Exquisitely Organized

In The Design Matrix, I documented how scientists originally envisioned the cell as an entity that was not very sophisticated or organized.  Yet this original “prediction” did not turn out to be correct.  In fact, a month or so ago a review article was published in the journal Science which continues to illustrate my point:

Bacteria were once viewed as amorphous reaction vessels with chromosomes that wandered freely and randomly throughout the cell.  The advent of genetically encoded fluorescent reporters harnessed to powerful cell-imaging technologies has enabled in vivo tracking of protein movement and revealed a strikingly complex inner world within bacteria.  This inner environment is exquisitely organized, in a highly controlled state of flux, and responsive to changing functions demanded of the cell.  – Shapiro, L., McAdams, HH, and Losick, R.  2009. Why and how bacteria localize proteins.  Science 326: 1225-1228.

In The Design Matrix, I drew out the significance of this:

Hume’s objection to Paley’s argument [life does not look designed] could have been seriously strengthened by scientific discovery. The perception of the cell as “an amorphous vessel housing a homogeneous solution of proteins” could have been verified. The perception of the cell as “a viscous fluid or gel surrounded by a membrane, much like a balloon filled with molasses” could have been confirmed.

Amorphous vessels and balloons filled with molasses would not arouse suspicions of design. But this is not what science has discovered. Modern science teaches us that “the cell is understood to be highly organized, with specialized areas for different functions and molecular motors shuttling components around.” Hume’s objection to Paley’s argument certainly has not been strengthened by scientific discovery.

To this, two years later, we merely add that modern science teaches us that the simplest of cells, bacteria, have a cytoplasm that “is exquisitely organized, in a highly controlled state of flux, and responsive to changing functions demanded of the cell.”

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5 responses to “Exquisitely Organized

  1. I’m trying to remember the phrase you used in your book: finer resolution? closer resolution?

  2. Higher resolution. 🙂

  3. Two words: Deep time

    Snowflakes looked designed too and they form in minutes. Life demonstrates what elegant complexity natural selection can produce given mutations and hundreds of millions of years.

    Consistent with your post on intellectual honesty, some weaknesses of the intelligent design movement are argument from ignorance and wishful thinking. Nice pictures though.

  4. Hi N. Gav,

    Two words: Deep time
    Snowflakes looked designed too and they form in minutes. Life demonstrates what elegant complexity natural selection can produce given mutations and hundreds of millions of years.

    Three things.

    First, as I point out in the book, there are two primary objections to a design inference rooted in an appearance of design. 1. There is the Hume approach, which denies there is any appearance of design; 2. There is the Darwin approach, which accepts the appearance of design, but attributes it to a designer-mimic (mutations and natural selection). My point about the exquisite organization is aimed at the Hume approach, while your response raises the Darwin approach.

    Second, the hallmark of mutation and natural selection is the kluge, not elegant complexity. The blind watchmaker only cares about whether something works.

    Third, it is not clear how much deep time was truly available, as exquisite organization may very well have existed in the last common ancestor of all life.

    Consistent with your post on intellectual honesty, some weaknesses of the intelligent design movement are argument from ignorance and wishful thinking. Nice pictures though.

    Accusations of ‘wishful thinking’ are either derogatory or based on the non-existent psychic power of the accuser, so that term is not intellectually honest. But I would agree that a huge weakness of the intelligent design movement is the argument from ignorance. In fact, both the ID movement and many of their critics build on this god-of-the-gaps argument.

    However, the argument I make is not an argument from ignorance. It simply notes that a) Hume’s argument could have been vastly strengthened by science, but was not and b) it is reasonable to suspect Life was designed.

  5. N.Gav,

    Your “deep time” explanation is itself based on ignorance and probably wishful thinking. It hasn’t been demonstrated how much non-design can accomplish with “deep time,” and my amazing psychic powers say that you wish “deep time” can accomplish a lot without design.

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