Author Topic: Creationists and human microbiome  (Read 672 times)

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Offline BigV

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Creationists and human microbiome
« on: April 09, 2013, 01:57:11 PM »
I was recently discussing the subject of Intelligent Design vs. Evolution with my family, all of whom are deeply religious and the subject of human body came up.  ID proponents like to highlight the complexity of life forms, including the complexity of human body, and point to it as an example of a complexity that can only be designed.

However, as I was thinking about the response, I came across an article on human microbiome, where fairly recently scientists have begun to map out all bacteria and other non-human living forms that reside in our bodies.

http://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/

And I was wondering if may be some of you could provide your feedback for me as I'm relatively new at studying this subject myself being a fairly new atheist.

My question is this.  If humans have 10 to 1 ratio of non-human to human living cells, could these bacteria/fungi or other forms actually be deadly for us IF we did not have an immune system developed?

Because if these organisms are indeed deadly without a functioning immune system to keep them at bay, that would mean that a designer came up with a disease and a disease fighting system, which then rules out a benevolent being for a designer.

Sorry if I'm incoherent on this.  Would any of you all have any feedback and possible creationists comebacks?

Online nogodsforme

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2013, 02:21:29 PM »
Yeah, you are on the right track. Human beings are giant microbe factories. God loves microbes! People, not so much.

Considering that most of the universe, and most of the planet earth, is actively hostile to human existence, that argues against a benevolent designer right there.

Think of all the environmental niches there are for various life forms, from the arctic to the tropics, from mountaintops to under the sea. We humans can only survive in a tiny part, and only then with a lot of help-- living structures with heating, cooling, etc.

Add in all the thousands of disease viruses and bacteria that attack not just humans but other animals as well as plants, and you have yet another argument. (If your folks are literal Noah's Ark believers, ask them how Noah transported all the diseases and parasites. Who got the short straw and had to incubate all the STD's? Manachem the Unlucky? ;D)

Welcome to the site, btw.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Online One Above All

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2013, 02:40:46 PM »
BM
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
Why settle for normal, when you can be so much more? Why settle for something, when you can have everything?
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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2013, 03:18:45 PM »
It isn't just that we are immune to bacteria, etc. living in and on us. Because not all little critters are harmful to other living things anyway. More importantly, we couldn't survive without them. We couldn't efficiently digest our food, we would have a heck of a time keeping our skin clean enough and other little things like that (ear wax is kept in check by bacteria that eat it, for instance).

A recent medical breakthrough is the fecal transplant. People who are not able to digest food well oft times have problems because they don't have enough bacteria in their system. To fix it, doctors take fecal matter (yes, I know this is gross) from a person with a healthy digestive system and implant it into the guts of the sick patients. In most cases, they start getting better very quickly.

People with not enough bacteria = sick. People with lots of it = healthy. Go figure.

Some pundits have suggested that we humans evolved to transport around our beneficial bacteria from place to place. But obviously we evolved together. And hence we are mutually beneficial.

The sharp rise in the use of antibacterial products has harmed our personal ecosystems. People who use such products are helping to speed up the evolution of some harmful bacteria, and hospitals are now having to deal with new pathogens that are now immune to simple antibacterial medical treatments. Evolution in action, folks.

Plus, no study that I can find shows that the use of antibacterial soaps helps one iota. Some studies, however, suggest that when antibacterial products are used by people who already have asthma or diabetes, those people get infectious diseases more often than they would if they used just plain soap. Go figure.

So, they need us, we need them. If a god or gods were involved, they sure were real smart about including necessary non-human critters in our makeup to make us healthier. But if they knew that much about bacteria, why then are we having to deal with staph infections, strep infections, gonorreha, salmonella, e. coli and other nasty things? If the dude/dudette/gods of any gender really loved us, and they knew enough to provide us with nice little single celled organisms that love and consume our waste material, why did they also toss in icky things that kill/maim/disgust us? Not too nice, if you ask me.
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Offline Irish

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2013, 08:28:44 PM »
My question is this.  If humans have 10 to 1 ratio of non-human to human living cells, could these bacteria/fungi or other forms actually be deadly for us IF we did not have an immune system developed?

Quite audacious isn't it.  To some people it can be quite scary and to some, like myself, quite awe-inspiring.  By physical cell counts humans are more microbe than human...[1]

As to your question, yes the bacteria and fungi in/on your body could be deadly IF we did not have an immune system.  But it's a little more complicated than that.

Some bacteria are true pathogens i.e. they will cause disease when present, even in healthy individuals.  These are bacteria like Shigella and Salmonella.  They may not be deadly but they will cause disease.  Then there are oppourtunistic pathogens which are usually quite docile, don't cause many problems when kept in check, but will cause disease if introduced into sterile areas or a compromised immune system.  These include most bacteria i.e. Staphylococci, Streptococci, etc.

Now any way you look at it without an immune system you're screwed and dead in maybe a few days.  But there are different levels of pathogenicity for bacteria.  Some are badasses and highly pathogenic while most are mild-mannered and rarely cause problems.

And it's the mild-mannered ones that we owe our lives too.  Without the bacteria on our skin, intestines, and respiratory tract we would die a pretty horrible death.  The bacteria in our digestive system are largely responsible for processing carbohydrates and extracting energy.  Along with this bacteria in our gut produce vitamins we couldn't normally produce.  Besides this benefit the very presence of bacteria on our bodies creates a sort of protective layer and doesn't allow the very harmful bacteria to take hold and cause disease.  They find it difficult to attach because someone is there first.

Additionally bacteria train our immune system in our very first days and months out of the womb.  They talk to our cells with chemical messages.  Encourage the healthy growth of our cells.  Set up mutualistic colonies... I could go on.  Point is: bacteria are important to us and keep us alive. 

Quote
Because if these organisms are indeed deadly without a functioning immune system to keep them at bay, that would mean that a designer came up with a disease and a disease fighting system, which then rules out a benevolent being for a designer.

A creator doesn't necessarily have to exist to design the pathogens.  Evolution can provide the answers in an easier and more straight-forward approach.  Humans and our human ancestors have been around for somewhere around 5 million years.  Bacteria surely colonized the very first human to walk the Earth.  And hence we have had 5 million years of mutual co-evolution together.  But before that the ancestors to our human ancestors were probably colonized with billions of bacteria.  And the ancestors of those ancestors of our human ancestors were colonized.  Take it far enough back and eukaryotic cells and bacteria have been interacting with each other for somewhere around two billion years.  In that span of time massive co-evolution has occurred.
 1. However, I believe that by weight our cells outweigh the bacterial by sheer size difference.
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Offline Irish

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2013, 08:36:19 PM »
As an aside to the post from ParkingPlaces about poop and digestive systems...

I've read of a few research papers where obesity might have an additional complicating cause in the types of bacteria in the digestive tract.  Seems that obese people have bacteria that are more efficient at extracting nutrients from food, mainly carbohydrates, while skinny people have bacteria that are less efficient at pulling energy out of the diet.  The increased efficiency means the body has to store that extra energy somewhere.
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Offline Mrjason

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2013, 04:21:00 AM »
I vaguely remember being told in a biology class that some non-human stuff has become integrated into our systems and what was a foreign body is now human. Mitrochondria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrion being given as an example as this is an integral part of our cellular structure but has all of the properties of a bacteria.

I could be totally wrong on this though, I took that class... errr... some time ago :)


Offline Petey

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2013, 10:08:27 AM »
The discussion following the OP reminded me of this great presentation from a few years back.

He never pays attention, he always knows the answer, and he can never tell you how he knows. We can't keep thrashing him. He is a bad example to the other pupils. There's no educating a smart boy.
-– Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

Offline Tero

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2013, 12:10:54 PM »
Tell them the simplistic view of diease and cure is wrong. They are fundamentalists.

Have them read Microcosmos. Lynn Margulis.

Offline Irish

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Re: Creationists and human microbiome
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2013, 12:59:05 PM »
I could be totally wrong on this though, I took that class... errr... some time ago :)

Nope, you're completely correct.  In addition to your example of mitochondria plants have chloroplasts and the human genome is littered with ancient viral sequences.
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