Donnerstag, 17. Juli 2008


What's with all that nonsense on sharing the blood and body of Christ in the form of wine and a tasteless wafer?

You no longer need to share!

Get your own cup'o'Jesus.
(Though this is more or less Je-juice!)

Isn't it great forgetting the whole point of a ceremony and just making money off the sheep-like believers?

Samstag, 12. Juli 2008

Scientific American!

Scientific American posted a wonderful article on Bisexual Animals.

Find it here: Bisexual Species: Unorthodox Sex in the Animal Kingdom

You might have heard about two male penguins or flamingos breeding in captivity and maybe even raising a young of another couple most successfully.

[The penguins] entwined necks, called to each other and mated. They then built a nest together to prepare for an egg. But no egg was forthcoming: Roy and Silo were both male.

[...]Gramzay found an egg from another pair of penguins that was having difficulty hatching it and slipped it into Roy and Silo's nest. Roy and Silo took turns warming the egg with their blubbery underbellies until, after 34 days, a female chick pecked her way into the world. Roy and Silo kept the gray, fuzzy chick warm and regurgitated food into her tiny black beak.

[...]Roy and Silo belong to one of as many as 1,500 species of wild and captive animals that have been observed engaging in homosexual activity. Researchers have seen such same-sex goings-on in both male and female, old and young, and social and solitary creatures and on branches of the evolutionary tree ranging from insects to mammals.

I'm not emphasizing "homosexual behavior" for nothing. Succinctly put:

"Animals don't do sexual identity. They just do sex.

(Eric Anderson, sociologist)

Some knwoledgable people already know this, but homosexual behavior in animals doesn't only appear in captivity where stress might be high or individuals of the opposite gender scarce (though there it is more common). Many-a-times it's social behavior, helping with social tension, protecting the young or keeping fertile when there's no matching partner - or, because sex just feels too nice (the article has some nice elaborations on these reasons).

"[In humans] the categories of gay and straight are socially constructed," Anderson says.

... and I would ass 'artificially'. (I generally dislike having to identify politically, religiously, sexually, etc... as belong to one of a few socially constructed group for which we happen to have made up a word yet - though in communication, this does have some merit.)

Ah yes, that 'unnatural' stuff again...

Back [in the first half of the 1900s], scientists generally considered homosexual acts among animals to be abnormal. In some cases, they "treated" the animals by, say, castrating them or giving them lobotomies.

... until they figured that Japanese macaques and baboons (monkeys), as wells as bonobos (apes) like homosexual acts, as well (bonobos engage do same-sex half the time they have sex at all, including hand- and blowjobs!) - and not because they're sexually deprived, but for social reasons:

[Same sex behavior] in 20 Japanese macaques and two baboons occurred largely as a way of making peace with would-be foes. [...] Hamilton observed [...]: "homosexual behavior is of relatively frequent occurrence in the female when she is threatened by another female, but it is rarely manifested in response to sexual hunger." And in males, he penned, "homosexual alliances between mature and immature males may possess a defensive value for immature males, since they insure the assistance of an adult defender in the event of an attack."

Moreover, they made an interesting observation

"The more homosexuality, the more peaceful the species," asserts Petter Böckman, an academic adviser at the University of Oslo's Museum of Natural History in Norway. "Bonobos are peaceful."

(emphasis added)

They also add that two male swans beat any het couple at making nests, some birds form polygameous trios because of a lack of males, occassionally while sharing a nest, which increases their offsprings' chances of survival, and switching of a certain fruit fly gene makes them gender-confused. That is, they show that homosexual behavior has benefits and that it's probably genetically established.

But of course there are other reasons, too:

Many animals do it simply "because they want to," Böckman says. "People view animals as robots who behave as their genes say, but animals have feelings, and they react to those feelings."

Here's one for the LOL

Stress and the greater availability of same-sex partners may similarly contribute to the practice of homosexual acts among self-described heterosexual humans in environments such as the military, jails and sports teams.

(and they offer proof of this, too)

As for humans...

[S]ome experts argue that humans, like some other animals, are naturally bisexual. "We should be calling humans bisexual because this idea of exclusive homosexuality is not accurate of people," Roughgarden says. "Homosexuality is mixed in with heterosexuality across cultures and history."

:) All clear?

Mittwoch, 9. Juli 2008


As I am writing my thesis in LaTex, I wish to give a little humor to all those suffering and squealing with me:


usepackage[babel]{nEnglish} %
usepackage{lolcat} %lolcat automatic translation
usepackage{awesome} %great


Isn't it awesome so far? Awesome, I tell you!

\Large{AWESOME!} \\

Thank you!! \\

... awesome! %YA RLY \\ [0.0004pt]


Also, this had me laughing a lot (thanks to my colleague for sending this)


Half a page of experimental description can boggle your mind for an hour. No, wait... not yours - that of three biologists, two of them just starting on their PhD.

I'm talking about Nature Genetics' "Generalized lacZ expression with the ROSA26 Cre reporter strain" by P. Soriano

In short:

We have previously described a gene-trap strain, ROSA ß-geo 26, in which expression of the ß-geo reporter appears to be constitutive during embryonic development. I report here successful targeting at the ROSA26 locus and the derivation of a reporter line for monitoring Cre expression. To target the locus, a 5-kb genomic fragment was subcloned in a plasmid vector along with a diphtheria toxin (DTA) expression cassette for negative selection to produce the vector pROSA26-1. A splice acceptor sequence (SA) identical to the one used in the original gene-trap allele, a neo expression cassette flanked by loxP sites, a lacZ gene and a polyadenylation (bpA) sequence were inserted at a unique XbaI site approximately 300-bp 5´ of the original gene-trap integration site. A triple polyadenylation sequence was added to the 3´ end of the neo expression cassette to prevent transcriptional read-through. [...] Heterozygous R26R mice were bred with R26Cre mice, a general deletor mouse line made by targeting Cre to the ROSA26 locus, and embryos were collected at various stages between embryonic day (E) 8 and E16 and stained with X-Gal for lacZ activity. Embryos heterozygous for both R26Cre and R26R alleles displayed ubiquitous blue staining, whereas wild-type or heterozygous R26R embryos did not show any staining.

What is he trying to tell us? In the still-complicated-but-less-complicated words of a biologist -to-be:

Sorriano's lab generated a mouse strain in which you can monitor in which cells you successfully "knocked out" a gene.

How do you knock out a gene? Roughly, you frame the gene by a DNA-sequence called loxP. In the cells where you want to knock out the genes, you activate the gene "Cre" that will find the loxP and cut them out along with everything that's inbetween them. Tada, gene no longer there = knocked out.

Leaves the question unanswered how you activate "Cre" in only the cells where you want to knock out the genes. For that, other genes come in handy - genes that themselves, by nature, are only active in certain cells. Each of these genes will have at least one "promotor" (a sequence that starts the gene transcription) that naturally is only activated, where the gene is expressed. If you put the DNA Sequence for "Cre" behind the promotor of a gene that is expressed in only certain cells (nerve cells, for example), you can activate Cre specifically in those (nerve) cells.

So far so good. Now what did Sorriano do?

Well, he did two things. First, he put a gene (LacZ) behind a promotor that is expressed everywhere in the mouse embryo. With some help (by giving it a substance called X-Gal), LacZ can turn cells blue. So if you put LacZ behind a promotor that is activated in every embryonic cell, you can turn the entire mouse embryo blue. However, Sorriano also put in a sequence BEFORE the LacZ gene that contains a "stop" signal. So, while the promotor is activated, the transcription is terminated before LacZ is even produced.
He then flanked the STOP sequence by loxP sites, so that we have this:

[Promotor] [LoxP] [Stop] [LoxP] [LacZ].

The gene is transcribed until it reaches the stop sequence, where the transcription is terminated - before LacZ. So normally, mice with this construct don't express LacZ to help the biologist turn cells blue. These mice embryos aren't blue.

However, in cells where Cre is activated, [LoxP] [Stop] [LoxP] will be cut out and what is left is:

[Promotor] [LacZ]

Meaning, only where CRE is active, cells can be turned blue.

So far so good. Now Sorriano had to test whether this even works. For that, he put a sequence for Cre into the mouse. Smartly, he put that Cre Sequence exactly where the Promotor-loxp-stop-loxp-LacZ sequence is. That location on the mouse genome is called ROSA26.
You see, every mouse (like every human) has two copies of each gene - that is: Two ROSA26 locations (one on each sister chromosome). So, Sorriano generated mice with one ROSA26 location that held the LacZ plus stop sequence, and one that held the Cre recombinase. Since the promotor at the ROSA26 location is expressed in every embryonic cell, Cre was activated in every mouse embryo with this genetic make-up. That means every single cell expressed CRE, which then cut out the loxp-Stop-loxp from every second ROSA26 location, therefore allowing LacZ to be expressed. This means that the entire embryo could be turned blue.

Mice with two promotor-loxp-stop-loxp-LacZ sequences were lacking any active CRE and therefore could not be turned blue: There was no CRE to remove the STOP sequence before the LacZ gene, therefore no LacZ was expressed.

Mice with two Cre-sequences at the ROSA26 locations lacked the LacZ to be activated, therefore also couldn't express LacZ.

What does this serve anyone in science? Well, there are three things.

Easiest, if you want to know in which cells a certain promotor is activated, you can have Cre controlled by this promotor to simply stain all the cells where the promotor is active. You'll be learning about its genetic function, and the genetic expression of the gene that is usually controlled by this promotor.

Second, you can put your Cre behind any promotor you want (for example, a promotor only activated in liver cells). If your Cre-construction works, all liver-cells can be colored blue. Now you now know for certain that your liver-cell-only Cre works very nicely.

Third, if you then put some other genes between "loxp" sites to knock it out, cre will busily activate LacZ, but also busily knock out the gene that you want to be knocked out (a certain horomone or protein, maybe). And as a convenience, all the cells where this worked can be colored blue. And all the cells where you DIDN'T knock out your hormone or protein cannot be colored.

This system is utterly cool, though only relevant for mouse embryos.

All clear now?

Considering Sorriano had to put all this into half a page of scientific writing, it's no longer surprising that it was hard to understand.

And as a side note - the whole knock-out thing in mice deservingly lead to the inventors receiving a Nobel Prize.

Btw. Please comment and tell me where exactly I lost your attention.


So, I took a moment to cruise this morning to retrieve some headlines. If you think the world wasn't insane, THINK AGAIN.

Atheist soldier sues Army for 'unconstitutional' discrimination Yes, you may not be atheist in the American army (in case you forgot: The country that separates church and state). Why? Because your fellow American troops will offer you some sweet death threats and you'll need 24 hour protection from your own countrymen. Screw your perfect military record - atheists have no place in the Christian army!

And maybe, just MAYBE, McDonald's is a terrorist organisation now? After all: McDonald's makes Jesus Cry! Why? Because "McDonald's has chosen not to remain neutral but to give the full weight of their corporation to promoting the homosexual agenda." Oh, HOW did McDonald's give "full weight"? By "They donated $20,000 to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce".
This just goes to show that AFA actutally stands for "Anti-Family Association" - they'd rather see a family not come into existence at all or split over their children's sexual orientation, than see them happy.)

So, you think that's bad? Watch this: Student Who Took Religious Icon Getting Death Threats Yes. Someone did not swallow the last-supper-cookie, but took it home. Taking it home outside of your stomach or intestines appears to be very, very wrong. So wrong, that you have to give it back (even if it has been in your mouth? Ew.) The church now compares this event to "kidnapping", calls it a "hate crime" and Catholics worldwide are "furious". Because taking A COOKIE is SRZ BZNS.
In reality, this infantile uproar an insult to all victims of real kidnapping and real hate crimes.

It's great when peoples lives are so worry-free, they can devote their time to making other people's lives bad.

Now, finally there's a reason to go get McDonald's - at least once.

Dienstag, 15. April 2008

Bishops and Altar Boys

Why support anyone who doesn't think child abuse is important enough to do something about it?

Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops

No Trial, No Punishment...

It's as if the pope didn't understand what a horrible deed this is.

Despite the graphic, this is not a laughing matter. This is sexual abuse committed on children.

Montag, 14. April 2008

Too precious to ignore

I found this little gem by the writer of "Expelled" on Manufactroversity (an awesome term to describe the core claims of Expelled).

Kevin Miller, one of the writers for "Expelled" spills the whole guts
of their anti-science agenda at "After the Bar Closes":

"As for being mystified by "my cause," my main interest in this
project is the whole philosophy of science angle. How do we
conceptualize science and its implications? How can we know that we
know anything? The debate between rationalism and empiricism.

First of all, that last sentence is laughable. We apply rationality to interpret these results of empiricism. How there can be a debate between those two things is beyond me. I can only wildly guess that he sees empiricism as some sort of empiricism without rationality. Maybe that would mean one would rather not apply the rational explanation that drugs can cause hallucinations, but claim the things these people see are real. I would not call that empiricism, though, and I am sure Kevin Miller agrees. Yet, if you apply supernatural cause, which you never measured, but only felt, assumed, or claim to have seen, you're doing exactly the same thing as applying reality to hallucinations. So, I remain baffled as to what his definition of empiricism is supposed to be, if rationalism is not supposed to be part of it.

Epistemology, that sort of thing. Personally, I see ID as a challenge
not just to Darwinian evolution but to the very foundation of the
scientific enterprise itself. Will we allow non-material causation
into science or won't we?

We most certainly would if evidence spoke that way. Since I can remember ever hearing about ID, they've been asked to bring forth just such evidence, and not delivered. Even before it was 'ID', but just crationism, there has always been a major fail at producing anything substantial - like functioning theories, experiments, etc. Empty claims were debunked by the evidence, such as irreducible complexity... so, we're still waiting for the epistomological evidence.

Most people think this question was settled
decades or centuries ago.

Centuries, I don't know (but I would think so), but certainly for decades, it has been the consensus among science to only allow explanations that are evidence-based into science. The answer to the question is the same as above and has been for all this time: any form of causation will only be allowed into science if there is evidence for it, and if it is testable. If it's not testable, it's not even in the realm of science.

IDers say new evidence in biology and
elsewhere compels us to reconsider our answer.

Yes, that's true: That's exactly what IDers say. Unfortunately, saying it doesn't make it true, at least not in the sense creationists claims. Evidence in biology leads us elsewhere all the time - so if I took this sentence out of context it could even be considered correct. After all, this is how science works - follow an intriguing hint of new evidence and hope to discover something new. Unfortunately, evidence does not currently lead us to "non-materialistic" causation. There's no other way of saying it than pointing at the above sentence in context and realize that it is simply wrong, if not a deliberate lie.

I find this intriguing,
especially when you bring in philosophers like Michael Polanyi, Alvin
Plantinga, and new discoveries in quantum physics that are essentially
saying the same thing. I'm not talking about supernatural causation--
as in magic. Just non-material causation, such as human consciousness.

Okay, stop. That's one of those absolutely typical creationist strategies - one of the very typical non-scientific ones (and I am not so sure they're doing this consciously), so let's expose it. A) He finds it intriguing. That's his right, for sure. I used to find the "Bible Code" intriguing, before I realized what a bunch of nonsense it is. But - uh - quantum physics are saying the same thing? I am sorry, sir, you fell for another unsubstantiated creationist claim - or made up one yourself. But here comes the big mistake: Suddenly, human consciousness is a non-materialistic causation. Would you have noticed the blatant flaw in that one, if I had not pointed it out? Maybe, maybe not. He uses human consciousness as a reason, as evidence for non-material causation, suggesting that it really is, implying that it's just a fact that fits the subject. It's not. There's no evidence that human consciousness has a non-materialistic causation. It's a complex subject and we might not yet know how it works (and it is very intriguing), but as always "we don't know yet" is certainly no evidence whatsoever for "non-materialistic" causation. There's no positive evidence for "non-materialistic" causation, either, but Kevin Miller would like you to buy that as a fact when he writes this sentence, hidden in the paragraph. Whether that's deliberate or not, the context tempts us to believe that.

Right now, I see many branches of science--particularly evolutionary
biology--as highly rationalistic. Theory-driven rather than evidence

I would like his definition of 'rationalistic'. He seems to wish to imply this is a bad thing, so I am highly interested in his definition. All I can think of is "thinking rationally", which is the very core of science. People who don't think rationally, but irrationally, certainly don't produce useful results that others or they themselves can build upon. So I am really intrigued as to what this "rationalistic" is and why he implies its a bad thing. If that last sentence in the above quote is supposed to be any explanation for that, it fails its purpose. Or he just didn't get the point of a theory. We can spell it out for him, though:

Evidence leads to conclusions. Lots of evidence leads to hypotheses. Tested hypotheses, based on that whole lot of evidence leads to theories. Theories drive further science by being continuously applied, tested and refined to produce more evidence that leads to new realms of discovery and strengthens the theory. Evidence and theory, in science, are inseparable. I am starting to get the feeling that Kevin Miller has a whole lot of problems with the connections within science. First he couldn't see a connection between empiricism and rationalism, and now he fails at the connection between evidence and theory. In other words, he throws up his hands and calls us a yoghurt-pudding-and-butter driven society, rather than a milk-driven society, not seeing the connection between all these products.

ID seems to be an attempt to call science back to a more
empirical approach--at least according to the rhetoric I've heard from
ID advocates. (I can't tell you how many times I've heard them say,
"Follow the evidence wherever it leads.") So I'm prone to wonder if
all the fireworks over ID are really just the most recent
manifestation of an age-old scientific debate that's been cloaked in
all sorts of modern religious and political agendas. It's just the
latest swing of the rationalist/empiricist pendulum. At least that's
one way of trying to conceptualize it. I could be way off."

Yes, he is way off. ID is the very opposite of calling science back to a more empirical approach, it basically says 'throw empiricism overboard!', but he's probably correct that it's a rhetoric he's heard from ID advocates. They tend to repeat things over and over again in the hopes that either people will buy it or that it becomes true. The evidence leads away, far away, from ID. It has been shown over and over again that ID is actually not leading us back to empiricism and it's claims have been debunked (and not by the proponents of it, because they seem to not be doing research to begin with). Again, saying that ID leads to a more empirical approach is simply wrong, or even a deliberate lie.

It's been a long day.

I picture a drowsy, tired Kevin Miller at his keyboard, trying to make sense of the world after working for a couple of days straight (the best state of mind to be in for IDealistic brainwash). Somehow he thinks that a rational and an empirical approach necessarily exclude each other.

Curious, when you consider that in fact, rationality applied to empiricism is how science actually works.

I'd forgive him, I'm tired, too sometimes. But unless he was drugged up, tired and drowsy throughout writing Expelled, he must already have consented to this nonsense while being aware of his senses.