Cholera is an ugly little beast loaded with all kinds of nasty optimizations to kill human beings. Read this post for a nice summary of all the gory details, and then after explaining all the specific elements of the cholera toxin, asks this plangent question:
How would a Creationist or I.D. advocate explain all of this? They don’t believe that bacteria can develop significant new adaptations, so they’d have to attribute all these changes to recent surreptitious tinkering by an Intelligent Designer (who is presumably still tinkering with cholera bacteria to make it look like they’re evolving, of course). For the sake of argument, let’s assume for a minute that this unlikely explanation is true. If so, we could deduce at least three things about the Intelligent Designer (possibly more):
1) The Intelligent Designer does not like humans. (Why else would s/he/it design lethal pathogens?)
2) The Intelligent Designer is tricking us by surreptitiously intervening in a way that makes it look like bacteria are evolving in order to fool us.
3) The Intelligent Designer is not very smart. If you were an all-powerful Intelligent Designer that wanted to make bacteria that would kill lots of humans, you could do a much better job, because cholera bacteria don’t survive very well in highly acidic conditions. The vast majority of the cholera bacteria you ingest when you drink contaminated water will perish in your stomach acid. From an evolutionary perspective this makes perfect sense, because we know that cholera became a killer through a blind process of evolution by natural selection. From a Creationist or I.D. perspective, however, it makes no sense at all. Indeed, the only way a Creationist or I.D. advocate can explain cholera is to shrug and say that “God moves in mysterious ways”, which is just dodging the question altogether.
Some recognize the problem. I’ll recommend (!) Michael Behe’s book, The Edge of Evolution, which isn’t very good science but at least he comes right up to this problem of the parasites and nasty-man killing nature of Nature, and comes right out and says it: his Intelligent Designer had to have gone in to specifically engineer every brutal feature of every hostile microbe and protist. Further, his Designer is pursuing an ongoing project, and is intentionally introducing almost every significant set of mutations to make pathogens more lethal right now.
I’ve been amused to see the stunned and embarrassed silence of the creationist community to that book. They laud Behe still for Darwin’s Black Box, but The Edge of Evolution? Nah, let’s pretend that one didn’t happen.