Scientists warn of a 6th Mass Extinction

Looking back through earth’s history there are five mass extinction events. You will have learnt about the last at school when dinosaurs waved their fond farewell. It was during the Cretaceous–Paleogene period that a mix of volcanic activity and asteroids resulted in the loss of 75 per cent of life on the planet, 65 million years ago. For the last year scientists have been warning that the 6th mass extinction is showing its face…

“Earth is now in a period of mass global species extinction for vertebrate animals,” Professor Gerardo Ceballos, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México says, “but the true extent of this mass extinction has been underestimated”.

Here in the UK lots of well-known birds and animals are seeing their numbers plummet: hedgehogs, skylarks and birds of prey are being wiped out. Since 2000 the number of hedgehogs has halved and nearly two-thirds of skylarks and lapwings have disappeared. To blame is partly a farming industry which is described as factory farming that destroys the local environment through intensification; use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides; and the planting of large amounts of identical crops.

factory farming

Lent Plastic Challenge

The Church of England is encouraging people to take part in the “Lent Plastic Challenge” that encourages people “to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation”.

“For Anglicans Lent is the time when we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, facing challenge and temptation. It is a time when we reflect on God’s purpose for our life. This year we challenge you to give up single-use plastics – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation,” the church wrote.

Ruth Knight, environmental policy officer for the Church of England, said, “The Lent challenge is about raising our awareness of how much we rely on single-use plastics and challenging ourselves to see where we can reduce that use. It ties in closely with the our calling as Christians to care for God’s creation.”

Anglican Christians can use a special Lent calendar with advice for each day, such as on 15th February it states: ‘Give up disposable cups & drinks in plastic bottles. Carry a travel mug or water bottle. Get a reusable bottle, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be.’

Lent is connected to the Christian festival of Easter, and is 40 days when people often give something up.


The Right to Die

This is a really sad and emotional story about Kim Lute’s seriously ill step-father in the USA. Fred had spent three long years in hospital, fighting to keep his kidneys going, and when he finally died it had been his choice to stop life-saving measures like dialysis.

He could have ended his life more dramatically as Colorado is one of seven US states that has what is called a Death and Dignity Statute. This law gives terminally ill patients a right to end their incurable suffering. In the UK we do not have this possibility and we deem that active euthanasia is manslaughter or murder.

The Death and Dignity Statute in Colorado states that in all cases, patients must be terminally ill and have less than six months to live before an accredited doctor would administer a cocktail of drugs, hastening the patient’s death.

Kim Lute believes that, “Ultimately, the right to die, to exercise complete control over one’s physical self, is as fundamental a right as free speech and worshipping whatever God you choose. Just like a woman’s womb is hers alone, a terminally ill patients should have complete autonomy over their bodies. Facing the reality of one’s own mortality isn’t a task for the weakest among us.”

What do some religions think about euthanasia?



Even though most Christians are against Euthanasia there are some Christian arguments which could be used in sympathy for it:

  • Christianity requires us to respect every human being
  • If we respect a person we should respect their decisions about the end of their life
  • We should accept their rational decisions to refuse burdensome and futile treatment
  • Perhaps we should accept their rational decision to refuse excessively burdensome treatment even if it may provide several weeks more of life

From Ape to Modern Human is not a Linear Line of Evolution

Human evolution is not over, yet it’s impossible to predict how we’re going to turn out. When we look back at history at how we may have got to our current state, there are still lots of parts of the story which we are discovering and trying to understand.

An extensive article in the Guardian looks at how evolution has lead to the modern human. Some main points of interest are:

  • humans closest living relative is the chimpanzee
  • chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA
  • the split between chimpanzee and humans occurred about 4-8 million years ago
  • the hypothetical common ancestor between chimpanzees and humans would have had a mixture of chimp-like traits, human-like traits and primitive traits that both species eventually left behind. So we don’t know if the common ancestor walked on all fours, or been more upright.
  • a big fossil find was “Lucy”, a 3.18m-year-old skeleton, who was excavated in 1974. Lucy is important because she has a unique blend of primitive features – a chimpanzee-sized brain, a powerful jaw and long, dangling arms – and human ones with her legs, knee and pelvis similar to our own anatomy. So it looks like she could walk and run.
  • the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens (us!) comes from fossils dated about 300,000 years ago which were excavated from a cave in Morocco. One of the scientists working on the dig said, “The face of the specimen we found is the face of someone you could meet on the tube in London.”

Studying evolution naturally brings us to Charles Darwin. He was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. You can spot him in the animation The Pirates! when Pirate Captain stumbles upon the unhappy with love scientist Charles Darwin, who then persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be bring them lots of money.  In real life Charles Darwin explained his ideas on evolution in a book called, ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. His ideas were very controversial because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it. The basic idea behind the theory of evolution is that all the different species have evolved from simple life forms. A film from 2009 called Creation gives you a clever way to learn about Charles Darwin whilst relaxing with a film!



VW Criticised for Experiments on Monkeys

Reports in the NY Times state that in May 2015 research by the New Mexico-based Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI), involved locking 10 Java monkeys in small airtight chambers for four hours at a time. The animals were left to watch cartoons as they breathed in diesel fumes from a VW Beetle. The ultimate aim of the tests was to prove that the pollutant load of nitrogen oxide car emissions from diesel motors had measurably decreased, thanks to modern cleaning technology.

Meanwhile in a second round of tests, the animals were forced to breathe in the fumes of a Ford F-250 used for the purposes of comparison, because the car was an older model with apparently less sophisticated filter technology.

According to some reports in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the broadcaster NDR, the monkeys were subsequently anaesthetised and intubated, so their blood could be examined for inflammatory markers. Their lungs were then washed out and their bronchial tubes examined.

The German news media also reported that the experiments were carried out on 25 young and healthy human beings. According to the Stuttgarter Zeitung, the experiments were carried out at an institute of the University Clinic Aachen and involved the group having to breath in varying different concentrations of nitric oxide after which they were physically examined for any side-effects.

Trainee Farmer accused of being a Murderer

It must be quite intimidating being called a murderer and rapist when you are going about your job, learning the skills necessary for your chosen career. Trainee farmer Alison Waugh explains that farmers are feeling all this violent pressure, “Which is quite ironic from people that want peace for animals, but then they tell you, ‘I hope you and your family go die in a hole for what you do.”

This animosity to farmers is a growing trend of vegan activists who are calling farmers who have raised animals for generations murderers for killing animals, or rapists for taking their milk. The National Pig Association claims its members “cannot sleep at night” because Save Movement members have allegedly turned up at farms and slaughterhouses at night.


The Vegan Society describes veganism as “the fastest-growing lifestyle movement,” with demand for vegan and vegetarian food increasing ten-fold last year. Research by Ipsos Mori in 2016 suggested at least 542,000 people – or 1.05% of the 15-and-over population in England, Scotland and Wales – were following a vegan diet. There is also a big rise in teenage vegans.

There is some debate though on whether veganism is as environmentally friendly as you’d think.

Baby Isaiah Haastrup Update

A high court judge has ruled that life-support treatment can be stopped for a brain damaged 11 month old boy who we’ve heard about previously on this blog.

In his ruling, Mr Justice MacDonald said: “Examining Isaiah’s best interests from a broad perspective I am satisfied that it is not in his best interests for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued. That, with profound sadness, is my judgment.”

A spokeswoman for the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation trust said the case had been an “extremely difficult time for Isaiah’s parents and all those involved in his care”.

She added: “The court’s decision to transfer Isaiah to palliative care is in his best interests and based on overwhelming expert evidence. Our priority now is to provide Isaiah with the medical care he needs, working closely with and supporting his parents.”