from the Irish ‘breithim’ meaning ‘a judge’ was the system of law in use in Gaelic Ireland since ancient times – a Celtic Common Law, necessary to settle disputes between residents of different petty kingdoms or different tribal traditions. One effect of this was to reduce the status of women; depriving them of many of the rights they held under Brehon law, such as the right to divorce their husband, to own property and to occupy positions of leadership. St. Patrick’s brand of Christianity was to be strictly hierarchical, patriarchal and misogynistic, in line with the Bible and the teachings of St. Paul, although there were deviations from strict cannon law. Divorce, for example, though no longer available on demand, could still be granted for a wide variety of reasons (4).

Sarah Lacy, with her colleague, anthropologist Cara Ocobock, from the University of Notre Dame, have published their research in two papers in the journal American Anthropologist and an article in Scientific American. A news release from Delaware University explains their work:

Creationism in Crisis - What Is a 170-Million-Year-Old Pliosaur Doing on a 10,000-Year-Old Earth?

Model of the head of Lorrainosaurus keileni.

Model By 10 Tons
Ancient sea monster remains reveal oldest mega-predatory pliosaur | Uppsala University

Q. What is a 170-Million-Year-Old Pliosaur Doing on a 10,000-Year-Old Earth?

A. Refuting Creationism and showing it to be a childish counter-factual superstition, of course, like everything else that exited in the 99.97% of Earth's history that occurred before 'creation week'.

These fossils of this predatory marine reptile from the Mesozoic Era were recovered in 1983 from a road cutting near Metz, Loraine, France and have now been examined by an international team of palaeontologists from the Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld in Germany, the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, the Natural History Museum in Luxembourg and The Museum of Evolution at Uppsala University in Sweden, co-led by Sven Sachs of Naturkunde-Museum Bielefeld, Germany and Daniel Madzia of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

They have shown them to be of a new pliosaur genus: Lorrainosaurus.

Creationism in Crisis - Why Earth is Fine Tuned for Extinction

September: Nature Geoscience extreme heat | News and features | University of Bristol

Creationists like to imagine that Earth is fine-tuned for life. This belief depends on the parochial ignorance of the creationist of course, because they will be oblivious of the fact that, cozy though their small bit of the planet might be, most of it is uninhabitable by humans without specialist equipment, and even cloths and houses are required in the temperate areas. Human life would be impossible without modern technology in the oceans, deserts, arctic waste, the tops of high mountains or just a few thousand feet above the surface of the planet (this is why modern aircraft that fly at 30-60,000 feet need to be pressurised).

But a planet that is fine-tuned for life would also have an infinite life-span, not a time-limited one where the life-time is limited by entirely natural processes, such as plate tectonics and the solar cycle. In fact, the life span of Earth is a mere blink on a cosmic time-scale that is measured by the life of suns.

Long before the sun becomes a red giant and swallows up the inner planets at the end of its life, shortly before becoming a super nova and blowing away the outer planets, Earth's continents will have coalesced into another single super-continent, reminiscent of Pangea, and the climate will have made life untenable for most species of mammal, according to researcher at Bristol University.

The resulting increase in volcanic rifting and out-gassing, combined with 'continentality' and an increase in solar energy output, will result in a 'wet-bulb' temperature of >35oC and a 'dry bulb' temperature of >40oC - temperatures at which mammalian thermoregulation fails, leading to death in about 6 hours.

The team's findings are published open access in Nature Geoscience and explained in a Bristol University press release:

Saturday 21 October 2023

Creationism in Crisis - The Universe Is Far Bigger Than Creationist Superstition Says It Should Be

Astronomers detect most distant fast radio burst to date | ESO

From observation of the 'red shift' we know the Universe is expanding and, by calculating the rate of expansion, we can calculate how far away an object is from any point in the Universe such as Earth.

If the creationist superstition were correct, assuming the Universe is expanding at the velocity of light (in fact, it is nowhere near that fast), the farthest objects could be no more than 10,000 light years away. This is the time it would take for light leaving the object to reach Earth, travelling at the velocity of light (186,000 miles per second).

However, an international team of astrophysicists has discovered a remote source of 'fast radio bursts' (FBR) of radio waves lasting less than a millisecond, in a galaxy so far away that its light took eight billion years to reach us! Although this is the farthest FBR source so far discovered, being about 50% farther away than the previous farthest, it is by no means the farthest object so far detected. These are about twice that distance, consistent with the Universe being 14 billion years old. In other words, the Universe has been expanding for much longer than 8 billion years, and for many times longer than the 10,000 years creationists belie.

So, any creationist capable of doing the simple maths should be able to work out that the Universe is far too large and has been expanding far too long for it to have been created 10,000 years ago, by several orders of magnitude.

The location of the FRB source was pinpointed by researchers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and its discovery is explained in an ESO press release:

Malevolent Designer News - How Science is Racing to Beat Creationism's Favourite Sadist

Black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis
Illustration from The Malevolent Designer

Catherine Webber-Hounslow
Racing to defuse a ‘ticking’ public health time bomb | YaleNews

Like the parasitic worms that zombify their hosts I wrote about in my previous blog post, I also wrote about the black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis, now proliferating in North America and infecting more and more victims with Lyme Disease, in my popular, illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good.

As the reputed work of an intelligent [sic] designer, this tick can only be regarded as evidence of the pestilential malevolent of any designer that could design such a creature, as it serves no purpose other than to be the vector of a number of different pathogens and to make more ticks.

Friday 20 October 2023

Malevolent Designer News - How Parasites Got Their Genes For Turning Their Hosts Into Zombies

Mantis Hierodula sp. with two Chordodes mizoramensis emerging
Stolen genes allow parasitic control of behavior | RIKEN

One of the more gruesome aspects of many parasites is their ability to take control of their hosts so the host participates in its own destruction, for the benefit of the parasite.

I wrote extensively about these relationships in by popular, illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good, to illustrate the fact that the creator god creationists purport to worship has to be regarded as a pestilential, sadistic monster forever devising more and more nasty ways to make its creation suffer, for no apparent reason other than the pleasure of watching the suffering.

An example I used was the parasitic nematodes known as horsehair worms that live for part of the life-cycle in an insect such as a cricket or mantis, and, when mature, it induces it to seek out and jump into water where it either drowns or gets consumed by a fish. If the former, it emerges from the dead or dying body of its host and adopts a free-living life in the water; if the latter, it passes through the fish unharmed and emerges into the water via that route.

My AI source describes them thus:

Creationism in Crisis - A 50 Million-Year-Old Bat Skull - And Another Gap Closes

Holy bat skull! Fossil adds vital piece to bat evolution puzzle | UNSW Newsroom

Earlier this week I predicted that there would soon be more science papers which casually refute creationism - an easy prediction to make, since just about every serious science paper does exactly that. This is a prediction I'm beginning to regret as they are coming so thick and fast that it's difficult to keep up with them!

This time, it's a paper describing a near-perfect fossil bat skull from 50 million years ago that closes one of creationism’s beloved gaps in the fossil record. Of course, like almost all archaeology, geology and palaeontology, it deals with the 99.97% of the history of Earth that occurred before creationist dogma says the universe was created out of nothing by magic.

The evolutionary history of bats suffers from a lack of fossil evidence, probably because bat skeletons are generally small and thin and bat lifestyle doesn't predispose them to formation of fossils when they die. They mostly roost in caves where dead bats are rapidly consumed by a whole ecosystem of creatures that live on their droppings on the cave floor.
However, this latest find is of a near perfect skull and shows evidence that echolocation may have evolved earlier than previously thought, soon after or parallel with the evolution of powered flight.

First, some AI background:
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