Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

“Another two-fingered salute to the opponents of evolution”

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New Scientist February 16, 2008 Dan Jones Pg. 40-43 heavily edited. Full text here.

“William Paley, who argued that the natural world is full of designed complexity which must have a creator, would have considered the bacterial flagellum an excellent example. The flagellum, with its intricate arrangement of interconnecting parts, looks no less designed than a watch.

Modern biology, of course, has no need for omniscient designers. Evolution – Richard Dawkins’s blind watchmaker – is all that is needed to explain the origin of complexity in nature.

The bacterial flagellum has become a focal point in science’s ongoing struggle against unreason.

The study of complex molecular systems has been given added impetus by the ID movement. ID claims that such systems cannot be explained by the stepwise process of natural selection.

The bacterial flagellum is a prime example of a complex molecular system – an intricate nanomachine beyond the craft of any human engineer.

Until recently biologists all too often fell back on the assertion that “bacterial flagella evolved and that is that”.

In the 1990s, microbiologists discovered “type III secretion systems”. Variants of seven T3SS proteins are found in the flagellum, strong evidence that the two systems evolved from a common ancestor. “The most parsimonious explanation is that the T3SS arose later.

Bacterial flagella are all built to roughly the same specifications, additional strong evidence that the flagellum evolved, as it is exactly what you would expect to see if today’s flagella had diversified from a common ancestor.

Why would an intelligent designer go to all the trouble of reinventing the flagellum over and over and reinventing the basic design twice more in the other two domains of life?

All bacterial flagella have much in common – exactly what you would expect if they shared a common ancestor. 23 of the proteins present in all, are required for a fully functional flagellum. Homology provides incontrovertible evidence that bacterial flagella are cobbled together from recycled components of other systems through gene duplication and diversification.

The scientific imperative is not to reconstruct the entire process but simply to prove that the evolution of the flagellum is plausible using well-established natural processes.”

Comments
alan, Well said. Search and you will find.Mapou
February 26, 2008
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glennj - "How on earth can anyone think that they would know what a Creator would or would not do?" Is it such a radical idea to you that God did actually reveal enough about this for one to think they do know? Those who take so little time and attitude towards this end will of course be left in a materialistic black hole resulting in the inability to see how anyone could think they know. IF you want to know start with an attitude towards the Creator if you can or are willing to ask for it and then start studying, perhaps with prophecy just to scratch the surface - the knowledge IS there. In answer to your question - because one can know the Creator. - TOO radical?alan
February 26, 2008
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Panda's thumb the discussion on Flagellum evolution in New Scientist is running on 272 comments! Most not worth the effort.DLH
February 25, 2008
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StephenB, Thank you for trying to understand my Quest. I have written a long post trying to summarize my thoughts and am well aware that something could come along and make it all meaningless. I have no hard data that 99.99% of the life forms on the planet arrived by naturalistic means but I use this number or any other really high number to make a point. The point is that most of the so called species in the world are probably not unique and nearly all are descended from some gene pool long ago and because of this, their genomes are very similar within their own taxonomic families. When J. B. S. Haldane, a British geneticist, was asked what his studies of nature revealed about God, he replied, “An inordinate fondness for beetles”. There are according to Wikipedia, 350,000 species of beetles. Now I am willing to bet that many of these can inner breed either naturally or artificially so the number of species is probably a lot less. Also for those who cannot inner breed, there are probably small genetic differences between them. So that once a gene pool for beetles was established way back a long time ago, most of the subsequent beetle species appeared through naturalistic means. It would be interesting to see just how much difference there is between each species. With this large number there is probably some very large differences between some. If so then the Darwinists should be all over it but if there are not any real differences, then maybe all these beetle species just evolved through normal Darwinian processes. They just are the result of reshuffling of the original gene pool caused by the environmental circumstances with occasional trivial mutations over time. You could go through each major animal group and do the same. My guess each is descended some gene pool through typical Darwinian processes. So cats, canines, cichlids, birds, etc are really just descended from a more expansive gene pool from several million years ago and represent a narrowing of these gene pools as time goes on. If this is true, then all this represent just the opposite of what Darwin predicted and evolution is getting narrower and not more expansive. In other words the evolution is top down and not bottom up as predicted by Darwin. If that is so, then research which confirmed that would be devastating to Darwinism. ID has nothing to fear from such a process and it would ironic if ID produced the research, maybe using the science community's own data. Then the question becomes, where did the gene pools come from? That is where design comes in. ID would postulate an intelligence for the origin of the gene pool but once the gene pool is established natural processes do the refinement to produce the richness of life we see today on the planet. There would be some interesting results. Did humming birds and penguins come from the same gene pool or was it split by some event to be determined by other types of research. All this came from a comment Behe made when discussing his book on a tv show. A guy named Jason Rosenhouse was mocking Behe's reply on the show when the moderator asked what would be good ID research. Behe replied that the type of research done by Lenski at Michigan State with bacteria is good ID research. Rosenhouse thought Behe was being an ass but the real ass was Rosenhouse who did not see Behe's point. What Behe was saying is that any research that examines large numbers of reproductive events will show what the edge of evolution is. If trillions of reproductions of bacteria don't produce any novelty or complexity then that supports a limited edge of evolution and consequently ID's conclusion that some features essential to life are beyond naturalistic methods. Now single celled organisms are one thing but what if the same thing could be done for multi-celled organisms. These organisms will never produce the number of reproductive events in a laboratory setting that would be meaningful. But they over several million years have had the requisite number of reproductions in the wild. If in this time there was no novelty or complexity separating members of the same family then one could come to the conclusion that these trillions of reproductive events also did not produce any novelty and again the edge of evolution has not been breeched. If this is true then Darwinian processes will be eviscerated as a process that produces anything of consequence in evolutionary history. It is just a process that constantly narrows the gene pool. This is a very useful process as it allow organisms to adapt to new environments and avoid extinction. The only exceptions to the winnowing of the gene pool will be the occasional mutation that provides some trivial difference and occasional benefits. This is a huge undertaking and the investigation of the gene pools of species, genera and families are not likely to happen for several years. But there are people who are doing some of it today and that is why I say ID research is being done in the labs but it is not identified as such. Eventually the data could be used to support or falsify this understanding of species origins. If it shows complexity or novelty formation, then ID will have to accept that but my bet is that the edge of evolution will hold up. Sorry for the long post but feel to criticize any of it if you ever got this far.jerry
February 25, 2008
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bFast, I believe Dembski is a Baptist. He also does not accept universal common descent. TO BE HONEST. It is difficult to pin down what he he really thinks. HMMM.. maybe you should be an Anglican.PannenbergOmega
February 25, 2008
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Dembskian ID at present is focused on identifying evidence of intelligent agents, and then on a theory of ID to better describe and predict nature along the lines of reverse engineering design etc. Means are assumed sufficient to achieve the evidence without requiring that we understand that. See ID Assumptions 4.1
The means of implementing the design, may not be known. Some means or equivalent means and parameters might be inferred based on detectable evidence from the current state of the design, or through communication from the designer or from the designer’s acquaintances. These factors are not necessary to detecting the occurrence of intelligent design. They may not be necessary to infer equivalent principles used in the intelligent design, or to reproducing those designs. E.g., Archeology may identify antiquities such as the pyramids or Damascus steel, without knowing how those objects were originally constructed.
For those concerned that this can not be explained by the four laws of physics, may I suggest that they consider cosmological inflation or explain how gravity works, or how a Big Bang overcame gravity, or formed the four forces etc. There is alot we do not know, yet we can still apply what we do. We now have an avalanche of data coming on biological systems. The major scientific challenge now is not so much to discover the laws of nature, but to to provide explanations for Complex Specified Information, both embedded in the universe (anthropic principle) and that exhibited in the incredibly complex machinery of the cell and biological systems with complex body systems. We are in the midst f the 2nd scientific revolution.DLH
February 25, 2008
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Jerry: OK, fair enough. Now that we have fine-tuned our perspective, I do agree with you. It is my perception that most on this site would challenge your notion that modern evolutionary theory can explain over 99.9% of the life dynamic. Indeed, my guess is that you are in a very small minority. My perception is that Michael Behe would put the number at about 50%, and even that is a little beyond my comfort zone. That said, I think I can now more fully understand your frustrations. You probably feel like a “voice crying out in the wilderness.” I have been in that very same situation, and I know what it is like. Indeed, I spend a lot of time swimming upstream against the wave of public opinion, knowing that about all I can do is plant small seeds and hope that the culture will reap a harvest at some later date. With regard to MET and its capacities, you may be right. If so, you will be vindicated. If not, your knowledge base, which is already impressive, will expand even further. Either way, you win. The people I feel sorry for are the ones who are afraid to put it on the line. We all think we know what is best for ID and how to advance the cause, but the truth is, none of us really knows for sure. The past does not equal the future; liabilities can become assets; forecasts usually turn out to be wrong. There are lots of intramural conflicts that must be worked through, and that is exactly what we are doing. Our job is to express our concerns, stay true to our convictions, and admit our mistakes. Inasmuch as you qualify on all three counts, you are certainly doing you job.StephenB
February 25, 2008
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PannenbergOmega, thanks for the compliment. I have fundimentally less expertise than some around here do, but I do try to be an honest thinker. Yes I am Christian. However, I am convinced that truth is truth, that one truth cannot trump another. When I first encountered old earth theory, I figured it was the ticket, but I cannot attest to it any more. I have had to come to a softer view of Biblical interpretation than the evangelical community aspouses to. Even then I find significant tension between what the scientific evidence shows and what I understand from the Bible. I have not rectified this conflict by any means. I hold, however, that truth is truth, and Biblical interpretation may not trump scientific discovery. I know that Catholic theology (Behe) holds a much softer understanding of the Bible than the evangelical community does. The Catholic understanding seems to be that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is a documentation of man working out their theology. As such, it has rough edges. My understanding is that Dembski has suggested that it is as easy to believe that man was created De Nuvo, than it is to believe that he evolved. I also know that he has written on the topic of evil prior to man. I think he would like to hold to a more literal view of the Bible than Behe does.bFast
February 25, 2008
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Now Dr. Dembski and Dr. Behe are conventional Christians, but I wouldn't call them 'old earthers'. They seem to espouse something different. Obviously something more complicated and esoteric.PannenbergOmega
February 25, 2008
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Hi bFast. Good to meet you. I've frequented this blog for over a year now, and I have always found your comments informative. I appreciate that. Just out of curiosity, are you a Christian?PannenbergOmega
February 25, 2008
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sparc said: "You skipped the conclusion of the article: ... Evolutionary biologists have put their house in order. It’s time for their opponents to do the same." Evolutionary biologists "put their house in order" by firing anyone who disagrees.prhean
February 25, 2008
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I said "We know that tigers and lions look very different and becase of that they cannot be separate species but they are the same species" in my previous post and the word "separate" to "same."jerry
February 25, 2008
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Dembskian writes:
As far as I’m concerned, Universal Common Descent is incompatible with Christianity. Thanks for your input though.
A#1, so what. ID is as the ID community bills it, not a religious perspective. In other words, whether the evidence leads to a position that is compatible with Christianity or not is disconsidered. 2B, In what way is universal common descent incompatible with Christianity. If we begin with a "the Bible is the Word of God inerrant" view of the Bible, we have two options: Young Earth Creationists insist that the earth was of Biblical necessity created about 6000 years ago. The old earth community would consider that the "day" of Genesis is either not a literal day, or at least is not a day from the earth's perspective. However, old earth theology still holds to a literal Adam about 6000 years ago, and a flood that annihilated all but 7 humans. From what I see, the old earth interpretaion is compatible with universal common descent. However, the old earth view still has a few major issues with the scientific evidence: humans not existing prior to 6000 years ago, a flood that brought man's population down to 7, languages coming into sudden existance at Babel, and the Biblical suggestion of people living a really long time. If you reject the "Bible is the word of God" position, then Christianity is by all means compatible with universal common descent. Thirdly, please revist A#1.bFast
February 25, 2008
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StephenB, Expand your categories to 2a It does nearly all things and 2b it does a few things and I doubt few will be in 2a which is where I believe the evidence overwhelmingly points. I used the the number 90+% at first and that drew opposition and then I upped it on purppose to a more reasonable 99.99% which is also probably low. However, these number are so uncomfortable for people here and they don't have to be because they support ID. If the people here are in 2a then why the constant bickering over neo Darwinism or the shots at rv + ns or chance worshipers. Why not the move by most to distinguish between the two as I have been doing. As an example, look at gpuccio's reaction to my posts the other day. He is one of the best informed people here on science. He came up with all sorts of objections to my claims that were not accurate such that tigers and lions were separate species when they can be bred quite easily in captivity. Look at the objections by some to the definition I propose which is not mine but the accepted one in science. It is simple, concrete, robust in the sense that it can handle any case imagineable but it drew ire. Look at your own reactions to my posts when I tried to explain the objections you had about how could something be designed and proceed according to MET at the same time. Joseph's phrase "Designed to evolve" says the same thing I had been trying to say. I have said several times that the MET is great design and that ID subsumes MET. But I have never accepted that it can create complexity or novelty so I am not accepting the BWT or any form of Darwinism that espouses such ideas. We know that tigers and lions look very different and becase of that they cannot be separate species but they are the same specie. Look at Denyse's confusion over the Beefalo when this is easily explained by MET/MTE. Similarly dogs and wolves and I bet all sorts of fish and birds. All intuitively not obvious even to the science community and to us. What are the implications of such facts? They are explained by MET/MTE. And they are devestating to the Darwinists. How, because they extend Behe's Edge of Evolution to multi-celled animals which if his findings for single celled organism are also true it would t hen destroy the BWT because all Darwin saw was devolution from a common gene pool and not creating new novelty and complexity. They won't give up fighting but the path is there. What would the Darwinist do if all they have is the obvious and it the result of ID research.jerry
February 25, 2008
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—– Dembskian writes, "As far as I’m concerned, Universal Common Descent is incompatible with Christianity. Thanks for your input though." Is there any evidence against UCD? Or is UCD pretty rock solid?PannenbergOmega
February 25, 2008
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-----Jerry writes, "I have been trying to convince people here of this concept for a couple years and it generally falls on deaf ears. There seems to be an attitude of any acceptance of rv + ns, even limited, is caving in to the Darwinist and thus evil." Jerry, there seem to be three things one can say about RV+NS. [1] The process can do everything, [2] it can some things [3] it can do nothing. My experience on this blog leads me to conclude that almost everyone here falls into category #[2] What I understand you to be saying is that there are many here who accept category #[3]. Since we had this discussion a few days ago, I can't find a single example of this happening. Am I missing something? -or - Have I framed the issue unfairly?StephenB
February 25, 2008
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Joseph, As far as I'm concerned, Universal Common Descent is incompatible with Christianity. Thanks for your input though.Dembskian
February 25, 2008
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DLH, If "the Christian God might use teleological organizing principles to implement his designs" how are they implemented? Is this beyond our ability as human beings to understand?Dembskian
February 25, 2008
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Joseph & Jerry 31-32 ID holds that somewhere Complex Specified Information (CSI) is introduced into the system in ways which cannot be explained by stochastic processes and natural law. i.e., "frontloading" with DNA and functional self reproducing cells, or equivalent saltational steps, AND/OR into "evolution" in ways that are NOT caused by random processes or natural law without the introduction of the specified information in self replicating cells or changes such changes to them. Kenneth Miller's efforts to claim life by evolution without active involvement by an intelligent agent(s) in one and/or the other of these steps are just feel good sophistry.DLH
February 25, 2008
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"God wouldn’t work entirely through evolution." Dembski has written that "I’ve also written elsewhere that the Christian God might use teleological organizing principles to implement his designs (e.g., that God does not need to specifically toggle the bacterial flagellum)." What's the difference? These 'teological organizing principles' could have been there since the Big Bang. The Creator is the cause of all causes.Dembskian
February 25, 2008
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Larry Fafarman, You could write a hundred page article on how this article distorts the ID position and how many times it begs the question on something. It assumes so many things and after these assumptions, it then proceeds to make wild speculations on these unsupported assumptions. Is this good science? Hardly, but it standard fare in evolutionary biology. Don't you think that these are weaknesses of gradualism?jerry
February 25, 2008
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A lot of people express shock that evolution is still being debated "in this day and age." And a lot of people claim that current critics of evolution are just recycling "creationist" arguments that were "refuted a long time ago." But a lot of the information in the debate over the alleged irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum is of recent origin. The article says,
“If you go back just six or seven years, the function of many of the components of the bacterial flagellum were unknown,” says Kenneth Miller, a biochemist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “It’s very difficult to work out the evolution of a complex system when you don’t understand how the system works.” In the absence of this knowledge, biologists all too often fell back on the assertion that “bacterial flagella evolved and that is that”, according to Mark Pallen, a microbiologist at the University of Birmingham in the UK.
The real "science-stoppers" are those who think that old ideas that have supposedly been "refuted" should not be reconsidered in the light of new information and/or new arguments. Also, as I have pointed out before, a lot of people have the mistaken idea that intelligent design is the only scientific (or pseudoscientific, to some) criticism of evolution theory. The problem of co-evolution of total co-dependence of two different kinds of organisms -- e.g., bees and flowering plants -- is an example of a non-ID weakness of evolution theory. In such co-evolution, unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., water, land, and air, there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism is likely to be locally absent.Larry Fafarman
February 25, 2008
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Joseph, you said "Or designed to evolve. ID is not anti-evolution. Rather ID could be considered to be anti-blind watchmaker-type processes having sole dominion over the evolutionary process." I have been trying to convince people here of this concept for a couple years and it generally falls on deaf ears. There seems to be an attitude of any acceptance of rv + ns, even limited, is caving in to the Darwinist and thus evil.jerry
February 25, 2008
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Quite right. Which also applies, of course, to the claim that God wouldn’t work entirely through evolution.-larrynormanfan
That scenario negates the random muation part of RM & NS.Joseph
February 25, 2008
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But the Bacterial Flagellum didn’t evolve. It was designed.-Dembskian
Or designed to evolve. ID is not anti-evolution. Rather ID could be considered to be anti-blind watchmaker-type processes having sole dominion over the evolutionary process. See SciAm's Feb 2003 article "Evolving Inventions".Joseph
February 25, 2008
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Instead of two fingers, Jason, I'll give you two thumbs up. The "It'll work, just trust me, I'm a true believer" scenario doesn't cut it. If it can't be shown then it's hypothetical. It can't be set in stone. Jerry, we Aussies have become so Americanised that when we hear or see fanny, etc., depending on the person saying it and the inappropriateness of the occasion, we now only smirk. The one great universal change, though, is those small devices used to carry your camera, passports, whatevers - 'fanny packs' - we have, without encouragement, changed the name to 'bum bags'. 'nuff said. I feel like a beer ... now what choice, eh Jason?AussieID
February 24, 2008
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Jason, I wonder what the Brits, Aussies and Kiwis thought about the movie that launched Barbara Streisand. It was Funny Girl and about the life of Fanny Brice. There is also an old rock and roll song called "Short Fat Fannie." You don't see the name much any more in the US but it was a popular nick name for Frances a couple generations ago. It was apparently a popular British name at one time which is probably how it got to the US.jerry
February 24, 2008
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"I told her if she didn’t be have I would spank her on her “fanny.”" Whoops ! I always chuckle when I hear americans say they fell on their fanny. :O But then again Australians often feel like a XXXX (four X) after a days work. Which is a local brand of beer, but i'm led to believe is a brand of condom in some places. It added a whole different connotation to a series of TV ads the company used to have, the slogan being, "I can feel a XXXX coming on" !Jason Rennie
February 24, 2008
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Jerry Thanks for the cautions on "fanny". One of the best (and very short) books I have read on cross cultural communications is: Doing business in Australia, Japan and the South Pacific, by Bill McCabe, 1991 ISBN: 0731802314.DLH
February 24, 2008
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"The scientific imperative is not to reconstruct the entire process but simply to prove that the evolution of the flagellum is plausible using well-established natural processes." I wish I could get away with this sort of handwaving and half assedness in my job. Sure would make things easier. Yeah sure this design of mine for this software system plausibly works. Details ? Bah, i've demonstrated that it might plausibly work in some hypothetical make believe land. We don't need to stinking evidence or details.Jason Rennie
February 24, 2008
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