Archive for September, 2011

Puzzle solving isn’t unique only to parrots, corvids have also shown in numerous studies that they can dominate in the realm of intelligence too. They’ve an amazing aptitude when it comes to making and using tools.

The brain-to-body weight ratios of corvid brains are among the largest in birds, equal to that of great apes and cetaceans [whales/porpoises], and only slightly lower than a human.[24]Their intelligence is boosted by the long growing period of the young. By remaining with the parents, the young have more opportunities to learn necessary skills. Since most corvids are cooperative brooders, their young can learn from different members of the group.[7]

When compared to dogs and cats in an experiment testing the ability to seek out food according to three-dimensional clues, corvids out-performed the mammals.[25] Ametaanalysis testing how often birds invented new ways to acquire food in the wild found corvids the most innovative birds.[26] A 2004 review suggests that their cognitive abilities are on par with those of great apes.[27] Despite structural differences, the brains of corvids and great apes both evolved the ability to make geometrical measurements. – More

For more info on research on this area have a look at this TED talk by Joshua Klein.


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Here’s a great series of photographs I stumbled upon today showing a lioness saving her helpless cub from falling to his death on a muddy cliff. Follow the link to see the entire series of photos.

It just makes you wonder how many amazing things we actually never see in the natural world because we never get a lens of a camera on it.

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Reports have come to light this week of an Iranian Christian pastor being sentenced toexecution after he refused to revert from Christianity back to Islam. The man, Youcef Nadarkhani, is an Iranian Church leader and faces imminent execution after refusing the order given to him by the Iran supreme court to denounce his faith.


Now in his 30s, Nadarkhani, first converted from Islam to Christianity when he was 19 yrs old. However, authorities only caught up to arresting him for his apostasy in 2009 and he was immediately sentenced to death under Islamic Sharia law. Nadarkhani was initially spared by an appeal to the supreme court ruling in July this year. Unfortunately the case was reheard at a court in his home town Gilan, and he again faces execution.

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?” Nadarkhani allegedly said during his trial.

“To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” the judge replied, according to the American Center for Law & Justice.

“I cannot,” Nadarkhani conlcuded. –

London’s Foreign Secretary William Hague has condemned the ruling and is appealing to Iran to spare the man’s life. He says this is further illustration of Iran’s “continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom.”

Amnesty International stated that “freedom of belief, which includes the right to change one’s religion, is protected under Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.”

Some other fun facts about Iran and execution. Iran executes the second most number of people in the world each year, coming second only to China. This year alone there have been 400 or more executions, most of which have been reported by the government (yeah, most…). 100 alone have occurred this September.

Iran is also one of the few places you can go in the world to view teenagers being executed. On top of that, in contrast to America people sit on death row for a great deal less time. A 17 year old girl recently convicted of murder was sentenced on Aug 20th, denied appeal on Sept 11th, and hanged on Sept 21.

So yeah, Iran, definitely not one of my top 10 places to ‘hang’ out…

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The small Alabama town of Bay Minette is telling people convicted of small crimes to choose church or jail. They can either do their time in jail or go to church once a week for an entire year. Personally, I’d probably enjoy jail more…

Critics are pretty pissed as the 56 churches who are taking part in the initiative are all Christian churches, not a single mosque or synagogue, surprise surprise right? Starting to sound a little more like recruiting than rehabilitation. They must be running a little low on sunday mass participation and need to fill those pews.

Atheists clearly come up worst considering they have to completely compromise their beliefs, which makes me wonder. What would happen if the option wasn’t a religious initiative but an atheist one. Wouldn’t there be uproar over that in the south from criminals and general public alike? But seriously, what if instead of sending people convicted of small crimes to church (or jail) we send them back to school, or even to university if they’ve graduated high school.

I bet if you looked up the stats you’d find people with a tertiary education are much less likely to commit crimes than even people who go to church, let alone compared to a member of the general public.

Though when it comes down to it I’m sure the residents and law enforcers of Alabama would much rather let the criminals completely off the hook than allow them to enhance their capacity for critical thinking. I mean, worst case scenario they’d have educated, rational atheists roaming the streets… No one would be safe.

Edit: I did actually look up literature on religion, education and rates of crime.

There’s a “negligible effect of religion on crime rate” study  and that the higher your education the less likely you are to commit crimes. What a surprise.

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The official Jehovah’s Witness magazine, The Watchtower, recently published the following in an article titled ‘Will you heed Jehovah’s warnings?’:

Jehovah, the Great Physician, tells us to avoid contact with them. We know what he means, but are we determined to heed his warning in all respects? What is involved in avoiding false teachers? We do not receive them into our homes or greet them. We also refuse to read their literature, watch television programmes that feature them, examine their websites, or add our comments to their blogs. Why do we take such a firm stand?

Because of love. We love ‘the God of truth’, so we are not interested in twisted teachings that contradict his Word of truth.

The offending article shamelessly condemns anyone who questions the official doctrine of the church, or decides to leave the church, and labels them “mentally diseased”. This has led to an outcry from former and present members of the church who are worried about people being shunned by friends and family as well as the church.

A man who didn’t want his identity to be known said that:

Many like me remain associated with the Witnesses out of fear of being uncovered as an ‘apostate’ and ousted, not just from the organisation, but from their own friends and families.

I find I am now branded as ‘mentally diseased’ – giving any who discover my true beliefs free licence to treat me with disdain.

There is also concern over such labelling of apostates effectively being a hate crime. Can you imagine if blacks, gays, or conflicting religions openly labelled one another ‘mentally diseased’. There’d be an absolute uproar from members of such groups as well as the general public.

So I definitely think it’s time we stop giving these religious groups the exorbitant privileges they’re currently granted, even apparently when it comes to vilifying their own. Everyone group and every person deserves equal treatment, as well as protection from those who would mistreat them.

More on the story here.

As a bit of a backstory, I’ve always had a bit of a hate on for the followers of Jehovah and the church itself. Growing up I was friends with three boys at my local primary school who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would hang out with them several times a week out the front of their house on my street, skate boarding, playing footy and having water fights in summer. They were good kids, their parents on the other hand…

I only learned that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses when one morning they rocked up on our doorstep all dressed in suits. My father opened the door and politely told them we weren’t interested (this didn’t deter them from showing up a few times every year).

The door knocking and the personal religious beliefs at the time didn’t bother me at all, I was probably 10-12 years old while friends with the boys. However, I soon started to hold a great deal of disdain for them because of their disapproval of their sons spending time with me. They began refusing to let me have a glass of water on hot days, or even enter their house to use the toilet. I think over the 3-4 years I was friends with them I was allowed to enter their house twice, once without the parent’s knowledge. Sometimes though they were nice enough to let one of their sons get me a cup from inside to use the outside tap for a drink of water. Eventually they stopped letting their boys play with us and that was that.

So that line from the article above “We do not receive them into our homes or greet them.” really reminded me of all this. What arseholes… You think if you were really comfortable with your belief in God and the teachings of the Bible you’d hardly be worried about speaking with apostates or unbelievers let alone denying them entry to your house. However, clearly such fraternisation with the enemy has lead to many a devout JW follower question the very core of their faith, and even leaving the church. Why else would they have such vicious tactics at retaining believers.

Anyway, one day many years later I met one of them out in the town. He’d subsequently moved out of home and left the church. His parents had turned their back on him, though he seemed to be fine and didn’t really care. Unfortunately, a few years later he showed up at my parents house in a suit, holding a bible…

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