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Re: Wall Street Journal: Evolution Critics Are Under Fire For Flaws in 'Intelligent Design'

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  • Stephen E. Jones
    Group Here is an article in The Wall Street Journal on alleged Flaws in Intelligent Design , namely possible precursors to the bacterial flagellum in the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 16, 2004
      Group

      Here is an article in The Wall Street Journal on alleged "Flaws in
      'Intelligent Design', namely possible precursors to the bacterial flagellum in
      the bacterial "type III secretory system":

      "But a funny thing happened when biologists started scrutinizing
      structures said to be irreducibly complex. Take the flagellum. It
      turns out that its base -- which Darwin's foes assert has no stand-
      alone function -- is made of the same necklace of proteins that
      compose a kind of syringe used by primitive microbes. Called the
      type III secretory system, this microsyringe enables a bacterium to
      inject a toxin into its victim (this is how bubonic-plague bacteria
      kill). This component of the flagellum, then, could have been
      hanging around a very long time, conferring benefits on any
      organism that had it, ready to combine with other structures (which
      also perform functions in primitive living things) into a full-blown,
      functional flagellum. "As an icon of antievolution, the flagellum has
      fallen," says Prof. Miller, a practicing Catholic. "If bits and pieces
      of a machine are useful for different functions, it means that natural
      selection could indeed produce elements of a biochemical machine
      for different purposes."

      Of course ID theorists are well aware of this type III secretory system
      counter claim by Darwinist Ken Miller (see his "The Flagellum Unspun:
      The Collapse of "Irreducible Complexity"
      http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/design2/article.html). But
      Dembski has pointed out "What's needed is a complete evolutionary path
      and not merely a possible oasis along the way", for "To claim otherwise is
      like saying we can travel by foot from Los Angeles to Tokyo because we've
      discovered the Hawaiian Islands" (see tagline).

      I will be posting a response by Dembski, which hopefully will be printed in the
      WSJ, in my next message.

      However, I personally simply don't have time to debate ID anymore (I am
      concentrating on my book "Problems of Evolution"
      http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/pe00cont.html) and I restart university
      next week, but other members might like to debate it.

      I will however probably use the bacterial flagellum and Darwinists'
      inadequate response to it as evidence *against* evolution, when I get to it
      at PE 8.3 "Cell & Molecular ... Molecular machinery: Evolution has no
      adequate explanation of the origin of molecular machinery"
      (http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/pe08cl&m.html#cl&mmlcrmchnry).

      Steve


      ==========================================================================
      http://online.wsj.com/article_email/0,,SB107656106762928092-IFjg4Nglah3nJyvZ3uHbqiHm4,00.html

      The Wall Street Journal

      February 13, 2004

      SCIENCE JOURNAL By SHARON BEGLEY

      [...]

      Evolution Critics Are Under Fire For Flaws in 'Intelligent Design'

      Even before Darwin, critics attacked the idea of biological evolution with
      one or another version of, "Evolve this!"

      Whether they invoked a human, an eye, or the whip-like flagella that propel
      bacteria and sperm, the contention that natural processes of mutation and
      natural selection cannot explain the complexity of living things has been
      alive and well for 200 years.

      Biologists used to just roll their eyes (and sometimes descend to name-
      calling) at all this. More recently, they've been joining with First
      Amendment groups to oppose moves to water down the teaching of
      evolution in classrooms.

      But now they are firing back with science. Their target: a line of attack that
      has promised over the past decade to "smash through the overwhelming
      weight of scientific evidence to bring Darwin to the canvas once and for
      all," as cell biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University, Providence, R.I.,
      puts it.

      The latest flaps are over Georgia's proposal (withdrawn last week) to
      eliminate the word "evolution" from science classes, and a Missouri bill
      requiring that biology curricula include a creationism off-shoot called
      "intelligent design."

      [...]

      This new antievolution argument evolved (no irony intended) from the
      belief that living things are so complex they only could have been designed
      by an intelligent being.

      For years, intelligent-design theory had been bogged down in what one wag
      calls "the argument from personal incredulity" ("I can't see how natural
      forces could produce this, so it must be the work of God"). Darwin's new
      foes, however, are smart enough to realize that just because most of us can't
      imagine how the sun can burn so hot for so long, it doesn't follow that God,
      not nuclear fusion, keeps the fires stoked.

      In 1996, biochemist Michael Behe of Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa.,
      therefore offered a stronger argument against evolution. Complex living
      structures, he argued in his book "Darwin's Black Box," possess
      "irreducible complexity." That is, they can't function until all their
      components are assembled, much as a mousetrap isn't much good until the
      base, spring, bar and all the rest are connected.

      Moreover, the individual parts of complex structures supposedly serve no
      function. Because evolution selects only the fittest innovations, useless
      ones vanish. The odds against a bunch of useless parts lying around at the
      same time and coming together by chance are astronomical, mathematician
      and evolution-critic William Dembski of Baylor University correctly notes.

      But a funny thing happened when biologists started scrutinizing structures
      said to be irreducibly complex. Take the flagellum. It turns out that its base
      -- which Darwin's foes assert has no stand-alone function -- is made of the
      same necklace of proteins that compose a kind of syringe used by primitive
      microbes.

      Called the type III secretory system, this microsyringe enables a bacterium
      to inject a toxin into its victim (this is how bubonic-plague bacteria kill).
      This component of the flagellum, then, could have been hanging around a
      very long time, conferring benefits on any organism that had it, ready to
      combine with other structures (which also perform functions in primitive
      living things) into a full-blown, functional flagellum.

      "As an icon of antievolution, the flagellum has fallen," says Prof. Miller, a
      practicing Catholic. "If bits and pieces of a machine are useful for different
      functions, it means that natural selection could indeed produce elements of
      a biochemical machine for different purposes."

      It's like discovering the mousetrap bar was a fine toothpick long before it
      got together with the other parts to kill rodents.

      Components of other irreducibly complex structures and systems, it turns
      out, have functions, too. Humans, for instance, have a complex multipart
      biomachine that plays a key role in how cells produce energy.

      Irreducibly complex? Maybe not. Two of the six proteins that make up the
      proton pump that produces energy are dead ringers for those in ancient
      bacteria. Evolution could have co-opted them when it was putting together
      the more complicated biochemical processes inside animals, including
      people.

      Biologists have pinpointed the origins of only a few of the complex
      structures in humans and other higher organisms. Even in these cases, Prof.
      Behe argues, they have not explained, step by step, how simple systems
      could evolve into complex ones. But with discoveries like the microsyringe,
      Darwinians have cast serious doubt on the claim that it is impossible for
      evolution to shape any complex system.

      In one of those strange-bedfellows moments, theologians are joining
      biologists in criticizing intelligent design. Biologist and Anglican priest
      Arthur Peacocke, for instance, argues that evolution is God's way of
      creating. George Coyne -- astronomer, Jesuit and director of the Vatican
      Observatory -- goes further. Invoking God to explain what we can't
      otherwise account for, he says, is "a kind of idolatry," because true faith
      should come from within and not because we can't fully explain the natural
      world.

      The evolution wars show no sign of ending, but maybe they are starting to
      generate a little light as well as much heat.

      [...]

      Updated February 13, 2004

      Copyright 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

      [...]
      ==========================================================================

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      "In line with the previous concern, Van Till offers the type III secretory
      system as a possible precursor to the bacterial flagellum. This ignores that
      the current evidence points to the type III system as evolving from the
      flagellum and not vice versa (cf. Milt Saier's recent work at UCSD). But
      beyond that, finding a component of a functional system that performs
      some other function is hardly an argument for the original system evolving
      from that other system. One might just as well say that because the motor in
      a motorcycle can be used as a blender, therefore the motor evolved into the
      motorcycle. Perhaps, but not without intelligent design. Even if it could be
      shown that the type III system predated the flagellum (contrary to Milt
      Saier's work), it could at best represent one possible step in the indirect
      Darwinian evolution of the bacterial flagellum. But that still wouldn't
      constitute a solution to the evolution of the bacterial flagellum. What's
      needed is a complete evolutionary path and not merely a possible oasis
      along the way. To claim otherwise is like saying we can travel by foot from
      Los Angeles to Tokyo because we've discovered the Hawaiian Islands.
      Evolutionary biology needs to do better than that." (Dembski W.A.,
      "Naturalism's Argument from Invincible Ignorance: A Response to Howard
      Van Till," Design Inference Website, September 2002.
      http//www.designinference.com/documents/2002.09.Van_Till_Response.htm)
      Stephen E. Jones http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones
      Moderator: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreationEvolutionDesign
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