Wednesday, August 23, 2006

System 1.

I have read and thought about the first part of Matt Inlay’s response to Behe’s Immunology IC (irreducibly complex) argument. This section is written to rebut Behe’s claim that a simple Antibody receptor system is IC.

Behe claims that there are 3 components each of which is needed for the system to function.
1. A membrane bound form of the antibody
2. Messenger system
3. Secreted form of the antibody.

As far as I understand Matt Inlay’s response he is saying that the whole system came as a working variant of some other 3 component system.

He suggests macrophage scavenger receptor, CD14, and Beta2 or hemolin (which is described in more detail.)

Thus Matt Inlay’s answer to the origin of this simplified antibody system is to pick another such system from those available, duplicate the genetic information and modify the relevant parts.

The problem with this answer is that it simply takes the IC issue somewhere else. You have to develop an example of one of these systems in the first place.

It is a bit like the Panspermia idea of Anaxigorus, Arrhenius, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe the origin of life issue is just taken somewhere else in the universe only in this case somewhere else in the genome.

Having looked (very briefly) at some of the control pathways for some of the suggested origins explaining their origin is indeed a matter of some difficulty. It is especially in the messenger and control pathways that the IC argument is I believe strongest.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Hrafn said...

Andrew, this is now the seventh thread you have posted on Behe's claims about the evolution of the immune system, without your making the slightest attempt to establish that he has any significant knowledge of Immunology or Evolutionary Biology (a point that numerous commenters, including myself, have heavily disputed).

Further, in your own version of the Gish gallop, you have continually jumped forward to newly created threads, leaving questions unanswered in previous threads, and often raising anew issues already thoroughly dealt with (in an apparent effort to 'lose' these rebuttals).

This appears to be a fairly incompetent attempt to obfuscate the fact that all your arguments are failing miserably, and that Behe remains exposed as an incompetent expert witness, largely ignorant of the field of the evolution of the immune system, whose bluff on that subject was expertly called by Rothschild in presenting him with the "pile" of documents contradicting Behe's claims that "no answers" existed.

All you have really achieved is making an incoherent muddle of your own blogsite.

3:35 am  
Anonymous Matt Inlay said...

By Andrew: "The problem with this answer is that it simply takes the IC issue somewhere else. You have to develop an example of one of these systems in the first place."

No, that's incorrect. Suppose we have a 4-part IC system that performs function A, where the removal of any of the 4 parts results in a loss of function A. We then identify in another organism a system that contains 3-parts (all required) to perform function B. We can then hypothesize that the 4-part IC system evolved from the 3-part IC system. This would require only the addition of a single part, and would change the function of the system from B to A. This is clearly a plausible model for the origin of the 4-part system from the 3-part. However, if you wish to use your argument, that we've only shown how one IC system can evolve from another, then I would argue that if the "4-part from 3-part" model is plausible, then it's just as plausible that the 3-part system could have evolved from a 2-part system, and the 2-part from a 1-part system. The point here is that co-option results in the generation of an IC system, an increase in complexity, or an increase in information, if you prefer.

I hope you're seeing that these "irreducibly complex" system, while irreducible for one function, are not necessarily irreducible for another function. If in fact, the 4-part system is reducible, then Behe's entire argument falls flat.

4:13 am  
Blogger Ian Musgrave said...

Andrew wrote: "Thus Matt Inlay’s answer to the origin of this simplified antibody system is to pick another such system from those available, duplicate the genetic information and modify the relevant parts."

Well, that is how evolution does it from four subunit haemoglobin to the complement system. Take the complement system, in sea urchins and hemichordates it's a two part system, just factor B (a protease related to a number of other proteases in the body) and a modified alpha-macroglobulin (alpha-macroglobulins do all sorts of odd-jobs around the body). In sea squirts and jawless fish it's a 3 part system, in sharks it's an 8 part system, and in bony fish and tetrapods it’s a 13 part system. The complement system is clearly reducible (sea urchins do quite well with a two-part system), it is also very clear that each expansion of the system is by duplication of pre-existing parts.

The adaptive immune system is no different. It is very clear now that the adaptive immune system is a result of a Transib/Hat transposase being incorporated into a non-rearranging innate immune system receptor (such as APAR in modern jawless fish) and Behe doesn't regard these systems as IC. These receptors are already pugged into control mechanisms such as the NFKappa-beta system, a very old control system that has been co-opted by several different system. As well you can find simpler innate immunity systems in phylogenetically older organisms such as sea urchins, hemichordates, sea squirts and amphioxus.

The wealth of research on the innate and adaptive immune system is a wide range of organisms means that Behe's claims of "no evidence" are completely baseless.

5:26 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

hrafn,

Behe has a good general biochemistry background. He has done some good biochemistry research. I personally think that he should be permitted to comment generally about the evolution of complicated parts of biochemical systems as he sees them. He may not be the worlds expert on all biochemical complexity but then who is?

9:22 pm  
Blogger Ian Musgrave said...

Andrew wrote:
"Behe has a good general biochemistry background. He has done some good biochemistry research."

He's a biophysicist, not a biochemist. If you want to know about Z DNA structure and Z to B DNA transitions, he's your man, but he's not an expert on protein stucture, evolution, signal transduction etc. or any of the things he comments on. He is far less qualified to comment on complicated systems than I am, as I actually work with signal transduction systems.

11:20 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Behe has a good general biochemistry background."

Unsubstantiated and irrelevant, Andrew! Firstly, Behe's biochemistry background heavily emphasises the chemistry side (both his undergraduate degree and his tenure were in Chemistry, not Biochemistry or Biology). Secondly, given the level of specialisation required in scientific research today, there is no way that a "good general biochemistry background" qualifies somebody to pontificate on the evolution of the immune system.

"He has done some good biochemistry research."

He has done virtually no research whatsoever since he became associated with ID.

"I personally think that he should be permitted to comment generally about the evolution of complicated parts of biochemical systems as he sees them."

I don't give a rat's arse what you "personally believe," Andrew. All I care about is what you can substantiate, and you have not substantiated this point.

"He may not be the worlds expert on all biochemical complexity but then who is?"

Then he should have the intelligence not to pontificate about processes that he IS NOT AN EXPERT IN.

Particularly he should not pontificate about processes (such as the evolution of the immune system) WHICH HE IS TOO LAZY AND INCOMPETENT TO EVEN BE BOTHERED READING THE PRIMARY LITERATURE ON!

4:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just found this blog and would like to just like to assure the blogmeister here that he is not the only ID proponent in the UK. I too think the arguments hold (very) sound, although I am no Christian (am non-religious affiliated theist).

The fact that hrafn is questioning whether Behe has any knowledge of the subject at hand is indicative of the denial many neo-Darwinists are in. Keep up the good work andrew, I hope I can make some more incisive comments here in the future!

ps I'm a veteran of several messageboard ID-Evo battles, and the worst I feel I've left them is as a draw so hopefully I'll prove of use! ;)

3:56 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Anonymous:

If I am "in denial," then perhaps you can tell me WHAT QUALIFICATIONS OR EXPERIENCE BEHE HAS IN IMMUNOLOGY OR EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY? Please note that a "general biochemistry background" DOES NOT QUALIFY!

The general scientific consensus, supported here by both Matt Inlay and Ian Musgrave (both of whom have experience in this area), is that Behe knows very little about this.

I told Andrew that I don't give a rat's arse about his unsubstantiated assertions, and I care as little about yours. Substantiate, or be belittled and then ignored!

5:18 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,
Behe has no qualifications in evolutionary biology or immunology... so what? Does that mean that he cannot investigate them and make arguments based on his own investigation.

In this area a good biochemical (or even biophysical) background is very useful and gives his arguments greater weight than if he were lets say ... a Chef (no insult to Chef's intended.)

I can't really understand why you are jumping up and down with bold print and capital letters over this point.

5:31 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

"Does that mean that he cannot investigate them and make arguments based on his own investigation."

Andrew, the problem is that he is not "investigating" them in any meaningful way. He has merely read a few review articles and then pretends that this qualifies him to make broad sweeping claims about the supposed inadequacy of scientific research into the evolution of the immune system.

To be blunt, I would rather take the word of a Chef who had at least bothered to read the primary literature on the subject, than that of a delusional crank with neither qualifications in, experience in or significant knowledge of the evolution of the immune system, even if said delusional crank has a PhD in Biochemistry and tenure from a major university. One out of three is better then zero out of three, after all.

6:23 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hrafn,

I am just another delusional crank who thinks he saw something important in what another delusional crank said.... I can't imagine why you waste so much time on delusional cranks!

I find that the best thing to do to delusional cranks is to ignore them or restrain them if they become violent (which I rarely do thankfully!)

6:33 pm  
Anonymous Matt Inlay said...

I think it's important to note that my reasons for dismissing Behe's claims are not based on his qualifications, but on the quality of his arguments. It's very possible (though unlikely) that a non-immunologist could understand and argue successfully on the nuances of the immune system. However, Behe makes a number of basic errors, both logical and factual, in his description of the immune system, his simplifications of the immune system (for the general reader), and in the logic of his anti-evolutionary claims. This is the evidence that I use to conclude that Behe doesn't know what he's talking about, and not the fact that he doesn't have a degree in or is well-published in immunology or molecular biology.

6:53 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Matt is correct on the independence of his reasoning.

I have been arguing that there is no way that Behe has gained in-depth knowledge of the scientific research into the evolution of the immune system, given that:
1) He has no formal education in this area.
2) He has no direct research experience in this area.
3) By his own admission, he has read no more than review articles, so he could not have gained detailed knowledge through reading the results of others' research.

Matt in turn argues that, in his writing, Behe exhibits no detailed knowledge or understanding of this subject.

Both lines of argument are independent, but both buttress the other's conclusion.

3:22 am  
Blogger Ian Musgrave said...

Behe's qualifications wouldn't be an issue if ID appologists wouldn't keep bringing them up. As an expert in the srytsal stucture of DNA he is, ipso facto, no more qualifed to opine of the evolution of the immune system than anyone else. But ID supports keep point out his biochemistry background as if it specially priveleged him.

What really matters, as Matt says, is his arguments. Unfortunately, the ignornace of biology he regularly displays and his resolute avoidance of the science in the areas he tries to criticize means he arguments are nul and void.

And cranks? Ignoring cranks can be dangerous, as with anti-vaccination activists who are responsible for the deaths of childern, and the AIDS deniers who managed to corrupt South Africa's health system (and don't get me started on Astrologers).

OTOH, Astrologers don't have the backing of rich conservatives to mount a polictical attack on our education systems.

8:59 am  
Blogger Ian Musgrave said...

Geez, my typing really sucks today. I can't even blame the kids for interupting me.

9:00 am  
Anonymous alan tam said...

Hi - your dialogue is very interesting to me. I wish to comment. Correct me if wrong - it seems to me that ID doesn't provide the mechanism of how molecular diversities with specific functions come about. On the other hand, the mechanism provided by evolution seems stochastic which makes directional and accumulative (or even synergistic) mutations to be not probable. Is there something missing in the middle ? I hope you welcome my comment, that case I will post again. Thanks

2:39 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Alan,

I welcome your post but I am not hopeful that the commenters above will respond. I think I agree with your comment.

2:39 pm  

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