Turkey’s schools start to drop evolution — and add jihad

❝ From September Turkey will have a new education curriculum and this 38-year-old mother is among many parents who are worried. The changes affect first, fifth- and ninth-grade students, and the main controversy surrounds the exclusion of the theory of evolution from secondary education.

“In classes, nine- and 10-year-old students have been memorising prayers from the Koran. I believe religious education should be given at home, not in schools,” said the woman, who did not want to be named, due to security concerns.

❝ Other controversial changes include shortening the time allocated to studying the life of Turkey’s secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, an introduction to the concept of jihad and more classes on religion…

❝ The secular opposition in Turkey says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the governing AK party are trying to move the country away from its founding values, and make society more Islamic and conservative. Mr Erdogan has repeatedly expressed his ambition to raise pious generations…

RTFA. The changes are only a beginning. Enough to warm the cockles of any religious reactionary in other lands. The anti-science brigade doesn’t especially care which religion supersedes science in which country. The backwardness of the Dark Ages is a satisfying start – for them.

Callista Gingrich nomination to the Vatican stinks on ice


What passes for job qualifications inside the Beltway

❝ Let us consider the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See: one Callista Gingrich of Virginia.

❝ She is a former clerk on the House Agriculture Committee…She is the author of children’s books about an elephant named Ellis…She sings in the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception…She plays French horn in City of Fairfax Band…And, she testified Tuesday, she has “looked at some of” Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change.

❝ But really, Gingrich was receiving a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because of one qualification: She is married to Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a major backer of President Trump.

And now, for his support of Trump, he is getting the ultimate patronage: the chance to live in Rome on the taxpayer’s dime while his wife, the president of Gingrich Productions, enjoys a plum posting…

❝ National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters called it “astonishing that a party that celebrates family values at every turn has a president who is on his third wife and who has bragged about his extramarital affairs and who is appointing an ambassador to the Vatican who had a six-year affair with her future husband while he was still married to his second wife.”

The nomination of Callista is also Trump’s beatification of Newt, who has done as much as anyone to coarsen American politics — and to pave the way for Trump — with his name-calling, demonizing and brinkmanship.

Appointments like this one are often payback for loyalty. With a so-called president who values loyalty as the dearest form of obedience, I guess no one should be surprised at an appointment as incompetent as anything else he’s done to demean the presidency.

Pope hosts conference on sustainability – takes delivery on Electric Popemobile


Click to enlarge

Vatican City wants to become the first C02 free country in the world through the use of electric mobility and renewable energy.

During Laudato Sì, a sustainability conference addressing key environmental issues and future mobility, hosted by the Vatican earlier this week, Opel’s CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann presented his Holiness Pope Francis with the keys to a brand new Opel Ampera-e…

During the conference, Vatican City, along with Opel and Italian energy company Enel, promised to develop a sustainable mobility program for the smallest country in the world.

The Opel Ampera-e isn’t a bad place to start, its 520 km of NEDC rated range dwarf its next closest competitor by at least 100 km.

Yes, it is a Chevy Bolt – the German version produced by Opel.

Trump’s Likely Pick for USDA Chief Scientist Ain’t A Scientist, Of Course

❝ The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

But Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

❝ Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television.

Being a conservative Christian mouthpiece for Agribusiness and reactionary corporate interests in general is good enough for our so-called president. Evidence-based scientific findings mean nothing to Trump, the chumps who voted for him, the political party which rolls over and sticks all four feet into the air when challenged to support pretty much anything on any issuie which would aid the lives of Americans who work for a living.

Way More Americans Probably Are Atheists Than We Thought

❝ After signing an executive order earlier this month that seeks to relax restrictions on the political activities of tax-exempt churches, President Trump said the order was an important affirmation of the American identity. “We’re a nation of believers,” he said. Trump is right in one sense — 69 percent of Americans say a belief in God is an important part of being American — but he’s wrong demographically: Atheists constitute a culturally significant part of American society.

❝ We’re not sure how significant, though. The number of atheists in the U.S. is still a matter of considerable debate. Recent surveys have found that only about one in 10 Americans report that they do not believe in God, and only about 3 percent identify as atheist. But a new study suggests that the true number of atheists could be much larger, perhaps even 10 times larger than previously estimated.

❝ The authors of the study, published earlier this year, adopted a novel way to measure atheist identity. Instead of asking about belief in God directly, they provided a list of seemingly innocuous statements and then asked: “How many of these statements are true of you?” Respondents in a control group were given a list of nine statements, such as “I own a dog” and “I am a vegetarian.” The test group received all the same statements plus one that read, “I do not believe in God.” The totals from the test group were then compared to those from the control group, allowing researchers to estimate the number of people who identify as atheists without requiring any of the respondents to directly state that they don’t believe in God. The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God.

While this result is fairly stunning and not consistent with any published survey results, there is good reason to suspect that more direct measures significantly underestimate the number of atheists.

Interesting article. Interesting methods. Having figured out I knew enough science to be an atheist by age 13, a philosophical materialist by age 18 – the questions are moot. If not boring. But, then, I don’t know anyone following my personal blog who’s older than me either. 🙂 Sorted these questions a long, long time ago.

Americans are a small measure less chickenshit about such questions, nowadays. Small.

Priest helps Mafia steal millions from funds to aid migrants

❝ Italian authorities on Monday arrested 68 people, including a priest and the head of a huge Catholic volunteer group, “Mercy,” and accused them of being in cahoots with a major mafia clan that allegedly skimmed millions in public funds destined for asylum-seekers at a welcome center in southern Italy.

Announcing the arrests, an incredulous Carabinieri Gen. Giuseppe Governale summarized the scam: “The welcome center and ‘Mercy’ were the ATMs of the mafia.”

❝ Investigators said the Arena clan of the Calabrian ’ndrangheta mob had secured a lock on servicing the Isola di Capo Rizzuto migrant center for the past decade, thanks in part to its links to “Mercy” and its regional head, Leonardo Sacco.

❝ Sacco is a well-connected Italian, and his arrest took on broader implications given the number of politicians linked to him. Even Pope Francis has been photographed with him. The Calabrian holding center is one of Italy’s largest, and “Mercy” is a major national organization that runs migrant centers and provides other volunteer services around the country…

❝ Police said the Rev. Edoardo Scordio, a parish priest affiliated with “Mercy,” was the “organizer of a true system of exploitation of public funds destined for the migrant emergency.”

Scordio in 2007 pocketed 132,000 euros for his spiritual services that he offered the refugees, police said in a statement.

At least he will be forgiven, eh?

Blasphemy probe into Stephen Fry dropped after Irish police fail to find enough outraged people

❝ An Irish police investigation into allegedly blasphemous comments made by Stephen Fry has been dropped after detectives decided there were not enough people who had been outraged by the remarks.

❝ Police launched an investigation into the presenter, author and comedian after he described God as “capricious”, “mean-minded”, “stupid” and an “utter maniac” during an appearance on Irish television show “The Meaning of Life” in February 2015.

The comments were widely reported but did not become a legal matter until a man complained last year, prompting a police enquiry.

Under Irish law, it is illegal to use words that are “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred to any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion”…

❝ Under Ireland’s 2009 Defamation Act, anyone “who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence” and liable for a fine of up to €25,000…

The man who made the initial complaint about Mr Fry is said to have been satisfied that Irish police had investigated the matter fully and told detectives he was merely doing his civic duty in reporting it.

Just in case you’re wondering what the religious nutballs providing most of Trump’s chump brigade of voters will probably receive as a gifted executive order…sooner or later.

Thanks, Honeyman

Scientists photographed Bambi snacking on a human carcass


That’s a human rib bone in Bambi’s mouthMeckel et al., J Forensic Sci

❝ Forensic scientists have to do a lot of weird things in order to solve crimes and identify bodies. Sometimes that involves leaving corpses outside to rot, to better understand what happens during and after decomposition. In fact, there are entire facilities devoted to studying the decay of donated human remains, like the 26-acre Forensic Anthropology Research Facility in San Marcos, Texas.

❝ In July 2014, researchers left a body in a wooded part of FARF. They wanted to learn about how different scavengers leave their marks on human remains, so they set up a motion-sensitive camera to see who would stop by. In this part of Texas, it’s not unusual to see foxes, turkey vultures, raccoons, coyotes, and other carrion-gobblers picking at a corpse. But after a few months, someone new came to the table.

On January 5, 2015, the camera caught a glimpse of a young white-tailed deer standing near the skeleton with a human rib bone in its mouth. Then it happened again on January 13 — the camera caught a deer with another rib sticking out of its mouth like a cigar. It’s not clear whether it was the same deer in both cases, but it’s certainly possible first one came back for seconds…

❝ It is not, however, the first time we’ve seen deer violating their vegetarian diets. In fact, they’re known to have a taste for blood. Previously they’ve been spotted eating fish, bats, and dead rabbits. Scientists think deer and other herbivores may occasionally seek out flesh to get minerals — such as phosphorus, salt, and calcium — that may be missing from their regular diets, especially in wintertime…

Still, for folks whose knowledge of science is as limited as, say, our so-called president, those whose guide through life is superstition and spells – this may be a sign of the End of Times.

Bwa-ha-ha-hah!

Cannibals weren’t just lazy — they also lacked good nutrition…

❝ Note to the prehistoric party planner: One dead mammoth can feed 25 hungry Neanderthals for a month, but cannibalizing a human would provide the crowd with only a third of a day’s calories…Essentially, you’re a walking lunch.

❝ A study of ancient cannibalism estimated the food value of humans and Paleolithic animals…The findings: People are not so nutritious.

Humans have a low percentage of muscle and little caloric value.

❝ A new look at the nutritional value of human flesh shows that, compared with other Paleolithic prey animals, humans weren’t especially packed with calories for their size.

…Study author James Cole of the University of Brighton says…boars and beavers pack about 1,800 calories into each pound of muscle compared with a measly 650 calories from a modern human. That’s about what would be expected based on our overall size and muscularity compared to other animals…So…if humans aren’t especially valuable in terms of prey, why eat them? After all, unless they are sick or dying, they wouldn’t be easy to hunt…

Instead, Cole argues that perhaps not all ancient cannibalism was for filling bellies; it may have also served various social functions for early humans and their ancestors.

Gimme that old time religion!

❝ Archaeologists have found evidence of cannibalism in the human family tree at least as far back as 800,000 years. And though cutting and gnawing marks on bones can’t reveal motivations, ancient remains do offer a few clues to how widespread cannibalistic practices were throughout human evolution…

❝ Perhaps, anthropologist Erik Trinkaus says, the real message is that ancient people had more of a mix of motivations for cannibalism than we’ve given them credit for. After all, human cannibalism in recent centuries has many roots, including warfare, survival, spiritual beliefs, and psychosis.

The article is interesting in the diversity of patterns examined around the archaeologic world. Including conclusions about how and what cultural patterns contribute to the practice.