Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Musing On A Memory - Stupid Mail

Back in the day when popular science TV shows were doing shows about prions and prion diseases - it took a bunch of Brits coming down with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy to get it in the ol' Western pop-sci zeitgeist - I got into a brawl at the baby blue blog with a Britatheist transplant who had taken a particular dislike to me.  I always wondered if it was the name . . . But enough of that.

The argument was centered on what prions were, proteins that are folded in a manner that causes them, once introduced into organisms, to cause horrific pathological conditions, such as mad cow illness, staggers in sheep, various horrific and fatal human brain pathologies based on the ability of prions, once introduced into cellular chemistry, to replicate inside their host.  While certainly not alive, in themselves, this replication apparently excited the abiogenetic fantasizing of atheists that they might fit the stylishly interesting phenomenon into their desire to explain how non-living molecules generated the first organism.

Part of that was the widespread and naive belief that DNA is "self-replicating" when that figure of aspirational atheist idolatry does no such thing, it is the complex cellular chemistry that does all of that and which allows DNA to "do"anything.   Without that complex biological-chemistry DNA is as dead as a prion lingering in the clay, not waiting for a host because molecules don't anticipate.  That is unless you're going to get really silly in a way that one school of antheism seems to be going as all of the traditional desires to turn random chance and probability into a creator god seem to be disintegrating, the "panpsychists".

Considering that prions are proteins, I speculated that their origin was far more likely to have been IN ORGANISMS THAT PRODUCED them than some unknown abiogentic chemical reaction. I have to wonder what the probabilities that non-biological processes produced such proteins, which just, then, happened to become active in organisms, in which they seem to rather take over and destroy, would have been but I doubt any such vast improbabilities can be meaningfully derived. 

I didn't know at the time and still don't if they know what the origin of prions is,* though I doubt something like that, molecules that can replicate using the cellular chemistry of living organisms to do it, could have had any other origin except within the cells of organisms.  At any rate, the Britatheist didn't take well to my skepticism over her theory that prions were a likely candidate for a non-biological, undesigned, random-chance origin of life based on what was known about them at the time.

I generally find that when you look very hard at such ideas and claims of atheists there are at the very least enormous problems which they seem to want to skate past, if not definitive debunking of them.  Atheists aren't much better at coming up with such things than the old-line, hard-core creationists are at trying to get past physics and the such.   There is an atheist equivalent to "young-Earth creationism" centered on the deification of probability and random chance, and, unlike YEC, it resides right in what is officially deputed to be science.  It's certainly ubiquitous in atheists, both at the popular, the slightly more elevated blog-snobs and even in the highest reaches of university based science departments.

I've long wondered if a guy in my town died of prion disease, he had the symptoms and I heard a rumor that he had "spongey" tumors in his brain.  That was way back before mad-cow disease was in the news.  I doubt the doctors knew anything about Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.  I know he was a really primitive huntin'nfishin' kind of guy who reportedly ate squirrels  I wouldn't be surprised if he ate the brains.   Carnivorism, it just might destroy us all.  The Britatheist loved to go on about eating meat.  As Brits so often will.   Though, to be fair, as I recall, it was an American Republican, Nixons Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz who first talked the Brit meat industry into pretending that it was safe for them to grind up cows to feed to cows.   Butz also had a huge role in fueling the obesity epidemic in the United States.  Maybe it's Republican fascism that will kill us all, you know, greed and lying.  Which, by the way, the Bible warned about more than three thousand years ago.

Update:  I looked, Butz was a product of Purdue University, an agricultural economist.  I'd be curious to know how much science Butz had to take to get that degree.   John Purdue specifically specified that the public university he endowed was to be a college of science, technology and agriculture.  The one person I know who had a degree from there told me it was really big on sci-tech nurdism and had a distinct antipathy to the humanities.  I can't remember but I believe he told me that it was forbidden to have a music department by Purdue.  Maybe I'll get around to looking that up.  I can't ask him, he died.   He figured it was from the stuff he used in the electron microscopy lab to fix samples.

* Or perhaps are, if we don't know the origin.   Perhaps prions arise in more than one way.   The desire to explain far, far more complex phenomena by one silver-bullet of a "force" seems to be rampant in biology when the attempt to find that one thing is fraught with problems.  Natural selection being the quintessential example of that presumptuous claim.


  1. I've only seen this on the internet, a review of an article, IIRC, and the source material may be merely pop-sci, but apparently there's a scientific argument being made that we may be the only "intelligent" life (such a 19th century arrogance, that!) in the universe.

    Yes, the universe. This is not expressed as some religious ideal, but rather as an existential one: the responsibility of being the only life like us in existence anywhere existence can be found.

    Interesting, if nothing else.

    As for Purdue, I know they had a marching band (which does not require a Music Department; my high school had a marching band without a "Music Dept."), because my nephew was a drummer in it. Now he's an aviation engineer, designing airplane parts for a manufacturer. If he's anything like his father (my brother), he's absolutely uninterested in the humanities. Whether that's due to Purdue or not, I cannot say.

    1. I hadn't thought of it until I read your comment but I wonder what the presumed rarity of life in the universe does to the panpsychist speculators claims that all matter possesses consciousness. Presumably conscious matter would find ways to organize into life, especially, as just about all atheists of the English speaking world, and especially the Brits, want to get things into a Darwinian evolutionary scheme. Look at Daniel Dennett who, though no panpsychist, at least at that time, tried to shoe-horn all of physics into natural selection, proving in the process that he didn't really know what natural selection is and its requirements to achieve logical possibility.

      Atheism is an ephiphenomenon of arrogance mixed with a really crappy preparation in logical thinking and other quasi-humanities training, rhetoric. I wonder if there's a really good, old-fashioned Frosh Rhetoric text available at Archive.org. I'd guess it would have to be from before the late 1950s when the National Science Foundation started pushing for getting rid of things like that in the wake of Sputnik.

      I think it was one of Obama's worst features that, though a lawyer, he was a sucker for STEM to the exclusion of much else. That and that he was a preppy jock. I'm finding that remembering his presidency enrages me at the lost opportunities that were lost through his unwillingness to display any kind of real convictions about much of anything. I can't believe he read Marilynne Robinson carefully and acted as he did. I suspect his reading of her was about as real as Kennedy's reported reading of Camus.

  2. "I got into a brawl at the baby blue blog with a Britatheist..."

    Ah yes, the Britatheists. Those strange people who believe that the popular water filtration system is actually God.

    1. Actually, Dopey, water filtration was invented by Hippocrates, it was proposed for every household by a Frenchman, who, from what I find online, was a Catholic, and on a municipal level by Robert Thom, a Scot, perhaps anticipated by Richard Gilespie, also a Scot. I'm not able to find out what religion either of them believed in or didn't believe in. Why don't you research that after you prove how a subset of a set can have more elements than the set it's a subset of.

  3. "Atheism is an ephiphenomenon[sic] of arrogance mixed with a really crappy preparation in logical thinking"

    Says the guy who doesn't understand how the boro of Queens can be more diverse than New York City as a whole.