Growing up you believe the world is meant to be the way it is. The older I get the more I realise that this is not the case. The world is full of injustices and atrocities that governments and the voice of faith expect us to accept, though with each passing year they grow fewer and fewer, at least one would hope. I have created this blog as a space for me to rant about all things science, politics, philosophy and religion, before it’s too late and the vessel of new atheism propelled by a growing surge in secularism solves all of the world’s problems for good.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

The salamander that got stuck...

Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum)

I can remember sitting in year 11 biology, way back when, learning about metamorphosis in amphibians. We had a tank in the classroom that had some rather sizable axolotls in it, and I can remember having my mind blown when I was informed that they were effectively stuck half way through metamorphosis. They had limbs like an adult frog or salamander; however, they still had gills much like tadpoles did. So it seemed to me like they were caught in limbo. 

Someone had said that the reason they still had gills was because they lived in an environment, a tank with water filled to the top, from which they couldn’t escape in order to metamorphose. It seemed to make sense. If there were no air to breathe, why would you want to acquire lungs? My teacher suggested that they could undergo metamorphosis if you slowly reduced the amount of water in the tank, though I was left wanting when I asked how exactly the axolotl controlled this pausal state, she didn’t know.

Tonight I found myself asking the same question again, so I looked the answer up!

Metamorphosis in amphibians is controlled by the hormones thyroxin, which is a thyroid hormone that induces metamorphosis, and prolactin, which counteracts the effects of thyroxin. Specific events trigger the release of thyroxin, which starts off the process of metamorphosis. The organs that become redundant, such as the gills, tail (in frogs) or ridges for teeth, are resorbed by the body via apoptosis (controlled cell death).   


Life cycles of frogs and salamanders

Toy Dog
When an animal’s development is slowed or delayed, or paused completely as is the case with axolotls, this process is called neoteny or “juvenilization”. Other animals that endure a neotenous state are toy dogs. Yep, those irritating, small and yappy rat look-alikes appear that way due to artificial selection on our part that has selected for the inactivation of the genes that would continue the dog’s development into an adult. Thus they resemble infant wolves. Other examples include flightless birds and even us humans. Neotenous traits we express are things such as sparse body hair, enlarged heads (think baby primates) and lactose tolerance in adults. In all cases, we still have the genes within us, the "wolf man" is an example of a human with a full coat of hair, and there are plenty of people out there with lactose intolerance, who can no longer digest foods made from or with lactose (milk).

              
Tiger Salamander
Anyway, back to the axolotls. These guys are a form of neotenic mole salamander and part of the Tiger Salamander complex. What’s interesting is that wild axolotls tend to go through metamorphosis like normal salamanders, though they can have some neotenic populations. It was only after artificial selection that laboratory or pet axolotls expressed permanent neoteny. So in other words, we chose only those individuals who didn’t produce thyroxin, which would’ve caused them to undergo metamophosis, to reproduce and removed the rest. Homozygosity of a single recessive gene was found to be the cause of neoteny in axolotls in a study by Tomkins.

However, axolotls can be induced to undergo metamorphosis if injected with iodine, which is used for producing thyroid hormones, or by injecting the specific hormone itself, thyroxin, into the animal (a study that looked at this). Wikipedia also mentions the ability to induce metamorphosis by reducing the level of water in a tank slowly over time. However, most times the animals will die and those that survive will have a reduced lifespan of 5 years compared to the usual 10-15 years. I might add though that this had no references, but as independent anecdotal evidence supports the idea somewhat. 

Another interesting side note is that numerous salamander species are reported to have an aquatic phase in spring and summer and a terrestrial phase in autumn and winter. 

For adaptation to a water phase, prolactin is the required hormone, and for adaptation to the land phase, thyroxin. External gills do not return in subsequent aquatic phases because these are completely absorbed upon leaving the water for the first time.
It was also discovered that this prolactin-thyroxin interaction (synergism) is how salamanders have such amazing tissue regenerating abilities. They are able to regenerate limbs and even eyes that have been amputated/removed. I could go on forever about every aspect of this extraordinary creatures biology, but I won't.


Conclusions: Axolotls were selected to become neotenic, so if you want a terrestrial salamander don't get an axolotl and torture it to become one through water deprivation or injections with his only reward being the prospect of a severely shortened life. Buy a different species...

Friday, 29 April 2011

'Optical Battery', a breakthrough in solar power generation

A friend Campbell was kind enough to show me this article on a new scientific discovery in the way of solar power generation. Scientists at the University of Michigan have found a way to harness the magnetic attributes in light in order to generate energy. 


The results of this research may have the potential to design solar panels without semi-conductors, which consist of a the majority of a solar cell's processing, eliminating it may see huge reductions in costs. 


Fisher notes that a solar cell using this new energy harvesting technique would only require lenses to focus the light and fiber to carry it. “Glass works for both,” said Fisher, ”it’s already made in bulk, and it doesn’t require as much processing. Transparent ceramics might be even better.” 


I've been waiting for solar panels to be integrated into windows on all forms of buildings. This sounds like it's a definite step, if not a sizable leap, in that direction! 



Read this article for more information. 

The conception of Jesus may not have been miraculous after all?



This is quite a bizarre story, more than that actually, but then so is the story of Mother Mary being impregnated by God. The following story is an alternative as to how Mary really became pregnant without having had sex and it involves the lack of a vagina, some oral sex and a knife fight. Trust me...

So the story isn't new, it occurred in the late 1980s when a 15-year-old girl living in the African country of Lesotho was taken to a local hospital showing the symptoms of a woman in labour. The doctors went to examine her and discovered that the girl had no vagina, just a shallow skin dimple. Apparently this isn't that uncommon and is a birth defect called Mullerian agenesis or Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome. However, the pregnancy on the other hand was a surprise. At this point no doubt you're thinking "HOW THE...???" Just wait...

So the hospital staff looked into the girls records and discovered she'd been in the same hospital 278 days prior to then due to a knife wound to her stomach. The average pregnancy lasts 280 days. Apparently the girl had been practicing some fellatio on her new boyfriend when her former boyfriend appeared on the scene and a knife fight followed and she was stabbed.

She showed up to the hospital with an empty stomach and was stitched up and sent home. Nine months later she was back and in labour, needless to say the baby was delivered by caesarian.

The hypothesis doctors came up with as to how she became pregnant is as follows: she swallowed semen after practicing fellatio on her new boyfriend; soon after the former boyfriend appeared and a knife fight ensued where she was stabbed in the stomach; the semen left her stomach and reached her reproductive organs via the injured gastrointestinal tract; she became pregnant.

Anyway, back to Mother Mary. This story is evidence for the conception without sex, so perhaps Mary was a bit of a player on poor old Joseph. He came home one night and found her in the act of fellatio with another man. In his rage he pulls out a knife, stabs Mary and her assailant. The assailant dies, but Mary survives with only minor wounds. To cover it all up, hide the dead body and prevent the family being shamed, they agree to tell the world that God impregnated Mary miraculously... Best cover up ever!

Edit: I might also add this story of a woman who apparently fell pregnant after being the lucky recipient of a gun shot to the abdominal cavity during the civil war in the US (1870s). The bullet had hit a man taking his left testicle with it and traveled into a nearby house where it hit the woman.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Collingwood supporters take it to the next level...


Collingwood have taken it to the next level attempting to recruit as many follower as possible they're now chasing the female islamic demography. Talk about desperate for filling the seats? Haha

Anyway, in all seriousness, an islamic fashion designer has apparently released a new line of hijabs for every AFL team and is hoping to release more covering other sports like cricket and soccer. The story was on the news tonight on Channel 10, I did a google but couldn't find anything other than this photo.

I am sure I am not the only one who is dying to see muslim wearing one of these in the streets let alone at the football. We will truly know that Australia has become a multicultural and accepting nation when we see numerous muslim women wearing these hijabs at the footy, with a pie and tomato sauce in hand, and chunks of beef flying from her mouth as she screams obscenities at the players from the crowd!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Altruism And A Win For Scientific Research!


Today, the Picaso painting from 1935 named Jeune Fille Endormie (Young Girl Sleeping) was anonymously donated by an American owner to the University of Sydney on the premise that it was sold with all proceeds going to scientific research. The paining could be worth $18 million dollars! Wow, what an epic win for scientific research in Australia.
"Professor Michael Spence, the University's Vice Chancellor says most of the money will go to the University's new Centre for Obesity Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease."
For more on the story see this ABC article.

This is a particularly important contribution to scientific research, especially medical research, in the light of the recent thread of funding cuts from the government for medical research.

Royalactin, the protein fit for queens!

Countless generations of bee keepers had always been curious as to how queen bees developed from the same larvae that became worker bees. Jung-Hoffman seems to have been the first to discover the role of specific jellies and caste determination back in the late 60s, but ever since having discovered royal jelly scientists have wondered what specific chemical was causal to making larvae into queens.


The answer has finally been discovered, and the protein is has been aptly dubbed "royalactin" by japanese researcher Masaki Kamakura of Toyama Prefectural University, Japan.


New Scientist published an article on the discovery yesterday.



"There's more than one way to turn a commoner into royalty. Honeybees create queens by feeding their larvae royal jelly, the secret ingredient of which has now been identified.
Masaki Kamakura of Toyama Prefectural University in Imizu, Japan, stored royal jelly at 40 °C for 30 days, feeding it to bee larvae at intervals. Its regal effect gradually weakened, suggesting the key ingredient was decaying. He then fed larvae deactivated jelly with each batch laced with a different compound that was subject to decay. Only one caused the larvae to turn into queens: a protein Kamakura calls royalactin.
To find out how royalactin works, Kamakura added it to the diet of fruit fly larvae. This made them grow larger and lay more eggs, as in bees. Kamakura found that royalactin works by switching on the gene that codes for Egfr, a protein found throughout the animal kingdom.
This suggests a pre-existing mechanism was repurposed to produce the bee caste system, says Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. When insects first formed eusocial colonies, queens and workers must have been physically identical, he says, and the distinct castes came later, created by royalactin or something like it."
My grandfather, a hobby bee keeper, will no doubt be pleased!

Atheists... Discrimination Against The Least Trusted Minority


First half of the news story

It seems ironic to me that entire communities of American Christians are treating others so badly, and at the same time oh so often we see them complaining of exactly the same "discrimination" and maltreatment.

What's disturbing is that Christians in the community were actually calling up the work places of an atheist in this video to complain about them having employed an atheist... I doubt any atheist would ever do that.

A study in 2006 by Edgell et al., examines the distrust of atheists in America with findings suggesting they're the most distrusted minority group in America, even less accepted than other marginlised groups such as muslims or homosexuals. Two questions asked in the study and their results:

This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society...
Atheists: 39.6%
Muslims: 26.3%
Homosexuals: 22.6%
Hispanics: 20%
Conservative Christians: 13.5%
Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
Jews: 7.6%

I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group...
Atheists: 47.6%

Second half of the news story, an "unbiased" debate.

I find it amusing that in the second part of this news report they have a debate about discrimination against atheists that doesn't include an atheist in it? What like finding 1 of the reported 3 000 000+ atheists in America was too hard on the day? Both the black women and jewish women have NO idea about the issue at hand, and at least the christian man is looking at things somewhat intelligently and objectively.

And that comment from the jewish woman "Freedom of religion doesn't necessarily mean freedom from it"...??? ARE YOU SERIOUS? They keep repeating "America's a Christian nation", whether or not the founding fathers were christian isn't the point, they were secular and believed that religion should be a private thing and be kept out of the government and public schools, full stop. That's what we're opposed to as atheists.

Another Easily Avoidable Dingo Attack On Fraser Island


I’m really starting to get sick and tired of hearing about animals being killed after idiot people get themselves or others into situations where animals attack, whether provoked or unprovoked.


Yesterday, yet another toddler was mauled by a dingo on Fraser Island. It’s a tragic event, but one that can be easily avoidable if the parents just keep an eye on their children. Apparently the toddler and her family were on the beach watching two dingoes. The toddler wandered off up the beach and over a sand dune into the bush and the dingoes chased after her and she was mauled luckily only for a matter of seconds before passer bys and members of her family chased the dingoes away. However, even though these irresponsible people allowed this situation to arise, it was inevitably the dingoes that suffered most of all when they were later tracked down and shot dead by rangers.

This has occurred periodically in the past 10 years… 2001, 2007, 2009 and now 2011.
In all of these cases the victims have been young children.

Dingoes are a subspecies of Canis lupus (the grey wolf), Canis lupus dingo and are closely related to the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris. Dingo numbers in Australia are dwindling and the subspecies purity, at least on the mainland, is no longer 100% due interbreeding with domestic dogs. Fraser Island is considered Australia’s last bastion of the pure dingo, though they are under threat from lack of food resources. Numbers on the island are estimated to be up to 300, with 231 of which have been tagged. And yet we keep being faced with having to kill dingoes that attack our neglected children. It’s like we’re throwing food in front of the starving and then slapping them as they reach for it…

I doubt the answer is killing the dingoes who attack, as this has happened on each occasion, so every subsequent attack has been a first time for the dingoes involved. They’re simply taking advantage of a situation that should arise in the first place, and in the light of the fact that their food sources are limited on the island, what do you expect people???

I’m sorry if I seem callous and have no sympathy for the parents, as I don’t, I hold them to blame, as well as parks and wildlife as they don’t seem to be doing enough to let people know the risks. I do feel for the victims, the dingoes as much if not more than the children, but I think the parents/families should be punished if they invite an animal attack on themselves or their children through blatant irresponsibility or neglect, especially if it leads to the killing of the threatened and protected wild animals involved in the attack. A large fine if nothing else, considering the dingo is a subspecies that is listed as vulnerable, a step from endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

One way or another, I truly hope something changes in the future as children being mauled by wild animals that are subsequently hunted down is something that can be so easily avoided… To anyone going to Fraser Island in the near future, buy a child leash.


Monday, 25 April 2011

Storm - Tim Minchin (Comedian/Musician)

I came across this video recently through a friend Toby (Cheers mate). It's an animated clip of Tim Minchin reciting his poem "Storm". Surprisingly, I later found that this same poem has been published in The Australian Book of Atheism. It's a jovial poem about an encounter between Tim and one of those new age hippy, "alternative" everything embracing people who hold distrust for science and prefer to believe in the supernatural aspects of society from alternative medicine, astrology, religion etc. Anyway, have a watch and prepare for the ensuing amusement.


Here's a live performance of the poem by Tim.


Pete.

Current Reading - The Australian Book of Atheism

The book I’m currently reading, The Australian Book of Atheism put together by a guy named Warren Bonett who is the owner of the secular book store Embiggen Books, which is currently translocating from Noosa, Qld to Melbourne, Vic.



“Does the Anzac ethos have roots in atheism? Does prayer have a place in parliament? Should creation science be taught in Australian schools? Is atheism maligned in political debate? Will Australia's future be godless?  While prominent international thinkers have made significant contributions to the general conversation on belief and religion, Australians have been less heard.  

The Australian Book of Atheism is the first collection to explore atheism from an Australian viewpoint. Bringing together essays from 32 of the nation's pre-eminent atheist, rationalist, humanist, and skeptic thinkers, it canvasses a range of opinions on religion and secularism in Australia.  

Including contributions from Michael Bachelard, Dr Leslie Cannold, Robyn Williams, Lyn Allison, Tim Minchin, and Phillip Nitschke, this diverse and entertaining collection showcases the unique character of Australian atheism".

I’m about a third of the way through and if it wasn’t for work and study I don’t think I’d be able to put the thing down. Definitely recommend it to anyone interested in atheism in an Australian context. I've already learned a great deal I didn't know about the history of atheism here. 

Pete.

The World's Only Known Poisonous Birds!



 The world’s first poisonous birds! They live in New Guinea and belong to the genus Pitohui. Though the genus was discovered way back in the 1830s by a French surgeon and naturalist named René Primevère Lesson, it was only in more recent years that it was discovered that this species has a form of toxic chemical defence by Dumbacher et al. It was previously thought that these toxic chemicals, batrachotoxins, were uniquely found in poison-dart frogs, genus Phyllobates. The occurrence of batrachotoxins in both birds and frogs is evidence that the ability to withstand and store the toxin was independently evolved by each group of organisms (aka, convergent evolution). Cool huh!?

This toxin is a neurotoxin and works by attaching to sodium voltage-gated receptors on cells and holding the gates open, preventing the cell from controlling its uptake and release of sodium ultimately leading to numbness from slight exposure all the way to paralysis and death in cases of extreme exposure.

The Hooded Pitohui obtains the toxins from eating a specific beetle, of the Melyridae family. This same beetle is also likely to be the same source of toxicity in the poison-dart frogs in Colombia. This toxin is stored in the feathers and skin of the birds with these beetles in its diet, in a similar way I’m guessing flamingos get their red colouration from the algae they each, which is subsequently stored in their skin and feathers as well. The original ancestor of the three species of Pitohui would have evolved a slightly different sodium voltage-gate in its cells to which the batrachotoxins could no longer bind. Much like trying to push a triangle through a square hole. This would’ve been an advantage for the birds as it opened up the ability to exploit a food source, the beetles, which other animals avoided due to their toxicity. On top of that, by storing the toxin in their skin and feathers they had acquired a form of defence against predators who would eat them. Over time, predator species would begin to avoid eating Pitohuis, those who did eat them would be poisoned and die, thus not passing their genes on, those who avoided them survived to reproduce. Much the same as is expected to be the case in the poison-dart frogs, which gained their bright colours as a way for predators to clearly differentiate the poisonous frogs from the edible ones.

Hooded Pitohui, Pitohui dichrous and Melyridae beetle


Here's a short clip of a lecture by Dumbacher on how these poisonous birds were discovered and their toxins. 


Pete.


Will & Kate - The movie.... Really???

Wow I can't believe they've actually made a movie about how Prince William and soon to be Princess Kate  met, and have lived for the past 10 years etc... The English are really milking the crap out of this nonsense wedding.


I know I won't be watching when it airs on Australian TV next week...

Furthermore, they aired a documentary that followed all the preparation of this wedding last night here in Australia.

"Get all the insider information on the event of the year on William and Kate: Inside the Royal Wedding, a documentary by Indigo Films airing this Sunday night on GMA News TV. 

It provides details about the food, the celebrity guests, and what Prince William and Kate Middleton are really like behind closed doors. Meet the school friends, the stylist, and the royal chefs who give you a glimpse into the wedding of the future King and Queen of England."


Wow... tantalizing, I think I would rather watch the same game of golf 5 times in a row than succumb to watching anything at all related to the drudgery of this wedding.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The fires of Mordor?...

...burning brightly at the Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

(via PZ Myers)

Hybrid Lorikeets



I thought I’d share with you something really interesting my father pointed out to me in the front yard a month or so ago. He’s a photography enthusiast and loves his bird watching and noticed a pair of juvenile hybrid lorikeets. Both of the juveniles were expressing phenotypic traits belonging to both rainbow and scaly-breasted species of lorikeets.

Juvenile hybrid lorikeets - 


I was blown away, it’s not often you see an example of hybridisation between two distinct species, also known as interspecific hybridisation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_(biology)), in your back yard. What made things even more interesting for me, though thinking about it it’s not that much of a surprise, was the fact that when the parents showed up to feed their offspring they too appeared to be hybrids.

Parents and juveniles - 


At the bottom of the photo you can see a parent, which has mainly rainbow lorikeet phenotypic traits but when compared with a pure rainbow lorikeet it doesn’t look the same, it has a lighter coloured chest suggesting it is a hybrid. However, the phenotypic traits don’t look as homogenised, or mixed together, as in their juveniles in the photo, which could suggest that the parents of this adult were both pure.

Rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) -

Scaly-breasted lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus) -

Specifics behind the speciation between these species of lorikeets doesn’t seem to have been studied in fine detail yet, at least after a quick look through Google Scholar. However, as an evolutionary geneticist currently studying mechanisms of speciation in an Australian lizard, Varanus varius, I would suggest it probably occurred within the last 2 million years in the Pliocene/Pleistocene periods (the same pattern has been documented for the occurrance of speciation in many australian species, birds, reptiles, mammals, insects, etc). During these periods there was a great deal of fluctuation in the climate of Australia, and the rest of the world for that matter. Cyclical ice ages occurred causing contraction of species’ distributions during glacial maxima and subsequent expansions during inter-glacial periods. The ancestral species of lorikeet would’ve been separated into two groups that were genetically isolated from one another for sufficient time that they became separate and distinct species. Eventually, once the climate became more stable, both the species would’ve expanded their respective distributions, over much of the east coast of Australia as is the case. In many areas the distribution of both species overlaps, where they are living together in the same environment. For the most part, sexual selection within each species will mean that males and females will be attracted to the opposite sex of their own species, though sometimes accidents can happen. Maybe during sunset, in the branches of a gumtree mr. rainbow lorikeet notices who he thinks is a beautiful mrs rainbow lorikeet sitting on a nearby branch. However, the light is fading and his eyesight isn’t as sharp as it is usually, and neither is hers, thinking she’s found mr right scaly-breasted lorikeet. With Barry White playing in the background they pair get down to business, only realising the unfortunate mistake they’ve made when the sun rises the next day. But it’s too late, they have to finish what they’ve started and raise the miraculously fertilized eggs.

It’s obvious that this doesn’t happen that often, as rainbow and scaly-breasted lorikeets, though their distributions greatly overlap, still remain two distinct and widespread species. If there was no sexual selection occurring within either species, the two species would just homogenise back into one over time. This is called reticulate evolution, evolution (cladogenisis) characterized by occasional hybridization and combination of two species.”

Reticulate evolution - 


It would be really interesting to keep track of the individuals in this family of lorikeets and follow their subsequent matings. Many questions arise such as: would the hybrid juvenile offspring specifically search for other hybrid offspring, or select either rainbow or scaly-breasted lorikeet mates with no preference, or maybe a skewed preference towards one species over the other? It would give some really interesting insights into sexual selection within and between two different species at a hybrid zone. I’ll have to do a more exhaustive search of the literature as I’m sure a great deal has already been done in this area, on other species elsewhere. Anyway just thought I’d share that little back yard biological gem with you.

Pete


Additional/Further reading:
Hybrid zones and homogamy in Australian frogs – M. J. Littlejohn & G. F. Watson

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Too Much Media Junk...

Is anyone else getting fed up with the amount of irrelevant and superfluous junk stories that are filling up important media space both on the TV and in newspapers these days? As I write this post I’m watching ABC News, a half an hour program on the ABC channel on Australian TV and the past 10 minutes of so called “news” has been filled up with stories on the Russian president being caught on video dancing at a school reunion and the royal wedding guest list. For those who didn’t know, Ian Thorpe’s going to the wedding next week! Hip Hip Horay!

With all of the other news worthy events going on in the world at the moment stemming from natural disasters and civil unrest in the middle eastern countries to name only two, which seem to get as much if not less attention and air time as the royal wedding or Kylie Minogue having dinner with Australian PM Julia Gillard in Japan.

The media seem to obsessed today with showing the best of the worst and the worst of the best on TV… We have protesters being slaughtered in the streets of Syria balanced off with a YouTube clip of a kitten falling off a table getting millions of hits (I honestly saw this last week on the news). “The death toll from the March 11 tsunami in Japan has now accrued a death toll of more than 17000 people. Meanwhile, here’s a video clip of the two sea otters holding hands.”

I almost find this constant 1-2 combo in the media offensive. It’s as if they put in countless hours of effort into all the terrible stories in the world, followed by about two minutes worth of YouTubing to report on something positive. Surely there is a great deal more out there that is positive to report on? Science is taking new strides on a daily basis continually illuminating areas of biology, psychics, medicine, geology, etc, giving us further insights into our past, our evolution, the existence of the world and life around us, and the how medicine is reducing suffering all over the world.

I guess when it really comes down to it however, we are the ones to blame. The consumers, the audience. It seems we only lift our heads to pay any attention to the noise box anytime someone’s being slaughtered in war or by natural disasters, or when Madonna gets a new haircut. There seems to be no news like bad news, Tool’s song Vicarious outlines this bizarre phenomenon pretty well “It’s no fun til someone dies”. Hopefully this doesn’t remain the trend in the media forever…



Pete.


The Caudal Lure

I thought my first post should be one pertaining to the title of my blog “The Caudal Lure”.

Being a biologist I’d learned of how some animals use Caudal luring “the use of tail movements employed by a predator to attract prey animals.” It’s a behaviour that is really prevalent in snakes, especially vipers and pitvipers though numerous other snakes, and animals too use a caudal lure.

It’s also the name of a song from one of my favourite bands, Karnivool – The Caudal Lure from their latest album called Sound Awake. It’s a beautiful song using the caudal lure as a metaphor for how religion drags people in without questioning things, religiosity and curiosity, to me, negatively correlated. I can’t remember whether or not I thought up the analogy between caudal luring and religion before or after I heard this song, but I guess that’s irrelevant. Karnivool’s singer and lyricist Ian Kenny undoubtedly put pen to paper on the issue better than I could have. And I’ll post the lyrics below for you to have a read of, but for 100% impact I definitely suggest listening to the song (YouTube clip linked above). I also might add for atheists and music enthusiasts, Karnivool’s Sound Awake is heavily based on religion and questioning it. I definitely recommend having a listen sometime.

Here’re the song and lyrics.



"Ask a question
Are the answers loaded like this one?
You better pull yourself along
Time is precious and you must act
This isn't inevitable
I still stand
I won't get back in my cell
I will not let a saviour define my freedom
I'm going out now
No-one is gonna save us from this..."


I've always been incredibly interested in, and equally frustrated by, the way in which religion seems to drag people in. There seem to be so many different ways in which this occurs: through people convincing their friends to come along join in their "happy, loving, perfect, saved" community; where the religious convince others that they have monopoly on all the ultimate answers to the questions of any uncertain mind; where someone has lost a loved one, or suffers from depression, etc and are preyed upon by the religious who offer a "helping" hand to ease the suffering. I've had numerous friends and family members attracted and then ensnared by the caudal lure of religion. To me, such people have been taken advantage of by religion and religionists. It seems to be more about adding fuel to the fires that power the  religious machine, than really about easing suffering and helping others genuinely, though I'm sure many a religionist would protest to that point. 

"Hey I heard your grandmother just passed away? That's really sad... We believe that people live on after death! Wouldn't you prefer that than to think your grandmother is rotting in the ground? Come to church with me on Sunday and you can believe these things too!! It'll make you happy!"

Though I may have exaggerated the hypothetical conversation just slightly above, the point still remains the same. I have many a friend who has been in tough times who has then all of a sudden attracted a great deal of interest and subsequent comforting from the religious. They often offer a great deal to the depressed and suffering, but unfortunately as an atheist, I see their offer as being a great deal more than what they actually have to give. And hence, am infinitely frustrated when the people in need of comfort don't see things as they really are, wishful thinking and the need for comfort often outweigh their grip on reality. That said, who could blame them? I would rather believe dead friends and relatives were watching down over me, and that I would see them again one day too... but wanting something to be true doesn't make it so.

Anyway, welcome to my blog! I hope to have some lively discussions in the future derived from posts I throw up. I don't know everything, never will, and am will indefinitely be wrong from time to time. Pull me up with your point of view where you see fit, with sufficient evidence and persuasive argument you may hopefully change my mind in certain cases and enlighten me all the more.

Pete.