Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Two 'World Views'

Kingston University study reveals how food poisoning bacteria Campylobacter uses other organisms as Trojan horse to infect new hosts - News - Kingston University London

I heartily dislike the term world view. It's nothing more than an attempt to pretend that an opinion which isn't supported by the evidence is the equal of one that is. And that's a very convenient way to justify demanding the right to be taken seriously on any subject without bothering to learn anything about it.

A 'world view' that either eschews scientific evidence or actively rejects it is not an opinion based on an interpretation of the data; it's an opinion that ignores it.

But let's play this 'different world view' game that creationists play where they pretend they have looked at all the evidence and simply arrived at a different conclusion based on their 'world view' not the scientific 'world view' - which, so they would claim, is no more valid than their own!

Firstly, the data. It involves the discovery that one of the parasitic organisms causing food poisoning, Campylobacter jejuni, is protected against its host's defences and aided in infecting other hosts by entering another organism which is normally harmless, a species of amoeba. This discovery of the use of a Trojan Horse strategy was made by a team from the Faculty of Science, Engineering, and Computing, Kingston University, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, UK. The published paper in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, annoyingly sits behind a paywall but the essential details are in the Kingston University press release:

Microbiology PhD student Ana Vieira, lead author
Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis in the United States and Europe, often infecting humans through raw or undercooked poultry. The new study revealed how the bacteria can infiltrate micro-organisms called amoebae, multiplying within their cells while protected inside its host from harsh environmental conditions.

As well as leading to a better understanding of how bacteria survive, the research could help efforts to prevent the spread of infection, according to lead author and PhD student Ana Vieira.

"Establishing that Campylobacter can multiply inside its amoebic hosts is important, as they often exist in the same environments – such as in drinking water for chickens on poultry farms – which could increase the risk of infection," she said. "The amoeba may act as a protective host against some disinfection procedures, so the findings could be used to explore new ways of helping prevent the bacteria's spread by breaking the chain of infection."

So what we have then is the information that a pathogenic organism that causes food poisoning uses another organism to protect and spread itself. How does this fit into these supposed different 'world views'; the scientific 'world view' and the creationist 'world view'?

The scientific view of this little biological factoid would be that this is an unsurprising product of a non-directed, unintelligent, evolutionary process based on nothing more than the variation that produces more descendants producing more descendants. Copies of Campylobacter jejuni which could infect amoebae gained from the protection this gave them and from the improved methods of distribution this opened up for them.

All of this is understandable given what we know of how traits are inherited and how environmental selection causes beneficial traits to increase in the species gene pool. No mystery and nothing especially remarkable and entirely consistent with what we already know.

The creationist 'world view' however is that nothing happens without an intelligent designer with the powers to create and direct and with the full knowledge of the outcome. The same 'world view' also holds that this putative designer is identified with the god worshipped by these same creationists, be they Christian, Muslim or any other god of a religion that includes a creative deity. In the case of the Christian and Muslim 'world view', this designer is an omnibenevolent, all-loving god who is also the source of and inspiration for human morality.

What this 'world view' leads to then is the conclusion that Campylobacter jejuni was intelligently and intentionally designed to make it harder for us humans to detect it and defend ourselves against it and to make it more efficient at infecting us.

The same 'world view' also holds that this was the act of an all-loving god and that this was morally good.

In other words, the creationist 'world view' requires them to hold two diametrically opposed views simultaneously or to distort the meaning of everyday words like 'good' and 'loving' beyond breaking point and in a way that would would result in children being taken into care if being raised by those thought that was the loving behaviour of good parents.

Creationist hold that this gives them a better and more accurate understanding of the natural world than the scientific 'world view'.

And if you doubt this, from a creationist perspective try this logical sequence and tell me where it goes wrong. This is adapted from one I prepared earlier. It assumes a creationist would agree with the following statements of belief:

  1. Campylobacter jejuni was designed by an omniscient intelligent designer.
  2. This intelligent designer is an all-loving god who is maximally good and is the source of and inspiration for human morality.
  3. Organisms designed by this intelligent designer work exactly as it intended them to.
  4. This intelligent designer knew that Campylobacter jejuni would cause food poisoning in humans.
  5. This intelligent designer knew that giving Campylobacter jejuni the ability to hide in amoebae would enable it to infect humans more easily and would protect them against the defences it had designed human to have.
  6. This intelligent designer designed Campylobacter jejuni to give humans food poisoning.
  7. Giving humans food poisoning was the deliberate, conscious act of an all-loving, maximally good god who designed the means to do so.
  8. Harming people with a pathogenic organism designed to make them sick and possibly die, is a morally good act.

If you are a creationists and agree with all those statements of faith, especially the last one, how would you distinguish this god from a malevolent one?

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