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.

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