Saturday, 4 November 2017

Nasty Design; Nasty Designer?

Mosquito feeding
Credit: Mircea Costina / Alamy Stock Photo
Malaria parasite makes mosquitoes more likely to suck your blood | New Scientist

Continuing with the theme of exposing creationism's putative designer as a malevolent thug, full of evil intent and far from the benevolent, maximally good father figure god they purport to believe in, here is an an example from the mosquito-malaria 'design', published a few days ago in Biorxiv.

Abstract
Whether the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum can manipulate mosquito host choice in ways that enhance parasite transmission toward human is unknown. We assessed the influence of P. falciparum on the blood-feeding behaviour of three of its major vectors (Anopheles coluzzii, An. gambiae and An. arabiensis) in Burkina Faso. Host preferences assays using odor-baited traps revealed no effect of infection on mosquito long-range anthropophily. However, the identification of the blood meal origin of mosquitoes showed that females carrying sporozoites, the mature transmissible stage of the parasite, were 24% more anthropophagic than both females harbouring oocysts, the parasite immature stage, and uninfected individuals. Using a mathematical model, we further show that this increased anthropophagy in infectious females can have important epidemiological consequences with up to 123% increase in parasite transmission at low mosquito to human ratios. This increase in transmission potential highlights the importance of vector control tools targeting infectious females.

[This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed]


Basically, it looks like the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, controls the behaviour of its mosquito vector in some way. When they are infected with the immature form of the single-celled parasite, they tend to eat less, so avoiding the dangers that go with a blood-sucking life-style but when they need to eat they are more attracted to humans infected with malaria.

P. falciparum is highly specialised to live in humans and to a lesser extent in other great apes. If it finds itself in any other mammal that's the end of the line.

So, if you believe this system was intelligently designed, you have to accept that a designer knowingly created P. falciparum and the mosquito to deliver it to humans and spread it around. Then it even designed the parasite so it would manipulate the mosquito, the better to deliver it to it's intended target, humans. And of course we know that several redesigns have been necessary to give the parasite resistance to the anti-malarial drugs that human scientists have designed to protect us with.

A few days ago, when asking a fundamentalist to explain why his god created the Zika virus but should still be regarded as omnibenevolent, and frustrated at the usual display of avoidance, feigned misunderstandings and desperate attempts to change the subject, I asked him to state which of the statements of 'faith' was wrong. In other words, to which of these questions he would answer 'no' to, and why. (Questions adapted here to apply to P. falciparum).

  1. Do you believe in an intelligent designer?
  2. Do you believe this intelligent designer is benevolent and loves it's creation?
  3. Do you believe something designed by this intelligent designer would work as intended?
  4. Do you believe this intelligent designer designed the malaria parasite P. falciparum?
  5. Do you believe the P. falciparum causes malaria?
  6. Do you believe this intelligent designer knew P. falciparum would cause malaria?
  7. Do you believe malaria is a good thing?
  8. Do you believe an intelligent designer who designed a parasite to cause malaria is a benevolent designer who loves its creation?
  9. Do you believe deliberately creating malaria is morally good?

Needless to say, after several more prevarications he settled on a claim that although 'God' knew exactly what the Zika virus would do, he didn't know it would cause children to be born handicapped, so although he knew exactly what he was doing and what would happen, he wasn't responsible for what he did. He never did say which of those questions he would have said 'no' to or why his intelligent designer, having discovered what his design does, doesn't stop it. He left the Facebook group soon after.

I would love to see a creationist tackle the above challenge and say at what point they need to abandon their faith so they can retain the view that they worship an omni-benevolent creator god. Creationists only ever seem to see the good things. Strangely, they need to ignore so much of nature that they worship their god for creating because it is just too nasty think about.

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