A few months ago, Kathryn Applegate wrote a couple posts on the adaptive immune system. Its relatively inoffensive. Just the bland ‘science’ Im used to hearing from theists, flavored with dull gender normative stories and analogies containing her husband and toddlers and clothes/shoes.
And then at random points within the sterile descriptions of science, Applegate insists her personal choice of deity has something to do with said sterile science. No evidence or explanation why she is talking about her deity. Hysterically, her posts could be summed up as “Look at all these totally natural processes that have evolved over time. ISNT GOD AWESOME?!?!”, as if that god was necessary for… completely natural… evolved… processes… *squint* I mean if she randomly started talking about “Gods goodness” at a scientific conference, the audience would stare at her in horror, but shes writing for BioLogos, so, I guess they encourage random gratuitous God insertions there, or something.
I dont really care though. The science is fine (superficial, which she acknowledges, but fine), and if she dimly and dully wants to mash the mangled corpse of her god into that science, I dont really give a crap. Everyone has to have hobbies.
But you know who does give a crap?
Intelligent Design Creationists, thats who!
Caroline Cocker, who was featured in EXPELLED! (even though she wasnt EXPELLED. lol, “details”!), decided to take Applegate to task for her immunology posts… by writing an even duller rendition of Applegates posts… with more “OMFG GOD IS SO AWESOME!”… and less science… Im not linking to that shit. Google it if youre dying to read it.
Whenever things get complicated in one of my posts, I usually resort to lolspeak. While the details are complicated, usually I can get the general idea across using non-intimidating analogies and humor.
Whenever Cocker reaches a point in her post talking about a complicated aspect of B-cell maturation, she either a) flatly talks over the audience, or b) tells the audience that the process is perfect (trust her on this), therefore Christian God. So I can only assume that she completely lacks the ability to explain even basic science to a general audience (how did she do it as a professor?), and doesnt know this topic as well as she should, given her education (how did she do it as a professor?).
Look, folks, let me fr*me antibody production a different way:
There are a limited number of ‘antibody genes’ in your genome, and yet we apparently have the ability to make countless different antibodies to react to countless different pathogens and diseases. How does this work out?
First, you can combine the different gene segments in different ways. You break DNA with an enzyme you stole from retroelements and domesticated for this purpose millions and millions of years ago. It gets ‘fixed’ by some Gomer Pyle enzymes “HUR DURRRR! I HALP!” which makes a ton of mistakes ‘fixing’ everything. Yes, these mistakes contribute to the diversity of our antibodies, but there is sooo muuuuch cell death along this ‘perfect’ path (‘non-productive rearrangements’). This is not a precise, streamlined process. Its “Ummmm hurp de durp! Do this wurk?” with a trail of dead B-cells in its wake– 90% of the B-cells you make die. Some are just flat-out fuck-ups, but some are killed because they think you are a pathogen. If its not killed, you get autoimmunity. Look at how perfect that process is. And the death of a ‘self-reactive’ B-cell? Its biochemistry, not magic.
And even if during these initial ‘perfect’ steps you dont have autoimmunity, another way your immune system creates more antibody diversity is via somatic hypermutation (more ‘HURP DERP! I HALP!’ enzymes). There are no ‘is this me?’ safety checks in this process, which is why molecular mimicry can lead to autoimmunity. PERFECT!
B-cells are also a good example of the creativity of genetic drift— you have antibodies that kinda-sorta recognize anything, from Ebola to microscopic monkeys from space. But if those antibodies are never actively selected for via an infection, they just hang out (junk B-cells).
You can get more antibody diversity because you have different variants of the same antibody, each better at one trick (neutralizing virus) than another (activating complement), because of gene duplication and divergence, aka, basic genetic evolution. Some duplication events didnt evolve into anything useful.
My extrapolation from this information is that the process looks deliberately engineered for generating a diversity of antibodies rather than something that could be used as evidence for the mechanism of evolution because it displays the “power of randomness”.
I really have no idea why Creationists are so fixated on the immune system as ‘proof’ for the existence of their choice of deity. Yeah, its really freaking cool, but its a goddamn mess! Its a waste, and can ironically lead to disease itself.
If some simple theist sees pareidolia in her morning toast or the immune system, I dont care. Its stupid, but I dont care.
But dont present this stuff as a beautiful, wonderful, perfect, unexplained mystery to the general public. That is a fucking lie. It is deceptive and cruel for someone with a PhD in immunology to misrepresent science that way to further her personal political agenda. Some Ivory Tower tart pretending that she speaks to God on High, translating The Wonder of The World to non-scientist peasants. Disgusting.
EDIT: Completely independently, Kevin has a post up on the ‘quirks’ of our immune system. In fact, he has a whole series up on the basics of immunity! “GEE!” she said loudly, “WOULDNT IT BE NICE IF WE HAD AN IMMUNOLOGIST HERE AT SCIBLOGS?”