Reasons to Believe

Connections 2007, Vol. 9, No. 1



New Discovery Pumps Up Evidence for Design
Fazale (Fuz) R. Rana, Ph.D.

Nobody likes an infection. Most illnesses caused by bacteria present little more than a nuisance easily treated with a few doses of antibiotics. But some infections can be life-threatening and require carefully controlled administration of drugs. In such cases, physicians sometimes make use of a small, portable medical device powered by a peristaltic pump (see sidebar) to deliver the right amount of drugs through an IV to the patient.

Recently, two independent teams of biochemists studied the structure of a protein ensemble called the AcrA/AcrB/TolC complex (for simplicity hereafter, the ABC complex). Their research revealed that this protein assembly-embedded in the cell membranes of pathogenic bacteria-functions just like the pump that administers continual doses of antibiotics to patients.1 This fascinating discovery not only offers hope for understanding antibiotic resistance, but also demonstrates biomolecular design.

The ABC complex spans bacterial inner and outer membranes and imparts resistance to "noxious" chemicals (including antibiotics) in the environment. From this protective membrane position, the protein ensemble pumps structurally diverse compounds from the cell's interior to the external environment. This pumping operation minimizes the intrusion of harmful materials in the cell, dramatically limiting their deleterious effects. As part of its action, the ABC complex also recognizes and removes a wide range of antibiotics from the cell. This activity confers pathogenic bacteria with multidrug resistance. Biochemists refer to ABC as a multidrug transporter (MDT) and expend considerable effort to understand its structure and function to be able to more effectively combat antibiotic resistance.

AcrB operates as the primary component of the ABC MDT, with AcrA and TolC serving as accessory proteins. AcrB consists of three identical protein subunits that span a bacterium's inner membrane. The latest work on this protein complex indicates that the AcrB trimer (composed of three molecules) functions like a rotary motor. In response to the flow of positively charged hydrogen ions through the inner membrane (an electrical current), each subunit alternately binds antibiotics (or other offending materials) in the cell's interior and, through a three-step rotation, pumps these materials using a peristaltic process into a compartment formed by the AcrA. The enclosure formed by AcrA bridges the space between the inner and outer membranes. Once in the AcrA port, the noxious materials (including antibiotics) are collected by a funnel-like structure that's part of TolC. This protein spans the outer membrane. As undesirable materials pass through the TolC channel they are expelled into the cell's exterior.

Discovery of a biomolecular peristaltic pump in bacterial membranes carries significance that extends beyond understanding multidrug resistance in bacteria. It stands as a powerful new piece of evidence for intelligent design. The ABC pump's startling design and efficiency evoke the watchmaker argument.
What is a peristaltic pump?

Peristaltic pumps are devices used to push fluids through a tube by positive displacement.* A flexible tube carefully positioned within a circular pump casing contains the fluid. A rotor fitted with rollers (or shoes or wipers) compresses part of the fluid-filled tube as it rotates. This compression causes the part of the tube in contact with the rotor to collapse, forcing the fluid through the tube. The tube then opens up as the rotor continues to turn, allowing fluid to flow from a reservoir into the pump (a process known as restitution). Peristaltic pumps are ideally suited for pumping sterile fluids, like antibiotic solutions, because the fluid never comes into contact with the rotor and won't become contaminated.

For more discussion of peristaltic pumps see "Peristaltic Pump," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peristaltic_pump, accessed August 31, 2006.

Most famously articulated by British natural theologian William Paley in 1802, the watchmaker argument posits the existence of a Creator by comparing a watch to biological entities. Just as a watch is composed of a number of intricate parts that interact in a "just-so" fashion for the purpose of telling time, biological systems also are composed of finely tuned, interacting components that serve to make organisms perfectly suited for their environments. A watch requires a watchmaker. By analogy, biological entities require a Creator.

Critics who challenge the watchmaker argument maintain that this conclusion follows only if there is a high degree of similarity between the compared objects. They cite the many differences between watches and biological systems and conclude that the analogy is flawed.

However, the uncanny resemblance between the ABC complex and man-made machines goes a long way toward addressing this legitimate concern. The ABC complex is, in the most literal sense, a peristaltic pump. Moreover, this miniaturized apparatus is just one of many biomolecular complexes that are reminiscent of man-made machines and devices.2

If observers were to see a peristaltic pump strapped to a patient with a bacterial infection, they would rightly conclude that the device was produced by someone for a purpose. In like manner, the discovery of a molecular-level peristaltic pump in bacteria should be taken as evidence that an intelligent Agent produced this protein complex for a purpose: the removal of harmful materials, including antibiotics, from bacterial cells. As scientists gain understanding of nature's exquisite configurations, the signature of Divine design becomes increasingly apparent.

References:
1. Shimon Schuldiner, "The Ins and Outs of Drug Transport," Nature 443 (2006): 156-157; Markus A. Seeger et al., "Structural Asymmetry of AcrB Trimer Suggests a Peristaltic Pump Mechanism," Science 313 (2006): 1295-98; Satoshi Murakami et al., "Crystal Structures of a Multidrug Transporter Reveal a Functionally Rotating Mechanism," Nature 443 (2006): 173-79.
2. Fazale Rana and Micah Lott, "Hume vs. Paley: These 'Motors' Settle the Debate," Facts for Faith (Quarter 2 2000): 34-39.

 


Dark Matter Verdict Buttresses Creation Model
Jeff Zweerink, Ph.D.

Imagine yourself in a courtroom with RTB astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink playing the role of attorney.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, today I present compelling evidence confirming a key component of RTB's cosmic creation model: dark matter does indeed exist. This mysterious dark matter, constituting about 25% of the universe, has proven remarkably difficult to study since it emits no detectable electromagnetic radiation-no radio waves, no visible light, no x-rays, etc.

Even with this difficulty, scientists have discovered several physical phenomena providing evidence for dark matter's existence: galaxy rotation curves, velocities of galaxies in clusters, and gravitational lensing (where light from a distant source is "bent" around an object into one or more images) of light from distant galaxy clusters. However, those arguing against the existence of dark matter have developed models that apparently account for this observational data. To properly evaluate these alternative models, you must remember one key point. While these models' gravitational interaction differs from the generally accepted predictions of general relativity, the gravitational field still coincides with the location of the visible mass-for example, the x-ray-emitting gas of a galaxy cluster.

In August 2006, NASA astronomers released observations, which I submit as exhibit A, that refute these alternative models. Using premier optical and x-ray telescopes, scientists observed a collision between two distant clusters of galaxies.1

Dark matter models predict that during the collision, friction would slow down the intercluster gas, whereas the dark matter would continue largely unimpeded. Consequently, the locations of the x-ray-emitting gas should not correspond to the location of the mass causing the gravitational lensing, in contrast to non-dark-matter model predictions.

I submit to you these compelling results showing that the galaxy cluster gas location (red) clearly does not align with the location of the mass responsible for the gravitational lensing (blue). Further, this responsible mass does not emit x-rays, visible light, or any other detectable electromagnetic radiation.

In closing, bear in mind that big bang cosmology echoes the biblical description of the universe, in which the cosmos continually expands after the creation event. However, scientific discoveries demonstrate that the initially smooth, homogeneous early universe could not have produced the galaxies and clusters of galaxies seen today without a fine-tuned amount of dark matter. The results presented here make the verdict obvious: dark matter exists and its existence further solidifies the scientific foundation of RTB's cosmic creation model. This model incorporates big bang cosmology and posits the work of a supernatural Designer who created and fine-tuned the cosmos to support life.

References:
1. Douglas Clowe et al., "A Direct Empirical Proof of the Existence of Dark Matter," Astrophysical Journal 648 (2006): L109-L13



Spiral Galaxies: Too Frayed for Life?
Hugh Ross, Ph.D.

Spiral galaxies are like people: they fray as they age. As people gradually sag and wrinkle, so too a young galaxy's elegant spiral structure frays into myriad substructures-spurs, feathers, and filaments-branching off from the main spiral arms. These substructures interfere with the needs of advanced life.

How? Bright stars and dense molecular clouds are plentiful in spiral arms and in substructures. These stars and clouds would tend to destabilize the orbits of whole planetary systems or of the individual planets within them. Such destabilization would make advanced life impossible, and so would the shower of radiation from these bright stars.

However, in spiral galaxies young enough to be unfrayed, life-essential elements are missing, specifically the heavy elements such as uranium and thorium. The appropriate abundances become available only when a galaxy reaches the not-so-youthful age of 9-10 billion years.1

The way around this substructure challenge is to find a sufficiently aged spiral galaxy with minimal fraying and then locate a just-right (in hundreds of ways) planet in a region least impacted by fraying. Such a location is exactly where Earth finds itself. An amazing coincidence?

Recent discoveries shed new light on just how amazing.2 Research teams have found that the fraying process is intricately complex, affected by multiple galactic parameters. To keep the fraying within the acceptable range for advanced life, the galaxy's magnetic field must be relatively weak, yet strong enough to prevent the spiral's collapse. Its disk must be dense enough but not too dense. And the quantity of gas in the spiral arms as well as the differential compression of gas flowing through them must be relatively low, yet high enough to sustain the spiral structure.

Similar precision is required for the location of any advanced-life site within a minimally frayed galaxy. It must reside near what's called the corotation distance (the distance at which stars revolve around the galactic core at the same speed as the spiral arms, along with their substructures, rotate). A team of researchers at the University of Maryland recently observed that near the corotation distance, substructures part pathways, leaving a small gap like a part in one's hair. So from the fraying standpoint also, the best place for an advanced-life-support planet is near the corotation distance.3 And that's where we are.

The fact that advanced life requires so much precision of its galaxy and galaxy features and of its position within that specialized galaxy makes our Milky Way Galaxy seem all the more remarkable. The data indicate Someone intended for advanced life to be here.

References:

1. Hugh Ross, Creation as Science (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006), 103-05, 135-38, 146-47.
2. Rahul Shetty and Eve C. Ostriker, "Global Modeling of Spur Formation in Spiral Galaxies," Astrophysical Journal 647 (2006): 997-1017; Woong-Tae Kim and Eve C. Ostriker, "Formation of Spiral-Arm Spurs and Bound Clouds in Vertically Stratified Galactic Gas Disks," Astrophysical Journal 646 (2006): 213-31; C. L. Dobbs and I. A. Bonnell, "Spurs and Feathering in Spiral Galaxies," Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 367 (2006): 873-78; S. Chakrabarti, G. Laughlin, F. H. Shu, "Branch, Spur, and Feather Formation in Spiral Galaxies," Astrophysical Journal 596 (2003): 220-39; Woong-Tae Kim and Eve C. Ostriker, "Formation and Fragmentation of Gaseous Spurs in Spiral Galaxies," Astrophysical Journal 570 (2002): 132-51.
3. Shetty and Ostriker, 997-1017.



What in the World is a Worldview?
Kenneth Richard Samples

Everybody has one. A person may be educated or uneducated, liberal or conservative, rich or poor, nonbelieving or God-fearing, but all people act and live in certain ways because they are guided by particular worldviews. Given its importance, just what exactly is a worldview?

In the simplest terms, a worldview may be defined as how one sees life and the world at large. In this manner it can be compared to a pair of glasses.1 How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person's "vision," so to speak. The interpretive "lens" helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Sometimes the lens brings clarity, and other times it can distort reality.

Derived from the German term Weltanschauung,2 the word "worldview" refers to the cluster of beliefs a person holds about the most significant concepts of life-such as God, the cosmos, knowledge, values, humanity, and history. These beliefs (which may in reality be right or wrong or a combination thereof, not unlike the visual clarity or distortion given by glasses) form a big picture, a general outlook, or a grand perspective on life and the world.

In more technical terms, a worldview forms a mental structure that organizes one's basic or ultimate beliefs. This framework supplies a comprehensive view of what a person considers real, true, rational, good, valuable, and beautiful. In this vein, philosopher Ronald Nash defines a worldview as "a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality."3

Similarly, philosophers Norman Geisler and William Watkins describe a worldview as "an interpretive framework through which or by which one makes sense out of the data of life and the world."4 Worldview perspectives involve much more than merely sets of intellectual beliefs, but a basic conceptual system is critical. Rather than a disconnected or disparate group of unrelated beliefs, a carefully examined and reflective worldview consists of a network of interconnected ideas that form a unified whole.

This system of beliefs then responds to the big questions of life, focusing on issues central to human concern. These issues especially include thoughts about the human predicament: Why is man the way he is? Why does he face the challenges he does? Such questions explore how human beings derive meaning, purpose, and significance.

Philosopher Michael Palmer explains: "Through our worldview, we determine priorities, explain our relationship to God and fellow human beings, assess the meaning of events, and justify our actions."5 A person's worldview provides a general context for life, including a vision of what one considers authentically real.6
Life's Road Map

More than just an interpretive lens, a worldview perspective shapes, influences, and generally directs a person's entire life. Because people behave as they believe, their worldviews guide the development of the values that inform their decisions and actions.

Living a well-balanced life based on realistic values requires thinking about basic and critical questions. When a worldview attempts to answer them, it functions like a chart or plan used to navigate through the journey of life (though potential flaws in the plans must be kept in mind). A worldview can be seen as a "road map" that supplies directions that guide a person's life decisions.

Therefore, a well-thought-out course or worldview needs to answer twelve ultimate concerns that philosophers identify as "the big questions of life:"7 (see sidebar). The answers given to these inquiries not only provide focus and purpose in life, but they can also (as a system) be tested for logical coherence, correspondence to reality, explanatory power and scope, and internal and external livability.
The Big Twelve

A viable worldview must offer adequate answers to these questions

  Ultimate Reality What kind of God, if any, actually exists?
  External Reality Is there anything beyond the cosmos?
  Knowledge What can be known, and how can anyone know it?
  Origin Where did I come from?
  Identity Who am I?
  Location Where am I?
  Morals How should I live?
  Values What should I consider of great worth?
  Predicament What is humanity's fundamental problem?
  Resolution How can humanity's problem be solved?
  Past / Present What is the meaning and direction of history?
  Destiny Will I survive the death of my body and, if so, in what state?


References:
1. See Norman L. Geisler and William D. Watkins, Worlds Apart: A Handbook on World Views, 2nd ed. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003), 11-12; and Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 17-18.
2. For a thorough historical and philosophical analysis of the term Wweltanschauung (worldview), see David K. Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
3. Ronald H. Nash, Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 24.
4. Geisler and Watkins, Worlds Apart, 11.
5. Michael D. Palmer, comp. and ed., Elements of a Christian Worldview (Springfield, MO: Logion, 1998), 24.
6. Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics For a Reformational Worldview (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 4.
7. Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1984), 35; David S. Dockery and Gregory Alan Thornbury, eds., Shaping a Christian Worldview: The Foundation of Christian Higher Education (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 3.




Those Amazing Molecular Motors
David H. Rogstad, Ph.D.

In my undergraduate course in biology at Caltech in the late 1950s, a cell was understood simply as a variety of chemical reactions going on inside a tiny test tube.1 Now, 50 years later, scientists know that the structure inside a cell is far more complex and exhibits elegant organization suggestive of a Designer.

Among other things, the cell includes an astonishing array of molecular motors, some of which travel along thin filaments just a few molecules in diameter. The cargoes needed for the various cell processes are hauled around the cell on these microfilaments, in a manner resembling the huge transportation systems found in a modern city.

Biologists have identified multiple categories of motor-proteins in the cell. Three that have been studied extensively are myosins, kinesins, and dyneins.2 The first two contain as many as 20 different classes, and in time it is likely many more will be discovered. The different categories reflect properties such as (a) the motors' exact shapes dictated by the proteins from which they are made; (b) the types of tracks the motors travel on, whether actin or microtubule microfilaments; and (c) the direction the motors travel along these microfilaments. Stunning illustrations of these motors (and other features and processes within the cell) can be seen in the 8-minute animated video The Inner Life of a Cell, available on Studio Daily.3

Researchers take special interest in comparing these biological motors with those designed by humans. Two key characteristics for comparison are efficiency (where 100% is maximum) and size. For man-made macroscopic devices, electric motors are the most efficient, operating at as much as 64% efficiency. For internal combustion engines, the efficiency rarely gets above 30%. No naturally occurring motors exist at this size.

However, when considering microscopic devices, scientists find many naturally occurring molecular motors that are incredibly small and highly efficient. Over the last few years, the emerging field of nanotechnology, which includes the study, design, and implementation of molecular-scale motors, has mimicked nature's elegance. While researchers can't yet build proteins with specific physical shapes, they have constructed motors relying on existing biological systems for components.

Research on the efficiency of nature's tiny motors is dazzling. The rotary motors of the bacterial cilia and flagellum demonstrate an efficiency near the perfect 100%.4 As a physicist familiar with the difficulty of designing and constructing small, efficient devices, I find this phenomenon absolutely remarkable.

Personal observations notwithstanding, scientists acknowledge that the motors found in biological systems are vastly superior to anything man-made. Nature's amazing molecular motors also show the characteristics that people usually associate with exquisite design and a Designer.

References:
1. G. G. Simpson et al., Life: An Introduction to Biology (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, Inc. 1957), 54-55.
2. M. A. Titus and S. P. Gilbert, "The Diversity of Molecular Motors: An Overview," Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 56 (1999): 181-83.
3. See http://www.studiodaily.com/main/technique/tprojects/6850.html to view The Inner Life of a Cell.
4. Kazuhiko Kinosita Jr. et al., "A Rotary Molecular Motor that can Work at Near 100% Efficiency," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 335 (2000): 473-89.