Saturday, 30 April 2016

Evolution or Sadistic, Idiot Designer?

(A) Two males on a parasitized A. vaga (Osnabrück, 10.ii.2008).
(B) Five males on a parasitized host (Osnabrück, 23.ii.2008).
Photographs © W. Rutkies.
Traumatic insemination and female counter-adaptation in Strepsiptera (Insecta)

Parasitism itself, with it's inevitable arms race as the host evolves to combat the parasite and the parasite evolves to overcome its host's defenses is a major embarrassment to anyone trying to believe in any intelligence behind living things, or even intelligent evolution because, frankly, arms races are not intelligent.

But, even more of an embarrassment to intelligent (sic) design advocates, especially those who unashamedly link it to biblical literalism complete with the Christian god as the magic creator, are the exquisitely nasty mechanism some parasites have evolved. Their sheer malevolent nastiness precludes design by a benevolent designer and cannot possibly be presented as the work of a loving god or anything approaching one.

Friday, 29 April 2016

What? No Flood? - Australia's 50,000 Year History

Australian Aborginals have one of the oldest histories of any peoples, dating back 50,000 years.
Photo Credit: Rusty Stewart/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Deep Roots for Aboriginal Australian Y Chromosomes: Current Biology

If you are a creationist who insists that Earth is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old and that everyone save for a single family living in the Middle East were drowned in a global flood about 4,000 years ago, it really doesn't help that you have no evidence for that claim.

Imagine then having to cope with scientists continually coming up with evidence that it couldn't possibly be true! Evidence that modern humans have lived continuously and with little or no contact with other human groups, for 50,000 years in a single continent, for example.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Pope Francis And The Predatory Priest

Father Joseph Jeyapaul – ABC News
Sexual abuse case: US woman files lawsuit against Indian Bishop

You might think, with all the fanfare of publicity surrounding Pope Francis' 'reforms' of the Catholic Church in view of the tidal wave of child abuse scandals engulfing it, that something might have actually changed.

Well, that was what you were supposed to think, of course, but, as so often with the Catholic Church, what they actually do bears scant relationship to what they say they will do, or what they say others should do. For example, weren't we led to believe that predatory

Another of Those 'Non-existent' Transitional Forms!

Artist's impression of the amphibious ichthyosaur, Cartorhynchus lenticarpus, crawling over dry land
Credit: University of California at Davis.
Photograph: Stefano Broccoli/PA
A basal ichthyosauriform with a short snout from the Lower Triassic of China : Nature : Nature Publishing Group

I'm beginning to wonder if creationists are using a private definition of 'non-existent'; a definition that includes not only existent but lots of examples and evidence of existence. It's one of the weirdest aspects of creationism that relies so heavily on simple, repetitive denial of the evidence and the assertion that what can be clearly seen just isn't there, and yet it is firmly believed by so many people.

Here, for example, is yet another example of one of those transitional fossils that creationist fraud tell their willing dupes almost daily do not exist, even claiming that 'evolutionists' have been searching for years for one and have never found any. To be fair, this one was only reported a little over a year ago, so creationist frauds probably won't have thought up an excuse to dismiss it yet, so won't have mentioned it on one of their disinformation sites.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Dung Beetles Bury Creationism

Phylogeny of the Oniticellini and Onthophagini dung beetles (Scarabaeidae, Scarabaeinae) from morphological evidence

You might think that dung beetles are not especially interesting but to an entomologist, they are a fascinating and diverse group of beetles, often performing ecologically-essential functions such as burying dung, improving soil nutrient content and even distributing seeds.

However, very many species do not do the classic dung beetle thing of rolling dung into balls and burying in the ground as food for their grubs. Some feed on fungi; some have formed a close association with termites and some even eat dead arthropods such as millipedes.

Now Dr T. Keith Philips, a biologist with Western Kentucky University, Kentucky, USA has worked out that the two main tribes, the onthophagines and oniticellines, which comprise the vast majority of dung beetles, and which are distributed worldwide except for Antarctica, evolved from a single common ancestor.

Abstract
A phylogenetic study was conducted to hypothesize relationships of most of the genera of the Oniticellini and Onthophagini for the first time using morphological characters from a diverse array of external and internal sclerites. The monophyly and sister relationship of both tribes was found using Bayesian and parsimony analyses with heavily to moderately weighted data. An alternative hypothesis based on parsimony analyses of unweighted or slightly weighted data show a paraphyletic Oniticellini without the Onthophagini, although recognition of the subtribe Helictopleurina as a tribe would eliminate non-monophyly.

Of the three Oniticellini subtribes, the Helictopleurina and Drepanocerina are monophyletic. There is no support for the monophyly of the Oniticellina or the Onthophagini subtribe Alloscelina, as currently defined. The genus Liatongus is paraphyletic, while strong support was found for monophyly of the Madagascan genus, Helictopleurus. The genus Onthophagus is never monophyletic in any analysis performed. Two new subtribes are also proposed: Liatongina subtr. n. including the genus Liatongus and Attavicina subtr. n. including the genera Attavicinus and Paroniticellus.

Topological evidence shows that the ancestral oniticellines and onthophagines were all coprophagous with alternative food sources evolving relatively recently. Both myrmecophily and termitophily probably evolved only once in the onthophagines. The phylogenetic analysis supports an African origin for the two tribes, with a relatively early age for the split of the Madagascar helictopleurines from the remaining oniticellines via dispersal. Furthermore, the presence of the oniticellines in the New World is hypothesized to be due to two relatively old dispersal events via Beringia and two relatively recent trans-Atlantic invasions of the Caribbean.


Copyright © The author. Reprinted under terms of Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0)

The interesting this here is how this group has evolved from a single, coprophagous, African ancestor and spread worldwide, diversifying into non-coprophagous species fairly recently. Divergence and distribution fit neatly into known plate tectonic geology and the entire family tree only makes sense as the result of evolution into different geographical and ecological niches.

Once again, we see a scientific paper by a biologist who seems to be completely unaware that, if creationist claims are correct, evolutionary theory is a theory in crisis and is no longer regarded as valid by a large number of biologists. In fact, curiously, there don't seem to be any serious science papers published by practicing biologists that show any awareness that the theory of evolution is not the best available explanation for biological diversity, morphology, physiology and genetics.

Perhaps one of my creationist readers would like to explain this curious disparity between what can be seen and what they claim...

'via Blog this'

How Science Works - Evolving Mammoths

Frontiers | Mammuthus Population Dynamics in Late Pleistocene North America: Divergence, Phylogeography and Introgression | Paleontology

To the delight of creationists no doubt, evolutionary paleontologists are changing their minds about North American mammoth evolution.

To most black-and-white-thinking creationists and other science deniers, science is either right or wrong and, since scientists frequently update their knowledge and understanding, to most of them this shows science is always wrong. It isn't of course; it's just science being honest and revising it opinion in view of new information. Science isn't so much a process of proving what's right and what's wrong as a process of gaining more understanding through new or better knowledge.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Evolution Observed in Darwin's Finch

Meduim ground finch, Geospiza fortis
A beak size locus in Darwin’s finches facilitated character displacement during a drought | Science

Every now and then we get an exquisitely simple and irrefutable example of evolution being witnessed and reported with supporting data. Despite this, however, creationists continue to deny that evolution occurs and continue to chant their dogmatic insistence that it has never been observed.

Firstly, the scientific evidence:

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Moral Compass - Pastor Says Raping a Child Same as Stealing Candy

Senior Pastor Michael Orten of The Truth Apostolic Church, Madisonville, KY
As a Humanist I have no problem at all with the idea that someone could make a mistake when young and then realise the error of their ways and turn their lives around. I don't believe people should pay for the rest of their lives for mistakes they make in their youth. I believe in the redemptive power of real atonement and prefer to think that all people deserve to be given another chance.

So I have no problem with the idea that a sex offender who has spent time in jail could acknowledge his crimes, reform his character and be a gainfully employed useful member of society, provided if, as in this case where the offence was committed against a child, parents of children in the area know about it.

But what this story demonstrates is the strange morals of Pastor Orten of The Truth Apostolic Church in Madisonville, Kentucky.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

And This Week's 'Non-Existent' Transitional Form Is...

Cryptotora thamicola.
Tetrapod-like pelvic girdle in a walking cavefish : Scientific Reports

There are enough of these 'non-existent' transitional fossils to fill a large museum and several more are added most months, as a scan of the relevant scientific literature will show. This doesn't stop creationist frauds telling their dupes that there aren't any of course, but then where would they be without false claims and misrepresentations of the scientific facts?

One of the transitions that excites creationists the most is that between fish and the early terrestrial tetrapods (salamander-like limbed vertebrates). Despite the example of Tiktaalik and Eusthenopteron with incontrovertible features mid-way between fish and salamanders, they continue to insist on either denying they exist altogether or arbitrarily designating them as either fish or salamanders. This is intended to avoid the embarrassment that they are quite obviously both because, at that stage in the evolution of terrestrial tetrapods, they had not diverged from fish.

One of the slightly more sophisticated arguments creationists use to dismiss the evidence is the argument that the change

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Holy Smoke and Mirrors! Heavenly Selfies With Jesus!

Meet Paseka Motsoeneng, aka, Mboro.

Pastor Motsoeneng, of the Incredible Happenings Church in Katlehong, South Africa, is personal friends with Jesus who was so impressed by Motsoeneng's devotion that he invited him up to Heaven last Easter Sunday and invited him to take lots of selfies on his G5 Galaxy iphone. No! Honestly!

There is no doubt about this because we have the word of a Christian pastor, Paseka Motsoeneng aka Mboro, that it happened and he has the photographs to prove it. He even offered to sell copies of these selfies for a mere £238-266 each, although why he

Sunday, 10 April 2016

What The Critics Say! Ten Good Reasons To Buy It!

My latest book, Ten Reasons To Lose Faith: And Why You Are Better Off Without It is already receiving critical acclaim from readers:

..and this book shows nicely why it is better to let go of it ... (5 stars)

This is a cracking read from the author of the Rosa Rubicondior blogs. If you aren't familiar with them then I would suggest you rectify that.
Faith is a pernicious thing, and this book shows nicely why it is better to let go of it and walk away. Religion is a drug, and faith is its pusher, binding people more and more closely to religion.
Read the book. It says it all better than I can.




Whichever side of the fence you sit - read this! (5 stars)

Ten very good reasons. Easy to read and clearly written.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Where Did The Neanderthal Y Chromosome Go?

Missing Y chromosome kept us apart from Neanderthals | New Scientist

There is no serious doubt outside creationist circles these days that a) modern humans and Neanderthals were different species of human who lived contemporaneously in Eurasia, and b) they interbred very occasionally but not often and not very successfully.

Neanderthal DNA has been identified in non-African modern humans, mostly on the X chromosome. It has been associated with pale skin and other cold-climate adaptations but also with arthritis, auto-immune conditions, depression and even addiction.

But there was one little problem. Had we got our Neanderthal genes from male Neanderthals we should expect to see some

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Hey Creationists! We've Found A Unicorn!

Elasmotherium sibiricum
A fossilised skull has revealed when the last 'Siberian unicorn' lived on Earth - ScienceAlert

The good news for creationists is that unicorns really did exist - well, for one very loose definition of unicorns which is so loose as to include rhinoceroses but at least creationists can cling to this small crumb of comfort.

The problem is, the last one seems to have died out about 29,000 years ago, some 20,000 years before Earth was created - created according to creationist dogma, that is!

News of this discovery was published a few days ago with open access in the American Journal of Applied Sciences by a combined team from Tomsk University, Tomsk, Russia and Pavlodar State Pedagogical Institute, Pavlodar, Kazakhstan.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Religion Spiraling Downwards in Scotland

Most people in Scotland 'not religious' - BBC News

It's a measure of just how irrelevant religion is becoming in the UK that this little news item passed almost unnoticed and certainly without comment in mainstream media, but Scotland has become the latest part of Europe to become majority atheist.

These figures, which can only be regarded as catastrophic for the Church of Scotland, were revealed in the latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey which show that 52% of Scots now say they are not religious. This compares with 40% when the survey was first carried out in 1999. This latest survey was conducted between July 2015 and January 2016, hence this decline has taken place in just sixteen years.

It's not just these headline figures that make grim

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