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Feedback: Why did God create IgE?

I am sure that many creationists believe that God created all things with their own special purposes, so there is no such thing as can be considered "useless", and something which looks useless might have a certain benefit for human's life. However, during my study in Bachelor of Pharmacy course (especially in Immunology subject), I learnt that our body produced IgE (immunoglobulin E), a typical antibody which causes allergic reaction (from the milder ones, such as skin rash and itching, to the life-threatening anaphylactic shock which usually occurs in penicillin-allergic patients). Despite those harms it can do to human body, it doesn't seem to have a beneficial effect (so far as I know). This raises a special concern to me: why did God create such a harmful thing, and if it does have a benefit for human health, what can the benefit be?

I highly appreciate your response.

Sincerely in Christ,
Hermin Halim

Dear Hermin,

In short, if you have understood your lecturer properly, then you have been misinformed (a lot of that happens at universities!).

IgE is one of five types of immunoglobulins made by humans.1 IgE seems to be involved in fighting parasites, rather than pathogens. In most industrialized societies this role is much less important than in developing nations. IgE works with mast cells and eosinophils to fight parasite invaders.

The same combination can also react to allergens on such things as pollen and dust mites to produce hay fever and asthma. It also produces the deadly anaphylactic shock that can kill those sensitized to bee stings, peanuts or shellfish, for example.

IgEs are present throughout the body, but mucosal cells are particularly active in making them. This makes sense, since mucosal tissues are a prime target for parasite entry.

Babies produce lots of IgE in the lymphoid tissues in their gastrointestinal system (tonsils, adenoids, appendix, etc.).

In summary, the IgE immune system is an important part of our defense system that wards off parasites.

Are our immune systems perfect?

No biblically informed creationist says that things today are just as God made them in the beginning and that everything necessarily has a function, or functions properly. We live in a fallen world (Genesis 3). Because Adam and Eve sinned, things have decayed from their original created state--which God described as ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). Consequently, there are degenerate, dysfunctional things in the world today—we would expect this. Loss of function is not evidence against creation or evidence for evolution (see Q&A: ‘Vestigial’ Organs), but it is evidence for a fallen, decaying world. The dysfunction in the immune system where IgE reacts to things that it shouldn’t could be part of the degeneracy of the human kind today after 6,000 years of decay.

However, there is evidence that there is normally nothing wrong with the IgE system at all and that the problems with allergies that plague many in industrialized societies relate to an artificial lifestyle that our bodies were not designed for. Some of the factors suggested as contributing to increased allergy problems are:

Lack of exposure to parasites, which basically give the IgE system something to do, has been suggested as causing the system to go haywire and begin fighting the wrong things.

An inflammatory diet rich in omega-6 fatty acids and trans fatty acids (manufactured foods) and deficient in omega-3 fats2 (fish are a rich source) and monounsaturated fats (nuts, olives) could also be involved. Many asthma sufferers have seen remarkable improvements from a change in diet.3

Reduced levels of breast feeding of babies (interestingly, breast milk is relatively rich in omega-3 fats).

Exposure to man-made chemicals (e.g. plasticizers in carpets, paints, insulation, etc.).

Use of carpets in homes (carpets harbour dust mites, for example).

By the way, the immune system is a marvelous example of incredible design featuring irreducible complexity that shouts design and defies materialistic story telling. Biochemist Dr Michael Behe describes it in some detail in his book, Darwin’s Black Box.

Dr Don Batten
Lecturer, writer and researcher, CMI–Australia

References and notes

  1. Information from <www.hon.ch/Library/Theme/Allergy/Glossary/ige.html>.
  2. See, for example, Hodge L, Salome C.M., Peat J.K., et al., Consumption of oily fish and childhood asthma risk, Medical J Australia 164:137–140, 1996 and Simopoulos A.P., Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases, J. Am. College of Nutrition 6:495–505, 2002.
  3. See the comprehensive information at <www.asthmaworld.org>, web site of the Canadian Asthma Prevention Institute (accessed 11 September 2003).

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