Saturday, August 06, 2005

Lizards, Missile Defense and Flagellum

I've trained our lizards to beg. I test their motion detection and tracking circuitry by throwing them small pieces of cereal while I breakfast in the yard & timing their response. Which is awesome and well worth copying into missile defensive systems. All of which is another argument against Darwin.

A while back, someone proved that even primitive animals have enormous pre-processing capabilities in their optic nerves. So what finally arrived at the brain is a greatly compressed data-stream. One of the common pre-processing elements is motion detection. If something moves in your environment, you detect it and either slew to face it, or run. It's obviously very useful - for the brain to detect motion would require lots of number crunching, comparing successive "frames" and looking for differences.

Anyway, my lizards can track a raisin in midair, slew to face it, and snatch it away to their raisin-hoard (I run the experiment a lot), in well under a second. They cover almost the entire sphere around them, making up for their blind spot by small hunting movements. And they always get their raisin.

Put something like that into an anti-mortar laser, and you're home free.

Lizards are pretty ancient creatures - their known fossils record goes back about 300 million years, pretty old given that single celled life is thought to have appeared only 1300 million years ago.

All of which gives me another reason to suspect Darwin's theory of evolution.

There's an excellent evolution-bashing article in June's American Spectator - here's a snippet:

IMAGINE A NANOTECHNOLOGY MACHINE far beyond the state of the art: a micro-miniaturized rotary motor and propeller system that drives a tiny vessel through liquid. The engine and drive mechanism are composed of 40 parts, including a rotor, stator, driveshaft, bushings, universal joint, and flexible propeller. The engine is powered by a flow of ions, can rotate at up to 100,000 rpm (ten times faster than a NASCAR racing engine), and can reverse direction in a quarter of a rotation. The system comes with an automatic feedback control mechanism. The engine itself is about 1/100,000th of an inch wide -- far smaller than can be seen by the human eye.

Most of us would be pleasantly surprised to learn that some genius had designed such an engineering triumph. What might come as a greater surprise is that there is a dominant faction in the scientific community that is prepared to defend, at all costs, the assertion that this marvelous device could not possibly have been designed, must have been produced blindly by unintelligent material forces, and only gives the appearance -- we said appearance! -- of being designed.

As you may have guessed, these astonishingly complex, tiny, and efficient engines exist. Millions of them exist inside you, in fact. They are true rotary motors that drive the "bacterial flagellum," a whip-like propulsion device for certain bacteria, including the famous E. coli that lives in your digestive system.

If you take away the driveshaft from the flagellar motor, you do not end up with a motor that functions less well. You have a motor that does not function at all. All of the essential parts must be there, all at once, for the motor to perform its function of propelling the bacterium through liquid.

Why is that important? Because that is precisely what Darwinian evolution cannot accomplish. Darwinian evolution is by definition "blind." It cannot plan ahead and create parts that might be useful to assemble a biological machine in the future. For the machine to be assembled, all or nearly all the parts must already be there and be performing a function.

Why must they already be performing a function? Because if a part does not confer a real, present advantage for the organism's survival or reproduction, Darwinian natural selection will not preserve the gene responsible for that part. In fact, according to Darwinian theory, that gene will actually be selected against. An organism that expends resources on building a part that is useless handicaps itself compared to other organisms that are not wasting resources, and will tend to get outcompeted.

Turns out that none of Darwin's supporters has run the engineering test of figuring out the evolutionary steps necessary to build stuff like this motor by blind evolution. For a good reason - it's not possible!