Quoting John Stuart Mill

Here’s John Stuart Mill,my favourite genius, speaking of his father’s views on religion:

…he regarded it [religion] with the feelings due not to a mere mental delusion, but to a great moral evil. He looked upon it as the greatest enemy of morality: first, by setting up factitious excellencies,—belief in creeds, devotional feelings, and ceremonies, not connected with the good of human-kind,—and causing these to be accepted as substitutes for genuine virtues: but above all, by radically vitiating the standard of morals; making it consist in doing the will of a being, on whom it lavishes indeed all the phrases of adulation, but whom in sober truth it depicts as eminently hateful. I have a hundred times heard him say, that all ages and nations have represented their gods as wicked, in a constantly increasing progression, that mankind have gone on adding trait after trait till they reached the most perfect conception of wickedness which the human mind can devise, and have called this God, and prostrated themselves before it. This ne plus ultra of wickedness he considered to be embodied in what is commonly presented to mankind as the creed of Christianity. Think (he used to say) of a being who would make a Hell—who would create the human race with the infallible foreknowledge, and therefore with the intention, that the great majority of them were to be consigned to horrible and everlasting torment. The time, I believe, is drawing near when this dreadful conception of an object of worship will be no longer identified with Christianity; and when all persons, with any sense of moral good and evil, will look upon it with the same indignation with which my father regarded it. My father was as well aware as anyone that Christians do not, in general, undergo the demoralizing consequences which seem inherent in such a creed, in the manner or to the extent which might have been expected from it. The same slovenliness of thought, and subjection of the reason to fears, wishes, and affections, which enable them to accept a theory involving a contradiction in terms, prevents them from perceiving the logical consequences of the theory.

—from Christopher Hitchens’ delightful book, The Portable Atheist. This is from Mill’s Autobiography, which was published only after his death in 1873.


Flagellum evolution updated

February, 2008: Dan Jones reviews the evidence in New Scientist:

Variants of at least seven T3SS proteins are also found in the flagellum, within a subsystem called the protein export system. This sits within the basal body and funnels replacement flagellin subunits to the filament, using a mechanism remarkably similar to the T3SS. In fact, the two systems are so similar that the flagellar protein export system is now considered to be a subclass of the T3SS (Trends in Microbiology, vol 14, p 157).Such similarities, or “homologies”, are strong evidence that the two systems evolved from a common ancestor – analogous to the way that the arrangement of bones in the limbs of horses, bats and whales reveal their common ancestry despite their very different outward appearance and function. Similar homologies can be seen in the DNA sequences of genes, and in the amino acid sequences and 3D structures of proteins – all are clear evidence of shared descent.

The evolutionary events linking flagella and T3SSs are not clear, but the homology between them is a devastating blow to the claim of irreducible complexity. This requires that a partial flagellum should be of no use whatsoever – but clearly it is. “The T3SS is a useful model of how a ‘partial flagellum’ could function in protein export,” says Nicholas Matzke of the University of California, Berkeley, a prominent defender of evolution and author of a number of academic articles on the flagellum. Miller adds: “The notion that these proteins can only be used in flagella simply falls apart.”

%d bloggers like this: