Zoonosis: Behe is an IDiot.


Someone tell Behe to shut up about viruses. SOMEONE.

From Lous notes on a recent presentation:

New Dude: HIV, someone in the family died this week. Evolutionary Biology, according to evolutionary biology says that HIV comes from some predecessor. That provided a research program. Let's look at the closest relative. Cousin doesn't kill chimpanzees. So I question this, this is an example that Darwinian evolution producing a research program to help people. What's ID done?

Behe: big sigh, I want to stress, but the talk goes quickly, but ID doesn't say that Darwinian evolution can't do anything, just not everything. Accepts genetic change, common descent, but at the molecular level,, evolutiion is breaking things. Doesn't explain molecular machinery.

In Hiv it evolves, rapidly, and it looks like it came from chimps, made the leap, rabies, not unique, at the molecular level just takes a couple changes in a preexisting protein....

I might be getting the wrong message from Lous notes, but it appears Behe thinks viruses infecting organisms other than the host its evolved for is no big whoop. "SIV to HIV? No big whoop. Rabies does it. Boring."
Behe appears to be under the impression that zoonotic events-- non-human pathogens infecting humans-- is a trivial thing at 'the molecular level'.

What a goddamn IDiot.

I personify/animate viruses a lot on my blag. But to be perfectly clear, viruses are not sentient beings. They do not have needs/wants/desires any more than water 'wants' to freeze at 32 F. Thus a lot of things viruses do are 'mistakes'.

HPV causing cervical cancer in humans is a 'mistake'. It provides no benefit to the virus.

Polio causing paralysis in humans is a 'mistake'. Polio virus wants you to poop it out, it doesnt want to eat your muscles/nerves.

For a zoonotic example, rabies doesnt 'want' to infect humans. We are a dead-end host. That means if I am infected with rabies, I cant infect you (unless you get an organ transplant from me *blink*).

A rabies infected human has absolutely nothing to do with 'a couple changes in a preexisting protein'. There has been no evolutionary/selective pressure on rabies to infect humans, it just does what it does when it gets in a human (like water just freezes when it gets cold enough) and it gets itself stuck.

HIV was a completely different story.

As 'new dude' rightly notes-- HIV kills us, but SIV isnt really a 'big deal' in non-human primates. Non-human primates dont wear condoms and have access to antiretrovirals. So why are they doing okay? Does 'evolution' matter?

First of all, SIV has crossed over into humans lots of times. We know its happened on at least 4 independent occasions, because we have four different kinds of HIV today-- HIV-1 (Groups M, N, and O) and HIV-2.

The HIV thats causing all the trouble is HIV-1 Group M. HIV-2 is a different creature than HIV-1 (different genes with different functions), but M, N, and O are all 'the same virus' that came from 'the same animal'-- chimpanzees. Whats the deal?

Due to random genetic drift (QUASISPECIES!), Group M came from a version of SIV that was 'more fit' than N or O (even though theyre 'all the same virus'). Group M viruses can make more baby viruses in humans than other kinds of HIV, so they out-compete other kinds of HIV. Yay.

But thats not the whole story. Because HIV-1 can be transmitted human-to-human, we get a new layer of evolutionary selection. Its not like rabies that can just multiply in a human, but gets stuck-- by being repeatedly passaged from one human to the next, HIV-1 gets a chance to adapt. It can cycle through its mutations, picking our locks. Thus when we looked at areas of the HIV-1 genome that were mutating faster than we would have anticipated (but still maintaining functionality), we are like 'Hey! There is a selective pressure there! What is it?'

Thats how we found components of our immune system we didnt even know existed, pre-HIV-- tetherin, the APOBEC family, the TRIM family, etc. And from these new discoveries we are creating new antivirals (yes, antivirals that work on more than 'The Lords Curse-HIV'-- antivirals that could work on shit like EBOLA).

Innate human antivirals dont just 'break' viruses. And viral anti-antivirals dont just 'break' our innate defenses. These arent friggin machine guns and sledge hammers here, people. These proteins evolve specific interactions with other proteins to guide them to alternate parts of the cell, to be sneaky stow-aways in progeny virions, to lasso viruses to the surface of infected cells. Thats infinitely more COMPLEX than 'evolution just breaks things'.

A non-human virus adapting to humans is not 'no big whoop'. It is an intricate evolutionary feat. 'New guy' was absolutely right. We use those 'trivial' evolutionary differences between humans and primates, and 'trivial' evolutionary differences between HIV and SIV to not only learn more about ourselves, but to develop new therapies to help sick people.

So I repeat his question, cause Behe didnt answer it: Whats ID done?

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Though this paper (the one I began talking about before a holiday break) is the reason for this post, this post is also an opportunity to address a question I have gotten a lot over the years: Is HIV evolving to be more deadly? The short answer would be: No, it doesnt appear to be. Scientists have…
Im glad none of you accused me of joking or exaggerating when I told this story:A *very* common exchange I have with the general public regarding HIV-1: Person-- Where did HIV-1 come from?Me-- HIV-1 is related to a virus we can find in African primates, SIV. SIV crossed over from chimpanzees to…

As an antidote to Mr. Behe, are you going to give us a summary of RD's talk at Oklahoma this Friday (assuming that you did get a ticket)? Perhaps you can even get on a lunch-ticket with him, like Ed Brayton did?

By Ben Breuer (not verified) on 02 Mar 2009 #permalink

Theoretically Im volunteering to help with line fun (getting people water, making sure older people have chairs to sit in, standing in line for someone when they need to pee, etc), and I planned on live-blogging the line so people would have a better idea of when to show up.

But Dawkins visit to OU has been full of weirdness, who knows.

In my opinion, ever since DBB, Behe crossed way over the line from "maybe deluded religious person trying to reconcile science with his beliefs" to "full-on creationist snake-oil salesman".

The clown used to at least admit that positive mutations occurred, just not the really complex ones; now he's just bleating the creationist canard that evolution can only "break things" full stop no ambiguity? Guess the churches weren't willing to pay enough for talks that might give even the tiniest credence to evolution, even if it could offer a figleaf of apparent scientific respectability. They just want to hear "EVILUTION BAD, GOD RULES."

By minimalist (not verified) on 02 Mar 2009 #permalink

Related example with polio: Using spinal extracts to infect monkeys with polio was done around 1910. But it then took 30 years for a strain to show up that could infect mice and even then that strain wasn't very infectious. Species jumping for viruses is hard.

I'm bringing a gaggle of wrinkly scientists emerita so I will tell them to mercilessly pester you for special treatment.

By Prometheus (not verified) on 02 Mar 2009 #permalink

Group M viruses can make more baby viruses in humans than other kinds of HIV, so they out-compete other kinds of HIV.

Going slightly OT (as HIV vaccine is still off-aways), but this aspect of viral behaviour shows what is most harmful in vaccine denailism. Every chance that measles, for example, gets to go into an unprepared human immune system is an opportunity for it to develop new means of overcoming that system in all humans, and perhaps evolving into something our current vaccines can't stop.

And not understanding this aspect is what's most harmful in evolution denialism.

If the halfwits at the DI were to shut up about topics they don't know anything about, the silence would be deafening.

It was hard to tell what his point was because he was obviously just babbling to take up time so as to sound smart without actually answering any of the questions.

Eventually, it became somewhat more clear that his point (such as it was) was that evolution just breaks existing stuff and doesn't "add" to functions of existing stuff.

I think he was sorta going for "evolution doesn't add information", one of the repeated talking points of the DI creationists.

I have a few little things left to work out on my background piece, and then I'll try to translate my notes into English from typerealfastandgetasmuchdownaspossible.

There was a woman with a blog
Who sliced through the ID fog
They call her a witch
I say she's a bitch
For she is Darwin's new bulldog*

*Julian Huxley was known as Darwin's bulldog, but you all probably know this.

As to what has ID done? - It provides fame of a sort and money to people we would otherwise never have heard of.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 02 Mar 2009 #permalink

Militant Agnostic, I like it, for when our half tame pit bull gets her teeth into an IDiot, she does like to rip it a new one, which she manages with such aplomb.

As for the various IDiots, I have always thought that many of those with at least a modicum of scientific knowledge have deliberately taken the decision to be a large fish in a few molecules of water rather than a barely motile bacterium in the real science ocean. For as you said, how infamous would any of them be without the Dishonesty Institute's money and PR behind them.

By John Phillips, FCD (not verified) on 02 Mar 2009 #permalink

A question, (OK two) particularly for Abbie:

Has any research been done on the possibility that HIV existed in H. Sapiens but in a non-lethal form until the past 70-80 years when it mutated to the present stage? Would that not have been an 'easier' evolutionary step for the virus than the change from SIV to HIV?

and Prometheus @ #5; shouldn't that be "emeriti" and not 'emerita'?

Becoming more lethal would a disadvantagous mutation for HIV. In Australia they the mixamatosis which was introduced to control rabbits has evolved to become less lethal (and the rappits have evolved greater resistance).

It is not in a virus's interest to kill it's host species.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 03 Mar 2009 #permalink

Oi ERV, love this fuckin show. I am looking for some of youe peer-reviewed articles about the research you are doing.
please prwettwy please post a few links to your published data, I want to know more.

A million fuckin thanks!

Were Lou's notes Babelfished from Japanese?

(I'm just jealous - I never did learn to make good notes.)