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.