Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Behe vs HIV

I know. I promised no more Behe posts for a while. But a couple of commenters left questions relevant to a Behe excerpt, now posted in an article from Jerry Coyne here:

"HIV has killed millions of people, fended off the human immune system, and become resistant to whatever drug humanity could throw at it. Yet through all that, there have been no significant basic biochemical changes in the virus at all."
Ya know, I try very hard not to take Creationist comments personally. Its bad enough that I have a short fuse with Deniers (especially female math/science/engineering Deniers), and I know I simply dont have the energy to get worked up in a fury every time a Creationist says something dumb. But for the love of Pete, its getting harder and harder not to take Behes new bile, I mean new book, personally, considering his choice of topics, and my choice of research.

Look, I do not expect everyone to be an expert on HIV or fitness landscapes. I hope Ive made it perfectly clear on this blog that if I say something wrong, or something you dont understand, or something youd like to learn more about, I really really want you to say something! I will never, EVER ridicule someone for learning, or telling me Im wrong when Im wrong.

I just expect someone writing a book on HIV or fitness landscapes, pro or anti-evolution, to take 30 damn seconds to do a PubMed search.

30 goddamn seconds. Shit.

Behe is purposefully reaching out of his area of expertise to confuse Average Joes for his own monetary or psychological gain. Every time you start to feel a bit of pity for the wretched creature, as the negative reviews of Behes Bile keep piling up, remember that fact.

Okay, the excerpt. One sentence, but enough to send me into a rage. Remember that YEC segment from 'ID vs ERVs Part 12'?
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.
Behe pulls this same crap in his book! On one hand, he wants to say that 'peaks' on fitness landscapes are traps, or some peaks are unreachable-- yet on the other hand he wants to say that HIV can 'only' mutate to traverse valleys in fitness landscapes when people take anti-retrovirals-- and he pulls a third hand out of his ass to assert HIV hasnt/cant make 'significant biochemical changes,' and you dont want to know where he got the fourth hand to say malarias resistance to drugs is evidence of Design. Heads Behe wins, tails we lose.

Coyne points out the obvious error in Behes logic, paraphrased, "What does Behe expect HIV to do? Grow legs and start tap-dancing?"
And Behe knows damn well that hes being coy-- thats why he used soft language and didnt operationally define his terms. Operational definitions, covered in undergrad Freshman Psychology. Psychology. Common, Behe, what do you mean by 'significant'? What do you mean by 'basic'? What do you mean by 'biochemical changes'? What do you mean by 'changes in the virus'? Structure? Genome? What?

Soft statements so that when someone who knows jack about HIV comes and corrects him, he can backpedal to 'Oh, thats not significant.' 'Thats not the kind of biochemical change Im talking about.'

Then theres that nasty bit about him being totally and irredeemably wrong about the evolution and biochemistry of HIV, no matter how he wants to dance around it. "No significant basic biochemical changes." You sure about that? You sound pretty sure with "THERE ARE NOSIGNIFICANT BASIC BIOCHEMICAL CHANGES, BWA!"

What do you call vif?

Modern lentiviruses sure think vif is a 'significant biochemical change', as it let them be resistant to our APOBEC3G, a cellular antiretroviral. A recently discovered ancient rabbit lentiviral ERV doesnt have vif. I bet its kinda jealous of HIV.

"RAWWRG!" Behe might drool "You just said that all lentiviruses have vif, so omgz Im still right!"

Omgz, drooly Behe. Omgz indeed.
Thus, innate cellular defenses that likely evolved to restrict retroviral replication might have been usurped by HIV to accelerate viral sequence diversification and escape from immune control and inhibition by antiretroviral drugs.
Shit, they talk about fitness variations in that paper, too. Poor drooly Behe viciously rattles his IDC cage, "RAWG! They said MIGHT! MIGHT! JUST SO STORY! RAWG!"

Hes also showing a rather retarded understanding of viruses, and retroviruses in particular. If youll humor me as I personify viruses for a second-- lentiviruses dont *want* to kill you. They are hit-and-stick viruses, as opposed to hit-and-run viruses like influenza. HIV, in particular, wants to be at a happy medium with you because thats how it is most fit. "WWARG! NOOOO! NOOOOOO! More virus equals more pathogenic equals more fit!" squeals Behe, bouncing up and down. "Why doesnt HIV evolve to use a coreceptor found on lots of cells! Infect more! More virus! More fit! WAAAAARG!"
Thats extremely short sighted. Which is more fit, a virus that produces a ton of virus and kills its host before being transmitted, or one that is relatively non-pathogenic, still keeps a high viral load in the host, and is transmitted horizontally AND vertically?
See, if HIV gives you AIDS, youre too sick/too dead to spread the virus. You become a dead-end host. HIV wants you to have babies, and your babies to have babies, so it can be spread vertically as well as horizontally just like it acts in other primates (SIV). It wants to be at a happy medium with us, like it is in other primates. It just wants to cull a few million of us to reach that happy medium, and we arent happy with that 'resolution' to the HIV/AIDS problem. We dont want to co-evolve with HIV because it will kill millions more. So we try to stop it.

And since Behe insists upon blubbering about co-receptor usage-- Ive got a question for him. How do you know there is not a significant biochemical difference between HIV Subtype B env (CXCR4) and HIV Subtype C env (CCR5)? We dont know what Subtype C env looks like, and from preliminary biochemical and genetic analysis, it is vastly different from Subtype B env.

THATS WHAT IM RESEARCHING RIGHT NOW! BIOCHEMICAL EVOLUTION OF HIV. RIGHT NOW. WELL, NOT *NOW*, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Hes saying HIV hasnt 'changed', yet we're still in the process of studying HIV. So why is Behe saying this?

12 comments:

Ian said...

Hes saying HIV hasnt 'changed', yet we're still in the process of studying HIV. So why is Behe saying this?
It's personal. Behe hates you, specifically. :)

ERV said...

Its the only logical conclusion, really.

Behes been stalking me for the past 4 years. That has to be it. Got pissed that I ignored his immunological and bacterial advances. Decided to take a more direct approach to gaining my attention.

Gawd I think I see him in the bushes right now, hold on a sec...

Yeah, yeah its him. Hes been standing there a while. Big puddle of drool under 'em. Eh I better call animal control. He might bite someone.

:P

amstar said...

Behe is an equal opportunity offender. His inability to do a literature search dates back to his first bile and the use of the bacterial flagella as an example of IC.

Dustin said...

Behes been stalking me for the past 4 years.

That fucker! I've only been stalking her for about four weeks. I have some catching up to do.

Behe is an equal opportunity offender. His inability to do a literature search dates back to his first bile and the use of the bacterial flagella as an example of IC.

I'm a little shocked that he had the cojones to attempt to discuss something mathematical on his own. In the past, whenever he needed to publish some blather about how his venerated point mutations couldn't produce whatever he was fixating on that week (outside of stalking Smith) he'd run off to an astronomy department to find some clown there.

That, I and some biologists have assumed, was because the mathematicians tell him to piss off. We're smart like that.

Anonymous said...

I would have thought that Behe would accept that the muations that allowed SIV to infect humans was indeed a "significant basic biochemical change".

He apparently accepts common descent and phylogenetic analysis.

The only conclusion that I can make is that Behe believes that rather than occuring by natural processes God must have personally intervened with those mutations.

I know I'm not supposed to ask but what was God thinking?

Dustin said...

I know I'm not supposed to ask but what was God thinking?

Not God... it was the unspecified intelligent designer.

I think it's time to start a think tank to rival the DI. I think I'll call it the Dickhead Design Institute. Not only do we infer that there is a designer, we infer that he's the biggest shithead in the universe.

Ian said...

I think it's time to start a think tank to rival the DI. I think I'll call it the Dickhead Design Institute. Not only do we infer that there is a designer, we infer that he's the biggest shithead in the universe.
Actually Behe's designer, who intends that children die of malaria in their mothers arms, sounds like something of a shithead. (Behe sounds much more of gnostic than Christian, actually, not that there's anything wrong with that...unless you want to call yourself a Catholic)

ERV said...

Amsar-- I like my explanation better than yours.
...It really says something when a 50 year-old man stalking you is less scary than a 50 year-old anti-science hack...

Dustin-- You dont have too much catching up to do, I dont say much about my research here. But Im about to get into some really time-intensive experiments, so Im planning on making a post tomorrow explaining one branch of my research to explain why my posting might decrease a bit.
Or some Creationist will say something stupid that gets me all worked up and my posting frequency wont change at all :P

Anon-- Well *sometimes* mutations are 'natural' and *sometimes* mutations are extra-super-special, and only Behe, evidently, knows the difference.
HIV drug resistance- Natural
Malaria drug resistance- Magic

Hes insane.

Chris Noble said...

Whoops- anonymous was me.

Somebody at UD indirectly answered my questions regarding a Designer that helped HIV cross species from chimpanzees to humans.

Apparently ID allows for multiple Designers.

I beseech the Pope to declare a crusade against these dualistic heretics just like they've done before with the Cathars, Bogomiles and Manichaens. Burn them at the stake.

Kristjan Wager said...

A good example of a group of vira that are not fit, though extremely dangerous, are the ebola group of vira. They simply kill humans to fast to spread properly.

ERV said...

Kris-- Exactly. And how many people are 'living' with ebola right now? HIV is much more 'fit', even though it isnt as pathogenic.

Our ERVs are the most fit viruses ever, we're all infected with them, and they arent pathogenic at all (in general).

Blake Stacey said...

Oops. I missed this one. Mea culpa; you're on the infamous list now.