The bacterial flagellum is such a central argument to the ID movement that during the Dover trial, it resulted in the funniest moment in the trial. After Michael Behe had spend nearly two full days on the witness stand, much of it talking about the flagellum, Scott Minnich took the stand and was going to talk about the same thing. When he put up a slide of the flagellum, Judge Jones said, “We’ve seen that.” Minnich deadpanned, “I kind of feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor’s fifth husband. I know what to do, I just don’t know how to make it new and exciting for you.”
Nick Matzke, who was the single most important person in the trial, responsible for educating the attorneys about science and ID and poking holes in the other side’s arguments, had already by that time co-authored an article proposing that the flagellum had evolved from a more primitive and simple cellular apparatus and providing the evidence for that argument that was known to that point. That article was later published in the journal Protein Science.
Since that time, the evidence has grown considerably stronger for the hypothesis that Matzke and Pallen put forward in that article as the various proteins involved have been sequenced and more homologies discovered that indicate precisely how the process of mutation and selection might have led from the Type Three Secretory System (TTSS) to the flagellum. And now Mike Gene has essentially admitted, despite being initially critical of that hypothesis, that it appears to be correct.
But in a far more important and global sense, it does indeed look like Matzke’s hypothesis is correct and that the TTSS machinery is homologous to the F-ATPase.
In The Design Matrix, I explore how the concept of IC interfaces with cooption and intelligent design and offer the following as part of my approach:
“Instead, independent evidence is needed to support such a hypothesis of cooption cobbling a machine together. This does not mean we need something that amounts to a proof. Nor does it mean that an exhaustive Darwinian explanation is needed. On the contrary, the evidence we need is extremely modest and lacking in detail……First, if an irreducibly complex machine did evolve into existence through cooption, then the parts must have predated the machine. They must have been doing something else prior to being recruited into the machine. Thus, some evidence of this pre-machine activity is needed. Since we cannot travel back in time, we will have to settle for traditional evidence of common descent. Do the various parts of the machine have homologs that are in turn part of a system that is more ancient than the machine?”
Multiple points of homology between the components of the F-ATPase and flagellum/TTSS would clearly qualify as “various parts of the machine” having “homologs that are in turn part of a system that is more ancient than the machine.”
It is refreshing to see this kind of intellectual honesty from Mike Gene.