Monday, May 21, 2007

ID vs ERVs-- Part Twelve: What are the YECs saying?

In honor of PZs (hopefully one time) Creationism Museum Blog Carnival, I might as well extend the ID vs ERV series to include what the Young Earth Creationists are saying about ERVs.

What is THE go-to resource for Young Earth Creationism 'science'? Why, AiG, of course! Lets go see what they have to say about ERVs. If you click around on a few, and youre familiar with the 'ID vs ERV' series, Im sure you will be shocked, shocked, dear readers, to notice that Intelligent Design Creationist and Young Earth Creationist claims about ERVs are absolutely identical.

IDC: "ERVs are good and part of the Designers Plan. Not junk like those stupid Evilutionists think!"

YEC: "ERVs are good and part of Gods Plan. Not junk like those stupid Evilutionists think!"
Im sure many of you regular readers can play this game and find AiGs errors on your own at this point, but since this is a Carnival post, Im going to go through several of them for the new readers :)

Lets start with 'Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs)—evolutionary “junk” or God’s tools?'
Once the retrovirus enters a host cell, its RNA genome is made into DNA (through an enzyme the retrovirus carries) and the DNA is integrated into the host genome—becoming a type of endogenous retrovirus, meaning that it is now a part of the genome in that cell.
No. No. No. Exogenous retroviruses dont become endogenous when they insert themselves in the genome of some of your cells during an infection. Retroviruses become endogenous when they infect a germ-line cell and are 'transmitted' vertically, thereby having its genome in every last one of the cells of the offspring. Someone getting infected with HIV is not an example of an endogenous retrovirus.

Unlike HIV, these “ancient” retroviruses purportedly integrated themselves into the genome long ago and have since accumulated mutations that have rendered them unable to produce infectious, exogenous viruses.
No, not 'purportedly.' They were. This isnt religion, where you cant know The Truth(TM) unless you open your heart to any number of deities. Its science. Dont believe a claim? Look it up yourself. For instance:

Differences in HERV-K LTR insertions in orthologous loci of humans and great apes.

The classification of the long terminal repeats (LTRs) of the human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K (HML-2) family was refined according to diagnostic differences between the LTR sequences. The mutation rate was estimated to be approximately equal for LTRs belonging to different families and branches of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). An average mutation rate value was calculated based on differences between LTRs of the same HERV and was found to be 0.13% per million years (Myr). Using this value, the ages of different LTR groups belonging to the LTR HML-2 subfamily were found to vary from 3 to 50Myr. Orthologous potential LTR-containing loci from different primate species were PCR amplified using primers corresponding to the genomic sequences flanking LTR integration sites. This allowed us to calculate the phylogenetic times of LTR integrations in primate lineages in the course of the evolution and to demonstrate that they are in good agreement with the LTR ages calculated from the mutation rates. Human-specific integrations for some very young LTRs were demonstrated. The possibility of LTRs and HERVs involvement in the evolution of primates is discussed.
YAY! PubMed works just like Google. Put in some search terms, look up anything you read that you dont believe! Cant access the article? Go to your local public library or university library and they will help you out!

Heres a nice example of how Creationist 'science' writers have no idea what theyre writing about, they only know the talking points, thus they dont know when theyve contradicted themselves. This example is particularly funny because the author is attempting to make a joke at the expense of Evilutionists, but the author is the one that looks like an idiot:
...Contrary to being “junk” DNA, HERVs are thought to play at least three major roles...
...It was recently reported that an endogenous retrovirus in sheep was necessary for maintaining pregnancy, as it was important in the formation of the placenta...
...This means that retroviruses jumping in and out of the genome caused changes that were selected for, supposedly resulting in microbes becoming microbiologists. This type of evolution requires a gain of information that is not accomplished by retroviruses jumping around in the genome.
Did you catch that? Mammals gained the function to generate a placenta with an ERV so Creationism is true... but ERVs cant allow a gain of function so Evilution is false. Heads they win, tails we lose.
ERVs are a beautiful example of Evolution in Action.

The location of integration sites of transposable elements are used to determine evolutionary relationships: “A specific retroviral integration site shared by two species is indicative of a common ancestor because the likelihood of independent integrations at exactly the same locus (insertional homoplasy) is negligible.”1 Their presupposition of common ancestry is supporting their interpretation of the evidence for common ancestry. Could it also be indicative of a common designer?
This is THE Creationist Claim for ERVs. "ERVs dont mean common descent! They mean Common Design!"
No. Its not just the ERVs or their insertion sites. Its also how theyve mutated or been co-opted over the course of time.

It is possible that certain sites are predisposed to the insertion of retroviruses.
Certain areas are predisposed to the insertion of retroviruses. Some retroviruses like to be inserted near actively transcribed genes. Some like to insert near silent genes. Some like to be near regulatory genes. This isnt 'possible', we know this. However, the actual insertion, which base pairs are on the left and right of the insertion, that is random.
Additionally, if two retroviruses happened to insert themselves in the same location, we would be able to tell the insertions apart. The retroviruses themselves would be different (retroviruses love them some mutations!), and they would have mutated differently over a few million years.

Biblical creationists do not think that HERVs are “junk” DNA, but much work needs to be done to gain a greater understanding of the role of HERVs in the past and present. The difference is our starting point—the Word of God versus the word of man.
Thats a dishonest statement. Young Earth Creationists dont do laboratory research. 'More work needs to be done?' YECs dont do any work at all, especially with ERVs. If you know of one, send him/her my way.


Tyler DiPietro said...

FANTASTIC POST! I probably should get my ass in gear an write something for PZ's carnival. Maybe I can find something reasonably within my specialty to dissect thorougly.

ERV said...

Just go to AiG or ICR and do a search! Im sure theyve got something for you to rip up ;)

Tyler DiPietro said...

I've found a couple of articles to smash together into a decent post. The only problem is that it will take a while, because they're full to the brim with bullshit and it will be quite an effort to clean it all up.

ERV said...

hehehehe You dont have to tell me. Im up to part 12, man! I figured this would have, like, 3 parts.

You only have till Saturday, though!

VancouverBrit said...

Aargh the IDists drive me crazy with their misrepresentations of ERVs. I've had one of my papers, showing that an ERV LTR is used as a promoter for a human gene, show up on Reasons to Believe as proof that transposable elements were put into the genome as part of God's design. I've tried to get my paper taken off the site but I think it's still there. I don't look too often 'cos it makes me mad. Maybe there's a teeny tiny chance that someone will follow the link and actually look at the data, which make no sense at all unless you assume evolution by common descent.

ERV said...

VancouverBrit-- Noooooo! Ugh thats one of my worst nightmares! You really think there would be some kind of legal recourse for someone saying your paper concludes something it doesnt. Theyre using your name to promote something you dont promote.

Welcome to the blagodome, btw! Though now I fully expect you to help correct me if I say something dumb about transposable elements :)

ERV said...

hehehe Ive been playing on the Creation 'Museum' website, and I noticed all the jobs have the same requirements:
* Resume
* Salvation testimony
* Creation belief statement
* Confirmation of your agreement with the AiG Statement of Faith


VancouverBrit said...

Yeah, total nightmare. I keep trying to do something about it but they refuse to answer my emails.

And don't worry, I haven't seen you make any mistakes about TEs at all! That Sternberg paper on the other hand...

Webster said...

ERV, I would be embarrassed to post such nonsense out where anyone can read it.

Your first major error is special pleading. Even though no one was there to see it, HERVs must have been inserted millions of years ago, so they were. You don't even offer any evidence besides the bald claims.

Next, you turn to begging the question. From the report that an ERV is necessary for placental formation, you jump to "Mammals gained the function". But that assumes that mammals descended from non-mammals, which is to be proven!

Next, you misrepresent the opposition. "Evolution ... is not accomplished by retroviruses jumping around in the genome" becomes "ERVs cant allow a gain of function." But those two statements are not even close to the same meaning. Dr. Purdom is pointing out that moving data around does not increase its information content, which should be fairly obvious.

Combining the last two gives you a classic straw man argument, where you refute a position your opponent doesn't even hold.

Still in the same paragraph, you next slide right into equivocation, claiming that any change in creatures we see today is exactly the same process as that which produced them in the first place, as if studying a car engine could tell you who built the factory.

Next, you unwittingly strengthen your opponents position, by affirming her tentative suggestion of a possible sign of common design over common ancestry. Thanks!

You finish off by showing that you really didn't read the conclusion very carefully. Dr. Purdom says that "more work needs to be done." You say that her statement is dishonest b/c YECs "dont [sic] do laboratory research." But she didn't say that they do, she said that more work needs to be done. She doesn't even say who should do it! Oh, and did I mention that it took me only about 15 seconds to find a page on YEC research? YEC lab research is limited by the fact that most labs are controlled by evolutionists, many of whom are actively hostile to any YEC attempt to use their facilities, even as students. It's pretty hypocritical to lock them out of the labs, then claim that they can't be taken seriously b/c they don't do lab work!

Anonymous said...

Really nice work you're doing Abbie! (both on your posting and research :-) )

Reading Webster's post, I've always wondered how creationists/ID'ers determine when there was a gain or loss of information. Scientifically speaking, how precisely do they measure such information? Couldn't the environment itself be a source of this information from which the organism can be said to have "learned" (i.e. have acquired said information)?

As a theistic evolutionist, I am not averse towards the idea of a "Common Designer," 'coz I don't see how this conceptually negates evolution or common descent. Biological evolution mainly explains how the "tree of life" branches off from one common ancestral trunk regardless of how its seed got there or who had planted it. A "Common Designer" may as well have chosen common descent as a means to realize its design ends. Notwithstanding biblical literalism and "specified complexity" on the contrary, common design addresses the philosophical, while common descent, the scientific aspect of this position.