Joined: May 2002
Over at ARN, Mike Gene is again claiming that the question "What should make one suspect ID?" has not/cannot be sufficiently answered by ID skeptics. The implication is basically that ID skeptics are close-minded and unable to consider the matter in a neutral, open, explorative way.
But there are lots of things that would make me suspect ID. Note that these things are not the same things that would prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, although a lot of these "evidences for suspicion" put together might fit that bill.
MG specifically put forward the flagellum as an example, conveniently a particularly ancient system for which the kinds of evidence available for e.g. the immune system are much more difficult to come by.
Tell me what would cause you to suspect the flagellum as designed. Thus far, not one ID critic has shared a useful criterion.
As JP has noted in the thread, many answers to the "suspect" question have already been provided, it's just that Mike Gene doesn't like them because design does not entail that these things exist. That's pretty much the problem with Mike-Gene-design, it doesn't appear to entail anything in particular at all. Even IC systems are apparently accessible to evolution under MG-ID, so if the tremendously complicated immune system is shown to have plenty of evidence of gradual natural origins, he can just shrug it off and say that ID designed something more remote, like the flagellum.
Still, an observation does not have to be *entailed* by design in order to be an observation that would legitimately raise suspicion. Evolution does not predict that any particular transitional fossil will be found, just that some will be found somehwere, and these legitimately raise suspicion. Presumably even a rarified design hypothesis predicts that some kind of positive evidence will be found somewhere.
I would suspect (not conclude) design for the flagellum if there were evidence for any of the following:
1) A purpose other than maximizing the reproduction of the genes of the bacterium in question, that fits with some hypothesized designer. E.g., mousetraps are designed for trapping mice that are annoying humans. Note that in contrast, evolutionary theory predicts this for all complex "designed" systems. Find a counterexample and you've disproved evolution. Find a counterexample with a purpose that fits some specific designer hypothesis and you've got reason to suspect that designer hypothesis.
2) True IC, i.e. if the parts of the flagellum really did not have any function apart from contributing to flagellar function, i.e. that any subset of flagellar parts really was "by definition nonfunctional". This was Behe's original attempted argument, and if it had held up under the weight of evidence then he would have had something.
3) Biologically impossible transplants of the complex "design" across phylogenetic lines. This is seen *in spades* in human design systems. However, in biological systems, such transplants appear to be limited in numerous ways:
a) Basically limited to single-celled critters without protected germ-line cells
b) Most commonly there to prokaryotes that are *known* to do all kinds of conjugation, DNA uptake, etc.
b.5) In eukaryotes, the most impressive cases lateral transfer are the cases of symbiosis, in which the genomes of the host and symbiont are in close association for millions of years and transfers can occur bit-by-bit while maintaining function
c) Suspicions of transplants are often confirmed by finding plasmids, insertion remnants, and evidence of other known lateral transfer mechanisms
d) Transplants are most common between prokaryotes (a) closely related or (b) living in close proximity
e) Apparently limited to relatively simple systems (single operon?), and the more complex the system, the more closely related must be the donor/acceptor. The most complex system transferred that I can think of is Type III virulence systems, and (IIRC) these are all restricted to a relatively narrow group.
As an example of the contrast seen in human designs, the following highly complex systems originated locally and were rapidly transplanted into any manner of larger devices (cars, planes, boats, etc.) without any regard for the kinds of biological, ecological, and phlyogenetic patterns described above:
- satellite phones
- emergency transponders
4) It occurs to me suddenly that the pattern that all of these designed transplants follow is that they are useful *to the designer*, i.e. safety, navigation, etc. So, even in a case where the lateral transfers were biologically possible, if the pattern of transfer fit the purposes of a hypothesized designer(s), I would suspect design.
5) Evidence of "front-loading", e.g. if many bacteria had buried instructions for flagella, protected somehow from degradative mutations (not a tough burden for your average superadvanced designer), that were waiting to be "turned on" at some point in the future for some purpose of a hypothesized designer (this is a modified version of Behe's supercell idea)
6) A communication-to-intelligent-beings signal encoded in the flagellar genes. E.g., a prime number sequence apparently cleverly encoded in the essential nucleotides or amino acids of the flagellum. I say "apparently" because just the bare fact of a prime number sequence would not constitute proof, only suspicion (which is all MG wants anyway), unlike in astronomy it is just possible that there are ways for biological mechanisms to generate primes (although it is quite a stretch from 17-year cicadas to genome sequences).
I'm sure there's more...I won't, however, say the one that I think MG prefers, namely "it looks designed", because it's pretty clear that natural selection can produce complex "designed" adaptation when the adaptation benefits the genes of the organism. Even Mike Gene concedes this, so IMO it appears that he is being inconsistent when he places the thus-far-unverified-in-biology ID hypothesis on the same footing as the well-verified-in-biology NS hypothesis. Why not also include Lamarkian evolution and complexity theory on the same footing also? I would say that each of these has at least a wee bit of positive evidence raising a little bit of suspicion, unlike ID.
Links to other threads and CCed posts on this topic would be worthwhile.