Intelligent Design

Behe’s Mousetrap exists in Nature

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My last post included a reference to one of several carnivorous plants whose traps appear to be irreducibly complex. One reader commented that it seems that Michael Behe’s mousetrap actually exists in Nature, and wondered why Behe didn’t mention this example in Darwin’s Black Box. Another reader explained that Behe is a microbiologist, not a botanist.

However, these spectacular examples of irreducible complexity have not gone completely unnoticed by botanists; see the very interesting section entitled “The origin of carnivorous plants” (pp 5-6) in the Nature Encyclopedia of Life Sciences article here .

20 Replies to “Behe’s Mousetrap exists in Nature

  1. 1
    StuartHarris says:

    Granville,

    Interesting stuff about carnivorous plants, but the irreducible complexity Behe deals with is at the biochemical level rather than the anatomical. Examples of IC at the anatomical level can always be explained away in Darwinian terms because of the layers of structure beneath them.

    Behe’s genius was to go to the basic biochemical level, inside Darwin’s black box, as revealed by modern biology to show structures and systems that could not come about by the Darwinian process. For example, one can come up with many plausible Darwinian explanations for the evolution of the vertebrate eye given the starting point of a light sensitive cell. But, the IC chemical system in such a cell that converts a photon to an electrical current cannot submit to a any Darwinian tale.

  2. 2
    JGuy says:

    In a section of the pdf article lnked to (regarding ‘The origin of carnivorous plants‘):

    Although the carnivorous nature of Roridula sp.,
    Paepalanthus bromelioides and Brocchinia reducta is still
    doubted by some authors, most writers agree that the nine
    fully substantiated families belonging to six different plant
    orders already clearly show that carnivory in plants must
    have arisen several times independently of each other. In a
    scenario of strong convergence based on morphological
    data the pitchers might have arisen seven times separately,
    adhesive traps at least four times, snap traps two times and
    suction traps possibly also two times. Nevertheless, such
    conclusions have been questioned by some authors as perhaps
    ‘more apparent than real’ (Juniper et al., 1989, pp. 4,
    283), discussing the origin of all carnivorous plant families
    from one basic carnivorous stem group (Croizat had already
    dedicated a larger work to this hypothesis in 1960).
    The independent origin of complex synorganized structures,
    which are often anatomically and physiologically
    very similar to each other, appears to be intrinsically unlikely
    to many authors so that they have tried to avoid the
    hypothesis of convergence as far as possible. Yet, molecular
    comparisons have corroborated the independent origin
    of at least five of the carnivorous plant groups.
    However, Dionaea and Aldrovanda, which according to
    most morphological investigations were thought to have
    arisen convergently, are now placed very near each other
    ‘and this pair is sister to Drosera’ (Cameron et al., 2002, p.
    1503). Nevertheless, since none of the genes studied so far is
    known to be expressly involved in structure formation of
    the traps, more information will probably be gained by the
    discovery and comparison of genes directly participating in
    trap formation. Although Cameron et al. approach
    Croizat’s hypothesis mentioned above, there is no question
    that several similar trap devices arose independently of
    each other.

    [emphasis added]

    First, I recently read an evolutionist’s comment regarding Richard Dawkins, regarding the famous ‘pregnant pause’ RD gave when asked for an example of information increasing mutations. He (the evolutionist commenting, stated that the RD being stumped might only be apparent.
    While certainly misunderstandings can occur. It seems a habit of many evolutionist to assume so when confronted with the non-fruit of evolution. My comment was that many evolutionist now seem to be gravitatin towards further use of “-oids” (eg. designoid), in such cases, so I quiped that this was then just an exmple of a Dawkins’ stumpoid.

    Now, the above article segment was just the same when discussing convergence. So, we seem to have a new word in the midsts.. what to call it? Convergenceoid? or more genericly a Realit[y]oid?

    J–

  3. 3
    Jehu says:

    It is very simple. The Venus Fly Trap started as a paper weight. The Venus Paper Weight to be exact. And then it evolved into the Venus Door Jam, and then, via exaptation, it became the Venus Clothes Line Clip, and then finally by a fortuitous event of unknown nature it became the Venus Fly Trap.

    You see evolution is like a third world automechanic, he may not have the right part but he will use whatever works. He will also occasionally stash heroin in your wheel well to get it past customs without your knowledge. And so will carnivorous plants.

  4. 4

    Lönnig & Becker see the canivorous plants traps as “complex synorganized structures”

    Irreducible complexity goes always along with synorganization. But synorganization contains not necessarily IC. It is just a hint towards IC (and by itself a obstacle to darwinian evolution).

    Therefore Lönnig & Becker write:

    “Some biologists believe that the trap mechanism(s) of Utricularia and several other carnivorous plant genera (Dionaea, Aldovanda, Genlisea) come at least very near to ‘such a case’ of irreducible complexity. It is to be hoped that future research will fully clarify these questions.”

  5. 5
    Gareth says:

    Granville,

    Thanks for starting this as a new thread.

    StuartHarris, you wrote:

    “Interesting stuff about carnivorous plants, but the irreducible complexity Behe deals with is at the biochemical level rather than the anatomical. Examples of IC at the anatomical level can always be explained away in Darwinian terms because of the layers of structure beneath them.”

    The way I see it – and I think this follows from the definition of IC that Behe uses, as in “Darwin’s Black Box” – something is either IC or it isn’t. The level of the structure – biochemical, anatomical or otherwise – is not relevant.

    I can understand Behe’s focus on the biochemical, given his background, but IC must apply generally or not at all. If there are some bounds on it then the definition of IC has to change.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    I love this line of reasoning, And now that we do have a better grasp of the molecular underpinnings we can make the case against Neo-Darwinists even more devastating by extrapolating to the Irreducible Complexity (IC) of the whole system as related to their now known molecular limits.
    I like the venus fly trap example yet I believe the orchids offer a even more compelling example of IC and Intelligent Design at the macroscopic level that can be used against Neo-Darwinists.
    There are many species of the orchid, that are designed to be pollinated by a single species of insect. Many people first became aware of the peculiarity of orchid fertilization upon hearing about Darwin’s orchid, (Angraecum Sesquipedale). Upon inspecting the flower with its foot-long nectar spur, Darwin hypothesized the existence of a moth with a foot-long proboscis (nose), to reach the tiny pool of nectar at the bottom of the spur. Darwin’s theory was supposedly given a major boost because of this prediction. Excuse me for being underwhelmed by his prediction. It is exceedingly simple minded to think his well educated prediction validated Darwinism scientifically. It is also simple minded to think that a few al mutations of DNA are to accomplish the exceedingly complex rearrangement of protein molecules, both the flower and the moth have needed for such specialized pollination. As shown repeatedly by simple probability math, such concerted complex rearrangements are beyond the capacity of this universe to generate by . Many such oddities are found in orchids. If we were to examine a orchid bloom, we would notice that the pollen is not a dustlike coating of grains on the male part of the flower as is common in flowers such as daises. Instead, orchid pollen is clumped together in pollinia. An insect visiting an orchid bloom removes the entire clump all at once and then deposits this mass on the female part of the bloom (stigma). Thus, orchid pollination is a one-time event, with each bloom capable of fertilizing only one other flower. As such pollination of orchids has become a bizarre area of investigation. Affixing the pollen on a pollinator is too important to trust to casual visitation. Some of the ways the orchid achieves pollination are just plain weird. Some species of orchids are pollinated by flies or beetles attracted to the gross smells of rotting meat or dung that these orchids give off (these orchids are not recommended for valentine’s day). Other weird examples of orchid pollination can only be accomplished by a single species of insect. Some examples are found in such genera as Caledenia, Cryptostylis and Spiculaea. These orchids exude scents and have lips that have a uncanny resemblance to a particular species of female wasps or bees. In the case of the genus Drakaea, which has a hinged lip, the male wasp is literally flung bodily against the orchids ual parts as he tries to fly off with what he thinks is a female wasp. When he tries the same thing on another flower he is flung again, completing the pollination. Hopefully this repeated abuse by the orchid doesn’t discourage him from trying to find a real mate. In the genus Catasetum, a scent is generated that attracts the male bee of the species Euglossine. The scent is like cologne for the bee, making him more attractive to female bees. As he is busy scratching around, picking this scent up dabbing it on his neck and ears, he sets off a trigger in the orchid. This causes the pollinia to hit him with such force that it ejects him completely out of the flower with the pollinia glued to his head or back (not a particularly good look for him on his anticipated date with a female bee). These are but a few examples of Intelligent Design found in orchids. So yes this is a very interesting line of research, I believe Many books could be written describing such integrated and fascinating relationships found in nature.

  7. 7
    rrf says:

    BA77, is this one of those things that you said theism correctly predicted, but science did not? For the life of me, I can’t remember that list.

  8. 8
    Joseph says:

    Stuart Harris said:
    For example, one can come up with many plausible Darwinian explanations for the evolution of the vertebrate eye given the starting point of a light sensitive cell.

    Can that same person verify that explanation with actual scientific data? No.

    Does anyone even know what gene or genes is responsible for the vision system? No.

    And just because Behe deals with the biochemical level that does not mean that IC is restricted to that level. Behe’s usage of a standard mousetrap illustrates that point.

  9. 9
    kairos says:

    Granville,

    One reader commented that it seems that Michael Behe’s mousetrap actually exists in Nature, and wondered why Behe didn’t mention this example in Darwin’s Black Box.

    But Behe did for example cite the bombardier beetle as an example of IC system. I think we cannot charge him not to have cited more and more examples

  10. 10
    Gareth says:

    Kairos, you wrote:

    “But Behe did for example cite the bombardier beetle as an example of IC system. I think we cannot charge him not to have cited more and more examples”

    Not so much charging him as raising an example (perhaps the single best example?) in nature that is most closely analogous to the mousetrap structure that he used to illustrate IC. It seems sensible to use the Venus fly-trap to take the concept further and into the realm of nature.

  11. 11
    Borne says:

    SH: “one can come up with many plausible Darwinian explanations for the evolution of the vertebrate eye given the starting point of a light sensitive cell”

    Plausible? The world has yet to see one such explanation. Every one we’ve ever seen has been ludicrously oversimplified. They all quickly and quite naively pass over by leaps and bounds – by mere assumptions – 1000s upon 1000s of intermediate mutational steps.

    One of them (by Ma’ayan Semo) that I read was literally hilarious. The conclusions being :”The eye came first. In a fairly real sense, the brain is an outgrowth of the eye“.

    He also states: “To begin with the overall structural morphology of extant image forming eyes can be compared, as to similarities in design and development patterns

    Poor photon catch and poor photon catch are limitations to this design. But it is still a common design utilised by many diurnal insects [as if they just picked out one over the other on their own – borne]
    Their basic design is very similar but their development …
    There are 9 different optical principles that have been used in the design of eyes and all 9 are represented more than once in the animal kingdom…
    And besides, early life would have run out of organic molecules if it didn’t learn to make its own with photosynthesis…
    We can also assume that something like Vitamin A was around ”
    emphasis mine

    This Phd has eyes sitting like a tumor on some unknown organism with no brain to interpret the light passing through the proverbial “spot”

    Just look at the use of design terminology! And even the cognitive word learn! So life learned!??!

    Only a Darwinist could believe such nonsensical fairy tales with as evidence his own imagination – for there is no other evidence.

    The more I study the human eye, the harder it is to believe that it evolved. Most people see the miracle of sight. I see a miracle of complexity on viewing things at 100,000 times magnification. It is the perfection of this complexity that causes me to baulk at evolutionary theory.

    The retina is probably the most complicated tissue in the whole body. Millions of nerve cells interconnect in a fantastic number of ways to form a miniature ‘brain’. Much of what the photoreceptors ‘see’ is interpreted and processed by the retina long before it enters the brain

    .
    – Dr. George Marshall, University of Glasgow

    When the light photon first hits the retina, it interacts with the molecule “11-cis-retinal”. As the photon is absorbed, the 11-cis-retinal molecule goes from an elbow-type position to a straight position.

    In a complicated series of reactions, 11-cis-retinal is bound to the protein “rhodopsin” (RH). The change in the shape of the retinal forces changes in the shape of the rhodopsin (RH). This provides the rhodopsin with the ability to interact with the protein “transducin” (T). This interaction creates a situation in which a small organic molecule “GDP” falls off the transducin and is replaced by another molecule “GTP.” The complex of T and GTP has the ability to interact with “phosphodiesterase”, whose shape is changed by the interaction, causing a “cutting” of the molecule “cyclicGMP (cGMP), turning cGMP into 5-prime-GMP (5′-GMP).

    Some of the cGMP interacts with a protein “ion channel” to allow sodium ions from the outside into the inside of the cell. The ion channel closes down, the sodium concentration changes, and this changes the voltage across the membrane, causing a current to be sent down the optical nerve to the brain to be interpreted.

    In short, this is a much-oversimplified explanation of the “simple light-sensitive spot” of Darwin. Darwin persuaded much of the world that a modern eye evolved gradually from a simpler structure, but he did not even try to explain where his starting point for the simple light sensitive spot came from.

    http://www.arn.org/docs/mm/vidgraphics.htm
    http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/m.....mistry.htm

    The eyes still have it.

  12. 12
    russ says:

    It seems sensible to use the Venus fly-trap to take the concept further and into the realm of nature.

    If I remember the story correctly, Behe got interested in the Bacterial Flagellum because despite the fact that a lot of research had already been done, none of the literature offered any plausible explanation for the flagellum’s evolution. The BF was simple/basic enough and well studied enough to thwart attempts at “NDE-of-the-gaps” arguments. That is, it is harder to argue that “we just don’t know enough about the BF, but when we do, it will all fall into place”.

  13. 13
    Doublee66 says:

    StuartHarris says:
    “For example, one can come up with many plausible Darwinian explanations for the evolution of the vertebrate eye given the starting point of a light sensitive cell.”

    As an engineer (and obviously not a biologist), I find these statements greatly oversimplified.

    It seems to me that the task at hand is not to explain the evolution of the eye, but to explain the evolution of the visual system. After all, what good is 100% of an eye. A perfect vertebrate eye is no more useful than a television camera. Both need lots of other “stuff” to be useful.

    The eye needs to be nourished, therefore it needs new blood vessels. It needs to be put somewhere, therefore it needs an eye socket and associatied support structures including muscles. It needs to send an image to something that can interpret that image: a brain and nerve pathways. And the brain must know how to interpret that image so that the organism can respond appropriately.

    Then the eye and its associated systems must be constructed. Construction involves both parts and process. How does the construction plan evolve? Where is this information stored? How is the construction plan executed? Where are the process instructions stored? How are the process instructions executed? Parts must arrive at the right place at the right time.

    If all these things must be in place to a have a fully functioning visual system, is not the visual system irreducibly complex? Along with bornagain77, I would hope to see the concept of irreducible complexiity extended to the macroscopic level.

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    rff you stated:
    BA77, is this one of those things that you said theism correctly predicted, but science did not? For
    the life of me, I can’t remember that list.
    rrf, I didn’t list this particular attribute of Theism in the list yet it would be a good addition. How do you think you would go about wording it properly?…

    By the way here is the rest of the list…

    1. Materialism did not predict the big bang. Yet Theism always said the universe was created.

    2. Materialism did not predict a sub-atomic (quantum) world that blatantly defies our concepts of time and space. Yet Theism always said the universe is the craftsmanship of God who is not limited by time or space.

    3. Materialism did not predict the fact that time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light, as revealed by Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Yet Theism always said that God exists in a timeless eternity.

    4. Materialism did not predict the stunning precision for the underlying universal constants for the universe, found in the Anthropic Principle, which allows life as we know it to be possible. Yet Theism always said God laid the foundation of the universe, so the stunning, unchanging, clockwork precision found for the various universal constants is not at all unexpected for Theism.

    5. Materialism predicted that complex life in this universe should be fairly common. Yet statistical analysis of the many required parameters that enable complex life to be possible on earth reveals that the earth is extremely unique in its ability to support complex life in this universe. Theism would have expected the earth to be extremely unique in this universe in its ability to support complex life.

    6. Materialism did not predict the fact that the DNA code is, according to Bill Gates, far, far more advanced than any computer code ever written by man. Yet Theism would have naturally expected this level of complexity in the DNA code.

    7. Materialism presumed a extremely beneficial and flexible mutation rate for DNA, which is not the case at all. Yet Theism would have naturally presumed such a high if not, what most likely is, complete negative mutation rate to an organism’s DNA.

    8. Materialism presumed a very simple first life form. Yet the simplest life ever found on Earth is, according to Geneticist Michael Denton PhD., far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. Yet Theism would have naturally expected this level of complexity for the “simplest” life on earth.

    9. Materialism predicted that it took a very long time for life to develop on earth. Yet we find evidence for “complex” photo-synthetic life in the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth (Minik T. Rosing and Robert Frei, “U-Rich Archaean Sea-Floor Sediments from Greenland—Indications of >3700 Ma Oxygenic Photosynthesis”, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 6907 (2003): 1-8) Theism would have naturally expected this sudden appearance of life on earth.

    10. Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life to be self-evident in the fossil record. The Cambrian Explosion, by itself, destroys this myth. Yet Theism would have naturally expected such sudden appearance of the many different and completely unique fossils in the Cambrian explosion.

    11. Materialism predicted that there should be numerous transitional fossils found in the fossil record. Yet fossils are characterized by sudden appearance in the fossil record and overall stability as long as they stay in the fossil record. There is not one clear example of unambiguous transition between major species out of millions of collected fossils. Theism would have naturally expected fossils to suddenly appear in the fossil record with stability afterwards as well as no evidence of transmutation into radically new forms.

  15. 15

    […] Behe’s Mousetrap exists in Nature My last post included a reference to one of several carnivorous plants whose traps appear to be irreducibly complex. One reader commented that it seems that Michael Behe’s mousetrap actually exists in Nature, and wondered why Behe didn’t mention this example in Darwin’s Black Box. Another reader explained that Behe is a microbiologist, not a botanist. […]

  16. 16
    GilDodgen says:

    Michael Denton has described life as “wheels of complexity within wheels of complexity.” That is, it’s irreducible complexity all the way down. The universe itself, at the highest level, appears to be irreducibly complex: change one of the laws of physics or one of the constants, and the entire process derails in such a way that life is not possible.

  17. 17
    Granville Sewell says:

    In case anyone missed the significance of the “convergence” discussed by JGuy above (comment #2): there are many known cases of similar structures that have arisen independently in different branches of the evolutionary “tree”. If you look, for example, at the evolution of MS Windows and Unix operating systems you will find many cases of “convergence”, where similar new features appear in both systems; this is obviously further evidence of design rather than randomness (in this case, different designers are involved, with communication between them; in other cases the same designer adds similar new features independently to different products). Of course, anyone who could believe either OS were the result of selection of random errors is not going to have any trouble believing these convergent features are also randomly produced, but there are also rational biologists who look at such cases and see the problem.

  18. 18
    Joseph says:

    In comment #8 I asked (and answered):

    Does anyone even know what gene or genes is responsible for the vision system? No.

    Hermagoras, an English Prof. banned from UD, answered on my blog:

    Just FYI, because I can’t comment at UD: Comprehensive Set Of Vision Genes Discovered: Identification Could Help In Diagnosing And Treating Blinding Diseases. This article (six years old) begins, “Harvard Medical School researchers have discovered nearly all the genes responsible for vision, which could help in diagnosing and treating blinding diseases.”

    See the full article here.

    The article doesn’t even address the question I asked. Now we know why hermagoras is banned from UD- stupidity just gunks up the blog.

  19. 19
    Gareth says:

    Gil, you wrote:

    “Michael Denton has described life as “wheels of complexity within wheels of complexity.” That is, it’s irreducible complexity all the way down.”

    You have elegantly captured the gist of what I was trying to say. The point about IC is not some “God of the Gaps” argument – according to the definition Behe uses, all of life is IC. The conclusion is, it’s either evolution or its IC.

    If that isn’t the case then the definition of IC needs to be changed.

  20. 20
    Gareth says:

    Further to my above posting, I noted the following comment from a recent article by Jonathan Wells on the CS website:

    “I encountered similar logic a few years ago in a conversation with an old friend, a Darwinist now teaching at a university. He had just returned from the Galápagos, and he told me the standard story of Darwin’s finches. I pointed out that much of what he had just told me was false, and that in any case Darwinian evolution didn’t explain the origin of the finches in the first place. “But it had to be evolution,’ he said, “there’s no other possible explanation.” “Sure there is,” I said, “finches could be designed.” He replied: “But if there’s design there must be a Designer, and we know there isn’t. So it had to be evolution.” Whatever this is, it’s not science.”

    It looks as if this comment suppoprts my view above – i.e. it’s either Darwinian evolution or it’s IC. Or the definition of IC has to change.

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