Intelligently designed avian flu?

| 43 Comments

Ah, how rare is it that my interest in stomping creationists and my interest in infectious disease collide. But I guess that when there’s a topic as hot as avian influenza, it’s inevitable that even the folks at the DI will sit up and take notice, as Casey Luskin has in this post: Avian Flu: An Example of Evolution?

First, as Luskin admits in the article, the answer to his titular questions is, “well, duh; of course it is.” And alas, it doesn’t get any better from there.

Continue reading (at Aetiology)

43 Comments

ARGH! “But in the end they’re still always viruses.”

I read the rest of Tara’s excellent dissection of Luskin’s commentary with some amusement. He was commiting simple error after simple error, and repeating his canard that “no new information has been made”. That caused a large deflection on my creationist-o-meter (TM patent pending).

Bad enough one might think, but to top it off with the “Xs have changed but they’re still all Xs” creationist gambit really did some damage to my creationist-o-meter. Poor thing got quite warm. Had to move it to a pool of chilled water!

I have only one thing to say: who on earth, anywhere, with any sort of above room temperature IQ is not utterly convinced that a) ID is simply warmed over creationism, and b) the current legal wranglings that are instigated/incited by the IDCists are entirely based on the same ridiculous religious motivation that “sceintific creationism” was?

It makes me mad! It’s so bleeding obvious I am moved to harsh language and intemperate conduct.

How the US courts can even consider this bunkum is beyond me. Not only do the IDCists quack, waddle, look and smell like the creationist ducks they are, they don’t even bother to stop barging their beaks into the judiciary quacking “Jesus” with every peck.

I can tell they are ducks, and I am not a SCOTUS judge. It’s ducking obvious! The evidence is in, case closed, end of stroy, please stop wasting US taxpayer’s money on this idiocy, it could be more profitably spent on bombing unarmed nations of brown people.….

.…bugger. I think I’ve just found the only argument in favour of IDCists sliming their nonsense through the courts.;-)

The Aetiology link doesn’t work for me, I get a 404.

The links aren’t working, here or at Aetiology.

Go to the home page its the first article http://aetiology.blogspot.com/

Sorry about the link–that’s what I get for posting at 4AM, I guess. Should be fixed now.

“But in the end they’re still always viruses”

And if some ancestral ape gave birth, and its offspring showed some variation and were naturally selected, then after many generations you may well reach a human. They’d both still be animals, though, so it wouldn’t really provide evidence for evolution ;)

The ‘biological information/complexity’ argument is, I must admit, the most annoying of the Creationist/ID arguments to me. If they actually gave anywhere near a clear definition of how to measure it i.e. not complex specified information (although that seems to be binary rather than a measure), then it would be trivial to show that it can increase via mutation. Certainly, both Kolmogorov complexity and information as measured by the Entropy of the DNA sequence will fluctuate up and down depending on specific mutations, which I why I guess Dembski had to create the nebulous CSI to bypass this problem.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of biological information in this sense at all: both these measures are at best tenuously related to the fitness of an actual individual, and thus I can’t see their usefulness. Entropy is maximised when all 4 (ok, ignoring the 5th for now) bases are equiprobable, and Kolgomorov complexity when the string is random.

The only realistic measure of biological information, to my mind, would be associated with the resultant phenotype, although that may well be impossible to achieve in an objective fashion, as far as I can tell.

It’s all about loss of information. When a virus evolves to infect another host it loses the information to not infect the host.

I doubt Luskin reads this page, but if he does you can expect to be quote-mined on that, Reed lol :)

“Reed A. Cartwright, a biologist at the University of Georgia, has stated that he agrees with me on the concept of biological information”

I’d also check whether your name has been automatically added to the list of 400 supporting the DI…

DrFrank, that’s what initially made me start looking around on Teh Intarweb for anti-ID sites. My education about information theory is limited to a few undergrad classes on communications, but even I can tell that the “but natural selection can’t increase information” is (a) not true, and (b) not proven by the evidence given by the apologists.

ID proponents ignore the actual (interesting and exciting) consequences of complexity theory and information theory for biology, even as they claim them as evidence against “macroevolution”. This annoys me no end, and it’s why Dembski ranks even below Kent Hovind in my personal Hall of Shame.

Can’t say I know too much about virology, but in comparison to what I see regularly within the scientific community, the loss of information shown by the ID creationists is simply staggering.

Among other things, Luskin brings up the creaky old (as in, YEC-old) canard about “mutation within limits” without ever defining those limits, giving any sort of reference, or any indication that there’s any evidence to believe they exist in the first place. Of course, we know that their real definition is “whatever degree of change that has not yet been observed beyond any potential for the creos to ignore, obfuscate, or flat-out lie about it,” but still.

Get every ID supporter to sit in on a real scientific presentation (as opposed to, say, Behe’s vapid dog and pony show, which PZ Myers so neatly skewered recently) sometime and see how many of them can still believe ID has any comparison to real science. They’d all be pretty lost on what was being said, but there’s no way they could ignore the presence of actual content – or the contentious debates from hostile competing researchers in the supposedly monolithic, conspiratorial scientific community. It’s like night and day. Anyone who can’t be convinced by that is lost to reason forever.

“It’s all about loss of information. When a virus evolves to infect another host it loses the information to not infect the host.”

Dang! Just when I get my Irony-O-Meter fixed, you go and blow out all of my sarcasm fuses!

Hey, I think we might be on to something here.

If a virus evolves into a monkey, the virus is losing all the information about how NOT to be a monkey. Thus evolution is really “devolution” - a loss of information!

This would also explain why, if viruses evolved, er, “devolved” into monkeys why we still have viruses - see, the viruses still around still have all their original information.

This is hard evidence that the originally created life form was a virus - all the other creatures we observe simply “forgot” how to be viruses.

The fossil record is explained perfectly. All the simpler, older life forms were closer to viruses, i.e., they “forgot” less than did later life forms, so they appear earlier in the fossil record.

So creationism has been scientifically proven at last. I just hope everyone can live with the knowledge that God is a virus!

Boy, Casey never fails to amuse, does he? I wonder if he’s going to respond to Tara, and did his hole deeper.

Casey Ruxpin:

The newsmedia in the U.S. seem to have rediscovered the evolution controversy recently. Unfortunately, much of the news coverage has been sloppy, inaccurate, and in several cases, overtly biased.

Well, the only newsmedia I read about science is the NYT science section. I can’t recall ever seeing an article in that which was as sloppy, inaccurate, and biased, as Casey Ruxpin’s avian flu disaster.

I don’t see a Trackback on the “Evolution News” site.

Their site has been funny all day. I click to get the trackback address and nothing ever comes up.

One point that I didn’t see corrected was that “antibodies attack pathogens.” Nope–perhaps in Luskin’s mind everything has a purpose as if it were designed explicitly, but in reality antibodies only stick to things, like the cell-adhesion molecules they seem to be genetically derived from.

Discovery Institute servers do seem to be having a hard time as of late. I have gotten no response of internal errors quite a bit as of late.

I just checked and don’t see a trackback. You might a good idea to retry setting a trackback. Maybe it might be a good idea for those replying to DI blog articles to report in comments that they set a trackback in order to keep the DI accountable.

Just checked again. Indeed, the trackbacks link still does not seem to be working. And it’s an ID Creationist site, so you can’t post a comment alerting them. They could use more Intelligent Design over there.

They’re trying to counter “sub-optimal design” arguments by analogy.

Clever, clever people.

Luskin writes: “One new twist on the Avian Flu is that it can infect organs other than the lungs and cause damage to greater parts of our bodies. This more widespread attack has caused some fatalities. The fact that the Avian Flu can activate this protein in other places probably has something to do with its new configuration of genes. But we’re really not dealing with anything new.”

“Intelligent design is concerned with the origin of novel biochemical pathways and new complex biological features”.

The new twist is the apparent acquisition of the ability to infect other organs. This sounds like a new complex biological feature for a virus. I would think that in a simple model organism like viruses, the acquisition of a new complex biological feature would be a hot topic for design theorists. Yet Luskin dismisses the acquisition of a major new feature as nothing new. This would seem like an opportunity to study design at the molecular level in a simple system and contribute to preventing or mitigating a possible pandemic, a chance to advance your own cause and serve the public good.

Instead there is a paragraph addressing the theological implications of avian flu.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Casey Luskin is the notorious founder of that club of religious fanatics they call IDEA, so what else could be expected from him? His new escapade shows that ID is far from being a harmless deviation from common sense. If his thesis is followed through, there is nothing to be learned about viruses, as whatever happens to them is never anything new. If so, no effort to fight the possible pandemic is justified - if we adopt Luskin’s position, we have to accept God’s judgment and die from the avian flew, as anyway science cannot do anything useful. ID is a real stopper of science and luskins are the priests of that anti-science faith.

One of the more amusing things I’ve heard from one of Luskin’s supporters is that “well, about all that stuff on the Panda’s thumb, I mean, he’s wrong–so what?” Yeah, sure. At least there was an admission that Luskin got stuff wrong, but whenever an ID guy gets it wrong it’s like, “well, yeah, but so what, I mean, what’s the big deal? We should just let him be wrong, and shrug our shoulders.” Compare and contrast that with when Russ Doolittle goes too far with one of his statements…

Somebody help me out here. Chimps are primates; Australopithecus and Neandertal are primates, and Homo sapiens are primates - still. So where’s the information gain or the evolution?

There’s a bill of goods in here somewhere.

Bob

lol.

bob-

you’re funny. now the quesion arises do i mean humorous, or in the head?

why stop at drawing the line at “primates” eh? why not include all mammals?

*snort*

Dave-

far right apologetics are remarkably consistent, regardless of which arena you care to observe.

Still no trackback.

There needs to be an organized effort to keep track of trackbacks at DI blogs. If someone sets a trackback to their articles it needs to be reported so people can see whether or not DI is allowing and/or deleting them. Maybe a thread can be dedicated to only that purpose with any other comments being deleted?

Somebody help me out here. Chimps are primates; Australopithecus and Neandertal are primates, and Homo sapiens are primates - still. So where’s the information gain or the evolution?

Well, protozoans are eukaryotes, slime molds are eukaryotes, jellyfish are eukaryotes, fish are eukaryotes, salamanders are eukaryotes, snakes are eukaryotes, Tricertatops are eukaryotes, cats are eukaryotes, chimps are eukaryotes, humans are eukaryotes – still. So where’s the information gain? And why do creationist/IDers complain about this evolution?

Even better than mine, Lenny. So, according to the ID line, there’s been no gain in “information” or any evolution, in the process leading from protozoans to humans. Unless I’ve got my terms wrong, that would qualify as quite a bill of goods, no?

Humorous, I would hope, Toejam.

So, according to the ID line, there’s been no gain in “information” or any evolution, in the process leading from protozoans to humans.

Actually, I think the ID line would be that there may have been periodic information gain, but it required input by the intelligent designer.

Except, of course, for those folks who believe in front-loading, who argue that all the info was input at the beginning (by the designer, of course). I guess those folks would agree there’s no additional info gain from protozoans to humans. Just implementation of pre-loaded info.

Or at least, that’s what I thought they believed, until Blast’s recent stunner, where he argued that you could tell something wasn’t front-loaded because the info was already there.

Sometimes, arguing with these folks is like arguing how the penguin got on top of the telly.…

Dave Cerutti Wrote:

One point that I didn’t see corrected was that “antibodies attack pathogens.” Nope—perhaps in Luskin’s mind everything has a purpose as if it were designed explicitly, but in reality antibodies only stick to things, like the cell-adhesion molecules they seem to be genetically derived from.

I had also thought about expanding on that (note he also only mentions humoral immunity), but thought it was a bit too nit-picky. Scientists use terminology like that frequently, even though, as you note, it’s not correct. Another blunder, but tiny in comparison to his others.

Still can’t get the trackback link to work. Has anyone else ever had success with getting a trackback onto that site?

The last trackback on that site happened Oct 10. It was a Panda’s Thumb trackback and was, shall we say, less than flattering to Rev. Luskin.

In fact, I only see about 5 or so trackbacks which aren’t spam for all of October. They are all from the Panda’s Thumb. Yeah, that might explain why trackbacks mysteriously stopped working 9 days ago.

Sometimes, arguing with these folks is like arguing how the penguin got on top of the telly…

must have come from the zoo…

@bob

ah, my irony meter must have been broke. at least i wasn’t sure.

thanks for clearing that up.

I’m going to email Casey and tell him his Trackbacks are as broken as his Comments.

Except, of course, for those folks who believe in front-loading, who argue that all the info was input at the beginning (by the designer, of course). I guess those folks would agree there’s no additional info gain from protozoans to humans. Just implementation of pre-loaded info.

Or at least, that’s what I thought they believed, until Blast’s recent stunner, where he argued that you could tell something wasn’t front-loaded because the info was already there.

Indeed. Blast has convicned me that NONE of them knows what the hell they are gibbering about. (shrug)

ack! i think blast is a specic case of whackiness. you can deal with his level of debate with a sledgehammer. I doubt Wesley would agree with you that ALL of them spout the same level of gibbering nonsense that Blast does.

I constantly lament the fact that none of those who actually pretend to hold torches on the national scene in this debate ever bother to come here and er, debate…

while in all basis and fact, their premises and interpretations are obviously wrong, that doesn’t mean that someone who knows what they are doing can’t make a decent debate out of the issues nonetheless.

I would far more enjoy someone coming here to debate ID that actually had something interesting to say, that would challenge us to respond using our actual intellect and knowledge of evolutionary theory, rather than only require a rather “blunt” approach, like blast and evo and JAD, etc., etc. It’s too bad Dembski won’t come out to play with us anymore. He was a lot more fun than blast or Sal. He knows how to obfuscate with the best of them, quote mine with a twist of lemon, lie convincingly, etc… it presented at least something of a challenge.

Hell, they could even send one of their lawyers or PR guys from DI over here. Even that would be more interesting.

*sigh*

I would far more enjoy someone coming here to debate ID that actually had something interesting to say, that would challenge us to respond using our actual intellect and knowledge of evolutionary theory, rather than only require a rather “blunt” approach, like blast and evo and JAD, etc., etc.

Nelson was here. He’s supposed to be working on The Definitive Book That Will Destroy Evolution, or somesuch.

And he ran like a little girl.

(shrug)

NONE of them can stand in an honest debate. NONE of them.

perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be more entertaining than smacking Blast with a sledgehammer. However, i do take your meaning that it’s why they don’t come here.

couldn’t they send some of their PR guys over here? that way when they get trashed, the DI could just say they were sent here to “learn” or somesuch?

I can dream, can’t I?

There’s an article today on the AIG website about this by Carl Weiland.Not having a background in biology I’m not sure what he was getting at. He seemed to suggest that because viruses required a host to survive they could not be classified as true independant life forms. Apparently they are missing from the tree of life. What are the flaws in his arguements ?

He seemed to suggest that because viruses required a host to survive they could not be classified as true independant life forms. Apparently they are missing from the tree of life. What are the flaws in his arguements ?

Tapeworms can’t survive without a host either.

Neither can fleas.

Woudl he argue that they’re not alive?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on October 18, 2005 4:27 AM.

Response to Luskin / Calvert story on “theistic evolution” was the previous entry in this blog.

Rio Rancho: School Employees Union opposes “Science” Policy is the next entry in this blog.

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