An electron microscopy image of a cell membrane attached to a bacterial cell wall highlighting the important role of the cell wall .
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ID the Future Intelligent Design, Evolution, and Science Podcast
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The Irreducible Complexity Found in Bacterial Cell Division

Episode
1923
With
Andrew McDiarmid
Guest
Jonathan McLatchie
Duration
00:21:26
Download
Audio File (29.4 mb)
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Ready to dip a toe in the ocean of biological ingenuity? Dr. Jonathan McLatchie is back, this time to discuss with host Andrew McDiarmid the engineering elegance and irreducible complexity of the process of bacterial cell division. You may wonder why we should care about something so miniscule as bacterial cells. After all, something so insignificant and unseen has little bearing on our daily lives. But if we’ve learned anything in the biological revolution of the 20th century, it’s that consequential things often come in very small packages. And if even the simplest forms of life exhibit stunning complexity and engineering prowess, all the more do we! And that complexity and design demands an adequate explanation.

Dr. McLatchie starts by reminding us what the term irreducible complexity means. It actually goes right back to a criterion of failure that Charles Darwin himself offered up regarding his theory of evolution: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”

Then McLatchie describes the remarkable process of cell wall breakage and re-synthesis that allows cell division to take place. He explains why it’s a challenge for evolution: “Evolutionary processes cannot select for some future utility that is only realized after passing through a maladaptive intermediate,” says McLatchie. He also refutes the co-option argument, the claim that one part of the process might have been borrowed from one system and co-opted into another through evolution. Evolutionary processes don’t have the ability to look forward. For that, you need foresight, a power that our universal experience shows to be unique to intelligent agents.

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