When the news came out that a new boat motor manufacturer was introducing a revolutionary new motor design, boating enthusiasts were ecstatic. The new motor is an unprecedented leap forward in technology. With a new propeller design, the motor is capable of spinning up to 10,000 rpm, almost instantaneously – quickly producing boat speeds that rival their land-bound cousins (the automobile!).
But that’s not all, the motor is capable of stopping in a quarter of a turn and reversing direction, spinning at the same top speed… in reverse.
But wait… there’s more… The “proton motive-force drive system” requires no fuel — it is self-powered by electric current supplied by the voltage difference developed across the motor’s housing. It is efficiently water-cooled (maintaining a low operating temperature) and is actually capable of assembling and repairing itself!
Okay. No such new outboard motor has entered the market to revolutionize boating forever.
But that does not mean that such a motor doesn’t exist.
What I have just described to you is what many scientists have called the “most efficient machine in the universe” – it is the bacterial flagellum.
The flagellum possesses all the capabilities I described in the first few paragraphs – and then some. This amazing piece of “engineering” is more advanced than anything we can possibly manufacture… and it exists in something as utterly insignificant as a bacteria.
The flagellum’s parts list includes an engine, gears, rods, a clutch system, a connecting hook, a “universal” joint, an elongated propeller, and special membranes – all made of living proteins.
But here’s the important thing… all the essential parts of the flagellum (that allow it to do the amazing things it does) MUST work together or the bacteria doesn’t function at all. It cannot survive. Take away any of the parts, or render any of the existing parts non-functional… and the bacteria dies. It’s survival depends on all of its parts working in unison, from the very beginning of its existence.
It was the study of bacterial flagellum (and many other biological cell structures) that led biochemist Michael Behe (see the last two Saturday posts) to introduce the concept of irreducible complexity (more on this topic, next week!).
This term refers to the fact that most biological systems are so complex and so utterly dependent on complex parts, that they could not have evolved by random processes. Unless all the parts were present, and fully formed and functional, the system would be useless – a detriment to the organism, and would be “naturally selected” out of the organism. In short, non-functional systems do not survive – and any parts that do not function properly… lead to the demise of the whole.
Evolution rests on the idea that ALL biological systems form gradually (bit by bit and piece by piece) through the long course of time.
But this is in contradiction to observable science… and to common sense.
When scientists do scientific research on things like the flagellum, they see that all of the parts are working together to make a viable system. Every part functions completely… or nothing (in the whole system) works at all.
We also know this by common sense, as well.
If someone (without your knowledge) disconnects the battery cable on your car – you will try and try, but your car will not start. If the car doesn’t start, your car is, essentially, dead. Note: the battery cable is just one minor piece of the system – and yet it is essential to the proper working of the car. Everything works OR everything doesn’t.
Evolution insists that all the working parts in every biological system formed gradually over immense amounts of time. But how is it possible for these systems to function at all (let alone survive) with partially-formed (or non-working) parts?
Just as your “car system” does not gradually come together through many years, so it is with biological systems. Things made of parts, must have all those parts… and they must all work from the outset.
This is what Michael Behe found in his scientific research. There is no possible way for complex biological systems to “gradually form” their way into existence.
Behe’s discoveries led him to one logical conclusion. Complex systems must have been designed (which precludes a designer!). If they could not have formed gradually, they must have been “engineered” to function from the very beginning. All the parts must have been designed, “manufactured,” and assembled with a specific purpose in mind.
When it comes to all living things… Evolution specifically tells us that there was never a plan or purpose in mind, because there was no mind involved… ever.
Yet, everything we know about functional systems screams design, intelligence, skill, and knowledge… all working together to form someone’s idea and vision into something that works.
If this is true for every mechanical system we know of… why wouldn’t it be true for all the amazing biological systems that exist in this world?