Re: What's *Really* Different Between Design and Evolution

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Mon Jan 31 2000 - 07:55:25 EST

  • Next message: "re: Behe by Palevitz"


    On Sun, 30 Jan 2000 14:36:35 EST, wrote:


    >CC>Further, there is the fact that we know that the watch is designed partly
    >>precisely because it does *not* have the *non-*designed look of biological
    >>organisms and such. It's parts are put together differently. It has screws
    >>and such holding it together. Living organisms do *not* have such "design"

    MG>But cells do and that's the point. Of course, cells don't have tiny metal
    >screws; instead, things are secured to each other through packing interactions
    >as a consequence of complementary conformations and specific placement
    >of amino acid side chains. It used to be thought that diffusion dominated
    >in the cytoplasm of the cell. But it has become increasingly clear that basic
    >cellular processes work more like the gears of a watch, where specific
    >placement and shapes make possible inter-protein handoffs that channel products from
    >one protein to the next directly so that intermediates never see the aqueous
    >phase. Protein complexes work exactly like assembly lines.

    This reminded me of something Denton wrote about the a (alpha) helix of
    proteins fitting almost perfectly into the major groove of the DNA helix:

    "From first principles, proteins, because of their limitless variety, functional
    diversity and inherent flexibility, and their ability to undergo allosteric
    transitions, etc., are obvious candidates for the crucial function of
    recognizing and binding to a particular section of a DNA molecule. But on
    top of their general properties, which tailor them so superbly for almost any
    conceivable biochemical task, there is a fascinating and highly specific
    aspect of protein structure that appears to fit them precisely for DNA
    recognition: the fact that the a helix of a protein, one of the most common
    conformations found in proteins, fits almost perfectly into the major groove
    of the DNA helix." (Denton M.J., "Nature's Destiny", 1998, p189).

    Denton continues:

    "The fact that one of the most fundamental protein conformations fits very
    neatly into the large groove of the DNA obviously greatly facilitates
    protein DNA recognition because it allows the protein to have intimate
    access to the DNA sequence. ... if a protein is "to read" a particular base
    sequence in a particular region of the DNA, the protein must be able to
    distinguish between the different base pairs along the helix. Of course, the
    protein cannot actually "see" but must feel the sequence of the DNA like a
    blind person reading braille until it finds (feels) the sequence it is looking
    for. It turns out, and this is surely another coincidence of great significance,
    that of the two grooves in the DNA, the major and the minor, it is the
    major groove-the one into which the a helix happens to fit so perfectly-that
    provides hydrogen bond patterns which are distinctive for each of the four
    base pairs and can therefore be felt by the or helix.... So the actual base
    sequence of the DNA can be "felt" most readily by a protein feeling the
    sequence in the major groove. In effect, the major groove is fit for protein
    recognition not only because its dimensions match that of the a helix but
    also because in the large groove each base pair presents a unique
    electrostatic pattern which greatly facilitates sequence recognition-quite
    literally the "feeling" by the a helix of the base sequence of the DNA. The
    large groove therefore exhibits two independent adaptations for its role in
    protein-DNA recognition-its electrostatic variability and its dimensions,
    which match closely that of the a helix. The mutual fitness of the large
    groove and the a helix for DNA-protein recognition must be considered a
    coincidence of very great significance, as recent work in this area has
    revealed that a great many DNA-recognizing proteins insert a protruding a
    helix into the major groove of the DNA helix when binding to the DNA."
    (Denton M.J., 1998, p190).

    At the end of his next chapter, after considering the cell, Denton concludes
    by pointing out that: a) in molecular biology we have found a `watch'
    "more complicated and more harmonious than any conceived by William
    Paley"; and b) it is a watch which the `blind watchmaker', natural selection,
    could not have produced, because natural selection *needs* this watch to
    be already working before it can work:

    "The emerging picture is obviously consistent with the teleological view of
    nature. That each constituent utilized by the cell for a particular biological
    role, each cog in the watch, turns out to be the only and at the same time
    the ideal candidate for its role is particularly suggestive of design. That the
    whole, the end to which all this teleological wizardry leads-the living cell-
    should be also ideally suited for the task of constructing the world of
    multicellular life reinforces the conclusion of purposeful design. The
    prefabrication of parts to a unique end is the very hallmark of design.
    Moreover, there is simply no way that such prefabrication could be the
    result of natural selection. Design in the very components which make an
    organism possible cannot be, as Carl Pantin pointed out some time ago,
    *the result of natural selection*. The many vital mutual adaptations in the
    constituents of life were given by physics long before any living thing
    existed and long before natural selection could have begun to operate. In
    the current molecular biological picture of life, we have found a "watch"
    more complicated and more harmonious than any conceived by William
    Paley, exhibiting in its design precisely what Richard Bentley was looking
    for, a "*usefulness conspicuous not in one or a few only, but in a long train
    and series of things*." (My [Denton's] emphasis.)" (Denton M.J., 1998,



    "It was-and still is-very hard to arrive at this concept from inside biology.
    The trouble lay in an unremitting cultural struggle which had developed
    from 1860 onward between biologists on the one hand and the supporters
    of old beliefs on the other. The old believers said that rabbits had been
    created by God using methods too wonderful for us to comprehend. The
    new believers said that rabbits had been created from sludge, by methods
    too complex for us to calculate and by methods likely enough involving
    improbable happenings. Improbable happenings replaced miracles and
    sludge replaced God, with believers both old and new seeking to cover up
    their ignorance in clouds of words, but different words. It was over the
    words that passions raged, passions which continue to rumble on in the
    modern world, passions that one can read about with hilarious satisfaction
    in the columns of the weekly science magazine Nature and listen to in
    basso profundo pronouncements from learned scientific societies." (Hoyle
    F., "Mathematics of Evolution", [1987], Acorn Enterprises: Memphis TN,
    1999, p3).
    Stephen E. Jones | |

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Jan 31 2000 - 07:56:19 EST