The Flagellum is Not a Motor?


(Herculean Skeptic) #231

@Mung Thanks for your note. I appreciate what you are saying and I think that anyone who reads this thread from top to bottom will find two things:

  1. There was a lot of unnecessary talk about nothing on the part of so many people. I’ve never seen so much talking about, talking about something, in my life. Without ever getting to any actual discussion. But there is a reason for that, and see point 2 below.
  2. There was a breakthrough, of sorts, in terms of understanding the anxiety over this topic. There’s a feeling, justifiably so, I believe, on the part of the evolution camp that to use the word “motor” in the name is to create a slippery slope that slides straight to the design camp. To say that the bacterial flagellum should not be described as “bacterial flagellar motor” is not defensible. To refer to it, descriptively, as a “motor” is certainly justifiable because there are so many aspects of it that remind us of an electric motor. That said, far too many people are leaping at the use of the word motor and, unjustifiably, claiming that motor = design = designer.

I think that Joshua asked for a list of aspects that were similar between the two, as well as a list of aspects that were dissimilar in order to help each person realize that to describe something as a motor does not mean that it is a motor. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with putting forth a training exercise that helps anyone to avoid leaping to a conclusion. Especially an incorrect one.

I don’t understand why the conversation did not progress… I thought it was an interesting thought exercise, myself. I don’t think that it was a disgrace. I think that it was more needless posturing instead of conversing and working through an exercise.

But I’m still curious about the use of the term “rotary motor.” When you used that term, you weren’t referring to any other kind of motor. You were just using that term generically, too?


Yes, I was using it generically.

Under the new Zoom-Zoom 2030 plan, Mazda will build a purely electric car, which will arrive sometimes next year. No other details are available at the moment, but Brink has confirmed the EV will be optionally available with a range-extender in the form of a new Wankel engine. Despite being “not really necessary, because the average buyer travels an average of 37 miles (60 kilometers) per day from home to work and back again,” the rotary motor’s main goal will be to “take away any concerns from customers.”

(Herculean Skeptic) #233

Interesting… so this is truly an electric rotary motor, built in the style of the Wankel rotary engine, and different from the traditional electric motor?


Did Joshua ever define the two elements necessary for his objection to hold water?

  1. What is a motor?
  2. What is a “rotary” motor?


I don’t believe the “range extender” is itself electric.

(Herculean Skeptic) #236

Honestly, I do not know. I only jumped in to this conversation near the middle. And only because I saw that people were arguing about using the word “motor” as a label, when that was not really the issue. As for where he ended up, I am certain that he’s in agreement that it is not wrong to label the bacterial flagellum as a motor, but at the same time, he wants, as I said earlier, to ensure that one does not leap from the label motor, to design, to designer, because that label has been used.

I think that is prudent. The real issue is not whether or not motor as a label is appropriate, it is whether or not the bacterial flagellum evolved or was designed. Again, my efforts were in steering the conversation away from the label issue, and toward the design vs. evolved issue.

(Herculean Skeptic) #237

Well, they’ll be in the same shape as Volkswagen if they advertise a “purely electric motor” and it is not!! :slight_smile:


Yes, i thought it rather pointless to argue about whether the flagellar motor “really is” a motor. But it sure seemed to me that the point Joshua is trying to make is that it is not a motor. Interesting the different perspectives.

And i will also point out that Brian wasn’t arguing that the flagellum is designed because it is a motor. One has to go back to the original thread to get the context. But perhaps Joshua was trying to vaccinate against a claim that no one has yet made.

If @swamidass truly desires dialogue with ID proponents I’d suggest that the Swamidass v. ID strategy needs to be abandoned and replaced with something more along the lines of a conversation rather than a witch hunt.


The motor at the base of the flagellum does not use gasoline nor does it use internal combustion. Rotary engines are not constructed of proteins. Is that what you mean?

Just wondering, are you an expert in rotary motors?

(Herculean Skeptic) #240

I don’t think that the point (despite how it was articulated) was ever that it really was a motor. As I said above and throughout, there was definitely a defensive reaction to the use of the label “motor” because of the tendency to infer that motor = design = designer. While I’m really not on one side or the other, I agree that this sets up a battle over the wrong issue–as was seen throughout this thread.

I agree with you that the discussions do not go well, and that folks who lean toward the ID side are not treated equally. But at the same time, I can see why it is that there’s a huge frustration from the evolution side because claims are being made without the evidence and experiments to support the claims. So, the frustration mounts.

(Herculean Skeptic) #241

It’s not a major point, but here again is a reference to an internal combustion rotary engine. I don’t think that this is the “motor” of the example. A simple electric motor is the one. It very closely resembles the bacterial flagellum.

(George) #242


When @Michael_Callen can do a nice job of discussing some of the dynamics of a long-running (and silly) thread … I think your accusations about the site being a disgrace or anything approximating that … should be enough to get you booted out of the group - - IF this was a disgraceful site.

What exactly is your purpose in these discussions?

Do you have ANY INTEREST AT ALL in the point of this group?

Do you think God can do miracles?

Do you have any interest in God at all?

Let’s get to the nugget here … I don’t think you belong here … but it’s not my call. But I would love to hear from you why your continued presence is some kind of boon for all of us who read your nasty-grams…


God brought me here.

Be careful. You are fighting against God.


How does one scientifically resolve the question of whether the rotary motor at the base of the flagellum is in fact (at least as far as science is concerned) a rotary motor?

Should you and i trust the judgment of the experts on the flagellar motor who have declared that it is in fact a rotary motor?

My honest opinion is that it’s not being debated here because of science. This has nothing to do with science. What do you think?

Perhaps you are trying to turn it into a scientific discussion, for which you are to be commended.

According to science, what is a motor?

(George) #245


You have sent a couple of cheap shots at me today… and as I have read back on this goofy motor thread… you have laid cheap shots out at Joshua as well.

And so I am coming to the conclusion that you are here under false pretenses. You act like you care about the Bible and Christianity … but I don’t believe you are sincere in that regard.

But I don’t want to appear unfair or that I am eager to rush to judgment … so why don’t you give me a sense of what YOUR priorities are? Maybe I can join in with you on some topics that you consider to be “High Value”… which we don’t seem to be able to satisfy on your behalf.


First and foremost would probably be what is true. Take this thread for example. My sole reason for posting was because I saw in the OP title and the content of the first post a lack of care about Brian’s views. I’ve already made my case in that regard so I won’t repeat it here other than to ask you why you have had nothing to say about that. Only now have you shown an interest in this thread.


I honestly don’t see why this matters. Does Brian Miller or any other ID proponent argue that the flagellum is indistinguishable from an engineered rotary motor?

Can you justify that claim?

Please justify your claim that there are no “mechanical” systems in the cell.

Will you also justify this claim?

Another unjustified claim.

It can do that because it is a “mechanical” system. :slight_smile:


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #249

41 posts were split to a new topic: Get Off The Lawn?

(George) #251


I think it’s time you started justifying YOUR claims… here… read up on the “motor” … show us where the MECHANICAL part is…

There is no doubt that these motors have mechanical outcomes … which is how they propel bacteria through fluids…

But are you saying these mechanical results are produced by something that we would call a “machine”?

The important part!


From the link I provided you above, there is this treatment of the e. coli “motor”:

“* The bacterial flagellum responsible for the swimming and tumbling of E. coli and other bacteria acts as a rigid propeller that is powered by a rotary motor. This motor is driven by the flow of protons across a membrane, possibly using a similar mechanism to that found in the Fo motor in ATP synthase.”

Let me repeat the last sentence:

"This motor is driven by the FLOW OF PROTONS across a membrane…"

So… is THAT mechanical?