Bacterium with Flagella

Re-run evolution proves flagellum evolved, claim scientists in an article in ABC Science 7 November 2019.  Matt Baker, a biophysicist at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Nick Matzke a phylogeneticist at University of Auckland, New Zealand, have written an article entitled “Evolution or intelligent design? The story of the bacterial flagellar motor”.  

The bacterial flagellum is a tail-like structure bacteria use to propel themselves.  It consists of a long fibre with very complex rotary motor made of many proteins at its base, which is embedded in the cell wall of the bacterium.  The motor can rotate the flagellum at up to 100,000 rpm, can rapidly change direction, and can rebuild itself according to the needs of the bacterium. 

Because it consists of many components that need to all be there for it to function the bacterial flagellum has been used by many as an example of intelligent design (ID) that could not have evolved slowly and gradually.  Evolutionists Baker and Matze set out to refute the ID claim with “The road to complexity can also involve a change of function.”  They go on to explain “Throughout biology, there are a great many systems that have similar structure and organisation, but different functions — a phenomenon known as ‘homology’”. 

To make this point they use the example of
the penguin flipper with the following evolutionary explanation: “The penguin
uses its flipper for swimming, but if we trace its evolution through time there
are a series of ancestors that used a similar structure for different
Fish-like ancestors with fins for swimming
Early amphibians that both walk and swim with their legs
Early reptiles that walk on all four limbs
Bipedal dinosaurs with forelimbs used to catch prey
Dinosaurs with feathered forelimbs used for both climbing and flying
Birds that use wings only to fly
Birds that use their wings for both flying and swimming
And finally — penguins that use their wings for swimming”

They then return to the bacterial flagellum and point out that flagellum components are also found on other structures in bacteria, Therefore, by studying these other structures and the genes needed to make them, scientists can “reverse-engineer” the flagellar motor to work out the common components of its “proto-motor”, or evolutionary ancestor. 

They go on to claim “With the bacteria flagellar motor, we’ve re-run evolution in order to see when changes occur, and if any unexpected outcomes take place. We’ve then used statistics to determine the most likely ancestor for separate motor proteins, and genetically engineered these to create a microbial Jurassic Park. This allows us to investigate what conditions force the flagellar motor to adapt, and helps us understand how complex nanomachines, like the bacterial flagellar motor, can develop new functions over time.”


Editorial Comment:  Note well: Baker and Matzke have not actually made a bacterial flagellum in this experiment. Their argument had been purely a philosophical one for which they assumed evolution to be fact in the first place. When they can make a working flagellum in the evolutionist way described they should report that if they wish us to take them seriously. Until then we laugh and point out the following flaws in their claim.

The fact that the flagellar motor and other structures in a bacterial cell have some components in common does not prove the flagellum evolved without any creative design.  Just like in a car, it is the organisation of the components and not the components themselves that gives a machine a useful function.  Organisation involves information and forward planning – properties of a creative mind, not chance random processes.  Just ask any engineer or man in a shed who has ever made differing machines or devices using common components. 

These scientists’ use of their brains and educational experience to ‘reverse engineer’ the flagellum, completely undermines any claim that the flagellum evolved with no intelligence or design involved.  Their reverse engineering was ID! Notice how they can’t avoid using the word “create” when referring to their proposed “microbial Jurassic Park”.  If these scientists do develop any new functions for the flagellar motor components it will because intelligent scientists and engineers studied the original machine using complex technical equipment, which had to be designed and built, and then used their own creative design to make a machine that works. 

For a critique of “homology” as evidence for evolution see the question: Homologous Structures? Vertebrate limbs have the same bone structure. Is this evidence for evolution?  Answer here.

Evidence News vol. 19,
No. 19
4 December 2019
Creation Research Australia