Thursday, February 14, 2008

Outboard motors made without design.




The New Scientist has a piece announcing the death of the flagellum as the great champion of the demonstrations of design in biology.


It is a well written piece and gives a useful summary of the response of Darwinists to Michael Behe's argument of Darwin's Black box.


The arguments can be summarised:

1. There are lots of different flagellum like systems. If there was a designer he would not design this more than once

[This makes the assumption that people who believe in design do not believe in any evolution at all. It is a theological argument which claims to be able to see into the mind of God and say what he would or would not do.]

2. There are strong homologies of the flagellum proteins with the proteins of the Type 3 secretory system(T3SS). (Workers acknowledge that the T3SS probably came from the flagellum rather than the other way around.)

3. There are homologies with many of the other proteins suggesting that many of the flagellum proteins may have been co-opted from other functioning structures.

The conclusion is...
"this abundance of homology provides incontrovertible evidence that bacterial flagella are cobbled together from recycled components of other systems - and vice versa - through gene duplication and diversification. In other words, they evolved."

To my mind that is just rubbish.
Most of the proteins showing some homology to other proteins does not prove that it is reasonable to think that the blind watchmaker made it without any help.

"Evolutionary biologists have put their house in order. It's time for their opponents to do the same." Doolittle

This is about as close as Darwinists go to saying that Behe made an important point in his book!

I am afraid that I still think that it is reasonable to conclude that the bacterial flagellum could not be assembled in the way that these champions of the fight against "unreason" maintain. [Unreason = any vestige of a conviction that intelligence is required for the origin or diversity of life]

It is a pretty cheap response to Behe's argument to present the whole problem as essentially concluded in favour of a blind watchmaker simply by showing that many of the proteins in the flagellum have sequence similarity to other bacterial proteins.

The big questions that still remain in my mind are these:

1. Is it reasonable to think that there is a pathway from these proteins doing something else to their specific function in the flagellum that we see today.

2. Is it reasonable to think that the proteins that are required but which have no known homologies could also arrive to allow the flagellum to function.
3. Is it possible to get to a clear answer for the above two questions. Is it possible to test whether Darwinists are simply excercising too much faith in the power of the blind watchmaker or not.


I am aware that Darwinists are good at imagining long pathways of functioning machines with gradually increasing complexity...but how do we know if they are reasonable or not? Should I believe them until someone demonstrates it is impossible or should I disbelieve them until someone demonstrates it is possible?

Maybe a simple thought experiment will clarify what I mean...

Let us imagine a machine which does something useful (but is not a motor)which contains all but 4 of the proteins needed to make a motor.

Let us imagine that those four proteins are busy doing something else in the boring but busy immobile bacterium.

Let us imagine that those four proteins have all duplicated and the duplicate of each is busy accumulating point mutations etc such that they can no longer perform the function the blind watchmaker made them for.

Let us imagine that the times are good- all the economic indicators for bacteria are favourable - it is a real baby boom and the population is rocketing!

My question is - How big are the targets that these four proteins are aiming for? (please excuse the teleological nature of the sentence!)

Is it reasonable to think of all four hitting the target at the same time?

Is that a reasonable scenario or do Darwinists imagine the co-option of one protein at once? With each addition providing selective advantage??


Who adjudicates fairly what is reasonable here? The champions of reason of course.

19 Comments:

Blogger psiloiordinary said...

God of the gaps?

If it can't be explained then it must be your particular god?

Lets just say for the sake of argument that we have no idea how your "motor" evolved. The ancients had no idea what lightning was so they attributed it to devine anger. Now we know better. How do you know that this can never be explained?

The particular logical fallacy you have fallen into is called "the argument from ignorance".

Regards,

Psi

9:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The conclusion is...
"this abundance of homology provides incontrovertible evidence that bacterial flagella are cobbled together from recycled components of other systems - and vice versa - through gene duplication and diversification. In other words, they evolved."

This is an interesting argument. As I understand it all these homologous proteins perform functions. If the proteins were different from the way they actually are then they wouldn't be able to perform those functions. The New Scientist argument can therefore be stated thus: Because the protein needed to perform function "A" has to be similar to the proteins needed to perform functions "B", "C" and "D" we therefore know that all these proteins arose by chance mutation from a common source.
The only thing that this is "incontrovertible evidence" of is that the writer of the piece doesn't know the meaning of begging the question.

1:01 pm  
Blogger psiloiordinary said...

Of course, and not for the first time Andrew is taking things out of context for us anyway.

Here is a much fuller discussion for those interested;

http://leisureguy.wordpress.com/2008/02/17/irreducible-complexity-is-reducible-after-all/

The ellipsis of distortion indeed . . .

7:59 pm  
Blogger Antony Latham said...

Psiloiordinary: This is not a God of the Gaps argument from ignorance. There is such a thing as positive scientific evidence for design...Archaeology, forensic science and SETI are a few examples of disciplines using such techniques. When and if SETI finds evidence of aliens (perhaps by getting a long sequence of prime numbers) then such specified complexity will be attributed to intelligence. Are you then going to complain of 'aliens of the gaps'? Not very likely. However - when it comes to biology you prefer to judge the POSITIVE evidence of Behe as ignorance. I think you need to think through a little harder what Andrew has written: the existence of other similar proteins means nothing unless there is a way of co-opting them that is even remotely plausible. This has never been shown and we are allowed to use our minds to infer design...it seems the ultimate in thought control to disallow such inference. Remember that the flagellum absolutlely MUST function effectively to serve its purpose. Cobbling proteins together - even if you had all the right ones, will simply not work and will have no selective advantage.

6:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm too thick to know how its done.

I'll just ignore how it is done.

God did it.

Great thinking!

8:43 pm  
Anonymous brian said...

"Is it possible to test whether Darwinists are simply excercising too much faith in the power of the blind watchmaker or not"

Andrew,

You're forgetting the fact that in the realms of real science there is no default position to fall back on in the absence of an indisputable fact, which you rarely get anyway!

All the evidence suggest that the building blocks were there all along. The details have still to be worked out (that's the beauty of science) but to a scientist the only indisputable fact is that there is no need for a designer to be involved, period.

Will we ever hear Behe concede that he may have been a little premature in his thinking? Nothing wrong with having the idea but sometimes you've got to admit you got it wrong. I doubt we will ever hear that?

Brian

8:05 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

"Of course, and not for the first time Andrew is taking things out of context for us anyway."

Thanks for providing the link Psilo. I was not taking things out of context. I read the whole article and was using the bits that I was interested in.

3:51 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

I'm too thick to know how its done.
I'll just ignore how it is done.
God did it.

Great thinking!

This is how my thinking has been summarised. Surprisingly I do not recognise my own logic here.

I freely acknowledge that thickness may be my problem. However if it is then my ears are open to correction and information and data. I am very interested in a detailed possible pathway to an outboard motor. The detail in the New Scientist article did not however impress me.

3:52 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Brian,

You said
"an indisputable fact, which you rarely get anyway!"

and then...
"the only indisputable fact is that there is no need for a designer to be involved"

I am totally unconvinced.
Similarity of parts does not necessarily indicate lack of design.

3:57 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

"I am totally unconvinced"

What else is there to say!


Brian

10:55 pm  
Anonymous Cedric Katesby said...

Andrew, is ID a scientific theory?

3:10 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Cedric,

Depends on the sense of the word "theory" in the sense of a legitimate hypothesis then I would yes.

4:34 pm  
Anonymous Cedric Katesby said...

Depends on the sense of the word?
(huh?)

In the scientific world, there is no confusion what the phrase "scientific theory" means.

It's quite straight forward, as any high school science text book will tell you.

In fact, those same text books clearly explain the difference between a scientific theory and a hypothesis.
Look it up for yourself.

So is ID a scientific theory...or is it a hypothesis?

1:16 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Cedric,

The way theory is defined in school science text books and the way ut is used by scientists in their publications are two different things.

ID is not a theory in the same sense as Evolution is a Theory but it is more than just a raw new hypothesis.

8:11 am  
Anonymous Cedric Katesby said...

"The way theory is defined in school science text books and the way ut is used by scientists in their publications are two different things."

Rubbish.
The school science text books give excellent information on science and scientific terms. Indeed, those text books are written by (gasp) scientists.

Every single well known theory (Germ Theory, Theory of Gravity, Plate Tectonics etc) fits very comfortably in the easy-to-understand definitions of scientific theory as described by science text books.

Those same science text books make very clear distinctions between what a theory is and what a hypothesis is.
Scientists use those two little words in very specific ways.
This is why scientists spend a lot of time creating web-sites explaining to the general public what the meaning of those two words are and why they are so vitally important in the world of science.
This is why scientists spend a lot of time trying to educate the largely uninformed public about these two words.

If you don't realize this, I'll be happy to link you to a variety of science blogs and university department web-sites that will carefully explain to you what the difference is between a theory and a hypothesis.

There is no obscure or hidden meaning to the words "theory" or "hypothesis".
We're not dealing with some mystical Dark Art here.

"ID is not a theory in the same sense as Evolution is a Theory..."

In the same 'sense'?
What does that mean?
Are you saying that ID is not a theory?
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Is ID a scientific theory?

3:27 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Cedric,

I have tried to answer your question in the new post.

10:58 pm  
Blogger Smokey said...

Antony wrote:
"Remember that the flagellum absolutlely MUST function effectively to serve its purpose."

False. Any motility at all can confer a selective advantage over nonmotility, no matter how marginal.

11:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If it can't be explained then it must be your particular god?"

..Let's be serious. NO-ONE actually says that. Rather, you are afraid God might really have done it so you shut down enquiry.

9:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Any motility at all can confer a selective advantage over nonmotility, no matter how marginal."

..Really?

9:50 pm  

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