Thursday, 18 January 2018

Neanderthals Had Sex With Anyone

Upper view of the Montmaurin-LN mandible.
The Montmaurin-La Niche mandible reveals the complexity of the Neanderthals’ origin | CENIEH - Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana

We now know that modern humans interbred with at least two, probably three and possibly more different hominin species when they left Africa. What this new analysis shows is that Neanderthals also interbred with archaic hominins and may not even have formed as single lineage in Eurasia.

Instead, this analysis by a team of scientists from the Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (National Research Centre for Human Evolution - CENIEH) in Spain, led by José María Bermúdez de Castro, together with the French researcher Amélie Vialet, from the Musée d'histoire naturelle (Natural History Museum) in Paris, suggests that Neanderthals may have diversified, evolved as isolated populations, then interbred with one another so that later Neanderthals were a mosaic of earlier and divergent populations.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Birds of a Feather - New Species Evolve

Large cactus finch (Geospiza conirostris)
Study of Darwin's finches reveals that new species can develop in as little as two generations

Birds of a feather: U of T researchers discover Amazon bird to be rare hybrid species

This week we have a couple of examples of new species arising - that thing that creationists insist can't happen. The evolutionary process that created them was hybridisation which occurs very much faster than the more usual (at least in vertebrates - speciation by hybridisation is common in plants) divergence by a combination of genetic drift and natural selection. And in these cases, the species are birds.

The first is from those devil figures for creationists - Darwin's finches or Galapagos finches. This was originally reported and commented extensively upon last November and revealed an observed incidence of apparent speciation when a vagrant male appeared on the island of Daphne Major. This was much larger and had a larger, more robust beak than any of the other three species present on the island. It also sang with a different song.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Two More Catholic Clerics - Two More Sex Abuse Scandals

Archbishop Anthony Apuron stands in front of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral Basilica in Hagatna, Guam, Nov. 2014.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Grace Garces Bordallo
Guam archbishop faces new sexual assault allegation | CRUX

The US Pacific territory of Guam, which is almost wholly Catholic, has been rocked by a series of allegations that vehemently homophobic Anthony Apuron, Archbishop of Agana, sexually abuses altar boys in the 1970s. He has vigorously denied all the allegations and has not been criminally charged, but now another accuser has come forward.

The latest accuser, a relative of Archbishop Apuron, has claimed in the local media that he was abused by Apuron in 1990. This latest allegation has been reported to the Vatican. According to Archbishop Michael Byrnes, an earlier Vatican tribunal investigation into the earlier allegations has reportedly concluded and reached a verdict late last year but, for reasons unknown, has not yet made its findings public. Archbishop Byrnes has been given administrative responsibility for the diocese while Apuron is on administrative leave.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Changing Our Mind When the Evidence Changes


European brown bear (Ursus arctos)
Photo credit: Ivan PC
The Iberian brown bears do not descend from those fled from the north during the Ice Age / News / SINC - Servicio de Información y Noticias Científicas

To a creationist, with their simplistic black vs white, right vs wrong mentality, the fact that science can make mistakes or that the understanding is provisional - and all scientific understanding is provisional, even the best-supported - tells them that science, unlike their firmly held and unchangeable dogmas, is unreliable and therefore wrong. Little better than a guess, in fact.

To a scientist, and to anyone interested in truth rather than simple certainty, however, discovering that you have been wrong is actually welcome news and news that was well worth doing the research to discover because it means that what you now think you know is closer to the truth than it was before. Science works because scientists can and do change their minds when the evidence changes, unlike fundamentalist religions, where not changing your mind and not even questioning the dogmas is a prerequisite.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Massive Evolutionary Reduction in Genome Size

A Chilean cicada, which hosts particularly unusual symbiotic bacteria.

Photo credit: Piotr Lukasik
UM Publishes Research on Unusual Gene Evolution in Bacteria - UM News - University Of Montana:

Hopefully getting back to blogging again after spending time on another book, it's a pleasure coming back with details of two papers published by the same team a few days ago that shatter so many creationist dogmas, it's hard to keep count.

Creationists will tell you, for example, that evolution involves an increase in complexity and therefore an increase in information in the genome, and that this is impossible because of some mysterious application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics which ignore the fact that an organism, Earth, and even the solar system are not closed systems. Never-the-less, they'll confidently assure you that in this way science has proved evolution can't happen, it's just that millions of working biologists never got the memo and have been mistaking the observed instances of not evolution for examples of... well... evolution.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Climate Change is Shrinking Moose

The researchers measured the length, width and height of moose skulls to study the impact of climate change on the iconic Northwoods species. The team measured 662 moose skulls and observed a 16 percent decrease in size over 40 years.

Credit: Sarah Bird/Michigan Tech
The Shrinking Moose of Isle Royale | Michigan Tech News:

Moose on Isle Royale, Michigan, USA are evolving rapidly in response to environmental change, especially climate change.

Unlike nearby populations of moose which have halved in the past 12 years, the Isle Royale moose population has increased by more than twenty percent per year for the last six years - but they are getting smaller. Measurements of skulls collected over a forty year period show they have shrunk by about sixteen percent. Life-span is also reducing.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Suffer Little Children - At the Hands of Priests and Nuns

Smyllum Park Catholic Children Abuse Centre, Lanarkshire, Scotlanda
Nun broke girl's arm after discovering she was being sexually abused by a priest | Metro News

When a nun caring for children at the Catholic-run Smyllum Park children's home in Lanarkshire, Scotland walked into the chapel and found a priest sexually abusing an eight year-old girl, she sprang immediately into action.

She grabbed the girl by one arm and flung her against the wall, breaking her arm, called her a 'whore' and shouted “get the f*** out of here” at her.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Pope Francis Thinks the Bible is Wrong!

Lord's Prayer: Pope Francis calls for change - BBC News

Pope Francis has been thinking.

No, it's not about how the church can avoid taking responsibility for the child abuses carried out by it's priests and nuns and certainly not about how it can compensate and support their victims and avoid creating any more.

It's about how to resolve a curious contradiction in the Bible that has been taxing the brains of theologians and biblical scholars for close on 1700 years, ever since the Bible was compiled. The contradiction is between James 13:1 with:

Human Evolution - Dispersal Out of Africa

Map of sites with ages and postulated early and later pathways associated with modern humans dispersing across Asia during the Late Pleistocene.

Regions of assumed genetic admixture are also shown. ka, thousand years ago.

© Bae et al. 2017. On the origin of modern humans: Asian perspectives. Science.
Image by: Katerina Douka and Michelle O’Reilly
On the origin of modern humans: Asian perspectives | Science

One of the exciting things about science is how knowledge is never fixed and unchanging. It grows and develops as new findings are incorporated into existing understanding, sometimes even needing quite fundamental revisions of what we thought we knew.

One such branch of science is that of human evolution and dispersal out of Africa which is in an exciting phase at the moment as new archaeological discoveries are made and new techniques of DNA recovery and analysis are revealing genetic evidence of relationships and interbreeding.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Plagiarists For Jesus

Willaim Lane Craig. Accused of plagiarism
Christian Apologist William Lane Craig Accused of Plagiarizing Thesis.

In an article published yesterday by David G. Mcafee in the Patheos blog, No Sacred Cows, Christian apologist and apologist for faith-based genocide, William Lane Craig has been accused of plagiarising his Masters Degree thesis.

This accusation is not new; it has been around for several years, but has been given another airing by atheist, author and former student of William Lane Craig's, John W Loftus. Loftus has written extensively about Lane Craig's cowardice in refusing to debate him publicly despite Lane Craig making an issue of Richard Dawkins' refusal to give him a platform following his repugnant apologetic for the Canaanite genocide in which he presented infanticide as morally justifiable.

Friday, 1 December 2017

A Loving Nativity Scene That Christians Hate


Religious Conservatives Outraged By Gay Nativity ‘Sacrilege’

Apparently, conservative Christians are queuing up to be outraged by a Christmas nativity scene in a Los Angeles front garden that shows Jesus with two fathers.

It's not the pretty pink matching costumes that they're wearing but the fact that there are two of them which is causing the great gnashings of teeth and calls for retribution on the grounds of 'blasphemy'.

It was this Twitter tweet by Twitter user Cameron Esposito which sent them into a frothing-mouthed, venom-spitting spectacle on the social media.

But how is this a blaphemy? Isn't this exactly what the Bible says when it claims Jesus was the son of God, even making great play of the claim and basing the entire Christian religion on that claim, and also claiming Jesus was the son of Joseph and thus of the 'House of David' in fulfilment of a prophecy?

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Bigots Kicked Down Under!

The Australian Senate
Photo: Lukas Coch / AAPIMAGE
The Senate Just Voted Down All The Conservative Amendments To The Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Following the stunning victory for basic human decency and those campaigning for an inclusive Australia in the same-sex marriage referendum recently, the Australian Senate handed out another kicking to the Christian bigots still looking for victims and demanding the right to persecute people of their choice.

According to this report by Lane Sainty in Buzz News, the Senate voted down by a large majority a series of amendments by the conservative Christian right that would have given Christians an effective veto on same-sex marriages and provided them with a legal right to continue to persecute and victimise homosexuals by denial of goods and services.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Still Not Yeti

Abominable Snowman? Nope. Study ties DNA samples from purported Yetis to Asian bears

Just like their religious myths, the myth of the Yeti is a central part of the folklore of Tibet and Nepal. In that respect if differs not at all from other mythologies, religious or otherwise from other parts of the world. Lots of anecdotes and stories of people who knew of someone who's acquaintance once met someone who saw a Yeti or accounts of people seeing a shadow in a blizzard.

In the case of the Yeti, however, there was maybe something a bit more substantial - a tuft of hair, some faeces, skin, teeth, even a bone or two.

The problem is, the people who purportedly found these bits of evidence and sold them to collectors and Yeti hunters never counted on modern forensics and especially nor on modern DNA recovery and analysis.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Muddling Through With 'Intelligently Designed' Mistakes!

Adaptive mechanisms such as activation and use of cryptic splice sites or alternative transcription start sites as well as nonsense-associated alternative splicing and skipped exons maintaining reading frame shore up a sea of mutations expected to cause premature translation termination and loss of function.
Artist: Neta Shwartz.
What can zebrafish teach us about our survival in the face of mutations? | Carnegie Institution for Science

What would you do if you were an intelligent, omniscient, omnipotent designer and found that your perfect design kept going wrong in unexpected and unpredictable ways?

Well, if you were a creationist intelligent designer it seems, you would still regard yourself as an omniscience, omnipotent, perfect designer but you would wouldn't improve your design so it didn't keep going randomly wrong - because it's already perfect! Instead, you would set about designing a clunky workaround that went some way towards rectifying those omniscient mistakes and you would settle for near enough is good enough - apparently.

This is (leaving out the intelligent designer nonsense) what researchers Steven Farber, Jennifer Anderson and colleagues, of the Carnegie Institution have show happens in the zebrafish to cope with detrimental mutations. Rather than putting up with mutations resulting in individuals failing and being removed from the population gene pool, zebrafish, and maybe lots of other species, have evolved mechanisms for coping with them by either neutralising them or at least minimising their detrimental effects.

According to the Carnegie Institution press release:

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Another Faith-Based Massacre

The al-Rawda Sufi mosque, Bir al-Abed, Sinai, Egypt
Photo credit: EAP
Egypt attack: Gunmen kill 235 in Sinai mosque - BBC News

Islamic jihadists believed to be affiliated to Islamic State (IS) have attacked a Sufi mosque in Sinai, killing at least 300 people, now revised upwards from the BBC News report.

The reason? Because the Islamic tradition of Sufism is considered heretical by fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, so obviously those who believe they know the mind of Allah believe Allah wants heretics killed and needs their help to kill them.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Malaria - Good News for Creationists as Trump Helps God!

World-wide incidence of malaria
(Note: the USA is mamaria-free)
The US President's Malaria Initiative, Plasmodium falciparum transmission and mortality: A modelling study

At last something for creationists of the ID persuasion to celebrate!

Remember, creationists believe that their intelligent (sic) designer is the god they claim is the maximally good giver of morals who always acts to maximise the good in a world which runs perfectly according to his omni-benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient plan.

The Brutal Despot and the Catholic Priest


Robert Mugabe.
"God has saved his life" - Fr. Mukonori
Photo credit: AP
Zimbabwe: Who is the Catholic priest behind Robert Mugabe? | Christianity today

As we say goodbye to the tyrannical psychopath who has run Zimbabwe for the last 30 years and the Zimbabwean people celebrate, let's look at the role of the Catholic Church and in particular the Catholic priest who was his confidante and most loyal supporter - Fr. Fidelis Mukonori.

Fr. Mukonori is a Jesuit priest and has been a friend of Robert Mugabe since before he came to power. During the independence struggle as ZANU-PF led by Mugabe and ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo waged a guerilla war against the illegal white supremacist government under Ian Smith, Fr. Mukonori travelled around Zimbabwe - then called Rhodesia - under the cover of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Rhodesia, gathering information about the progress of the liberation struggle and passing it on to Mugabe.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Another Victory for Humanism Over Faith-Based Barbarity


Ratko Mladić, mass murdering war criminal
Ratko Mladic jailed for life over Bosnia war genocide - BBC News

Ratko Mladić, devout Orthodox Christian, the Butcher of Bosnia, has been found guilty by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague of crime against humanity for his part in the Bosnian Genocide in the early 1990's.

He has been on trial since 2012 since when he has been held at the Scheveningen prison in The Hague where he spends his days playing chess against his compatriot, coreligionist and fellow genocidist, Radovan Karadžić, former president of Serbia, who was convicted of genocide in 2016. The third member of the murderous regime that took over Serbia following the break up of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milošević, escaped conviction by dying during his trial.

Mladić, aged 74, has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The crimes were committed in the series of wars which followed the break-up of former Yugoslavia when Orthodox Christian Serbia tried to exert control over neighbouring Bosnia and Croatia to create a 'Greater Serbia', maintaining the traditional Serbian domination of Yugoslavian politics.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Christians and Jews Unite to Defend Paedophilia

Rabbi Noson Shmuel Leiter, director of Help Rescue Our Children
Speaking in Birminham, ALabama in support of Roy Moore
New York rabbi lends support to Roy Moore at Birmingham rally | Southern Jewish Life Magazine.

Following close on American Christian fundamentalists discovering that their religion permits lying, sexually assaulting women, adultery, cheating, fraud and bullying when they discovered that Donald Trump represented all the values they stand for, they now seem to have realised what good and moral things paedophilia, sexual assault on and non-consensual sex with a minor are, with the Roy Moore affair.

Now we learn it's not just extremist Christians who have these conveniently flexible morals and an imaginary friend who approves of every abuse of power and antisocial, divisive and abusive policy you can think of when it suits your selfish ambitions. Some extremist Jews have the same flexibility it seems.

Evangelical Christian preachers seem to be vying for the best Bible-based apologia for Moor's alleged sexual abuse of young women including a fourteen year-old girl some years ago. It not only does not debar him from holding elected public office, but is makes him eminently suitable as a good Christian - apparently. They have just discovered that the Bible is full of child molestation and non-consensual sex (or 'rape' as we now call it) all done with the tacit approval of God or even on his orders. Why, even Jesus's own mother was a minor!

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Evolving Creationists!

Old Order Amish, evolving - naturally
Why these Amish live longer and healthier: an internal ‘fountain of youth’ - Northwestern Now

Shocking news for creationists yesterday!

Fundamentalist Christian creationists have been caught evolving and breaking one of the sacred creationist dogmas - that all mutations are harmful and degenerative. This was discovered in a group of appropriately-named Old Order Amish from Indiana, USA.

Due to a mutation, they are living 10% longer compared to those members of the same Amish group without the mutation.
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