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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Monday, February 24, 2003


Flailing flagella
Via Steve Verdon comes Brown University biology professor Kenneth Miller's debunking of the irreducable complexity of the flagella, which intelligent design proponents have used since Michael Behe's book Darwin's Black Box. Or so he says, anyway.
While Verdon is distinctly "not a fan" of the idea of Intelligent Design, and Miller is very clear that he is not, either, I feel that I come at this from a neutral position. I don't know much about the theological underpinnings of either of them--nor all that much about those of Verdun and Dembski--but I'm guessing that I come at this from a more neutral position than any of them. I have no philosphical qualms with intelligent design, 7-day creation, or just good old fashioned theistic evolution, which, I think, gives me at least more of an open mind, if not more knowledge.
Miller claims that the flagella is not irreducably complex because of the existence of the Type III Secretory System (TTSS), which virulent bacteria utilize to transfer protein toxins into their hosts. The TTSS is homologous to the system of the flagella, but simpler. Supposedly, because what is essentially a small portion of the flagella has proved to carry out an important function, this proves that the flagella is no irreducibly complex. But there seems to me, in my limited knowledge, to be a problem with this thesis. From what Miller has said, the TTSS doesn't appear to have any function if there is no host to transfer toxins to... and if there's going to be a host, then flagella must have already evolved, as anything that is going to host bacteria is necessarily going to have a flagella or two. So, obviously the flagella could not have developed from the TTSS, but rather, the other way around. As I see it, a huge problem still remains for evolution, whether you call it irreducible complexity or not.
I also take issue with the combative tone that Miller takes. Admittedly, most creationists--and, for all I know, most intelligent design proponents--take a fairly combative stance as well. But that just means I don't take them as seriously as they'd like, either. The idea behind all of this is that we should all, together, be looking for truth, not bashing each other's heads in with insults like "clamorous and dissapointing double failures."

Agree, disagree, have more information on the topic? Please, feel free to leave a comment. No profanity!

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