The bacterial flagellum, which is an outboard motor that many bacteria use to move through water, is assembled by an intricate pre-programmed procedure that is controlled and regulated in amazing ways that we are now beginning to understand. Watch this video to see for yourself. The makers of this documentary avoid the issue of how all this could have evolved (but the scientific work described here strongly implicates intelligent design ... follow the links at this location to see why). The scientists interviewed in this documentary are just interested in discovering how bacteria have all the programming necessary today to assemble these flagellar motors. This, they explain quite well. They also tell the story of how we discovered this knowledge through international collaboration (a Japanese group is at the center of this project).
At 21:21 minutes into the documentary the narrator explains what we know know about the flagellum's universal joint, which made of hook proteins (building upon research summarized earlier in the documentary). We are told that the assembly of the universal joint (made of hook proteins) is programmed with the help of some molecular "timer" to ensure that its length is just right (about 55 nanometers). Mutations that alter the timing of this part of the assembly process give us bacteria that "can't swim properly."
The documentary ends with a sobering conclusion from Professor Keiichi Namba of Osaka University:
The brain of a small fruit fly uses energy in the micro-watts for complex flight control and visual information processing to find and fly to food. I don't think a supercomputer could yet simulate what the fruit fly brain does even while using megawatts of energy. The difference of over ten orders of magnitude and the level of energy used is an indication of just how incredible biological systems are. It even exists in bacteria. The flagellar motor and protein export apparatus use proton motive force, or mechanisms that utilize the flow of protons at extremely small energy, close to the thermal noise level. Understanding the basic physical mechanism behind them will bring about the time when they can be actually utilized for engineering. It is work to achieve the dream of resolving global environmental and energy issues. That is how big it is.
Humans can learn how to better design things by studing tiny molecular machines like the flagellum. The designing intelligence responsible for the bacterial flagellum must have been far more intelligent than what humans can currently manage to do.
Contrast this new research on the flagellum with a recent critique of Richard Dawkins's antiquated Darwinian evangelism. In the latest issue of Nature, Philip Ball writes:
Barely a whisper of this vibrant debate [about the role of DNA in the larger context of information processing in the cell] reaches the public. Take evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins' description in Prospect magazine last year of the gene as a replicator with "its own unique status as a unit of Darwinian selection". It conjures up the decades-old picture of a little, autonomous stretch of DNA intent on getting itself copied, with no hint that selection operates at all levels of the biological hierarchy... READ MORE HERE.
Or even worse: The New York Times, of all places, now offers evidence about a fraudulent professor, Diederik Stapels, in the Netherlands who made up data to support studies he reported in scholarly journals. This project had nothing to do with evolution. But one wonders about how much of this sort of fraudulant work occurs in other domains of science. It is still in the minority, but it causes one to pause. Read more about this here.