Sunday, February 22, 2004

WSJ on ID The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is famously insane, but their news pages are frequently quite good. Have a look at this article from a recent issue, reproduced courtesy of our friends at the creationist website Access Research Network. The author does a good job of explaining, in a limited amount of space, why scientists are hostile to Intelligent-Design theory.

"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.

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