Darwinism Engineering Evolution Irreducible Complexity

Tale of the Transmission

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It finally happened.

I’ve been nursing along my car’s transmission for several months (careful driving, changing the fluids, etc.), but last week it finally failed completely, with an accompanying whump! and a jerk, and the car had to be towed to the auto repair shop.

The initial hope was that a regular tear-down and cleanout, along with replacement of the wearable parts, would take care of it.  That was going to set me back about $1,500, which I wasn’t happy about but could live with.  Unfortunately, it turned out that some of what the transmission guys call “hard parts” – in this case the planetary gear assembly – were broken, so they were going to have to order a whole new planetary assembly and do additional work.  Ouch!  Suddenly the repair quote more than doubled.

I immediately jumped into serious backup mode, doing research on both new and used car options – local dealers, local adds, Craigslist, eBay, you name it.  Maybe I should just turn in my keys and get a new set of wheels?  However, other than the transmission my car is still in excellent shape, and my personal experience as well as that of others I talked to suggested I should still get another 100,000 miles from the vehicle.  The exterior and interior are likewise still in good shape.  Yes, with a used car there is always a risk that something else major will go wrong, but where else was I going to be able to find a used car in great condition for less than $4K?  From that perspective and after much handwringing I finally broke out the plastic and with much trepidation went with the full transmission rebuild.

As I write this, I have just returned from the shop about an hour ago with a smoothly-purring ride.  Not only is the car able to drive again, but it is noticeably smoother than it has been the past several months.  While driving home I reflected on the whole experience, what I’ll call the “Tale of the Transmission.”

Some of the old parts from the transmission are pictured here:

Old Transmission Parts
Old Transmission Parts

Unfortunately, the planetary assembly went to the scrap recyclers so I don’t have a picture of it.  They vary from design to design, but in case you haven’t seen such a thing, this is a very basic version of what I’m talking about (courtesy Google Images):

Planetary Gears
Simple Planetary Gear Assembly

Modern automatic transmissions are built to very precise tolerances.  It doesn’t take much of deviation for things to get out of whack.  What would it take to create a transmission in the first place or to improve upon its design?

The Darwinian doctrine teaches that complex functional integrated systems are built up over time by what are essentially random tweaks to the parts.  Actually, not even to the parts themselves, but to an underlying digital code that is part of inventory catalog interacting with an operating system.  That, we are told, tweaks the parts, which tweaks the ultimate function.

Let us keep in mind that in much of biology we are not talking about slight differences in the color of moths’ wings or minor deviations in the length of finches’ beaks.  We are talking about fundamental functional systems that go beyond the mere incremental benefit of being slightly more “fit” in a particular environment and instead to the sheer ability of the organism to function at all or to exist in the first place.  True, there are many things about an organism that can support minor adjustments and tweaks without significant harm to the organism, just as with my car: a scratch in the paint, a bent antenna, a cracked windshield, even a missing muffler – all of those still allow the car to perform its essential function.  However, there are other systems in an organism, like the transmission in my car, that are critical to the organism’s very existence.  We cannot simply tweak such systems indiscriminately and expect to avoid a catastrophic failure.

Each one of us has experienced dozens of similar situations and technology has become so ubiquitous in our life that we tend to take it for granted.  This numbness to the marvel of functional specified complexity, this everyday over-familiarity, this tendency to take such systems for granted is perhaps part of what allows the seductive Darwinian paradigm to take hold.  But if we pause for a moment and think about what is involved in producing a complex functional machine in three-dimensional space the entire idea that such a state of affairs could arise as the result of a long series of purposeless mutations seems utterly bizarre.

Yet, contrary to what we see in the world around us, contrary to our own experience, contrary to everything we know and understand about how such systems arise, this is precisely what the Darwinian doctrine asserts.  It is as though the magician on stage – obscuring the background with smoke and mirrors and wielding the magic wand of natural selection – is challenging us, taunting us, with the age-old refrain: “Who are you going to believe?  Me, or your lying eyes?”  The Darwinian story is, at once, a simplistic, naïve childlike tale and at the same time an unparalleled assertion of unmitigated intellectual gall.

Our experience with a mission-critical functional system like a car’s transmission is of course not an isolated incident.  As the examples multiply by orders of magnitude, the disconnect between what we know to be the case in the real world and what we are told is the case in the hypothetical Darwinian world stretches to the intellectual point of breaking.  I use the word deliberately.  Let us be intellectually honest – supporter and skeptic alike – the Darwinian evolutionary world is precisely that: a hypothetical.  Never in more than a century and a half of dedicated toil and searching has a single example been found of a complex functional system arising via a purely natural series of Darwin’s “slight, successive changes.”  Much less the whole of the biosphere.  Might such a complex functional system, built up slowly by slight successive changes, be possible in theory?  Perhaps.  But residing as it does in the obscure recesses of deep time, the existence of such a system always has been, and remains to this day, a hypothetical.

Thus, having as it does no real-world examples and no hard evidence that such systems could actually come about through such a process, the Darwinian creation story relies instead on the listener’s credulity, vague references to unspecified forces, and appeals to deep time to lull the unsuspecting into believing that virtually anything is possible, no matter how contrary to real-world experience, no matter how speculative, no matter how outlandish.

As the mathematically-inclined would point out, this does not yet constitute a formal proof.  But the intellectual unease that should accompany this gaping disconnect between the real world we live in and the hypothetical Darwinian world is itself very real.  The faithful Darwinian might, as many do, repose hope in some future discovery, some as-yet-unidentified principle of nature to bridge the gap.  But those who flatly deny the disconnect or repress the accompanying intellectual unease in a Herculean display of cognitive dissonance find themselves departing ever further from the real world and residing ever more in the hypothetical one.

44 Replies to “Tale of the Transmission

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    Darwinism: n. a quaint 19th century story to which the cultural elite cling with tenacious ferocity lest their materialist worldview be undermined.

  2. 2
    tintinnid says:

    Barry: “Darwinism: n. a quaint 19th century story to which the cultural elite cling with tenacious ferocity lest their materialist worldview be undermined.”

    IDism: n. an ancient story to which the religiously deluded cling with tenacious ferocity lest they be forced to question and undermine their false beliefs.

    Barry, didn’t you recently comment that scoffing is poor argumentation? Or does that only apply for non IDists?

  3. 3
    Peter says:

    Try getting a manual transmission, fewer moving parts, less likely to need repair.

  4. 4
    Querius says:

    tintinnid @ 2

    LOL, except that ID is modern not ancient, is a paradigm not a story, does not require any religious belief, encourages inquiry not tenacious dogmatism, stimulates questioning, and is not paranoid about about overthrowing a 19th century theory that’s outlived its usefulness.

    ID can also be demonstrated to encourage advancement of scientific progress by *assuming* that there’s an underlying reason behind poorly understood biological structures and mechanism rather than *assuming* it’s “junk” left over from evolution and therefore of no interest.

    I abandoned Darwinism not because of religious belief, but because it’s lousy science that’s so general that is can accommodate most any discovery, but rarely predicts anything successfully.

    The question to ask yourself is if you really understand Darwinism, why are you still hanging on to it.


  5. 5
    Querius says:

    Peter @ 3,

    Hopefully, the garage is not employing Darwinist mechanics who will throw out any parts they don’t understand on the assumption that they’re junk, leftovers from the manufacturing and assembly process.

    “What’s this screw?”

    “Oh, don’t worry about it. Just toss it. It’s probably just some leftover part rattling around.”


  6. 6
    Querius says:

    . . . or come up with something like, “Hey this radiator looks like it was put in backwards. I’ll just reinstall it while I’m at it. 😉


  7. 7
    Mung says:

    Eric, I don’t understand why you didn’t just project the new transmission out of the old one.

  8. 8
    tintinnid says:

    “The question to ask yourself is if you really understand Darwinism, why are you still hanging on to it.”

    Who said I was hanging on to Darwinism. I simply think that modern evolutionary theory is the best explanation.

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    8 tintinnid

    Who said I was hanging on to Darwinism. I simply think that modern evolutionary theory is the best explanation.

    Is modern evolutionary theory the same as ‘the third way’?

  10. 10
    Dionisio says:

    8 tintinnid

    How does that ‘best explanation’ read?

    Can you describe it here?

  11. 11
    tintinnid says:

    “Is modern evolutionary theory the same as ‘the third way’?”


  12. 12
    Eric Anderson says:


    Barry, didn’t you recently comment that scoffing is poor argumentation? Or does that only apply for non IDists?

    Your point is well taken.

    However, not excuse anyone’s scoffing, but it does occur to me that perhaps the situation is not quite parallel in this case.

    For starters, on the one hand we have multiple confirmed examples of complex functional machines coming about through design; while on the other hand, we haven’t a single confirmed example of such machines coming about through Darwin’s “slight successive changes.” Furthermore, there are excellent reasons to think that Darwin’s approach simply doesn’t cut it.

    So someone noting that Darwin’s approach is a tall tale based on 1800’s level science, is quite on the money, however offensive it might sound. In contrast saying that design is a tall tale is equivalent to denying what we have learned from science since those 1800’s.

    Finally, your formulation “. . . an ancient story to which the religiously deluded cling . . .” doesn’t quite work as a parallel example in this case. ID is not a religious argument and does not depend on a religious background.

    Nevertheless, thank you for the reminder about scoffing not being an argument. I know I for one, and probably others as well, can use an occasional reminder.

  13. 13
    Eric Anderson says:


    Try getting a manual transmission, fewer moving parts, less likely to need repair.

    Yeah, I took the opportunity of this incident to explain to my son about different transmissions (not that I am any expert, mind you). I learned how to drive a manual transmission back when I was driving trucks for the warehouse I worked at as a teenager. Nevertheless, I’m too lazy to deal with one now on a day-to-day basis, particularly on hills.

    However, my father in law picked up a gorgeous black mustang with manual a few months ago, so the wife and I enjoyed taking that for a spin when we visited over the summer.

    In all seriousness though, the modern automatic transmission is a marvel of engineering. Not perfect by any means, but an incredible example of highly-constrained, complex, functional specificity.

    I am regularly blown away when I look closely at modern technology and see how many principles — and how many background inventions and developments — were required to get to a particular functioning machine. We’ve become numb to it all because we are surrounded by it all the time.

    I sometimes imagine what it would be like to drop through a time portal to, say, even a thousand years ago with some of our current technology. How would the people react? To what extent would they even be able to grasp how the technology works? They could examine it closely and make a handful of spot-on observations, a few educated guesses, and, no doubt, a whole bunch of mistaken guesses. We’re in something of the same boat right now as we try to unravel the workings of the cell.

  14. 14
    Querius says:

    tintinnid @ 8 wrote

    Who said I was hanging on to Darwinism. I simply think that modern evolutionary theory is the best explanation.

    Your reference to “the best explanation” suggests that you made some comparisons between “modern evolutionary theory” and other scientific theories. So in your comparisons, what part of modern evolutionary theory did you find the weakest?


  15. 15
    Dionisio says:

    11 tintinnid

    What’s the difference between modern evolutionary theory and ‘the third way’?

  16. 16
    Joe says:


    I simply think that modern evolutionary theory is the best explanation.

    Please link to this “modern evolutionary theory” so we can see if it is the best explanation. I bet that you can’t…

  17. 17
    Dionisio says:

    11 tintinnid

    Is modern evolutionary theory “the fourth way”?

  18. 18
    Joe says:


    IDism: n. an ancient story to which the religiously deluded cling with tenacious ferocity lest they be forced to question and undermine their false beliefs.

    1- ID is not a story

    2- ID doesn’t have anything to do with religion nor beliefs

    3- ID is based on science

    OTOH Darwinism and evolutionism are not science and are based solely on faith.

  19. 19
    Dionisio says:


    Please, before you answer Joe @ 16, can you comment on my post #10? Thank you.

  20. 20
    Dionisio says:

    Joe asked in post #16 about the same I asked in post #10, but in different formats.
    However, it might be easier for you to provide a link, as per Joe’s request, than to write a brief explanation, as per my request.
    Perhaps in that sense, by answering Joe’s post #16, you would be answering my post #10. Kind of like “two birds one stone” deal? 🙂
    Thank you.

  21. 21
    Dionisio says:

    tintinnid @ 11

    Ok, if ‘modern evolutionary theory’ is not the same as ‘the third way’, then is it ‘the fourth way’? 🙂

  22. 22
    Dionisio says:


    Please, note that the thread about the ‘third way’ is flooded with many references to real research problems serious scientists are working on very hard these days. And that’s only a very small fraction of the growing number of biology-related questions that are published out there in the specialized media.
    Does ‘modern evolutionary theory’ help to resolve those issues and answer the outstanding questions?
    How? Can you elaborate on this?
    Thank you. 🙂

  23. 23
    Dionisio says:


    Regarding ‘modern evolutionary theory’:

    Does it explain the functional specificity of transcriptional repressor checkpoints controlling NSC differentiation programs?

    Does it explain the role of the Dynamic Microtubule Cytoskeleton?

    Does it explain the emerging relationship between 3D genome organization and lineage-specific transcriptional regulation?

    Does it explain how NSC* in vitro models correspond to in vivo brain?
    (*) NSC here stands for Neural Stem Cells

    Does it explain how to use in vitro organotypic models in order to elucidate the complicated cascades of signaling mechanisms that occur in vivo?

    Does it explain the underlying mechanisms of the global programmed switch in neural daughter cell proliferation mode during CNS* development?
    (*) CNS here stands for Central Nervous System

    Want more questions?

    In the ‘third way’ thread there are over 500 references to issues like the above questions.

    Can ‘modern evolutionary theory’ help to resolve at least a few of them?

  24. 24
    Dionisio says:


    You don’t have to answer any posted questions. Remember we also write for the lurkers. 🙂

  25. 25
    Dionisio says:

    12 Eric Anderson

    ID is not a religious argument and does not depend on a religious background.

    Good point. Theologically speaking I’m not on the same page as many friendly folks here. I don’t consider myself an ID proponent, nor a YEC, nor an OEC. I don’t care much about knowing how old this universe or this planet are. I don’t care much about knowing if there are other universes besides this one. I’m not too concerned about FUCA or LUCA or other evolutionary concepts, at least not at this point. Those could be interesting topics sometimes, but just for entertaining curiosity.
    My identity is not in my education, or my profession, or my worldview, or my family, or my ethnicity, or my social status, or my financial situation, or my cultural background, or my titles, or my friends. My identity is simply in Christ.
    That’s what gives me the freedom to say, while smiling, that my ID score is about the same as my age, my reading comprehension level is rather poor, my communication skills are almost nonexistent. The jokes I hear on the weekend finally get to me the following week, only after my wife graciously explains them to me. Basically, I don’t care much about how others look at me. I want to be an ambassador of the King of kings, therefore I want others to look at Him, not at me.
    But going back to your statement quoted above, this site looks like a melting pot of different folks, which basically coincide on one thing: all known evidences point to the presence of functional complex specified purpose-oriented prescriptive information in the biological systems. Now, that’s what attracts me these days.

  26. 26
    logically_speaking says:


    “I simply think that modern evolutionary theory is the best explanation”.

    After you have attempted to reply to everyone else could you please tell me the modern evolutionary theory that explains fingerprints and why you think it is the best explanation.

    Thanks in advance.

  27. 27
    bornagain77 says:

    as to the picture of the “Simple Planetary Gear Assembly” of a automobile transmission,,,

    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.

    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.

    The Flagellar Filament Cap: Up close micro-photograph and animations of cap – Jonathan M. – August 2013
    Excerpt: We are so used to thinking about biological machines at a macroscopic level that it is all too easy to overlook the molecular structure of their individual components. The closer we inspect biochemical systems, such as flagella, the more the elegant design — as well as the magnitude of the challenge to Darwinism — becomes apparent.

    Electron Microscope Photograph of Flagellum Hook-Basal Body

    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. The flagellum exhibits irreducible complexity in spades. In all of our experience of cause-and-effect, we know that phenomena of this kind are uniformly associated with only one type of cause – one category of explanation – and that is intelligent mind. Intelligent design succeeds at precisely the point at which evolutionary explanations break down.

  28. 28
    Eric Anderson says:


    Thanks for the reference! That looks a lot more like a planetary gear assembly than the “simple” flagellum. Remarkable.

  29. 29
    Dionisio says:

    #25 error correction

    ID IQ score…

  30. 30
    Querius says:

    Hmmm. Seems like our tintinnid had a contractile episode into his lorica. Let’s wait and see what happens . . . 😉


  31. 31
    tintinnid says:

    Ah, Querius. I have missed you. It’s nice to see that Wikipedia is still working for you.

    But is it an agglutinated or a hyaline loricate?

  32. 32
    Querius says:

    Yay, he’s back! Now for those questions people have been asking . . . 😉


  33. 33
    Dionisio says:

    32 Querius

    Now for those questions people have been asking . . .

    Please, let’s be patient and wait…

    it takes time to answer some of those questions, doesn’t it?


  34. 34
    Dionisio says:


    Why did you react to Querius’ post #30 but didn’t answer the questions in posts 10, 14-17, 20-23, 26?

    Just curious. 🙂

  35. 35
    Dionisio says:

    Over 250 lurkers in this thread by now…

    Some of them might be wondering why tintinnid is not answering the questions in posts 10, 14-17, 20-23, 26, but reacted to post #30. Hmmm…


  36. 36
    tintinnid says:

    D: “Why did you react to Querius’ post #30 but didn’t answer the questions in posts 10, 14-17, 20-23, 26? Just curious. “

    I just don’t see any point explaining to you what you claim to already understand.

  37. 37
    Joe says:

    Dionisio- tintinnid is a cowardly bloviator who couldn’t support what it posts if it’s life depended on it.

  38. 38
    Dionisio says:

    tintinnid @ 36

    I just don’t see any point explaining to you what you claim to already understand.

    Thank you for showing once more to everyone here, specially the lurkers, that -exactly as KF has warned us several times- you have no interest in discussing anything seriously.
    That’s why your comments are so vague, ambiguous, incoherent, imprecise, senseless and irrelevant. A few folks here seem to use your posts in this site in order to show everybody -specially the lurkers- that you and your comrades are experts on avoiding direct confrontation with real issues, because you lack solid arguments. That’s the reason you did not answer so many questions that several folks asked you in different discussion threads.
    Again, thank you for proving that KF and other friends in this site were right on what they wrote about the tricky slimy tactics you and your fellow comrades use in this site.
    Some of our friends in this site have been gifted with an amazing reservoir of patience, but I definitely wasn’t endowed with such virtue. I can’t go on and on like the Energizer bunny, because I have no time to squander on senseless arguments. I run out of patience very quickly.
    However, I know where to find unlimited amount of patience to discuss any issue with people who want to joint me, so that we both can benefit from our discussion and hence can learn together. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
    Have a good weekend.

  39. 39
    Eric Anderson says:


    I am not acquainted with tintinnid. Some of you apparently are and have had past dealings, which obviously contributes to the sentiments expressed above.

    However, let’s please try to limit the inflammatory language. If tintinnid is unable to support his position as to the specific topic of this thread, I trust that such failure will be apparent to everyone, without the need to revisit whatever unpleasant behavior he may have engaged in in the past.

    Thanks to everyone, of course, for the substantive comments. Just a gentle reminder . . .

  40. 40
    Mapou says:

    Eric #39,

    tintinnid is none other than acatia_bogart. He’s been banned several times by Barry but keeps coming back under new user names. He seems obsessed with only one thing: bashing fundamentalist Christians. I know he lives in the UK and he fancies himself as some kind of evolutionary biologist.

    He’s a distraction and a pain in the rear end. Just keep banning him.

  41. 41
    tintinnid says:

    Louis, I certainly hope that you know more about biology than you know about me. I am not a movie star crustacean, I am not anti Christian, I am not an evolutionary biologist and I don’t live in England. But you are correct that I have been banned under different names and I can be a pain in the ass.

  42. 42
    tintinnid says:

    Eric, I apologize for the language.

  43. 43
    Querius says:

    Yikes! Really, Mapou?

    For a while, a_b was flooding us with posts. I wonder why the obsession, though. Maybe there’s some sort of fatal attraction.

    Or maybe, with a little coaxing, this tintinnid might be willing leave its lorica for a completely unscientific experience . . . the joy and peace of a reconciliation with God of the universe. It’s not hard, but it’s real! 🙂


  44. 44
    Dionisio says:

    Eric Anderson

    Was your post #39 in reference to my post #38?

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