Crank Magnetism

Back when we wrote the Unified Theory of the Crank one of the main things we discussed related to crankery is their inability to recognize competence in others. As a result, cranks tend not to mind the crankery of others, since they see themselves as opposed to a scientific orthodoxy. Consistency be damned, they just want to see science with egg on its face so they can prove that they are being persecuted.

Well lately, Uncommon Descent has been doing a pretty incredible job of sticking to this script. First we have Dembski, insisting upon the persecution of ID abroad, because the Germans jailed a holocaust denier who happened to be a creationist. Dembski, not being the sharpest tool in the drawer, didn’t think to look to closely at the story and, well, played the persecution card a little too soon.

Now Uncommon Descent, aiming for a trifecta of denialism, is using HIV/AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg to attack the orthodoxy. It really is true, cranks are so incompetent at reason and logic they simply can’t see that they’re making a terrible case. In this instance, they’re using Duesberg’s Chromosomal Chaos hypothesis to suggest that science is so addicted to Darwinism we’ve been getting not just cancer research, but bacterial resistance wrong for decades.


The obvious problem is that Duesberg, in what appears to be characteristically black-and-white mode of thought, has decided that since chromosomal disorder may explain some cancers (and he got in on the ground floor) that all cancer is from chromosomal disorder, despite many examples of genetic causes from retinoblastoma to the existence of known cancer susceptibility loci like BRCA.

But what matters to a crank reading this? It’s proof! Proof at last that Darwinism hurts science! Scientists have been missing the point on cancer (assuming immediately that co-crank Duesberg is correct) because they’re so obsessed with evolution! All it took was mention of a “gene-mutation theory” being wrong and it’s a new proof for ID (god must have designed in chromosomal chaos – what a nice fella). And in a bizarre leap of logic PaV suggests that Duesberg’s chromosomal chaos hypothesis shows that “darwinism” led us down the wrong path in cancer.

Think of the number of people who die each year of cancer as compared to the number who die from bacterial infection, and one can easily see that all the chest-slapping by the Darwinists about how RM+NS has given us anti-bacterial drugs can know pound their breasts in remorse at the “wrong path” mutational theory has led cancer researchers. This isn’t just a battle between the God-denying and the God-affirming segments of our global society, it’s about good science versus bad science, about reason versus myth.

Holy freaking cow! This is how intelligent design advocates think biology works. If someone disparages the role of gene mutation in one process – in eukaryotic cells no less – it’s proof ID is correct about drug resistance in bacteria which are prokaryotes. In other words, this twit is suggesting bacterial drug resistance must emerge from chromosomal rearrangement because Duesberg has supposedly proven gene mutation doesn’t cause drug resistance!

Bacteria don’t even have chromosomes in the same sense as eukaryotic cells. Eukaryotes have long linear chromosomes and our DNA replication is initiated at random throughout the genome. Bacteria usually have one or two circular chromosomes (rarely a linear) with specific origins of initiation – they don’t undergo rearrangement like eukaryotic chromosomes (although individual genes can) and still have the ability to divide and reproduce.

Further, the mechanisms of cancer drug resistance and bacterial drug resistance are completely and totally different. Bacteria actually develop resistance genes that allow them to deactivate the attacking antibiotic after millions of reproductive cycles. Cancer develops resistance to drugs by finding independent pathways to allow the cells to continue to divide in the presence of a chemotherapeutic agent – or by managing to increase drug efflux. This is comparing apples to atom bombs. Not just the cells and the types of genomes involved, but the two mechanisms themselves.

Sigh. Duesberg’s argument is full of holes – as Orac shows best, and while actually based on science and an interesting hypothesis, he is once again unable to distinguish between what is well-proven and what he wants to be true. PaV at Uncommon Descent falls for it, of course, hook, line and sinker because it says the magic words about drug resistance and gene mutation.

There you have it. Uncommon Descent intelligent design creationists can’t figure out the difference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells, and bacterial drug resistance and cancer drug resistance. They jump on the arguments of fellow cranks – because cranks are magnetically attracted to other crank arguments, and in the process show how shallow their understanding of science and nature truly is.
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**Update** Someone pointed out that I read this backwards. I apologize. Sometimes statements that are particularly stupid are difficult to wrap one’s mind around. The interpretation appears to be that scientists inferred cancer drug resistance is the same as bacterial drug resistance – we’ve caused excess deaths from traveling down the primrose path. This is equally stupid. As you can see, we appreciate the mechanisms are different. Further, there is no good evidence this is a “wrong path” or that chromosomal rearrangement has usurped the mutational theory of oncogenesis. They completely fell for Duesberg’s hypothesis – which as Orac’s post shows – is way overblown.

We have not gone down the wrong path in cancer, and bacterial resistance has very little to tell us about cancer resistance – they are totally different mechanisms. This is completely idiotic.

Comments

  1. #1 MartinC
    June 28, 2007

    According to the IDiots “Gene mutation rates in cancer cells, however, are no different from mutation rates in normal cells, making it difficult to understand how several simultaneous mutations can occur in cancer to make them resistant to more than one drug.”
    Well they might indeed have a point if that was anything but a huge lie. The actual mutation rate in cancer cells is up to 300 times higher than in normal cells according to Beilas et al in PNAS last year. It is actually painful to read an IDiot article when you are a researcher in the field as they clearly do not have the slightest idea what they are talking about.

  2. #2 Aaron
    June 28, 2007

    That’s actually not how I interpreted the section of PaV’s post that you quote. I read it as, “Sure, you Darwinists are proud of your work with bacteria. But you’ve steered cancer research wrong, and since cancer kills more people annually than bacterial infection, the negative influence you’ve had on cancer research outweighs whatever positive influence you claim to have had on bacterial research.” It’s not so much, “You were wrong about cancer, so you’re wrong about bacteria,” as it is, “You were wrong about cancer, so who cares about the bacteria.”

    But that carries its own faulty logic. My guess is, without the anti-bacterial treatments found by “Darwinists,” bacterial infection would become a greater cause of mortality than cancer.

  3. #3 Aaron
    June 28, 2007

    In other crank news, have you noticed Egnor’s latest example of impossible expectations/moving goalposts?

  4. #4 IanR
    June 28, 2007

    You missed one: the folks at UD also appear to be endorsing global warming denial.

  5. #5 MarkH
    June 28, 2007

    Of course! Forgot about DaveScot didn’t I?

    They’re turning into a clearing-house for anti-science.

  6. #6 Chris Noble
    June 28, 2007

    It beats me how Duesberg’s cancer theories are supposedly support for intelligent design. I suspect duesberg would be equally baffled.

    I guess it is payback after all the times he has misrepresented other peoples science.

    DaveScot is definitely in the running for the trifecta.
    Phillip Johnson, Johnathon Wells and Kary Mullis had an early lead but DaveScot is making a dash for the finish line.

  7. #7 Chris Noble
    June 28, 2007

    They jump on the arguments of fellow cranks – because cranks are magnetically attracted to other crank arguments, and in the process show how shallow their understanding of science and nature truly is.

    I think you’re on to the Secret that explains the non-random overlap of the various forms of Denialism.

    The Law of Crank Attraction.

  8. #8 Kagehi
    June 28, 2007

    Actually, the truly stupid thing about this is that we now know that certain types of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. Other research has found a link between it and some types of throat cancer (yeah, I think its not hard to figure out what id going on there..) and its also being looked at as a possible source for prostrate cancer. Lets be serious, as someone on a show I watched recently commented, bacteria are the most numerous type of creature on the planet *period* and we have probably identified only a fraction of all of them that *can*, let alone *do* cause problems in humans. Its not impossible that a lot of cancers could be actually triggered as a result of a few cells taking on some genes from one of them, which mangle the mechanisms for cell replication, causing cancer.

    So, the argument that people studying bacterial resistance may have screwed up cancer research could actually turn out to be backwards for a “significant” number of cancers and actually trying to figure out why normal cells go haywire has taken away from critical research on *if* unidentified bacterial strains may be causing the cancer by making those cells “abnormal”.

    This is of course the problem with these idiots. Having jumped to the conclusion that cancer proves something flawed in bacterial research, meaning we should throw money at the former instead, they fail to consider that its money thrown at cancer research that *could* result in the failure to find the real causes of a lot of them, like HPV is an example of.

  9. #9 MartinC
    June 29, 2007

    Kagehi, HPV is a virus, an organism that is obligated to interfere directly with the intracellular genetic apparatus, unlike bacteria which tend to have indirect effects on gene expression.

  10. #10 MarkH
    June 29, 2007

    I think Kagehi realizes that but doesn’t want to speak to soon about the possibility of some bizarre new bacteria that could change the way we think about cancer yet again. It’s a safe position.

    From what we know now? Yeah, totally different mechanisms, and only a twit would compare them.

  11. #11 Tsu Dho Nimh
    June 24, 2008

    Duesberg, in what appears to be characteristically black-and-white mode of thought, has decided that since chromosomal disorder may explain some cancers (and he got in on the ground floor) that all cancer is from chromosomal disorder

    Like Hideyo Noguchi, who discovered that a spirochete caused syphilis and spent the rest of his career looking for the spirochetes that caused all other diseases whose cause was not known. He died of yellow fever, while on a trip trying to isolate the spirochete he fervently believed caused it.

  12. #12 Grand Inquisitor
    June 2, 2009

    Google has just provided me this citation.

    May I have the courtesy extended me of rebutting these silly charges?

    First, it is not only Duesberg who attacks the ‘gene-mutation’ model, but other scientists who are, and have been, involved in cancer research for years and years. And, it is not really the ‘gene-mutation’ model that is the problem in cancer research, but rather the ‘gene-centric’ model that is used. But this ‘gene-centric’ model is no more than a by-product of the Darwinist’s obsession with genes, and with his supreme confidence that all of life can be explained by the role of genes. Have you heard of siRNA’s perchance? The ‘gene-centric’ model is really very passe at this point even when it comes to cellular processes.

    Second, you’ve completely missed the point of the words you’ve quoted. Maybe it’s hard for you to think, I don’t know. But, please, do try.

    Here’s the point: Darwinists want us to believe that Darwinian theory is wonderful, and the fact that bacterial resistance to antibiotics follows Darwinian theory is one big reason to think it wonderful. I was pointing out that there are many, many more people who die from cancer each year than there are from bacterial infections that can’t be fought off with antibiotics, and that, according to Duesberg (and others) the fixation among scientists that genes (and, hence, gene mutation) are the critical causative factor in cancer has hindered the search for a cure for cancer. So, just how wonderful is the Darinian nonsense? What part of this argument was too hard for you to comprehend?

    Third, not only did you miss the point I was making, but then you went on the warpath, claiming that I don’t know the difference between prokaryote and eukaryote cells. I guess you just needed an ad hominem attack, and this was as good as any other. Now, tell me, if a chromosome is not linear, but circular, does it become something other than a chromosome? And, also, tell me, do bacteria get ‘cancer’? You make a silly argument. What a bizzare tangent to go off on.

  13. #13 timberland boots
    June 10, 2009

    I knew it all along.

  14. #14 dentist thornhill
    September 16, 2009

    Bacteria are the most numerous type of creature on the planet *period* and we have probably identified only a fraction of all of them that *can*, let alone *do* cause problems in humans. Its not impossible that a lot of cancers could be actually triggered as a result of a few cells taking on some genes from one of them, which mangle the mechanisms for cell replication, causing cancer.

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