Biochemists Study Focuses On Attacking Intelligent Design

What appears to be a growing concern, “intelligent design” we now have scientists conducting studies in order to try and disprove a principle known as “irreducible complexity” which became more mainstream for detecting thought behind a creation rather than a mindless process. It’s not the only thing used for such detection, but one aspect of it.

Evolutionists have used a formula for explaining specialized complexities in nature. This is known as the “preadaptation” explanation. In this particular study lead by a team of researchers from Australia’s Monash University, they used a transporter system in mitochondria and argued that components were available elsewhere, thus it was a mindless process which supposedly created the complex structure. The paper mentioned intelligent design in a negative sense and claim this research proved that nature can go from “irreducibly” to “reducibly” complex.

Keep in mind, Michael Behe of Lehigh University did not use this transporter system as an example for “irreducible complexity.” Did intelligent design proponents respond to this research directed at them? Yes, they did, but PNAS refused to print Michael Behe letter to them and others. So not only PNAS refuses to include evidence against evolution but letters as well.

Here is what Michael Behe stated in response to the research…

Recently a paper appeared online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled “The reducible complexity of a mitochondrial molecular machine” (http://tinyurl.com/mhoh7w). As you might expect, I was very interested in reading what the authors had to say. Unfortunately, as is all too common on this topic, the claims made in the paper far surpassed the data, and distinctions between such basic ideas as “reducible” versus “irreducible” and “Darwinian” versus “non-Darwinian” were pretty much ignored.

To the Editor

Reducible versus irreducible systems and Darwinian versus non-Darwinian processes

The recent paper by Clements et al (1) illustrates the need for more care to avoid non sequiturs in evolutionary narratives. The authors intend to show that Darwinian processes can account for a reducibly complex molecular machine. Yet, even if successful, that would not show that such processes could account for irreducibly complex machines, which Clements et al (1) cite as the chief difficulty for Darwinism raised by intelligent design proponents like myself. Irreducibly complex molecular systems, such as the bacterial flagellum or intracellular transport system, plainly cannot sustain their primary function if a critical mechanical part is removed. (2-4) Like a mousetrap without a spring, they would be broken.

Here the authors first postulate (they do not demonstrate) an amino acid transporter that fortuitously also transports proteins inefficiently. (1) They subsequently attempt to show how the efficiency might be improved. A scenario for increasing the efficiency of a pre-existing, reducible function, however, says little about developing a novel, irreducible function.

Even as evidence for the applicability of Darwinian processes just to reducibly complex molecular machines, the data are greatly overinterpreted. A Darwinian pathway is not merely one that proceeds by “numerous, successive, slight modifications” (1) but, crucially, one where mutations are random with respect to any goal, including the future development of the organism. If some mutations arise non-randomly, the process is simply not Darwinian. Yet the authors say nothing about random mutation. Their chief data are sequence similarities between bacterial and mitochondrial proteins.

However, the presumably homologous proteins have different functions, and bind non-homologous proteins. What is the likelihood that, say, a Tim44-like precursor would forsake its complex of bacterial proteins to join a complex of other proteins? Is such an event reasonably likely or prohibitively improbable? Clements et al (1) do not provide even crude estimates, let alone rigorous calculations or experiments, and thus provide no support for a formally Darwinian process. Their only relevant data in this regard is their demonstration that a singly-mutated bacterial TimB can substitute for Tim14 in mitochondrial transport. While that is certainly an interesting result, rescuing a pre-existing, functioning system in the laboratory is not at all the same thing as building a novel system step-by-random-step in nature.

Biologists have long been wary of attempts to fill in our lack of knowledge of the history of life with imaginative reconstructions that go far beyond the evidence. As I have discussed (5), extensive laboratory evolution studies over decades offer little support for the plausibility of such felicitous scenarios as Clements et al (1) propose. The authors may well be overlooking formidable difficulties that nature itself would encounter.

How they could come up with calculations on something they never observed is beyond me. For example, nothing was shown in this study a component,  the Tim44-like precursor would move out of one complex protein then go into another complex protein. They just assumed it would, because it’s there and similar. This is hardly evidence!

Some have said, this was a misunderstanding of  the nature of “irreducible complexity” used by evolutionists. I think not, it’s more trying to fit the data into their one and only framework, evolution while trying to make an emotional connection  rather than a practical connection to those whom they are trying to reassure or sway.

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10 thoughts on “Biochemists Study Focuses On Attacking Intelligent Design

  1. Michael: “What appears to be a growing concern, “intelligent design” we now have scientists conducting studies in order to try and disprove a principle known as “irreducible complexity….”

    Don’t pat yourself on the back. The reference to irreducible complexity seems to have been a gratuitous insult in passing. It does seem to have achieved that purpose.[1] Unfortunately, the popular press picked up on the sassy title, and had their own horselaugh, with malice aforethought.

    I have not been able to get a copy of the entire Clements et al. article. Unlike creationists, I try to avoid commenting based upon on second- and third-hand sources.

    ==============
    [1] The Discovery Institute blew a poppet valve, firing off a 10-page fit of apoplexy: “PNAS Authors Resort to Teleological Language in Failed Attempt to Explain Evolution of Irreducible Complexity”. Answers in Genesis belched forth one of their longer news reports; “News to Note,” Sept. 5, 2009 (item 5). Michael Behe rose up in arms to the editors of PNAS. Even the benighted me-too blogs brought up the rear, more than two weeks later: “Biochemists Study Focuses On Attacking Intelligent Design” (Sept. 15).

  2. ” … a principle known as “irreducible complexity” …”

    Oh come on … this has been killed off pretty convincingly quite a while ago … are you still going on about this ?

  3. FOSSIL ALERT

    A dinosaur has been found with the body features of a T. Rex, but many times smaller, and about 50 million years earlier.[1] This was completely unexpected by fusty old mainstream paleontologists, who had thought that these features had evolved in response to larger body size. Wrong again. All of evolution thrown into doubt by one unexpected result.[2]

    Hop on it, Michael! You may even cite your favorite second-hand source, Science Daily.[3] We’ll be waiting.

    =======
    [1] Sereno et al., “Tyrannosaurid Skeletal designs First Evolved at Small Body Sizem,” Science 9/17/09.

    [2] See “An Orangutan Messes Up The Evolutionary Tree,” Aug. 15, 2009.

    [3] Sept. 17, 2009, at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090917144115.htm Don’t believe them when they say it was probably a direct ancestor of T. Rex. Probably not. Besides, paleontologists don’t have chains of “begats” to prove these things.

  4. Eelco: “Oh come on … this has been killed off pretty convincingly quite a while ago … are you still going on about this ?”

    This concept is still a mainstay of intelligent-design liturgy. Aided and abetted by the problem that both creationists and scientists use the term in two different ways. Under one definition, it’a false. Under the other one, it can be true but is irrelevant.

    Lengthy but boring exposition on IC to follow, if I get a round tuit.

  5. Eelco,

    Do you really believe ID proponents have claimed that a machine must have been designed merely because it has parts? I hope not because that is like saying Michael Behe doesn’t believe in common decent, when he fact he does! What they actually claim is that an imaginary, not-yet-complete machine has no function, and is thus invisible to natural selection which makes impossible to evolve. If it does not work, it confers no advantage, and there is therefore no occasion for its selection.

    Now I ask where is the paper or papers you claim that proves natural selection can still select something that is invisible? Also, where is the paper that proves the bacterial flagellum which IDers proposed as evidence is not “irreducibly complex?” The funny part often times overlooked by your camp, this ID proposal can be tested by science, right or wrong, it’s still science. Just like you like to believe in evolutionary ‘theories’ change because science changes, you still believe it’s still science.

  6. @Michael” “What they actually claim is that an imaginary, not-yet-complete machine has no function, and is thus invisible to natural selection which makes impossible to evolve. If it does not work, it confers no advantage, and there is therefore no occasion for its selection.

    Michael, yopu need to get the definition of “irreducible complexity” correct before you start discussing it.

  7. @Michael: “The funny part often times overlooked by your camp, this ID proposal can be tested by science, right or wrong, it’s still science.”

    OK, I call you on that. Outline a series of experiments to test intelligent design.[1] These experiments must produce results that constitute positive evidence of design that flow from its definition, and at the same time are inconsistent with evolution.[2]

    Failure to respond will be be taken as an admission that intelligent design cannot be demonstrated or falsified by scientific methods. We’re all getting very tired of hearing people say this without producing any evidence whatever that it is true.

    ================
    [1] Just so we’re talking about the same thing, here’s the Disco Tutes’ definition of ID, from their website:

    “The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” From http://www.intelligentdesign.org/whatisid.php)

    [2] Again so we’re on the same page, let’s define evolution as common ancestry of living organisms. If you would prefer a narrower definition, you might use Darwin’s formulation of heritable variation, overfecundity, and selection. (Although today’s research does admit of several non-selective effects, such as neutral drift, DNA methylation, etc.)

  8. Wow Michael, you are replying ! You are usually just posting using material from other sources (do you get paid for that ?), without even bothering to take it seriously.

    “this ID proposal can be tested by science, right or wrong, it’s still science.”
    Sure, this idea could be tested by science. And it has. Did you bother looking up the result of that ? You could start here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html

    Or: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB200.html

    For the flagella: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB200_1.html
    Please note that these webpages DO contain referenences that you should look up.

  9. Eelco: “Sure, this idea could be tested by science. And it has. ”

    Take another look at the definition of ID above.

    “Certain features” of the universe & living organizsms are designed. Tell me how you would determine which specific ones are designed? Untestable.

    “Are best explained” by design. Tell me what criteria determine which is the “best” explanation. Untestable.

    “An intelligent cause.” What criteria are necessary for intelligence?[1] Untestable.

    “An undirected process” Tell how one would show that _no_ such process, now known or later discovered, could possibly be adequate. Untestable.

    What outcome of what experiments would demonstrate or falsify each of those statements? I maintain that intelligent design, as defined, is untestable.

    ==================
    [1] Under Dembski’s original definition, natural selection qualifies as “intelligent.

    [2] Natural selection is “directed” by the environment.

  10. @Olorin:
    Hmm .. fair point ! At first glance it all sounds testable, but you are right, on close inspection the definitions (if they exist) are sufficiently vague that falsification becomes impossible.

    Thanks for making me look more closely at this.

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