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Well, this sent the Darwinians scrambling. Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University who argues in favor of Darwinian evolution, made a splash when he announced (and he bolded the language in his article) that “the bacterial flagellum is not irreducibly complex.” Miller cited a cellular structure known as the type III secretory system (TTSS) that allows certain bacteria to inject toxins through the cell walls of their hosts. This “nasty little device,” in Miller’s words, is a feature of several bacteria, including Y. pestis, the bacterium that is responsible for bubonic plague. According to research cited by Miller, the TTSS is made up of several proteins that are “homologous” to a set of proteins from the base of the flagellum. Miller argued that the injector pump is probably an “evolutionary precursor” to the flagellum, and it is fully functional although it has fewer parts. Therefore, “the claim of irreducible complexity has collapsed, and with it any ‘evidence’ that the flagellum was designed.” The “flagellum has been unspun,” Miller concluded.
But there was a little problem with Miller’s declaration of victory. As it turns out, the bubonic plague bacterium already has the full set of genes necessary to make a flagellum. Rather than making a flagellum, Y. pestis uses only part of the genes that are present to manufacture that nasty little injector instead. As pointed out in a recent article by design theorist Stephen Meyer and microbiologist Scott Minnich (an expert on the flagellar system), the gene sequences suggest that “flagellar proteins arose first and those of the pump came later.” If evolution was involved, the pump came from the motor, not the motor from the pump. Also, “the other thirty proteins in the flagellar motor (that are not present in the [pump]), are unique to the motor and are not found in any other living system.” Undirected evolutionary processes do not produce 30 novel proteins, of just the needed kind, to laze around idly in the cell for millennia so that a pump could some day transform itself into a motor. In short, the proteins in the TTSS do not provide a “gradualist” Darwinian pathway to explain the step-by-step evolution of the irreducibly complex flagellar motor. Miller’s spin has been unspun.
Thus, many scientists embracing naturalism find themselves in the seeming dilemma recently articulated by biochemist Franklin Harold: “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity [i.e., Darwinian evolution]; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”
BUT WHY SHOULD SCIENTISTS reject design as a matter of principle? And why should they do so when naturalistic explanations are lacking or deeply flawed, and the evidence of design is becoming more and more compelling?
That’s the question being asked by the intelligent design theorists. William Dembski, whom we met above (the bespectacled guy with the bookcase full of advanced diplomas), has developed powerful arguments based on mathematics and information theory to show that design can be detected scientifically. He also demonstrates that as a matter of principle blind necessity — that is, the laws of nature — cannot produce design of the kind life exhibits. Neither can that kind of design be produced by the interaction of chance and necessity — that is, by the Darwinian principle of random variation filtered through the laws of nature. Only intelligence can produce what Dembski refers to as “complex specified information,” and life exhibits complex specified information (or “specified complexity”) to an extraordinary degree.
It may seem strange, at first blush, to speak of life in terms of “information.” A fascinating part of this debate is that the naturalists do not disagree with the ID theorists in the slightest on this fundamental point. Both sides agree that life exhibits specified complexity, and that information theory is a fruitful and even necessary tool in explaining how life may have developed. But the term “information” is used here in a specially defined way.
For information of that type to be present in an object, Dembski explains, three conditions must be satisfied. These are contingency, complexity, and specification.p>Let’s look at contingency first. In an ordinary sequence of letters typed on a computer keyboard, each “slot” in the sequence can contain any of the 26 letters of the alphabet, as well as numbers, punctuation marks, or other symbols. The symbol that can go in any one slot is therefore “contingent”: it might be A, it might be B, and so forth. But suppose my computer keyboard had only one key, and all I could type was: br> /p>
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAbr> My computer would be incapable of producing contingency. This is rather like the operation of many physical laws in nature. A pattern may be produced, but multiple outcomes are not possible. When molecules arrange themselves in a repeating pattern to form a crystal, that is the necessary result of their physical properties. Different, “contingent” outcomes cannot occur (at least not if the conditions under which the molecules are brought together remain the same). p>Now let’s look at complexity. The sequence of 22 letters: br> /p>
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?