Friday, 22 October 2021

Malevolent Designer News - Another Blow for Creationism

Bacteriophage caspids can carry extra DNA that the virus can tinker with.

Credit: Kristina Dukart/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Viruses are both the villains and heroes of life as we know it

Here is an article by Ivan Erill, associate professor of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, in The Conversation, that would have those few intelligent [sic] design Creationists who have found the courage to read a scientific article punching the air with joy - until they read on and find it contradicts all they think they know about how their divine creative malevolence works.

The problem for these Creationists is, as I have repeatedly pointed out in this blog and in my popular, illustrated book, The Malevolent Designer: Why Nature's God is not Good, that whilst they continue to insist that only their putative designer god is capable of designing things like viruses and bacterial pathogens and bringing about change in its creations, they are portraying it as a pestilential, sadistic monster obsessively determined to make its creations suffer in ever more imaginative ways. A case in point being the SARS-CoV-2 virus that, at the time of writing, according to Johns Hopkins University has killed nearly 5 million people, made almost a quarter of a billion sick and is wrecking economies worldwide.

So, it will come as a relief to those Creationists who can understand this problem, that there is at least one scientist who can see a positive benefit in at least some viruses, particularly bacteriophage viruses or phages for short - until they discover that this benefit is in how it can help humans defend themselves against some of the nastier of their beloved malevolence's creations. To make matters worse for Creationists, the science, because it's written by a biologist, not a theologian who is mostly ignorant of this subject, is of course based on evolutionary biology, not Bronze Age superstition. He says:
The mighty power of bacterial viruses

Bacteriophages, or phages for short, keep bacterial populations in check, both on land and at sea. They kill up to 40% of the oceans' bacteria every day, helping control bacterial blooms and redistribution of organic matter.

Their ability to selectively kill bacteria also has medical doctors excited. Natural and engineered phages have been successfully used to treat bacterial infections that do not respond to antibiotics. This process, known as phage therapy, could help fight antibiotic resistance.

Recent research points to another important function of phages: They may be nature's ultimate genetic tinkerers, crafting novel genes that cells can retool to gain new functions.

Phages are the most abundant life form on the planet, with a nonillion—that's a 1 with 31 zeroes after it—of them floating around the world at any moment. Like all viruses, phages also have high replication and mutation rates, meaning they form many variants with different characteristics each time they reproduce.
Virulent phages follow the lytic cycle of viral reproduction, destroying their hosts as soon as they complete replication. Temperate phages, on the other hand, follow the lysogenic cycle and stay dormant inside their host’s DNA until they’re triggered to burst out.
By saying that phages "…craft new genes that cells can retool to gain new functions", Professor Erill is saying that this is one possible mechanism by which cells can gain new information - which will send many a Creationist into a state of denial, because their dogma says that no new information can arise.

Professor Erill explains that there are two basic types of phage:
  1. The virulent type. This type enters a cell, replicates rapidly to produce very many copies, lyses (kills) the cell and liberates all the new copies to infect other cells.
  2. The moderate type. This type enters the cell, produces a DNA template for its RNA which fuses with the cell's DNA and lies dormant until triggered. It then produces the original RNA version into the cell and acts like Type 1.
When a temperate phage infects a bacterial cell and integrates its genome with the cell’s DNA, it typically lays dormant until it is triggered to burst out of the cell. But once the phage’s DNA is part of the bacterium’s, mutations can disrupt the phage’s genetic material and render it inactive. This means that when DNA damage occurs, the phage won’t be able to reform itself and burst out. Over time, the bacterium may adapt the phage’s switch to control its own SOS response genes.

So, with moderate viruses, what triggers the viral DNA to activate? This relies on the bacteria's internal signalling method for detecting DNA damage and initiating the repair process. Viruses have a survival interest in detecting that there is a problem which could lead to the bacterium's destruction, so it cuts its losses, makes lots of copies of itself, destroys its host anyway, and moves on to new hosts. As Professor Erill puts it:
Bacterial cells are also interested in knowing if their DNA is getting busted. If it is, they activate a set of genes that attempt to repair the DNA. This is known as the bacterial SOS response because, if it fails, the cell is toast. Bacteria orchestrate the SOS response using a switch-like protein that responds to DNA damage: It turns on if there is damage and stays off if there isn’t.

Perhaps not surprisingly, bacterial and phage switches are evolutionarily related. This prompts the question: Who invented the switch, bacteria or viruses?

Our previous research and work by other researchers indicates that phages got there first. In our recent report, we discovered that the SOS response of Bacteroidetes, a group of bacteria that comprise up to a half of the bacteria living in your gut, is under control of a phage switch that was retooled to implement the bacteria’s own complex genetic programs. This suggests that bacterial SOS switches are in fact phage switches that got retooled eons ago.
What have we got here then for Creationists to ponder on, especially those who have fallen for the Deception Institute's Intelligent Design hoax?
  • Firstly, there is the underlying arms race between host (bacteria) and parasite (phage viruses), which no omniscient, omnipotent intelligent designer would blunder into creating.
  • Then there is the mechanism for creating new information - in the form of DNA inserted into the bacterial genomes by a phage virus - that creationist dogma says is impossible.
  • Then there is the retooling by bacteria of the protein they acquired from a virus via DNA insertion, by mutation and natural selection (in other words, by bog-standard Darwinian evolution) with changed information given new meaning in the context of the bacterium's internal environment.
  • Lastly, and not requiring stating by the author because it is simply taken as a given in the scientific world, the acceptance by a working biomedical scientist that, far from a theory in crisis, like Creationist frauds claim, the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is the underlying fundamental explanation for much of what can be observed in nature - a process which is fully explainable without recourse to magic or supernatural entities, none of which have even been shown to exist with definitive, verifiable evidence.
All in all, another major blow for Creationism, if only they had the courage to read it and the integrity to face facts and accept the truth.

Thank you for sharing!

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