Saturday, 23 April 2011

A lame argument about laminin.

It would seem that debunking Youtube creationists has become a hobby of mine. This week, I present a fellow by the name of MyGhettoGospel (I guess Jesus was into gangsta rap), who, for the sake of brevity, I'll refer to as MGG henceforth. MGG believes that biology can prove that the Bible is true, and presents his argument in the video below.

His argument is as follows: the Bible tells us that God "holds everything together"1. If it were not for God, he claims, everything would simply fall apart and the universe would be devoid of any sort of structure - and this includes people. Luckily for us, MGG says, biology provides evidence that this is indeed the case. The cells in our bodies are held together by adhesion molecules. One class of these molecules are laminins (or 'laminin's' as MGG seems to prefer). And, Great Scott, these molecules look like crosses. MGG has a picture and everything! What else could this be but the indelible mark of the Creator? A sound theological argument. Too bad it isnt reality.

MGG's argument falls apart for a variety of reasons. The first, and probably the biggest flaw in his argument is that laminin  doesn't actually look like a cross. In his video, MGG states "If you look up laminins in any scientific medical piece of literature, this [the cross shape] is what you will see'. Well, I called MGG's bluff on this one and took a brief perusal through the literature. Here is an image taken from Denzer et al (1998)2:

Look much like a cross to you? Maybe, if it were constructed by a carpenter in a drunken stupor.  How about this image from Beck, Hunter and Engel (1990)3:

Nope, still not a cross. I guess the literature does not support MGG's argument as strongly as he thinks.   His error is in mistaking diagrams of laminin, like the one he presents, for the molecule's actual physical appearance. Diagrams of any molecular structure are stylistic representations. They are always drawn in a way that makes it easy to understand the basic structure of  a molecule - where the domains are in relation to one another, how many peptide chains comprise the molecule and how they are linked together, for instance. They are not meant to be taken as representing precisely what the molecule looks like. There is always some creative liberty taken when designing a diagram. Laminin does not have a rigid cruciform structure. It resembles a cross only vaguely.

This vague cross-like shape shouldn't be in any way surprising to start with. A cross shape is very simple; it's just two lines running perpendicular to one another. Given the number of different types of proteins in the body and the variety of conformations that they can take on, it would be incredible if there weren't any proteins that resembled crosses. It can easily occur naturally and randomly. Imagine tossing toothpicks across a table. Given enough toothpicks, you're bound to find some that fall to form a cross. Would anyone argue that God had a role in this? I guess Divine Toothpicks aren't marketable.

But even if laminin did take on a rigid shape, who is to say that it depicts a cross? It could look like many things. Rotate it 90° and it looks like a dagger. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would claim this is a molecular representation of a Sikh's kirpan, and therefore Sikhism is the one true religion. The cross argument is equally absurd.

Another reason why MGG's argument is bunk is that it takes for granted the shape of Jesus' execution device as a cross. The shape of the cross has been branded into the public conscience for centuries but there is little historical reason for this. Implements for crucifixion took a variety of shapes. Writing 75 CE, the Roman historian Josephus commented that crucifixion was done in a variety of ways4. Indeed, crucifixion was sometimes done using wooden devices shaped like a T, like a Y or even like an X, as well as using the familiar cross shape. Is there any reason to believe that Jesus was crucified on a cross? Surprisingly, no. The word used in the Bible to describe Jesus' execution implement, in the original Greek, was "σταυρός" (stauros). This is translated as "upright stake" or "wooden post", indicating that he was nailed to a simple, single upright beam (known as a crux simplex). Plutarch and Lucian describe the stauros as having the form of the Greek letter Tau, or T. Neither of these interpretations can be taken as meaning a cross. So if Jesus being crucified on a cross is of dubious nature, so too is the laminin argument. If Jesus actually died on a simple wooden pole, then a cruciform molecule has no significance.

MGG's argument is also problematic theologically. The structure of laminin predates the supposed crucifixion of Christ by many millions of years. Even by Creationist standards, the crucifixion did not occur until thousands of years after Creation. Why would God decide to use a design based on the cross, then? Did he have foreknowledge that Jesus was to be crucified? This would indicate that Jesus was destined to die on the cross for mans' sins. And if Jesus was destined to die on the cross, then mankind was destined to sin. This sort of deterministic implication is at odds with the rest of theology, which claims that God gave man free will and that sin is a choice. MGG's argument implicates the opposite. Which is it, MGG? You can't have it both ways.

In essence, MGG's argument fails. Not only does laminin not resemble a cross, but even if it did, it wouldn't make any sense to interpret it as as sign from a Creator. Creationists, please stop polluting molecular biology with your nonsense. Besides, we all know who really holds us all together.


1. "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" Collosians 1:15-17

2. Alain J. Denzer et al. Electron microscopic structure of agrin and mapping of its binding site in laminin-1 . The EMBO Journal (1998) 17, 335–343, doi:10.1093/emboj/17.2.335

3. Konrad Beck, Irene Hunter, and Jürgen Engel . Structure and function of laminin: anatomy of a multidomain glycoprotein . The FASEB Journal . 4(2), 2148-2160

4. Josephus, Wars of The Jews, 5.11.1


Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that the structure has been taken out of context, you site specifically "Konrad Beck, Irene Hunter, and Jürgen Engel . Structure and function of laminin: anatomy of a multidomain glycoprotein . The FASEB Journal . 4(2), 2148-2160".

Now, it is very apparent to me that you did not actually read this article because very clearly in the abstract of this Journal does it state,

"Laminin is a large (900 kDa) mosaic protein composed of many distinct domains with different structures and functions. Globular and rodlike domains are arranged in an extended four-armed, cruciform shape that is well suited for mediating between distant sites on cells and other components of the extracellular matrix."

This clearly says, " A four-armed CRUCIFORM SHAPE."

I am not sure if you are an educated man, but any person who has taken argumentative writing should know that one should never blatantly site resources that actually disprove their argument. This however seems to be the case here, and now I cannot agree with you further because all of your credibility is now shred from you.

Also, by the way, if you were simply writing this article to make fun of this man, MGG, maybe you should have pointed out the fact that he was not the originator of this idea and is in fact reading, verbatim, the sermon of a man named Louie Giglio. And that in fact, MGG is actually encroaching on copyright agreements and plagiarism.

However, it is apparent to me that you have no idea what you are actually doing, and are in fact just in need of attention. Here is all the attention that you need, Sir, a slap in the face for not living up to your fullest potential. If you're going to do something that everyone in society can be influenced by, do it to the best of your abilities and beyond. Otherwise, let the professional writers do the talking.

Have fun sitting at home in your Mothers house browsing the internet for your next angry, salty blog-rant victim.

C.W.G.K said...

Oh boy, where do I begin?

I did read the journal article which I cited. Did you? You quote a line from the paper's abstract, but not from the body of the article itself, which leads me to believe that you read the abstract and nothing more. Furthermore, I question whether or not you actually read what I had written. I agree entirely that the molecule is *vaguely* cross shaped, since a cross shape is pretty much the only way you can arrange a 4-armed molecule. The point is that it doesn't look MUCH like a cross, much less like a rigid Christian crucifix. How else would the paper's authors describe it other than as 'cruciform'?

If you had actually read the paper, you might have also noticed the authors mentioned the following: "The gross shape of laminins originating from different phyla ranging from Cnidaria to mammals has been investigated by electron microscopy (Table 3)". You would have also glanced at Table 3 and noticed that many of the laminins investigated look nothing like a cross - rat Schwanomma cells have their arms arranged in a Y, for instance, and most - nearly all, in fact - have only 3 arms instead of 4. But, you didn't read the paper, did you?

The authors even go on to mention that they are describing the molecule's 2-dimensional shape, and not its shape in 3-dimensions, which had yet to be determined. But, you didn't read the paper, did you?

(By the way, the 3D structure of laminin has since been determined. Go look it up on the RSCB protein databank. I challenge you to find one that looks like a crucifix.)

The point of my article was not to nitpick in fine detail the molecular arrangement of laminin, but to show that it was not some sort of "proof" of God's existence, a point that still stands.

I did not pen my article simply to "make fun of " MGG. I came across his video, he made a claim (one that I am aware has been made before by Louie Giglio) and I used it to show an example of the poor "laminin proves God" reasoning. I could have probably used any of hundreds of videos of other Creationists making this same claim.

As for "sitting at home in [my] Mother's house" and writing my "next angry, salty" blog post: it would seem that the only angry one here is you. You took the time to write such a snarky comment on a blog post I made a year and a half ago. Perhaps you might take a bit of your own advice next time ;)

C.W.G.K said...

PS: Leaving the same comment 5 times is not going to make it more likely to be approved. Quite the contrary; it makes it more likely that I'll delete it as spam.

toles20 said...


I enjoyed your article and just wanted to share this one with you. Whether laminin is or isn't in the shape of a "rigid" cross, that doesn't determine a shift in belief and reality of Col 1:15-17. I think you will, at the least, find the below article interesting. May God bless you,


Maya Brown said...

About that carbon "6-6-6" cartoon: yes, carbon is highly abundant however not as abundant as nitrogen, element seven. Seven neutrons, seven protons, seven electrons. Along with seven being the symbol of perfection in the bible, nitrogen also happens to make up the majority of gases in the atmosphere. It makes sense then that carbon would be the primary element of a fallen world where Satan reigns and seven is the element making up the heavens where God reigns.

No. No matter what evidence you give to somebody, they will always find a reason to not believe it. The story of Laminin didn't convince me to become a believer, but God Himself did. Laminin was never meant to save anyone. It's just a happy coincidence that (along with a changed heart and God's word) reminds us of our creator's love for us. And no, you might not be able to see God, but His hands are everywhere. He changes lives and He loves you just as much as He loves me. That's what we believe.

I would love to keep talking to you if you're willing.


Chemistry Major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Christian since June 11, 2012