Thursday, 27 July 2017

Good Old Biblical Slavery - In The USA Today!

The Word of Faith Fellowship church in Sao Joaquim de Bicas, Brazil.
(AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
They kept us as slaves: AP reveals claims against church

The North Caroline megachurch, Word of Faith Fellowship, can't be accused of not being a traditional Christian fundamentalist church.

The sect, founded by Jane Whaley, a former math teacher, and her husband Sam, uses slaves taken from Brazil to work for the church and in the businesses owned by it's senior ministers. These slaves are trafficked from Brazil, as a Associated Press investigation has revealed. They are attracted to the USA by a branch of the World of Faith cult in Sao Joaquim de Bicas, Brazil and enter the USA on tourists and student visas.

Jane Whaley with children at the church in Spindale, N.C. (AP Photo)
One such victim was Andre Oliveira who answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18. Once in North Carolina his passport and money were confiscated 'for safekeeping' by church leaders, and he was set to work for 15 hours a day cleaning warehouses and doing menial work in the business owned by ministers, often for no pay. Any deviation from the church's rules were punished by verbal and physical abuse and public shaming from the pulpit.

According to AP:

After first traveling to Spindale in 2009, [Andre Oliviera] said it took him months to obtain permission to return to Brazil. Back home, he said he and others were forced to move into a minister’s house, where he worked as a cleaner for months until he was told “it was the will of God to visit Spindale — this time, on a student visa.”

When he arrived back in North Carolina, ministers again took his passport and put him to work in companies owned by church ministers, he said. He took a few college classes, but didn’t have time to study.

“A typical day would start like this: I’d start work at 9 in the morning and it would end 15 or 16 hours later — sometimes longer,” he said. “We didn’t stop.” ’Oliveira and others said they had little choice but to follow orders.

“We knew what would happen: We would be screamed at, blasted, hit. And what are you going to do? You have nowhere to go. You don’t know the language. You have no documentation. So you work,” Oliveira said.

The AP report reveals:

An Associated Press investigation has found that Word of Faith Fellowship used its two church branches in Latin America’s largest nation to siphon a steady flow of young laborers who came on tourist and student visas to its 35-acre compound in rural Spindale.

Under U.S. law, visitors on tourist visas are prohibited from performing work for which people normally would be compensated. Those on student visas are allowed some work, under circumstances that were not met at Word of Faith Fellowship, the AP found.

On at least one occasion, former members alerted authorities. In 2014, three ex-congregants told an assistant U.S. attorney that the Brazilians were being forced to work for no pay, according to a recording obtained by the AP.

Jill Rose, a former U.S. attorney, asks three ex-congregants about allegations of Brazilians being beaten.
“And do they beat up the Brazilians?” Jill Rose, now the U.S. attorney in Charlotte, asked.

“Most definitely,” one of the former congregants responded. Ministers “mostly bring them up here for free work,” another said.

Though Rose could be heard promising to look into it, the former members said she never responded when they repeatedly tried to contact her in the months after the meeting.

Rose declined to comment to the AP, citing an ongoing investigation.

Oliveira, who fled the church last year, is one of 16 Brazilian former members who told the AP they were forced to work, often for no pay, and physically or verbally assaulted. The AP also reviewed scores of police reports and formal complaints lodged in Brazil about the church’s harsh conditions.

“They kept us as slaves,” Oliveira said, pausing at times to wipe away tears. “We were expendable. We meant nothing to them. Nothing. How can you do that to people — claim you love them and then beat them in the name of God?”

The Brazilians often spoke little English when they arrived, and many had their passports seized.

Many males worked in construction; many females worked as babysitters and in the church’s K-12 school, the former members said. One ex-congregant from Brazil told AP she was only 12 the first time she was put to work.

Although immigration officials in both countries said it was impossible to calculate the volume of the human pipeline, at least several hundred young Brazilians have migrated to North Carolina over the past two decades, based on interviews with former members.

The revelations of forced labor are the latest in an ongoing AP investigation exposing years of abuse at Word of Faith Fellowship. Based on exclusive interviews with 43 former members, documents and secretly made recordings, the AP reported in February that congregants were regularly punched, smacked and choked in an effort to “purify” sinners by beating out devils.

The church has rarely been sanctioned since it was founded in 1979 by sect leader Jane Whaley, a former math teacher, and her husband, Sam. Another previous AP report outlined how congregants were ordered by church leaders to lie to authorities investigating reports of abuse.

The AP made repeated attempts to obtain comments for this story from church leaders in both countries, but they did not respond.

Although there are other branches throughout the world, Brazil is by far the largest source of labour and Jill Whaley and her senior lieutenants fly there several times a year to recruit young people. She tells them they can improve both their lives and their relationship with God by a 'pilgrimage' to the mother church where the brand of worship is much better than the inferior Brazilian brand.

Another typical victim was Thiago Silva, then 18, who expected to use his visa to meet new people and visit the USA. According to AP:

He soon learned, he said, that there would be “no happiness.”

“Brazilians came here for labor. I’m telling you, that’s it,” Silva said. He called the treatment “a violation of human rights.”

Silva, now 34, recounted being among a group of Brazilians working alongside Americans — the locals were paid, the Brazilians were not, he said.

Silva and others also said Whaley took complete control of congregants’ lives on both continents, mandating such daily staples of life as where they lived and when they could eat — and even forcing some into arranged marriages to Americans so they could stay in the country.

The lack of freedom was pervasive, they said: Silva, for example, said he could phone his parents from the U.S only if someone who spoke Portuguese monitored the call.

“There’s no free will,” he said. “There’s Jane’s will.”


The AP reports the experience of several other young people who have now left the church - the source of much of the insider information:

Labeled a “rebel” because she talked back to pastors as a child, Elizabeth Oliveira, who is no relation to Andre, told the AP that she was frequently kept in isolation for days at a time in various ministers’ homes in Sao Joaquim de Bicas.

Being sent to the U.S. was a way to “correct” her bad behavior. She said she was 12 when she made her first extended trip to Spindale and was immediately put to work. She helped out in the school during the day, then sewed clothes and babysat in the evenings, sometimes well past midnight, Oliveira said. She was never paid, she said.

Now 21 and studying medicine in Belo Horizonte, Oliveira said she broke with the church after her eighth trip to Spindale.

“I suffered so much there,” she said. “When I turned 18, I left and was told, once again, that I would die on my own in the world and go to hell.”



Ana Albuquerque speaks about what it is like to be subjected to screaming prayers known as “blasting".
Ana Albuquerque traveled to Spindale from Brazil 11 times over the course of more than a decade, starting at age 5 with her parents. Over time, she said she witnessed so much screaming and shoving to “expunge devils” that she began to see the behavior as normal.

In her final three trips, she joined a group of two dozen other Brazilian teens staying up to six months under tourist visas.

“They come to you and say, ‘You will get to know the United States of America. You will get to go to the malls,’” she said. “But when you get there, everything is controlled.”

Albuquerque, now 25, said she worked full time without pay — as a teacher’s aide at the school during the day and then babysitting congregants’ children at night.

Her reckoning came during her final trip, when she was 16. Albuquerque said Whaley and another minister repeatedly spanked her with a flat piece of wood while screaming that she was “unclean” and possessed by the devil.

“Pray for it to come out of you!” Albuquerque recalled being exhorted during a session lasting 40 minutes.

During her final two weeks in Spindale, Albuquerque said she endured days of forced isolation, Bible reading, threats of being placed in a psychiatric ward and refusals by Whaley to let her call her parents. She finally was allowed to return to Brazil, where she left the church.



Luiz Pires said he was 18 in 2006 when he was encouraged by ministers in the Sao Joaquim de Bicas church to travel to North Carolina for his spiritual betterment.

Upon arrival, he said he found “horrific” living conditions, with eight people crammed in the basement of a church leader’s house, forced to work long hours at church-related businesses. Any payment went to living expenses, Pires said, despite the fact that he and others cleaned and did yard work at the member’s house where they lived.

“There was never time to sit down. We were worked like slaves,” he said.



Former congregant Jay Plummer supervised remodeling projects for a church leader’s business and confirmed that his fellow American workers were paid while the Brazilians who labored alongside them were not.

“Room and board is what they worked for, and they did not have a choice,” Plummer told the AP. “And when they would not want to work and vocalize that, they would just get in trouble.”



Paulo Henrique Barbosa had heard the horror stories about life in Spindale. But the sect’s influence was so great that he said he felt he must comply when church leaders in Franco da Rocha — supported by his parents — told him to travel to Spindale in 2011, when he was 17.

Pastors told him he would violate God’s will if he refused.

“Everybody knew these trips were not about tourism,” said Barbosa, now 23 and working in information technology in Sao Paolo. “I didn’t want to go, but I had no choice.”

Once in Spindale, conditions were worse than he feared, he said: For six months, he helped in the school in the mornings and worked in construction in the afternoons and evenings, sometimes until 1 a.m. He was never paid, he said.

The church controlled everything he did, Barbosa said, even prohibiting snacks between meals. Television, music and certain brand-name products all were off-limits.

Barbosa said he also slept in a church member’s basement, with about 15 other young males. Speaking Portuguese was forbidden.

Anyone in the bathroom for more than the mandated five minutes was suspected of committing the “sin” of masturbation, and Whaley would be called to the house to decree the punishment.

If any of the males appeared to be having an “impure dream,” Barbosa said, everybody would be awakened, ordered to surround him and repeatedly shake him and shriek into his ears to “expulse the devils,” a Word of Faith practice called “blasting.”

Barbosa said he asked to return to Brazil many times “but they always told me no, that it was God’s will for me to stay.”

Leaving on his own seemed insurmountable, Barbosa said. He had flown into Charlotte, more than an hour from Spindale, and had no car and little money. He knew no one outside the church and did not speak English. He was allowed to return to Brazil only when his six-month tourist visa was set to expire.

“From the time you are a kid, you are trained to believe that leaving the church will mean you go to hell, get cancer or get AIDS,” he said.

The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great,
Chapter 7: "The Nightmare of the 'Old' Testament" (p. 102)
The Associated Press investigation has also identified possible criminal misuse of the tourist and student visas. Work done by Brazilian 'students' is often called 'voluntary work' (for which no payment is received). However, this work often included making alterations to rental properties owned by senior church members or by businesses they control. Since these are 'for profit' ventures, those in the USA on a visa cannot volunteer for the work under the Fair Labour Standards Act.

Students who had nominally enrolled on college course were given such a punishing work schedule that they had no time for study. Andre Oliveira reported that he wouldn't get finished until 4 a.m and had to be up again at 8 a.m. He was simply too tired to study.

Former member Kim Rooper speaks about the role of the “Will of God” in her domestic life.
Strict church rules absolutely forbid marriage to a partner who isn't a church member. This has created an imbalance of the sexes so that there is a large surplus of unmarried females. These are married off in arranged marriages to young men flown in from Brazil. Once married to an American woman they are entitled to stay in the USA. However, these arranged sham marriages for evading the US immigration laws are illegal.

Not long after Kim Roper, an American citizen, joined the church, she was asked to marry a man from Ecuador whose visa was due to expire. She was coached in how to how to make the marriage look legitimate to immigration authorities, for example, by keeping a photograph album. When she found it difficult to consumate the marriage, she was told the marriage was the will of God and it was her duty to submit to her husband. At that point she left the church.

The AP investigative team were:

  • Mitch Weiss reported from Spindale and Charlotte, North Carolina;
  • Holbrook Mohr from Marlborough, Massachusetts, and Jackson, Mississippi;
  • Peter Prengaman from Sao Joaquim de Bicas and Franco da Rocha, Brazil.

AP writer Tamara Lush contributed from Tampa, Florida.

The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate@ap.org

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Research Spits On Creationism!


In saliva, scientists have found hints that a “ghost” species of archaic human may have contributed genetic material to ancestors of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa today.

Image credit: Bob Wilder/University at Buffalo.
Archaic hominin introgression in Africa contributes to functional salivary MUC7 genetic variation | Molecular Biology and Evolution | Oxford Academic.

As an example of how divorced religion is from reality, these examples of archaic hominids interbreeding with other hominid species take some beating.

The Abrahamic superstitions require people to believe in a single founder couple from whom everyone alive is directly descended and from whom we have inherited some notional 'original sin' for which we need to constantly atone and beg for forgiveness.

The reality of course is that not only was there never such a single founder human couple but there was not even a single founder human species. The reality is that we are hybrids of three or more species who occasionally interchanged genes and that for a large part of our recent evolutionary history we behaved like an incompletely speciated 'ring species' as an example of evolution in progress.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

'Loving' Christians Trade Insults Over Reforms

General Synod of the CofE, York.
Photo credit: Reuters

Leading evangelical condemns CofE General Synod: 'God's word was mocked openly' | Christian News on Christian Today.

A failing group will normally turn inwards, degenerating further into mutually recriminating factions. This is no less true of the 'loving' Anglicans currently showing brotherly and sisterly love by trading insults over the latest attempt to reform their cult to try to halt the haemorrhage of members.

The vitriol also illustrates the problems faced by a dogma-driven cult as it tries to reform to attract back the former members to whom it has become increasingly irrelevant and who have left in disgust at its abuse of minorities. The decreasing number of moderates comes up against an increasingly large proportion of vocal extremists trying to retain their traditional dogmas.

The Anglican church has been tearing itself apart for several years now over the issue of ordination of women and latterly over its stigmatisation of homosexuals and transgender individuals. It has also been finding it increasingly difficult to come to terms with having to comply with secular equality and equal opportunities laws from which it feels entitled to an exemption. Underpinning this of course is the loss of active members, the loss of moral authority and the loss of political power and influence.

The issue came to a head when the CofE General Synod debated a private members motion proposed by Jayne Ozanne describing 'gay conversion therapy' as harmful. Gay conversion therapy is based on the dogmatic assumption that homosexuality is some sort of life-style choice or mental illness that will respond to the right treatment. The 'conversion therapy' usually consists of spouting Bible-inspired dogma and making the victim feel ashamed of their sexuality. The fundamentalists' god hates gays of course because they are an 'abomination' in the same way that eating shellfish, wearing mixed-fibre clothing or being a victim of rape is - i.e. worthy of the death penalty.

Susie Leafe, Director of Reform (sic).
In a retaliatory paper dripping with vitriol, Susie Leafe, director of the ironically named conservative group Reform said:

Again and again, both the decisions made, and the manner in which they were made, showed scant regard for Scripture or the traditions of the Church. Instead, members were asked to base their decisions on emotional stories or the impact of secular headlines. More worryingly, perhaps, was the atmosphere of the chamber; God's word was mocked openly and decisions were made lightly, with arrogant laughter. As one member put it: "God is not mocked. The laughter and lack of respect for those who bravely gave the alternate case was beyond words. Bruised, battered, bullied, betrayed, bewildered... [The debate was] chaired poorly' [by the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker]. At key points in the debates members were called to share stories of those who had committed suicide, but very few conservatives were called to speak...

In the space of four days, the General Synod of the Church of England have, in effect, rejected the doctrines of creation, the fall, the incarnation, and our need for conversion and sanctification. Instead we have said that we are "perfect" as we are, or as we see ourselves, and that the Church should affirm us and call on God to validate our choices. No wonder we do not want to proclaim Christ's unique identity and significance for all people.

We have chosen to understand the world through secular reports, unconscious bias training, the teaching of other religions and the results of polls and media headlines, rather than the unchanging word of God.

Well, obviously, the prejudices of the conservatives should count for at least as much as the distress caused by their hateful bigotry. Their extreme fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible is the only true one and gays should be condemned, stigmatised, persecuted and even driven to suicide because God sez so.

Jayne Ozanne hit back with what amounts to a coded accusation of lying to support a hidden agenda with:

I don't think the majority of synod members will recognise Susie's description of synod at all. It seems she and others are set on depicting synod's considered decisions in a poor light in order to suit their own purposes. Saying we are not committed to scripture and mission is just ridiculous, as are their assertions that God's word was mocked. I begin to wonder what their real objective is?

Meanwhile Bishop David Walker responded with another ipso facto accusation of lying with:

In two debates, over consecutive days, attention was turned first to the practice of "conversion therapy" and then to support for those who have transitioned. Both debates were characterised by the passion, courtesy and good humour that had been heard in February. Beyond this, Synod showed an overarching desire to hear the voices of LGBT+ people, whether expressed directly or through their stories being shared by their friends. And most important of all, we heard from a Synod that wanted decisive change and action now. Members listened to, but clearly rejected, demands that these matters required further study, be it theological or scientific, ahead of any decision... Synod has set its new tone, and begun to speak compassionately and clearly in the voice it has found. I look forward to hearing what it says next.

Clearly, the die-hard bigots can't stand the thought of the loss of another minority to victimise and the prospect of having to treat yet more people as normal humans beings with the full range of human rights enjoyed by Christians. Their self-apportioned privileges and their self-appointed guardianship of the moral high-ground is under attack and must be defended at all costs, even at the expense of truth. False witnessing is the order of the day.

The Anglican Church is in the same bind as the Catholic Church. Unless it reforms it will continue on it's path to complete irrelevance and it if does reform it will cease, at least in the eyes of it's increasingly conservative members, to be Christian. What is happening is that society is moving on without them. Their time is over.

'via Blog this'

Friday, 21 July 2017

Persecution and Martyrdom Special!




Is Christianity in crisis? Our survey reveals 9 out of 10 ordinary Christians feel marginalised

As Christianity continues to dwindle into a minority cult in the UK, and as more and more of its privileges are lost, so the whining about persecution, coupled with that old craving for martyrdom gets louder.

This collective whine was revealed in the results of a survey by Premier published last Sunday. The full survey is freely available as a pdf file here but be warned, you'll need to give your name and email address before you can access it.

The reality is of course that Christians in the UK enjoy precisely the same legal rights as anyone else regardless of their faith or lack of it. Rights and privileges are not granted on the basis of membership of a particular church or faith group in the UK anymore; they are granted on the basis of a shared humanity. There are not Christian rights, Atheist rights, Jewish rights or Muslim rights; there are only human rights.

But this survey shows that isn't enough for Christians. Christians feel persecuted if they're not granted the privileges to which they feel entitled. They are not granted the right to state mythology and prejudice as facts and not have them challenged. They're not granted the right to publicly condemn, abuse and persecute others for not sharing their chosen life-style. They're not granted the privilege to 'share' their superstition in the workplace and be quietly and respectfully listened to as they spout their bigotry and tell others that they're morally inferior and will be condemned to Hell.

Religions in the workplace do nothing but spread division, disharmony and isolation. The law requires employers to provide a healthy and safe working environment in which the Human Rights of all employees and visitors are safeguarded. No faith group is entitled to a special dispensation to pretend to occupy some notional moral high-ground with sanctimonious posturing and condemning others as morally inferior. Using what is in effect a captive audience to preach to is an abuse.

Typical of the judgemental sanctimony of the Christian church was the reaction of the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford:

[B]elievers should not be surprised or downhearted when the sheer beauty of the Gospel is a shock and an affront to a fallen world. The world has never been in accord with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we've always had the challenge that we need to live it and share it.

I have a book and it entitles me to tell other, lesser, mortals how to live! Ironically, this is exactly the sort of hypocritical judgmentalism that drives people away from a church that spouts this while covering up and facilitating clerical abuse of children, while wining about being treated the way it would like to treat others.

Christians are still vastly over-represented in positions of power in the UK in comparison to their dwindling numbers. No other religion has its titular head as head of state; no other religion has its leading clerics entitles to a seat in the upper chamber of our legislature and no other religion has its senior clerics appointed by the head of government on behalf of the head of state. Culturally we are still expected to defer to the moral authority of someone because he or she has an imaginary friend and dresses in robes and a silly hat.

If Christians feel marginalised then they only have themselves to blame. It's by and large their holier-than-thou judgemental sanctimony and hypocrisy that has driven so many people away from the church. The struggle to emancipate women into the priesthood and their continuing difficulty with accepting members of the LGBT community as entitled to the full range of Human Rights has rightly marginalised the Christian church in UK society. They have done this, not anyone else. The attitude of Christian bigots towards minorities has itself made them a minority now whining wrongly that they are being treated the way tho openly treated minorities themselves.

Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford
The headline figures revealed in this limited and largely self-selecting sample with it's questions designed to appeal to those predisposed to simmering martyrdom and who like to feel their 'persecution' somehow validates their faith, are exactly what you would expect. Of the 12,000 who responded:
  • 93% believe that Christianity is being marginalised. But if they choose to hold marginal views and refuse to integrate with mainstream opinion and life-style, the solution to this problem is in their gift and their gift alone. Society has moved on. We no longer wish to subscribe to the prejudices and traditions of Christian dogma concerning sexuality and sexual relations. It would be frankly astonishing if Christians do in private either. Per-marital sex and cohabitation are now the norm in UK society as is female sexual freedom. What Christianity once condemned as adultery and promiscuity, based on nothing more than religious dogma, are now normal behaviour.
  • 50% have experienced prejudice. With no details about what is regarded as 'prejudice' this could be anything from being denied goods and services, jobs or promotion opportunities (which are all illegal and easily redressed, as they are for non-Christians). If it means being told they shouldn't be preaching in the work-place or otherwise pushing their narrow sectarian views where they are not welcome, then again, this is of their own doing. Only recently Christians were complaining loudly that they were not allowed to discriminate against minorities and had to recognise the full Human Rights of homosexuals and others. This refusal of special privileges was presented as a form of prejudiced victimisation!
  • 80% say Christianity is not given equal respect. This smacks of denied entitlement to privilege. Which groups or religions are accorded more respect? But isn't respect something you earn and not something you're simply entitled to? If you hold socially unacceptable views about the rights of minorities does that deserve respect? Has a church who's clerics have actively abused children and vulnerable adults and in which senior leaders have participated in cover-ups actually deserve respect? No! Nor is it worthy of respect to try to impose your bigotry and superstitions onto others. Anti-social behaviour should be condemned, not respected . Cloaking it in a veneer of piety does nothing to rehabilitate or to make it socially acceptable.
  • 26% are unable to be open about their faith. Again this smacks of being denied privilege. Prejudiced bigots should not be free to openly express their bigotry in the work-place and in public. There are laws against hate crimes and rightly so. Displays of holier-than-thou sanctimony are not, and should not be, welcome. British society has moved on and mostly shaken off the last vestiges of the control Christianity once had over it. We rejected it for a good reason - it has no moral justification for its claim to be the guardian of the nations morals nor its claim to political influence. It is an outmoded, self-appointed, moralising hypocrisy way past its use-by date. e have no further use for it. But actually, although this 26% was one of the 'shocking' statistics the survey revealed, the authors of the report appear not to have noticed that 63% disagreed with it! 63% actually felt they could be open about their faith!

As Christianity dwindles into a marginal cult of wacka-a-doodle bigots, no-one will miss it and it only has itself to blame. Perhaps the slow death of a simmering martyr is poetic justice for how it has actively and with relish marginalised, stigmatised and persecuted every other minority whenever and wherever it has had the ability to do so. It is only fair. It has been setting a bad example for far too long and the bully is now getting its comeuppance.

Incidentally, it is interesting to read the comments in the above article if only for the ironic demonstration of exactly the wack-a-doodle bigotry that passes for Christianity nowadays, and exactly why people are leaving this cult in droves as it becomes more and more extreme and the domain of bigots and scientifically illiterate, self-possessed fools. This is not a representative sample of course, but also conspicuous is the absence of Christians condemning this arrogance and fundamentalist ignorance.


'via Blog this'

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Oops! Another 'Non-existent' Beneficial Mutation!

The sex chromosome Z of male zebra finches comes in two variants. Males who possess a copy of these variant each have particular reproductive success.

© MPI f. Ornithology
Mutation speeds up sperm of zebra finches | Max Planck Society

For anyone who still imagines creationism is based on real-world facts and observable evidence, this little factoid should go some way to dispelling that myth.

It is yet another example of one of those beneficial mutations that creationists tell us don't and can't exist - usually followed by some garbled nonsense about information theory and thermodynamics that isn't recognisable as real science or even real information theory.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Unintelligent Design - A Purposeless Driven Life

Escarpia laminata.

Image Credit: Chemo III project, BOEM and NOAA OER
Is this Gulf of Mexico tubeworm the longest living animal in the world?

The thing about something well-designed is that it is as simple as can be and fit for purpose. The hallmarks of good design are minimal complexity and fitness for purpose.

Now, you would expect the Intelligent (sic) Designer to at least be good at one of those things wouldn't you! You would expect to be able to look at any of its designs and see an elegantly design, beautiful for it's simplicity, and a fitness for purpose so obvious that this purpose positively leaps out at you.

You should be able to look at anything designed by the creationism industries' Intelligent (sic) Designer and be immediately struck by the beautiful simplicity of it and how perfectly it does what it was obviously designed to do.

The problem is, this is never what we see. Instead, we see immensely complex things which apparently do nothing very much and for which any real purpose is difficult to discern other than making more copies of itself, apparently for no other reason than to make more copies of itself... and so ad infinitum.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Hallelujah! Satan is Dead!

Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng, aka Prophet Mboro
Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng is a very busy man and constantly at God's beck and call, but at least Christians and Muslims can sleep soundly tonight. Satan is dead!

He was killed by Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng, aka Prophet Mboro, who went to Hell on a special mission from God's to kill the world's number one enemy.

He told his jubilant Facebook followers:

...when I got to hell there was a queue of millions of people waiting to be braai’d [roasted] by Satan. I even saw some prominent South African politicians. I was so shocked because they lived like angels here on earth. I thought they went to heaven. When Satan saw me he panicked and directed his army to kill me. Like Samson in the Bible, I defeated them. Satan was my last victim.

Stupid Design - Cannibal Caterpillars


Beet armyworms on tomato leaves. A choice of nasty-tasting leaves or juicy sibling!
Plants under attack can turn hungry caterpillars into cannibals

I almost laughed out loud when I read this one. Not only is it a lovely little piece of biology and so easy to explain in terms of genetic evolution but it's also an example of the mind-numbing stupidity of any sentient designer who had to come up with such a design to solve a problem it had designed!

Abstract
Plants are attacked by myriad herbivores, and many plants exhibit anti-herbivore defences. We tested the hypothesis that induced defences benefit tomato plants by encouraging insects to eat other members of their

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Zebra Finches Show How Evolution Works

Zebra finch, Taeniopygia guttata.
Source: Wikipedia
Courtship song preferences in female zebra finches are shaped by developmental auditory experience | Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences

A paper published recently in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researcher from McGill University, California, USA, illustrates a couple of interesting aspects to evolution and how species diverge.

The team found that zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) reared in the absence of their fathers do no react in the same way to male courtship songs as those raised by both parents.

Now, this in itself might not be particularly important apart from one thing - female sex selection. Females normally select the best singers as their mates and there is growing evidence that the best singers are also the healthiest and fittest males. Females who don't have the ability to discriminate lose out in the competition for the best mates. This, after all, is probably one of the main drivers for the evolution of female sex selection.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Suffer Little Children - For Money

Pope Francis is surrounded by children as he speaks with patients and caregivers at Bambino Gesu in December 2016.
Credit:AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
'Pope's hospital' put children at risk as it chased profits

If you're a Catholic and you have a sick child, you know really that prayer doesn't work so you send them to a hospital where they apply science instead, unless of course it's the 'Baby Jesus' children's hospital, run by the Vatican with branches throughout Italy.

These hospitals were dirty, badly run money-making organisations that had little to do with curing and caring or sick children. Corners were cut, safety protocols were ignored and sick children were suffering as a result.

In typical Vatican style, a 2014 report on the secret three-month investigation following complains from staff and patients' families, was itself kept secret. Some of the recommendations were allegedly implemented, but many were not.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

What A Carry On At The Vatican!

Msgr. Luigi Capozzi.
Fun-loving Vatican insider with influence.
The truth about the Vatican sex-and-drugs scandal | Catholic Culture

It's reassuring to learn that in the Vatican at least, some things just never change. Everything is carrying on much as it was in the 16th Century.

You might have missed the latest piece of gossip because it seems such events are now scarcely worthy of the epithet 'news'. There simply isn't anything to justify several column inches of news print of several minutes of airtime to report something that scarcely raises an eye-brow these days. It was just another gay sex and drugs party in the Vatican involving a middling official with friends and considerable influence in high places. It was just another example of the hypocrisy we have come to expect of the Catholic clergy.

Now, what would be news is if we went a whole year without another sex and drugs, financial or rent-boy scandal at the Vatican, or even (not that this is even remotely possible) a whole year without another child sexual, emotional and physical abuse scandal involving Catholic priests and/or nuns complete with institutionalised cover-up or even active facilitation of it, somewhere in the world

Friday, 7 July 2017

How Creationists Lie To Us - Carbon Dating Hoax

Diagram of production of carbon-14 in the upper atmosphere by reaction of neutrons with nitrogen, and of the subsequent incorporation of carbon-14 into the biosphere.
Having been called a liar by a creationist for saying there were no scientifically valid examples of 14C dating of dinosaur fossils, and then, despite his claim that there were 'lots' of them, being treated to him prevaricating and deflecting for several days before failing to provide any such examples even after numerous requests, I decided I would look closer at this claim.

First a brief background. For more detail see this Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory article.

Carbon-14 (14C) dating is, when done correctly on carefully decontaminated specimens, an accurate method of dating an organic specimen within well-known limits of confidence and within a well-defined date range. The date obtained will always be expressed as x years BP ± y years.

Doing it correctly not only means careful decontamination but also understanding its limitations, the major one being the date range over which it is reliable, why this limit exists and, importantly, exactly what carbon you are measuring in the sample and how it got there.

Not all carbon is organic in origin and not all carbon in archaeological samples is derived from the original organic carbon. For example, although carbonates may be present in the mineralised bones of which fossils are made, this does not mean it came from the original bone. After all, fossils will contain large amounts of silicates but bone does not normally contain silicon. The minerals in fossils are replacements for the original material, not necessarily the products of it.

Another Gap Closes. No God Found!

Asiatic Yellow-striped Caecilian (Ichthyophis kohtaoensis)
Photo credit: cowyeow (via Flickr)
Stem caecilian from the Triassic of Colorado sheds light on the origins of Lissamphibia

Scientists working for the Department of Integrative Anatomical Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC have closed another one of those gaps in science that creationists scrabble around desperately searching for as somewhere to fit their god into.

Although no serious biologist these days sets out to confirm evolution or to refute creationism, papers such as this one do that quite incidentally because they report on the reality of the natural world and objectively assess the evidence. Quite naturally, this refutes any notions such as creationism which are not based on real-world evidence.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Mapping Human Evolution Out of Africa

Neanderthal
Out of Africa; new research explores drive behind early humanity's travels across the world - Royal Holloway, University of London

Interesting news came a few days ago from Royal Holloway, University of London, that a new research project is to start next month, aimed at mapping the spread of humans out of Africa and across the globe, to occupy all major landmasses other than Antarctica. The research is financed by a £450,000 grant from Leverhulme Trust.

As the Royal Holloway press release says:

Creationism's Nightmare - Abiogenesis!

Haematite tubes
Haematite tubes from the NSB hydrothermal vent deposits that represent the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth. The remains are at least 3,770 million years old.
Photo by Matthew Dodd
Evidence for early life in Earth’s oldest hydrothermal vent precipitates : Nature : Nature Research

Science is moving closer to an explanation of a process whereby the earliest proto-cells could have developed naturally on Earth. It's looking increasingly as though the best explanation of where suitable conditions could be found - in the rock precipitates around hydrothermal vents on ocean floors - is the right one.

It's also looking as though the process got going even earlier than we thought - when Earth was just few million years old, if the interpretation of the evidence presented in this paper is correct. It is strongly suggestive that the process may have got going at least 3.77 billion and maybe even 4.28 billion years ago.

The evidence was found in rocks from the Nuvvuagittuq belt in Quebec, Canada, which are believed to have been formed by precipitation around seafloor-hydrothermal vents.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Holy Smoke! Birds Use Cigarette Butts As Medication!

Urban house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) nest.
Credit: JerryFriedman/CC BY-SA 4.0
An experimental demonstration that house finches add cigarette butts in response to ectoparasites - Suárez-Rodr-guez - 2017 - Journal of Avian Biology - Wiley Online Library

Here is yet another fascinating example of the ingenuity of biological adaptability - and an example that should make any self-respecting intelligent design advocate cringe with embarrassment.

Constantino Macías Garcia at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and his colleagues have been studying a curious phenomenon observed in the Mexican urban house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) in which they collect cigarette butts and place then in their nests. There was inconclusive evidence that the effect was to deter parasitic ticks and other nest parasites so they designed a simple experiment to settle the matter. It was strongly suspected that nicotine and other chemicals in the butts acts as a deterrent to parasites. House sparrows (Paser domesticus) have also been observed to use the same strategy.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Anglican Church Colluded in Abuse Cover-up.

Peter Ball
Groomed and abused 18 vulnerable boys and young men.
Church 'colluded' with sex abuse bishop Peter Ball - BBC News

It's ironic really! Just when I go on holiday to Italy, the centre of the organised global Catholic paedophile ring that we discovered existed some ten to fifteen years ago, a similar, though smaller, scandal breaks in England and it's not even involving the Catholic Church!

This one involves a form Anglican bishop, Peter Ball, and a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey. Peter Ball had been Bishop of Lewes and then Bishop of Gloucester during which time he groomed, exploited and sexually abused eighteen young men and boys who went to him seeking spiritual guidance. He was jailed for thirty-two months in October 2015 for these offences but was released last February after just sixteen months.

Now a report into the church's handling of the affair, ordered by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and chaired by the former chief executive of Camden Council, Dame Moira Gibb, makes harrowing reading, according to Welby. Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury, a cabinet minister and a high court judge all conspired to protect Ball and wrote letters to the police and the Crown Prosecution Service in his defence.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Cretaceous Bird Mocks Creationists

Bird caught in amber 100 million years ago is best ever found | New Scientist.

It's not often we get to look at creatures from 100 million years ago, displayed in such detail. Normally we have to make do with distorted stone fossils which been subjected to all sorts of pressures and stresses, leaching by water and slow replacement by minerals over centuries. It's sometimes surprising that very much detail has been retained at all.

Preservation in amber is quite another matter, however. The specimen is trapped and coated in resin in a matter of minutes and sealed quickly away from any bacteria other than those trapped with it, and isolated from oxygen, other than the minuscule quantities that can slowly diffuse through the amber. It's almost as though the specimen has been sealed in a time capsule.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Yet Another Of Those 'Missing' Transitional Species

Map of the main Middle to early Upper Triassic outcrops in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, highlighting the occurrence of Aleodon (A) and its skeletal reconstruction with available bones (in yellow) based on all known specimens (made by VDPN).
The African cynodont Aleodon (Cynodontia, Probainognathia) in the Triassic of southern Brazil and its biostratigraphic significance

At one time it became quite tedious writing yet another article about yet another of the transitional fossils that creationists dogma says aren't there. Who wants to read more or less the same thing several times a week with only the details changed? The problem of course is that every fossil is transitional because each represents a snapshot in time of a species that is evolving and changing over time.

But this latest one is interesting in that it is clearly transitional not between one genus and another or even between one family and another but between two or three major taxons. It is transitional between the reptiles and the mammals and comes close to the stem amniote that had earlier split from the amphibians to give rise to the land-based egg-laying tetrapods. This group went on to give rise to reptiles, mammals, dinosaurs and birds. The current consensus in palaeontology is that the amniotes probably radiated from a single ancestral species that had evolved an egg able to be laid out of water, so breaking the dependence of the amphibians on water.

Monday, 12 June 2017

More Nastiness From The 'Intelligent Designer'

Zombie soldier beetles: Epizootics in the goldenrod soldier beetle, Chauliognathus pensylvanicus (Coleoptera: Cantharidae) caused by Eryniopsis lampyridarum (Entomophthoromycotina: Entomophthoraceae):

The 'Intelligent (sic) Designer' is ever inventive in its sheer malevolent nastiness, continually coming up with ideas that would have been a credit to a Medieval torturer for the Spanish Inquisition or the organisers of 'entertainments' for a bloodthirsty Roman amphitheatre audience.

This one in particular is the epitome of casual malevolence and indifference to suffering. Its design turns a beetle into a zombie just before killing it, and then grotesquely reanimates its corpse so it can do it all over again to more victims.

Sadly, the copyright holders, Elsevier, want to charge me £22.43 to save you the trouble of clicking on this link, to read in the Journal of Invertebrate Pathology how the team from the University of Arkansas and Cornell University, led by Donald C. Steinkraus, discovered how it works.

The victim is the goldenrod soldier beetles, Chauliognathus pensylvanicus which survives by eating the flowers of frost aster, Symphyotrichum pilosum, common boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, and Canada goldenrod, Solidago canadensisnormally. They normally mate on top of a flower. It seems, if you subscribe to the notion of intelligent design, that the intelligent designer (who isn't God by the way, so it isn't religion it's biology and should be taught in schools, but he just happens to be identical in every way to the god of a literal interpretation of the Bible) spotted the opportunity for a bit of fun, so He it designed a fungus, Eryniopsis lampyridarum, to infect these beetles.

When the fungus, which has been living in and consuming the female beetle, is ready it first turns its host into a zombie and makes it clamp itself onto a flower stem with its jaws, immediately before killing it. Then it makes lots of spores inside the dead female's body before reanimating it! 15-22 hours after death the female spreads her wings out wide so the spores can escape through the spiracles she used to breathe through, then her body swells, making her more attractive to males who try to mate with her, so getting infected in the process.

They they find a living female to mate with and infect her with the fungus and the cycle repeats itself.

Neat, eh?

Now, although intelligent (sic) design is 'definitely-biology-not-religion', cDesign proponentsists (sic) will normally resort to 'The Fall' to explain parasites such as this. 'The Fall' is of course a purely religious construction found in the Bible and forming the basis of Christianity, but at least this enables them to dismiss these hideous examples of, if it were the intention of a real conscious being, malevolent intent, as not their god's the intelligent designer's fault. It doesn't explain how turning beetles into zombies and then reanimating them just to spread a fungus infection to the next generation of beetles relates to some mythical event in the Bible (which of course it doesn't because it's definitely-science-not-religion, except it does) but at least it nearly gets God the intelligent designer off the hook - if you don't think too much about it.

Using real science of course, this is exactly the sort of thing evolution predicts because there is no plan, no morality and no concept of punishing anything for 'sin', simply the allele frequency changing over time to maximise the number of reproducing offspring.

'via Blog this'

ShareThis

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Web Analytics