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Do gears in life forms count as wheels?

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File:Gears animation.gif

No abstract is available for this article, (Holliday, Robin (June 2003). “Creationism and the wheel”. BioEssays (Wiley Periodicals) 25 (6): 620–621. doi:10.1002/bies.10280. ISSN 1521-1878. PMID 12766952), but sources say that molecular biologist Robin Holliday says therein that the absence of wheels in life forms is an argument against creationist or intelligent design of life.

Holliday thinks that an intelligent creator would make use of wheels wherever they would be useful. In their absence, a designer doesn’t exist. This claim is still being shopped at Wikipedia as part of an article on why true wheels can’t evolve in living systems.

But isn’t this biological gear essentially a set of natural cogwheels?

nymph lacewing jumping gear/Malcolm Burrows

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG

Would Holliday now say that a designer of nature exists?

Are there instances in nature where wheels would be useful but do not exist?

Wheels need roads. Roads require a lot of exhausting, expensive maintenance and must be defended/policed. The off-road vehicle is a late invention because in former times, its function was performed by life forms who didn’t need roads, like horses and camels.

File:A small cup of coffee.JPG

Which the designer of nature did invent.

It’s interesting how Darwin’s followers construct arguments whose refutation by evidence is never treated as an argument against their basic position.

See Also: Mechanical gear found in living organism


More reasons why you shouldn’t bother with Wikipedia … if you need correct information, not just free information.

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18 Replies to “Do gears in life forms count as wheels?

  1. 1
    JGuy says:

    I don’t think it would count as a wheel exactly. Parts of the ATP synthase motor would probably count as wheel. This gear you point out, seems to me to be more akin to a lever or joint – like the ball and socket joint. But it is no more possible to have evolved by Darwinian processes.

  2. 2
    Sebestyen says:

    Here’s the first page from “Creationism and the wheel” to read:


  3. 3

    Talk about a stupid argument. Holliday obviously doesn’t have a clue what he is talking about. Oh well . . .

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Dang no wheels so ID must be false 🙁 Guess I will have to delete all these molecular machines (with stators, rotors, and such) that vastly exceed, in engineering parameters, any machine man has ever made, from my references:

    Bacterial Flagellum: Visualizing the Complete Machine In Situ
    Excerpt: Electron tomography of frozen-hydrated bacteria, combined with single particle averaging, has produced stunning images of the intact bacterial flagellum, revealing features of the rotor, stator and export apparatus.

    Electron Microscope Photograph of Flagellum Hook-Basal Body

    Bacterial Nanomachines: The Flagellum and Type III Injectisome – 2010 – electron-micrograph pictures
    Excerpt: Here, we discuss the significant progress that has been made in recent years in the visualization and functional characterization of many components of the type III secretion system, the structure of the bacterial flagellum, and the injectisome complex.

    Bio-Mechanics – Don’t the Intricacy & Ubiquity of Molecular Machines Provide Evidence for Design? by Casey Luskin – Spring 2012
    Excerpt: molecular machines use components we commonly recognize in human machinery. They may have joints, gears, propellers, turnstiles, brakes, and clutches, which form motors, tweezers, vehicles, assembly lines, transportation networks, intelligent error-checking systems, and much more. But biomolecular machines have a major difference that distinguishes them from human technology: their energetic efficiency dwarfs our best accomplishments. One paper observes that molecular machines “are generally more efficient than their macroscale counterparts,”7 and another suggests that the efficiency of the bacterial flagellum “could be ~100%.”8 Human engineers can only dream of creating such devices.

    Bacterial Flagellum – A Sheer Wonder Of Intelligent Design – video

    Biologist Howard Berg at Harvard calls the Bacterial Flagellum
    “the most efficient machine in the universe.”

    Bacterial motors could inspire nanotechnology:
    Excerpt: This (flagella) motor has the same power-to-weight ratio as an internal combustion engine, spins at up to 100,000 rpm and achieves near-perfect efficiency.

    Souped-Up Hyper-Drive Flagellum Discovered – December 3, 2012
    Excerpt: Get a load of this — a bacterium that packs a gear-driven, seven-engine, magnetic-guided flagellar bundle that gets 0 to 300 micrometers in one second, ten times faster than E. coli.
    If you thought the standard bacterial flagellum made the case for intelligent design, wait till you hear the specs on MO-1,,,
    Harvard’s mastermind of flagellum reverse engineering, this paper describes the Ferrari of flagella.
    ” Instead of being a simple helically wound propeller driven by a rotary motor, it is a complex organelle consisting of 7 flagella and 24 fibrils that form a tight bundle enveloped by a glycoprotein sheath…. the flagella of MO-1 must rotate individually, and yet the entire bundle functions as a unit to comprise a motility organelle.”
    To feel the Wow! factor, jump ahead to Figure 6 in the paper. It shows seven engines in one, arranged in a hexagonal array, stylized by the authors in a cross-sectional model that shows them all as gears interacting with 24 smaller gears between them. The flagella rotate one way, and the smaller gears rotate the opposite way to maximize torque while minimizing friction. Download the movie from the Supplemental Information page to see the gears in action.

    The Bacterial Flagellum: A Paradigm for Design – Jonathan M. – Sept. 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, so striking is the appearance of intelligent design that researchers have modelled the assembly process (of the bacterial flagellum) in view of finding inspiration for enhancing industrial operations (McAuley et al.). Not only does the flagellum manifestly exhibit engineering principles, but the engineering involved is far superior to humanity’s best achievements.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Bacterial Flagella – More Perfect Than We Imagined – Optimization of Molecule Counting – a Physicist’s view – video

    “No human contrivance operates with either the degree of complexity, the precision, or the efficiency of living cells.”
    James A. Shapiro, “21st century view of evolution: genome system architecture, repetitive DNA, and natural genetic engineering,” Gene, Vol. 345: 91-100 (2005)

    Your Motor/Generators Are 100% Efficient – October 2011
    Excerpt: ATP synthase astounds again. The molecular machine that generates almost all the ATP (molecular “energy pellets”) for all life was examined by Japanese scientists for its thermodynamic efficiency. By applying and measuring load on the top part that synthesizes ATP, they were able to determine that one cannot do better at getting work out of a motor,,, The article was edited by noted Harvard expert on the bacterial flagellum, Howard Berg.

    ATP Synthase, an Energy-Generating Rotary Motor Engine – Jonathan M. May 15, 2013
    Excerpt: ATP synthase has been described as “a splendid molecular machine,” and “one of the most beautiful” of “all enzymes” .,, “bona fide rotary dynamo machine”,,,
    If such a unique and brilliantly engineered nanomachine bears such a strong resemblance to the engineering of manmade hydroelectric generators, and yet so impressively outperforms the best human technology in terms of speed and efficiency, one is led unsurprisingly to the conclusion that such a machine itself is best explained by intelligent design.

    ATP: The Perfect Energy Currency for the Cell – Jerry Bergman, Ph.D.
    Excerpt: In manufacturing terms, the ATP (Synthase) molecule is a machine with a level of organization on the order of a research microscope or a standard television (Darnell, Lodish, and Baltimore, 1996).

    Your Rotary Engines Are Arranged in Factories – August 2011
    Excerpt: As if ATP synthase was not amazing enough, a team of scientists in Germany now tells us they are arranged in rows with other equipment to optimize performance. From electron micrographs of intact mitochondria, they were able to detect the rotary engines of ATP synthase and other parts of the respiratory chain. Their diagram in an open-source paper in PNAS looks for all the world like a factory.,,, “We propose that the supramolecular organization of respiratory chain complexes as proton sources and ATP synthase rows as proton sinks in the mitochondrial cristae ensures optimal conditions for efficient ATP synthesis.” The authors had virtually nothing to say about how this might have evolved,,,

    Honors to Researchers Who Probed Atomic Structure of Ribosomes – Robert F. Service
    Excerpt: “The ribosome’s dance, however, is more like a grand ballet, with dozens of ribosomal proteins and subunits pirouetting with every step while other key biomolecules leap in, carrying other dancers needed to complete the act.”

    As well, The Ribosome of the cell is found to be very similar to a CPU in a electronic computer:

    Dichotomy in the definition of prescriptive information suggests both prescribed data and prescribed algorithms: biosemiotics applications in genomic systems – 2012
    David J D’Onofrio1*, David L Abel2* and Donald E Johnson3
    Excerpt: All of these features at a minimum meet the definition of an algorithm and when combined with the data from the mRNA, satisfy the rule that Algorithm = data + control. Remembering that mere constraints cannot serve as bona fide formal controls, we therefore conclude that the ribosome is a physical instantiation of an algorithm.,,,
    It is interesting to note that the CPU of an electronic computer is an instance of a prescriptive algorithm instantiated into an electronic circuit, whereas the software under execution is read and processed by the CPU to prescribe the program’s desired output. Both hardware and software are prescriptive.

    The Ribosome: Perfectionist Protein-maker Trashes Errors
    Excerpt: The enzyme machine that translates a cell’s DNA code into the proteins of life is nothing if not an editorial perfectionist…the ribosome exerts far tighter quality control than anyone ever suspected over its precious protein products… To their further surprise, the ribosome lets go of error-laden proteins 10,000 times faster than it would normally release error-free proteins, a rate of destruction that Green says is “shocking” and reveals just how much of a stickler the ribosome is about high-fidelity protein synthesis.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Endoplasmic Reticulum: Scientists Image ‘Parking Garage’ Helix Structure in Protein-Making Factory – July 2013
    Excerpt: The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the protein-making factory within cells consisting of tightly stacked sheets of membrane studded with the molecules that make proteins. In a study published July 18th by Cell Press in the journal Cell, researchers have refined a new microscopy imaging method to visualize exactly how the ER sheets are stacked, revealing that the 3D structure of the sheets resembles a parking garage with helical ramps connecting the different levels. This structure allows for the dense packing of ER sheets, maximizing the amount of space available for protein synthesis within the small confines of a cell.
    “The geometry of the ER is so complex that its details have never been fully described, even now, 60 years after its discovery,” says study author Mark Terasaki of the University of Connecticut Health Center. “Our findings are likely to lead to new insights into the functioning of this important organelle.”,,,
    ,, this “parking garage” structure optimizes the dense packing of ER sheets and thus maximizes the number of protein-synthesizing molecules called ribosomes within the restricted space of a cell. When a cell needs to secrete more proteins, it can reduce the distances between sheets to pack even more membrane into the same space. Think of it as a parking garage that can add more levels as it gets full.,,,

    Unwinding the Double Helix: Meet DNA Helicase – Jonathan M. February 20, 2013 – article with video
    Excerpt: With a rotational speed of up to 10,000 rotations per minute (whilst unwinding the DNA), the helicase rivals the rotational speed of jet engine turbines (which are merely turning).

    Minor Spliceosomes as Real Time Sensors In Gene Regulation – Cornelius Hunter – August 24, 2013
    Excerpt: In fact spliceosomes are incredibly complicated and perform sophisticated functions.,,,
    not only are separate and independent structures and mechanisms simultaneously required for successful splicing, and not only are those structures and mechanisms incredibly complex, but the design space is highly nonlinear and discontinuous. This is yet another conundrum for evolution, the theory that calls for slow gradual change.

    Animation Reveals Engineering Elegance of RNA Interference – December 2011

    The Virus – Assembly Of A Molecular “Lunar Landing” Machine – video

    Clockwork That Drives Powerful Virus Nanomotor Discovered
    Excerpt: Because of the motor’s strength–to scale, twice that of an automobile–the new findings could inspire engineers designing sophisticated nanomachines.

    Kinesin: What Gives? – Steven M. Block – Department of Molecular Biology – Princeton
    Excerpt: The kinesin motor is impressively fast,,, and is quite powerful,,, (Scaled up to our own dimensions, a motor with corresponding properties would travel at similar speeds and produce as much horsepower per unit weight as the ‘Thrust’ supersonic car, which recently broke the sound barrier)

    A nano-gear in a nano-motor inside you – January 17, 2013
    Except: Taken together, these new studies show that Nature may have learnt how to use the gear in a motor much before we made our Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s. But, what boggles the mind is that dynein’s gear works on a size scale that is ten-million times smaller than the Ferrari’s gear.

    Dividing Cells ‘Feel’ Their Way Out Of Warp
    “What we found is an exquisitely tuned mechanosensory system that keeps the cells shipshape so they can divide properly,”
    Douglas N. Robinson, Ph.D.
    per science daily

    Molecular Motors In Cells Work Together, Study Shows
    Excerpt: “We found that molecular motors operate in an amazingly coordinated manner when moving an algal cell one way or the other,”
    per science daily

    Cells Are Like Robust Computational Systems,
    Excerpt: Gene regulatory networks in cell nuclei are similar to cloud computing networks, such as Google or Yahoo!
    per science daily

    etc.. etc.. etc..

  7. 7
    goodusername says:

    Everyone that I’ve seen argue against the evolvability of wheels have been specific that the argument pertains to multi-cellular life forms. (See, for example, Dawkins’ 1996 article “So why don’t animals have wheels?”)

    Holliday seems to be saying the same thing, as he keeps mentioning “animals,” although he does say that the flagellum isn’t really a wheel as it doesn’t have all of the components he’s talking about, so the gears may not be either.

  8. 8
    OldArmy94 says:

    What can be said then about the US Army’s involvement in the research and development of robotic “pack mules” that have sophisticated walking ability across various terrain?


  9. 9
    News says:

    goodusername, if the lacewing insect counts as a multicellular life form and cogwheels count as wheels, some animals have wheels. The cogwheel is ” a toothed wheel that engages another toothed mechanism in order to change the speed or direction of transmitted motion.” A wheel with teeth.

  10. 10
    niwrad says:

    For humans and animals legs and arms are more versatile than wheels on most grounds and for most activities. Example: do you know many guys who climbed Mount Everest on bicycle or by car?

  11. 11
    OldArmy94 says:

    Bingo, niwrad.

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    Who needs legs and arms to climb a mountain? All one has to do is sit in the right place and wait for the mountain to form under you- that is if you have the time… 🙂

  13. 13

    Forget the wheel.

    If there were a creator, the creator certainly would have designed creatures with wi-fi and touchscreens. There aren’t creatures who have that, so obviously, no creator.


    There, I’ve just given as good an argument as Dawkins, Holliday, etc.

    Seriously, don’t these people ever stop to think? It is remarkable how utterly clueless some otherwise educated people can be . . .

  14. 14
    goodusername says:

    goodusername, if the lacewing insect counts as a multicellular life form and cogwheels count as wheels, some animals have wheels. The cogwheel is ” a toothed wheel that engages another toothed mechanism in order to change the speed or direction of transmitted motion.” A wheel with teeth.

    Ah, yes. I confused the story about gears with another story that involved single-celled organisms.

    About the gears then: As seen here the gears aren’t on two freely spinning wheels or cogwheels. It would be as if we had gears on our knees so that are knees can interlock – it wouldn’t mean that our knees are wheels. I think the flagellum is a good example of a wheel (I’m not sure why Holliday rejects it).

  15. 15
    M. Holcumbrink says:

    The bacterial flagellum is without question a wheel and axle, one of the six simple machines.

  16. 16


    I think the flagellum is a good example of a wheel (I’m not sure why Holliday rejects it).

    It’s obvious why he rejects it.

    Because if it were a wheel, then it would be evidence for a creator (at least according to the laughable “logic” used by Holliday, Dawkins, etc.). So it can’t be a wheel.

    It’s all so simple, see . . .

  17. 17
    goodusername says:

    Eric Anderson:

    It’s obvious why he rejects it.

    Because if it were a wheel, then it would be evidence for a creator (at least according to the laughable “logic” used by Holliday, Dawkins, etc.). So it can’t be a wheel.

    Dawkins fully believes the flagellum to be a wheel, as he writes in “Why Don’t Animals Have Wheels?”:

    Some very small creatures have evolved the wheel in the fullest sense of the word. One of the first locomotor devices ever evolved may have been the wheel, given that for most of its first two billion years, life consisted of nothing but bacteria (and, to this day, not only are most individual organisms bacteria, even in our own bodies bacterial cells greatly outnumber our ‘own’ cells).

    Many bacteria swim using threadlike spiral propellors, each driven by its own continuously rotating propellor shaft.

    As I mentioned, the arguments used only apply to multicellular organisms. Dawkins also writes:

    The fact that only very small creatures have evolved the wheel suggests what may be the most plausible reason why larger creatures have not. It’s a rather mundane, practical reason, but it is nonetheless important. A large creature would need large wheels which, unlike manmade wheels, would have to grow in situ rather than being separately fashioned out of dead materials and then mounted. For a large, living organ, growth in situ demands blood or something equivalent. The problem of supplying a freely rotating organ with blood vessels (not to mention nerves) that don’t tie themselves in knots is too vivid to need spelling out!

  18. 18

    goodusername @17:

    Thanks for the clarification. I’ll take back my inclusion of Dawkins in my statement.

    Based on the last quote from Dawkins you provided, it sounds like there may be a good design reason why larger wheels don’t exist. If so, then Holliday’s argument is even more silly.

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