Hello again, Michael Behe*! Im glad you found the time to reply to my essay, as your response provided me with yet another opportunity to write about really cool research that you are blissfully (arrogantly?) unaware of, and yet another opportunity to expose the fact you are a charlatan to the entire planet! Yay!
For instance, though your hackneyed attempts at personal insults might have offended Arnie**, I see them as a great opportunity to highlight the arrogance of Creationists like yourself. One defining characteristics of Creationists is that no matter what their educational background, their highest attained degree is treated as a carte blanche for authority in any topic under the sun. For example, when I recently attended a presentation by William Dembski, I found out that a PhD in a field of mathematics automatically makes one an authority in microbiology, quantum mechanics, and even architecture. Hence no one should be surprised at your arrogance, claiming you know more about HIV-1 evolution than everyone in the HIV research community, even the people whos papers you chose to cite (more on that later).
Yet despite this fixation on ‘credentials’ you found it appropriate to misrepresent *my* qualifications to write about HIV evolution. I’ve been involved in researching HIV-1 evolution in various capacities since 2003—from undergraduate research assistant, to laboratory technician, to current graduate student in the field of retroviral evolution. Though you, Behe, hump your credentials on the legs of every book you write and presentation you give, you curiously made the decision to exclude all of *my* research experience and chose to refer to me as some ‘woman.’ ‘Woman’. Powerful observation, Michael Behe.
Alas, noticing that I am indeed a woman appears to be the crown jewel of your observational capabilities, and nicely explains why you yourself are not involved in the research world in any meaningful capacity. For instance, you, as an ‘ID scientist,’ proclaimed that the amino acid similarities between HIV-1 Vpu and SIVcpz Vpu is “not a fundamental change.” While I only mentioned their ~37% AA similarity as part of an intro, Behe, if you had taken a few moments to think about this topic as a competent scientist, you would have thought “Hmm. The gene that codes for env, the target of the immune system, is ~59.5% similar between HIV-1 and SIVcpz. Env should be changing the most, but it is out-mutated by Vpu! I wonder why! Whats going on? How are these changes effecting the functioning of the virus? What are the physiological and epidemiological implications of these changes?”
But your ability to ask questions and use PubMed has atrophied, Behe. Your only recourse to my essay was Creationism. You made the decision to ignore everything I said about Vpus differential evolution between subtypes and pubjack a review like a Creationist. As I mentioned before, Cristian Apetrei’s paper in no way, shape, or form supports the claims made in ‘Edge of Evolution’ about HIV-1. The authors point out that we haven’t figured out the physiological and epidemiological significance of inter-subtype differences, and you made the decision to distort their critique of HIV research into ‘HIV hasn’t evolved.’
Alas, a problem with using arguments from ignorance as a positive argument like this, Behe, as you also do with Intelligent Design, is that gaps are ultimately filled, and you are left with your pants around your ankles:
Sarah Hill (just some woman), shares one of my concerns with the epidemiology of HIV-1—Subtype C HIV-1 is a less fit virus in all of the systems we have used to study HIV in vitro… but it has overtaken all the other subtypes to compose ~50% of HIV-1 infections in the real world! Why? How?? I think it might have something to do with evolution in env and differential transmissibility. Hill’s lab thinks it might have something to do with Vpu. Unlike Intelligent Design ‘scientists’ who unquestioningly dismiss potentially significant data as ‘pathetic’, Hill looked at the variation between Vpus and wondered, “Where is this gene going? What is it doing in humans?” Then she did something that ID 'scientists' really wont understand... she designed... an experiment! To figure out if anything interesting is going on, she used a classic animal model to study the pathogenesis of HIV. They used a standard SHIV containing a Subtype B Vpu to infect pig-tailed macaques, as well as multiple SHIV alternates—ones with the Subtype B Vpu cut out, and Subtype C Vpus pasted in! A lot like what I do!
Contrary to the claims made on your Amazon blog, Behe, their results were anything but ‘insignificant’:
In our studies presented here, we have concentrated on the contribution of the subtype C Vpu in the pathogenic SHIV/macaque model system. We hypothesized that if a SHIV expressing a Vpu protein from another subtype of HIV-1 (in this case, subtype C) still resulted in severe CD4+ T-cell loss, it would suggest that the divergent sequence of this Vpu (particularly the carboxyl terminus) was not a factor in disease progression. Our results presented here indicate that a SHIV constructed with the Vpu from a subtype C Vpu (SHIVSCVpu) significantly differed in the rate of CD4+ T-cell loss compared to parental pathogenic SHIVKU-1bMC33.
I cant post the figures here, but there *was* a significant difference between the animals that got different SHIVs. The Subtype B infected animals had no CD4+ T-cells by week 2. It took the Subtype C infected animals ~4 months to show the same CD4+ numbers. Slower you progress to AIDS, the more time the virus has to spread to new hosts. What does this data mean to you, Behe? Do you understand how this relates to SIV? Do you understand what this might mean for the evolution of HIV-1 in humans? Do you know what this might mean for potential anti-retrovirals?
So whats your deal, Behe? You stepped waaay too far out on a limb with ‘Edge of Evolution’ and left a gaping hole for any HIV researcher to catch. The rather baffling claims you’ve made subsequently have done nothing to support ID Creationism as *science*—Amino acid similarity = Structural similarity, viral protein-protein interactions with cellular proteins or other viral proteins ‘are like chewing gum’ so they ‘don’t count’, ignoring Vpu forming viroporins, pubjacking others’ publications, sexist and other unprofessional comments-- basically acting like a common gutter Creationist. Why? Youre doing this in the name of ‘Intelligent Design’, and the Discovery Institute doesn’t even like you.
So whats your deal? Is it just for the money? You’ve got a litter of kids, and I admit I would find the $20K you get for selling out rather tempting in todays funding climate. Do you just like how you get treated by your followers? Or do you like how you get treated by your opponents, in a Mel Gibson sort of way? Or is your involvement in this whole thing a crazy idea that got out of hand, and you don’t really mean any of it, you don’t really believe any of it, and youre throwing softballs to grad students because you want to get ‘caught’ and give up the whole charade?
*shrug* Or maybe you do mean it. If that is the case, youve seen how I respond. Think very carefully about whether it is in your best interest to continue making claims about HIV-1 in the future. If you are planning on making more incredible claims about HIV, I would appreciate it if you at least made future statements more challenging.
* For some reason, Behe thinks he is Lindsay Lohans character in 'Mean Girls.' Me and the Pandas Thumb contributors are The Plastics. I have no idea what possessed Behe to make this analogy, but far be it from me not to respect Behes wishes. You know Im starting to think analogies arent Behes forte...
** Arnie really is a loyal pup. It doesnt help Behe didnt even acknowledge him in his blog post. Behe probably should apologize to him.