Friday, 31 October 2014

Rise of Atheism Alarms Egyptian Clerics

Rise of atheism in Egypt sparks concern | GulfNews.com

It's not just in the Western world that clerics who earn their living from people's irrational superstitions, delusions and phobias are becoming concerned over the spread of rationalism and outbreaks of logical thinking. Egyptian clerics too are concerned about the growth of Atheism.

It is estimated that there are about two million Atheists in Egypt, i.e. about 2.3% of the population of 87 million, despite the fact that Atheism is regarded as a

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Muddled Pope Tries To Face Both Ways

In one of those excruciatingly embarrassing pronouncements Popes are periodically prone to making about science, Pope Francis today announced that the Big Bang theory and Evolution are both right and that God isn't a magician with a magic wand (so far so good), then proceeded to explain how neither the Big Bang nor Evolution would be possible without a magic god to get them going, presumably by doing magic, with or without a wand.

Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the Pope announced:

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Rapid Human Evolution In South America


The Cuncaicha rock shelter, high in the Peruvian Andes
Photo: Barbara Fraser
Humans were living at extreme altitudes 1000 years earlier than thought | Science/AAAS | News

A paper published a few days ago suggests human evolution, under the right conditions, can be very rapid.

A mixed American, German and Canadian team led by Kurt Rademaker of Department of Anthropology, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA have discovered that humans lived above 4300 metres for at least part of the year, probably as seasonal hunters, in the High Andes within 2000 years of settling at Monte Verde in Chile. Monte Verde, at about 14,000 BCE is the earliest widely accepted site for human occupation in South

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Human Evolution - Sex With Neanderthals


Neanderthal DNA specialist Svante Pääbo examines the anatomically modern human femur, found near Ust'-Ishim in western Siberia.
Photograph: Bence Viola/MPI EVA
Thoroughly modern humans interbred with Neanderthals - life - 22 October 2014 - New Scientist

A little more light was shed on the fascinating human story the other day when an international team from America, Asia and Europe led by Svante Pääbo and Janet Kelso of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany, published their findings from the DNA sequenced from the oldest human fossil so far. And the picture is emerging of not only several periods of interbreeding between fully modern humans and Neanderthals but that there may have been several waves of modern human migration out of Africa and into Euro-Asia, not all of which were successful in the long run.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Massive Decline in UK Religious Affiliation

Methodist Chapel, Bentlawnt, Shropshire, UK
Exclusive: New figures reveal massive decline in religious affiliation | Christian News on Christian Today

That sensational headline isn't mine, it's from Christian Today, a mainstream online magazine for Christians, and it couldn't be more apposite.

The results of a large, 20,000 person survey by 2015 British Election Study, published on the British Religion in Numbers website, make gloomy reading for people who earn their living from religion. The decline has been little short of catastrophic and however you look at them, there are few crumbs of comfort for the Christian Churches.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bronx Liar Exposed Again!

It's been a bad couple of weeks for poor little Manuel de Dios Agosto, the unemployable, expelled Catholic seminarian with attention deficit and narcissistic personality disorder from the Bronx, New York.

Not only was he confirmed conclusively by Twitter user @God___Swill to be Twitter users @CatholicGadfly, @StudiousAthiest, @SCDTVS, @SacerdotusRadio and the now suspended @Sacerdotus by the simple scientific technique of textual analysis which produced identical profiles - almost impossible to fake and so statistically significant as to have a probability of being due to chance alone which is almost indistinguishable from zero, but he's now been caught by another Twitter user forging emails in the lies he keeps posting about me.

This sad little tale goes back about a year when, for reasons which can only be guessed at, he became psychotic again,

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Slapdown For The Supine Pope

BBC News - Catholic synod: Gay rights groups 'disappointed'

Any illusions the 'reforming' Pope Francis may have been under that he is reforming the Catholic Church and bringing it into the 21st-Century by injecting a small dose of humanism into its doctrine were shattered today. The synod of bishops meeting in Rome put him firmly in his place and voted down his paragraph containing the mildest of calls to 'accept' and 'value' the contribution of homosexuals to society and replaced it with a reaffirmation of traditional homophobic Church dogma.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Creationist Abomination - Lesbian Lizards

Cnemidophorus-ThreeSpecies.jpg

Photograph by Alistair J. Cullum. Via Wikimedia Commons
Of course, Intelligent Design 'Theory' has nothing to do with religion or the Bible, does it, creationists! No! Intelligent design is all based on good science and has no fundamentalist religious agenda at all. Intelligent Design 'Theory' would be just the same even if all the proponents of it weren't religious fundamentalist who believe Genesis is the inerrant word of a magic creator and the best available description of reality.

Or that's what they would have their non-fundamentalist victims believe anyway.

Similarly, it's merely a coincidence that proponents of IDT are invariable against same-sex relationships and agree with the the Bible that homosexuality is a mortal sin. And it's naturally no coincidence that the god of the Christian Bible agrees with IDTists because the Bible is science and what they are dealing with is science, not religion at all... isn't it?

So, what's all this about lesbian lizards? Doesn't the creator hate homosexuality?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons from Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill, the largest Neolithic earthwork in Europe
Silbury Hill, in Wiltshire, UK, is the largest Neolithic man-made earthwork in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It was made about 4,750 years ago, would have taken about 18 million man-hours of labour or 500 men working for 15 years to construct - and nobody knows why it as built or what it was for.

It seems highly likely that religion was a factor if not the entire reason for its construction. Let's see what we can learn from it.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Old Dead Gods - Lessons From Cirencester

Three Goddesses, Roman high relief sculpture.jpg
"Three Goddesses, Roman high relief sculpture" (Corinium Museum, Cirencester) by Tony Grist - Photographer's own files. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
A little study of ancient history can teach us a lot about religions.

As I said in a previous blog, we've just had a very pleasant mini-break in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire during which we spent a few hours in the old Roman town of Cirencester, which, 2000 years ago was a thriving, bustling Romano-British community called Corinium, surrounded by and more-or-less peacefully co-existing with the indigenous Dubonnii tribe of native Britons.

These native Britons were supposedly Celtic people, though I personally find the arguments for that less than convincing (but that's another story). They, like the Romans, and like the Anglo-Saxons did later, had replaced earlier migrants to the British Isles comming possibly from Western Iberia and the Pyrenees.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

How Evolution Gave Us Fruity Beers

Cirencester, looking east down Market Place.
We've just arrived back home from a very pleasant Autumn mini-break in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, staying for a couple of nights in a hotel overlooking the Cotswold Water Park at South Cerney, near Cirencester. Cirencester, as the name ...cester implies, was an old Roman fortified town used as both a center of Romano-British culture and a garrison to maintain military dominance and political control over the native Britons. 'Castra' is Latin for 'camp', which came to mean a military garrison.

The Romans knew it as Corinium, Corinium Dobunnorum (after the local Celtic tribe the Dubonnii)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Manny Busted - Again!

You just can't beat science.

You can almost feel sorry for Fruit Loop, Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled Bronx Catholic trainee priest, narcissist and full-time Internet stalker, abuser and psychopathic fantasist whose personality disorder compels him to seek center stage, only to take another pratfall to the great enjoyment of onlookers. Manny rarely disappoints as he continues to live down to his promise.

Ever since we outed him under his then main persona, Sacerdotus, who, under a variety of usernames had been stalking and abusing people on Twitter with explicit threats of sexual violence amongst other things from the safety of his room in his mother's

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How Evolution Works - Sickle Cell Disease And Malaria

Plasmodium.jpg
Malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, in human blood.
For about 100,000 years, humans have had to live with a particularly nasty parasite and one that was given a boost about 10,000 years ago when humans began to settle down to a urban, agricultural existence, rather than a nomadic hunter-gatherer one. With settlements came the need for a regular water supply even in times of drought and for irrigation of crops, meaning we lived close to areas of standing water - ideal breeding places for mosquitoes. And mosquitoes are the key to the spread of the parasite in question - malaria.

A month or so ago we were in the south of France, being eaten alive every night by mosquitoes. Fortunately, apart from the infernal itching and red blotches, we suffered little real harm because Europe is now malaria-free, but in Africa, India, Southeast Asia and South America, hundreds of millions of humans get malaria every year by being bitten by mosquitoes carrying one or other of the four species of Plasmodium parasites. About a million children die from malaria every year.

Monday, 6 October 2014

It's All Someone Else's Fault - Vatican

Vatican accuses U.N. panel of sowing confusion

If you're expecting radical reforms in the Catholic Church, especially in its attitude to predatory paedophile priests and nuns, don't hold your breath.

In stark contrast to Pope Francis' protestations of regret and promises of reform with no measure spared to root out corruption and coverups and bring the abusers to justice, the reality is hand-washing that would do credit to Pontius Pilate, weedling excuses that would make a rogue market trader blush, and ducking down behind obscure, strict legalistic interpretations of International Law. Anything in fact

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Another Creationist Lie Refuted By Science

Early bioenergetic evolution

Here's another one of those scientific papers that creation pseudoscience frauds must dread because it deals with another of their mysterious 'beginnings', abiogenesis.

Beginnings are such things as the Big Bang, the origins of morality and abiogenesis, or, as creationists like to call it, life from no-life. These are where they can fool those ignorant of science that the beginning must have had a magic cause because there couldn't have been something before it so, to the scientifically illiterate (i.e. creationists), it looks like getting

Friday, 3 October 2014

Frankly Bonkers Francis

Bernhard Plockhorst - Schutzengel.jpg
Guardian Angel; Bernhard Plockhorst (1825–1907)
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
I believe in angels, says Pope Francis – and they help you make right decisions | World news | The Guardian

Good news for angels!

Pope Francis has decreed that they now exist again and, according to Catholic dogma, because the Pope once infallibly declared himself to be infallible, this means that, even if they didn't exist before, they do now, just as we know that barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) became fish that hatch out of barnacles in the Middle Ages and have now turned back into perfectly respectable geese, because the Pope said so.

Likewise, limbo existed as somewhere for the souls of dead babies to go to until it was abolished by papal decree by Pope Benedict XVI in April 2007. Apparently, the souls of dead babies can now go straight to heaven despite being sinners who have never been saved by 'accepting Jesus'. Before the 12th-Century dead babies when straight to Hell to teach them a lesson for being born sinners, according to Augustine of Hippo. After that, because that didn't seem very fair, the Pope had decreed limbo into existence as a sort of half-way house.

Now, despite his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI having come out against the existence of angels,

Another Of Those 'Absent' Transitional Forms!

Protoclaviger trichodens in Cambay amber
Parker and Grimaldi, Specialized Myrmecophily at the Ecological Dawn of Modern Ants, Current Biology (2014)
Specialized Myrmecophily at the Ecological Dawn of Modern Ants

A very nice example of one of those transitional forms from the fossil record - the very thing that, despite their abundance as I pointed out recently, creationist frauds keep assuring their victims have never been found - was published yesterday in Current Biology by paleoentomologist David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History and entomologist Joseph Parker of Columbia University.

This one is a myrmecophile (literally, ant-loving) beetle

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Religiously Bigotted

Amir-Aslani, 37.
Hanged for making "innovations in the religion", "spreading corruption on earth" and "insulting prophet Jonah"
Three news items in the last few days neatly illustrate the bigoted and disingenuous nature of religion, and it doesn't even need to be a particularly fundamentalist form of religion either, though that undoubtedly helps.

The first is from the Guardian and concerns the execution of an Iranian Muslim psychotherapist for heracy. In addition to his psychotherapy sessions, Amir-Aslani also held Qur'an-reading sessions in his own home during which he suggested there may be other ways to interpret the Qur'an other than the official one (i.e the one authorised by the Iranian Muslim clergy).

His crime was to suggest that the Quranic version of

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Crabby Tenants Cooperate Naturally

Trepezia flavopunctata. The largest species of guard crab.

Photo: Seabird McKeon
Crabby Tenants Defend Corals From Marauding Predators | Science | Smithsonian

A stunning example of mutualism - the sort of cooperation which 'selfish gene' theory predicts - was published recently by Smithsonian.com - the online science magazine of the Smithsonian Insitute.

It shows how a complex ecosystem like a coral reef has evolved a defensive system of guard crabs which receive shelter in crevices in the coral and nutrients in return for vigorously defending the living coral polyps from attack by predatory molluscs and starfish. Its not just the presence of the crabs themselves which is important but the presence of several different types, each with a particular role.

While the relationship between coral and crab has been known for a while, researchers have now found

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