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Laminin is an extracellular protein. The three short arms of the molecule are particularly efficient at binding with other similar molecules, thus forming sheets that make up basement membranes while the fourth, longer arm can bind with cells.
Three short arms, one long one… three short arms, one long one… cross-shaped appearance… No. Doesn't ring any bells here at all. Well, various people like to say that it's a sign from God. This generally takes one of two interpretations, the former more sane than the latter:
- It's reassuring and nice to see that there's a cross in our cells.
- It's a genuine sign of the divine.
The first option is sort of forgivable, and is indeed a fairly sensible and moderate position those of faith to take — who doesn't smile when they see a pattern in randomness that makes them feel good? The second, however, is an entirely different ballgame and is subject to a range of biases such as confirmation bias and especially cherry picking. It is undoubtedly pareidolia in an extreme form. Because of some nicely worded sermons and viral marketing, it is often used as a preaching tool called "our body's natural cross". It has even been put on a t-shirt. The Iron Chariots wiki documents reasons behind it being used as a proof of the divine but it has yet to crop up in any well-known or respected creationist arguments. Indeed, one creationist is adamant that laminin is not a marker for design.
Besides, if you look at it under an electron microscope (provided, of course that you're A) not a fundie and B) haven't been buttered up into accepting anything as cross shaped by a pastor first) it looks more like a pretty damn awesome shape for a sex toy. Let's face it, if the Pastafarians ever take a look at haemoglobin…
Evangelism of laminin
The videos from evangelist Louie Giglio give a good case study for evangelism and the tactics used by it. Most rational people, hell, just most people, wouldn't be particularly struck by the facts. Show them the diagram and they'd just react with "oh, that's nice, it looks like a cross" much in the same way that they see a cloud and say "oh, that's nice, it looks like a bunny". However, it can be seen that the evidence is presented in a particular fashion so that the audience will be more likely to agree with the evangelist.
- The conversation with the "molecular biologist"
- This probably didn't happen, or at least didn't happen the way it's said. This is essentially an argument from authority stating that if such a "learned person" as a molecular biologist brings it up, it must have some weight.
- Dressing up with science
- To enhance the authority of the science story, it is accompanied by some real biology. He says it quickly (even though it's relatively basic stuff to anyone with a high-school level of biology understanding) to try and baffle the audience into thinking it's more complex than it is.
- Prepping the audience
- Note that the actual structure isn't presented until well after the audience has been buttered-up nicely to accept that almost anything was a sign from God. After this sort of thing, you could show them a randomly shaped blob and have them eat it up. You get at least 5 minutes of oration before the big reveal at the end.
- The microscope image is secondary
- The audience happily accepts that the electron microscope image is a cross. This is because they are prepped before hand with the diagrammatic structure. With this shape in mind, they're ready to see a "cross" out of anything, especially any four-pronged object regardless of how much it was twisted and flailing about in solution.
- Remarkable incredulity
- The whole "it's crazy" or "it's remarkable" speech towards the end, said in a fever-pitch voice to boot, is a good way of convincing an audience that they're seeing something new, special and most of all right. People in general are more credulous to ideas that seem to astound them, a simple story is not as effective as a mind-blowing, complex, improbable but still nicely reaffirming one.