Sub-cellular ID Spin

| 31 Comments
In the past, I have made the claim in public talks that ID could theoretically turn itself into a valid scientific endevour. At The ID Report, Denyse O'Leary (journalist, post-Darwinist, and fan of the fun boys at Telic Thoughts) feels that ID is already there. Writing of Well's recent Rivista di Biologia paper (see here for some comments), she notes:
Wells makes clear in the paper that his assumptions are based on the thesis that the centriole is a designed object, like a machine, and should be studied as one.
(As an aside, it is probably more true that his thesis is based on the assumption that the centriole is a "designed object".)

Over at Stranger Fruit, I examine Wells' theory in light of design.

31 Comments

Those predictions don’t follow from the assumption of (intelligent) design though. Rather they follow from particular guesses of how it works, regardless of whether it was designed or evolved.

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I’m no scientist; my background is theology. But if the best testable hypothesis of ID to date is a design implicated in cancer (from the ID Report post: “If the hypothesis presented here withstands these and other experimental tests, then it may contribute to a better understanding not only of cell division, but also of cancer.”), then the most basic inference I can make is that whatever else the designer might be, he/she/it is a lousy engineer–inadvertantly designing cancer along with normal cell growth–or a psychopath.

Assuming that Wells is playing to the ID audience, it’s all just a rehash of “a tornado blowing through a junkyard won’t produce a 747”. They “know” that the centriole must have been designed (after all, it can be called a “machine” and we know how machines arise, don’t we?) precisely because they “know” that something like it couldn’t evolve. So Wells’ “prediction” for a designed centriole simply is a prediction regarding centrioles, because that is what designed objects are capable of doing, as opposed to evolved objects–in their unimaginative minds.

It’s all about the “assumptions that we begin with”, though Wells isn’t going to say so in this case. He doesn’t credit evolution as being able to produce a centriole, so it is superfluous in his view (or stance) to distinguish between an evolved centriole and a designed centriole. Of course I’m stating the obvious, but it seems worth bringing up the whole ID canard that assumptions are what create the predictions in the first place, since this is definitely true of the IDists (it’s true for “evolutionists” too, if one calls sound theories assumptions (as one may), but these “assumptions” are not equal epistemologically).

And of course Wells can’t even begin to address even a hypothetical evolved centriole because the evidence to distinguish between evolved and designed centrioles is all in favor of evolution. The direct evidence is all in the genome, where there is nothing at all to distinguish between centriole genes and the genes that IDists admit have evolved to at least some degree. The only possible distinguishing evidence is thrown out in the beginning and our position is labeled as merely an assumption, so that Wells can pretend that his assumption is equal to the evolutionary evidence. Wells doesn’t bring up any characteristics that might distinguish between evolution and ID because they already do exist and they falsify his hypothesis.

Again, the obvious, but it seems well to say it once more.

SEF has already stated succinctly why Johnny Wells is a dissembling flyweight.

When Johnny Wells writes

Instead of viewing centrioles through the spectacles of molecular reductionism and neo-Darwinism, this hypothesis assumes that they are holistically designed to be turbines.

Guess what Johnny? Other scientists have assumed for the purposes of generating hypotheses and designing experiments that certain sub-cellular organelles and protein complexes functioned as machines.

Both DNA and RNA Polymerases have been analogized to machines at least 20 years ago by none other than Bruce Alberts who likely (and correctly) considers Wells to be a deluded religious nutcase. See, e.g., Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 1984;49:1-12, “The DNA enzymology of protein machines.”

But sincere scientists (i.e., scientists who don’t take money from the Discovery Institute for Rube Propogation) don’t analogize proteins to machines because many machines are “designed”. They analogize proteins to machines because they want to understand how the various parts of the proteins interact with each other to enable the proteins to perform their ascribed cellular functions (note: ascribed by humans).

This research continues today, without any need to invoke “intelligent design”. Of course, as any moron can see in three seconds, even Johnny Wells need not have invoked “intelligent design” to conduct his experiments or generate his hypotheses about the function of centrioles. Johnny does so because he can’t help himself. Johnny might as well simply include at the beginning of his article one of the hundreds of bigoted statements which have fallen from the lips of his mentor, Rev. Moon. Such statements are exactly equivalent in value, scientifically speaking, to Johnny’s statements regarding the “holistic design” of centrioles.

Here’s an interesting paper that is the first cite which appears in a PubMed search for polymerase machines.

JH Marden J Exp Biol. 2005 May 1;208(Pt 9):1653-64.

Biological and engineered motors are surprisingly similar in their adherence to two or possibly three fundamental regimes for the mass scaling of maximum force output (F(max)). One scaling regime (Group 1: myosin, kinesin, dynein and RNA polymerase molecules; muscle cells; whole muscles; winches; linear actuators) comprises motors that create slow translational motion with force outputs limited by the axial stress capacity of the motor, which results in F(max) scaling as motor mass(0.67) (M(0.67)). Another scaling regime (Group 2: flying birds, bats and insects; swimming fish; running animals; piston engines; electric motors; jets) comprises motors that cycle rapidly, with significant internal and external accelerations, and for whom inertia and fatigue life appear to be important constraints. The scaling of inertial loads and fatigue life both appear to enforce F(max) scaling as M(1.0) in these motors. Despite great differences in materials and mechanisms, the mass specific F(max) of Group 2 motors clusters tightly around a mean of 57 N kg(-1), a region of specific force loading where there appears to be a common transition from high- to low-cycle fatigue. For motors subject to multi-axial stresses, the steepness of the load-life curve in the neighborhood of 50-100 N kg(-1) may overwhelm other material and mechanistic factors, thereby homogenizing the mass specific F(max) of grossly dissimilar animals and machines. Rockets scale with Group 1 motors but for different mechanistic reasons; they are free from fatigue constraints and their thrust is determined by mass flow rates that depend on cross sectional area of the exit nozzle. There is possibly a third scaling regime of F(max) for small motors (bacterial and spermatazoan flagella; a protozoan spring) where viscosity dominates over inertia. Data for force output of viscous regime motors are scarce, but the few data available suggest a gradually increasing scaling slope that converges with the Group 2 scaling relationship at a Reynolds number of about 10(2). The Group 1 and Group 2 scaling relationships intersect at a motor mass of 4400 kg, which restricts the force output and design of Group 2 motors greater than this mass. Above 4400 kg, all motors are limited by stress and have F(max) that scales as M(0.67); this results in a gradual decline in mass specific F(max) at motor mass greater than 4400 kg. Because of declining mass specific F(max), there is little or no potential for biological or engineered motors or rockets larger than those already in use.

I invite Johnny Wells to visit this site and rebut my comments (and those of others) which demonstrate that the meritless unscientific nature of his “holistically designed” garbage.

My experience with cowards like Wells suggests that he won’t dare to do so. His name can be added to the list of cowards whose existence refute Casey Luskin’s empty claims that ID apologists seek to “interact” with or otherwise engage “Darwinists.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing.

“Holistic” vs. “Reductionist”?

Gimme a break.

The reason biologists (and other scientists) lean on “reductionism” is that breaks problems into bite-size chunks. It’s a lot easier to ask

“what is the association constant for hemoglobin-O2?”

than

“what is the complete list of molecules with which hemoglobin interacts, and the list of molecules that interact with them and what are the association constants for each of those interactions, and how do they vary with pH and CO2 tension and…

Oh sure, it would be nice to be able to have the Big Picture, but we didn’t need crackpot theobiologists to tell us that.

Do the theobiologists imagine that evolution postulates individual components (whether genes or organisms) evolve “reductionistically”? That will come as news to the evolutionary science community. Memo to Jonny: systems of components evolve… you might say “holistically”.

Obviously they’re just trying to lay claim to certain possibilities in the name of ID. So if any of them come true, they can declare success.

They of course fail, because there aren’t any ID principles from which to derive predictions.

This ID strategy immediately reminded me of the example from Philip Kitcher’s “Believing Where we Cannot Prove,” of a spiritual teacher trying to pass off some wacky philosophical tripe as scientifically valid:

(He replies) “I believe that if quietness is wholeness in the center of stillness, then flowers will bloom in the spring, bees gather pollen, and blinkered defenders of so-called science raise futile objections to the world’s spiritual benefactors…Perhaps when you see how my central message yields so much evident truth, you will recognize the wealth of evidence behind my claim.”

In the past, I have made the claim in public talks that ID could theoretically turn itself into a valid scientific endevour. At The ID Report, Denyse O’Leary (journalist, post-Darwinist, and fan of the fun boys at Telic Thoughts) feels that ID is already there. Writing of Well’s recent Rivista di Biologia paper (see here for some comments), she notes:

Wells makes clear in the paper that his assumptions are based on the thesis that the centriole is a designed object, like a machine, and should be studied as one.

So Wells’ “scientific theory of ID” is to, uh, assume that this or that thing was designed.

Gee, thanks, Mr Wells. That certainly is helpful.

Assuming that Wells is playing to the ID audience, it’s all just a rehash of “a tornado blowing through a junkyard won’t produce a 747”. They “know” that the centriole must have been designed (after all, it can be called a “machine” and we know how machines arise, don’t we?) precisely because they “know” that something like it couldn’t evolve.

Indeed, ID is nothing more than ICR creation “science” dressed up nice and pretty.

If Wells *really* had a scientific theory of ID, he would be able to tell us:

(1) what the designer did to produce a centriole, specifically (2) what mechanisms the designer used to do whatever the heck Wells thinkis it did, and (3) where we can see such mechanisms in operation today.

But Wells can answer none of those questions. He has no scientific theory of ID. And neither does anyone else.

ID is, as Wells makes so crushingly apparent, the *assumption* of design – and a *religious* assumption, at that. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Well’s experiment presents an intriguing situation: he is using the hypothesis that the centriole is designed to then ask the question, why was it designed? Supposing a function, he then puts it to a test.

Meanwhile it seems that according to evolution, the centriole “just happened.” I don’t see how the evolutionist position is superior.

Why not give credit where credit is due?

“Why not give credit where credit is due?”

*sound of hair ripping out*

gaaah! why are there so many idiots who refuse to even look at the dozens of years and hundreds of published articles on this subject in the literature?

why do folks like blastfromthepast assume that well’s “experiment” (which really isn’t even an experiment in science, but rather in obfuscation), is the only “science” ever done on the subject?

they come in here, over and over, loudly proclaim their total ignorance without even knowing it apparently, and wonder why we so roundly criticize them.

here is your answer blast:

WELLS DESERVES NO SCIENTIFIC CREDIT, BECAUSE HE DIDN’T DO ANY SCIENCE!!!

In fact, he only deserves derision, because he is deliberately misrepreseting himself as having done legitimate research on the issue to begin with.

got nothing to do with religion. get your facts straight, and then go tell two friends, would ya?

my sarcasm meter just registered.

point stands, regardless.

“Well’s experiment presents an intriguing situation: he is using the hypothesis that the centriole is designed to then ask the question, why was it designed?”

How does one answer that question within a scientific framework? Wells certainly doesn’t. The only answer is in the mind of the Designer/Creator. Reading minds, of deities or mortals, isn’t among the scientist’s bag of tools. This is one more example of intelligent design advocates positing hypotheses that are untestable.

Meanwhile it seems that according to evolution, the centriole “just happened.” I don’t see how the evolutionist position is superior.

Um, did I miss the part where Wells tell us what the designer did to produce a centriole?

Did I miss the part where Wells tells us what mechanisms the deisgner used to do whatever the heck he thinks it did?

Did I miss the part where Wells tells us where we can see any of these mechanisms in action?

Did I miss the part where Wells tells us how we can test any of his, uh, “explanation” using the scientific method?

Or is Wells (and you) simply lying to us when he claims to have a scientific explanation.

By the way, if the centriole did evolve and was not designed, how would it be any different than it is now, in your view?

Wells first “published” this paper at ISCID in May of 2004. At that time I and others discussed the fact that there was nothing about ID in this paper other than the claim that somehow a belief in design inspired the idea. Interested parties might want to read the thread at here. There were some pretty good points made, and Wells offered a few ineffectual responses.

The url to the ISCID discussion is http://www.iscid.org/ubb/ultimatebb[…]f=6;t=000521.

I will not enter this discussion, except to note that all the criticisms of Wells’ position apply at least as well, probably better, to the Darwinian attempts at explanation of the phenomena; I challenge the critics to explain them with their favored beliefs.

I will not enter this discussion, except to note that all the criticisms of Wells’ position apply at least as well, probably better, to the Darwinian attempts at explanation of the phenomena; I challenge the critics to explain them with their favored beliefs.

Just entered into the discussion to make a mindless, unsupported accusation, eh Skell? Well, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can.

At least Skell appears to agree with the observations about Wells. That he believes that Darwinian theory has ‘similar problems’ is of little relevance. Thanks Phil. Will you make this clear in your next letter?

For an evolutionary biologist, Phil is an excellent chemist.

Skell offers up the Peewee Herman argument: I know you are, but what am I?

To Jack Krebs: thanks for the link. I’ve taken a quick look, and it does make some good points. Seems like some good discussion took place. Thanks again.

If I have a beaker of a clear, colorless aqueous solution I can make the ID observation that it “looks acidic”, or I can get a pH meter and make a measurement. In either case, Wells would take my measurement and testify that the now determined acidic solution was intelligently designed, obviously.

The only success the ID creationists have had is in irritating me. I am irritated that not a single pompous blowhard from Behe to Dembski to Doc Skell himself has performed any original research, collected any data themselves, developed any mathematical framework that leads to even a discussion of ID creationism. Not a jot.

No, about the best the ID creationists can do is swipe some hapless electron micrograph and pronounce excitedly “Ah, ha! It works like a little dump truck hauling ATP from the energy mine!” And they want to teach this in high school? Why not kindergarden?

According to Intelligent Design, the sun is going to come up tomorrow.

I will now sit back and await verification.

Bill, your blasphemous comments are appalling. Bill SMARTski proved, with Information Theory of the NFL Theorems, that evolution is wrong. The fact that Information Theorists, evolutionary biologists, and the author of the NFL Theorems all make fun of him is wholly irrelevant. Those are Ab Homonym attacks.

Really? I thought those where ad Houyhnhnm attacks…

You just thought that, because those words are hominems.

Simple mistake.

I will not enter this discussion, except to note that all the criticisms of Wells’ position apply at least as well, probably better, to the Darwinian attempts at explanation of the phenomena; I challenge the critics to explain them with their favored beliefs.

How dreadful.

While you are here, would you mind answering a simple question for me? I keep hearing people telling me about this “scientific theory of intelligent design”, but alas, no one seems willing to tell me just *what the heck this scientific theory says*.

Can you tell me, please? What *is* the scientific theory of ID, and how do we test it using the scientific method?

Perhaps you could make it more clear using a specific example, say, the flagellum? How, according to ID theory, was the flagellum produced? What, according to the theory of ID, did the designer do to produce it? What mechanisms does ID theory propose the designer used to do whatever the heck you think it did? Where can we see any of these mechanisms in operation today? And how do we test any of this using experiment and observation?

Or, is ID “theory” nothing but (poor) religious apologetics, and are IDers (like you) simply lying to us when they claim otherwise.

Gotta love answers in search of questions.

http://www.jcb.org/cgi/content/full/154/6/1135

The chromokinesin Kid is necessary for chromosome arm orientation and oscillation, but not congression, on mitotic spindles

Aime A. Levesque and Duane A. Compton Department of Biochemistry, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH 03755

Chromokinesins have been postulated to provide the polar ejection force needed for chromosome congression during mitosis. We have evaluated that possibility by monitoring chromosome movement in vertebrate-cultured cells using time-lapse differential interference contrast microscopy after microinjection with antibodies specific for the chromokinesin Kid. 17.5% of cells injected with Kid-specific antibodies have one or more chromosomes that remain closely opposed to a spindle pole and fail to enter anaphase. In contrast, 82.5% of injected cells align chromosomes in metaphase, progress to anaphase, and display chromosome velocities not significantly different from control cells. However, injected cells lack chromosome oscillations, and chromosome orientation is atypical because chromosome arms extend toward spindle poles during both congression and metaphase. Furthermore, chromosomes cluster into a mass and fail to oscillate when Kid is perturbed in cells containing monopolar spindles. These data indicate that Kid generates the polar ejection force that pushes chromosome arms away from spindle poles in vertebrate-cultured cells. This force increases the efficiency with which chromosomes make bipolar spindle attachments and regulates kinetochore activities necessary for chromosome oscillation, but is not essential for chromosome congression.

Not only is the problem most likely solved, but Wells’s designer (or, not to put too fine a point on it, Wells himself) apparently thought much about fluid dynamics at small scales. If he (or He) had, he’d know that centrioles are not shaped at all well for the functions that Wells ascribes to them.

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This page contains a single entry by John M. Lynch published on May 26, 2005 11:09 AM.

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