Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Gravity Waving Goodbye To Big Bang Doubts?

Gravitational waves: Scientists might be about to announce detection of 'ripples in the fabric of spacetime' | Independent.

It looks like creationists are about to be hit with another scientific discovery they are going to have to work hard to ignore, as another gap slams shut and no god was found in it.

There are persistent rumours in the scientific world that a team working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) system will announce tomorrow that they have discovered 'primordial gravity waves'. These are gravity waves from the first moments of the Big Bang and, if confirmed, could increase our knowledge of exactly what happened in that first few microsecond of the Universe's existence.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Lesson From Toulouse - How Christians Lie To Us

St Saturnin being dragegd by a bull
source: Wikipedia
This is a blog I intended to write last Autumn when we got back from Dordogne in France but it got put on the back burner for a while as other things intervened. It is the ludicrously silly tale of Saint Saturnin (or Sarin) of Toulouse, legendary first bishop of Toulouse in southwest France.

We had some time to kill before our flight home from Toulouse, so spent it in the town, mostly browsing the wonderful vegetable market, but this church down a side street caught our eye so we went to investigate. The church of St Sarin is a wonderful building in mock Romanesque style, slightly reminiscent of Eastern Christian churches. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses what are alleged to be St Saturnin's mortal remains and is supposedly built on the site where his body was hidden after his curious method of execution. Saint Saturnin is known by several names depending on language and local dialect; Sernin in French, Sarnin in Occitan, Sadurní in Catalan, etc.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Manny the Bronx Fraud is Still Trying

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk
Manuel de Dios Agosto, aka Sacerdotus, the expelled former Catholic seminarian from Bronx, has been inventing some more online personae. This time, the platform he displays them on is Amazon.com, where he pretends to be different people posting 'objective' reviews on his own books and books he hasn't read.

Take these he's recently posted on one of my book's page, for example:

This book is a disaster of intellectual thought. Old refuted arguments are represented by the author and are uninteresting. They expose the author as lacking literacy in science and philosophy. She attempts to spin science in the favor of atheism and while doing so, fails logically. Do not waste your time and money on this rubbish. There are far better sources out there that argue for the atheistic viewpoint. This author, Esther Harrison, is clearly inexperienced as a writer and doesn't have the academic know-how to publish professionally. Lastly, her books are on her blog so you can read it there for free.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Diabolically Fishy Problem For Creationists

Devil's Hole pupfish, Cyprinodon diabolis.
Image credit: Olin Feuerbacher / US Fish and Wildlife Service / CC BY 2.0
Diabolical survival in Death Valley: recent pupfish colonization, gene flow and genetic assimilation in the smallest species range on earth | PRSB.

Something diabolical indeed for creationism!

Now we have an example of rapid genetic diversification leading to a new species in just a few hundred years, and this could well have happened several times with repeated cycles of repopulation, evolution and extinction.

The Devil's Hole pupfish, Cyprinodon diabolis, has been described as one of the rarest fish on Earth and exists only in a small, aquifer-fed geothermal pool in a

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Even Voles Have 'Human' Emotions

Oxytocin-dependent consolation behavior in rodents | Science.

It is probably one of the more subtle, insidiously harmful aspects of religion that they encourage humans to feel in some way superior to the rest of nature and somehow to be separate from it, rather than part of the whole with a close connectedness to all of it.

One of the ways it has done this is to inculcate a belief that only humans have 'refined' emotions such as love, empathy, compassion, even conscious thought itself. Fundamentalists even come at this

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

More Nastiness From the 'Intelligent Designer'

WHO warns over spread of Zika virus - BBC News

It looks like creationism's intelligent (sic) designer has come up with another brilliant plan to add to human misery. Like so many of it's nasty little designs this one is another virus and it is using a tried and tested delivery system to make sure it spreads to as many people as possible - a blood-sucking parasite - in this case, mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, usually Aedes aegypti.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Unintelligently Designed War Between Sexes

(a) Histogram of pigmentation score on the last two abdominal segments in ten females in three melanogaster subgroup species grown under similar conditions. Only D. erecta (red) shows a bimodal distribution, whereas both D. orena (green) and D. melanogaster (blue) show a continuous, unimodal distribution.
(b) Photomicrographs of male and female D. erecta showing the dark (male-like) and light female morphs. Scale bar, 1 mm.
Ancient balancing selection at tan underlies female colour dimorphism in Drosophila erecta | Nature Communications

Imagine a designer coming up with something so bizarre as sexual reproduction in which the female gets so badly injured by the male that she has to be redesigned to avoid him because the designer keeps redesigning the male to do her more damage! Would this be a sign of intelligence or a sign of either malevolent sadism or stupidity?

Yet, if we fall for the Intelligent Design hoax, this is what we are required to believe this 'intelligent (sic) designer' has done.

Yes, it's our old friend the arms race, only this time it isn't a war between hunter and prey or parasite and host; it's a war between sexes, this time in a species of fruit fly, Drosophila erecta. You might think that sexual reproduction would be a cooperative thing where both sexes have the same interests - getting their respective gametes fused as efficiently as possible. The problem is

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Is Fundamentalism An Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

A thought occurred to me today, prompted by an online friend - fundamentalist religion has some striking parallels with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

According to an online pamphlet produced by the Royal College of Psychiatrists:

OCD has three main parts:
  1. the thoughts that make you anxious (obsessions)
  2. the anxiety you feel
  3. the things you do to reduce your anxiety (compulsions).

Friday, 15 January 2016

Early Hunting Lesson for Creationists.

Mammoth ribs with hunting lesions collected at Yana RHS [(A) to (F)], showing the mechanism for the formation of bone injury on the fifth rib of the SK mammoth (G).

(A) Mammoth rib with embedded lithic tool fragment. (B) Mammoth rib with two injuries that retain lithics. (C) View of the upper cut at (B). (D) View of the lower cut at (B). (E) Bone injury with no lithic in it but clearly left by the same action as for (A) and (B). (F) Bone injury that resulted from sliding of the lithic implement that removed part of the bone. (G) Hunting lesion on the fifth left rib of the SK mammoth; compare to (A) to (F) and note the same scale for all images.

Photo: Aleksei Tikhonov
© 2016, The American Association for the Advancement of Science
Early human presence in the Arctic: Evidence from 45,000-year-old mammoth remains | Science

More shocking evidence for creationists emerged this week in the form of evidence of hominid occupation of Northern Siberia some 39,000 years before they believe their god created the Universe.

A team of archaeologist at the Institute for the History of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg have found distinct evidence that a dead mammoth had been injured by stone-tipped weapons before and after death. The conclusion must be that it was killed by an armed hunting party using Stone Age tools. The problem for creationists is that the remains of the 15 year-old male mammoth has been carbon dated to 45,000 years ago, which puts its death before the height of the last Ice Age.

The evidence includes fragment of stone embedded in the bone as well as cuts which must have been made by a sharp instrument capable of cutting into bone. The remains of the mammoth were recovered from a frozen coastal bluff in central northern Siberia near the Kara Sea at 72o N, well inside the Siberian Arctic and only made accessible in the last twenty years.

Abstract
Archaeological evidence for human dispersal through northern Eurasia before 40,000 years ago is rare. In west Siberia, the northernmost find of that age is located at 57°N. Elsewhere, the earliest presence of humans in the Arctic is commonly thought to be circa

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Going, Going... Nearly Gone!

Church of England attendance plunges to record low - Telegraph

Active membership of the Church of England in Britain is in freefall.

The Church has just announced that average church attendance fell by a further 22,000 in 2014 to just 764,700; a fall of 7 percent in just 5 years. Regular weekly total attendance at church is now down to a megre 1.4 percent of the population and fell below 1 million to 980,000 for the first time ever. The C of E estimates that membership is declining by about 1 percent a year due to the deaths of its increasingly aged members alone, and this is at a time when the population is increasing faster than it has done since the late 1940s post-war baby boom.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Holy Brothers!

Georg Ratzinger
Domkapellmeister, Ragensberg Domspatzen, 1964-1994
At least 231 children abused at Catholic boys’ choir run by Pope Benedict’s brother

It's beginning to look like a massive sexual and physical abuse scandal is about to engulf the Catholic Church again, this time in Germany, and involving a private Catholic boarding school for boys aged 10-19 which at the time, was run by former Pope Benedict XVI's brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger.

A lawyer, Ulrich Weber, commissioned by the Ragensberg Catholic diocese, Bavaria, to investigate allegations of abuse made in 2010, has found evidence that 231 boys were systematically sexually abused and subjected to physical abuse including food

Saturday, 9 January 2016

To Have And To Harm Until Death Do Us Part

His Excellency Braulio Rodriguez Plaza
Archbishop of Toledo, Spain
Source: Wikipedia
Fury as archbishop says domestic violence is caused by women 'not obeying men' - Mirror Online

You have to hand it to Archbishop Braulio Rodriguez Plaza, Bishop of Toledo, Spain and thus the senior Catholic cleric in Spain; he knows his theology!

So, when he announced in Toledo Cathedral on 27 December that women victims of domestic violence only have themselves to blame because they disobeyed their husbands, you can be sure he reached that conclusion from a close reading of Christian scripture in the Bible. It was undoubtedly based on the revealed Word of God in that reliable handbook of morals upon which all Catholics, and indeed all people, can depend with absolute confidence.

God's mouthpiece, the unmarried and officially celibate Braulio Rodriguez Plaza, told the congregation that women could avoid being hit by doing what their husbands tell them and can avoid physical abuse by not asking their husbands for a divorce.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Laboratory Abiogenesis Observed?

Library synthesis and the mechanism of self-replication.

For description, see original source.
Diversification of self-replicating molecules - Nature Chemistry

The last three years have been dreadful for those who run the creationism industry, but this could be some of the worst news imaginable for them and their willing dupes, and it was only 4 days into the new year when it was published. Scientists led by Jan W. Sadownik at the Centre for Systems Chemistry, Stratingh Institute for Chemistry at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, believe they may have shown how self-replicating structures could have arisen spontaneously.

This is bound to result in hysterical denialism in creationist circles because it is an indispensable article of faith that life could not possibly have come from non-life so a magician must have made it happen. To a creationist, 'life' is of course some ill-defined or undefined magic ingredient that sets living things apart from non-living things and enables them to do things that living things don't do, such as reproducing. To anyone who understands basic biology however, living things are simply things that self-replicate. All the chemistry which goes on to use energy to resist the tendency to disorder is simply a means to that end.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Qur'an Quandary - Where is the Original?

Early Qur'an
Source: Wikipedia
Image: Donated by Brooklyn Museum, USA
Ask any Muslim what the Qur'an is and who wrote it, and you'll be told almost without exception, that it is Allah's word as revealed in divine revelations to Muhammad through Allah's messenger, the Archangel Gabriel (Jibril). You might even be given the simplistic answer that Muhammad literally wrote it.

This only happened once, apparently. Although spread over some 23 years, there is no record of Allah revealing the same thing several times, least of all the entire Qur'an.

You'll most likely be told that the proof that it is Allah's revealed word is the fact that Muhammad was illiterate and yet was able to write the Qur'an in perfect classical Arabic; that Allah literally guided his hand. This is, of course, the 'lie to children' version. The accepted

Friday, 1 January 2016

Pope Francis - Faking It For The Faithful

No, this is not another blog about how Pope Francis eagerly participates in such obviously fake 'miracles' as the 'St Gennaro blood' trick at Naples Cathedral; it's about how 'honest' Pope Francis is knowingly participating in another hoax in order to distract attention from the many scandals which continue under his leadership, just as under his two predecessors.

Pope Francis is actively participating in the elevation of the odious and unscrupulous nun, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, aka Mother Teresa of Calcutta, to the Catholic sainthood with a second highly dubious 'miracle' which he has ordered should be attributed to her.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Devil's Own Intelligent Design?

Tasmania devil Sarcophilus harrisii
A second transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils.

A little over 30 years ago, Tasmanian devils, marsupials that lives only on the Australian island of Tasmania, began to develop fatal tumours on their face. It was subsequently found that this devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) was a transmissible cancer which is passed on when one animal bites another on the face and transfers live tumour cells to the new host.

It is thought that these transmitted cells are not recognised by the devils' immune system as foreign and so destroyed because they are genetically so close to the devil's own cells having developed in a highly in-bred population as the population declined and genetic diversity declined with it. Ironically, a parasite has arisen in a host, derived from the host itself.

Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 - Another Miserable Year for Creationism

This is the third year I've written up a brief summary of some of the most interesting papers on evolution and related science for the past year, and, like the previous two, it's been another miserable year for creationism.

To look at their sites like Ken Ham's AiG, though, it's almost as though they haven't noticed any science this year. There is still no dent in their dogmatic insistence that science has never provided any evidence for evolution.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

New Book: An Unprejudiced Mind

An Unprejudiced Mind: Atheism, Science and Reason is my latest book - a sequel to The Light Of Reason: And Other Atheist Writing series - again consisting of carefully selected essays and articles from this blog, this time concentrating primarily of the science behind biological evolution and how it has led to biodiversity, and contrasting it with the pseudo-philosophy of theology. It is available in both paperback and Kindle editions. Buyers of the paperback can also obtain the Kindle version at a greatly reduced rate.

The title is a partial quote by one Patrick Matthews (20 October 1790 – 8 June 1874) who has a plausible claim to have been the first to published the idea of evolution by natural selection, in 1831, almost 30 years befor Darwin and Wallace published their idea to the Linnean Society. Charles Darwin himself acknowledged his prior claim but pointed to the obscurity of his chosen publication medium - in a book on arboriculture with a very small circulation. Matthews had even published his claim to be the first to describe natural selection in a letter to an obscure gardening magazine.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Has the 'Intelligent Designer' Got OCD?

African straw-coloured bat
Filovirus receptor NPC1 contributes to species-specific patterns of ebolavirus susceptibility in bats | eLife

OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterised by repeatedly and obsessively doing something which appears to have no aim, or at least an aim which isn't furthered by constant repetition.

Yet, when we look at biology, we see examples in great abundance of what would appear to be obsessive, constant repetition which actually achieves nothing, as though the designer is on some sort of mental treadmill and incapable of getting off it - assuming, that is, that you believe in a designer. This is not the act of a mentally healthy or intelligent being.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Why Science Works - Looking at New Evidence

Homo erectus
Source: Wikipedia
PLOS ONE: A Hominin Femur with Archaic Affinities from the Late Pleistocene of Southwest China

A point that's been made many times before here and elsewhere, but which creationists don't seem to be able to understand, is that science progresses essentially because nothing is ever completely ruled out and new evidence is always carefully examined before being accepted or rejected. If acceptance means we need to revise our previous understanding, then we revise our understanding. It would be a complete absurdity for science to know that there was evidence showing that our understanding was wrong yet to ignore it and pretend it just wasn't there.

This of course is in stark contrast to creationism where loons like Ken Ham are actually admired for dogmatically stating that no evidence can ever contradict what creationists 'know' because creationists 'know' the truth, and they didn't get it from the evidence. This dogma, which of course is essential for people trying to maintain a sacred conclusion with the evidence so strongly against them and being added to all the time, enabled creationists to simply wave aside

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