Monday, August 4, 2008

The Argument from bananas

Ray Comfort claims that bananas are a great food and proof of a loving god. This is a variant of Argumentum ad Fructus(Frook-toos). "argument from fruit" (yes I just made these Fallicies up)

The fact is bananas in the wild are small, highly starchy and bitter with hard tooth-cracking seeds. The fruit on the inside is a starchy gooey slime when ripe. Bananas were artificially selected from wild bananas to be more tasty over a period of a few thousand years. Modern bananas are a different biological species from wild bananas because cultivated bananas cannot reproduce without human intervention.

Farmers divide existing banana trees vertically at the roots. This is called botanical cloning. This is because every "daughter" plant is genetically identical to the one it was "cloned" from. This is how seedless grapes work, it's also how bananas don't have seeds in them.

But the heart of the claim is that vitamins and nutritious minerals are here to benefit humans. This stems from the misunderstanding of biology. It has to do with enzymes

Enzymes lower the energy needed to start a chemical reaction. They are proteins that sometimes need a little help to achieve a shape that's "sharp" enough to break down chemicals as part of metabolism. Cofactors are what help enzymes assume the shape needed to initiate a chemical reaction. Plants use vitamins as organic cofactors to enzymes for their own selfish purposes. Potassium famously from bananas is an example of a metal ion used as a cofactor.

Sometimes what's needed is a mineral to to do this. Plants take up these minerals to do this work. Sometimes they keep these minerals around in case their needed. Plants have a multi-purpose storage area for this called the "vacoule" .Mostly vacuoles hold a little water this is what helps plants "move" flowers bloom because certain cells inflate with water. They are also found in the cytoplasm.

But many of these "cofactors" are organic(containing carbon). These organic cofactors are called Vitamins. Plants use them to speed up reactions which is necessary to get things done in organisms. Plants are able to synthesize their own vitamins. Most animals are able to make their own vitamins as well. This happens either directly from translation from RNA or a protein to protein interaction

Humans, we can mostly make our own vitamins from scratch. We have various ways of doing this.
There's a few we can't make though, that strangely most mammals can. Vitamin C is one of these. Vitamin C is needed for the function of the immune system and to make amino acids. To make vitamin C in most mammals there is a cascade of four enzymes needed to make vitamin c from sugar (vitamin c is a sugar) As humans we need this nutrient as do the higher apes.

The higher apes eat mostly fruits and leafy plants that are full of Vitamin C. They don't need to make it on their own so why bother making four different enzymes plus other vitamins ?
So apes don't make vitamin C because they don't need to make it.
They(and we) do have a coding sequence nearly identical to the Vitamin C genes on other mammals. Some parts are deactivated by mutations and/or hidden thorough epigenetic "gene silencing". The sequence for vitamin C is there, it's just in a really lousy state of disrepair compounded by millions of years of genetic drift. It just doesn't work anymore

Even if we wanted to, we cannot start this broken system. And so in antiquity many people died of scurvy or other metabolic disorders because of vitamin C deficiency. The same is true about vitamins we can sort of make. This is because of our common descent from apes

Wouldn't it have been nice for the intelligent designer to instead reactivate or give us a working copy of these genes? Think of all the miserable sailors that would have been spared!

The so called miracle plant (Ginko Biloba) is the sole surviving species of a whole class of vascular plants that used to cover the world during the Jurassic period. Imagine all the potentially useful organic compounds that were wiped out before the first human ever walked. (A taxonomic class is a huge division, Ginkophyta is just below "plantae" on the tree of life.)

So, plants are not here for human happiness. They would probably prefer that we not cut off their reproductive organs to make a pretty bouquet of flowers or cut up their unborn children to make a salad.

No comments: