In October 2006, Nick Matzke, a name not unfamiliar to denizens of UD, and Mark Pallen co-authored a review article for Nature Review of Microbiology regarding the status of research into the evolutionary origins of the bacterial flagellum. Matzke and Pallen felt the need to write such an article because since the publication of Michael Behe’s book “Darwin’s Black Box” ten years prior, there had been much hand waving and hand wringing over exactly what is the evolutionary explanation for the seemingly irreducibly complex flagellar system.
Matzke’s first line of attack prior to the ’06 article was to lurk various discussion threads and offer up lists of studies that supposedly provided the very thing that Behe said was nowhere to be found: an explanation for the origin of the bacterial flagellum in Darwinian terms. Matzke’s tactic came to be known as “literature bluffing” because, as it turned out, none of the studies he cited provided the needed explanation. Not that they were irrelevant to understand important aspects of bacteria and flagellums. Its just that the evolutionary model was nowhere to be found in any of those studies.
So it was in ’06 that he and Mark Pallen wrote their review article. Its important to note that this was not a research paper, but merely a review of the then current status of the research. What is really interesting to note about the paper is what is says in the abstract: “We dismiss the need for any great conceptual leaps in creating a model of flagellar evolution and speculate as to how an experimental programme focused on this topic might look.” It is indeed interesting that Matke and Pallen state up front that the paper is a speculation on how an experimental programme focused on the origin of the flagellum might look. Note that there was no review of any actual research study that did any of that. In other words, this was a tacit admission that Behe had been correct all along and no such study existed at the time of writing Darwins Black Box in 1996. If there had been such a study, surely Matke and Pallen would have referenced it in their ’06 review paper. But there was no such reference, not even in a paper written 10 years after Behe’s book was published.
Why do I bring up all this history? Well, it appears this flagellum thing is a horse that Matke just can’t stop riding (or beating to death…take your pick). This article is co-authored with Matt Baker, Ph.D., and is in a science news website, not a peer reviewed journal. It doesn’t get off to a promising start when they write: “Followers of a modern form of creationism known as “intelligent design” argue that this motor is too complex, too incredible, and too efficient to have possibly arisen naturally.” Matzke has been told repeatedly over the past nearly 20 years that ID is not a form of “creationism”. But, he persists in saying so anyways, which immediately makes one wonder about his credibility about the rest.
I won’t go into a lengthy discussion of this latest article. Suffice it to say that in the 13 years since the ’06 review article, apparently there still are no peer reviewed research studies that provide the Darwinian model of how a bacterial flagellum came to be. There’s really nothing to review in this article because there just isn’t anything new here. Its more a bunch of assertions without evidence.
Matzke’s co-author, Baker, had published an earlier paper in 2015 at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. There wasn’t anything new in that paper either as pointed out in a review of it at Discovery Institute. The real take away here, of course, is that 23 years after Behe’s book was published, it is still the case that there simply are no peer reviewed research studies that provide an evolutionary model to explain the origin of the bacterial flagellum. If there was, then all Matke et.al. would have to do is reference all those studies. Yet that remains the one thing missing in all of the articles and comments.
No doubt Matzke will continue to ride this horse…and ride and ride and ride. Happy trails Nick.