Machines and Information are Bad Metaphors in Biology

@jongarvey, most people are not using the definition from mechanical physics, they are using the “ordinary” definitions. These definitions analogize between o “every day” objects, like the engine in our car, and less familiar things. For example, see what @bjmiller writes:

Notice several things that @bjmiller has added to the definition:

  1. Human-designed
  2. Outboard
  3. Rotary

First of all, the flagellum is not an outboard motor. It is not “outboard” in any meaningful sense, because it is not separable from the membrane. In fact it requires the membrane in order rotate, where an outboard motor is separable from the point at which is mounted, and is correspondingly more complex because it needs to be able to operate independently.

Second, it is not analogous to human-designed motors in several ways. Perhaps most importantly to this conversation, it works in a very different way, it is far more simple than a human-designed motor, and it is has a plausible evolutionary path. Likewise, no one thinks a human-designed motor can pop into existence without a human assembler, but everyone agrees that flagellum do not require intelligent assemblers. If a non intelligent force can assemble a flagellum, we are right to wonder if non-intelligent forces can evolve them.

Third, @bjmiller is neither using your definition of “motor,” nor is he using the definition from "mechanical physics. Fourth, you just switched your own definition from the early meaning (which would include our legs being motors for movement) to be the definition from mechanical physics. A flagellum is a motor by some definitions, but not by most definitions. It is only weakly analogous to a human-designed motor, and that is precisely where much of the confusion arises.

I’m fine with you using a reduced definition of motor and then using it consistently. It is a problem, however, if we start equivocating multiple definitions together, as is often happening here.