During today’s cross-examination, Eric Rothschild returned to our favorite subjects of bacterial flagellum and irreducible complexity. (This writer vastly prefers them to blood clotting cascades. But, I digress.)
Rothschild introduced an article written by James Curtsinger in the Minnesota Daily (and posted in response to an earlier blog entry).
While you’re at PubMed [Curtsinger writes] try searching for “bacterial flagella secretion.” One of the resulting papers, by SI Aizawa (2001), reports that some nasty bacteria possess a molecular pump, called a type III secretion system, or TTSS, that injects toxins across cell membranes.
Much to Dr. Behe’s distress, the TTSS is a subset of the bacterial flagellum. That’s right, a part of the supposedly irreducible bacterial “outboard motor” has a biological function!
“Did you agree to that?” asked Rothschild. “I don’t recall,” replied Behe, indicating that if TTSS is a subset, bacterial flagella are still irreducibly complex and must be the product of a designer. “When you see a purposeful arrangement of parts,” said Behe, today, “it bespeaks to a designer.”
Rothschild then brought up the gradual process of “slow design,” a subject of Tuesday’s testimony. This, Rothschild shared, “is what I experienced in my kitchen.”
But, seriously folks…
Rothschild continued, “At some time, the bacteria would not have all of these parts. That is a phenomenon of both natural selection and ID, correct?”
Behe disagreed. “Until it has all of its parts, it’s problematic to call it flagellum… No one has said how you could get from TTSS to flagellum. We see nothing that bears on the question of natural selection or random mutation…The crucial question is mechanism.”
“In evolution, the mechanism suggested is natural selection.” Rothschild responded, asking, “What is the mechanism suggested [by] slow design?” According to Behe, “we don’t have a description of the mechanism [in evolutionary theory]. We do in intelligent design.”
Rothschild: “The only way that we know that a designer exists is that objects that are designed exist?” Behe agreed. That seemed good enough for him.
Behe has written in Darwin’s Black Box that there could be both multiple designers and/or competing designers. Rothschild asked today if there have been “any new irreducible complex systems [that have emerged] in the last five…” ten, fifty or 100 years.
Behe: “All studies considered are much older than that.”
Rothschild: We “can’t infer from that that the intelligent designer still exists.”
“Correct,” said Behe
Rothschild: “Is that what you want taught to high school students?”
But, we learned today, Behe has proposed a way to test the theory of irreducible complexity in his article ‘Reply to my Critics,’ published in the November 2001 issue of Biology and Philosophy.
In fact, intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal… In Darwin’s Black Box I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum – or any equally complex system – was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.
Rothschild asked Behe if he could claim that his own theory is “well tested?”
“Yes you can… from the inductive argument. When you see a purposeful arrangement of parts we always see that as designed.”
Yet, Behe proposes a test, which would in his estimation take about 2 years. Has he himself undertaken it? “I was advising people who are skeptical that this is the test…I think I’m persuaded by the evidence.”
In fact, no intelligent design proponent has undertaken it. Presumably, this is because they are also persuaded by “inductive reasoning.” But, here’s the thing with their concept: it starts with a functioning organisms, say a bacterial flagellum and “works backwards by removing parts.” If the precursor is not functional this demonstrates irreducible complexity. But, evolution doesn’t work this way; it starts from the precursor and moves forward. Even Behe admitted – in ‘Reply to My Critics’ and in court – this is a “serious weakness,” a “defect” in the theory. Any immediate plans to repair it? No.
And, yet, when we’re talking evolution, say, of the immune system…
According to Behe “there is no detailed rigorous explanation [explaining that the immune system could] arise from random mutation or natural selection.” So, Rothschild offered Behe 58 articles written over a 20-year period, a half dozen books and several chapters out of immunology texts all addressing this issue.
But, “not only would [Behe] need to see it mutation by mutation…[he] would also want to see relevant information such as population, selective value, detrimental effects…” He described these works as “analogous to the theory of aether…working within the aegis of a theory.”
Like using the terms of the theory to prove the theory? That sounds familiar.
See, Behe studies peer review articles about cells and concludes that they “strongly look like a purposeful arrangement of parts, a hallmark of intelligent design.” But, he “surveys the scientific literature and sees no evidence for a Darwinian explanation.” Of course, “the hypothesis of design is tested differently than Darwinian evolution,” claims Behe. Like… how scientists tested aether?
submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of PA