Monday, February 05, 2007

Meyer vs. Ward: Part II

More on the debate between Meyer and Ward.

WARD: We’ll forever take it away from you; you’re not allowed to have this stuff. So my point to Steve is what is the predictive power that ID can do; what will predict and what will produce – because what evolutionary theory has done is ended up an enormous number of predictions that have had huge power and have actually had material production. What can ID do along those lines?

MEYER: That’s a great question. Let me give you a couple of examples. Few of you may have grabbed our handout on the way in. You may know there’s an on-going debate about the origins of molecular machines in the cell, the bacterial flagella motor—this little rotary engine that Michael Behe has made famous in his book, Darwin’s Black Box. He’s been critiqued by Ken Miller, a biologist at Brown University; Behe’s at Lehigh. Looks for all the world like a scientific debate. Miller has noted that there’s a little syringe-like pump that has many of the same protein parts that make up a bacterial flagellar motor. Miller argues that that syringe is an ancestral form of the flagellar motor. Behe argues that it’s a degenerative product of the genetic information that made the motor as a whole. Now that’s a chicken or egg question—which came first? And that’s a very testable question: which of those two systems is older? Which is younger? And papers are beginning to come in on this—one by Milton Sayer recently—actually favoring Behe’s position, although somewhat tentatively. My colleague Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, a microbiologist, is doing a number of experiments to test this very thing. We think there’s very strong evidence that the flagellum motor is ancestral—the motor as a whole and the genes that made it are ancestral and that the Type 3 secretory system, as it’s called, is a by-product of that and derivative of that. For one thing the genes for building the Type 3 secretory system occur on little plasmids that are derivative from other genomes. There are several cases of this but it’s all the same conclusion. So very simple—there’s an argument; there’s a critical test: which is younger; which is older? There are numbers of ways to test that—biogenetic studies and so forth. Michael Behe’s ID theory is very testable.

How about that. If the Type 3 secretory system is not ancestral to the flagellum motor then the many arguments against irreducible complexity that hinge on that assumption are invalid. Is this not a clear prediction?

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