Science & Faith
5/20/13 at 10:30 PM 6 Comments

Will Darwinists Soon Ban the Term "Molecular Machines"?

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This motor is one of countless "molecular machines" found in living cells. This one is literally an outboard rotary motor.

Over the past fifteen years, the term "molecular machine" has been used widely by biologists to refer to highly coordinated systems of moving parts that peform specific functions within a living cell. Because of the increasingly clear design imiplications of these tiny machines over the past decade, I would not be surprised if Darwinists soon try to ban this term from public education and popular communication about science (as Eugenie Scott attempted, but failed, to do with the term "Darwinism," as explained in my last two posts). Here is the classic molecular "machine" statement by evolutionary biologist Bruce Alberts:

The entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which 
is composed of a set of 
large protein machines. Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like 
machines invented by 
humans … these protein 
assemblies contain highly 
coordinated moving parts. [Bruce Alberts, “The Cell as a 
Collection of Protein Machines,” 
Cell, February 1998]

Today at ENV Casey Luskin wrote regarding "molecular machines":

Writing at ENV last month, I explained why proponents of intelligent design are justified in using the term "molecular machines." Jonathan M., meanwhile, recently published a tremendous article here about the ATP synthase molecular machine, noting that scientists have called it a "bona fide rotary dynamo machine" with "ingeniously designed interfaces" making it "one of the most beautiful" enzymes in biology. Or, as another paper he cited pointed out, "Although there are other similar manmade systems like hydroelectric generators, F0F1-ATP synthase operates on the nanometer scale and works with extremely high efficiency." Now I've just received a copy of a wonderful 2011 Cambridge University Press book, Molecular Machines in Biology: Workshop of the Cell, that contains additional insightful language about molecular machines.

Luskin notes that in the introduction to Molecular Machines in Biology, Joachim Frank of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columba University, explains why we can legitimately use the term "molecular machines" in biology. Frank writes:

Molecular Machines as a concept existed well before Bruce Alberts' (1998) programmatic essay in the journal Cell [which I quoted above], but his article certainly helped in popularizing the term, and in firing up the imagination of students and young scientists equipped with new tools that aim to probe and depict the dynamic nature of the events that constitute life at the most fundamental level. "Machine" is useful as a concept because molecular assemblies in this category share important properties with their macroscopic counterparts, such as processivity, localized interactions, and the fact that they perform work toward making a defined product. The concept stands in sharp contrast to the long-held view of the cell as a sack, or compendium of sacks, in which molecules engage and disengage one another more or less randomly. (p. 1)

Luskin then cites a passage in the first chapter of the book, by Xinghua Shi and Taekjip Ha of the Department of Physics and Institute for Genomic Biology at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These authors give additional reasons why the term "molecular machines" is appropriate on the lips of biologists:

Molecular machines are molecule-based devices, typically on the nanometer scale, that are capable of generating physical motions, for example translocation, in response to certain inputs from the outside such as a chemical, electrical, or light stimulus. A large number of such sophisticated small devices are found in Nature, including the many biological motors discussed in this chapter, such as helicases and polymerases. These tiny nanomachines work in many ways just like an automobile on the highway, and many consume fuel on a molecular level, for instance through the hydrolysis of adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP) molecules, to power their motion on their tracks. As a result, when lacking the required fuel, these nanomachines tend to slow down and even stop, same as a motor vehicle would. In addition, these biological motors often move in a directional manner with variable speeds, and their processivity characteristics can be described by how far they move on their track of molecular highway. Motions of individual components with these protein machines, for example, the ribosome ... , are often nicely coordinated like in any sophisticated, larger-scaled mechanical machines. (p. 4)

They go on to write:

In recent years, details of the composition, stoichiometry, and three-dimensional arrangement of components within many nanomachines have become available, thanks to the ever-increasing number of high-resolution crystal structures that have been solved, which have provided valuable insights into the mechanisms of how these biological motors accomplish their tasks. In the past two decades, researchers have also brought these machines under scrutiny by a number of novel and powerful methods with ultra-high sensitivity, watching their motions one molecule at a time, and have learned a great deal of previously hidden mechanistic details about their action and dynamics, such as the size of the fundamental steps taken by these motorized nanodevices. In a simplified view of the mechanism of action of biological motors, their strokes of physical translocation are powered by processes such as ATP hydrolysis through a modulation of their conformation, thus converting the chemical energy stored in the molecular fuel, in a stepwise fashion, into direction motions. (p. 4)

Luskin then asks a simple question in regard to "molecular machines."

Could machines that produce directed motions arise through an undirected process like Darwinian selection? Whatever the cause of these molecular machines, it must be able to produce "highly fine-tuned" processes.

Luskin also critique the "RNA world" hypothesis of life's origin and shows how it is still fatally flawed. For this reason and others, Richard Dawkins admitted upon cross examination on the documentary film Expelled that "nobody knows" how life originated from non-living chemicals.

Read more of Casey Luskin's essay on "molecular machines." We shall see whether this becomes a forbidden term one day because of its strong design implications.

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