“No Major Conceptual Leaps”
|March 26, 2009||Posted by William Dembski under Darwinism, Evolution, Intelligent Design|
I periodically get emails from individuals who are sympathetic to ID but then read Francis Collins’ THE LANGUAGE OF GOD and find themselves wondering what to think. Thus I recently received the following email:
Dear Dr. Dembski,
I … have read, I think, three of your books — the most recent “The Design Revolution”. I have been thoroughly convinced of your position in these books.
I was encouraged by a friend of many years, who was Professor of Science at … for 40 years … to consider the book by Francis S. Collins — “The Language of God”, which I have just read. This was in exchange for his reading “The Design Revolution.” I’ve not heard from him after reading it.
In “The Language of God”, there is this statement on pp 191-192:
“A particularly damaging crack in the foundation of Intelligent Design theory, arises from recent revelations about the poster child of ID, the bacterial flagellum. The argument that it is irreducibly complex rests upon the presumption that the individual subunits of the flagellum could have had no prior useful function of some other sort, and therefore the motor could not have been assembled by recruiting such components in a step-wise fashion, driven by the forces of natural selection. Recent research has fundamentally undercut this position.”
Assuming that you have read this statement, I’m sure you have a ready answer.
What would be your response to thiis?
I replied to him that Collins makes this statement without citation, and that Collins can’t justify it — that he’s “bluffing.” I suggested that he contact Collins himself and also look at the following piece that I posted here at UD some time back: response to Philip Klebba.
This person then did go ahead and contact Collins. Collins responded by sending him the Pallen-Matzke review article on the flagellum (Mark J. Pallen and Nicholas J. Matzke, “From The Origin of Species to the Origin of Bacterial Flagella,” NATURE REVIEWS MICROBIOLOGY 4 (Oct 2006): 784-790.
This paper is remarkable for what it demands (or fails to demand) of evolutionary theory. The key passage is this: “designing an evolutionary model to account for the origin of the ancestral flagellum requires no great conceptual leap.” Of course it doesn’t — one can always imagine some way that natural selection might have brought about the system in question. In the Origin of Species, Darwin played the same game: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” To this Darwin immediately added: “But I can find out no such case.”
Requiring no great conceptual leaps or being unable to find a case where Darwin’s theory could not possibly apply is not the same thing as providing evidence. Sure, the proteins in the flagellum may have homologues that serve functions in other systems. And we can imagine that the parts were co-opted over time by selection to produce the flagellum. But so what? We can imagine lots of things. Where’s the evidence that it happened that way? And why isn’t the exquisite engineering that we observe in the flagellum evidence for ID?
Collins, Pallen, Matzke and all other evolutionists who hold that a Darwinian explanation of the bacterial flagellum has been adequately confirmed are bluffing.