Thursday, 27 August 2015

Oh No! Not Transitional Penguins!

Eocene Penguin from Peru
New fossil skulls reveal insights about penguin brain evolution -- ScienceDaily

Some 35 million years ago, stem penguins were doing something creationists insist never happens; they were transitioning from flying species to aquatic species.

Evolutionary transition is something that any self-respecting creationist will have had lots of practice at denying because examples of it are so abundant in the fossil record - where they shouldn't be if everything was created as is, by magic. So, rather than incorporate these facts into their world view, they retain their evidence-free world view by denying the facts. This is how we know creationism is a dogma, not a science.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Oh Heck! A Fossil Out Of Place!

Life reconstruction of Gueragama sulamericana in its palaeohabitat.*
Reconstruction created by J. Csotonyi.
Fossil remains of Old World lizard discovered in the New World overturn long-held hypothesis of lizard evolution -- ScienceDaily

Normally, a headline about a long-held hypothesis about evolution being overturned would gladden the heart of any creationist more used to a constant stream of scientific papers showing creationism to be nothing more than an infantile fairy tale based on scientific ignorance. Is this J. B. S. Haldane's Cretaceous rabbit?

Well, no! But it is a Cretaceous lizard in the 'wrong' continent.

But there are a couple of small problems with this one; firstly it clears up something of a mystery in lizard evolution, and secondly, to try to make much of it, a creationist will need to accept a very old Earth, plate tectonics and the fundamental principle of evolution from a common ancestors. Well, either that, or revert to denialism and God did it! assertions as usual.

Another Bible Bloomer - God's Law is Unjust!

Stone 'em, I say! It's the only language these women understand!
The author of the Gospel of Matthew is a bit like a fireship launched into the wind, the way he blunders about stupidly off message and making the Bible stories about Jesus look even more absurd. I think of it as Matthew's Silly Bible. It's a wonder his effort got included in the Bible at all when it was being compiled. It had obviously been read with about as much thought as it was written with.

Here's another of his blunders - he tells us that God's Laws are not just laws, as in laws designed to give justice.

First, God's Law as it relates to pre-marital sex and adultery, especially if a husband finds his wife has played the field a little.

Slaying the Creationist Dragon

The 'pterosaur' of Black Dragon Canyon, Utah
Source: Science.Credit: WHIT RICHARDSON/ALAMY
‘Winged monster’ on ancient rock art debunked by scientists | Science/AAAS | News

Creationism is really little more than an obsession with fossils, probably because creationists realise what a threat fossils pose to their simplistic, Bible literalist views.

When dinosaur fossils were first found, they were dismissed variously as 'Devil stones' planted by Satan to mislead us; the bones of giants or 'Behemoth' so confirming the Bible; forgeries and fakes by lying scientists; diseased versions of living species or indeed

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Wit and Wisdom of Deepak!

Here's a little test.

See if you can pick out the genuine Deepak Chopra quotes taken at random from his twitter feed, from the randomly generated fictional Deepak Chopra quotes from this site.

It has been said by some that the thoughts and tweets of Deepak Chopra are indistinguishable from a set of profound sounding words put together in a random order, particularly the tweets tagged with "#cosmisconciousness". This site aims to test that claim! Each "quote" is generated from a list of words that can be found in Deepak Chopra's Twitter stream randomly stuck together in a sentence.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Evolution of HIV Took 11-16 Million Years.

Model of a retrovirus capsid hexamer, showing the conserved beta-hairpin domains common to most kinds of retroviruses (circled) and a pocket containing additional sites thought to affect recognition of lentiviruses by the TRIM5 anti-viral defense proteins of old world monkeys (arrow).
Credit: Johnson et al, CC-BY
PLOS Pathogens: Evolutionary and Functional Analysis of Old World Primate TRIM5 Reveals the Ancient Emergence of Primate Lentiviruses and Convergent Evolution Targeting a Conserved Capsid Interface

If you sincerely want to be a sanctimonious religious bigot presenting yourself as the moral superior of other people, it helps to base it on real facts, not made up ones. Take, for example, those morally reprehensible evangelical Christian and Muslim bigots who like to condemn people suffering from AIDS by pointing the finger and telling them that the virus which causes it was made by God to punish sinners, especially homosexuals.

It ought to be something of a shock to these repugnant bigots then, to discover that the virus wasn't created at all but has been evolving slowly over at least 11 million years and maybe for 16 million years, just as everything else has been, and is an interesting example of the product of an ongoing arms race between pathogen and victim, with all the intelligence to be found in a fruitless arms race - i.e., none at all.

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Sacoshite is Lying Again

Manuel de Dios Agosto, aka Sacerdotus, Sacoshite, Sacodogturds, etc., etc., is quite besides himself with rage and even more desperate for money and attention. What seems to have set him off again is the publication of my Kindle book, The Light Of Reason: And Other Atheist Writing and, in characteristic Manny style, he's plumbing new depths of dishonesty the more desperate he gets.

The unemployable expelled seminarian has now taken to posting on G+ some faked 'screenshots' of Twitter tweets he claims are mine, even accusing me of what amounts to incitement to murder. Bear in mind that this sad little man has even faked emails purporting to come from Oxfam which in an unprecedented intervention on Twitter, Oxfam publically repudiated and confirmed Manny was lying.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Synthetic DNA Cure For Malevolent 'Design'

MERS-CoV
Photo credit: NIAID
Synthetic DNA vaccine against MERS induces immunity in animal study -- ScienceDaily

Supposing you were asked to place individuals on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 as highly moral, caring, compassionate with a desire to help the sick, and 10 as a mass-murdering, uncaring psychopath devoid of any morals whatsoever. Where on that scale would you place someone who designed a means of randomly killing hundreds or thousands of people who had done nothing more than happen to come into contact with someone else who had been randomly selected for this treatment and which especially selected those who tried to care for the sick?

More of that in a moment.

Although proponents of 'Intelligent Design' will normally vehemently deny it, it is almost a defining characteristic that they are also fundamentalist creationists and often Bible literalists. That the supposed 'Intelligent Designer' is actually the Abrahamic god of the Bible, Talmud and Qur'an is one of the worst kept secrets in religious apologetics. 'Intelligent Design' is merely creationism dressed up to look like science.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

More Stupidity From the Idiot Designer

A female adult varroa mite, Varroa destructor, feeds on the hemolymph of a honey bee pupa.
Photograph: Jason Graham, University of Florida. Source.
Museum samples reveal rapid evolution by wild honey bees exposed to a novel parasite : Nature Communications : Nature Publishing Group

Although they'll spend hours scraping around for something that seems hard to explain, even when it has been explained (but their followers would never know that), for something to wave around as 'proof', 'Intelligent (sic) Design' advocates never seem to talk about those very many examples to be found in nature where the only explanation, assuming for a moment that it had been designed, is that the designer was an incompetent idiot that designs without forethought and with complete amnesia about what else it has designed.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Ethiopian Double Whammy For Creationists

Detail of the marks on a fossilized rib bone, one of the two controversial bones.
Source: PastHorizons. Image credit: Zeresenay Alemseged
Taphonomy of fossils from the hominin-bearing deposits at Dikika, Ethiopia - Journal of Human Evolution.

Here's something for creationists to try to fit into their notion of a young Earth and a special one-day creation by magic; a team of palaeoanthropologists led by Jessica Thompson, an assistant professor of anthropology at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA, believe they have shown that the marks on two 3.4 million year-old fossilised bones found at Dikika, Ethiopia, were made by stone tools, probably when butchering the animals.

Sadly, once again the paper sits behind a paywall and the publishers, this time Elsevier Ltd., want to charge for permission even to reproduce the abstract, which can be read here.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

What Killed the Megafauna, Humans or Climate Change?

Reconstruction of megafauna of northern Spain.
Source: Wikipedia. Credit: Mauricio Antón
Humans responsible for demise of gigantic ancient mammals: Early humans were the dominant cause of the extinction of a variety of species of giant beasts -- ScienceDaily

A team of scientists believe they have solved the conundrum of what cause the extinction of the so-called megafauna at the end of the last Ice Age. The megafauna is the large mammals such as mammoths, wooly rhinoceroses, sabre-toothed tigers and giant armadillos all of which went extinct between 80,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago.

Dimming Universe, Dumb Creationists

The same galaxy seen at some of the wavelengths examined by the GAMA team
Fading cosmos quantified in 21 colours - BBC News

The lights are going out all over the Universe.

In fact, the energy output of all the suns together appears to have halved in the last 2 billion years. This figure was arrived at by the Galaxy and Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey led by Australian director, Prof Simon Driver, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Western Australia. The survey measured the energy output from over 200,000 galaxies over as wide a range of wavelengths as possible.

This discovery was arrived at by comparing the energy output of galaxies far away (and so further away in time

Monday, 10 August 2015

Revising Evolution Theory - The Scientific Way

Liolaemus nigriceps
Re-thinking 'adaptive radiation,' one of biology's most important concepts | ScienceDaily

When you see a headline like "Re-thinking 'adaptive radiation,' one of biology's most important concepts" it's bound to raise the eyebrows of the scientifically-minded. What's this? One of the fundamentals of evolution theory could be wrong? Shock horror!

It only takes a minor change of emphasis and the removal of any doubt by merely changing 'could be' to 'is' and you have the makings of another creationist article by Ken Ham or Ray Comfort and another merry tinkle of cash pouring in to help 'spread the good news' that evolution has been overthrown once more and 'evolutionists' all exposed as liars.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

We Found Jesus!

It's Jesus. Hallelujah!
Yes, it's Jesus! And we found him while looking for Mary and Joseph! (I'm really not making this up!)

We found him on a gravestone in the Radnorshire village of Nantmel, Wales, while looking for the graves of my grandfather's cousins, Mary and Joseph Hathaway.

We've just had a short break in Mid-Wales and were casually driving around after an Indian meal in Builth Wells, when I noticed a turning to Nantmel, a name which has fascinated me since the early days of my family history research because, for reasons not entirely clear, my maternal grandfather's uncle lived there, so we decided to go and look for these graves, or to see if there were any Hathaways buried there.

Mary's and Joseph's story is an interesting and sad little one but all too typical of the times, and it tells the social history of England and Wales in the 19th-Century.

Young Joseph Hathaway was a carter on a farm in the Wychwood Forest village of Leafield near Witney, Oxfordshire. He was born in nearby Crawley, the son of George Joseph Hathaway and Anne Greenaway. George Joseph Hathaway was the son of master blanket weaver George Hathaway and Sarah Early, the sister of the founders of the Early Witney Blanket dynasty.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

So I've Written This Book...


Click image for details
In response to numerous requests, I've finally produced an ebook, based on a selection of my Atheism and Science blogs. The Light Of Reason: And Other Atheist Writing, is available for Kindle users only at this time.

The selection is a more-or-less random one but include many of my personal favourites (and by that I mean those that gave me most satisfaction to write) and those which have proved most popular judging by the number of hits recorded by Blogger. I've tried to arrange them into four sections each dealing with a different aspect of Atheism and science and the interface between science and religion.

Those sections are:
  1. Religion and Atheism, which looks at the reasons why Atheism is the position of choice for critical thinkers and people who allow the evidence to determine their beliefs and who suspend judgement in the absence of evidence.
  2. Evolution and Other Science, which deals with aspects of science which normally feature in creationist and other religious apologetics and about which most creationists are ignorant or at least feign ignorance.
  3. Religious Apologetics, dealing with the common apologetic fallacies.
  4. Silly Bible, exposing the utter nonsense and implausibility of the stories found throughout the Bible.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Evolution in the Blink of an Eye

A male Eggfly or Blue Moon Butterfly, Hypolimnas bolina
Photo credit: Sylvain Charlat/Science
Extraordinary Flux in Sex Ratio | Science.

This example of evolution from 2007, the evolution of the Blue Moon butterfly on the South Pacific Samoan islands of Upolu and Savaii, is one of the fastest on record other than the rare occasions of a stable hybrid giving rise to a new species.

It appears to have happened in just a few years, over some ten generations, in response to intense selection pressure from a killer bacterium.

In 2001, researcher found that in the Samoan Islands, in populations of this butterfly, only about 1% were males. This was caused by a bacteria of the, Wolbachia genus, which infects females and which causes male embryos to die before hatching. The resulting success rate for egg hatching was also low.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Confirmation Bias And The Stain on a Toilet Wall

The Prophet at prayer
Crowds flock to Mali's 'religious wall sign' - BBC News

It's official. The Prophet is a stain.

And all those blasphemers who have been drawing images of Muhammad have got it all wrong. We now know Muhammad is shaped like a white blob.

Crowds are flocking to a toilet in a compound in the Mali capital, Bamako, to see his image which appeared on an outside wall last weekend.

Riot police and the national guard have been deployed to keep the crowds under control. Visitors who queue throughout the night include several Malian government ministers. The image has been widely circulated on mobile phones and is drawing in visitors from neighbouring Senegal.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Another Bad Day For the 'Malevolent Designer'

Electron micrograph of an Ebola viral particle
Ebola vaccine efficacy trial suggest vaccine provides high protection against disease | Science Daily

It's been a bad couple of days for this 'Intelligent (sic) Designer' creationist loons keep telling us made everything and did everything they don't understand.

In this fantasy world, this assumed designer did everything, but we have to ignore the bad stuff. We have to ignore childhood cancer, the fact that illness and misfortune strike the pious and the impious alike, that there are random large-scale slaughters from natural disasters.

We have to ignore the fact that supposed design with intent and for a purpose produced genetic diseases, worms that make children blind by eating their eyeball from the inside; that the viral, bacterial, protozoan, helminth and arthropod parasites that make us sick, disabled or dead were also designed by the same assumed designer, and we have to ignore the fact that this designer appears to be on the side of these harmful parasites when it redesigns them to overcome the antibiotics, insecticides and anti-heminitics we've made to defend ourselves against them.

We have to ignore all this stuff because creationists like to imagine they have a close personal relationship with the creator of the Universe and it made it all just for them because it loves them.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

New Wolf Dogs Creationists

African golden jackal, Canis anthus
Photo credit: Eyal Cohen
Source: AAAS Science Magazine
Genome-wide Evidence Reveals that African and Eurasian Golden Jackals Are Distinct Species | Current Biology

The world has a new species of dog - and creationists have another embarrassing fact to ignore.

Although strikingly similar, scientists have shown that the African and Asian golden jackal, until now classified as a single species, Canis aureus, are actually two different species which diverged from ancestral coyotes and grey wolves at different times; 1.3 and 1.9 million years ago, respectively. The similarity is probably due to very similar habitats, food and lifestyle giving rise to parallel evolution. The team have proposed the new name Canis anthus (African golden wolf) for the African species.

Beating the Malevolent 'Intelligent Designer'

Poliovirus (bar = 5nm)
Photo Credit: F.P. Williams, U.S. EPA
Source: http://www.epa.gov/nerlcwww/polio.html
Nigeria's polio-free year sees Africa inch closer to eradication - New Scientist

The great news for creationists is that we are on the verge of defeating their malevolent 'Intelligent (sic) Designer'. How can that be good news for creationists? Read on.

One especially nasty little invention of this invisible magic entity (for those who've fallen for the hoax) is the virus that cause poliomyelitis, normally, but not exclusively, in children, hence its formerly common name, 'infantile paralysis'. It couldn't have evolved so it must have been designed, and design always has a purpose, if you've swallowed the hoax. So creationists have no alternative but to accept that their imaginary friend is hideously malevolent.

It might well be extinct within a year or so in Africa, despite the best efforts of religious fundamentalists to prevent it, thanks to medical science.

Polio, as it's also called, strikes without warning. In 90-95% of cases it causes no symptoms at all, in most of

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