Monday, 2 June 2014

Are These Intelligently Designed....

By now, most would be familiar with the views of the Discovery Institute. They have various campaign-related sites such as Dissent from Darwin, Intelligent Design, Idea Center to name a few. I am particularly interested in their daily blog, the ironically named Evolution News & Views that keeps readers updated of latest bits and bytes from the "evolutionist front" (with a liberal sprinkling of ad hominems). 
 The far-reaching effects of Kitzmiller v. Dover probably left them simmering. Nevertheless, its best not to attack them. 
 To quote from IntelligentDesign.Org directly:
"The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."        

 Lets look at the combination of their theories for detecting design, irreducible complexity and complex specified information. I name one that fits this criterion: the CTX toxin of Vibrio Cholerae. To quote Wikipedia (its not necessary to read the whole thing):

Cholera toxin acts by the following mechanism: First, the B subunit ring of the cholera toxin binds to GM1 gangliosides on the surface of target cells. Once bound, the entire toxin complex is endocytosed by the cell and the cholera toxin A1 (CTA1) chain is released by the reduction of a disulfide bridge. The endosome is moved to the Golgi apparatus, where the A1 protein is recognized by the endoplasmic reticulum chaperon, protein disulfide isomerase. The A1 chain is then unfolded and delivered to the membrane, where the ER-vcoxidase - ER oxidoreductin triggers the release of the A1 protein by oxidation of protein disulfide isomerase complex. As the A1 protein moves from the ER into the cytoplasm by the Sec61 channel, it refolds and avoids deactivation as a result of ubiquitination.
CTA1 is then free to bind with a human partner protein called ADP-ribosylation factor 6 (Arf6); binding to Arf6 drives a change in the shape of CTA1 which exposes its active site and enables its catalytic activity.[5] The CTA1 fragment catalyses ADP-ribosylation of the Gs alpha subunit (Gαs) proteins using NAD. The ADP-ribosylation causes the Gαssubunit to lose its catalytic activity in hydrolyzing GTP to GDP + Pi so it remains activated longer than normal. Increased Gαs activation leads to increased adenylate cyclaseactivity, which increases the intracellular concentration of cAMP to more than 100-fold over normal and over-activates cytosolic PKA. These active PKA then phosphorylate thecystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) chloride channel proteins, which leads to ATP-mediated efflux of chloride ions and leads to secretion of H2ONa+,K+, and HCO3- into the intestinal lumen. In addition, the entry of Na+ and consequently the entry of water into enterocytes are diminished. The combined effects result in rapid fluid loss from the intestine, up to 2 liters per hour, leading to severe dehydration and other factors associated with cholera, including a rice-water stool.

Its potency is such that a single molecule is enough to cause a cascade of reactions in a cell leading to massive loss of intestinal fluid. This is the cause of cholera.

Plasmodium infected red blood cells. Image credit goes to

Its even worse when you consider the malaria parasite Plasmodium. They are obligate parasites i.e. they must complete their life cycle inside their host cell, in this case both the Anopheles mosquito, followed by alternatingly infecting both liver and red blood cells. The most deadly kind-Plasmodium falciparum is host specific i.e. it has been developed to an extent it only targets humans. And did you know malaria is killing more than a million people a year, the majority of them children?

To what extent is design ubiquitous in nature? If we are to teach ID, that the flagellum is a product of design, are we to teach them that the type 3 secretory system, responsible for delivering bacterial toxins is a product of deliberate tinkering too? Shall we teach them the irreducible complexity of the eye, alongside the elaborate design of the cobra to kill and incapacitate? Or how about Mycobacterium tuberculosis, its slow replication cycle which reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics, its deadliness which killed more people than all wars combined?

In essence, it exacerbates the problem of evil to astronomical proportions, because the "Designer" would now be responsible for billions of deaths. Yes, the Designer is now a mass murderer.

This is what makes it so disturbing. I understand its not the DI claims its not its role to make theological inferences of designed life. But it is inevitable people will begin to question and ponder. People will begin to realise the nature of the Designer, who, aside from designing life, also decided to throw in deadly pathogens to the mix. Is it the loving God of the Bible?


  1. This is a very interesting twist on the ID movement's approach to irreducible complexity. I don't think many ID proponents have carefully considered the theological ramifications of attributing design to these harmful (to us) biochemical pathways. At best, they all hope to case doubt on evolutionary theory through case-in-point examples. But you're right, they're left with a very shaky theological position. Great job, I hope this critique catches on.

    1. Thank you, this is just an introductory post so it doesnt delve into anything too deep. Its not as much of a problem for YECism as they attribute this to be the curse caused by the Fall. (Although it leaves about whether there was a "who" responsible for it....)

      Future posts will probably be more defensive, outlining steady working principles behind evolutionary theory and deep time. Cheers

  2. Darren I think this is common with evolutionists, they will take a PARTICULAR, hyper-specific example from nature, and apply it to the WHOLE, NOT considering the real premises of the biblical argument of the fall.

    You are essentially saying that because one particularly ugly element has now managed to make it's living in humans, by chance occurrence, that the WHOLE system was intended this way originally. Or that because the parasite is designed to live parasitically, this is bad design. But there may have been a symbiotic reason for it's existence originally, or alternatively it might have been okay for it to live off of insects, given insects are just biological robots. So if God intended it to live off of flies, this would not be evil, at most it would be amusing, or intellectually an insight into God's sense of humour, but essentially both are robots, neither have a soul.

    The problem with taking hyper-specific elements and applying them to a WHOLE system, can be shown thus;

    "All of the parts of a plane are none-flying parts, therefore the WHOLE plane must be none-flying."

    As you can see from this example, even ALL of the elements of the system are none-flying YET the whole thing, together, is indeed intended to fly

    But your argument, logically, is worse, because you are taking some radically strange hyper-specific, unusual results that have happened in nature, and you are implying the whole of nature as it exists now, was intended that way and is poor design, even though bible-believing Christians do not argue that nature is in a now-perfect state, but rather is fallen.
    We argue that God designed the creatures, with foresight,(omniscience), with the capacity to exist in a fallen world. There is now in place, a cycle, a food-chain, which achieves God's intention, as written in scripture, He directly states that He, "created the earth to be inhabited". Some things exist in ways which are abhorrent to us, to show us how ugly the world is when mankind does it his way rather than God's way.

    That species still exist means He is achieving His aim. That original symbiotic relationships no longer exist, highlights how the world is no longer perfect, but the design of the elements themselves, can be somewhat renegade. These are essentially rebel elements, doing what they were designed to do, but in the wrong place.

    Example, it is okay to play football, to play football is a fun recreation, but to play it by using people's windows as a goal, is renegade. Football is still okay, but the place it is played is not okay.

    In the same way, designed things aren't evil, they are doing what they are supposed to do, but some of them are doing it in the wrong places. One of the consequences of a system that is fallen.

  3. I think "design" alone as a subject of investigation, should be solely evaluated, by looking at the construction of the design themselves. The problem of evil and suffering, the philosophical argument, is not DIRECTLY relevant to inferring design itself.

    Example: I could design a car to kill people. Indeed, many people design tanks, to kill people. Does it then logically follow that these artificial designs are NOT designed.

    So then even if the intention was evil, this is no way affects the inference, pertaining to ascertaining whether something has an intended structure, and is therefore designed. For these reasons, you still haven't understood the logic of my arguments, given in my blog entries. Design itself actually, logically, is not even an argument, it is simply a statement of fact, because I don't have to argue that an eye is designed, all I have to do is look at it's construction, that it is intended to see, it is actually a scientific and logical fact to state that the eye is designed to see, NOT an argument. You need to re-read my blogs, but the name of the game is not science Daren, the name of the game is deductive reasoning, and this is where ultimately, the evolution-philosophy collapses, because you just can't make a cogent case for the silly belief that anatomy is not designed, given all the evidence and reasoning show that it is.

    It doesn't matter how much science is shown contrary, because elephant-hurling, tenuous, inductive elements, will not change reality. The reality is design, it is a fact, and logically, there is no way around it.(deductively)

  4. I forgot the name, but if we are EVALUATING what makes something, "designed", the problem of evil is actually a red-herring. It's a way of diverting the theist's attention from the actual construction of anatomy in organisms, into another subject, which is what the subjects actually do, another topic.

    If evolutionists can't win the design-debate, they tend to start to mention the problem of evil, as a way of taking the focus OFF a genuine assessment of design.

    1. hey wiz, thanks for the reply. This post was meant to the MOST controversial of all because it dealt completely with extreme theology and not science. As I pointed out to Chemostrat it wasnt much of a problem for Biblical creationists but for intelligent design advocates since they mask the identity of the designer.

      I will respond to your meaningful critiques tomorrow. You are right in that this post is absolutely meaningless in determining whether a particular biological system has designed or evolved but just to let you know the cholera toxin prophage was actually inserted into the bacterium by a bacteriophage (virus that targets bacteria). A bit hard to explain here but Im working on a separate post that highlights this.

      Just let me know if any of my posts are too scathing and I ll tune them down.

  5. Remember that this is not an example for bad design. This is an example that, if designed, is so complex and elaborate as to kill with deadly efficiency. I was very very disturbed when I first thought of it that way. Afterward I looked up online and there's evidence that the pathogens above evolved.

    My newest post also deals with biogeography and evolution. You can read it if you like.