atheist news feeds

Marthe Gautier, another woman scientist trivialized

Pharyngula - March 1, 2014 - 12:55pm

I had known that Jérôme Lejeune was the fellow who had discovered that Down Syndrome was caused by trisomy of chromosome 21, but it seems there were many other things about him I had not known — he was just a name. But there were a few things that set me aback.

Lejeune became not just a renowned researcher but the darling of the French Catholic right-to-life movement.  You can read long flattering Wikipedia biographies in both French and English. He was showered with awards and given a prestigious Chair of Human Genetics at the Paris School of Medicine, bypassing the usual competition.

When prenatal diagnosis became available Lejeune campaigned against it on religious grounds. He became a friend of Pope John Paul II and was appointed President of the Pontifical Academy for Life (Wikipedia), the Catholic think-tank for medical ethics.  He died in 1994.  The Fondation Jerome-Lejeune was established in his honour; there’s an American branch too.  This foundation provides funds for research into Down syndrome and support for families and patients, but only in the context of very strong opposition to abortion.  They’re also campaigning to have Lejeune beatified by the Vatican.

Uh, OK. Ick. One of those Catholics. I am entertained by the thought that if you do good science and happen to be Catholic, though, the church will try to get you beatified.

But then I learned something that really kind of pisses me off. He’s not the guy who discovered trisomy 21. He’s the guy who stole credit for discovering trisomy 21 (sleazy behavior like that may have just fast-tracked him to Catholic sainthood now).

The real discoverer was a woman, Marthe Gautier, who had done all the cell work that led to the identification of the chromosome abnormalities. She got a bit of space and some rudimentary equipment, and cultured cells using serum derived from her own blood. Man, we’ve got it easy nowadays.

For this work she was given a disused laboratory with a fridge, a centrifuge, and a poor quality microscope, but no funding. And of course she still had her other responsibilities. But she was keen and resourceful, so she took out a personal loan to buy glassware, kept a live cockerel as a source of serum, and used her own blood when she needed human serum.

So she set up normal human cells, prepped them for the chromosome squashes, grew Down syndrome cells and did likewise, and was held up by her primitive gear at that point…when Jérôme Lejeune showed up and whisked all of her data away to get it photographed. And then went off to a conference where he announced that he had discovered the cause of Down syndrome, and then published the story with Gautier’s name as a middle author — a paper she did not get to see and knew nothing about until the day before publication.

Lejeune is dead now, but the sleaze continues in his name. There was to be an award ceremony for Gautier — she’s 88 now — at the French Federation of Human Genetics’ (FFGH) seventh biennial congress on human and medical genetics in Bordeaux. Guess who is trying to intimidate the attendees by having a bailiff sent to film the proceedings? Fondation Jérôme Lejeune, of course, because Gautier was intending to give a speech that would affect the memory of Pr. Jérôme Lejeune. I think his foundation is doing a fine job of that already.

It’s very nice that Lejeune at least gave credit to Gautier in the authorship of the original paper, but if you browse the Foundation web page, you discover that (in the creepy mix of pro-Catholic and anti-abortion sentiment mingled with worthy appeals for care and tolerance for Down syndrome people), they repeatedly state that Lejeune is the “discoverer of Down syndrome” — so much so that it’s clear that they attach a great deal of importance on the identity of the discoverer. They don’t seem to attach much importance to the fact that he appropriated the hard work of a woman laboring away under primitive conditions, and do think it very important that she be denied recognition. Lejeune also thought the discovery was worthy of a Nobel prize (no, he didn’t get one), so…Very Big Deal. But not big enough to demand honesty and integrity in its appreciation of who did the work.

By the way, you should read the Lejeune Foundation’s excuses. They are intrinsically horrible. They ask who profits from the dispute, and the answer is…anti-Catholic terrorists.

Is this an attempt at proving that Jérôme lejeune surely can’t have made a major scientific discovery, as he is opposed to abortion and is considered as an “intransigent catholic” (horresco referens)?

This ideological terrorism, currently very popular but whose origin is easily traceable, does not come as a surprise to anyone. The Foundation and the Pr. Lejeune will handle the matter the way it deserves to be handled.

Popular but…easily traceable? handle the matter the way it deserves to be handled? Paranoid persecution complex much?

Also, Gautier is an old woman and her claims are late and not trustworthy.

Categories: Our friends


Pharyngula - March 1, 2014 - 9:19am

Somehow, I follow a lot of science fiction people and UK residents on twitter, and my feed erupted with convergent outrage this morning. Some guy named @wossy (Jonathan Ross) has been announced as the host for a British SF convention, Loncon 3, where he’ll be handing out the Hugo Awards. Who? Had to look him up.

He seems to have a bit of a reputation as a sexist boor who, as a “comedian”, likes to punch down, especially at women, and substitutes profanity for humor. I know the type; I’m sure he’ll have the lads all sniggering.

One person has already resigned from the Loncon 3 committee, with a quite clear declaration that this was an entirely inapproporiate choice for an organization with a membership a bit larger than the boys down at the pub. It sends a message that your harassment policies are just for show when you take someone who has made a career out of violating boundaries with women and rewarding them with the prestige of being the host for an international award.

The World Science Fiction Convention looks like one to skip this year.

Categories: Our friends

Another reason to avoid debating creationists

Pharyngula - March 1, 2014 - 8:58am

You might win. I think Bill Nye thoroughly trounced Ken Ham in their notorious debate over creationism, but how do you think the fervent supporters of a kooky belief might react to seeing their leader crushed by the forces of secularism? By digging a little deeper into their pockets to help the cause. Ken Ham is claiming that the debate brought in enough attention and extra donations to permit groundbreaking of his Ark Park project.

Take that with a grain of salt, though. Creationists aren’t very good with quantitative reasoning — he could have found a nickel on the sidewalk and claimed it was close enough to tens of millions — and also, suspiciously, none of the news reports I’m seeing are citing any specific numbers. They are saying how much he needs (roughly $70 million for the first phase), but they’re not saying how much he has, which would seem to me to be the more important number. All Ham has said is it’s “enough”.

He was raising money with junk bonds. I wouldn’t past him to be trying to raise confidence with unfounded claims of fund-raising success. Show me the numbers.

Categories: Our friends


Pharyngula - February 28, 2014 - 11:16pm

This is Thunderdome, the unmoderated open thread on Pharyngula. Say what you want, how you want.

Status: UNMODERATED; Previous thread

Categories: Our friends

On the radio with Terry Mortenson, Creation "Museum" historian of science and part-time demonologist

The Panda's Thumb - February 28, 2014 - 7:00pm
By Dan Phelps ([Enable javascript to see this email address.]) This is a guest contribution by Dan Phelps, who participated in a sort of warm-up debate before the infamous Nye–Ham debate. Mr. Phelps’s contribution was inspired in part by a challenge for a formal debate by his interlocutor, Terry Mortenson, who, astonishingly, admitted that he has “no credibility in the scientific community and little even within Christian circles.” Mr. Phelps evidently looked further into Dr.... Matt Young

Friday Cephalopod: So, I failed the test, like, twice. Now what do I do?

Pharyngula - February 28, 2014 - 6:54pm

I tried to take the cephalopod intelligence test.

James Wood, a teuthologist (cephalopod scientist), imagined creating an intelligence test for humans, by an octopus:

“So the octopus thinks: ‘All right. I’m going to make an intelligence test for humans, because they show a little bit of promise, in a very few ways.’ And the first question the octopus comes up with is this: How many color patterns can your severed arm produce in one second?”

Turns out humans only get two tries, and now I have to type this out with my tongue. Awkward.

Categories: Our friends

American Atheists Would Not Have Enjoyed CPAC anyway - National Review Online (blog)

"Atheist" in google news - February 28, 2014 - 6:09pm

American Atheists Would Not Have Enjoyed CPAC anyway
National Review Online (blog)
American Atheists, the group that was disinvited from this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, was founded by a left-wing gadfly who looked to the Soviet model of a post-religious society and whose brief against religion did not extend to ...

Categories: Atheist News

California resident applying for U.S. citizenship denied because she is an atheist -

"Atheist" in google news - February 28, 2014 - 4:02pm

California resident applying for U.S. citizenship denied because she is an atheist
California resident applying for U.S. citizenship denied because she is an atheist. Adriana Ramirez is a “conscientious objector” who will not bear arms for the United States, and she's also nonreligious. By Evan Bleier | Feb. 28, 2014 at 2:58 PM ...
Adriana Ramirez Denied U.S. Citizenship Because She Is An AtheistOpposing Views
Immigration Agency Rejects Woman's Citizenship Application Because Of Her ...ThinkProgress

all 5 news articles »
Categories: Atheist News

What is Kent Hovind doing with his time in prison?

Pharyngula - February 28, 2014 - 1:34pm

I know you’re all wondering that, since he’ll be getting out in August 2015. We know he’s been talking to God, who has been reassuring him that he’s wonderful and right and unjustly imprisoned, but he’s also planning lawsuits for the instant he gets out (pdf), with at least one already planned against RationalWiki.

So if you’ve been publicly accusing Kent Hovind of being a tax fraud, you might want to brace yourself — as soon as he’s released from prison, where he’s been serving a sentence for tax fraud, he’s going to be looking for opportunities to fix his reputation by dragging people who have accused him of tax fraud into court to complain about being called a tax fraud. It could be fun!

At least it’ll be a change from his usual habit of lying to children.

Categories: Our friends

I don’t mean to be neglecting the blog today

Pharyngula - February 28, 2014 - 1:15pm

But I’m neglecting the blog today. I’m finally at #scio14, and it’s busy busy busy. So far today I’ve been in sessions on reaching diverse audiences and on doing better at serving differently abled communities, because I’d like to do both, and this afternoon there’s stuff on media and networks and who knows what that will keep me engaged.

It’s actually refreshing to be here–it really is a diverse group, and there are lots of younger people (I feel like the crotchety old fogie…oh, wait, I always feel like that). My goal this weekend is to dispel a little bit of my disillusionment with online communities and get inspired again, and this is a good place to do that. So I’m just making little notes on ideas that can give me fresh eyes and change up what I do…and I hope, do it better.

You’ll forgive a little mild distractedness for that, right?

Categories: Our friends

An amended blog: Go see “Son of God” — and why I take the view of a certain ... - Beliefnet

"Atheist" in google news - February 28, 2014 - 7:13am

An amended blog: Go see “Son of God” — and why I take the view of a certain ...
Kang is an atheist, a personal details the writer reveals in the 14th paragraph of her review. It's not that an atheist doesn't have a right to hold an opinion about a movie dealing with Christian subject matter. It's just that it would be nice if ...

Categories: Atheist News

Former atheist to describe his near-death experience - Courierpress/news/gleaner/

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 11:51pm

Former atheist to describe his near-death experience
Howard Storm was 38 years old and his own man: an artist, a studio art professor at Northern Kentucky University and an atheist. He says he believed that what mattered was achieving success and recognition, which would be gained through his hard work, ...

Categories: Atheist News

Christians bully teen into closing atheist club -

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 7:49pm

Christians bully teen into closing atheist club
Kalei Wilson, a student at Pisgah High School, wanted to start an atheist club. School officials weren't having any of that, and stonewalled the process, going against both school policy and legal precedent. The Secular Student Alliance, Freedom from ...

and more »
Categories: Atheist News

The Return of the Happy Atheist - New York Times (blog)

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 5:55pm

The Return of the Happy Atheist
New York Times (blog)
As promised, a second post occasioned by the Gopnik essay on belief and atheism — this time, focused on the interesting change that's come over atheism over the last generation or so, during which time the sunny optimism of 18th century irreligion has ...

Categories: Atheist News

What's So Weird About a Conservative Atheist? - The Atlantic

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 3:38pm

The Atlantic

What's So Weird About a Conservative Atheist?
The Atlantic
The American Atheists disagree. "America's religious conservatives can deny it all they want, but soon they're going to realize that ignoring the growing number of atheist constituents is a losing proposition,” the organization's president, David ...
CPAC reverses decision, will not allow atheist group at conservative conferenceCNN (blog)
CPAC un-invites American AtheistsPolitico
As Arizona debates LGBTQ rights, American Atheists prepares for CPACReligion News Service
Washington Times -Huffington Post -Washington Post (blog)
all 68 news articles »
Categories: Atheist News

Famous atheists more 'certain' than religious extremists: Study - Vancouver Sun (blog)

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 12:56pm

Famous atheists more 'certain' than religious extremists: Study
Vancouver Sun (blog)
Given the ongoing debate between religious people and the new atheists, like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and others, a wise American psychologist has decided to test the levels of “certainty” of prominent leaders of both camps. Jonathan Haidt is a ...

Categories: Atheist News

As Arizona debates LGBTQ rights, American Atheists prepares for CPAC - Religion News Service

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 12:38pm


As Arizona debates LGBTQ rights, American Atheists prepares for CPAC
Religion News Service
Yesterday, American Atheists announced plans to sponsor a table at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of conservative politicians and activists—the largest and oldest of its kind—hosted by the American ...
CPAC un-invites American AtheistsPolitico
Yes, Atheism and Conservatism Are CompatibleNational Review Online (blog)
The right's atheism problem: Why it should rethink its marriage with ChristianitySalon -Washington Post (blog)
all 68 news articles »
Categories: Atheist News

Gay West Hampstead vicar to defy church leaders by marrying atheist partner - Ham&High

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 12:22pm


Gay West Hampstead vicar to defy church leaders by marrying atheist partner
Fr Andrew Cain revealed his engagement to fiancé Stephen Foreshew, an atheist, on Valentine's Day. He stated firmly that he planned to ignore edicts sent down from his own church leaders that described marriage as only a “lifelong union between one man ...

Categories: Atheist News

From the Craig-Carroll Encounter, Discerning the Next Move on the Atheist ... - Discovery Institute

"Atheist" in google news - February 27, 2014 - 9:59am

Discovery Institute

From the Craig-Carroll Encounter, Discerning the Next Move on the Atheist ...
Discovery Institute
It's also hard to see why things come into being with well-defined properties, obeying sets of laws, rather than as pure chaos. These objections aside, it looks like the next move on the atheist intellectual chessboard may be to deny that, even if ...

Categories: Atheist News

Say hello to Kaveh Mousavia

Pharyngula - February 27, 2014 - 5:08am

Freethoughtblogs has a new addition, Margin of Error, by an Iranian atheist. His first post is up; it’s a general critique of Islam.

First day here and he’s already writing stuff that could get him jailed or worse in his home country.

Categories: Our friends
Syndicate content