Thursday, October 13, 2005

There We Go

Using facts again...

This is from a story in the Minnesota Daily shooting down Michael Behe, a leading proponent of that Intelligent Design Theory (notable for being neither intelligent nor a theory, in any scientific sense):

While you’re at PubMed, 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!

When I asked Dr. Behe about this at lunch he got a bit testy, but acknowledged that the claim is correct (I have witnesses). He added that the bacterial flagellum is still irreducibly complex in the sense that the subset does not function as a flagellum.

His response might seem like a minor concession, but is very significant. The old meaning of irreducible complexity was, “It doesn’t have any function when a part is removed.” Evidently, the new meaning of irreducible complexity is “It doesn’t have the same function when a part is removed.”

The new definition renders irreducible complexity irrelevant to evolution, because complex adaptations are widely thought to have evolved through natural selection co-opting existing structures for new functions, in opportunistic fashion.

The story is incomplete, but it is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis that the bacterial flagellum evolved first as a secretory system, and later was adapted by natural selection for locomotion.

(Via PZ over at

The whole story is funny and brilliant, but will make, of course, no difference to those who ascribe to creationism or ID, since they have no interest in reality, in facts, in logical argument, or in listening to those of us who live and move in the real world. So who cares, from their point of view, whether we have evidence that evolution is real, that Behe is an idiot and a liar, that ID is a scam? All that matters is whether they can get school boards across the country to accept their lies. All that matters, from their point of view, is whether they can get America to sign onto their shared delusion. Reality? Reality is what they say it is. Facts and empirical evidence have nothing to do with anything.

I miss the Enlightenment.

1 comment:

zelda1 said...

The thing about the believers in ID, you can not reason with them, you can not show them scientific evidence, you can not get them to look at fossils or see the different kinds of humans/apes that have been unearthed. They won't even give in to the age of the earth being older than what they believe the Bible says it to be, so I just figure, go figure. Some people can not believe the easy, they have to believe the mystical, the miraculous, it makes for a better story and gives them hope of everlasting. If not, well, then they just die.