Sunday, 28 September 2014

Creationists Floundering In The Waters Of The Deep

Half of Earth's water formed before the sun was born | Science/AAAS | News

No one could honestly accuse creationists of not being hypocrites.

Take, for example, their response to this tentative evidence that most, if not all, the water on Earth was formed in interstellar dust before the sun coalesced and then exploded to form an accretion disk from which the planets formed and contrast that sudden enthusiasm for science, no matter how tenuously it supports them, to their cavalier dismissal of all the science which refutes their infantile claims:

Friday, 26 September 2014

Christians For Child Slavery

Fundamentalist Mormons harvest the community garden along with their children at the Rockland Ranch community outside Moab, Utah, November 3, 2012.
Photo by Jim Urquhart/Reuters
You Won't Believe How Church Leaders Are Justfying Child Labor - Ranting of a New Yorker

The Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous breakaway sect of the Mormons, is exploiting a recent ruling by the US Supreme Court to avoid answering questions about its alleged use of child slave labour on a church-owned farm. The allegation is that church leaders ordered the closure of its schools so that the children could work on the farm for up to eight hours a day, without pay, to get the pecan nut harvest in. This matter has been under investigation by the US Department of Labor since 2012.

Now church member Vergel Steed, who had been

All Fossils Are Transitional Fossils

One aspect of evolution which creationists either feign ignorance of or have been fooled by creationist pseudoscience frauds about, is how exactly one species 'transitions' into another over time, according to the scientific theory of Darwinian evolution. The same feigned or genuine misunderstanding can be seen in creationist circles concerning the evolution of an entire phylum or class from an earlier one.

In fact, spend a few minutes perusing any social media which deals with creationism vs evolution and you will quickly discover that creationists seem to hold three different understandings of the process simultaneously, all of them wrong. This probably comes from a need to dismiss evolution without giving those reasons too much consideration so three different reasons are better than one. Those three laughably infantile views seem to be:
  1. Evolution says that one species suddenly changes into another either by the parent

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Conviction Christians - Dinesh d'Souza

"Dinesh D'Souza" by DineshDSouza1961 - FreeCapitalismNow.com Event in Chicago. Licensed under CC0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Don't worry if you live outside the USA and have never heard of Dinesh d'Souza. His brand of fanatical right-wing extremist Christianity, obsessive opposition to Barack Obama and hysterical criticism and loathing of 'New Atheism' is completely irrelevant over here and readily recognised as the mark of a swivel-eyed loon with an agenda. In the USA, however, d'Souza has been an influential figure in increasingly right-wing, fundamentalist Christian, Republican politics.

He was a one-time adviser to Ronald Reagan, and is an influential political commentator, filmmaker, author and Christian apologist, and is affiliated to various right-wing and fundamentalist Christian organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the right-wing political journal, Policy Review. He was president of The King's College, a New York Christian School from 2010-2012, and has also written two Christian apologetics - What's So Great About Christianity (2002) and Life After Death: The Evidence (2007).

In 2007, d'Souza excelled himself with a book entitled The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11 in which he attempted to blame the 'American Left' (i.e., anyone who isn't on the extreme right) for 9/11, arguing that Muslims don't hate America (i.e. the real, right-wing, America) but instead hate the 'moral licentiousness' (i.e., sexual freedom and women's rights) of the American liberal left. In effect, he was arguing that

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Loon At The Top

Jim Wells, DUP, Minister of Health for Northern Ireland
Jim Wells becomes new health minister (for Northern Ireland)

First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Peter Robinson, reshuffled his government today and appointed Jim Wells to the post of Minister for Health - in charge of Northern Ireland's devolved National Health Service.

Jim's qualifications for this post, in charge of the highest-spending department in Northern Ireland's government, and probably the one most dependant on up-to-date science and technology, especially biological science, are a degree in geography and a diploma in town planning.

He is also a fundamentalist Protestant loon who believes the Bible is the best available description of the Universe, that Earth is 6000 years old and humans and all other life on Earth were created by magic.

Science Got It Wrong - And So Made Progress

Ripples from dawn of creation vanish in a puff of dust - physics-math - 22 September 2014 - New Scientist

Okay, so scientists got one wrong.

They thought they had found solid evidence of the ripples in the background microwave radiation predicted by the inflation model of the Big Bang and so confirmed the inflation hypothesis. Now it seems the result could have been due to cosmic dust.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Recent Human Evolution in Quebec

Evidence for evolution in response to natural selection in a contemporary human population.

Scientists from Canada and the UK have recently discovered compelling evidence for an example of local rapid human evolution in an isolated community in Quebec, Canada, between 1800 and 1940, when the age at first birth for women fell from 26 to 22 years old in Ile aux Coudres, a small island community of French Canadians in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, about 80 Km Northeast of Quebec City.

Creationists will no doubt take comfort from the fact that the paper mentions the term 'microevolution' which has been misrepresented to their victims by creationist pseudo-science frauds as materially

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Dutch Catholic Church Goes Into Meltdown

PHOTO: REUTERS/MAX ROSSI
Dutch bishops give Pope Francis a bleak picture of Catholic Church in decline | FaithWorld

Along with most European countries, Christian Church membership has fallen sharply in Holland with about two thirds of Catholic churches expected to be closed and sold off to be converted into apartments, shops, bars or warehouses, as Catholic Bishops told Pope Francis last November. Although officially blamed on 'drastic secularization' of society the Pope was left in no doubt that the world-wide sexual abuse of minors by predatory paedophile priests was a major cause of this haemorrhage of members and drastic decline in church attendance.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Only Real Gods Agree With William Lane Craig

If ISIS’s God Were Real, Would I Be Obliged to Follow Him?

Confused Christians can now sleep soundly in their beds because William Lane Craig has revised his special Divine Command Theory (DCT). DCT says that morality is doing exactly what God commands without regard to the effects it might have on other people because God knows best and can take life if and when he wishes. All you have to do is obey God's command and whatever you do will be moral.

William Lane Craig devised this theory to justify the genocidal murder of the Canaanites in the Bible and so elevated genocide to the level of a moral crusade, provided God told you to do it. He formulated this

Friday, 19 September 2014

Babies' Cries Show Common Descent For Mammals

Primal pull of a baby crying reaches across species - life - 18 September 2014 - New Scientist

It used to be axiomatic that only humans had 'human' emotions and experienced the finer feelings of love, compassion and empathy or could consciously act altruistically from some higher motive or knowledge of right from wrong. This was assumed to set us above the 'brute' animals and, by one of those glorious pieces of circular reason characteristic of religions, was because we had been created as a higher life-form to the rest of creation - and of course the 'fact' that we had these higher emotions was evidence that we had been specially created and placed above the

Creating Life By Chance Alone

Darwin's "warm little pond"
Chances of first life improved by weighted dice - life - 18 September 2014 - New Scientist

"How did life first arise on Earth?" is one of those questions like "What caused the Big Bang?" that creationists and religious apologists love because science either doesn't yet have an answer, or the real answer seems counter-intuitive and thus can be dismissed in front of an audience conditioned to assume that the Universe and everything in it - apart from their assumed god - should be easy to understand and makes intuitive sense even with little or no knowledge of the subject. The answer that the BB was a quantum event and so did not necessarily

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Europeans Are All A Bit Native American

Archetypal European hunter-gatherer
DNA study reveals third group of ancient ancestors of modern Europeans | Science | theguardian.com

It has long been recognised that modern Europeans are descended from an initial migration of hunter-gatherer people who replaced H. neanderthalensis about 40,000 years ago. This lifestyle was then replaced by a farming-based culture which spread out from the Middle-East about 8,000 years ago, probably via Anatolia and the Balkans.

It had been assumed that this was a cultural change as neighbouring people recognised the superiority of agriculture and adopted the techniques and technology of their neighbours. Now techniques of DNA recovery from ancient remains are enabling scientists to build a much more complete picture, showing, for example, that this second wave was a real wave of genetically distinct peoples rather than a spread of cultures as had previously been assumed based on archaeological evidence alone.

Unintelligent Design - Compensating For Evolution's Blunders

Hacked photosynthesis could boost crop yields : Nature News & Comment

You see, one of the pieces of crap design that life on Earth has had to put up with since the evolution of photosynthesis, is one of the most abundant proteins on Earth. It's an essential component of all green plants, an enzyme known chemically as ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase or RuBisCo for short. I blogged about this inefficient enzyme some months ago in an article about the very many examples of unintelligent design to be found in nature. I pointed out then that the reason rubisco is so abundant is because it is so inefficient:

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Why Modern Forests Evolved

Plant Ecological Strategies Shift Across the Cretaceous–Paleogene Boundary | PLOS Biology, September 16, 2014

The thing about science is that it all fits together to form a large picture, so it's always rewarding when one little piece of evidence is found which confirms another piece, or, if not exactly confirms it, certainly goes a long way towards supporting it. Take for example, the evidence from the fossil record that the

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Something Is Bugging Creationism.

Evolution doesn't read any rules and feels no obligation to conform to any norms, so we should expect the unexpected. If we didn't get the occasional surprise it would start to look just a little too predictable. If things were as the creationist loons and frauds like to claim, we would expect an intelligent, perfect designer, to at least show bit of consistency.

After all what perfection is there in randomness and how does no pattern at all look like design according to a plan? No doubt though the frauds will fall back on the traditional woo-woo excuse of ineffability and mystery and beyond human comprehension which renders their crackpot notion redundant as a

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Scotland And The United Kingdom

This Thursday's Scottish referendum on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom is a pivotal moment, not only in the history of Scotland but in the history of the United Kingdom. It's worth passing briefly over the history of Scotland and its considerable part in the history of the British Isles.

A great deal is made by the pro-independence movement of Scotland's 'distinct identity' with very little analysis of the truth of the claim. For example, industrial Glasgow, Aberdeen or Dundee probably have far more in common culturally with Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham or Southampton than they do with Wester Ross,

Friday, 12 September 2014

Neanderthal Extermination Mapped in Detail.

Neanderthal demise traced in unprecedented detail - life - 20 August 2014 - New Scientist

The story of the demise of the Neanderthals and their replacement by modern Homo sapiens in Europe became a little more clear a couple of weeks ago but the clarifying picture is beginning to look bad for us moderns humans.

It's beginning to look like we were one of the first invasive species; one which was not just a disinterested observer of the demise of our cousin

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Atheism Increasing In Line With Intelligence

Brain drain: Are we evolving stupidity? - life - 20 August 2014 - New Scientist

An article by Bob Holmes in New Scientist this week reports that there appears to be a slight reversal in recent years of a trend in IQ scores which had been almost invariably upwards since records began to be collected in the 1950s.

The primary data comes from a standard IQ test given to 18 year-old Danish males as part of their conscription into military service. With the exception of a brief downward trend in the late 1970s, the reported IQ scores increased sharply until about 1995, then plateaued and now appear to have gone into reverse.

This sharply upward trend has been seen in every country where living standards and nutrition have improved, as they did in most of post-war Europe from the 1950s onwards. This change is known as the

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Creationism, Amber And Mitey Ants.

Ant with mite on its head, in amber.

Photo: Jason Dunlop/Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
Mite and ant locked together in amber - Nature | News.

You don't have to go scrabbling around in gravel beds, old quarries or Jurassic Coast beaches like Lyme Regis to find fossils. You can find them in old museums or they can simply arrive in the post as this one did. It was sent to Jason Dunlop, an arachnologist at the Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science in Berlin, Germany, by a serious collector of fossil spiders who buys quantities of amber and searches through them.

This Baltic Amber is 44-49 million years old (fairly young by geological standards) and contains a rare example of of a fossilised mite and the first of this particular species (Myrmozercon sp.). Significantly, this is also the earliest example of a mite being found attached to its host, in this case the ant Ctenobethylus goepperti, a social

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

How Transitional Fish May Have Learned To Walk

Polypterus senegalus
How fish can learn to walk : Nature News & Comment

A fascinating piece of research published a few days ago shed some light on how transitional fish/amphibians may have learned to walk on land as they moved from an aquatic to a terrestrial existence.

The researchers from the University of Ottawa, Canada, led by Emily Standen, took juvenile bichir (Polypterus senegalus) - a freshwater fish from Africa which has a primitive lung as well as gills and so can live on land - and raised them on land for eight months. The control group was raised in water as normal.

The land-raised bichir showed not only a noticeably more sophisticated style of walking but there were

Abuse-Aware Cardinal Brady Retires On Full Pension

Irish Cardinal Sean Baptist Brady arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican, March 6, 2013.

Photo: REUTERS/Tony Gentile
Pope accepts resignation of head of scandal-plagued Irish church - Reuters.

In a demonstration of his determination to clean up the Catholic Church and show the world his remorse for the decades of institutional child abuse and systematic cover-up by senior clerics, Pope Francis has allowed Cardinal Sean Brady, "Primate of All Ireland", to retire quietly at the normal age of 75 when Cardinals are expected to retire, or at least to formally offer their resignation, anyway.

To save the poor man embarrassment by being sacked, he had been effectively on gardening leave for the past year while his duties as Bishop of Armagh had been undertaken by the specially appointed "coadjutor", Monsignor Eamonn Martin, who will now formally take up Brady's old job.

Cardinal Brady became notorious in 2012 when a BBC documentary revealed that he had known about, but had failed to warn parents, of the child-abusing priest, Father Brendan Smyth, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 75 charges of indecent and sexual abuse of boys and girls over a period of more than 30 years. Brady always claimed the documentary was misleading, but apologised for his part in the scandal.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Malignant Melanoma - Another Gift From The Intelligent Designer?

We've just spent a glorious week in the South of France on the Côte d'Azur where the sun beats down from an azure sky on the more or less sun-tanned or sun-burned bodies, prostrate on the beaches wearing next to nothing and exposing skin normally hidden where the sun don't shine - and most of them European from further north.

You see, pale skin is generally recognised as an adaptive feature in Euro-Asian peoples because darker skin, which evolved in Africa, filtered out too much sun to make enough vitamin D - which is made in the skin in response to sunlight and we don't normally get enough in our diets.
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