The purpose of the examples in my previous post was NOT to refute intelligent design, but to highlight potentially very serious theological problems should others arrive to the conclusion of nature being designed. I am going to put aside evolutionary theory for the time being and focus on design.
This is because pathogenic organisms are not examples of bad design.Their purpose is to to multiply, infect, debilitate and/or kill. Even prominent baraminologist Todd Charles Wood also noted this problem before by observing predation and toxicity of animals in the wild a few years back.
Lets turn to protozoan parasite Plasmodium. You see, the entire Plasmodium genus is parasitic, and targets a huge range of mammals, birds and reptiles. Whats worse is that, being eukaryotes, they have a much more complex life cycle than the average bacterium. They fulfill most of the Discovery Institute's criteria for design, particularly Stephen Meyer's signature in the cell.
|Life cycle of the malaria parasite|
Image from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/malaria/pages/lifecycle.aspx
Can you see how complex malaria actually is? Its design is to the point parasite is capable of changing between asexual and sexual reproduction at specific stages in its life cycle. The worst part is the deadliest malaria strain, P. falciparum, has stunning capability to adapt to the body's immune response. Descent with modification causes their sporozoites (see above) to change their surface antigens once in a while, increasing likelihood of resistance to our immune system.
The core problem is that it is very difficult to imagine how all strains of Plasmodium could have had a different prior function, like having once been symbiotic with their hosts, particularly when one just cannot see how they simply offer any benefit prior to adapting pathogenicity. It shows every sign of having been designed to be a parasite, if it was actually designed.
Another fundamental problem, is that if they were designed to be initially symbiotic, they would have been very poor at it. Blood is a sterile environment, because of our immune system that targets all foreign micro-organisms, good or bad. How could Plasmodium be beneficial then? Surely you couldn't say the immune system didnt exist before the Fall; that would mean that after the Fall, we experienced a huge gain in "information" by developing an immune system.
Look at the criteria for design and apply it to P.falciparum:
a) specificity of function : to infect, kill and spread. What makes P.falciparum so deadly is that it causes infected red blood cells to stick to the walls of blood vessels (cytoadherence) and lead to dangerous blood clots in critical organs. Even worse is that the transmission vector, the Anopheles mosquito is efficient - small, silent and fecund.
b) contingency plans: as above, mutations cause shift in antigens on its offspring and hinders immune response. Troublingly, even as I write this, chloroquine (anti malarial medicine)-resistant strains of malaria continue to grow......
c) irreducible complexity: the parasite being unable to go through infecting at any stage : mosquito cells/liver cells/human red blood cell would effectively destroy its chances of reproducing.
I find this very troubling, but would genuinely appreciate it if you pointed out mistakes in my article.
Can evolution account for the emergence of this? Yes. The sad fact is that parasites often undergo co-evolution with the hosts they target. In the case of P.falciparum it was an outlier, it emerged from a mutant strain of Plasmodium that originally targeted gorillas. (I guess you could say it was an organism outstepping its boundaries). In fact, the whole Plasmodium genus has been evolving for millions of years, slowly developing its complex life cycle and its preference for specific hosts.
It was found that Plasmodium was closely related to protozoan intestinal parasites. Regardless, there is a paucity of data for the origins of malaria, so I ll leave it at that.
There is one more thing to note: many pathogens (HIV, ebola) were originally zoonotically transmitted from apes.......
I be lying if I said there wasnt a personal reason I drew attention to the problem of evil. Its the greatest problem I find in believing in a loving God. Both natural evil and moral evil are just so ubiquitous in our world.....
You are right. What purpose something was designed for - does not change the reality that it was designed. But taking this argument to its extreme conclusion - it becomes an argument for cold, apathetic deism.
I hope we can respectfully agree to disagree on this. Yes I think there are good arguments for and against design. But the reason above is why I am firmly on the pro-evo side.
Irregardless, there are flaws in the design argument which I hope to address in the future.