John M. Lynch posted Entry 1125 on June 5, 2005 08:23 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1123

Recently I wrote on Wells' paper in Rivista. Some readers may know that he presented a talk on the very same material at the 2004 Biola "Intelligent Design and the Future of Science" conference, and the talk is available from ARN. During the Q&A session, he was asked to "elaborate on the specific way in which ID plays a role in this situation". Below I provide his answer and leave it up to you, gentle reader, to discuss his viewpoint.
“First of all, ID encourages a closer look at centrosomes and centrioles. They are not very interesting from a Darwinian evolutionary standpoint, in fact they are totally uninteresting. I have submitted this paper … to several journals. The first one, the editor was a strong evolutionary biologist, and his reaction was ‘well, we are not interested in theories of centrosomal function, we just want more molecules, you should just go out and give us those.’ This is the molecular reductionist emphasis that I attribute to Darwinian evolution. ID liberates us from that first of all. It encourages us to take cell structures or living structures at face value. I mean, this thing looks for all the world like a turbine, it’s been called a turbine for decades by cell biologists, but nobody – and I’ve searched the literature – nobody has proposed that it’s a turbine before. I think it might be, you know. It’s worth a shot. ID in a broader sense encourages this sort of cellular perspective, organismal perspective, as opposed to the bottom-up molecular perspective, but the most specific instance in this case is the turbine idea. Well, I would say the Archimedes Screw too – it looks like a screw, maybe it is a screw. … maybe it is a vortexer, and it turns out the effect would be similar to what we have observed in cells for decades. So, ID encourages one to trust your intuition, to make the leap. You know, if it looks like this, maybe it is, let’s look in to it. Maybe it fits, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s worth a shot. And so it’s not that ID says ‘Yes, this is where it is, you have to find it here’ – ID is more of an umbrella, a framework, that encourages this sort of risky hypothesis making that I think could ultimately be very fruitful”

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Comment #33811

Posted by PvM on June 5, 2005 8:37 PM (e)

ROTFL. The vacuity of ID is self evident. ID indeed liberates us from much of anything… So what if it is a ‘turbine’ certainly such finding would not give much of any support to an ID inference. ID is desperate it seems to me.

Comment #33812

Posted by PvM on June 5, 2005 8:43 PM (e)

Centrioles are highly ordered structures composed of nine sets of triplet microtubules arranged in a turbine pattern.

Susan K. Dutcher, Naomi S. Morrissette, Andrea M. Preble, Craig Rackley, and John Stanga Epsilon-Tubulin Is an Essential Component of the Centriole Molecular Biology of the Cell Vol. 13, 3859–3869, November 2002

Wells: and I’ve searched the literature – nobody has proposed that it’s a turbine before.

Centrioles and basal bodies are cylindrical structures about 0.2 µ wide and 0.4 µ long. Nine groups of three microtubules, fused into triplets, form the wall of the centriole, each triplet being tilted inward like the blades of a turbine ( Figure 16-45).

Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th Edition, 2002 by Bruce Alberts, Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis, Martin Raff, Keith Roberts, and Peter Walter.

Fig 1. Cross-section of a centriole observed in a mouse embryo cultured cell showing the typical nine triplets of centriolar tubules arran-
ged in a turbine-like pattern (electron micrograph reproduced with permission from Academic Press Inc).

Etienne de Harven Early observations of centrioles and mitotic spindle fibers
by transmission electron microscopy Biol Cell (1994) 80, 107-109 107

Don’t they have access to literature research at the DI?

Comment #33813

Posted by john m. lynch on June 5, 2005 8:44 PM (e)

I should add that a second questioner - a plant biologist - pointed out that plants don’t have centrioles and thus how does Wells’ explain cancer in plants. Wells’ answer? “I dont know.”

Comment #33814

Posted by john m. lynch on June 5, 2005 8:54 PM (e)

Wells actually presents the quote from Alberts (though the 1989 2nd edition), but seems to be making the point that while others have said that it is like a turbine, no one - before him - has stated that it is a turbine.

Comment #33815

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 5, 2005 8:56 PM (e)

You made a slight mistake PvM, here I’ll fix it for you:

Don’t they have access to literatate researchers at the DI?

Much better ;)

Comment #33816

Posted by Jim Wynne on June 5, 2005 8:59 PM (e)

john m. lynch wrote:

thus how does Wells’ explain cancer in plants. Wells’ answer? “I dont know.”

Obviously not a member of the Apostrophe Protection Society

Comment #33817

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on June 5, 2005 9:00 PM (e)

Wells actually presents the quote from Alberts (though the 1989 2nd edition), but seems to be making the point that while others have said that it is like a turbine, no one - before him - has stated that it is a turbine.

I see, so ID is the theory of taking things that people say “might” look like other things and saying that it “does” look like it.

What a useful theory I’m sure.

Comment #33831

Posted by pough on June 6, 2005 2:33 AM (e)

Or possibly, “if it looks like a duck and shares no other features with a duck, it IS a duck.”

Comment #33836

Posted by Ian Musgrave on June 6, 2005 6:05 AM (e)

Wells wrote:

The first one, the editor was a strong evolutionary biologist, and his reaction was ‘well, we are not interested in theories of centrosomal function, we just want more molecules, you should just go out and give us those.’

This sounds like the response you would get if you tried to submit an organismal biology paper to a molecular biology journal. I would get the same response if I tried to submit my neurite outgrowth paper to Journal of Molecular Biology. (It also sounds soemwhat like an editor explaining why a speculative paper with no real data should not be published in an experimatal journal. Basically, it looks like Wells submitted this to completely innapropriate journals, they rejected him, and he is trying to put a pro-ID spin on this.

It’s not a case of Evolutionary Biology being particularly reductionist (Wells’s paper is reductionist for that matter), more that speculative theories should be published in apporpriate journals.

Wells wrote:

They are not very interesting from a Darwinian evolutionary standpoint, in fact they are totally uninteresting

Hmm tell that to the people publishing on evolution and centrioles,

like:
Baluska F, Volkmann D, Barlow PW.Nuclear components with microtubule-organizing properties in multicellular eukaryotes: functional and evolutionary considerations. Int Rev Cytol. 1997;175:91-135.

or
Paoletti A, Bornens M. Organisation and functional regulation of the centrosome in animal cells. Prog Cell Cycle Res. 1997;3:285-99. Review.

Molecular characterisation of centrosomal components is slowly progressing…. Comparison between organisms with structurally different centrosomes might be critical for a better understanding of centrosome duplication if a general mechanism has been conserved throughout evolution.

Comment #33837

Posted by Schmitt. on June 6, 2005 6:08 AM (e)

I like the cheek of how he tries to present ID as a theoretical framework, going as far as to say it ‘encourages this sort of risky hypothesis making’, without having presented an actual testable hypothesis.

Comment #33842

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on June 6, 2005 7:36 AM (e)

Wells wrote:
“The first one, the editor was a strong evolutionary biologist, and his reaction was ‘well, we are not interested in theories of centrosomal function, we just want more molecules, you should just go out and give us those.”

Ian Musgrave
This sounds like the response you would get if you tried to submit an organismal biology paper to a molecular biology journal. I would get the same response if I tried to submit my neurite outgrowth paper to Journal of Molecular Biology. (It also sounds soemwhat like an editor explaining why a speculative paper with no real data should not be published in an experimatal journal. Basically, it looks like Wells submitted this to completely innapropriate journals, they rejected him, and he is trying to put a pro-ID spin on this.

I actually even doubt that what Wells said actually corresponds to what the journal editor told him. I don’t think even a hard-core mo-bio journal editor would say “we want more molecules” - first, gone are the days when finding a “new molecule” (without significant functional evidence) warranted a paper, and second, what “more molecules” could one really ask for as far as centrioles are concerned? Also, Wells’ paper has nothing to do with evolution, so I don’t see what the remark about the editor being a “strong evolutionary biologist” could be, other than a gratuitous swipe.

What the editor may have said is that they wanted some actual work at the molecular level. If it looks anything like the draft that was shown on ISCID, Wells’ article is essentially pre-theoretic (probably pre-scientific): it proposes a hypothesis based on a hunch, without explaining why current models of centriole function are insufficient (indeed, without even accurately covering the literature on the subject), and without showing any piece of evidence for the new hypothesis. What an editor may have said is that if Wells got off his armchair and did some real work, first at the library and then at the bench, his paper may have been worth something better than a publication in Crank Forum.

Perhaps Wells could provide the text of the reviews and the editor letters from the journals which rejected the paper, and from Rivista, so that we can judge who did the better job. If the “darwinist orthodoxy” tried unfairly to down-play Wells’ groundbreaking idea, it should be pretty obvious by this comparison.

Comment #33846

Posted by lamuella on June 6, 2005 8:21 AM (e)

I’m stunned by the idea that nobody had proposed that the centrioles were a turbine before.

actually I’m stunned by the fact that Wells didn’t go to Google and type in “centrioles turbine”.

the current fifth link on the Google search page:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?db=Books&rid=cell.section.4257

Comment #33848

Posted by steve on June 6, 2005 8:37 AM (e)

What’s the difference between being a turbine, and being like a turbine?

Comment #33854

Posted by lont on June 6, 2005 9:11 AM (e)

Actual turbines have “American Made Turbine” stamped on them.

Comment #33859

Posted by Marcus Good on June 6, 2005 9:53 AM (e)

“I mean, this thing looks for all the world like a turbine, it’s been called a turbine for decades by cell biologists, but nobody – and I’ve searched the literature – nobody has proposed that it’s a turbine before. I think it might be, you know.”

Replace “turbine” with “dogfish”. It’s the same argument, really.

Comment #33863

Posted by Mike Klymkowsky on June 6, 2005 10:12 AM (e)

Apparently, the good Dr. Wells does not know as much cell biology as he might. In general, animal cells contain a single pair of centrioles during G1 phase of the cell cycle. These centrioles are organized orthogonally to one another (see Robbins et al., 1968. THE CENTRIOLE CYCLE IN SYNCHRONIZED HELA CELLS. J. Cell Biol. 36, 329-339). I wonder if both are spinning?

The real question is what phenomena is centriole spinning supposed to explain? Centrioles have been ablated using lasers, and there is little effect on cell behavior following their removal (see La Terra et al., 2005. The de novo centriole assembly pathway in HeLa cells: cell cycle progression and centriole assembly/maturation. J. Cell Biol. 168:713).

I am particularly surprised that no one has mentioned Gunther Albrecht-Buehler’s work on centrioles, centrosomes and cell behavior over the last 25 years (he does not seem to have trouble getting his papers published in reputable scientific journals).

One might suggest that Dr. Wells should do some research and read “Does the geometric design of centrioles imply their function?” (1981. Cell. Motil. 1:237) or “Cellular infrared detector appears to be contained in the centrosome” (Cell Motil. Cytoskel. 27:262-271).

Comment #33864

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on June 6, 2005 10:12 AM (e)

Wells:
“They are not very interesting from a Darwinian evolutionary standpoint, in fact they are totally uninteresting.”

I have never read how Wells justifies this opinion. Has anyone else seen him back up this claim?

Wells:
“This is the molecular reductionist emphasis that I attribute to Darwinian evolution.”

“Molecular reductionism” is actually a useful approach derived from previous and extremely successful work in areas like physics and chemistry. The roots of “genetic reductionism” trace back at least as far as Mendel, who, as creationists are happy to report, was not a Darwinist. Extreme forms of molecular reductionism were absolutely necessary for the development of biochemistry and early understanding of key physical mechanisms at work in cells. Systems had to be pulled apart and evaluated in vitro simply because there was no good way of investigating their interactions in in vivo settings (Note: Comparisons with in vivo results are used to evaluate the validity of in vitro reconstructions).

Basically, molecular reductionism’s history in biology is more a product of applying successful approaches developed in physics and chemistry (to extend biology beyond its “stamp collecting” past) than something driven by theories of Darwinian evolution. That is, developments in Darwinian theories generally followed current approaches in biology. At this point, we have just about collected enough data (via reductionist approaches) and have just barely enough technology to apply “systems approaches” to biology (Interestingly, these techniques were also pioneered in the physical sciences). Over the years “holistic” understanding of biology have been promoted as “the solution” but how one does this has been the perpetual problem for that approach. I would seriously like to understand how one investigates something like blood clotting “holistically” without first characterizing most of the key components or their interactions because otherwise, IMHO, it’s just GIGO.

PS - Don’t turbines operate on fluids? In what way does centrosomal function rely on liquid propulsion?

Comment #33877

Posted by Steve on June 6, 2005 11:10 AM (e)

Being Devil’s Advocate here….

PvM,

I think the response is that Wells noted that cell biologists called this structure a turbine before, but they never suggested that it actually operates like a turbine.

[end DA mode]

How that hypothesis is generated by an ID premise is beyond me. Sounds like a firm believer in Darwinian processes could also “think outside the box” like that.

Comment #33883

Posted by Ed Darrell on June 6, 2005 11:30 AM (e)

“I mean, this thing looks for all the world like a turbine, it’s been called a turbine for decades by cell biologists, but nobody – and I’ve searched the literature – nobody has proposed that it’s a turbine before. I think it might be, you know.”

Yeah, and the heads on Mt. Rushmore look, for all the world, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and T. Roosevelt. But if a person calls them something other than busts representing the men, I propose to have that person locked up away from children, and where that person can’t do more harm to yourself.

Lincoln had it right – if you call a dog’s tail a leg, a dog still has just four legs: Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.

If you call ID “science,” ID is still fruitless, dogmatic religious exercise. Calling it science does not make it so.

Comment #33888

Posted by Michael Buratovich on June 6, 2005 11:50 AM (e)

Wells says, “ID encourages one to trust your intuition, to make the leap. You know, if it looks like this, maybe it is, let’s look in to it. Maybe it fits, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s worth a shot.”

There are truckloads of examples from the history of science and my own scientific career that show that trusting your instincts can get you into a heap of trouble. My instincts have been wrong just as many times as they have been right. Instincts without evidence to back them up are hunches and nothing more and Wells ought to know better.

Comment #33893

Posted by Shenda on June 6, 2005 12:08 PM (e)

“Actual turbines have “American Made Turbine” stamped on them.”

Finally, there is a testable prediction for ID! Just look very closely at these centrioles and see if there is a Serial Number, Manufacturer ID Number, Patent or Patent Pending label on them. If there is, ID is validated!

Please note that if these centrioles are for Europe, a CE label is required.

Shenda

Comment #33894

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on June 6, 2005 12:10 PM (e)

Alas, poor Wells seems to have fallen into the diabolical trap just barely escaped by the daring Dembski:

You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots.

If Wells truly understood Incomprehensible Designerism, he’d never have dreamt of a mere mechanical metaphor such as a turbine, never mind commonly descending to so pathetic a level as looking at details.

Hasn’t anyone even told him that connecting of dots has been politically incorrect, especially among his own ilk, for the last 4.5 years?

Comment #33895

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on June 6, 2005 12:13 PM (e)

Alas, poor Wells seems to have fallen into the diabolical trap just barely escaped by the daring Dembski:

You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots.

If Wells truly understood Incomprehensible Designerism, he’d never have dreamt of a mere mechanical metaphor such as a turbine, never mind commonly descending to so pathetic a level as looking at details.

Hasn’t anyone even told him that connecting of dots has been politically incorrect, especially among his own ilk, for the last 4.5 years?

Comment #33897

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on June 6, 2005 12:21 PM (e)

Alas, poor Wells seems to have fallen into the diabolical trap just barely escaped by the daring Dembski:

You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots.

If Wells truly understood Incomprehensible Designerism, he’d never have dreamt of a mere mechanical metaphor such as a turbine, never mind commonly descending to so pathetic a level as looking at details.

Hasn’t anyone even told him that connecting of dots has been politically incorrect, especially among his own ilk, for the last 4.5 years?

Comment #33899

Posted by pondscum on June 6, 2005 12:22 PM (e)

A note on plant centrioles–although absent from most seed plant lineages, the basal members of the embryophyte lineage (e.g., Liverworts, Mosses, Hornworts, Ferns, etc.) and the green algae all have stages with centrioles. Furthermore, centrioles in at least some organisms (e.g., Chlamydomonas, a member of the green algae) have dual roles in cell division and flagellar motility. I think eukaryotic flagellar motility is sufficiently well understood to rule out a turbine hypothesis. And, as already noted by others, what of an absence of centrioles in various lineages (e.g., most fungi, the red algae, as well as many seed plants) where cell division seems to be transpiring with no apparent difficulties?

Comment #33912

Posted by Paul on June 6, 2005 1:18 PM (e)

You know those pictures of cells under a microscope make them look like jelly doughnuts. Think I can research the all cells are jelly doughnut hypothesis?

Comment #33913

Posted by Jeff S on June 6, 2005 1:20 PM (e)

I think there’s been a terrible mistake here. What Wells is saying is that although others have pointed out that a centriole *looks* like a turbine, he’s the first to claim that it really *is* a turban. Granted, its a very very small turban, so only people with the very tiniest of heads could possibly find it useful. So, in all fairness, we must acknowledge the contribution that ID can make in this area…

Comment #33914

Posted by Jim Wynne on June 6, 2005 1:26 PM (e)

Paul wrote:

You know those pictures of cells under a microscope make them look like jelly doughnuts. Think I can research the all cells are jelly doughnut hypothesis?

That’s ridiculous. Everyone knows those images look like naked women, which is why we need to get microscopes out of the public schools.

Comment #33965

Posted by T. Bruce McNeely on June 6, 2005 7:08 PM (e)

Paul wrote:
You know those pictures of cells under a microscope make them look like jelly doughnuts. Think I can research the all cells are jelly doughnut hypothesis?

Under the microscope, red blood cells do look like donuts.
One of my grade school teachers used the metaphor that white blood cells were “blood policemen”.
Coincidence? I think not!
By the way, I’m expecting an author’s credit for this revolutionary discovery.

Comment #33984

Posted by afarensis on June 6, 2005 10:15 PM (e)

I think you are all wrong, centrioles look like paddlewheels on the old paddlewheel steamers. Last time I looked through a microscope (quite a while ago but no matter) I heard someone singing “Old Man River” in a deep bass voice - which proves my theory that centrioles are indeed ships.

Comment #34077

Posted by Roger Rains on June 7, 2005 11:40 AM (e)

Just out of curiosity, how is this turbine supposed to work? A turbine takes energy from fluid or air motion and uses it to do mechanical work by rotating its central shaft, right? Where does Wells think the fluid motion is coming from to drive his “turbine”? Or does he have his terminology backward and is really talking about a propeller style fluid pump?

-RR-

Comment #34083

Posted by Henry J on June 7, 2005 12:14 PM (e)

Maybe he thought “turbine” sounds more impressive than “propeller”?

Henry

Comment #34320

Posted by steve on June 8, 2005 3:29 PM (e)

So, if new research (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8135713/) shows cancer to be unrelated to centrioles, he’ll agree that it falsifies ID? I bet he won’t. More likely, Dumbski et al will merely remark that he must’ve misapplied ID.

Comment #34384

Posted by clammy on June 9, 2005 1:15 AM (e)

Couple more points, both derived from *ahem* looking at centrioles. Aside from the many organisms that don’t have centrioles at all, neither Drosophila nor C.elegans have centrioles with triplet microtubule “blades” (yet they still have polar wind, which is, strangely enough, reduced if chromosomally-attached microtubule motors are knocked out). And, by the time the spindle have formed, each spindle pole consists of not one but two centrioles, orthogonally arranged and connected. What could the spinning of these “extra” centrioles accomplish?
If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend looking up Piel et al. 2001 (PMID: 11222861), which demonstrates that at the end of mitosis, the mother centriole leaves the spindle pole and zips across to the center of the cell where the cytokinetic furrow is forming. Turbine, no; rocket, maybe :-)