Sunday, 30 November 2014

Victims of Religion in Poland

30–39 year old female with a sickle placed across her neck.
PLOS ONE: Apotropaic Practices and the Undead: A Biogeochemical Assessment of Deviant Burials in Post-Medieval Poland

Ignorant superstitions are often a cause as well as an effect of religious bigotry. These can and often do provide an excuse for human rights abuses and victimisation of people who are a little bit different to the cultural norm, whether in personality, physical or mental disability or even race, skin colour or ethnic origin.

Eastern Europe, and Poland in particular, has a long history of superstitious belief in 'unclean' spirits re-entering a dead body and reanimating it. This superstition, underpinned by the religious idea of a soul or some form of magical other being who lives in our bodies and gives it 'life' is not, as some might think, a biblical or Quranic idea but one which was known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Environment, Evolution and Polar Bear Extinction

PLOS ONE: Projected Polar Bear Sea Ice Habitat in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

The prospect of polar bears becoming extinct by 2075 because of the loss of the North Polar icecap is a stark warning of what we are doing to the life-support system we call Earth as we pump out more and more of our toxic waste, like bacteria polluting our culture medium. It also serves to illustrate a couple of things about how life evolves and changes over time, pushed as often as not by environmental change, not genetic change.

Chamber of Secrets Has Creationists in Denial Again

Phote credit: John Hawks
Bone bonanza: Chamber of secrets yields human remains - life - 28 November 2014 - New Scientist

One of the things which illustrates the difference between religion and science is how science continually looks for new information and adjusts its thinking accordingly, whereas religion constantly looks for excuses not to change in any way, and this includes actively ignoring, or finding ways to dismiss, new information.

Take for example the buzz of excitement in the field of palaeoanthropology at the moment at news that a team of archaeologists working in a cave system in South Africa have discovered and excavated the

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Christian Fundamentalist - No Cake for Gays!


© UTV
Equality law 'conscience clause' bid - UTV Live News

You have to hand it to Christians, they are relentless in their determination to get their special privileges back and to be permitted to carry on victimising and bullying minorities. Even though they've been knocked down and defeated in every court in the UK and Europe, still they whinge and grizzle and demand changes to the law when they are found yet again to have been bullying gays and denying them the same basic human rights that they enjoy.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Rapid Darwinian Evolution In Agricultural Weeds

Wheat Field; Vincent van Gogh, 1888. Weeds and all.
Dawn of farming sparked speed-evolution in weeds - life - 19 November 2014 - New Scientist

One of my recurrent themes in my blogs about evolution is the difference between information held in the DNA and the meaning of that information as interpreted by the environment. This is something that creationist frauds traditionally ignore of course, especially when they try to fool their credulous victims with the claim that no new information can arise because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (sic), so evolution is impossible.

Not only is that nonsensical claim refuted by simple observation but evolution often doesn't need new information anyway; evolution often comes about because a change in the environment give new meaning to existing information.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Evolving Cooperation - But For Who Or What?

Bacteroides fragilis
Look after your gut bacteria; it might be your allotted purpose in life - if you subscribe to the evidence-free religious notion that you must be here for a purpose.

A couple of scientific papers in the last couple weeks have caught my attention because they demonstrate how Richard Dawkins' 'Selfish Gene' metaphor for how Darwinian evolution actually works gives, contrary to what a superficial reading of the term might suggest to those who don't understand evolution, cooperation rather than conflict.

We humans, as with all other multicellular species, are not just cooperative alliances of 'human' genes; not just cooperative alliances of prokaryotic cells and not even just cooperative alliances of eukaryotic cells

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Another Mad Day In A Bronx Cuckoo Land

I really must resist the temptation to write blogs exposing Manuel de Dios Agosto, known to Twitter users as 'Manny' or 'Sac', or other less printable terms, and get back to writing about science and exposing religion's fallacies and human rights abuses, but his latest pratfall is just too hilarious to pass over. Besides, as Oscar Wilde said, the only sensible response to temptation is to yield to it.

His latest piece of hilarity is yet another attempt to convince people he knows who I am and yet another 'exposé' on me straight from Manny's fevered imagination.

So far over the last couple of years, he has told his few readers of his various blogs that:

Gay Gene Poser For Homophobic Creationists

Cambridge Journals Online - Psychological Medicine - Genome-wide scan demonstrates significant linkage for male sexual orientation.

Strangely, a paper based on a large study of brothers and twins which supports the idea that male sexuality, including homesexuality, has a strong genetic basis, has been completely ignored by homophobic religious fundamentalist. I say strangely because these same religious extremists are almost invariably creationists of one sort or another, either Young Earth Creationist loons and frauds like Ken Ham, Ray Comfort and Michael Behe, who ignore almost all science, or Old Earth Creationists like Francis Collins and Alvin Plantinga who only ignore the inconvenient bits and bits they can't pretend aren't true.

Abstract
Background: Findings from family and twin studies

Monday, 17 November 2014

Is Manny Plagiarising Your Work?

What's the real reason or Manny's insistence on apparently absurd conditions for debating him? It may not just be cowardice.

Those few people who have logged onto one of Manuel de Dios Agosto's blog sites to discover his terms and conditions for 'debating' him when he issues one of his many challenges to do the impossible and prove the Christian god doesn't exist, will have been astonished to find some apparently idiotic conditions being imposed, failure to comply with which will result in Manny claiming victory by default.

Incidentally, thanks to Wulfwitch for that link to a cached copy of one of Manny's blogs. Manny's blogs tend to be quickly edited when he's embarrassed by them, just prior to calling people liars for quoting them verbatim. Thanks too to Wulfwitch for drawing my attention through his blog to these conditions that Manny tries to impose on people who may be tempted to try to have a grown-up debate with him.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Church of England 'Has Six Years Left'

The Right Reverend Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro. Looking for a miracle.
BBC News - Bishop of Truro says Church of England has 'six years'

No. This is not an over-optimistic secularist or a cleric from a rival Christian sect spreading disinformation about Anglicanism but an Anglican bishop telling the Church of England that, basically, unless a miracle intervenes, and there have been precious few of them since we introduced universal education, the Anglican Church is about to expire.

No less an authority than the Bishop of Truro estimates that the Church has about six years left, such is the decline in attendance and income. His diocese alone

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Religion's Flexible 'Moral Absolutes'

One of the smug claims made by theists is that their religion gives them a set of moral absolutes, thus whatever they do in the name of their religion can't be immoral - and anyone who questions it is, by implication, immoral. It's fundamental to the way abusive clerics gain the confidence of their victims, for example. Who could doubt the moral fibre of someone who is working for God or Allah? Obviously, we should consult them on all matters of morality and ethics and allow them to dictate to us on such matters.

So where exactly are these moral absolutes in the holy books, and more importantly where is the evidence that these are er... moral absolutes? Shouldn't we expect a moral absolute, especially as practiced and promoted by religious clerics to be unchanging and eternal? If not, in what way is it an absolute?

Friday, 14 November 2014

How Selfish Genes Can Make Large Testes

Infanticide drives female promiscuity and big balls - life - 13 November 2014 - New Scientist

Infanticide by a dominant male is frequent in many species, having been observed in some 200 species of mammal alone. It is, of course, easily explained by gene theory of Darwinian evolution by natural selection; it is, like so much else in biology, completely nonsensical in terms of intelligent design by a benevolent designer.

It is especially common in species where a single dominant male has a harem of females but can be displaced by a new, younger male, and especially

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Comets, Science And Religion

BBC News - Probe makes historic comet landing.

In an astonishing feat of precision engineering and applied science, scientists today landed a probe on the surface of a comet 316 million miles away travelling at 40,000 mph, after a ten year journey of 4 billion miles.

There is a slight concern that the probe might not be anchored firmly to the comet as the harpoons which should have fired into the surface may not have fired. but they are now set to perform scientific experiments

Friday, 7 November 2014

Oxfam Confirms It - Manny Lied Again

Let's see Mad Manuel try to lie his way out of this one.

In a spectacular intervention, Oxfam, through their verified Twitter account, @Oxfamgb, have confirmed that all the donations I have said I made to them from the proceeds of advertising through this blog have been received. Twitter account @CatholicGadfly is, as most people will be aware, just another fake disinformation account owned by Manuel de Dios Agosto, the expelled Bronx Catholic seminarian, hobby troll, Internet stalker, pathological liar and serial abuser who can be read about here.

My thanks to Twitter user @Ellif_DWulfe for taking this up with Oxfam with my full cooperation and at my invitation. I gather they confirmed everything I said by email, which of course, Manuel was disputing on Twitter. Oxfam's intervention was unsolicited and must have come as a bombshell for poor little Manny.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Even Our Gut Microbes Show Our Evolution From Apes

Picture: MicrobiologyBytes
Our gut bugs evolved with us as we split from chimps - health - 04 November 2014 - New Scientist

It's long been known that the evolution of obligate parasites such as lice and fleas closely parallels the evolution of their hosts, and now it seems the same parallels can be seen in the evolution of our microbiome - the ecosystem of gut bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in us and with which we have co-evolved and become co-dependent.

Basically, the 'friendly bacteria' that live in our guts not only aid our digestion by breaking down complex polysaccharides, etc, but they also keep our gut healthy by occupying niches, so excluding 'foreign' organisms. They also keep one another's populations in check so that none normally proliferates to levels which can be harmful. One of the causes of diarrhoea which often accompanies

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Female Ants Go After Foreign Sex

Photo: Micheal Herrmann & Sara Helms Cahan
Inter-genomic sexual conflict drives antagonistic coevolution in harvester ants.

In a fascinating paper published by the Royal Society a few days ago, two researchers have shown how the opposed interests of males and females in hybridization can lead to different competing strategies. Like many species of social insects such as ants and wasps, the females mate once a year, or even sometimes only once in a lifetime.

The harvester ants of the closely related Pogonomyrmex genus mate each year after the monsoon rains and the females mate with males of not only their own species but with males of related species too. In fact, they need to mate with the males of other

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Manny Scores Another Own Goal!

LOL!

I know it's unkind, but LOL!

I know! Mad Manny lying again is not news. What would be news would be Manuel telling the truth, but this one is a spectacular own goal of the sort we've come to expect of Internet stalker and habitual abuser Manuel de Dios Agosto, as he continues his desperate attempt to convince people he's not the same Manuel de Dios Agosto who was expelled from St Joseph's Seminary, New York for behaviour which, had it been made public, would have been just another of the scandals then, as now, embroiling the Catholic Church and it's abusive clerics.

His latest ploy, in his increasingly bizarre guise as Twitter user @StudiousAtheist with which he pretends to be an Atheist who has discovered that I am him and that we are both a Catholic priest from Suffolk, England (Manny fantasy land, remember!) is to claim that St Joseph's Seminary, New York, closed in 1977 - before he was born.

The Bigots Are Whinging Again!

Colin Hart, Director, Christian Institute
Poll shows voters ‘concerned’ over religious liberty threats | News | The Christian Institute

In a wonderful example of how you can rig an opinion poll to give the result you want, the Christian Institute is trying to influence UK Government policy ahead of the General Election next May. They had commissioned the ComRes polling organisation to conduct a poll in marginal constituencies on the question of religious freedom versus equality legislation.

They found that only eleven percent of voters in these constituencies believe religious freedom has increased

Saturday, 1 November 2014

What's So Great About Eternal Life?

The problem for theists of the Abrahamic varieties is that all they really have is a promise of jam tomorrow. All they really have to offer is the hope of an eternal life but you have to die first and spend your life as though its a preparation for this eternal life and for which, to qualify, you have to live to strict rules.

Needless to say, the rules are conveniently made and interpreted by the same people who sell you the promise of jam tomorrow...
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